Prospect gambles on £1 trial to turn new readers into lasting subscribers- Tempemail – Blog – 10 minute

As a model for funding journalism it sounds barmy. Prospect magazine is offering prospective customers their choice of a free top-selling book from authors including David Aaronovitch or Ben Okri, plus three trial copies of its product (normal price £5.95) for £1. If they don’t like the magazine they don’t have to go through with the subscription – and they can keep the book.
The gamble, says editor Tom Clark, is based on the fact that once readers get a taste for Prospect they tend to make it a long-lasting habit. “If you have a large proportion of people cancelling straight away then you are shooting yourself in the foot financially,” he says of the deal. “It won’t pay off probably within the year but on average Prospect subscribers stick around for about four years, quite a long time.” Landing a new £57-a-year subscription therefore promises £228 of revenue. “You can basically take a chunk of people dropping out on the chin, as long as the bulk of them stay – which they are doing.”
The periodical market is growing intensely competitive. Weekly titles The Spectator (founded 1828) and the New Statesman (1913) have much longer traditions than the monthly Prospect, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. The Critic, another monthly, launched just before Christmas promising to challenge “dangerous consensus” with “ideas for open-minded readers”.
A significant portion of Prospect’s readership have been with it from the start. They come to the magazine for its deep relationships with the world’s leading economists, philosophers and cultural thinkers, such as Lawrence Summers and Francis Fukuyama.
The political classes also like it. It is based in St James’s, six minutes’ walk from the Houses of Parliament and across the street is the 300-year-old Two Chairmen pub, a notorious meeting place for Westminster conspirators. Prospect’s office, and the adjoining event space it shares with the Resolution Foundation think tank, is becoming a new hotbed of political thought.
Before Christmas, Conservative renegade and London mayoral candidate Rory Stewart sat down with Clark for a Q&A session attended by Prospect subscribers. Labour’s David Lammy is an upcoming guest of the Prospect Book Club. Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan and business minister Nadhim Zahawi were among panellists at Prospect debates held at the recent Conservative Party conference in Manchester.
Such connections are important to Prospect’s advertisers, Clark believes. “MPs are known to read the magazine,” he says. “There’s no doubt that some advertisers like the idea that they have a high chance that MPs are going to see their advert. That has been a big part of getting high yields per page.”
As a monthly, Prospect’s relevance depends on it getting ahead of the competition in identifying emerging national and macro trends. It dubbed Boris Johnson a “British Trump” well before he became prime minister. In May, it published a prescient warning from writer Julia Blunck that Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro had “designs on the rainforest” which would create a global catastrophe.
“Julia’s piece really worked terrifically for us because that has turned out to be more and more the story as (2019) has gone on,” says Clark, praising how the writer went “deeper” and looked beyond an authoritarian leader to “the frontier mentality of Brazilian society” and its ingrained “need to subjugate the forest in order to secure livelihoods”.
When Parliament was prorogued in the summer, Prospect had already been talking for months to historian Richard Evans about the downfall of the Weimar Republic and threats to democratic government. It was quickly able to publish Evans’s essay ‘Britain’s Reichstag Fire moment’, which attracted great interest.
The recent UK election result looked like a clear rejection of the ideas of liberal politics. Clark sees the average Prospect reader as “quite liberal” but says the magazine’s editorial stance is “pluralist” and customers shouldn’t “expect that they are going to agree with every article”.
So an essay by Lionel Shriver taking on the negative impact on literature of the “#MeToo and ‘cultural appropriation’ mob” was put on the cover, even though Clark says the author’s argument was “not one I agreed with particularly”. In July, he commissioned journalist Tim Montgomerie (who was subsequently made a Downing Street adviser) to write a piece titled “The Future of Conservatism”, which identified the party’s new opportunity with poorer voters. The current edition, which includes essays from Margaret Atwood, economist Adam Tooze and historian David Olusoga, makes room for a long and fascinating article on the business practice of Wetherspoon boss and arch Brexiteer Tim Martin.
As a monthly title, Prospect is a good example of how lean-back and periodically-produced serious print media has avoided the calamitous decline seen in physical sales of newspapers. “There’s no assumption that you are managing decline which I think there is for the print circulation of a newspaper,” says Clark.
Prospect’s reach has been growing slowly for several years and its ABC stands at 44,871, including 27,879 paid subscriptions. Some 12,523 print/digital bundle sales are included twice. The headline ABC includes 12,052 bulk copies distributed to airports.
It might be stable but this is a niche audience of intellectuals. If Prospect is to continue to thrive it will need to raise its profile online, where Clark says it is finding a younger following, with more female readers. Its website has grown by 45% in unique viewers, year-on-year. He has added resources to the digital team with a view to “more proactive curation” of content so that the title can more quickly react to the news agenda by deploying the network of specialist writers that it has developed relationships with.
The big opportunity Clark sees now is in making Prospect the go-to publication for essays on the impact of politics on the law, an area he believes is largely untouched by UK magazines. He commissioned articles from former lord chief justice Lord (Igor) Judge and the former president of the Supreme Court, Lord (David) Neuberger, whose successor Lady (Brenda) Hale, famous for declaring the Prime Minister’s prorogation of parliament illegal in September, answered a Prospect Q&A. It has also taken work from Jolyon Maugham, the silk who has worked on high-profile legal challenges to Brexit but achieved notoriety after killing a fox outside his home on Boxing Day.
“We have been talking to those lawyers at the interface of law and politics. That’s always been a thing in the US but here it struck me as a garden that wasn’t much tended,” says Clark. “There are a lot of lawyers in the country and if we can build on this hopefully developing reputation as the magazine that gives them space to thrash out the issues and connect with a wider audience then we will in the end get more lawyers as subscribers.”
When it was founded by the author and former Financial Times correspondent David Goodhart in October 1995, Prospect’s offering of long-form general interest essays was ground-breaking in the British market (though familiar to American readers of titles such as The Atlantic and The New Republic). To mark its 25th anniversary, it will publish an anthology of its best work. At a series of events, the authors of some of its most successful essays will also be asked to discuss their work and how well it has stood the test of changing times.
“You have got to keep asking yourself why are you here and why are you different,” says Clark, who formerly worked at The Guardian and has been editing Prospect for three and a half years. “As good a slogan as any for us is ‘We want to take you behind the headlines and get you to the heart of the matter.’”
Ian Burrell’s column, The News Business, is published on Tempemail each Thursday. Follow Ian on Twitter @iburrell

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The Polaroid Lab uses the light from your phone’s screen to turn digital photos into Polaroids – gpgmail


 

When all of us are carrying phones that can snap a thousand photos a minute and are connected to cloud systems that can store millions, there’s an undeniable charm to physical photos. The ones deemed worthy; the ones so special that they must be transformed from bit to atom.

While photo printers are nothing new, Polaroid is twisting up the concept (and rebooting an idea from a few years back) with the “Polaroid Lab”. It’s a $129 tower that uses the light from your phone’s screen, bounced off a series of mirrors, to make a proper Polaroid from the photos you’ve already taken.

Open your photo in Polaroid’s companion app, place your phone (any iPhone after the 6S, and ‘current models of Samsung, Huawei, Google Pixel, and One Plus’ Android handsets) on top of the tower, and push the red button. A few seconds later, out pops a grey Polaroid. Did it work? You’ll have to wait a few minutes for it to develop, just like the good (?) ol’ days.

Is using light and mirrors better than just sending a picture to a printer over Bluetooth or WiFi and blasting the ink out from a cartridge? Maybe not. But it’s neat! It’s physical and sciencey and fun — and, arguably, as close as you can get to having a “true” Polaroid picture of a moment that’s already happened.

The company says that the Polaroid Lab works with its existing I-Type and 600 series films… which, as any enthusiast could tell you, doesn’t come cheap. Expect each photo printed here to cost you a buck or two. That’s a bit steeper than many at-home printers and definitely pricier than just blasting out some 4x6s at Costco, but this thing will almost certainly still find its audience amongst those going for a certain look.

There’s also a way to “blow up” one photo across a bunch of Polaroids, if you’ve got the film to spare. Here’s a demo video of what that looks like:

If the whole concept seems familiar, you might be remembering the Impossible Instant Lab — a product of a veeeery similar vein that raised over half a million dollars on Kickstarter back in 2012. The Impossible Instant Lab was discontinued in July of 2017… just a few months after the team behind it acquired the rights to the Polaroid brand. This seems to be a reboot of the concept, now with the added weight and officialness of the Polaroid name thrown behind it.

The team behind the Polaroid Lab says it should hit the shelves by October 10th.


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“Filmmaker Mode” will automatically turn off all the dumb motion smoothing and noise reduction on new TVs – gpgmail


 

Most people don’t adjust the settings on their TV after they buy it.

Most newer TVs, meanwhile, come with a bunch of random junk turned on by default; things like motion smoothing that makes epic movies look like soap operas, or noise reduction that can wash out details and make an actor’s skin look cyborg-y. These things help the TVs catch more eyes on the retail show floor — look how smooth the butterfly wings in the demo video are moving!

Movie makers and show creators tend to hate these things because they algorithmically screw with details they’ve spent many hundreds of hours fine tuning frame-by-frame. But getting the viewer to go in and muck with a bunch of settings, hidden behind confusing names (often unique to each company, because Branding™) and a dozen button presses, is hard.

That’s the driving force behind Filmmaker Mode. Push a button, and all that crap gets turned off.

It’s a move which the UHD Alliance (a group made up of 40 companies like Dolby, Panasonic, Samsung, Universal, Warner Brothers, and a bunch of other industry mega companies) says they’re making with the input of icons like Martin Scorsese, Patty Jenkins, Ryan Coogler, Rian Johnson, and Christopher Nolan.

Flip on Filmmaker mode, and your TV set should:

  • Turn off all motion smoothing effects
  • Turn off noise reduction, sharpening, and other after-the-fact processing effects
  • Automatically display the media in its intended aspect ratio/frame rate.
  • Turn off overscan, unless required by the video
  • Set the white point color to the widely used D65 standard

According to The Digital Bits, the mode is meant to be toggled on in either of two ways: manually via a button on the remote, or automatically when a video’s metadata says so. Want all the motion smoothing stuff back on for sports? Push a button, and it’s back.

LG, Panasonic, and Vizio have committed to implementing the new mode, and I imagine others will hop on board once word of the mode spreads. The downside? It sounds like this is only coming to new TVs, with no announced plans so far about it coming to older sets via software update. Fortunately, you can always toggle most of this stuff manually.

If you’ve spent hours tweaking your tv and pouring through AV forums to find settings that you love, awesome — keep’em. But if you’re at a friends house in a few years watching Lord of the Rings and can’t get over Gimli’s unusually smooth skin compliments of TruDynamicNoiseMasterPlus 4.0, maybe tell them about Filmmaker mode.


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Spotify aims to turn podcast fans into podcast creators with ‘Create podcast’ test – gpgmail


Spotify is testing a new ‘Create podcast’ feature that shows up atop a user’s list of their subscribed podcasts in the app interface, as first uncovered by Jane Manchung Wong (@wongmjane) (via Engadget). The button then provides a takeover promotion directing users to download Anchor, the podcast creation app that Spotify acquired in February.

This is yet another example of the investment that Spotify is making in podcasts – both their consumption and their creation. The subscription streaming company also unveiled a new analytics dashboard for podcasts earlier this year, and released it to all creators earlier in August. Because the company is also primarily a music streaming service, these insights include showing podcast creators what artists their listeners primarily gravitate towards.

Spotify has also launched a personalized playlist that mixes music with podcasts, opened up its podcast submission tool to all creators, and redesigned its navigation in-app to put podcasts on more equal footing with music, all in 2019 alone. The company is clearly doubling down on podcasts as a key element of its overall platform, building on a number of acquisitions on both the content and creation side.

Podcasts represent a way for Spotify to both diversify its revenue and open up a new line of business wherein it can own more of the upside, since its current licensing relationships with music labels mean it gets very little of the money paid from subscribers to its service based on their streams of songs. Especially via selling ads to creators and advertisers, Spotify stands to be able to make more from podcasts in terms of profit if it can continue to increase usage among listeners.




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Is Knotel poised to turn WeWork from a Unicorn into an Icarus? – gpgmail


The day of reckoning for the ‘flexible office space as a startup’ is coming, and it’s coming up fast. WeWork’s IPO filing has fired the starting gun on the race to become the game-changer both in the future of property and real estate but also the future of how we live and work. As Churchill once said, ‘we shape our buildings and afterwards our buildings shape us’.

Until recently WeWork was the ruler by which other flexible space startups were measured, but questions are now being asked if it deserves its valuation. The profitable IWG plc, formerly Regus, has been a business providing serviced offices, virtual offices, meeting rooms, and the rest, for years and yet WeWork is valued by ten times more.

That’s not to mention how it exposes landlords to $40 billion in rent commitments, something which a few of them are starting to feel rather nervous about.

Some analysts even say WeWork’s IPO is a ‘masterpiece of obfuscation’


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‘Smart’ Ovens May Turn On and Preheat Themselves Overnight, Which Is Totally Safe


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The June Oven is part of a new wave of kitchen gadgets promising to combine modern Silicon Valley technology with cutting-edge design. On paper, these products promise to deliver a new wave of efficient, simple device interaction. In reality, they often come with fine print attached. In the June’s case, the fine print may involve a tendency to turn on and preheat itself overnight.

Multiple June owners have complained about this happening to them when they were sleeping, according to The Verge. One owner with a Nest pointed at the oven caught the moment when the device snapped on at 4 AM and cranked itself up to 400 degrees. Two other owners have posted about similar incidents — one person actually left food in the oven that they’d cooked earlier, and woke up to discover it burned to a crisp.

According to June CEO Matt Van Horn, these problems can all be squarely chalked up to user error. “We’ve seen a few cases where customers have accidentally activated their oven preheat via a device, figure your cell phone,” he told The Verge.

So imagine if I were to be in the June app clicking recipes and I accidentally tapped something that preheated my oven, we’ve seen a few cases of that. It’s a really wonderful feature to be able to remotely preheat your oven, and it’s a completely new world that’s very exciting, and there’s things that happen…People have always joked about the butt-dial, like I didn’t mean to call you, and so these are just the types of things in software that we just have to be mindful of and build great features around to make our customers happy.

June has a problem here, whether the company wants to acknowledge it or not. Obviously it matters if the company’s oven has a flaw causing it to active and preheat without anyone ordering it to do so. But it matters just as much if customers are inadvertently performing this action without intending it. Unattended cooking accounts for a significant percentage of total house fires.

Smart Products Have a Knowledge Problem

Up until now, an oven has been an appliance that you started while you were standing in front of it. While it’s always been a good idea to keep flammable things away from an oven, every single one of us has, at one time or another, left something flammable near a stove. You’ve probably done so deliberately, especially if you’ve ever been dealing with a sudden rush of company or were short on counter space for food prep. The rule for managing the risk of an oven fire is to check if the oven is on before putting flammable things near it.

An oven that can turn itself on remotely is a different risk than an oven that can’t. There are many steps that June can (and possibly has) taken to reduce the potential threat, including building a good oven that isn’t overly prone to external hot spots. At the same time, however, it’s an oven — it’s going to have hot spots by definition. A human standing in front of the oven would automatically clear the area for any debris that might have built up around it. The oven does not “know” that it needs to perform this function. And people can die when computers make mistakes about what they know. Autonomous vehicles drive into stationary objects. Aircraft drive themselves into the ground, resisting every effort their pilots make to pull their noses skyward.

One important distinction between various autonomous vehicle problems or the 737 Max’s MCAS system, of course, is that the June Oven may not be doing this because of some baked-in AI capability. But this is less important than it might seem. What Matt Van Horn calls “user error,” I would call something else: Bad app design. And since June develops both its app and its oven, the responsibility for the issue lands in the same place.

If the problem is that end-users are mistakenly triggering the “Preheat” function in the app, the app needs to be designed in a manner that makes it much more difficult to tell the oven to preheat without being aware of doing so. It should not be possible to accidentally turn on the oven while looking through the app’s recipe book. June will distribute an app update in September that allows consumers to disable the remote preheat functionality, but allowing it will still be the default. Next year, the June Oven will be updated to recognize whether there is food in the device and will turn off after a set period of time if the end-user does not flag the oven to stay on.

The point in comparing the June Oven situation to the situation with autonomous cars or the 737 Max is not to pretend they are equivalent. It’s to highlight how integrating new capabilities into products requires manufacturers to think about how humans use them. A product that has the capability to upend common assumptions about how an appliance works needs to take particular care to guard against any risk of harm the change creates. Adding a little intelligence to a washer or dryer doesn’t increase the risk of harm, but anything that generates enough heat to potentially start a fire needs to be treated with care. The June’s growing pains are a small example of how companies and consumers are both going to need to adjust how they think about products if they want to change the ‘defaults’ people are used to living with.

The June doesn’t appear to be a very well-rated product in the first place — it’s a $600 toaster oven and the Wirecutter found its cooking subpar in comparison with the Cuisinart TOB-260N1. As added bonuses, the Cuisinart lacks Wi-Fi, has no integrated camera, and doesn’t appear to offer a recipe app that costs ~$50 per year to subscribe to.

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Tesla Model 3 owner implants RFID chip to turn her arm into a key – gpgmail


Forget the keycard or phone app, one software engineer is trying out a new way to unlock and start her Tesla Model 3.

Amie DD, who has a background in game simulation and programming, recently released a video showing how she “biohacked” her body. The software engineer removed the RFID chip from the Tesla Model 3 valet card using acetone, then placed it into a biopolymer, which was injected through a hollow needle into her left arm. A professional who specializes in body modifications performed the injection.

You can watch the process below, although folks who don’t like blood should consider skipping it. Amie DD also has a page on Hackaday.io that explains the project and the process.

The video is missing one crucial detail. It doesn’t show whether the method works. gpgmail will update the post once a new video delivering the news is released.

Amie is not new to biohacking. The original idea was to use the existing RFID implant chip that was already in her hand to be able to start the Model 3. That method, which would have involved taking the Java applet and writing it onto her own chip, didn’t work because of Tesla’s security. So, Amie DD opted for another implant.

Amie DD explains why and how she did this in another, longer video posted below. She also talks a bit about her original implant in her left hand, which she says is used for “access control.” She uses it to unlock the door of her home, for instance.

 

 


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