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egypt380If I were to describe a country where the Internet contributes as much as a percentage of GDP as its health services, education and oil industries, and is growing at nearly twice the rate as in Europe — driven in large part by growth in private and corporate-backed entrepreneurship — where would you guess?

Looking forward, if such a country has the largest population of Internet and mobile users in its region with one of the largest youth populations in the world; is a large consumer market in the early days of e-commerce; is a global tourist destination where roughly only five percent of all travel revenue is booked online — might this be an intriguing investment opportunity?

Am I describing Germany? China? Brazil?

Try Egypt.

Two years after the Arab uprisings and in the midst of wrestling significant economic and political change, the Internet is quietly and increasingly growing as a central platform of economic development around the country as it is around the globe. And according to a new Google-commissioned study by The Boston Consulting Group — Egypt at a Crossroads: How the Internet is Transforming Egypt’s Economy — policy makers, executives and investors alike are poised at a central moment of opportunity to embrace this platform for economic growth, job creation and returns.

David Dean, Senior Partner and Managing Director at the Boston Consulting Group — and one of the authors of the study — told me that this is the latest of fifteen country-wide studies his company has done, and he was impressed by what he found. “I think the biggest positive surprise was that there are many entrepreneurial companies using the Internet to grow their businesses.” The report highlights a handful of among hundreds of recent Egyptian startups as diverse as the content portal Masrawy, which now reaches over eight million unique users per month; e-commerce destination Nefsak, which offers over 25,000 products; and Alexandria’s Vimov, whose paid weather app WeatherHD was the fourth-best seller in Apple’s App store after its recent release. It notes that Vodafone, among other global investors, is making serious commitments both to the infrastructure and to funding startups in the region. “The report makes clear that there is much uptapped potential for Egypt’s nascent Internet ecosystem,” Samir El Bahaie, Google’s Head of Policy in the Middle East and North Africa, said — adding that “there is also a great opportunity for investment, economic growth and job creation waiting to be seized.”

The study underscores that the opportunity is now. Egypt’s population of 31 million Internet users is the largest in the Middle East, and while mobile penetration exceeds 100 percent in many parts of the country, the big news is that smartphones — with real computing capabilities — are expected by some to reach 50 percent penetration in the next three to five years. Unmeasured in penetration and GDP figures are what the report calls “ripple effects” on the Egyptian economy and society: The ability to reach new markets, to have better informed consumers, to have greater work efficiencies in the knowledge economy, to have simplified access to government and social services for people to take more control of their lives. Egypt, with its mobile penetration, is especially poised to capture opportunities in mobile banking (as significant success has been seen in Africa) and to fully embrace all the opportunities offered for tourism. Dean notes, in fact, that travel and tourism is “possibly the largest short-term lever that the Internet can have in the country.”

If the opportunity is now, however, so is the potential for missed opportunities. While access to the Internet is growing, there is still a lack of Internet skills in the workforce, even as compared to other emerging markets. While business adoption of the Internet as an economic platform in Egypt is competitive among larger enterprises, small- and medium-sized businesses still rank lowest among emerging growth markets. More fundamentally, there remains significant question of the most appropriate, entrepreneurship-driving policies — areas such as rule of law, copyright protection, lessening bureaucracy in starting businesses. “Of course, these are clearly not just questions for Egypt,” Dean explained to me. “What would really be encouraging would be a commitment by the Government to the Internet as an economic factor — which would mean simplifying the process for opening businesses, encouraging investment, demonstrating the benefits of the Internet in the way the government operates, and using the Internet to address some of Egypt’s most pressing problems, such as youth unemployment.”

Google hopes to play a continued role in working with governments like Egypt’s. Studies like these are extremely useful as they provide factual economic data points around the value of the Internet, El Bahaie noted. “We hope to work with the government of Egypt to leverage these data points to unlock the potential of eCommerce and mCommerce and well-informedly create a more enabling business environment for Egyptian small- and medium-sized business, and to help the country reach its full economic potential.”

Christopher M. Schroeder is a leading U.S. Internet entrepreneur and venture investor, a member of the advisory boards of the American University of Cairo School of Business, the regional entrepreneurship portal Wamda.com and incubator Oasis500. He is the author of “Startup Rising: The Entrepreneurial Revolution That’s Remaking the Middle East,” to be published September 2013 by Palgrave/MacMillan. He can be followed on Twitter @cmschroed.

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Max Headroom

Editor’s note: Contributor Ashkan Karbasfrooshan is the founder and CEO of WatchMojo, he hosts a show on business and has published books on success.  Follow him @ashkan.

“I thought the analysis of content vs other video companies very convincing. But I’m curious: the content game hasn’t worked out so well for AOL and Yahoo. Audiences are fickle. Are you predicting a rosier future?” – reader comment in Is Tech a Zero-Sum Game?.

Infrastructure, Platforms & Content

Today, the Web’s infrastructure is built, and we’re filling the pipes with content — mainly free, ad-supported content.

It might seem like the real opportunities are in user-generated content and aggregation, but anyone who’s worked in those fields recognize their limitations: Simply put, marketers want to advertise alongside professional content. Tim Armstrong left Google (the mother of all aggregators) and joined AOL to remake it into the Time of the 21st century.  He didn’t double down on Bebo.

Content is marketing; Marketing as content

Content – video in particular – may be promotional or commercial, in either case it’s a means to an end.

Traditional Media Companies (TMCs) need to make their content commercial; new media producers are leveraging their content as promotional, sometimes giving it away to build value.

However, when it comes to making money directly from commercial content, the genie is out of the bottle, according to Seth Godin: “Who said you have a right to cash money from writing? Poets don’t get paid (often), but there’s no poetry shortage. The future is going to be filled with amateurs, and the truly talented and persistent will make a great living. But the days of journeyman writers who make a good living by the word — over.”

TL;DR

Content isn’t only increasingly free, it’s also short. Godin clarifies: “Shorter, though, doesn’t mean less responsibility, less insight or less power. It means less fluff and less hiding.”

With 60 hours of content uploaded every 60 seconds on YouTube, producers face three challenges:

-          25% of views come in the first 4 days;
-          Viewers only watch the first 30-60 seconds;
-          The average video generates 500 views throughout its lifetime.

It’s no longer enough to be a good storyteller; you have to cut through the clutter and make the numbers work.

The Economics of Content

“Network television costs $50,000 – 100,000 per minute to produce. Reality shows can be cheaper, with the lowest-end costing $6,000 – 8,000 per minute”, according to GRP venture capitalist (and occasional TechCrunch contributor) Mark Suster. New media producers leverage deflationary economics to produce shows for $500 – $1,000 per minute, on average.

My company does it for $100/minute. Once you cut costs down, the real challenge is revenue.

Fred Wilson’s piece on The Future of Media suggested that the right approach is to:

1 – Microchunk it - Reduce the content to its simplest form.
2 – Free it - Put it out there without walls around it or strings on it.
3 – Syndicate it – Let anyone take it and run with it.
4 – Monetize it - Put the monetization and tracking systems into the microchunk.

For example, 5Min borrowed a page from Google’s AdSense playbook, making it easy for publishers to syndicate the company’s video content, on its way to a $65 million exit to AOL.

“But content doesn’t scale!”

That’s the common critique of content companies from the tech industries. The truth is, bad content scales, good content doesn’t scale – the scale comes from distribution and monetization.  Demand Media’s “content farm” model scaled but it has since moved upstream to win over Madison Avenue, realizing that unless your clients are on Wall Street or Sand Hill Road, quality trumps quantity.

Profit is a Short-Term Move; Value is a Long-Term Focus

Content was an art. Today it’s a science as well. It will always be about Influence and Authority.

Bloomberg will lose $20 million on BusinessWeek, Washington Post sold Newsweek for $1 (plus the assumption of debt).  That doesn’t imply that there’s no money in content, it’s a reminder that disruptive innovation can come from new content creators who can be more disruptive to TMCs than any technology ever will. TechCrunch, for example, generated less revenue than BusinessWeek and Newsweek combined but sold for more.

Revenues come and go, after all. However, managers typically don’t care that much about long-term value creation because their compensation is tied to short-term profits.

Goodwill is the Driver of ROI

The best storytellers realize content is about Authority, Influence and building a brand. VCs who made their fortune on software and semiconductors can’t wrap their minds around content (“it’s a hits business”). But despite the 1% annualized return that VCs have generated, they will continue to invest in the latest mouse trap and shun content, despite what the experts say.

The Worst-Kept Secret in the Publishing Business

The Web doesn’t just shrink markets, it also kills sacred cows, in particular Warren Buffett’s argument that “the most important news in the newspaper are the ads”. Indeed, Google outsold U.S. newspapers $37.9 billion to $34 billion in 2011. I know, those are global Google revenues — give it a couple of years.

So yes, content may be king, but it’s the throne that retains the value, even if the throne was seized under dubious circumstances, according to an anonymous publisher: “Many of the big wins in digital content have gotten big by stealing other people’s content, and, once they get big enough, they build an original content layer (…) You can make money with quality content on digital. The challenge is it requires expertise in more than just content development.”

Of course, once you build your audience, you realize you don’t need to create content; licensing it is a more profitable short-term bet, but it creates less long-term value.  Similarly, ad networks have successfully intermediated between advertisers and publishers, but commoditized themselves in the process.

Why Content Has Stumbled

The TMCs actually get it: online remains small, and the faster they embrace it, they faster they die. The issue is how management has a short-term outlook to maximize profits, instead of being focused on long-term value creation.

The irony is that over time, technology plays come and go: One winner emerges from within a given category and largely kills off its competitors. The real threat to content creators may in fact be emerging content companies with no traditional business to defend. After all, journalism is stronger than ever while newspapers are dying.

But TMCs that have their own content catalogs, producers and brands may not see much value in emerging companies, which remain small until they become category killers, just adding to the tragic fate reserved for most.

While we live in a world of “good enough”, ultimately the company that can i) create the best content at ii) the lowest cost possible will create most value over time.

Disclaimers:

-          AOL is the owner of TechCrunch
-          I am not an employee of AOL
-          AOL acquired 5Min
-          My company WatchMojo has a distribution deal with AOL/5Min and YouTube.

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On CNN, Doug Gross has a good account of Kevin Smith's SXSW presentation on how he became a podcaster and weaned himself off the "heroin" of movie studio money, going direct to his fans instead for advertising, merch sales and sold-out houses when he toured. This being CNN, they've got a lot of [expletive] marks where Smith is saying "fuck" in his charmingly innocent way.

Smith said he decided to take advantage of his access to celebrities and gift of gab to launch a new project. And he deployed a technique he said has always served him well: do what you love and what you're good at, then figure out how to make money doing it.

And that led to "SModcast," a weekly podcast that he and friend/co-producer Scott Mosier launched in 2007 and do to this day.

It was free. But as its online audience grew, the opportunities to make money arose.

"People would tweet left and right: 'You put out so many free podcasts; how can I pay it back?' " said Smith, who has more than 2 million followers on Twitter. "I was like, 'Go buy a T-shirt' and they were like, 'Cool.' "
,p>
Then came paid advertising. (The first sponsor notoriously being adult product Fleshlight). Then a paid version of the podcast, "SModcost," which contains bonus features but no ads.

Filmmaker Kevin Smith: Podcasting saved my career

(Image: Kevin Smith in Vancouver, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from shaynekaye's photostream)

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I have been trying to get this job done for about 7 years. Get my archive, that was stored in a garage in downtown Washington, a bit closer to my home.  A long but rollicking ride from D.C. to OBX with an old friend and a multi media intern ended with getting all my stuff in one place.

I took pictures and found old pictures. My excuse for little heavy lifting.

An old case I had not seen for about 40 years was opened. Not by me, but by one of my helpers. Gold. The picture on the right, shot when I was 19 or 20 and accepted to a juried show at the Va. Museum of Fine Arts, and what I considered to be my first successful picture was found today along with a “second”. Yes, to the left here, my first print of the situation. Later changing my find for the mounted photo above. You can see the same boy far left in the tattered picture with four children.

An even more truly serious find. My original fiber prints from Tell It Like It Is. I did not even know these still existed until today. Thought these prints were lost. 40 years lost. Yes, I must say beautifully carefully printed by me in the darkroom set up not far from where I was shooting. Back in 1967. As Bruce Davidson himself pointed out to me were shot 4 years before East 100th Street.  I was shooting by day and printing by night. Obsessed.

 

I am not sure how many times I moved as a kid, but it was a lot. My stuff has been packed up and moved from one space to another so many times that I honestly would have to spend some serious time thinking about it to come up with a number. Sometimes multiple moves even in the same city. So since I starting accumulating negatives, slides, prints, you know pictures I wanted to keep, I have moved dozens of times. Somehow from those earliest years until today everything is intact. Sort of. It is all there, but where is it? This is the problem. Lots of hasty moves. Cardboard boxes full of treasure in some cases, and marked on the outside with magic marker “selects” or “look again”. Nightmare. Yet today , as seen in the sequence above , treasure. Not for anyone else , but for me.

We just got everything moved in. I plan to rent a small house at the beach. Get all my stuff there. And offer work/study programs to say 5 young photographers, to come an help organize my archive in exchange for a great place to live at the beach and a full on career workshop for them. Evaluate their portfolios, get them going on projects, help them edit, and generally mentor as I most often do.

Road Trips was my personal diary. Burn has been set up to feature this audience. Yet many from this audience have asked me to jump in with my own work just a bit more. Yet when I decided to take an online audience with me while I shot in Rio last month  www.theriobook.com   I took that effort away from Burn and on to its own site. The good vibes and karma were so good with riobook that I thought I might try  a bit more mix and match here on Burn. Just more of what most folks are asking for. Solid photography from emerging photographers and insights into process. This is what worked so well on riobook.  If you were not there, honestly you missed something. Matter of fact , many are signing up now even though they know the day by day is finished, it still stands as a unique experience. An authentic experience. No way to manipulate they way it all came down.

Yet the emphasis here on Burn is still you. Burn 01 and Burn 02, our print magazines, will be followed by Burn 03. You should try to get your work in 03, the place to be.

We are also in the dreaming planning stages for SURFING WORLD. Yes, the art of the art of surfing. A book about surfing for surfers and non surfers alike. Martin Parr will shoot some of it. Top notch surf action photographers will shoot some of it. Maybe one of you can convince me to let you shoot part of it. Show me what you can do and I am up for anything.

We are also planning  a handsome book SOUTH AMERICA, a group essay shot by 80% South American photographers. It will not be what you imagine. I will be looking at portfolios soonest.

In the wings for new books are Laura El Tantawy for  IN THE SHADOW OF THE PYRAMIDS, Panos Skoulidas for DEATH IN VENICE, and an epic by Jukka Onnela and few nice surprises to be announced soonest.

Our Emerging Photographer Fund grant of $15,000. will be announced soonest. The new emphasis on the EPF grant will be to do work for Burn. Rather than a reward for past work, the shift will be to create new work , then to be  published on Burn. More of a commission than a award.

This coming May , Burn  Magazine will have an exhibition at the HeadOn Festival in Sydney, Australia alongside my own One Night in Rio. I will be doing a workshop at Bondi Beach at the same time, and I have asked Imants Krumins to curate a small show featuring young Australian photographers under 18.

So I am trying to keep things interesting for all of us.  It is only the right frame of mind and the right karma and the right space and the right place and the right mood that well makes things right…feel good, feel right….be right.

We will never get there, but we will always be on our way….

Peace, dah

 

 

 

 

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Jim Seida writes

Ships and aircraft have been ordered to stay away from the bubbling waters around La Restinga, and the Port's 600 residents have been evacuated.  Read more here...

Spanish government handout / AFP - Getty Images

This image released Nov. 3, shows green and brown stains at sea off the coast of the Spanish Canary Island of El Hierro. A series of quakes including one measuring 4.0 on the Richter scale shook Hierro island in Spain's Canaries, three weeks after a nearby undersea volcanic eruption. The 4.0-magnitude quake struck at 0755 GMT in the Atlantic about five kilometres (three miles) northwest of the town of Frontera, population 4,000, said a report by the National Geographical Institute.

Spanish Institute of Oceanograph / EPA

This computer-genereated image shows the underwater volcano in the southern area of El Hierro Island, in the Canary Islands, Spain, on Oct. 31.

Canary Regional Goverment handout / EPA

This image made available on Nov. 4 shows volcanic activity on Nov. 3 from underwater volcano at El Hierro island coast, Canary Islands, Spain. The volcano has being erupting and causing the ground to shake several times a day since July 2011.

 Follow the volcano's activity blow-by-blow on Earthquake Report

Follow @msnbc_pictures

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David Goldman / AP

Staff Sgt. Rulberto Qjendismiranda, 20, of Seaside, Calif, with the U.S. Army's 2nd Battalion 27th Infantry Regiment based in Hawaii, looks at a photo of his son Marziano, 11 months, on his mobile phone aboard a military transport flight Monday, July 11, out of Forward Operating Base Fenty in Kunar province, Afghanistan.

Jim Seida writes

I wonder how long it's been since Staff Sgt. Qjendismiranda has seen his son.

More South and Central Asia coverage here.

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