The Broadcasting regulator, Broadcasting Commission of Ireland, is to fund Irish media research projects and is currently calling for proposals for both short and long term projects. Its always been a gap in Ireland that no statutory body had responsibilty for media research and we’re decades behind the UK in terms of independent media research on current and contemporary issues including media literacy and the impact of media on society. The BCI’s call is online on its website bci.ie and its leaving the research topics wide open to see what researchers throw up as proposals. It will be interesting to see what direction it takes and what comes in from digital media to media and children. There’s so many gaps in our media understanding and knowledge in Ireland that just about every area needs attention. I’d love to see a real attempt to tackle media and young people and match what Ofcom in the UK did a couple of years ago in its iPod Generation report. It would be great to see qualitative research showing what is the impact of media initiatives like advocacy and awareness campaigns in the media. Can I be the only one who wonders at the wisdom of the state funded public awareness campaigns (from racism to ageism) and does anyone ever evaulate whether they work? It seems public attitude campaigns are everywhere and there’s a very weak assumption that big TV advertisement campaigns will change the way people think about HIV, suicide,race,gender,age - you name it - as easily as you might swap a washing power brand. Changing the way people think and act is not as simple as a thirty second advert suggestion. Its as if a slogan saying ‘anti-ageism’ will by itself make people say ‘oh my goodness I do have deep prejudices about old people - I must change!’. It defeats all sociological or commnications logic but it does generate millions in revenue for broadcast companies and advertisement agencies and PR agencies so no-one rocks the boat. The box is ticked, public are ‘informed’ and the ‘issue’ can be put back in its box - unaddressed. So let’s have some research on some of these bizarre assumptions we have about media based awareness campaigns which might underscore our combined understanding of how the media affects people. Or advise to clients has always been to use public awareness campaigns - which are advert based - as call to actions solely and drive people to content or to further information through freephone or website. Just sticking a message out there like anti-racism week or the very strange work-life balance posters (is there anything more annoying when you’re stuck in commuter traffic to be greeted by those sad and meaningless work:life balance posters as if we all had the choice to simple work less !?) won’t work. There’s too many other messages out there so its a bit like rain falling on water - quickly absorbed into the clutters of targetted messages we get everyday. Even worse are the public awareness campaigns which use fear to get their message out there. Like the blood rich road traffic safety TV adverts with bodies in bits. Who our there doesn’t turn away or flick it off when it comes on? How can it be wise to spend millons on getting expensive adverts out there which people can’t bear to watch and avoid? Negative messages close people down, stop conversations and end any learning that might happen. Its about time we copped on to this and recognised its not to way to change behaviour. There’s equally very little qualitative research to show they work. So what’s the point? Except to tick the box and get it off the agenda.
Archive for June, 2007
Ok - so hands up who spends more time than they like to admit killing off spam - not just on their email accounts but on their websites and blogs? Despite spam filters and spam blocking tools we still drown in a sea of unwanted, viral e-mails and dubious marketing ploys every day.
With more and more of us opening up our sites and running multimedia blogs the spam tsunami is threatening to flood the new media world’s utopian dream of open highways of information and content. What can we do? Fight back as diligently as we can and lobby for greater penalities for spam businesses. In the old days it would have seemed unlikely that one day unsolicited phone calls - cold calls - could be controlled and restricted. But today strict pan-national action has dramatically reduced the use of our phones for cold calling and machine based marketing. Internationally we need to recognise the damage that the growth of spam is having on the confidence of people to move online - so we have to co-operate to kill off the spam business engine before it undermines online communications to the point that people start seeing e-mail as a hazard rather than a help. As users we can help by using the tools that are there and reporting spam rather than simply deleting it. And by engaging spam tools across our website and blogs. Believe me it won’t wipe it out but it will lower the tidal waves. And we need to lobby for strict and punitive action against those employing spam - on an international basis. Within a zero tolerance attitude the unwanted clutter will diminish everyone’s ability to enjoy and benefit from a global web world.
Any who doubts the impact of the online culture need only look at todays’ research published by comScore which shows more than 122 million Europeans aged over 15 online every day from home, school or work with the average European speading 24 hours a month, viewing 2,662 pages. The Netherlands has the highest web penetration with 83% of the country online and Russia, which was included in the survey, has the lowest at just 11% of the ppopulation. The Uk has the most active online community with people spending over 34 hours online every month. The average European usage is 16.5 usage days per months with Ireland (not surprisingly given our broadband rates) below average at 13. The survey shows Ireland with just 42% penetration (one of the lowest in the developed European nations) but with an average monthly hours rate of 18.9 which shows the interest in those online in using content. The UK’s online penetration rate is 62% compare to 66% in the US - but the UK has more active users compared to the US. The full survey is available online on www.comscore.com.
We see that the target for broadband subscriptions for Ireland for the end of 2007 is now 700,000 which is trumpeted as likely to put us at 18% penetration (from the current 12.5%). Big deal. It’s still ltoo ittle too late and the big issue is speed. All the focus on the numbers is one thing but we have to parallel that with the fact that Irish broadband is slow - and for many home users its’ not much more comfort than an always on dial up connection. Hand in hand with the debate over pushing the penetration rates up has to be a focus on speed otherwise we’ll stay at the back of the Euriopean class in the use and employment of digital technology in our economy and society. In the UK average broadband speeds are now twice as fast as here in Ireland which makes our ability to match their use and employment of dynamic Internet content more than a little bit difficult.