The Internet makes trust and insight scarce commodities, and makes newsroom veterans more valuable

Recently I have been looking at the newspaper as a service and as a business (for reasons that will become apparent later). Something is becoming clear. While the Internet makes information plentiful, and this in turn may be a challenge to some aspects of the newspaper business, deep insight and trust remain as scarce as they have ever been. Indeed, the value of deep insight and trustworthy information may have increased in the digital era.

This post, by the way, also appears in the Huffington Post today.

“Commodity news” made up of superficial coverage and parsed press releases is plentiful online. But deep insight remains sufficiently rare that some publications can charge for it. Thus, The Financial Times and The Economist remain essential reading despite the availability of zero cost alternatives. This deep and explanatory journalism can only be built by an expensive newsroom staffed by veteran reporters who have built expertise and relationships with sources over many years. The newspaper that is viable in the digital age must maintain a level of expertise in its newsroom that can not be accessed elsewhere. [read more]

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Interview on the history + future of the Net

Jerry Brito, a tech thinker and writer for Time Magazine interviewed me about my recent book, A history of the Internet and the digital future as part of his ‘Surprisingly Free’ podcast series with techies. Jerry has an interesting background: he’s an academic, but he has also lead some interesting projects – see below – and has a interesting take on tech regulation.

  •, an alternative interface to the federal government’s regulatory docketing system
  • Very Local Data, demographic information for every jurisdiction in the country
  • Stimulus Watch, crowdsourced accountability for federal stimulus spending

Our conversation jumped from Baran, RAND, ARPA/DARPA, the internet protocols, and then took a turn toward the political. The interview is online here and the MP3 is downloadable here Surprisingly Free podcast interview with Johnny Ryan by Jerry Brito

The 3 sided product problem

This post is also on Huffington Post. The first item ever sold on eBay was a broken laser pointer. Startled that someone had bid for the broken item eBay’s founder, Pierre Omidyar, contacted the bidder to ask whether he understood that the laser pointer for which he had bid $14.83 was in fact broken? The bidder responded: ‘Yes, I’m a collector of broken laser pointers’. It was late September 1995. Omidyar realized that he was onto something big. By the end of the next year the value of all goods sold on eBay had reached $7.2 million.

This, however, is a trap for entrepreneurs. The market appears to have a niche for anything – but this is illusory. There is a three sided problem that can derail a product. I spoke last night at a startup event and introduced a few thoughts on what these are. Microphone problems prevented me from making my point as well as I would have liked, so here, in text, are the three sides to the product conundrum. Continue reading

“Peer-to-Peer Retail”: Social marketing/commerce is not just about ‘likes’

Owjo, the social commerce startup where I worked as evangelist/marketer/product guy, had a big problem. Its offering was so big, and so potentially transformative, that prospective customers couldn’t get a quick grasp of it. Part of my job was to break the product down, so that discrete offerings could be orientated to specific markets. The first fruit of my labour to be released is the concept of “Peer-to-Peer Retail”. It is being introduced in my piece “Peer-to-Peer Retail / The power of sharing” in this coming issue of the quarterly Contagious Magazine (out this week). The concept behind Peer-to-Peer Retail is that social marketing and commerce should not just be about likes, they should be about an entirely new system of retail distribution and customer acquisition, driven by more by the customer than the brand itself. This is not a small idea.

ComScore’s recent report The Power of Like  showed that when a brand succeeds in getting many ‘likes’ on Facebook this translates into sales. The researchers gathered data to show that Starbucks fans and their friends spend more in the cafe than average, and that fans and friends of fans of Southwest Airlines, another surveyed brand, were far more likely to visit its official site than the general internet population. The third brand surveyed, Bing, was used 68 percent more times by fans than non- fans. The message is that getting ‘liked’ by users on Facebook translates to sales. But this is only half of the equation. The idea behind ‘Peer-to-Peer Retail’, and which I saw within Owjo’s technology the first moment I was introduced to it, is that marketing must go beyond what ComScore call ‘The Power of Like’ to Continue reading

A Moore’s Law for 3D printing? (I need data)

Moore's Law Moore’s Law (transistors per chip) and Hendy’s Law (pixels per dollar) have been useful predictors of where processing power and digital photography were going. Something similar would be really useful for 3D printing. I tried to plot a law for the quality of print per dollar of 3D printers for an article I have been working on for the McKinsey Quarterly, but I don’t have the data. What I want to plot is something along these lines: quality (lower microns etc. + multi-materials) improves at the same cost every X months/years. Plotting this would help people plan for, and benefit from, the disruption of 3D printing.

I need help to do this: I have setup a Google spreadsheet that anybody can contribute data points to at The data I need are the following: Continue reading

3D printing – Johnny Ryan talks with Vyomesh Joshi, EVP of HP’s printing business

VYOMESH JOSHI HP are interesting because they are the first major manufacturer to enter the 3D printing space, partnering last year with Stratasys to offer 3D printers directly to designers and architects at the sub $20,000 range. So I questioned Vyomesh Joshi, Executive Vice President of HP’s Imaging and Printing Group, about where HP is going.

Johnny Ryan: HP is unusual among leading consumer technology suppliers in having entered the 3D printer market, which seems to be crowded with specialist firms. What was the thinking on this, and on entering the 3D printer space?

Vyomesh Joshi: We see the 3D printer space as an attractive market opportunity and a logical extension of our longstanding printing and graphics market leadership, particularly in large-format printing. As product design and engineering is evolving from 2D to 3D, customers are looking for a compelling way to demonstrate their 3D mechanical Continue reading

Owjo may be about to save Jaron Lanier’s “lost generation” of musicians, and put Kevin Kelly’s 1,000 True Fans in charge of distribution

Something big is about to happen to music. “Peer-to-Peer” is about to become a good word for the music industry.

In the next month, Owjo, the company I work with, will launch a platform in cooperation with a major music label. This launch will mark the beginning of an experiment that will answer whether musicians can make money from the ‘long tail‘. Put simply, can a musician gather enough paying fans online to engage in a life of music-making without having to keep touring far in to his retirement years? Continue reading

Principles, Norms, and Constraints: building a new national approach to digital issues

Discussion document for the new IIEA National Digital Principles Group: We are present at a unique moment in time when the shape and character of the emerging digital area is becoming clear. To grasp the opportunity, consider as historical precedents the decades following Gutenberg’s Press, or early decades of the Industrial Age. Strategic and inventive thought is critical at this moment because now is the time when the gains of smart action, and the costs of poorly conceived action, may be greatest. Continue reading

Piece in Wired: “Dublin Web Summit highlights the under-reported successes of Irish tech”

Following on from my previous piece in Wired UK on the optimism at the Pub Summit, this piece takes a macro snapshot of the Dublin startup scene during last week’s Web Summit. See  Web Summit story on Wired UK here, or read on below..

Last Friday was a big tech day for Dublin. Web game giant Zynga kicked things off by launching its European HQ in Dublin, and disclosed plans to build the city into its biggest operations centre. Across town the sixth Dublin Web Summit opened its doors to 1,000 young developers, serial entrepreneurs, marketers, and investors.

Paddy Cosgrave, who organises the Summit, reckons that Dublin beats London for density of entrepreneurial tech activity per capita. The Dublin Web Summit is now one of the bigger Continue reading