Many people seem to have fallen victim to what I want to call TES (Tech Expectation Syndrome). They get lost in the ocean swells between over-hyped pre-exploitation excitement, and gradual market development under a different guise is a different context. Looking back through my file of words that seem to have disappointed at the top of the typical Gartner expectation spike and are now safely on the plateau of exploitation, I find things like VADs and VANs (now our digital networks), GIS (now a part of every activity known to man since geolocation became the bedrock of mobile telephony), AI (now becoming the M2M nexus of the working world, and so terrifying that even Stephen Hawking cannot exorcise it) …and, of course, VR, the wonderfully exciting 3D environment that we fell in love with, and then decided that headsets were not for us, and that this would only work for dedicated gamers.

And if forgetfulness about how much unexploited technology is available to our new product and service development cycles is one of our sins in the publishing and media marketplaces, let me add another while the Sunday afternoon mood of self-flagellation is upon me. After sustained efforts of re-invention, we keep falling back on PSP (product simulation psychosis). We put extra stuff, more video, longer text, archival support and other elements into the digital “version” and then promote it and sell it just as if it were analogous to the print “version”. We know these things are growing apart but we seem reluctant to acknowledge the difference. No where has this been more marked than in the newspaper industry, which strictly speaking we should now stop calling the newspaper industry. If we called it “news media” we might get closer to seeing how differentiation is taking place, and mark the points at which the digital service elements are going out on a track that print can never follow, and creating information in formats which will become the hallmark of communication. They are the defining moments in the separation of print and digital, and we should point to them whenever some senior executive says (so many do, I am afraid) “There will always be a market for print” or “digital is neat but what are its real advantages for which I would pay extra”.

They still say these things and there have been moments when I have thought the entire news industry would go the way of Yellow Pages, despite Vox, Buzzfeed, Fast Company (and that stubbornly non-innovative digital analogue of print, the Huffington Post). And then last week I saw surprizing green shoots of change, and not from the new digital news industry, but from those good souls who have huffed and puffed up and down the the peaks of inflated expectations a time or two, the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal. The latter have been celebrating Nasdaq’s birthday in fine style. They have taken my pathetic wave metaphors in a different context into a graphers delight, a 3D journey around the index from its inception ( Use it on your mobile, walk round the room with it, or (get this!) get the WSJ headset and really appreciate it. This is not just a beautiful birthday card – you are looking at the way graphical information will be read, or, rather experienced, as the years go on. Here we move away from anything which can be “printed”, and once this style of activity does become the way in which we experience and record change, then only the network can deliver it.

But I would have to reserve special praise for what the New York Times did last week on an architectural review of the new Whitney Museum building ( This is a delight to the eye. Once you have seen this you will never want to read a review of a new building which does not include this type of 3D analytical effect. It enhances every readers’ appreciation of the points Michael Kimmelman is making, yet this is VR lite, needing no headset and simply deploying great VR graphics to display the planes and vistas of a new building in a moving dynamic. And until they start moving you think you are just encountering another illustration in text. This answers the question – what would you pay extra for – because it adds a new dimension to understanding which could only have come from this environment.

We have noted here before the way in which old businesses can survive, despite and sometimes because, they are family businesses with a history of transition. A few months ago the Holtzbrinck family cashed their “get out of newspaper jail” card with Springer; both DMGT and Hearst have made huge strides in diminishing the effects of blighted newspaper advertising cycles by becoming experts in B2B data businesses, to the point where these assets begin to dominate all others. But if the Sulzburgers and the Murdochs are to escape then it will probably have to be re-invention that does it, and until last week there seemed to be few signs that this was likely to happen. But here, rather than playing games with the paywall business model, or buying related digital businesses that are not well understood corporately, both of these traditional market players showed early signs of trying to understand how technology could be deployed to add new value for the user. These are late conversions on the road to digital Damascus, but perhaps even more welcome as a result.

They are at it again, you know. I have warned about this before. It seems that you cannot stop legislators making laws. They seem to think it is what they are for, while we older people know that the only way to preserve a reputation as a wise law-giver is to give nothing away. Nobody is happy with a patched road or a mended fence. Most Western legal systems are full of patched legal garments, most legislators are patching the patches, many of us know that only revolutions will allow a complete remake. The Sumerian agricultural revolution and the laws of Hammurabi. The Byzantine revolution and the laws of Justinian. The French Revolution and the Napoleonic code. The Digital Revolution and the redefinition of networked trading and ownership rights…?

Well, you certainly need a broad historical canvas if you are going to start a conversation in this area at all. One man of vision over many years in this field is the British media lawyer, Laurie Kaye, whose latest blog ( on 29 March sets out the battleground for the digital media marketplace arguments for 2015. And I share his respect for the enthusiasm of Commissioner Oettinger of the European Union, while adding a touch of personal despair at how long we Europeans have been about this Single Market business. Who amongst us is not frustrated by the limitations of the world we have now moved into? The librarians and researchers launched their London Manifesto yesterday to try to encourage the Commissioner in the right direction. ( Well they would do that, wouldn’t they? Yet more and more their impatience is just an echo of common place resistance and outright defiance in the market place.

And its not just copyright as ownership, its the whole content trading system of which copyright is the centre piece. As a good Brit I pay my BBC annual licence fee, but the rule of territoriality in a global networked society means I cannot view the videos I can see in London while I am in New York. Each of the media has a different rulebook, yet we live in a world of multiple and multi media developments. Above all, the interests of the players in the cycle of content creation and distribution are beginning to diverge, and great gaps, more significant than ever before, appear between what authors want and need, and the way in which publishers, ever protective of their business model, require for survival. The increasing dissonance that I hear as I listen to the strident voices protecting the copyright regime of the last century (representing a business model where publishers held the whip hand), and the equally strident voices demanding the freedom in the network to control for themselves the way authorial output is distributed is becoming distressing. Please, Officer Oettinger, what is a man to do?

In some ways this started in the academic world. When we write the history, Open Access will be seen not just as a way of allowing all citizens to discover the content of state-funded research. It will also be seen as authors wanting to use the network, with its ability to create huge access and impact for global populations, as a way of building reputation in the communities they target. The communities where they earn their bread and seek preferment. And is this so very different from the science fiction author who spoke to me recently about his publishing as a way to create an income stream – in his case from lecturing fees, public appearances, film scripts derived from the content, and commissioned writing for on and offline magazines. The book made the reputation, just as the scholarly research article does, and the key issue is not its royalty yield, but the breadth of readership and brand recognition that it creates. All too often the defence of copyright is the defence of the publishing business model, without a realisation alongside it that the role and value of the intermediary which is in question here. Networks, we always used to say, disintermediate intermediaries. In a world where it is so relatively easy to create your online eBook, and publishers are deserting the scrutiny of unsolicited manuscripts in favour of bringing successful self -publishers into contract as authors, publishers must – and can – demonstrate the value of their editorial preparation (something few now indulge in for cost reasons), their ability to discover talent and their excellence as reputation formers and mass marketeers. These are not all areas of strength for everyone, but they are becoming survival skills. Recall for a moment how proactive agents have been diminishing the rights granted to publishers in order to increase the flexibility of their clients. Recall for a moment how often now (Quebec City this week, Montreal airport last year and the Italian railways just before that) you can download an eBook from a library in order to read while travelling.

So when we want to debate the small print of copyright licensing rules we have to bear in mind that the revolution coming will have such violence that it will completely transform the way that longform text is created, marketed and distributed. No industry can be kept on life-support by virtue of making a concession on library lending while winning a point on fair dealing. We now need to resolve, as a matter of prime concern, whether territoriality in terms of making agreements about content is of any continuing use. We need to address issues that affect market receptivity, like net neutrality. We have made huge strides, thanks to the efforts of Lawrence Lessing, in writing into licensing a real recognition of origin and authorship while freeing up a good deal of re-use, and we need to look at ways in which the Creative Commons movement give pointers to future treatment in a licenced – and implied licence – network world. But above all we must urgently clear our minds and begin to redefine “ownership” of intangible intellectual property. For anyone under 17 this is a meaningless blog , and no one could explain it to them. Living in a world where the network sorts out licences and rewards on an M2M basis – machine to machine – this will never be an issue. Until then, different rules will govern downloading from those that govern streaming, and the lawyerly debate on whether that was a product or this was a service will create fresh intellectual property from the argument itself.