Introducing Freemail. Better than Freemium.

The twitterati, or twatterati as I heard them referred to recently, are noisily testing Buzz, Google’s latest spoiler in the war to dominate our internet attention spans. Charles Arthur in the Guardian describes the underwhelming response from a series of social media gurus, including Robert Scoble. The Telegraph’s Shane Richmond is equally lukewarm.

Looking at the big picture for a minute, the inflection point of culture and technology we are at now is fascinating. The browser wars have been overtaken by the behaviour wars, as the dominance of search as the monetisable business of the internet is being attacked every day by other businesses more interested in monetising the behaviours of connecting with friends. Gmail was originally Google’s response to the reason most people claimed they used the internet (as per Nielsen and Forrester reports as infinitum) – to connect with friends. Or in other words, use email. Facebook may disagree, given the amount of time we spend in social networks. these new tools are great, and make our communication instant, realtime, shareable, and accessible to our friendship communities. Yet email remains, much as we loathe it, the killer app of the internet. The idea of people paying for online newspapers, a current concern of so many media pundits, is quite like asking whether people will people pay for email. Whilst there are millions of ‘freemail’ users out there, the cost of it is subsidised by the monoliths of Google and Microsoft in order to keep eyeballs in their respective worlds. So ponder this. Is email really free? And for how long?

new digital native fightback research

There’s been a bit of a ‘it’s all over for digital’ mood in recent months based on two factors. First,  enormous traffic figures for Apprentice and Britain’s Got Talent are heralded as a return to the heady days of appointment TV and regular 7 million viewers. Second, studies showing that kids and ‘youf’ aren’t really all that savvy with computers at all, barely knowing how to search and typing slowly with one finger. I heard this voiced by several luminaries at the digital britain conference, you know, the sort of people who barely know how to search and type slowly with…. Sadly, one swallow doth not a summer make. New research from Channel 4 into kids and technology (kids being today’s 12-24 year-olds) shows that the digital native is making a comeback.

  • They personally own 8 devices (including MP3 player, PC, TV, DVD player, mobile phone, stereo, games console, and digital camera)
  • They frequently conduct over 5 activities whilst watching TV
  • 25% of them agree that “I’d rather stay at home than go on a holiday with no internet or phone access”
  • A quarter of young people interviewed text or IM (instant message) friends they are physically with at the time
  • They have on average 123 friends on their social network spaces
  • And the first thing the majority of them do when they get home is turn on their PC

Good news for the geeks then? Andy Pipes on the platform 4 blog comments:

Kids these days still find technology a means to an end – primarily meeting up with their friends, watching television and listening to music. Above all, youth’s obsession with technology is around communication. The average person surveyed was doing 5 simultaneous actions whilst they watched television these days; and the majority of those actions involved communicating at some level. One young teenage girl admitted “I talk to my friend and MSN (instant message) her at the same time.” In fact, a full 34% of those asked said that they texted friends they were with at the time.

Universal problem for advertisers then – not only how to capture their attention, but also how to keep them engaged for longer then 3 seconds. Why am I not surprised?

Digital Britain Unconference now online

digital britain unconference report

digital britain unconference report

Over the past couple of weeks the Digital Britain Unconference has been gaining momentum with report from across the country being edited and compiled into a single document submitted to BERR this week. Here’s my comment as signatory (and erstwhile London Unconference editor) of this superb example of people coming together through a combination of interactive technologies and meetups for the greater good of the nation.

This report is not an example of ‘citizen journalism’. Nor is it just ‘user generated content’. It is a solid and co-ordinated effort by a considerable number of smart and committed people, living by the keystroke, connecting as individuals, with concrete belief that Britain has to be a successful and leading country in all aspects of the digital world.

To package such a wide variety of knowledgeable opinion and recommendation in a short space of time is a terrific example of how Digital Britain can be far more than the sum of its parts. I am delighted put my name to the report.

Alastair Duncan
London N16

The full report can be read here Digital Britain Unconference Report

Congratulations are due to Kathryn Corrick, Bill Thompson and Tom de Grunwald who pulled this whole thing together along with all the Unconference organisers around the country. BERR are now reading the report ‘with interest’. Likewise.