30 January, 2009
In its Digital Britain report issued today the Government has set out its aim to develop a universal broadband service by 2012, which it called vital for Britain, one that offers nationwide broadband speeds of up to 2mb per second and includes wireless coverage.
In the Digital Britain interim report, the Government stressed the importance of ensuring "that being digital is within the grasp of everyone".
Subject to further analysis, the government believes that a speed of 2mb per second is the most realistic option for a universal service, when factoring in costs, capability and the connection of the absolute number of homes.
The Government intends to develop detailed proposals for the design and operation of a new, more broadly-based scheme to fund the Universal Service Commitment, including who should contribute and its governance and accountability structures.
It plans to encourage the development of public service champions of universal take up and intends to appoint a digital inclusion champion and expert taskforce to drive the Government's work on digital inclusion.
It is intended that the champion "will provide a clear channel of communication between central and local government, industry, third and public sectors, and the client group, to ensure all available expertise and resource is harnessed in pursuit of a shared understanding of digital inclusion".
The BBC will be invited to play a leading role, through marketing, cross-promotion and provision of content, to drive the public's interest in taking up broadband.
As part of the Government's plans, it intends to ensure that public services online are designed for ease of use, encouraging a shift to online channels in delivery and service support.
The report, released by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, states: "We must ensure that being digital is within the grasp of everyone.
"If we do not, we risk leaving significant parts of our society disenfranchised and permanently behind the mainstream. In so doing, we would fail to secure the full potential of these technologies for our country."
Peter Mandelson, the business secretary, said: "This report sets out a strategy for building a knowledge economy where our most valuable assets are the skills and innovation that underpin our digital industries. This is absolutely vital if Britain is to benefit from some of the greatest economic opportunities on offer this century."
Andy Burnham, the culture secretary, said: "Britain has always led the world in content creation -- with the best music, films, and TV -- and it is vital that we carry forward this strength into the digital age.
"This is a significant report for the creative industries, taking steps to establish workable systems of copyright in an online age and to preserve choice of public service content. But it is only the beginning of the process and we need to work hard in the coming months to secure workable solutions."
The full interim Digital Britain report can be found on the DCMS website.
29 January, 2009
agency - finds that even in the light of the current climate, major
charities with significant budgets are not proactively exploiting all
the opportunities available to them through the relatively low cost
channel of digital marketing.
15 top charities
dotMailer analysed the website homepages, some content pages (including
donation paths) and email follow-ups of 15 major charities.
Set tasks were undertaken on each of the websites' homepages, including
online credit card donation, and each scored according to dotMailer's 26
key success factor guidelines, under the headings of: Homepage content;
Homepage design; Accessibility; Usability; Donation; Email follow-up.
CRUK and Save the Children top the leader board
Generally the charities scored well in some of the corner-stone areas of
successful charity websites: content that is up-to-date, inviting and
engaging. Some charities, such as Cancer Research UK (81%) and Save the
Children (80%) scored particularly highly in demonstrating how to
engage, capture and convert their website visitors.
However, crucial areas such as collecting permission based email signups
and contact data, trading donors up in the donation path and following
donations up with relationship building emails, saw charities score
surprisingly low in many cases.
In the case of sending follow-up email campaigns to donors within 30
days of the transaction, not one single charity surveyed scored a point.
2009 will be a challenging year for the charity sector. There are
charities that will rise to this challenge by focusing on the most cost
effective channels and techniques for acquiring, retaining and upgrading
donors. These are the organisations that will succeed in these
challenging environments, and website and online marketing will play a
crucial role in that success.
To download the full Hitting the Mark report, go to
The School Food Trust charity's Really Good School Dinner campaign has signed up 600 schools and received almost 10,000 pledges to donate 10p to the charity from school children.
The fundraising week runs this week and encourages primary school children to have a school meal and donate 10p to the UN World Food Programme to provide children in the developing world with school meals.
The campaign, launched by agency VCCP in December, now has a presence on Bebo, Flickr, Facebook and YouTube now to stimulate awareness of the fundraising mission (Marketing, 9 December). The campaign is receiving radio, press and TV interview support from singer Jamelia.
VCCP is encouraging kids to upload pictures and videos of their own Really Good School Dinner week.
Schools receive a table in an online 'virtual canteen' and a pack containing scratch card posters and wraps for collection buckets. The children create an animated avatar on the campaign's website. These can interact with other avatars and find out how their school is faring in league tables of pledges.
28 January, 2009
Too much focus on digital marketing could exclude those with visual or hearing impairments, says BBC blogger
Charities that overuse digital media in campaigns could alienate people with some disabilities, a BBC blogger has warned. Steve Bowbrick, blogger-in-residence at the BBC, told delegates at a social media conference in London this week that focusing too much on digital marketing utilities such as Twitter, Flickr, blogging and podcasts could exclude people with visual or hearing impairments as well as those who have no access to the internet. "
There is a genuine risk that organisations could further alienate some groups," he said.
Nevertheless, he said, this was not a reason to stop testing the limits of social media, and that ignoring technological shifts was no longer an option."It is important to consider how the tools are going to be used by the various communities being targeted and work to engage them as effectively as possible," he said.
Bowbrick made the comments during a debate at the Social Media Exchange, which looked at the challenges that face third sector organisations constructing digital communications strategies.
Twenty-first century phenomenon Twitter has been used by the National Trust of Scotland to raise money for a museum to honour the birthplace of a 250-year old poet.
The Trust ran a fundraising campaign on the micro-blogging website over the Burns' Day weekend to raise money for the building of the Robert Burns' Birthplace Museum. Some £4m of the £21m needed to build the museum still remains to be raised.
Final figures are still being collated and money is still being accepted in what the Trust claims is the first time a charity has used Twitter to fundraise.
Every time a person donated money to the campaign via Twitter, a line of Robert Burns poetry appeared on the Twitter page of the campaign's avatar ‘@ayrshirebard' along with a personal recognition of the donor. Due to technical issues, the campaign organisers asked for a donation of US$2 rather than pounds.
Craig McGill, account director at DADA which developed the campaign for the Trust, said: "It has been quite eye-opening in what can be achieved online and how it needs to be done to be a success, so the experience was welcome. It's also taken Burns from being the 1,000th or so ranked Scottish Twitterer to 35th, which was quite an achievement."
Global Twitter fundraising festival
Meanwhile, preparations are under way around the world for the first global Twestival. More than 110 cities, from Taipei to Tel Aviv, are to host events for Twitter users to meet in real life in a bid to raise money for the US development non-profit, charity: water.
As the events are totally volunteer-organised, the total sum of money donated on the day will be delivered to the charity. Each city has been given the target of raising US$4,000 for the organisation.
Such is the popularity of the real-life meeting that the London Twestival has already sold out.
Alongside the real-life event, Twitter users have created Twestivalfm, another fundraising effort in which users donate their own music tracks and listeners are then encouraged to make a gift to the charity.
Donations to DEC appeal reach £1m as early day motion criticises broadcasters for refusing to screen it
More than 120 MPs have signed an early day motion criticising the BBC and Sky for refusing to broadcast the Disasters Emergency Committee's Gaza crisis appeal.
The petition, started by Richard Burden, the Labour MP for Birmingham Northfield, expresses "astonishment" at the refusal and "considers that the explanations given for this decision by BBC spokespersons are both unconvincing and incoherent".
Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell, Labour's Tom Levitt and Jeremy Corbyn, and Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond, who is also MP for Banff and Buchan, were among those who pledged their support to the motion.
Pressure on the broadcasters continues to mount. A spokeswoman for the BBC confirmed that it had received more than 21,000 complaints from the public about the decision. It had also received 380 messages of support.
The BBC announced last week that it had decided against broadcasting the appeal in case it cast doubt on its political neutrality.
Funds raised by the appeal doubled in the 24 hours to Tuesday morning, the DEC reported. More than £1m has been raised as a result of the appeal, a statement from the coalition of 13 aid agencies said.
The DEC declined to comment on whether the controversy had helped to boost its fundraising efforts. In a statement, Brendan Gormley, chief executive of the DEC, said: "We are delighted the Gaza appeal total doubled overnight to more than £1m. Television appeals help us to reach as many people as possible and historically we know that 80 per cent of phone donations result from them."
27 January, 2009
Charities must customise their communications if they want to increase loyalty among donors recruited through street, door-to-door or face-to-face fundraising.
Those organisations that personalise in some way their newsletters, emails and calls to donors will see significantly lower drop-out rates and cancellations than charities that do not, according to in-depth analysis of a survey of more than 377,000 regular giving donors carried out by Public Fundraising Regulatory Association.
The research also showed that charities that communicate with their donors between three and eight times a year will see higher retention rates than those communicating just once or twice a year.
26 January, 2009
Mr Thompson said the BBC could not give the impression it was "backing one side" over the other.
His comments come as about 50 MPs say they will back a parliamentary motion urging the BBC to screen the appeal.
Criticism over the decision has come from archbishops, government ministers, charity leaders and 11,000 viewers.
Broadcasters ITV, Channels 4 and Five are to show the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) film later. Sky is yet to make a decision.
The DEC, which represents more than a dozen aid agencies, is asking for money to buy food, medicine and blankets following the Israeli assault on Gaza.
Pressure has been mounting on the BBC to air the appeal, but Mr Thompson reaffirmed his stance on Monday morning.
He said the DEC had acknowledged from the outset there might be problems airing the appeal on the grounds of impartiality, and it was not the first time the BBC had decided against running an advert on their behalf.
"The public wants us to be very strict about our impartiality and it is my job to protect that impartiality," he said.
He denied his "arm had been twisted" by pro-Israeli lobbyists and said the BBC would continue to cover the humanitarian dimension of a "complicated and deeply contentious story".
Labour MP Richard Burden is putting forward the early day motion.
He said: "Last time I looked... it was 57 MPs from different parties, Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrats and others.
"I think there's great concern about what the BBC has done here."
Culture Secretary Andy Burnham has said the BBC is right to make its own judgement over the appeal.
A string of politicians, including International Secretary Douglas Alexander, Communities Secretary Hazel Blears and opposition spokesmen, have urged the corporation to reconsider its position.
Their comments drew criticism from BBC Trust chairman Michael Lyons who said some were "coming close to constituting undue interference in the editorial independence of the BBC".
The corporation's former director general, Greg Dyke, said it was in a "no win" situation.
Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza humanitarian appeal:
Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has accused the BBC of getting its priorities "upside down".
The Church of England also waded into the row, with the Archbishop of York appealing for the BBC to consider humanity, not impartiality, and show the film.
In a direct appeal to the BBC, Dr John Sentamu said: "Come on Auntie Beeb. Wake up and get on with it."
The Charity Commission, which regulates UK charities, echoed calls for the BBC to reconsider, saying the work of the agencies would be hampered without "maximum public support".
Labour MP Gerald Kaufman claimed the BBC was worrying about what he called the "nasty pressure" from some pro-Israeli lobbyists.
"Probably the (BBC's) attitude has been: 'Oh this is just too much trouble'," he said.
"And it's too much trouble because of the pressure of the Israelis. This... very active and not very pleasant Israeli diplomatic representation in Britain."
However, Conservative MP Mark Field believes the row has boosted the profile of the appeal.
"The high profile controversy has given this appeal more publicity than it could possibly have imagined getting," he said.
"In many ways, it has achieved a lot of its aims that way without necessarily having to have a fully-fledged BBC coverage."
24 January, 2009
guardian.co.uk, Saturday 24 January 2009 19.55 GMT
The BBC was in crisis tonight as politicians including government ministers, religious leaders and senior members of its own staff condemned the decision not to broadcast a charity appeal to help the stricken people of Gaza rebuild their homes.
The corporation's director general, Mark Thompson, was left isolated as rival broadcasters ITV and Channel 4 agreed to put out the plea for aid made jointly by 13 British charities. The BBC has decided the broadcast of the appeal might be seen as evidence of bias on a highly sensitive political issue.
The Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has accused the broadcaster of "taking sides". He said yesterday: "This is not a row about impartiality but rather about humanity.
"This situation is akin to that of British military hospitals who treat prisoners of war as a result of their duty under the Geneva convention. They do so because they identify need rather than cause. This is not an appeal by Hamas asking for arms but by the Disasters Emergency Committee asking for relief. By declining their request, the BBC has already taken sides and forsaken impartiality," the archbishop added.
Communities secretary Hazel Blears said: "The BBC's decision should not discourage the public from donating to this important appeal. I sincerely hope the BBC will urgently review its decision."
The BBC's unrepentant stance has stirred up rebellion in the ranks of it own reporters and editors. One senior BBC news presenter told the Observer: "I've been talking to colleagues and everyone here is absolutely seething about this. The notion that the decision to ban the appeal will seem impartial to the public at large is quite absurd.
"Most of us feel that the BBC's defence of its position is pathetic, and there's a feeling of real anger - made worse by the fact that contractually we are unable to speak out."
Jon Snow, the journalist who presents Channel 4 news, said the BBC should have been prepared to accept the judgment of the aid experts of the DEC. "It is a ludicrous decision. That is what public service broadcasting is for. I think it was a decision founded on complete ignorance and I am absolutely amazed they have stuck to it."
Snow said he suspected a BBC bureaucrat had "panicked" and he called upon Mark Thompson to put the situation right. Martin Bell, the former BBC foreign correspondent, said the BBC should admit it had made a mistake. He claimed "a culture of timidity had crept" into the corporation. "I am completely appalled," he said. "It is a grave humanitarian crisis and the people who are suffering are children. They have been caught out on this question of balance."
But Greg Dyke, Thompson's predecessor as director general of the BBC, said the issue put the BBC in a "no win situation". He added: "Outside of Iraq, the single biggest issue that caused complaints was the coverage of Israel. I can understand why the BBC has taken this decision, because on a subject as sensitive as the Middle East it is absolutely essential that the audience cannot see any evidence at all of a bias."
Douglas Alexander, the international development secretary, who has attacked the BBC's decision, today welcomed commercial broadcasters' decision to break ranks and urged the BBC to think again. "I welcome this decision. The DEC appeal is crucial to help alleviate the suffering of people injured, displaced and hungry in Gaza."
The BBC also faces demands for an explanation from within the Commons international development select committee. Richard Burden, the Labour MP and committee member, said the BBC was out of step with public opinion. Andrew Mitchell, the shadow international development secretary, who was this weekend making a visit to Gaza, Israel and the West Bank, said it was up to the BBC, but added: "We believe that they should allow the broadcast to proceed so that the British public, who have proved themselves so generous during recent emergencies in the Congo and Burma, can make their own judgment on the validity of the appeal.
The satellite broadcaster Sky said it was "considering" broadcasting the appeal.
A spokesman for the BBC said: "We do accept that people are strongly guided in their view on this by the humanitarian emergency. We are highlighting the situation in Gaza in every news bulletin and that is one of the reasons the issue is so high on the agenda."
Thompson received backing from the BBC Trust's chairman, Sir Michael Lyons. He said he was "concerned" about the tone of some politicians' comments on the issue, which he said came close to "undue interference" in the BBC's editorial independence.
Pressure was growing on the BBC over its refusal to air an appeal for emergency funds in Gaza as hundreds of people took part in a demonstration and rival broadcasters agreed to show the film.
Director general Mark Thompson has so far ignored pleas to screen the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) appeal, claiming it would compromise the broadcaster's impartiality.
Today a crowd of more than 400 people gathered outside Broadcasting House in central London to voice their disapproval at the BBC's stance, as it emerged that both ITV, Channel Four and Five had agreed to show the appeal from Monday.
Sky officials say they are considering the request.
Former minister Tony Benn, who was among the demonstrators, told the crowds: "We can’t ignore suffering in the interests of what the BBC call impartiality, “We can’t allow others to die when we have an opportunity to save their lives.”
Protesters chanted “BBC, shame on you” and others threw shoes, as a strong police presence looked on.
The Corporation has received widespread condemnation for not showing the appeal.
In a letter to International Development Secretary Douglas Alexander, Mr Thompson wrote: "We concluded that to broadcast a free-standing appeal, no matter how carefully couched, ran the risk of calling into question the public’s confidence in the BBC’s impartiality in its coverage of the story as a whole."
The pressure increased further when rival broadcaster ITV announced today it would show the appeal.
A spokesman said: “After careful consideration, and in consultation with other networks, a common consensus has been reached by the majority of broadcasters and as a result ITV will broadcast a DEC appeal.”
Five then clarified its position, adding: “It is an urgent humanitarian situation which transcends politics."
Channel Four then confirmed it too would broadcast the appeal, saying: "We accept the DEC’s guidance on the urgent need for humanitarian aid and believe this need should take precedence over any considerations as to the causes of the suffering that necessitates it.
“We believe Channel 4’s news coverage of the conflict in Gaza has at all times been appropriately impartial and we do not believe our impartiality will be compromised in the eyes of our audience by broadcasting this appeal. We have informed other broadcasters of our decision."
Justice minister Shahid Malik urged the BBC to follow suit.
“In a flawed attempt to be viewed as impartial, the BBC has managed to achieve the exact opposite.
“This issue is not about contentious notions of impartiality but about the unequivocal reality of human suffering on the ground - ultimately about saving lives and alleviating unnecessary pain," he said.
“Sadly, across the globe the BBC’s decision will be viewed as one which inflicts still further misery on the beleaguered and suffering people of Gaza.
“The BBC ought to take the advice of Douglas Alexander, reconsider its decision and do the decent thing.”
Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond also called on the BBC to rethink its decision adding: "The Disasters Emergency Committee’s humanitarian appeal is exactly that - it’s about addressing the needs of humanity, and the desire of people to help their fellow human beings in distress."
“I can’t help feeling that the BBC is running scared at the present moment, and it should reconsider its unfortunate decision not to allow the DEC to screen the appeal.”
Earlier today health minister Ben Bradshaw claimed the decision was "inexplicable". "This is a humanitarian catastrophe and I am afraid the reasons given by the BBC are completely feeble," he said.
There was also cross-party opposition to the BBC, with shadow international development secretary Andrew Mitchell said the appeal should be screened so the British public "can make their own judgment on the validity of the appeal".
Liberal Democrat media spokesman Don Foster added: “The BBC’s decision is disgraceful and must be reversed."
Previous television and radio appeals by the DEC have raised millions of pounds to help those caught up in war or affected by natural disasters in countries such as Burma and the Congo.
Mr Alexander had written to the BBC, ITV and Sky in an effort to get the appeal on air and help what he called a "dire" humanitarian situation.
"While I recognise that this is a decision rightly taken by broadcasters," he wrote. "I hope that in light of the great human suffering still taking place in Gaza, you will reconsider your decision in relation to the DEC appeal.”
Around 5,000 people took part in a protest against the Gaza conflict in central London.
23 January, 2009
Normally when Britain's Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) launches an aid appeal, major television channels provide slots for short videos, often fronted by celebrities, explaining the emergency and how the public can donate money.
In late November, for example, when the coalition of 13 British-based aid agencies asked for funds for their work in eastern Congo, the BBC backed the campaign, airing a two-and-a-half minute film presented by actress Juliet Stevenson.
But not this time. Charity sector magazine Third Sector reports that British broadcasters have declined to run adverts for the DEC's latest appeal "to help ease the desperate plight of people affected by the conflict in Gaza", which was launched on Jan. 22.
The DEC told Third Sector broadcasters were not supporting the campaign because they were concerned it would damage their political neutrality.
In most cases, all broadcasters carry DEC appeals for free - which is a major advantage for aid agencies. But if one of them does not agree, then no channel will show the adverts.
The BBC defended its decision not to participate in the Gaza campaign. "Along with other broadcasters, the BBC has decided not to broadcast the DEC's public appeal to raise funds for Gaza," it said in a statement. "The BBC's decision was made because of question marks about the delivery of aid in a volatile situation, and also to avoid any risk of compromising public confidence in the BBC's impartiality in the context of an ongoing news story."
And ITV told the Times newspaper: "We assessed the DEC's request (to support the appeal) carefully against agreed criteria and were unable to reach the consensus which is necessary."
The DEC says its member agencies will focus on providing immediate humanitarian aid, such as food, medicine and blankets, and will not get involved in reconstruction in Gaza.
"We work on the basis of humanitarian need and there is an urgent need in Gaza today," said chief executive Brendan Gormley. "Political solutions are for others to resolve, but what is of major concern to us all is that many innocent people have been affected by the situation - and it is them that we seek to help."
Gormley told the Times he was disappointed the appeal would not be aired on television. "We deeply regret this decision if it means our message doesn't reach those who may want to give to a DEC appeal," he said.
"We will soldier on but we recognise it will be much more of a struggle now to reach donors."
The umbrella group had decided not to use celebrities to promote its cause this time because it was concerned they would not be seen as impartial, Third Sector reported.
Despite its relatively low-profile nature, the appeal - which will remain open until July - is running in the press and on the radio, and interviews are being offered to media.
Launching the Disasters Emergency Committee Gaza Crisis Appeal, chief executive Brendan Gormley said that the devastation wrought in the Gazan territory was so huge that British aid agencies were compelled to act.
Over 1,300 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, and many thousands have been injured, overwhelming local hospitals. The destruction has left people without homes and many children without schooling; power, food and water supplies are insufficient to cover the population’s needs.
Mr Gormley said:
"DEC agencies have a humanitarian mandate. We are not proposing to attempt to rebuild Gaza - that is not our role. But with the public’s support we can help relieve short-term needs. Agencies are already providing food, drugs and blankets as well as delivering clean water."
"But we will soon reach the limit of what we can do, without more money. For Gazans struggling to survive, receiving urgent humanitarian aid will help them take the first step to recovery."
Mr Gormley stressed that DEC aid agencies were non-political:
"We work on the basis of humanitarian need and there is an urgent need in Gaza today. Political solutions are for others to resolve, but what is of major concern to us all is that many innocent people have been affected by the situation - and it is them that we seek to help."
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has rejected complaints that the British Humanist Association's 'There's probably no God' ad campaign breached its code of practice.
The bus ads, which carried the tagline ‘There's Probably No God. Now Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life' provoked 326 complaints. Some complained that the ad was offensive and disparaging of people with faith. Others claimed the ad was misleading because the advertiser couldn't prove that God ‘probably' doesn't exist.
The ASA concluded that the ad was an expression of the advertiser's opinion and that its claims were not capable of objective substantiation. While it acknowledged that the content might be at odds with some people's beliefs, it concluded that it was unlikely to cause serious offence.
22 January, 2009
Barack Obama's inauguration as the 44th president of the US was covered extensively on the internet through live-streams, blogs, and by Twitter and Facebook members, in what could prove to be a seminal moment for social media.
Read Gordon's Republic blog post -- Twitter surpasses Digg as it surges on Inauguration day
Akamai Technologies, which delivers Internet video for many websites, said the inauguration was a record for them, with 7.7m people watching video streams at the same time, according to The Associated Press.
Keynote Systems, which tracks website performance, said the internet's top 40 sites slowed down by as much as 60% when the ceremony started, and many news sites saw even sharper declines in performance.Major news outlets offered live feeds on their respective websites in what was potentially the most widely covered news event on the internet to date.It was partly out of necessity, since many viewers were at work in front of their computers for the midday ceremony.
Obama himself set up an inauguration blog at http://www.pic2009.org/content/home/, while his staff used Tumblr to update the blog throughout the day, including updates from the presidential ball.
US citizens also submitted photos, videos, quotes, links and blogs for the site and uploaded photographs to be considered for the official inauguration book.Microblogging site Twitter also had an official presidential Twitter stream -- normally @barackobama, but for the inauguration it was @obamainaugural.
Current TV, the user-generated TV network co-founded by Al Gore, combined a live-stream of the event with Twitter messages or "tweets." Messages from viewers played at the bottom of both Current's broadcast and webcast.
The Yahoo!-owned photo sharing site Flickr hosted a special Inauguration 2009 group where members could add their photos throughout the day.
You could also friend "Barack Obama Inauguration" on social network Facebook and send a glass of champagne to friends in the US using the Real Drinks application on the site.
21 January, 2009
Here's a concept I don't quite get. BlindSpeak, which launched on Tuesday, lets you type in a message to send to someone else as a voice message. Whatever you've written gets synthesized by Microsoft Sam's text-to-speech reader then read back as an audio message.
The synthesized messages arrive in your recipient's e-mail in-box as both an MP3 file and a link to the Flash player. Missing completely is the actual text you wrote. Assuming you're sending this to someone with visual impairments they probably have their own system for dealing with text e-mails that offers a little more simplicity than either the MP3 file or the link to the player.
The company says support for TTY/TTD services and synthesized voice mail messages is coming in future iterations, meaning you'll be able to send these messages to landline phones. Until then, consider this just an easy way to send anonymous computerized voice messages to your friends.
BlindSpeak will be great once it works with TTY/TTD and telephone systems. For now it's e-mail only, which might muddle things up for deaf folks who want the message transcribed.(Credit: CNET Networks)
Swedish blog search engine Twingly has launched a microblog search service that scours keywords in websites such as Twitter and Jaiku.
Keyword searches are normally available through the individual microblogs, however Twingly combines the results through the various websites in a single interface.
The new service also generates RSS and email alerts on keywords, usernames or tags mentioned in microblogs.
Results from six microblog websites are used in the search, including Twitter, Jaiku, Identi, Bleeper, Bloggy and Pownce, with more added as they come available.
Pownce went offline in December 2008, but the archive of posts remains searchable.
Martin Kallstrom, Twingly CEO, said: "Until now the tools available have only been able to search one microblog service at a time, which has made this growing arena of the internet hard to penetrate for new users.
"At the same time, we have seen how this kind of service is becoming increasingly important.
"The latest example was the direct reporting from the Mumbai terrorist attacks in November when Twitter became an important news source, or during the presidential elections in the US where Barack Obama gained over 100 000 supporters in the same service."
20 January, 2009
Itzhak Perlman? Isabel Toledo? Simple Gifts? Huh?
During Tuesday's inauguration of President Barack Obama, people curious about unfamiliar references used Google to supply the footnotes for the ceremony. The phenomenon was visible on Google Trends, a service that shows which search terms are rapidly rising in use.
Inauguration-related searches were hot on Tuesday, according to Google Trends.(Credit: Google)
According to the U.S. results, Toledo, who designed First Lady Michelle Obama's dress, bubbled up to fifth place on the list earlier in the day. Once the ceremony began, up came violinist Perlman (ninth place), cellist Yo-Yo Ma (12th place), composer John Williams (26th place), and the variation on the Simple Gifts melody (14th place) that he wrote and the musicians played. Aretha Franklin rose up to third place for a time, too, and even "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" ranked 21st at one point.
People were curious about politicians, too--Sen. Dianne Feinstein made it as high as eighth place, and "Dick Cheney wheelchair" was 91st place.
More interesting, perhaps, is that in aggregate, every single one of the top 100 Google Trends searches were related to the inauguration on Tuesday. Many had to do with people's evident desire to find news about it or a place to watch a streaming video.
All of the top 100 searches on Google Trends were related to the inauguration. (Credit: Google)
President-elect Barack Obama has created a new email database of millions of voters leading up to his inauguration, to help him also win the 2012 election.
The soon-to-be US President has lined up a whole new database containing millions of email addresses of voters, to keep an open dialogue with supporters.
Obama’s current database consists of 13 million email addresses of supporters who voted for him last year.
Supporters have been told that they could learn about community service projects around the country tied to Obama’s inauguration on Tuesday, via email. Voters will be able to receive updates via mobile on traffic and events in the nation's capital. They are also encouraged to send the email on to friends, as part of a data capture drive.
Golley Slater chief executive Chris Lovell says: “By appealing to parts of society least likely to engage with the political process Obama has lined up a whole new database of voters. Obama demonstrated once and for all that to win you need new media on your side and he has most likely already secured election victory number two in 2012 as a result.”
At all the lectures I have given lately, the key topic has been how to use the internet to raise money - and the best advice I can offer is "think outside the box".
'Donate' buttons alone don't bring donations. You have to work to get people to your site and then sell them a story, so words and pictures are crucial - the more personal the better.
There are many ways to collect new names and donations, and the most successful are often the most eye-catching and unusual.
One good idea was The Big Give's Double Your Donation initiative, whereby the Reed Foundation pledged to match donations of up to £5,000 (up to a total of £20,000 per charity). Most of us couldn't put up a such a large match fund, but this could also be done on a smaller scale.
Ask a corporate, trust or major donor to put up an amount, then advertise that you are 'doubling' donations. The amounts might be lower - maybe a maximum of £100 per donor - but it could still create interest and bring in donations, because people would feel they were doing more with their money. You could even do this repeatedly with different match funders and keep the doubling going.
Another recent initiative that stood out from the crowd was Jamie Cullum's advent calendar. Visitors to a dedicated website were invited to register, visit every day, click on the calendar and be in with a chance of winning a prize. This was a great seasonal way to get people to engage and build a relationship with them. A site like this could be used to gather names or even raise money if the prize draws are paid for.
We have to think of ways to make people feel their money is going further, or allow them to support us without actually spending money. So work hard on offering every possible way to give.
19 January, 2009
Google is experimenting with a search feature that allows users to tailor their searches by creating a list of sites they would like to appear most in search results.
Preferred Sites will suggest will suggest frequently visited sites based on search history when it's relevant, but users can also add and delete sites, according to the new feature's help page:
The preferred sites feature lets you set your Google Web Search preferences so that your search results match your unique tastes and needs. Fill in the sites you rely on the most, and results from your preferred sites will show up more often when they're relevant to your search query.
Google said that Preferred Sites could also have an impact on everyone's searches:
If the feature goes live to everyone, people will be able to pick a list of authoritative sites and influence all search results.
Preferred Sites is an extension of Google SearchWiki, which lets people elevate, delete, add, and annotate search results. It is activated only while the user is logged in to their Google account, and users' preferred sites and search results are private.
16 January, 2009
My CNET News colleague Charles Cooper's kvetching about YouTube not offering a download option for political videos seems to be answered. Such an option now appears right underneath the player on certain videos, including President-elect Barack Obama's weekly addresses.
While users have long been able to grab YouTube clips both with Flash rippers and H.264 stream downloaders, this would be the first time such an option has appeared on the site as an official offering. The new option gives users a full-quality H.264 file--the very same copy that's sent out to YouTube-capable set top boxes and iPhones.
Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Lessig seems to be the first to have noticed the new option, and says it will be spreading out to other government-uploaded videos. I've pinged Google to see if and when the option will be made available for everyone else's videos--and am still waiting to hear back. Update: YouTube's Hunter Walk says "Nothing further to announce at this time. We're just excited to have made this feature available in preparation for a historic week in American politics."
One thing to note here is the timing. This comes just two days after the announcement that Google Video would no longer be accepting user uploaded videos. Google Video let you download an iPod and PSP-friendly H.264 encoded clip that's the exact same size as what YouTube is now offering, leading me to believe that this will soon be available as a standard publishing feature for those who enable it on their clips.
Some YouTube videos now have a direct download option that gives users a H.264 encoded copy of the video to play offline and use in mash-ups.
(Credit: CNET Networks)
15 January, 2009
Veterinary charity PDSA has launched a widget to help people choose the right pet for them.
The 'Your Right Pet' widget features a cartoon pet that morphs and changes shape while the user answers a series of questions.
Once all the questions are answered, the most suitable pet for their lifestyle is revealed.
The questions are based on a four-step "PETS" formula, which covers the key elements that need to be considered when choosing a pet.
These elements include the Place in which the owner lives, the amount of Exercise that the owner can provide the pet, the Time they can devote to it, and the amount they can afford to Spend on expenses over the pet's lifetime. PDSA's digital agency Cheeze worked on the media creative, planning and buying, while Cheeze's sister digital agency Hyperlaunch created the widget.
The widget is part of the charity's 'Long Live Pets' campaign, which promotes the health and happiness of pets by encouraging responsible ownership.
It is supported by a Facebook fan page, banner and digital engagement ads on Facebook, plus banner ads on Pets Planet and Adviva.
Emma Perkins, PDSA product manager, e-commerce, said: "If people choose the wrong pet for their lifestyle, the animal is likely to suffer.
"By providing key advice on choosing the right pet and caring for them wrapped up in a fun, easy-to-use tool -- the first of its kind -- we'll be able to build upon our responsible ownership messages ensuring the health and happiness of all pets." Nathan Cook, account director at Cheeze, said: "The widget creates a fun, yet practical, guide to taking a responsible approach to [choosing a pet]."
14 January, 2009
A London girls' school has suspended 29 of its pupils after they posted insulting comments about a teacher on Facebook.
The pupils at The Grey Coat Hospital School subscribed to a group on the social networking site called "The Hate Society".
It is believed their comments caused the unnamed female teacher to seek counselling.
The girls were suspended for between two and 15 days after a pupil printed the webpage containing the comments and passed it around at school.
Grey Coat, a comprehensive located in Westminster, is a Church of England school for girls aged between 11 and 18. In its most recent inspection report in 2005, Ofsted assessed the school as "outstanding".
Rachel Allard, head teacher at Grey Coat, said: "While the offending material has been removed from the website, the school's decision to exclude these pupils temporarily was not taken lightly.
"It has been designed to send a strong message to our whole school community that we do not tolerate such behaviour.
"The vast majority of parents who have been to see me about this incident understand why we have taken firm disciplinary action."
Virgin Atlantic dismissed 13 members of its cabin crew in November last year after they insulted customers and criticised the airline's safety standards on Facebook.
Following an investigation, it was found that all 13 staff participated in a discussion on Facebook, calling customers "chavs", claiming that Virgin Atlantic's 747's were infested with cockroaches and that Virgin's engines require replacement several times a year.
13 January, 2009
Direct marketing volumes have in fact increased over the past year despite a 12 per cent drop in spend, the IPA’s latest Bellwether report reveals.
Popularity in direct marketing has increased, even though budgets in Q4 have been slashed and direct marketing’s share of total marketing spend has decreased by 0.1 per cent, year-on-year, according the report complied by Markit.The report’s chief economist and author Chris Willamson at Markit says a shift from direct mail and door-to-door spend to email marketing has meant direct marketing has in fact increased in volume but due to the inexpensive cost of email marketing, spend has decreased.
Direct marketing comprises of direct mail, door-to-door, telemarketing, catalogues and email marketing.
However, 2008 has seen record cuts in marketing budgets due to business confidence being at an all time low. Only 7 per cent of companies reported an increase in budgeted spend compared to 49 per cent reporting a decrease, resulting in budgets being revised down to the greatest extent yet recorded over the survey’s nine-year history.
Main media has seen budgets fall the most, reporting over a 30 per cent decrease. While Internet budgets have seen a marginal reduction, the channel has gained a 1.2 per cent share of total marketing spend.
Williamson says: “The Bellwether report shows an alarming rate of corporate retrenchment as the recession deepens. Disappointing sales in all sectors have also led companies to cut budgets for the year ahead for the first time since the survey began, suggesting there will be no quick return to growth for marketing spend.”
12 January, 2009
MySpace has partnered with the Wall Street Journal to send one MySpace user to Davos, Switzerland as a special correspondent at the World Economic Forum.
The MySpace Journal winner will be chosen by a panel of experts to join the Davos press corp to report on conference news and interview world leaders during the annual meeting to be held from January 28 to February 1.
Users must upload a video on the MySpace Journal website, explaining why they should be chosen to represent MySpace at the global forum.
A panel of judges, including Mark Adams, head of communications at the World Economic Forum and Arianna Huffington, co-founder and editor of the Huffington Post will select a winner.
The winner will also receive a special lunch with Wall Street Journal editors and syndication of the winner's MySpace blog on WSJ.com.
Chris DeWolfe, MySpace CEO, said: "We're giving one user the opportunity of a lifetime -- access to the most prestigious conference in the world during one of the most critical and historical moments in time.
"Davos brings together thought leaders from around the globe to focus on solutions to the problems we face on an international level and we are thrilled that MySpace can serve as a platform for users all over the world to explore, connect and communicate about these important issues."
Charities should reconsider the way they communicate with donors in the current economic climate, a new report reveals.
The study by G2 Data Dynamics reveals while consumers are cutting back on giving money to charities as the recession worsens, they are still willing to donate their time. One third of UK consumers are more likely to set aside time rather than cash for good causes during the downturn, with 57 per cent of female donors preferring to give up their time.
Nearly 60 per cent of respondents in the South West prefer to donate their time rather than money to charities, while retired respondents prefer to give money.Meanwhile, Scots topped the poll for being the most willing to donate money to charities, with more than 50 per cent of respondents north of the border happy to give cash.
Individuals in the West Midlands are the most frugal, admitting to reining in their charity involvement, with 37 per cent giving neither time nor money.
G2 Data Dynamics managing director Kevin Slatter says: “People are clearly considering cutting back on regular financial donations to charities as they tighten their belts but there are other ways they can help.
Charities would do well to take note of the rising tide of people willing to volunteer support with their free time, which can be just as precious as money for many organisations.”
09 January, 2009
Are My Sites Up is a free service that monitors Web sites to see if everything is up and running. You simply plug in the URLs of whatever sites you want to keep an eye on (they don't even have to be yours), and it will send you an alert if it notices one is down.
It does this by visiting each page on your list--up to 50 per user--every 15 minutes. If it can't load the page, you get an e-mail. You can also plug in your mobile phone number to get an SMS alert.
I very much like the idea, since you just set it and forget it. It's a nice complement to downforeveryoneorjustme.com which does the same check, but for the people unsuccessfully attempting to visit your site who believe their local undersea cable may have been cut again.
08 January, 2009
Consumers are set to spend in excess of £68.4bn online in 2009, an increase of 14.4% on last year, with more people shopping from home as they seek to avoid the stress of crowds, according to research by e-Marketer.
According to e-Marketer, most online retailers will continue to court shoppers with money-off promotions and discounted delivery charges, which will lead to internet users spending longer online, exploring their options and seeking value for money.
Major online retailers that upgrade to offer true multichannel shopping and delivery/return options, as well as value for money, are expected to gain market share, while a number of second-rank e-shops will stagnate or go out of business.
At least one supermarket chain is expected to experiment with large-scale email distribution of promotional coupons for grocery products bought in-store, according to e-Marketer.
The researcher also predicts that UK online ad spending will pass £3.5bn in 2009, despite the current financial and political uncertainties.
Some marketers targeting the less affluent, adults aged 65 and older, and residents in the Midlands and north of the country are expected to cut back on online ad spend and concentrate their efforts on traditional media as these demographics will continue to lag behind the national norms for internet access and online activities.
Separately, e-Marketer predicts transparency, customer insight and service to be major themes for advertisers to employ this year as UK consumers are becoming increasingly displeased with companies "selling them lies while putting personal and corporate gain above decency".
Proposals for exclusive premium-rate codes for charities could boost value of text gifts by 19%
Mobile phone operators are considering a proposal for special premium-rate codes, exclusive to charities, that would prevent VAT being charged on text donations.
At present VAT is charged on donations as well as call costs because there is no way to distinguish them from other premium-rate texts.
The proposed codes would ensure VAT was levied only on fees charged by mobile networks, potentially making text donations more cost-effective and popular.
The Mobile Data Association, which represents the UK mobile phone industry, was planning to circulate the plans to mobile operators before Christmas.
Hannah Terrey, head of policy at the Charities Aid Foundation, devised the plans with Joe Saxton, head of think tank nfpSynergy.
"The solution isn't that complicated and there is interest within the mobile industry, so it's just about getting an agreement and putting it in place," said Terrey.
Saxton said the existing state of affairs was in breach of the law because text donations were exempt from VAT (12 March 2008, page 1). "We have to reach a solution in 2009," he said.
The proposed new codes would be regulated by fundraisers who could ensure they were allotted only to registered charities and therefore minimise the risk of abuse.
"By moving the verification process on to the fundraising industry, you remove a lot of the angst for the mobile operators," said Saxton.
The Charities Aid Foundation, Everyclick.com and the Charity Technology Trust are believed to be interested in regulating the process.
A spokesman for the MDA said it was unable to comment until plans had been confirmed.
A spokesman for HM Revenue & Customs said it would take the necessary action to correct errors if there was any confusion.
- On a £1.50 text donation, 22.5p is currently VAT, the network gets about 39p and the service provider 4p. The charity gets 84.5p.
- Proposed changes could mean, for example, that the network would get 39p and the service provider 4p. VAT on this would be 6.5p. So about £1 would go to the charity - an increase of 16p, or almost 19 per cent.
07 January, 2009
Major consumer brands have increased their weekly email volumes by 75 per cent since August, according to a new report.
Volumes increased by 25 per cent alone in November as many brands targeted consumers via email in the run up to Christmas.
The Alchemy Worx Consumer Mailbox (AWCM) index also reveals that email marketers seem very reluctant to send campaigns on Saturdays and Sundays, with only 9 per cent of emails are sent at the weekend.
Monday, Thursday and Friday are the most popular days to send email each accounting for between 23 per cent and 25 per cent of the overall volume. The weekday least favoured by email marketers is Tuesday with only 12 per cent of the overall volume.
Alchemy Worx chief executive Dela Quist says: “As a result of the credit crunch, retailers are under a lot of pressure to reduce their margins so it is not really surprising that they are trying to reduce their costs by switching to email, which is by far the cheapest way of getting offers out to their customers.”
He adds: “This huge increase in email volume is not necessarily a bad thing for consumers; most people will tolerate a full inbox if the emails they get deliver real value. Put it this way would you as a consumer prefer more emails and lower prices or higher prices and a clever ad campaign in the press or on TV?”
Much of the time, visitors to your website will find it through internet search engines, so it's a huge bonus if the site is easy to find. You should ensure that any search engine can find your site without problems.
The first thing a search engine reads is your URL or uniform resource locator. Machines might not mind if it's a series of numbers and letters, but humans do. The search engine will list any page, but it's better to make the URL something meaningful.
Search engines also look for 'meta tags' - simple pieces of code that sit in the header of your web page and contain details of your site. These are crucial because they determine what title is shown in the taskbar menu and what title and description the search engine will display. The relevant meta tags are: , which sets the taskbar and search results title; , the description used in search results; and , the main search terms.
These may seem daunting, but it is easy to check them by right-clicking on your home page and selecting 'view source'. The meta tags sit in a block near the top of the page. Once you have found them, check what they say and whether it is correct.
If they aren't there, ask your web person or agency to add them. If you manage your site manually, copy and paste the meta tags from another web page and change the details to suit your own site. If you're really keen, add different titles and description tags to all your most important pages.
Finally, make sure the most important phrases for each page are repeated at least three times in the text. Search engines read your pages and judge the search keywords by the phrases used. If your page is about street kids in Thailand, for example, make sure those words are repeated several times so that the search engines register it.
06 January, 2009
by Dan Leahul, Brand Republic
Hackers have targeted social networking website Twitter, "phishing" users' profiles by gaining screen names and passwords through deceptive emails.
A number of high profile Twitter users have been hacked, including Barack Obama, Stephen Fry, Britney Spears, Fox News and the Huffington Post.
Users are sent direct messages from friends inviting them to click on a new website, which links to a counterfeit Twitter login page where the account details are stolen or "phished".
Security experts say the scam raises potential risks due the fact that many internet users use the same passwords for several different websites.
Users with hacked accounts have had fraudulent, often profanity laced updates made in their name.
On Barack Obama's page, a phoney post asked followers to click a link for a survey to win a $500 petrol voucher.
Biz Stone, Twitter CEO, wrote on the Twitter blog: "This morning we discovered 33 Twitter accounts had been 'hacked' including prominent Twitter-ers like Rick Sanchez and Barack Obama.
"We immediately locked down the accounts and investigated the issue. Rick, Barack and others are now back in control of their accounts.
"The issue with these 33 accounts is different from the Phishing scam aimed at Twitter users this weekend.
"These accounts were compromised by an individual who hacked into some of the tools our support team uses to help people do things like edit the email address associated with their Twitter account when they can't remember or get stuck.
"We considered this a very serious breach of security and immediately took the support tools offline. We'll put them back only when they're safe and secure."
Similar ailments have struck social networking sites Facebook and MySpace. Users are asked to click a link sent from a friends infected account, leading to a website which downloads malware to the unsuspecting
05 January, 2009
Bad month for Microsoft and Google
The latest data on browser market share indicates that Mozilla's Firefox has broken the 20 per cent barrier in worldwide adoption.
Figures collected by Net Applications show that Firefox's November market share was 20.78 per cent.
Microsoft's Internet Explorer fell below 70 per cent for the first time, while Apple's Safari browser was used by over seven per cent and Google's Chrome by fewer than one per cent.
"Reaching 20 per cent worldwide market share is a significant milestone for Firefox and Mozilla," said Mozilla chief executive John Lilly.
"It is a huge achievement by the global Mozilla community that most would have considered impossible just a few years ago.
"The open web is more vibrant than ever, and the thousands of Mozilla contributors around the world have played a major role in making it that way."
Net Applications suggested that Firefox gained market share owing to a number of factors. Since it is used primarily in the home, rather than in corporate environments, the Thanksgiving holiday season will have helped its use.
Higher unemployment may also be helping Firefox, since more people are browsing from home rather than from the office.