Wednesday, March 26, 2008

In the world of Google, Max Clifford can't hear you scream

Jordan (Katie Price) and I have at least two things in common. Firstly, a penchant for a little too much make-up, secondly, a need to manage our online personae.

With regard to the latter, I fell in love with the idea of the two online manifestations of her corporeal Dorian Gray existence revealed in Saturday's Guardian interview. Drunk, spilling out of nightclubs Jordan's fans have a home at http://www.jordanfanclub.co.uk/ whereas the pink, pony-loving princess among mum's Katie Price's fans can congregate at http://www.katieprice.co.uk/.

I started to wonder whether Katie/Jordan's got it right? Whilst in the early 90s, this would have been heralded as evidence of multiple personality disorder, in the 21st century, this seems more like an online pseudonym or Second-Life avatar writ large.

Personally, I'd embraced using just my real name online a while back despite realising the strengths of pseudonymity but more recently have been wondering whether the work-life seepage I've worried about for ages is further compounded by the blurring of work and home online existences.

Over the past year friends and I have literally blogged about births, deaths and marriages, alongside seering indictments of the British media and idiotic self-referential, self-deprecating twaddle (that last one'll be me then, sorry).

In an age when we will make more (shallow) acquaintances with people online than in our day-to-day lives, and our online traces become vital clues for future employers, partners, employees, children even, maybe we should be treating our online presences more like carefully constructed PR exercises or dating profiles - trimming the equivalent of a few inches and years here and there - and less like brain dumps?

My conclusion to this so far, however, is still to be found with Jordan. I believe the strength of her image and continued dominance in the British media is not just down to her beauty, physical attributes and careful stage management but, as the Guardian article alluded to, an unflinching honesty that others can relate to (although I'm not suggesting that everything is shared unless you want to get a reality show out of it).

Unfortunately for Jordan/Katie, when it comes to online, a Google Image Search for Katie Price reveals a selection of alarming images that make a mockery of a carefully split fan base and that no amount of media manipulation can alter; once you're in the world of Google, Max Clifford can't hear you scream.

(Idle aside: I wonder whether the Katie Price persona was pushed partly to ensure better Google results - less competition what with the country and the trainers. Now that would make her a smart businesswoman.)

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Putting the Me into Meme: 8 things you might not know about me

After begging to be memed, it's hard to know where to start.

You already know the colour of one of my eyes, for sure, and with a light hoeing you can easily find out my favoured books, music and what I'm up to most days - so what's left?

1. I am the passenger, but not just in an Iggy Pop sense.
The only time I have commandeered a mode of transport apart from my own two feet was when I "raced" against MSFT colleagues in a quad bike; I was told it looked like I was mowing the lawn. I would like to learn how to drive, however, and have been eyeing up those new little electric cars, delivering the milk a step up on my personal mobility scale.

Simon Callow2. My second teenage sexual dream starred Simon Callow.
"Sexual" is mine and Freud's interpretation anyway. He was in leathers riding up my garden path on a 1950s-style motorbike (no sniggering at the back). My first teenage sex dream was pretty dull and involved kissing a classmate by a big oak tree (ditto).

3. Aged 16, I was on teatime schools gameshow Blockbusters (in a pair, no gold runs).
I still use the red calf-leather-bound dictionary signed by Bob Holness but not the cream and turquoise shellsuit bomber jacket with 2 "B"s in hexagons embroidered on the chest. We were robbed, incidentally.

4. I suffer from coldsores especially in times of stress.
When I arrived at university I appeared to be sporting a hitler moustache made of cornflakes. This may have been me during freshers' week.

5. My annual tights spend is too shameful to share.

6. I've told everyone for so long that my first single was Turning Japanese by The Vapors I started to believe it.
It was my big sister Susan that bought it, but I recall some involvement in the decision to buy. I may have been more instrumental in the accompanying purchase of January February by Barbra Dickson, however.

In the process of writing this, I've just remembered my first single was actually Starvation/Tam-Tam Pour l'√Čthiopie, a sort of ska Band Aid on the Zarjazz label. This would be cool were it not accompanied by the knowledge that this was part of a self-imposed penance to assuage my guilt at not buying Do They Know It's Christmas? I also bought the Live Aid video which thankfully put paid to any notions of self flagellation or similar.

7. My first album was Olivia Newton John's Greatest Hits Vol. 2.
I can remember even Mother's incredulous "Are you sure?" as I stood grinning up at her in the queue at W H Smiths, Romford. I wasn't, but still enjoy Xanadu.

8. When I was 17, as "payment" for giving me a lift to the local underage pub du jour, Susan used to make me wear the Blockbusters bomber jacket right inside the pub.
My lips tingle at the memory.

Thanks to Richard for obliging me, now it's over to Adam, Jon, Andy, and Helen ...

Monday, March 17, 2008

4IP: A Shot in the Arm (the good inoculation kind) for British media

Last week two instances proved beyond reasonable doubt that I have spent too much time reading celebrity nonsense:

1. For a split second I believed that leading lutist, tantric sex (find your own link) fan and lead singer of The Police, Sting, had become some sort of moral vigilante. I am an idiot.

2. When trying to come up with a decent analogy for the state of the British TV broadcasting industry, my first port of call was Amy Winehouse. Again.

I'm still an idiot, but there's something there. A dependency on decreasing TV ad revenues may mean that quality and creativity will be departing the ludicrously talented world of British broadcasting whilst all the exciting stuff happens online.

Which is why I was more than pleased to hear about my employer - Channel 4 - 's commitment to new platforms (details in chapter 4) outlined in last Thursday's Next on 4 announcements especially in the shape of the £50m 4IP fund.

It's great to think that this cash will ensure that the UK population has a voice on this global stage, that our talent and ideas are nurtured, that our voices are heard, and that our lives benefit from the kind of mobilisation and amplification that online platforms specialize in.

Most of all I hope it will ensure that Channel 4 continues to appeal to the audiences we work best for, and that our creativity is pushed and increased with this whole raft of new tools to play with.

In the Guardian podcast, Emily Bell said something like "how you feel about this depends entirely on how you feel about Channel 4". My understanding of the findings of our research was that overwhelmingly, people do believe that Channel 4 is a good thing, and that it does have a role to play on platforms other than traditional broadcast TV.

Do read the report, watch the videos (last Q&A clip quite entertaining) , and let me know what you think.