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The RAAKonteur #81 – The Ebook Wars, the War on Censorship and the Next Big Thing

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26 April 2012

There’s a War coming


This week Sergey Brin, Google founder, launched a broadside against government censorship of the Internet (and added some concerns about Facebook and Apple to boot). This of course echoes the thoughts of Sir Tim Berners Lee, who has exhorted all of us to ask Facebook et al to give us access to our data. But perhaps the most comprehensive call to arms was made by science fiction writer and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow in January, but since it will define our Internet futures it is still worth a read.

Speaking about War …

… the war between Apple and Amazon started in 2007 after Apple made a deal with major book publishers, that smells distinctly of price fixing, is reaching a new apex as the Department of Justice has filed antitrust cases against Apple and its band of book publishers. Apple has decided to go to trial. Which is fair, because this is by no means a one sided argument. This post by Charlie Stross points out the predatory nature of Amazon's way of doing business, by trying to create a Monopoly and a Monopsony (one buyer, many sellers) at the same time. Very interesting.

The not so great firewall of China


The current political upheaval in China is a great test to see whether the Chinese government can keep a lid on their great unwashed. It seems that, despite being one of the most comprehensive filtering regimes yet, the Chinese government has not been successful in keeping a lid on information. In fact, some now argue that the only way for them to do so, would be to switch off the Net completely, which would have large economic and social consequences. The central government could rather use social media as an important tool to fight corruption – it is networked authoritarianism.

Facebook becoming dearer

As demand for Facebook advertising rises, prices are going up. In fact, CPM's (or cost per thousand ads served) have risen by 41% over a one year period. The same report recommends brands use sponsored stories, "the type of ad that offers the strongest return on investment of all promotions on the social network." Sponsored stories are not unlike promoted Tweets, pieces of content which can be seeded by media buying. A past report by TBG found that sponsored stories yield a 46 percent higher clickthrough rate than all other ad types.

Thinking about the next big thing

Speaking of Facebook – Alexis Madrigal from The Atlantic provides brilliant insight into the future we envisaged in the late 90's. It is here. It's been done, with Facebook right at the epicenter of it all. To quote:

"The platforms that have seemed hot in the last couple of years — Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest — add a bit of design or mobile intelligence to the established ways of thinking."

And he stomps on hardware too. Yes, even Apple:

"The most exciting thing to come along in the consumer space between then and now is the iPad. But despite its glorious screen and extended battery life, it really is a scaled up iPhone that offers developers more space and speed to do roughly the same things they were doing before."

Without trying to point out what it should be, he urges the great minds of today to put their mind to new things, and especially new business models. Something other than thinking about how to make people click ads. Food for thought?

Path gets a new capital injection


Speaking of the next big thing, Path is not quite it, according to Om Malik. It has, however, secured another $30 million in funding, thus we can be sure to see renewed effort coming from them in the next few months. Despite being designed absolutely exquisitely, Path still needs to define a singular addictive behaviour, and as a result it lacks the draw and engagement of something like Instagram. It can also not harness the viral power of celebrities, because of its 150 friend limit. It surely has a tough job ahead – let's see what happens.

What's in a tweet?

Back to the status quo: the beauty of Twitter is the fact that users are forced to keep their messages down to 140 characters. Despite this fact, as we noted in a blog post last year, each tweet holds twice the amount of data than a standard mobile text message (which can be 160 characters long). What is the rest used for? The economist has published a very handy graphic, detailing all the data contained in a tweet. This is why a single tweet can mean so much.

Creatives of the Week: Agency Republic


Here at RAAK we're completely in love with the mini-computing revolution, stimulated by platforms like Arduino and Raspberry Pi. That's why this project by Agency Republic plunged straight into our radar with a splash. It is a poster, which … wait for it … when you throw something at it, skips to the next track on the office's Spotify. Nice!

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