Five Things I Learned In 2008, Realities-Hit-Home Edition


Kangaroo is an elephant, and it can’t fly: The online TV service was due to bounce with fanfare, but instead parked itself in a black spiral of vapourware; CEO Ashley Highfield extricated himself and hopped off to Microsoft’s more fertile pastures. So potent was the ramification of its self-referral to competition authorities, it’s not yet certain whether the venture will launch at all next year. The most promising thing salvaged from Kangaroo’s pouch, however, is a partnership approach amongst the public service broadcasters that should see enhanced online viewer experiences and could sustain innovation through ’09.

Newspapers may really be dying this time: Raised in ink to consider fairness and balance prime directives, I was long obliged counteract futuristic doomsaying about “the end of newspapers”. But 2008 was the year the ink started to dry up. Papers that had already been losing ad spend to the web are, in the downturn, being hit by a second wave of lost income. The serious structural changes they’re squeezing in to the final quarter of the year should, perhaps, have been made long ago – we have covered over 1,000 job losses from the newspaper business since October alone. This was the year some newspaper execs were forced finally to ask themselves the key question for the first time: “What do we really want to be anymore?” For the answer, turn to page 2009.

More on Twitter, VC and this video thing, after the jump

Twitter is a ghastly, unstoppable anomaly: It still doesn’t have a business model, but the microblogging platform’s unfathomable rise has grown to push at the boundaries of its hideously cliquey and self-obsessed Web 2.0 coterie. Just when Twitter threatened to go mainstream, the reality of SMS costs forced it to can its mobile service in the UK. But @stephenfry joined and the Twitterati tweeted blithely on, obsessively claiming words and concepts that used to mean something for their own lexicon (I give you “tweetup“, “twebonics” and more – if it ain’t prefixed “tw”, it doesn’t exist). The potential for Ev and Biz is clear, but the shallow, 140-character devotion, from a web scene that used to think big, is disappointing – time to move on, people! (I mean, tweople).

Money didn’t disappear, it just got serious: Sure, some metrics pointed to a fall in the number of online VC investments (we’re looking at you, Dow Jones and Library House), but anecdotal evidence was healthy – we cranked out 146 stories in our VC section this year, including big funds for Bestofmedia (


Steve Martin

Great key features in 2008, I dont see online tv will launch off in some countries, it all depends on the the amount of traffic the country can draw it in to the service, also depends on the network infrastructure itself, but looking forward to a great year in 2009.

Dan Thornton

I agree wholeheartedly with four of the learnings from 2008, but I'd definitely disagree with the assertion that Twitter is ghastly, or an anomaly. Or that it isn't an example of thinking big.

A large number of users are in social media/marketing/web 2.0, but the same echo chamber effect has always been in evidence on forums and blogs – what is notable is that it gives a route for personal interaction on a far larger scale than the telephone or instant messenger, but with a level of interaction and response far greater than email.

It means that a question to one contact can be added to by a network of relevant people with something likely to be useful.

And it provides a great feedback loop for companies – look at the oft-quoted examples of Dell (who claim to have made $1 million via Twitter), Comcast, Zappos etc.

At the same time, it provides a very real threat to both traditional news sources for immediacy – e.g. Mumbai, the earthquakes in the U.S., China and the UK, hopefully leading traditional journalism to focus more on providing context and insight.

And it provides a very real alternative to online discovery via search engines – social networks have always provided an alternative to Google, but Twitter is the most efficient way for asking where to look for an answer or topic, but also for relevant information to be brought to an individual…

(I'd also say that the rise of smartphones, wifi access and Twitter clients mean the loss of SMS will not be the barrier it might have been 12-18 months ago)

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