Marc Chacksfield argues in favour of digital copies of our favourite publications.

By Matt F-Smith 29/11/2012 15:43

GettyFor years ‘digital’ was a dirty word in the publishing world. But, with more and more readers putting down magazines in favour of mobile devices, it’s now an area that’s creating the biggest amount of buzz.

And for good reason: publishers have been waiting for years to find the perfect way to marry the interactivity of a website to the ‘lean back’ approach of a magazine and tablets are it.

Anyone who has been to a newsagents recently will know that the co-called ‘death of print’ has been something of an exaggeration, but we are facing a world where magazine sales are declining and along with them ad revenue. These readers aren’t just disappearing into thin air, however, but going elsewhere for their content.

"It’s rare you get on to a bus or a train nowadays without myriad screens taking up space."

It’s not hard to see where they are ending up. Website growth has exploded over the last few years and along with it the growth in mobile platforms. It’s rare you get on to a bus or a train nowadays without myriad screens taking up space, with commuters’ devouring their media through all sizes of screen. Every screen spotted, though, shouldn’t be seen as a rival to a publisher but an opportunity.

The Apple iPad and to a lesser extent the sheer volume of Android tablets available have given publishers a new lease of life. Tablets offer perhaps the biggest opportunity to stem the decline in print sales, with a viable product that doesn’t just emulate the magazine reading experience but enhances it.

And that’s the beauty with tablet mags – the delivery system means publishers can start to take risks again, without fear of (major) overheads. This is because print costs are taken out of the equation, as is stock delivery.

"tablets are useless when you deprive them of content"

For the consumer this is fantastic news. You will likely see more experiments taking place with content on places like Apple Newsstand and also better magazine choice. This increase is welcomed too – which isn’t a surprise as tablets are useless when you deprive them of content.

Ad Week recently revealed that the readership of digital only magazines rose by 47 per cent over the last year. This is a promising stat, not only because it means this digital mag editor can sleep a little easier knowing there is a growing hunger for tablet magazines, but the media industry that’s found itself in decline for far too long may have found a saviour.

It’s still early days, however. While the sector is thriving, Paid Content does note that this new, previously untapped, revenue stream isn’t enough to offset the losses currently being made in print sales but the signs are there that this will change.

You only have to look at Apple’s iPad sales –up 84 per cent in the third quarter of this year compared to last year – to see that there are plenty of consumers yet to jump on the tablet bandwagon.

"Future publishing made an impressive £6 million from Apple Newsstand in just one year."

And these are people that when they do jump will pay for content. Future Publishing made an impressive £6 million from Apple Newsstand in just one year.

Couple this with the fact that Google is still working hard to create a similar storefront for digital magazines and what you have are signs that not only is there a future for digital magazines but digital magazines are the future.

Marc Chacksfield is the editor of tech. – a new interactive iPad magazine from the makers of Tech Radar that is available on Apple’s Newsstand. He tweets as @mchax and you can also follow the new title @techdotmag.


 Do you agree? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Join the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #socialvoices


Ben Griffin talks about why it may be best to hold back on the 4G revolution

By Matt F-Smith 09/11/2012 17:22

EE Social Voices

In a society so fixated on getting what it wants as quickly as possible, it is no wonder 4G is causing a stir. 4G opens the door to much faster data speeds and let's face it, existing 3G coverage is, at best, patchy - and lord help you if you decide to rely on it when on the move. But while 3G only does the job respectably in areas lucky enough to have it, we at least know its faults and somehow, warts and all, it has played a major part in the smartphone revolution.

The same, however, cannot be said of 4G. As any Windows Vista user will tell you, the price of being an early adopter can be painfully high. Jumping into a new contract with EE does not guarantee blissfully quick internet access on a grand scale. As with any new technology, there's a long way to go before it will run like a well-oiled machine and blanket coverage is years off.


There are few particular of reasons why you should hold fast. Even though the addition of speedy mobile broadband to the UK is exciting news, particularly for a nation with a very low average home broadband speed, the reality is not all smiles and high-speed browsing aplenty - at least, not yet.

"...numerous connectivity issues, with customers blaming what some have labelled a 'rush-job'".

For one thing, the infrastructure in place means coverage is limited so unless you live in what EE deems a 'major city', you won't be getting a slice of the mobile broadband pie and even if you do live somewhere like London, there is no guarantee you will fare any better. Early reports have revealed numerous connectivity issues, with customers blaming what some have labelled a 'rush-job'.


EE wanted to be first to the punch, having won the right to use existing 2G spectrums to launch 4G ahead of its rivals, so it was inevitable there would be some teething problems. But some customers have reported an inability to connect to the new network, assuming they have even received the right SIM-card for the job.

Also, because 4G is a data-only connection, the moment you receive a phone call you will be hopping back to 3G. This could prove to be a pain if your smartphone use involves lots of phone calls and data usage.

Based on preliminary testing, 4G is undoubtedly faster when it is working - up to five times faster than 3G, in some cases - but with a relatively low number of users, the effect of serious congestion may lessen the gap substantially, even though EE claims it won't be an issue.

"Stick with 3G and you could seriously lower your outgoings and yet still enjoy unlimited data."

This means your £36-a-month two year contract could be really rather expensive knowing the benefits may not be that substantial. Stick with 3G and you could seriously lower your outgoings and yet still enjoy unlimited data - not a 500MB cap. Even at £56-a-month, the top tier, your allowance is limited to 8GB. Clearly, you really can't have your cake and eat it at this point in time.

Of course, you are paying for the 11-month head start on other networks and that sort of money may not be a problem for you. But for the more penny-conscious, 4G is pricey and with EE out on its own, the benefits of competition can only wait to decrease prices.

Even before its arrival, for instance, Vodafone is planning to knock a staggering 70 per cent off the costs involved of exchanging a 3G device with a 4G-ready one when its network is ready to go.

"...there are some splendid deals out there if you can hang tight."

To put that in real money terms, a two year, £33-a-month iPhone 5 contract would cost you less than £190 - roughly £440 less than it would normally, if you opted to swap to 4G five months in. Networks really are trying their utmost best to keep you from taking the plunge through fear of losing custom, which means there are some splendid deals out there if you can hang tight.

Suffice to say, the dream of almost instant content on a smartphone is really not so far away and Britain is finally playing technological catch up, but there is no guarantee the experience will be trouble free or even that much faster than 3G on a consistent basis.

And that's not good news when you stuck halfway through your two year contract, looking at all the enticing new deals that will inevitably be offered by Three, Vodafone and O2 next year.

"Somehow the idea of paying a premium price to be a guinea pig doesn't sound all that enticing to me."

I'm all for speeding up Britain but somehow the idea of paying a premium price to be a guinea pig doesn't sound all that enticing to me, especially when it's all too easy to burn through those megabytes.

Ben Griffin is a freelance journalist, copywriter and media consultant who has written for a number of publications. You can find him on twitter @LicenseToQuill



Joe Minihane wonders whether the writing is on the wall for the tech superstore.

By Matt F-Smith 01/11/2012 17:59

Comet store. Image PA

It seems the writing’s on the wall for Comet. The giant tech retailer has today gone into administration, with 6,500 jobs under threat. Already ailing when it was bought for just £2 last year, the once go-to store for every gadget imaginable is now facing the very real possibility of extinction. And it’s all down to a wider shift in how we indulge our unending appetite for new tech.


Comet’s plight is unfortunately not a new one. Last year saw US giant Best Buy pull out of the UK after barely a year trading on these shores. The demise of Game has been well-documented, its inability to convince hard-core gamers to take the trip to the high street rather than buying online ensuring its existence was inevitably doomed.


At the centre of this latest high street disaster is, of course, the Internet. Easy access to cheap goods which can be ordered while slumped on the sofa is always going to be more appealing to heading out to a busy high street or mall where prices will doubtless be steeper. It’s a sad reality, but this is what Comet, and others, have had to put up with now for over a decade.

"consumers can get expert advice on everything without having to ask advice in store"

But it’s not just down to the simple fact that buying online costs less. The abundance of tech sites, from both mainstream media sources and independent bloggers, means consumers can get expert advice on everything from the latest top-end Android phone to a new washing machine without having to ask advice in store. Like Comet, you can employ people who are passionate and knowledgeable about their subject, but when a consumer has the power to search and read a series of independent reviews and get just as clued in, it’s not surprising that they’re not making a beeline to bricks and mortar stores to get a second opinion.

On top of those bloggers who’ve reviewed a product, there’s also the Amazon effect. User reviews are an increasingly powerful tool and one which consumers rely to get advice from likeminded users. This kind of service just doesn’t exist on the high street, hence Comet can’t compete with Amazon. Chuck in the latter’s low overheads, a tax regime which sees them pay comparatively little into the exchequer and its ability to slash prices at a stroke and it’s a wonder Comet has lasted this long.

"staffed by tech fanatics that know each and every product inside out..."

So, is this the end of the bricks and mortar tech store? Not quite. Dixons, owner of Currys and PC World, posted strong profits in June and is set to recruit 3,000 seasonal employees over Christmas. John Lewis’s excellent tech departments, which sell bleeding edge gadgets and are staffed by tech fanatics that know each and every product inside out, continue to impress.


Apple’s stores, meanwhile, continue to strengthen and are perhaps the best place to buy their products if you don’t want lengthy waits for delivery of in-demand items. And independent hi-fi retailers, with their niche appeal and high-ticket items, remain a bastion of the tech sector on high streets across the UK. 

"the impulse to try before you buy is strong, the urge to get a good deal is even stronger"

Yet each of these brands also offer well thought out ways to buy online too. They know that while the impulse to try before you buy is strong, the urge to get a good deal is even stronger. For smaller items like phones, tablets and laptops, it’s now just as easy to order, play at home and then return if you don’t fancy it.


Sadly, it seems as if it’s only a matter of time before the web finally does for tech on Britain’s high streets.

Joe Minihane is a freelance travel, tech and lifestyle journalist. Follow Joe on Twitter @joeminihane


Should we be listening-out for Comet's death rattle? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Join the debate on Twitter using the hashtag #socialvoices


Roy Clymo investigates Lewis Hamilton's and Jenson Button's Twitter feud.

By Matt F-Smith 08/10/2012 12:49

Lewis Hamilton - Image PA
So Lewis Hamilton has been left with egg on his face after a Twitter spat at the weekend, one which saw the F1 driver dissing his McLaren team-mate Jenson Button then trying to quickly patch things up using cool street slang.


Hamilton wrote: "Just noticed @jensonbutton unfollowed, thats a shame. After 3 years as teammates, I thought we respected one another but clearly he doesn't.


And followed it up with: "Funny thing is, we are STILL teammates! All good tho, I plan on giving this team & fans all I got til I cross the finish line in brazil!!!"


"My bad, just found out Jenson never followed me"


Embarrassingly, however, it turns out that Button had never followed Hamilton’s Twitter account in the first place, leaving a rather sheepish Lewis to Tweet "My bad, just found out Jenson never followed me. Don't blame him! Need to be on Twitter more!"


Unfortunately for Hamilton, the online bitch-fest got underway before he’d checked his facts, which is arguably rather difficult when you have well over 1-million followers. Instead, poor old Lewis apparently got the tip-off from a journalist’s Tweet, which just goes to show you can never trust a hack from the media.


"the ultimate cardinal sin when it comes to netiquette"


Tut tut Lewis. Hamilton may well be leaving the McLaren camp for Mercedes at the end of the year, but putting your foot in it publicly and in front of a million or so followers is akin to committing the ultimate cardinal sin when it comes to netiquette.


And, coming at a time when his racing career is in neutral rather than top gear, perhaps the 27-year-old could do with some lessons in how to make friends rather than enemies when dipping into his social networking interests.


Even more so when it appears his ego is more substantial than his driving prowess at present. Hamilton’s a repeat offender too, having tweeted everything from sensitive race car data through to dodgy song lyrics in the past.


"Sometimes, Lewis, it’s just better to say nothing at all…"


Hamilton had another patchy race at the Japanese grand prix at the weekend. So, topping it off with tetchy Tweets targeted at his team-mate is likely to produce a frosty atmosphere in the pits during next week’s Korean leg of the F1 series.


Sometimes, Lewis, it’s just better to say nothing at all…


Rob Clymo is editor of Digital Photography Enthusiast Magazine, travel writer, and MSN Tech & Gadgets columnist. Follow Rob on Twitter @theclymobrief

Isn't it time we brushed up on our social media etiquette? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. Join the debate on Twitter using the hashtag


Our columnist Duncan Jefferies hopes Mr Hunt will get everyone connected first.

By Matt F-Smith 21/08/2012 14:09

Image Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire
Like his Top Gear namesake, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is obsessed with speed. During a speech in East London today he said he wanted Britain to have Europe's fastest broadband by 2015. An ambition which begs the response: Nice idea Jezza, but how about hooking up the whole of the country to bog-standard broadband first?


Dial-up! In 2012! It's the equivalent of having to ride to work on a Penny-farthing.


Although most people in urban areas now have access to half-way decent broadband speeds, many in the countryside still lack a basic 1Mbps connection. That means no iPlayer, no online gaming, no Skype – all the wonders of the web 2.0 world are but a dream to these poor folk. In some cases, they're still using 56k modems. Dial-up! In 2012! It's the equivalent of having to ride to work on a Penny-farthing.


When HTML 5, which allows for uber-pretty and super interactive websites and online apps, becomes commonplace the digitally destitute are going to be left even further behind. Already many children in rural areas struggle with their homework due to the lack of a decent home broadband connection. Running an online business is all but impossible. This digital divide between town and country will only become starker if broadband speeds don’t improve.


There is a knock-on effect on housing too, as people are often unwilling to move to areas that are currently excluded from the digital revolution. In extreme cases, families have even been forced to move home in order to get access to a decent broadband connection – a whole new spin on the term 'digital nomad'. The long-term impact of slow broadband speeds on rural economies is therefore huge.


That’s not to say I wouldn’t welcome faster broadband. Even though I live in London, one of the largest cities in the world, my 24Mbps broadband connection usually maxes out at around a quarter of that speed, thanks, I imagine, to the ageing fixed line telephone cables that connect my house to the internet. It's like paying for a 1000cc motorbike, only to find it has a speed limiter permanently fitted.


"only two in a thousand British households having signed up for the Usain Bolt of broadband"


This is slowly changing, however, as planned network upgrades begin to kick-in. A recent survey by Ofcom showed that broadband speeds have nearly doubled over the past three years. And several companies now offer fibre-optic broadband packages that provide speeds of up to 76Mbps.


We're still lagging behind many other European countries in terms of uptake of ultra-fast 100Mbps connections though, with only two in a thousand British households having signed up for the Usain Bolt of broadband, according to the EU's Digital Agenda scoreboard.


In that sense, Jeremy Hunt is right to push for faster speeds by 2015; we risk being left in the European slow lane otherwise. But having the fastest broadband in Europe should not take precedence over getting the whole country connected first.


Duncan Jefferies is a freelance technology journalist who specialises in tech, travel and video games. Follow Duncan on Twitter @duncanjefferies.


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Making calls is now just the fifth most frequent use of a smartphone

By Gordon Kelly 18/07/2012 15:34
According to Ofcom text messaging is now the most popular form of daily communication between British adults. 

Dangerous data: Is the shift away from calls bringing down our phone networks?

Drill down into the stats and this equates to 58 per cent of UK adults sending at least one text message everyday compared to 47 per cent making at least one phone call per day. What are we to make of this? The first point is that this doesn't tell half the story.


Look back less than three weeks and O2 published a report which claims making calls is now just the fifth most frequent use of a smartphone.

"Apparently smartphone users spend a little over 12 minutes on average making calls each day"

...that's less than half the time they spend surfing the web.


Making calls also fell behind checking social networks, listening to music and playing games while emailing and, yes, texting were just behind. Is smartphone user data relevant, aren't they still a niche?


Banter in the face of adversity

By Verity Burns 13/07/2012 18:36

By: Duncan Jefferies

Martin Keene/PA Wire/Press Association ImagesGood customer service is the goal of any company. Get it right and you'll have a loyal customer base who'll sing your praises to their friends, family and some bloke down the pub. But get it wrong, for example, by forcing your customers to listen to a 30 minute loop of Ricky Martin's greatest hits when they call to make a complaint, and you'll soon find yourself slagged off more than a banker with a tax avoidance scheme.


Thanks to Twitter, the tightrope walk between 'crap company' and 'company I love more than my own family' has become even trickier to handle. Now that so many people communicate on social networks, it's understandable that they expect to talk to someone from their mobile provider or bank through this medium, rather than purely by phone, letter or email.

Dumb companies have seen this as an opportunity to spam their customers' Twitter feeds with pointless updates about new services and products. Smart companies, however, have realised that social media can save them a lot of blushes in the event of a crisis.


O2 are the latest company to tweet their way out of a potentially embarrassing situation. When the mobile phone provider's service went down on Wednesday night, hoardes of irate customers took to Twitter to vent their spleens.

"Instead of being mowed down by a hail of foul-mouthed abuse, they survived."


Somewhere in O2's headquarters, the in-house social media team donned their tin hats and prepared to wade into the fray. These brave men and women, armed only with flimsy media degrees (probably) and lightning fast typing skills (definitely), were effectively sent over the top by their corporate corporals. But instead of being mowed down by a hail of foul-mouthed abuse, they survived.


In fact, they did more than that – they won the praise of the Twitterati for their efforts. Despite having f-bombs lobbed at them left right and centre, they fought back with some rapier-sharp wit.

When one angry Tweeter launched a particularly offensive tweet their way, they responded with a pithy: "Maybe later, got tweets to send right now." To another person's suggestion that the team indulge in some inappropriate behaviour with their mothers, O2 simply replied: "She says no thanks."


The social media team apparently had no specific instructions on how to respond to the complaints. In my opinion, they delivered a masterclass in how corporations can tackle a DEFCON 1 level crisis with humour and humility. 

"Speak like a human being, not a robot."

They understood the fundamental rule that all Twitter users should adhere too – speak like a human being, not a robot. And for that they deserve a medal…or at least an extended lunch break and a few free drinks from their boss.

Duncan Jefferies writes about tech and digital culture for MSN Tech & Gadgets and The Guardian. He is slightly obsessed with retro gadgets, Terry-Thomas films and old vinyl. Follow him on Twitter @duncanjefferies

What do you think? Do O2 have the right idea or should companies respond to complaints in a more formal manner. Let us know below!


The government always wants more snooping power, but it hasn’t thought its plans through argues Simon Munk.

By PsiMonk 27/06/2012 13:34

Copyright: CamEl Creative/Getty ImagesDavid Cameron and his ministers seem to have the hots for gaining new powers to monitor social networks, email and phone calls more widely.


While Theresa May talks up the supposed benefits of the “cyber-snoopers’ charter”, Jonathan Evans, head of MI5, with (ahem) spooky timing, has warned that the agency is battling an “astonishing” level of cyber-attacks on the UK.


A debate last night brought MPs, professors and journalists together to discuss the findings in think-tank Demos’ new report into Social Media Intelligence (‘SOCMINT’). In it, it qualifies how such snooping could be a good thing.


Measures like these are supposedly to stop potential terrorist attacks, but the idea fatally misunderstands the world we live in now.

"Not only will increased cyber-surveillance prove useless, but ultimately counter-productive"

Those in authority are pushing hard to prove we need these new powers. But they’re wrong – not only will increased cyber-surveillance prove useless, but ultimately counter-productive.

The world has changed – and social networks have changed it. Terrorists can spring from anywhere – they may train in a foreign camp, but may equally learn their craft from the internet; they may be recruited online, or locally. The idea that we’ll catch the bad people by monitoring emails and Facebook messages is patently stupid – terrorists will simply adapt and change tactics. They’ve already proven they’re good at doing that.

Instead, we’ll have more and more idiotic civil liberties cases. Today, Paul Chambers, a trainee accountant, is facing a High Court appeal after he joked he was going to blow up an airport on Twitter when his plane was delayed.

And Sheffield student Richard O’Dwyer is facing extradition to the US, for running a non-US website that let people find TV and film content, but didn’t host any of that content. All on a treaty introduced to ensure ‘terrorists’ could be brought to justice.

"The best thing western governments could do to stop fuelling terrorism, is start playing fair."

The gigantic net our government wants to throw over the internet won’t catch more sharks, it won’t even get many minnows – it’ll get the flotsam and jetsam.

Worse, these new cyber-snooping powers, as well as making terrorists think and act smarter, will just add another grievance to their list. I’m not for one second trying to legitimise terrorism – but the easiest and best thing western governments could do to stop fuelling terrorism, is start playing fair.

Terrorism thrives where a population perceives there to be a grave injustice against it. And the West can do much more to cut those perceptions.

Social networks allow everyone to see the hypocrisy of developed countries - imbalanced trade rules; IMF loans and subsequent “austerity measures” and “trade liberalisation” that dispossess the poor from vital farming land; dictators armed in return for mineral rights. It’s all on Wikileaks, YouTube and Twitter – the way we treat other people stinks, and until we change that, we can expect to face more angry, motivated terrorists.

Pretending we live in a fortress and spying on everyone inside and out makes for a darkly paranoid view of the world. The alternative? Recognise we are ever more connected, and start treating the rest of the world as we’d expect to be treated ourselves.

Simon Munk is a technology journalist, who has been tinkering with technology since taking apart a parking meter when he was four. Follow Simon Munk on Twitter @psimonk

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