Open Tech Today - Top Stories

Friday, September 04, 2009

Gov 2.0: Beyond the Platform

Originator of the phrase Web 2.0, Tim O’Reilly seeks to breathe new life and purpose into the phrase Gov 2.0.

His mantra …Gov 2.0: It’s All About The Platform.

As Tim emphasizes, innovative new platforms are game-changers – for companies, economies, all of us. Think how interstate highways, personal computers, the Internet, GPS, even the iPhone each transformed society. Each was a new platform for commerce and people to use.

Today, new technologies are helping redefine what governments as a platform can accomplish. Gov 2.0 means more than simply government use of social media. Absolutely right.

However, let us not lose sight of the whole purpose of Gov 2.0. It is not all about the platform. The platform has a purpose: real-time public service.

Gov 2.0 must keep its eyes on that prize. O’Reilly is closest when he imagines Gov 2.0 as an “organizing engine for civic action.”

What makes Gov 2.0 enormously transformative is that government, powered by new technologies, is more than a platform; it is a catalyst for innovations in real-time, public service. Government offers not only a scalable operating system for services, but also adds raw data, standards, APIs, apps, even investment dollars in some cases.

Gov 2.0 is an open ecosystem in which anyone — a start-up, an agency, an entrepreneurial individual — can invent, enhance or crowdsource a service aimed at the public, or some segment of it. Government becomes one delivery channel among many.

Gov 2.0, in many ways, echoes President Kennedy’s famous words:

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Google Gets Busy in Middle East

Not to be outdone by recent moves from Yahoo and News Corp, Google is getting busy in the Middle East market.

Google already dominates search among Arab-speaking users. Now it is making a serious play in Arabic digital content.

Its release of Google Sites in Arabic and four new Arabic editions of Google News (for Egypt, Lebanon, UAE and Saudi Arabia) represent a smart effort to expand beyond search into content.

Offering a free, Arabic version of Google Sites is designed to make customized website creation in Arabic a simple process with (of course) searchable results. Google powering Arabic content creation, pure and simple.

Arab publishers, especially regional newspapers, will need to speed up efforts to build strong news sites (and aggregators) and online brands, or risk permanently losing their readers to local Google News in Arabic.

Through search, Google is already the main gateway for most users to reach news sites. Middle East publishers will completely lose control over how their audience reaches them if Google News in Arabic succeeds, if they fail to build a direct relationship with their online readers.

Google moves in apps and news pale in comparison to the dollars and headlines of this week’s big investments of Yahoo and News Corp.

However …

Google is already the #1 site among Internet users in Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Jordan, Kuwait and Qatar.

If Google is able to penetrate both the Arabic content creation and news spaces, it will have a formidable position in the Middle East before the online market truly reaches its growth potential.

And it will have outflanked Yahoo, News Corp and all other comers.

Quick Hit: Google may also be planning an expansion in Jordan, perhaps even siting their regional IT hub there.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

News Corp Eyes 20% of Rotana, Following Yahoo to Middle East

The Middle East is hot, and global media companies are keen to grab a piece of its rapidly growing media market.

Fast on the heels of Yahoo's acquisition of, News Corp is seeking a 20% stake in Rotana Media, a Saudi-based media and entertainment giant, reports the Wall Street Journal.

This is the second major Middle East media deal in one week.

But in many ways, it is no surprise. Kingdom Holding Company, controlled by Saudi Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal and owner of Rotana, already owns 5.7% of News Corp. Rotana broadcasts two Fox-branded channels (Fox Movies and Fox Series) in Saudi Arabia.

Last year, James Murdoch made a high-profile visit the Gulf exploring partnerships with major Middle East media firms. His trip included meetings with Prince Al-Waleed to discuss future collaborations.

Now we see the fruit of those meetings. News Corp's first big Middle East investment.

While Yahoo's tie-up with was a purely digital play, Rotana's media assets include a TV network, a library of over 2,000 Arab movie titles, a production company, record label, music channel, and hotel chain.

First Yahoo, now News Corp. There will be more deals to come as Big Media identifies other opportunities in this young, booming Middle East market.

MySpace … the Next AOL?

MySpace is looking like the first AOL of the 21st Century. And not in a good way.

TechCrunch noted that Twitter has overtaken MySpace in traffic in the UK. That day is surely nearing in the US and globally.

The question: Is an AOL-like decline inevitable for MySpace?

One data point suggests that MySpace’s downturn is not only relative.

Daily pageviews per user has dropped by 50% for MySpace over the past 2 years.

It is steadily losing the competition for eyeballs.

Obviously, the rise of both Facebook and Twitter has been at the expense of MySpace, still the second largest social network in the world.

But MySpace is heavily dependent on US users and traffic.

Facebook has successfully broadened beyond the US, which now accounts for only 31% of Facebook’s user base. Twitter draws 59% of its traffic from outside the US.

For MySpace, 65% of its users still come from the US. And it’s been around for years. That is a recipe for stagnation.

Twitter and Facebook have room to grow, as uptake rises in other countries.

Unless MySpace identifies some new, compelling services or finds a way to grow its brand globally, it looks like a contender for the next AOL.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

News Flash: Social Media News Acquisition

NowPublic, a social media news website, has been acquired by the, a local news network controlled by the Clarity Media Group (Philip Anschutz’s outfit).

The reported price tag: $25 million.

Apparently, citizen journalism sparks interest (and dollars) from Big Media.

And consolidation may help find a sustainable formula that balances coverage (NowPublic claims citizen reporters in over 100 countries) with operational efficiencies of scale.

Hyperlocal News: New Oasis or Mirage?

Despite the flurry of attention (and acquisitions) on hyperlocal news, its prospects as a viable business remain unclear.

No question there is plenty of activity in the space, as Open ePolicy discussed here.

While proponents laud (hype?) the potential market value of hyperlocal -- estimates reach $100 billion -- can anyone entice enough local advertisers to turn a profit?

Local advertisers -- Mom-and-Pop stores -- are the long in "long tail." They are the Last Mile in advertising.

You need staff to create (or at least edit) local content. And once you get there, you still have to compete with CraigsList.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Attention Big Media: The Ultimate Lesson from CraigsList

Media companies are suffering the slings and arrows of online competition for eyeballs and advertising dollars.

CraigsList seems to be the villain of choice, given its outsized role in the collapse of classified ad revenues, the traditional mainstay of newspaper profits.

While simultaneously trying to vilify and emulate CraigsList, most media companies fail to appreciate its ultimate lesson.

CL has plenty of flaws—mainly because it so accurately reflects the imperfections of the masses using it. However, it enjoys spectacular growth while remaining stubbornly committed to a simple (even outdated) design.

The lesson is simple: Pay constant attention to what your users are telling you.

Customer service is the Qi of CraigsList. It is what energizes and sustains its massive community of users.

It also pays.

Excellent customer service breeds customer loyalty. And that makes your content and services more valuable over time while driving down costs.

Don’t know what your users think of your content or services? Then you have found your primary problem. You.

CraigsList, by eliminating marketing, sales, and business development, has eliminated every layer separating its programmers (who run CL) from the users they serve.

No layers = no sound barriers.

User feedback reaches the people who operate CL unfiltered. This can be a painful experience for managers, programmers and writers. But it is irreplaceable if you want to win your customers’ loyalty (and page views).

CraigsList famously responds to annoying complaints with haikus. In this case, their advice to other media companies might be:

Steam rising from rice
User feedback clearing your