Showing posts with label zkimmer. Show all posts
Showing posts with label zkimmer. Show all posts

Saturday, April 17, 2010

21st Century Strategy for Newspaper business

I may only be an Inventor with a hand full of media centric inventions at the fringe of the media business, but I am also close to all the major technologies available to the newspaper business and have had some first hand exposure to people at the top of the newspaper business. Hopefully this gives me the credibility to make some pretty strong assertions regarding the future of the Newspaper business. And these are:

  • Rupert Murdoch is right “content should be paid for”.
  • Google needs to be stopped.
  • A media owned and operated search engine is needed.
  • Collaborative ubiquitous micropayment is key. A system that crosses all media, every newspaper and magazine.
  • The newspaper businesses need to stop using web pages and hypertext links (extreme?).

1. Rupert Murdoch is right “Content should be paid for.”

The modern news consumer is being trained by search engines that news is a commodity… that news is paid for by the adverts in its pages and therefore the customer should get the news free. Google’s mantra is that information on the internet wants to be free… and thus it should be.

However a fundamental concept of western law is that people who want to make a living from something they produced, be it a book, a piece of software or a newspaper article be allowed to have a say over how that work is used. This is the basis of copyright law… the right for the producer to control his own work.

The Google position sounds very generous to the Internet layman except that such a position is one sided and self serving. Google wants news provided free so it can be searched by their customers and so that Google can present advertisements alongside the search results. Their strategy also encourages 3rd parties who recycle and editorialize other news sources (ie most blogs) to run Google ads next to their content therefore leveraging even further opportunities to route control of income away from the originator of the news namely professional news gathering operations like newspapers.

So how is Google hypocritical? Because they are happy to abuse other company’s copyright but will stop at nothing to protect their own. The Google search engine algorithm and the customized operating system running Google’s search application are two of the most heavily guarded secrets (or rights not to copy) in modern history. What is good for the goose is good for the gander.

2. Google needs to be stopped.

Not anti-GoogleCutting access off to Google for search results may sound dangerous, but not doing so is certain death. Google is eroding the newspaper business in two ways.

Firstly, it is making news available for free. True most people probably don’t pay 50 cents for a newspaper since they read a copy left on a train seat or in a coffee bar. But a lot of people DO pay. This, believe it or not, does offset some production costs and also it is valuable in a psychological way to establish that NEWS IS VALUABLE. There is something intrinsically important about making a decision to reach into your pocket or purse for 50 cents.

OK, it makes Mr Murdoch rich, but you have got to be kidding yourself if you think that is all it does. There are thousands of professionals delivering this news to you and 50 cents is a small way of saying “thanks for the effort”.

Secondly, Google is also relentlessly eroding away newspapers other main lifeblood… advertising. By claiming all the advertising space the user sees from the time they do a search, to when they see the news on someone's blog, to when they eventually see the original article in a newspapers web site, only a small fraction of the advertising has contributed to the production of the news you were originally searching for. The rest of it has gone to the company that copied the news and allowed people to search for it.

It’s like saying the neighbourhood delivery boy should get most of the advertising proceeds from the newspaper because he’s the guy who delivered it.  Sorry, that’s just not right.

3. A media owned and controlled search engine is needed.

So how do you stop Google? Well, you can’t stop people searching. That would kill the majority of the advantage that being on the Internet gives to both newspaper businesses and readers. The only alternative?

For media to setup its own search engine.

“That’s not our business” some might say. “It’s too complex” others may say. Yet others may be tempted to partner with one or the other of the search engine companies and profit share to get control over search.

Nonsense. Google itself sells enterprise search servers. Identical search code, identical results and best of all no ads leaving plenty of room for publishers to set up their own advertising systems.

These search “appliances” as they are called can handle incredible loads so there is no problem there. Secondly and most importantly Google is being dared to play anti-trust Russian roulette if they try to play games with newspaper companies that buy their servers as legitimate customers. 

So unless I have wildly underestimated the capacity of the Google hardware, it’s a good bet that this is a very real solution to the media companies dilemma.

4. Collaborative Micropayment is key.

 Another key strategy is gently educating users back into paying for content. It has to be convenient and easy. It also has to be cheap and great value.

Pay per view is old news. And unfortunately getting financial types to  successfully pay for a subscription to the Wall Street Journal does not constitute a likelihood that an everyday Joe will do so. Financial types already pay for stock data and myriad other data services by subscription. They have been broken into the idea.

So how do you get everyday people to start subscribing again? Well, you make it cheap. If an average reader pays 50 cents for a newspaper and views 20 pages of a 70 page newspaper, that is 50 cents times divided by 20 which is 2.5 cents per page. But internet consumption is a lot higher and also a newspaper reader may skim all 70 pages to find the 20 they want to read, so the real cost is 70 pages at the skim cost of 0.7 cents per page.

Yet another problem is that no one wants to go thru the credit card payment guff for a 50 cent newspaper. And only a small percentage want to be roped in to a subscription committing readership for the next 6 months or a year?

Solution? How about this. A News Corp wide micropayment system. Every site published by News Corp anywhere in the world thru one multi-currency micropayment system. Whether you are looking at  The Australian, New York Post or the Sunday Times in  the UK, each page view gets recorded against your device/ subscription. Each publication advertises it’s own page rate.

For example The Australian could charge AUD 0.5 cents per view and the NYPost USD 0.3 cents per view. To make it fair abstracts could be used to display content prior to delivering the full paid content to allow browsing.

Another thing that could be done to make it all palatable is to offer readers a free AUD$20 or similar account kick start. This would allow people to see how it works and make a value calculation before committing to an ongoing pay as you use subscription.

If I were Mr Murdoch, I would also include a bulk rate that discounts the per page rate by a percentage as the user consumes web page views at a rate higher than the average user.

For example.  An average user reads the newspaper 5 days a week, that is $2.50 per week  ($10 per month or so). If another user doubles this consumption in terms of pages, a 50% discount may be instituted so that heavy and loyal readers are rewarded and encouraged.

Even better, what if News Corp, Fairfax, Hearst and all the rest use the same micropayment system. Pricing fairness would be encouraged and the value proposition would be excellent.

Maybe there is room for a cooperative search and micropayment company serving all the big media companies in the same way that Visa serves the worlds big banks and has most of them as shareholders.

5. The newspaper businesses need to stop using web pages and hypertext links.

This is probably the most controversial thing this article will state but I think strongly that hyperlinks need to be limited in the viewing of news articles.

Newspaper advertising and online departments will say I’m crazy, but strangely I think the publishers and editors will side with me.

Hyperlinks make the news experience a hop-here-and-there exercise. Proactive news searching allows readers to follow a story from publication to publication all over the web. But is this what an everyday news reader wants?


Reading a newspaper supplies an edited, tuned contextual experience to reading news. A news item is given a relative heading size and position relative to other big news of the day (ie page 3 articles are less important than page 1 etc).

Answer this honestly, when was the last time you researched something on the web only to find out later that the page that helped you form an opinion was written years ago.

Information frequently has a use-by date. The advantage of a newspaper is its ability to not only give importance context (based on a trusted editors ability to prioritize news) but also date context (based on the time and events that surround the article being read).

This thinking along with the rigid constraints of web page design is a big part of why I designed zkimmer. A physical newspaper can deliver at a glance (by the use of various headline sizes and pull-outs) and tell me the relative importance of news items as I browse or skim (why I called the technology zkimmer) a photographically identical version of the newspaper.

Everything is there. The headlines, the ads, the pull outs, the nice  narrow column widths and the highly legible text.

In the early days of zkimmer we looked at including hyperlinks. Everyone at the newspaper companies we spoke to said it was a deal breaker NOT to have them, EXCEPT THE PUBLISHERS and EDITORS.

They realized a visitor to a zkimmer publication, does the same thing as a real newspaper reader… they stay, they read, they browse… they don’t want to hyperlink everywhere. And funny enough, if the advertisers think about it, they don’t want people hyper linking out of the newspaper either. Yes, they want customers buying but they also want time and exposure for their product or brand.

Maybe it’s time online publishers rethink how they view the web.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Australian Regional Newspaper features zkimmer digital editions

echo original

The local newspaper for one of Australia’s favourite vacation locations has featured a zkimmer edition of their newspaper. The Byron Bay Echo has agreed to publishing the zkimmer edition to accompany an upcoming article about this new technology as it is prepared for sale to unnamed publishers in Australia and the US.

The  zkimmer edition utilizes Ric Richardson’s patent pending technique of laying out a newspaper as a plan view of all the pages of the newspaper that then capitalizes on the power of tiles which is the technology that allows Google Maps to deliver satellite imagery so quickly and efficiently. The technology also utilizes the Deep Zoom tile management system that allows tiles of different magnification level to be smoothly transitioned.


Ric explains that “zkimmer is designed to do digitally what people do when they look at newspapers in real life… moving the paper from close up to arms length as they trade context for clarity… zooming in and zooming out to move from items of interest but coming up close when an article draws the reader in.”

During tests Ric found that users spent far longer browsing or skimming (ie zkimming) versions rendered with the new technology than other examples using flash based magnification and eye candy such as page animation.

We have included a video demo here for you to have a look at so you know what’s going on although the technology is pretty self explanatory. It features a voice over by Ric as he runs through a zkimmer edition of the Echo Newspaper and explains how to use it. Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Main zkimmer patent now lodged as full patent

The main zkimmer patent is now lodged as a full application. For visitors with access it can be seen here:

Re:       U.S. Patent Application No. 12/247,165
Filed:          October 7, 2008
Title:           System and Method for Displaying Digital Editions of Periodicals and Publications
Applicant:    Ric B. Richardson
Assignee:    zkimmer Inc.
Our Ref:      70333-00002
Subject:      U.S. Publication No. US 2010/0002935

Ric, Sky:

The above-referenced U.S. patent application has published as Publication No. US 2010/0002935 on January 7, 2010.  Attached for your records is a copy of the publication.
We will keep you informed of further developments in this matter.  Please contact me if you have any questions. 

Friday, May 1, 2009

zkimmer online publication viewing

This video shows the newer version of the technology we are using to display online publications. Basically it is an adaptation of the the satellite imagery technology used in sites like Google Maps but adapted to the viewing of multi-page online publications. Everything from newspapers to photo albums to textbooks.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

zkimmer finding a new home

The zkimmer project is now being bundled up to hand off to a management team that will take it to the next level. In the meantime we have added page navigation where the user can go to the next page and previous page by clicking a button in addition to the original map-like hand tool navigation.
Additionally the user can navigate in single pages or double-page-spreads. We are also doubling the number of magnification levels to allow users to view the publication at the most comfortable zoom level be they on an 29" Apple Cinema display, a laptop or an iPhone.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

zkimmer new base technology

This video shows some of the key reasons that we decided to migrate to OpenLayers as our base graphic management technology.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Upload your publications to zkimmer TODAY

Later today, we are going to open the doors on our new upload site that will allow anybody with a PDF or consequitavly numbered JPEGs to publish in zkimmer format.... we hope you think it's cool.

The site will be swapped over to tomorrow afternoon PST. Come and try it out.

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

zkimmer leaves Google API for OpenLayers

Today we decided to move from Google's Map API to OpenLayers and started to even tinker with developing our own proprietary tiling technology. The more we invest in tweaking the user experience around the specific needs of online documents, the more apparent it is that we need to make major changes to the standard map-type tiling user experience.

Specific things we are doing include:
* zlayers for text and positional Google text search/ location.
* page by page and direct to page number navigation
* shift and hold rectangle drawing that allows user to fill screen with the selected area. Amongst others...

We tried to hand on and use the Google API due to the large user base and the instant recognition but the cons are outweighing th pros to continue. Openlayers here we come.

zkimmer starts to get noticed

In the last week there has been 3,500+ page views to the zkimmer web site and a jump from a few hundred to over 1300 web mentions according to Google. Things are starting to warm up for zkimmer.

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Google Search’s Achilles Heal

After reading the first few chapters of the book Search, it is now dawning on me how truly innovative the Google Search algorithm is. The whole analogy of treating web pages as if they are technical whitepapers with their citations and references is a true masterstroke.

But therein also is its weakness.

Over the next few weeks I intend to test some base theories about how Google does its ranking. One test is to involve one of our latest projects called zkimmer. Theoretically this is a graphics based mapping engine that has been adapted for publication display… I will be testing my theories ability to make specific zkimmer publications climb quickly up the Google Page ranking list.

I will also experiment with the name of a person that has allowed me to experiment with his mention on Google page ranking.

If these two experiments work out successfully then I fully intend to capitalize on it with the zkimmer publication list and then role out a separate standalone company to capitalize on the discovery. Come back in two weeks for updates.

Relevant research links include the original Google Algorithm white paper by the Google team called The Anatomy of a large-scale Hypertextual Web Search Engine. Further research uncovered this gem about citations in Wikipedia and how to reverse engineer citations in that incredible resource.

Followup projects for this entry:
  1. Find out how to publish in an educational whitepaper database like
  2. A basic test to see how citations boost pagerank... possibly by using a citation engine that looks for appropriate highly ranked reference points within key words for a given web site.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Another attempt at digital publication

During the course of our constant due dilligence to track competing or similar technologies to zkimmer we run into various winners and losers… unfortunatley DigiPage is a big loser. Junky slow user interface and a really junky web site… zkimmers variable zoom level just beats all these kinds of attempts hands down.

Digipage. Create stunning Flash page-turning brochures online in seconds from a single PDF upload. Video and dynamic content available. State-of-the-art Flash-based control panel. Dedicated servers, automation services and bespoke client work available on request.

digipage - online flash page turning brochures created from PDFs and dynamic data.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

A new way to look at Magazines Online

We are finally under way with an invention I developed back in June of 2007... it's called zkimmer and can be found at
The cool thing about zkimmer is that it takes a system we all know and use (google Maps) and applies it to pages of a magazine.. its so simple and easy to use and one of those obvious ideas that no ones thought of before....
Please have a look and tell me what you think.....

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Former OC Register Publisher joins zkimmer

Today Newspaper veteran Chris Anderson joined the zkimmer team as ambassador for the company to the newspaper and magazine publishing industry. Chris recently left Freedom (the publishers of the Orange County Register) where he served as the publisher of the Newspaper and worked in the industry for 25 years. He is a brilliant, affable and discerning man who I am honored to work along side.

Friday, June 1, 2007

zkimmer - high resolution digital publications

In June 2007, Ric was sitting with his brother, Raece who was lamenting over the sad state of the online magazine technology available to him as a publisher of a high end lifestyle magazine called Space Magazine. Upon investigation Ric found that the majority of the technology focused on animated page turning using flash and switching between low and hi res images of magazine pages. None of it worked! Either the zoom was too big or too small to be comfortably viewed and the page loading was ssssslllllooooowwwwww.

In a typical inventors epiphany, Ric saw the publishing of online magazines as a pure high resolution graphic function and immediately saw that the most advanced and developed technology out there is being used for managing map images... ie Google Maps satellite imagery. Over the next weekend Ric commissioned a RentAcoder project to rip a map using Googles API but to use scans from a magazine instead of map data and zkimmer was born.
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