Android as a moat protecting Google’s (advertising) castle; “advisor-tising” and the Infovalet

InfoValet mark

Infovalet mark

We exchange email yesterday with my CircLabs Inc. colleague, Jeff Vander Clute, about a blog post written by venture capitalist Bill Gurley. Gurley’s post  (LINK) argues that Google is giving away the Android operating system — and many things around it — because no one can compete with free and the mass adoption of these free services is making Google’s advertising business unassailable.

Vander Clute remarked about Gurley’s thesis:

Fascinating points leading up to the legal destruction of wealth. It stands  to reason that the marginal cost of software development going to zero in the  long run means upside going to zero. Entrenched players for whom software > development is cheap or a byproduct can choose to give away a version of  *your* product for free or less than free.

Right. So one begins to realize this essential truth — Google is neither a technology company, nor a search company. It has become a marketing company. Currently its business is the selling of advertising. It didn’t start out that way. It started out intending the organize the world’s information and make it useful and accessible. But now Wall Street expects it to feed its advertising juggernaut first.

For the advertising to remain effective, Google is going to have to learn more and more about us. The looming battle: On what terms does it learn about us and operate in what I’ve begun to call the “advisor-tising” space? For Google the engineering and software — Android, maps, apps, wallets — is now focused on drawing more and more of us in, and learning more and more about us, so that we can be better and better packaged and presented to people who want to sell us something.

At least in the world I come from, there is the intention to provide a service — civic information — that rides atop advertising and is served by it rather than vice versa. At least that’s been an aspiration for the news industry and the continuing focus of its best thinkers.

The good news: Gradually, Google — and Facebook — are going to figure out that being the “infovalet” requires a new kind of trust relationship with the user if you want to remain their most-favored agent. And that will involve providing something of value beyond a lot of free, ad-supported services. How about news? Google has for now one of the must trusted and recognized brands in the world. It will need to adopt the role of infovalet to keep that enviable position.

Figuring out that relationship is the next phase of the web and what fascinates me and why I crafted our RJI white paper as “Paper to Persona.” And it’s a playing field where news organizations have strength — if they can just learn to use technology as adroitly and innovatively as do Facebook, Google and Amazon.

What we mean by “valet” — a little explanation

NEW: “From Paper to Persona white paper”


In the white paper “From Paper to Persona,” we use the term: “information valet” or “infovalet.”  “Valet” may not yet bet the perfect metaphor, it’s the best we’ve come up with to describe the change necessary for news organizations to morph and grow in the new news ecology of information abundance.

We don’t mean the car parker. We mean the king’s valet or concierge, the helping person who knows your interests and requirements and just quietly takes care of them. The term “information agent” was popular a
decade ago, but to me that sounds too much like a spy, and with the increased concern about privacy it seems the wrong metaphor now. And concierge, which might be better, is too long.

Now, we refer to an entity that helps people manage their use of digital information. The help might include:

  • Controlling access to an individual’s personal demographic or preference information
  • Curating and personalizing the storage, receipt or exchange of information
  • Paying for access to information by subscription, per click or per item.
  • Receiving value for viewing or accepting commercial offers, such as advertising or reward points.

Real-world analogies to the role of the “infovalet” might be to an agent, broker or retailer, with the important attribute that the InfoValet’s economic interests are principally aligned with the individual consumer or buyer of services, rather than with the seller.

However, an infovalet might have different roles for difference transactions. For example, a news organization operating as an infovalet to readers, viewers or users might be solely their curator or agent for finding trustworthy information and services on web or mobile platforms. However, the news organization might promote its own content to its own users.

The ideas of agency, and economic interest are not clear cut.  A retailer, for example, might market Product A more heavily than competing Product B because it received a special wholesale buy of Product A allowing it to realize more profits vs. selling Product B. In an open market for digital information, with lots of competing InfoValets, users might be expected to favor those whose practices are most transparent and aligned with the user’s interests.

I first began using the term infovalet in 2007 and included it in a spring, 2008 fellowship proposal to the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute, writing, in part:

These valets will compete across geographic and topical spheres with search, advice, community, research, linking, hosting, data storage and other services. They will compete to be best at meeting the consumer’s diverse information needs within communities defined by individual users. Information resources will not typically be owned by the valet. Rather, the valet will be compensated for finding, shaping and referring them to the consumer, much as a retailer aggregates and merchandises for wholesalers.

Starting the RJI fellowship, we defined the intention of the Information Valet Project. Participants in “Blueprinting the Information Valet Economy,”  in December 2008, added some depth to the idea and, with the help of consultant Steve Mott, came up with a consensus summary of the envisioned  service:

A computerized, community-based ecosystem that enables consumers to opt-in to convenient, secure and private information exchange with trusted providers of online content, products and services where the relationship value of the consumer is captured and married to optimized positioning of seller offerings.

Components:

  •     Enrollment/registration process that screens (and protects) users
  •     Creation of secure credential with user-set privacy levels
  •     Downloadable(?) single sign-on capability for participating sites
  •     User-created and updatable profiles of preferences, interests and demographics
  •     Certification of trusted providers and participants
  •     Ability to match dynamically-specified buyer interests with customized seller offerings
  •     Transparent payment capability with user-specified ways to pay
  •     User-defined rewards that can be collected among user-specified provider participants
  •     Visa-like payment engine/network/capability to slice-and-dice payments, establish and enforce rules, handle problems, service customers, provide reports, administer licenses/IP, etc.

In August, 2009, when I spoke in Prague on a State Department program, I asked through an interpreter what people thought about “valet.” The feeling was that it was as good as anything else, even translated into Czech.

It does require perhaps a little explaining but that’s because it’s a new construct about the role of news organizations.

Historically, editors thought of themselves as either delivering what readers needed to read or what they wanted to read, where want was defined in a crassly mass market “if it bleeds it leads” kind of way.

This is something new. It’s about taking the time, and developing the technology, to listen carefully and learn from individual reader/viewer/user interests and preferences and then equally carefully matching those with useful, trustworthy information. Converging with some of these ideas are the work of experts in the field of network identity, security and authentication.

KEY EFFORTS SUPPORT INTERNET IDENTITY

  • The Berkman Center on the Internet and Society has for several years supported “Project VRM,” an initiative of Doc Searls, a former advertising-agency executive and Linux software trade-publication editor who has been arguing that Internet commerce must switch from being controlled by vendors and called CRM, for “Customer Relationship Management,” to VRM, or “Vendor Relationship Management” controlled by consumers.  Key questions: Can consumers do that themselves, managing their privacy and persona and extracting value for them.? Or do they need a new kind of agent to help them?  In February, 2011, Searls had submitted a proposal to the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for support to commercialize his “EmanciPay” microaccounting system. It would allow consumers to make offers to purchase on the web on their own terms and prices – and vendors would then decided if and how to respond. The agents who would help consumers to make offers and manage their personal are termed by Searls “The Fourth Party.”
  • Searls, Kaliya Hamlin, Mary Ruddy and Drummond Reed are behind the Identity Commons, and the related Internet Identity Workshop – ongoing meetings in Silicon Valley among researchers and technologists working on trust and identity frameworks for the web.  The Identity Commons has received some backing from major companies, including Microsoft Corp.

These groups, as well as entrepreneurs like Paul Trevithick, a Wellesley Hills, Mass., chairman of the Information Card Foundation,  have been advising the Obama administration as the U.S. Commerce Department determines what role the government might play in fostering user identity on the web.  The agency is balancing both privacy policies with an apparent desire to preside over the adoption of digital identities issues by the private sector but compatible with the governnment’s needs.

Take a moment to reflect about putting your content in the cloud — is ITA an answer?

We got an email today from a very senior retired banking-industry who has generously advised us on the Information Trust Association idea. He has been following the Wikileaks story, including the news that Amazon.com tossed Wikileaks off their “cloud” servers because the Amazon TOS forbids a site to host content they don’t own. Amazon isn’t talking, but the implication is that Wikileaks doesn’t “own” the diplomatic cables it has been publishing. Our friend points to a new feature in today’s Seattle Times, called “Techies,” by Brier Dudley. Here’s the LINK.

He takes note of the last paragraph of Dudley’s dispatch, which reads: “edia companies are rushing to publish their news through networks run by Amazon, Apple and other Web companies. Raves to those companies if the WikiLeaks debacle reminds the free press to pause, read the terms of service and decide whether it’s really a bargain to outsource distribution to the touchy Web giants.” Writes my friend: “How do you suppose WSJ or NYT will feel if they somehow get sideways with Apple and Apple pulls a story? With the ITA built network the free press controls its own destiny and is beholden to no one. See: http://www.newshare.com/ita/whitepaper.pdf

France to launch virtual newsstand as alternative to Google News

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France to launch virtual newsstand as alternative to Google News

Six French newspapers have come together to create an online newsstand
where readers will be able to buy and read their content. The
initiative, which will be launched in September, was announced
yesterday by France’s National Daily Press Union as an alternative to
Google News, El País reported.

The
maneuver comes months after Google announced its intention to include
advertising on its news aggregation system. French newspapers had tried
to negotiate with Google to receive a percentage of the ads revenues.
But, as their request was denied, they have decided to launch a paid
service of their own.

For more on this story please see our sister publicationwww.sfnblog.com

Sent from my iPad

DC progressive think-tank strategist warns PEG-access TV operators of “uber” radio spectrum policy battles

Posted by Bill Densmore

PITTSBURGH, Penn. — Cable public-access station operators were given a strong dose of media policy on Thursday at their annual convention as a Washington, D.C. think-tank leader urged them to join an “urber” political battle playing out among telecommunications companies, regulators and public advocates.

Corporations are working to control the public airwaves and radio spectrum so no one else can have access to it, said Sascha Meinrath, who heads the open-technology initiative of the New America Foundation, a DC think tank. The telecoms would like to have all radio spectrum usage rights auctioned to the highest bidder, Meinrath said, a view that he said is being embraced by the Obama administration.

The problem with that approach, Meinrath told members of the Alliance for Community Media at their annual convention in Pittsburgh, is that it doesn’t mean the limited radio spectrum — used by wireless, radio, TV, public safety, Internet broadband, military and other purposes — is allocated in the public interest. “Auctioning to the highest bidder doesn’t take into effect network effect, or the externalities or the opportunity cost,” said Meinrath. “And it leaves out non-profit community and participatory media.”

He said when spectrum is auctioned, the government “gets a quick influx of money and then a long period of pain,” Meinrath told some 250 directors of “PEG access” operations, adding: “We need to acknowledge the systematic problem of spectrum availability.”

 By one measure, the United States, he said, is 15th among developed nations in broadband penetration, down from No. 1 about 10 years ago. By another measure the U.S. is in 28th place. He said the United States is 40th out of 40 nations in progress toward building a knowledge-based information economy. “We are struggling to deliver 10 megabits (Internet access speed),” he said. “Hong Kong is about to offer 1 gigabits for about $26 a month.”

Meinrath said U.S. “ineptness and stagnation” in media policy today offers opportunity for tomorrow. He cited four initiatives that bear watching:

 First, the e-rate service should be restructured so that lines requisitioned can then be split and shared by the purchaser. The telecom industry wants every purchase to be unsharable.

Second, he said the $10 billion to $15 billion telephone universal service fund can’t now be legally used to build out broadband (rather than legacy phone) infrastructure. He says that should be changed.

Third, the FCC should adopt regulations opening up the low-frequency TV band (superior because low frequencies pass through buildings and over terrain better than the current wireless spectrum), for public use.

Finally, PEG access operators and others should help mobilize grass-routes support for telecom initiatives favored by Meinrath and others, to counteract hundreds of telecom lobbyists on Capitol Hill.

Corporations are “encapsulating” new media, Meinrath said, by developing propreitary approaches. “This is reverberating on the hardware, software, infrastructure side of things.” There is no check and balance on that, he said.  “The Internet is a commons that we all benefit from,” said Meinrath, and it should be viewed like other “commons” developed by public-sphere institutions such as the Tennessee Valley Authority and rivers, or universal telephone service in rural America, or our system of government-financed highways. “And we have nothing of the sort when it comes to broadband media.”

ACM’s meeting in Pittsburgh includes a track on how PEG access stations — largely supported by fees levied by government on cable companies — can begins to foster and build citizen journalism operations. Other general themes including how to fundraise, social media, moving beyond television to Internet programming, and details on the national broadband planning process underway in Washington.

MORE INFO:
http://www.mediagiraffe.org/acm
http://oti.newamerica.net
http://www.journalismtrust.org
http://www.infotrust.org

The ASCAP example: How news organizations could liberate content, skip negotiations, and still get paid » Nieman Journalism Lab

http://www.niemanlab.org/2010/07/the-ascap-example-how-news-organizations-could-liberate-content-skip-negotiations-and-still-get-paid/

Did the New York Times Just Declare War on News Aggregators?

It looks like the New York Times, Apple and the handiwork of some Stanford students, the Pulse News reader, are in the midst of moving around the copyright bar. A bit.

At stake — just how much use can you make of an RSS feed before it becomes a copyright violation? Or is that a nonsequitor, i.e., if you put up an RSS feed will common law emerge that says you are, in effect, granting blanket usage rights to what’s in the feed? NYTimes is saying no, apparently, because they have terms of use barring commercial use of their RSS feeds.

See these two accounts, noted by CircLabs’ Joe Bergeron and Martin Langeveld:

SEE: http://gigaom.com/2010/06/08/did-the-new-york-times-just-declare-war-on-news-aggregators

AND:
http://www.wired.com/epicenter/2010/06/new-york-times-forces-apple-to-pull-popular-pulse-ipad-newsreader/

June 23-25 “congress” gathering aims to establish trust, identity, commerce services for news

COLUMBIA, Mo. — Three U.S. newspaper trade groups and the Donald W. Reynolds Journalism Institute are teaming up to seed ideas and a possible solution to how news and other information can be managed and sold online.  “From Blueprint to Building: Making the Market for Digital Information,” is being billed as a three-day “action congress” to discuss issues of trust, identity and Internet information commerce.

 The June 23-25 event at the University of Missouri-based research center will include unveiling of a 148-page business plan for a proposed news-industry collaborative, according to Bill Monroe, director of the Multistate Digital Task Force, an ad-hoc group formed by state press associations in Missouri, Kansas and Iowa with support from several other state trade groups.

 Details of the public event, and links to participant registration, are at http://www.infotrust.org .

 “This is not a conference, or a summit,” says Bill Densmore, a consulting researcher to the Reynolds Journalism Institute. “ It’s a public congress of news and information service providers — organized by U.S. state press associations. The intention is to move beyond talk, and to launch one or more enterprises or collaboratives.” Reynolds is an ideas-experiments-research center affiliated with the nation’s oldest journalism school, at the University of Missouri.

 Densmore said the gathering has two intentions:

  •  Consider establishing a non-profit collaborative that will specify standards, platforms and protocols for a digital information marketplace; supporting investment and partnering with operating companies and,
  • Define and start raising money for an operating company or association that answers to, and primarily serves and benefits, all America’s newspapers — and is focused on profitably sharing, protecting and managing their digital content. Monroe, who is working from the Iowa Press Association in Des Moines, said the working name for the new entity is the American Newspaper Digital Access Corp.

“Newspapers are working to make the transition from a product-based culture — the daily paper — to a service-based one — helping people manage their privacy, identity and information needs in a web and mobile ecosystem awash with more information than we can intelligently assess,” says Densmore. “News organizations need to become our trusted  information valets  rather than our information gatekeepers.”

“From Blueprint to Build,” is an outgrowth of a December, 2008, summit also convened by the Reynolds Journalism Institute as part of a fellowship undertaken by Densmore called the Information Valet Project.

Trust, identity, commerce: Inseparable building blocks of a free market for digital information

Trust, identity and commerce –they’re inseparable building blocks of a free market for digital information. The Journalism (or Information) Trust Association proposal brings together three vital threads. Unless they are woven together, the Internet will fail to embody the best — or at least most useful — relationships of the physical world. READ MORE.

Midwest newspapers anti-up $30K to eye for-profit collaborative to monetize Internet content

Three Midwest newspaper associations — Kansas, Missouri and Iowa — met Nov. 20 and formed a coordinated effort to manage monetization of their content on the web, raising in minutes an initial $30,000 to start planning. They’ve asked a retiring executive of the Iowa Press Association, Bill Monroe, to look into the idea. A key part of the idea is a for-profit corporation, owned by the nation’s newspapers, to coordinate the effort.

Original oganizers of the task force were Doug Anstaett, executive director of the Kansas Press Association; Bill Monroe, deputy executive director of the Iowa Newspaper Association; and Doug Crews, executive director of the Missouri Press Association.

At Friday’s meeting, says Monroe, publishers present pledged “about $30,000 in 90 seconds” to help the project get through the next phase — talking to key media people nationwide and creating an inventory of all possible approaches to how to get paid for online content.

READ MORE: http://www.newshare.com/wiki/index.php/Jta-associations