Technology

Uh oh…there goes the Herald’s new revenue stream

The NZ Herald and Fairfax went all in on native advertising, hoodwinking readers into thinking that paid for articles were news.

But all that is about to come to a crashing halt. Software engineers have worked out how to block native advertising.

For publishers, ad blockers are the elephant in the room: Everybody sees them, no one talks about them. The common understanding is that the first to speak up will be dead—it will acknowledge that the volume of ads actually delivered can in fact be 30% to 50% smaller than claimed—and invoiced. Publishers fear retaliation from media buying agencies—even though the ad community is quick to forget that it dug its own grave by flooding the web with intolerable amounts of promotional formats.

A week ago, I was in Finland for the Google-sponsored conference Newsgeist. The gathering was setup by Richard Gingras and his Google News team, and by Google’s media team in London. Up there, in a  high-tech campus nested in a birch forest outside Helsinki, about 150 internet people from Europe and the United States were setting the  agenda for what is called an un-conference—as opposed to the usual PowerPoint-saturated format delivered in one-way mode. As expected, one session was devoted to the ad blocking issue. (I can’t quote anyone since discussions took place under the Chatham House Rule). Read more »

This is what happens when you artificially increase labour costs

Minimum wages are designed to protect low paid workers, and governments periodically recalibrate the minimum wage.

Even then there are advocates for the so-called “living wage” which is even higher than the legal minimum wage.

All of these efforts though are distorting the market price for labour. And if the minimum wage rises past point at which the job is no longer viable then it ceases to exist, especially as technology allows for a cheaper alternative.

Hamburgers are a multi-billion dollar business, and while fast food chains have got the process down to an efficient production line process, making them is still labor intensive with armies of burger flippers and sandwich assemblers. In a move that could put millions of teenagers around the world out of their first job, Momentum Machines is creating a hamburger-making machine that churns out made-to-order burgers at industrial speeds and aims to use it in its own chain of restaurants.

According to Momentum Machines, making burgers costs US$9 billion a year in wages in the United States alone. The company points out that a machine that could make burgers with minimum human intervention would not only provide huge savings in labor costs, but would also reduce preparation space with a burger kitchen replaced by a much smaller and cheaper stainless-steel box.

This self-contained, automatic device sees raw ingredients go in one end and the completed custom-made burgers come out the other at the rate of up to 400 per hour. The machine stamps out the patties, uses what the company says are “gourmet cooking techniques never before used in a fast food restaurant,” applies the toppings (which are cut only after ordering to ensure freshness), and even bags the burgers.

The company plans to open its first restaurant in the near future and to market the machines to third parties, arguing that one can pay for itself inside of a year. The company is targeting restaurants, convenience stores, food trucks and vending machine applications.

Read more »

Schooling Auckland Council on transport

Bryan Leyland gives Len brown and his train spotter friends a real good tickle up on public transport.

The railway tunnel will serve only a very small fraction of Auckland’s population and at a huge cost. Mayor Len Brown is determined to commit Auckland to building a hugely expensive railway tunnel even though no comprehensive independent and objective economic analysis has been made on the merits of the tunnel and whether or not letting the city spread and developing satellite centres would be better.

Auckland Council has neglected its obligation to investigate and evaluate all options. Given the enormous amount of expenditure involved, this amounts to a serious dereliction of duty.

Overseas research on 44 urban rail systems revealed that the average cost overrun was 45 per cent and the number of passengers was half the predicted number. Have the economics of the Auckland tunnel been tested against 45 per cent higher costs and half the passengers? If not, why not?

The railway tunnel will serve only a very small fraction of Auckland’s population and at a huge cost. Right now, ratepayers subsidise 80 per cent of the cost of every train fare. If the tunnel costs blow out by 50 per cent it will need to recover at least $450 million in fares every year for capital repayment and operating expenses. If, as hoped, there are 20 million rail trips every year, they will need to recover $22.50 per rail trip. Most of this will be imposed on the ratepayers.

No one living on the North Shore will benefit from the rail loop but they will paying for it.

No one living in East Auckland will benefit from the rail loop but they will be paying for it.   Read more »

Cellphones fry your brain…oh wait…no they don’t

tinfoilhat

The tinfoil hat brigade will tell you that cellphones give you cancer…and when you ask them for evidence they invariably have none but maintain they read it somewhere.

Well now you can read it here…cellphones do not give you cancer.

New research from the University of Auckland shows the risk of brain tumours cannot be linked with with increased mobile phone use.

Professor Mark Elwood, cancer epidemiologist at the University of Auckland, led research on the trends in primary brain incidence in New Zealand between 1995 and 2010. Results indicate there is no general increase in brain tumours as a consequence of using mobile phones.

Elwood’s team examined the frequency (yearly incidence) of brain cancers, both in total and in sub-types highlighted in some other studies, in New Zealand from 1995 to 2010 using data from the New Zealand national cancer registry.   Read more »

Photo Of The Day

WileyandPoisonSquad

The Poison Squad

Meet Harvey Washington Wiley, and some members of the Poison Squad sitting around the table eating dinner.

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Andrew Sullivan’s last blog post on media and blogging

Andrew Sullivan has quit blogging. He suddenly announced his retirement about 10 days ago and has quickly wound down to yesterday’s last day of blogging.

His last blog post is about one of his first and echoes my thoughts on the medium perfectly.

Thirteen years ago, as I was starting to experiment with this blogging thing, I wrote the following:

[T]he speed with which an idea in your head reaches thousands of other people’s eyes has another deflating effect, this time in reverse: It ensures that you will occasionally blurt out things that are offensive, dumb, brilliant, or in tune with the way people actually think and speak in private. That means bloggers put themselves out there in far more ballsy fashion than many officially sanctioned pundits do, and they make fools of themselves more often, too. The only way to correct your mistakes or foolishness is in public, on the blog, in front of your readers. You are far more naked than when clothed in the protective garments of a media entity.

But, somehow, you’re liberated as well as nude: blogging as a media form of streaking. I notice this when I write my blog, as opposed to when I write for the old media. I take less time, worry less about polish, and care less about the consequences on my blog. That makes for more honest writing. It may not be “serious” in the way, say, a 12-page review of 14th-century Bulgarian poetry in the New Republic is serious. But it’s serious inasmuch as it conveys real ideas and feelings in as unvarnished and honest a form as possible. I think journalism could do with more of that kind of seriousness. It’s democratic in the best sense of the word. It helps expose the wizard behind the media curtain.

I stand by all those words. There are times when people take this or that post or sentence out of a blog and make it seem as if it is the definitive, fully considered position of the blogger. Or they take two sentences from different moments in time and insist that they are a contradiction. That, it seems to me, misses the essential part of blogging as a genuinely new mode of writing: its provisionality, its conversational essence, its essential errors, its ephemeral core, its nature as the mode in which writing comes as close as it can to speaking extemporaneously.

Read more »

The ‘unassisted suicide’ of old media

Andrew Sullivan ceases blogging today, and one of his final posts is a discussion of modern media developments by old media companies.

CBC interviewed him about native advertising:

Sullivan’s case against native advertisement is powerful and succinct. “It is advertising that is portraying itself as journalism, simple as that,” he told me recently. “It is an act of deception of the readers and consumers of media who believe they’re reading the work of an independent journalist.”

Advertisers, he says, want to buy the integrity built up over decades by journalists and which, in the past, was kept at arm’s length. Now they will happily pay to imitate it: “The whole goal is you not being able to tell the difference.” Sullivan’s argument is so doctrinaire, so principled, that it makes bourgeois practitioners of the craft, like me, squirm.

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Andrew Sullivan decides to quit blogging

One of my big influencers in blogging has decided to quit after 15 years.

One of the things I’ve always tried to do at the Dish is to be up-front with readers. This sometimes means grotesque over-sharing; sometimes it means I write imprudent arguments I have to withdraw; sometimes it just means a monthly update on our revenues and subscriptions; and sometimes I stumble onto something actually interesting. But when you write every day for readers for years and years, as I’ve done, there’s not much left to hide. And that’s why, before our annual auto-renewals, I want to let you know I’ve decided to stop blogging in the near future.

Why? Two reasons. The first is one I hope anyone can understand: although it has been the most rewarding experience in my writing career, I’ve now been blogging daily for fifteen years straight (well kinda straight). That’s long enough to do any single job. In some ways, it’s as simple as that. There comes a time when you have to move on to new things, shake your world up, or recognize before you crash that burn-out does happen.

The second is that I am saturated in digital life and I want to return to the actual world again. I’m a human being before I am a writer; and a writer before I am a blogger, and although it’s been a joy and a privilege to have helped pioneer a genuinely new form of writing, I yearn for other, older forms. I want to read again, slowly, carefully. I want to absorb a difficult book and walk around in my own thoughts with it for a while. I want to have an idea and let it slowly take shape, rather than be instantly blogged. I want to write long essays that can answer more deeply and subtly the many questions that the Dish years have presented to me. I want to write a book.

I want to spend some real time with my parents, while I still have them, with my husband, who is too often a ‘blog-widow’, my sister and brother, my niece and nephews, and rekindle the friendships that I have simply had to let wither because I’m always tied to the blog. And I want to stay healthy. I’ve had increasing health challenges these past few years. They’re not HIV-related; my doctor tells me they’re simply a result of fifteen years of daily, hourly, always-on-deadline stress. These past few weeks were particularly rough – and finally forced me to get real.

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I agree with Keith Locke, take the tasers off the cops…

It is a new year and so I suppose we didn’t have to wait long for Keith Locke to have a bleat about Police and their use of Tasers.

Police have revealed they fired a Taser stun-gun at an offender five times – the latest incident that has Taser critics calling for a review of its use.

The case is contained in statistics released by police about Taser use in the first half of last year.

A police spokesman said the incident involved a violent offender resisting arrest and fighting with an officer in the Counties-Manukau district with the Taser being pressed directly against the body of the suspect in “contact stun” mode.

“While the Taser was discharged [in contact stun mode] five times, three made contact with the person,” the spokesman said.

“Of the three which made contact, the first two were not effective in bringing the person under control, while the third was effective in stopping the violent behaviour.”

Police said two of the discharges missed the offender as he grappled with the officer on the ground.

The suspect was not injured, but a critic says increased use, and two recent Taser-related deaths overseas, suggest the device will kill someone here.

This week 38-year-old Kevin Norris died after being Tasered by police in the New South Wales town of Mittagong.

According to reports, Norris was conscious when taken into custody but died at the police station. His death is now the subject of an investigation.

Former Green MP Keith Locke, who has been a critic of the Taser since it was introduced in 2007, said the death should send a message.    Read more »

And they say my comments section is dreadful

The mainstream media and the disaffected left like to claim that the comments section here at WOBH is dreadful.

Fairfax owns used to own a fair chunk of Trade Me, even after they sold some down, until 2012 when they dumped the remaining shares.

Here is just one example of comments that stand at Trade Me.

deaththreat to PM Read more »