Ada Lovelace Day

About The Authors

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson

Suw Charman-Anderson is a social software consultant and writer who specialises in the use of blogs and wikis behind the firewall. With a background in journalism, publishing and web design, Suw is now one of the UK’s best known bloggers, frequently speaking at conferences and seminars.

Her personal blog is Chocolate and Vodka, and yes, she’s married to Kevin.

Email Suw

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson

Kevin Anderson is a freelance journalist and digital strategist with more than a decade of experience with the BBC and the Guardian. He has been a digital journalist since 1996 with experience in radio, television, print and the web. As a journalist, he uses blogs, social networks, Web 2.0 tools and mobile technology to break news, to engage with audiences and tell the story behind the headlines in multiple media and on multiple platforms.

From 2009-2010, he was the digital research editor at The Guardian where he focused on evaluating and adapting digital innovations to support The Guardian’s world-class journalism. He joined The Guardian in September 2006 as their first blogs editor after 8 years with the BBC working across the web, television and radio. He joined the BBC in 1998 to become their first online journalist outside of the UK, working as the Washington correspondent for

And, yes, he’s married to Suw.

E-mail Kevin.

Member of the Media 2.0 Workgroup
Dark Blogs Case Study

Case Study 01 - A European Pharmaceutical Group

Find out how a large pharma company uses dark blogs (behind the firewall) to gather and disseminate competitive intelligence material.

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All content © Kevin Anderson and/or Suw Charman

Interview series:
at the FASTforward blog. Amongst them: John Hagel, David Weinberger, JP Rangaswami, Don Tapscott, and many more!

Corante Blog

Monday, July 20th, 2009

Outcomes and examples

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

For my Carnegie UK Trust report on the use of social media in civil society, we want to include a list of “outcomes”, i.e. possible results of using social media (provided that you do it right, of course!). We’d also like to pull together some very short examples - from charities, NGOs, unions, mutuals, co-ops, etc. - that illustrate these outcomes, where we can. Of course, there aren’t necessarily enough examples out there, but it’d be good to try and find some.

Here’s our preliminary list of outcomes:

  1. Social media helps to engage with segments of the population that traditional marketing may find it difficult to reach.
  2. Social media enables conversations to take place, which facilitates the co-creation of knowledge.
  3. Social media improves the relationship between an association and individual supporters, as well as between supporters.
  4. Social media allows information to rapidly ripple through a community, thus enabling quick and effective mobilisation online and offline.
  5. Social media provides platforms for dissent by allowing people to express discontent or highlight abuses of power.
  6. Social media strengthens offline communities, and offline events strengthen online relationships.
  7. Social media improves the transparency, governance and accountability of organisations, which increases trust in those organisations.
  8. Social media brings about financial benefits by helping organise direct and indirect fundraising.
  9. Social media, used internally, helps improve the effectiveness and efficiency of organisations and enables flexible staffing and volunteering.
  10. Social media helps create highly responsive and less hierarchically governed civil society associations.

Do you have any more key outcomes that you think we’re missing? Any of these that you disagree with? And, most importantly, do you have any examples that would illustrate these?

Monday, July 20th, 2009

links for 2009-07-20

Posted by Suw and Kevin

  • Kevin: The Federal Communications Commission in the US has been charged to draft a National Broadband Plan, something akin to the Digital Britain plan in the UK. "The FCC collects broadband deployment statistics from industry. But, the statistics are gross. If one site in a zip code has broadband, the whole area is considered high-speed." There are gaps and serious deficiences with the industry reporting of broadband deployment. We've heard this before. For these reasons, they are thinking of trying to crowdsource the data. Watch this project for interesting ideas on how to crowdsource information.
  • Kevin: I'm a big fan of open-source, and as this post says, many small and medium newspapers have had great success with Drupal. The Newspapers on Drupal group is assembling a list of modules commonly used by newspapers
  • Kevin: Brian Reynolds says: "A common problem with current social games, Reynolds said, is that they don’t make players’ choices interesting over time, instead “burying the player in tedious repetitive clicking.” The challenge is improving the games’ progression curve, so players get steadily increasing rewards (points, virtual money and items) to encourage continued play. He believes simply refining this would instantly make social games more fun to play."
  • Kevin: An excellent post looking at how journalists have worked to build their own personal brands alongside the work that they do at publications. It's an important thing that will help journalists break out of their institutions and develop career opportunities broader than the papers or broadcasters that they work for.
  • Kevin: BBC World Service Director Peter Horrocks writes about how 'Fortress Journalism' is crumbling and how journalists main job is not longer to fight journalists in other fortresses.
  • Kevin: Jack Lail writes … "the McCormick Foundation funded three proposals from new media women entrepreneurs at $10,000 each so they can launch within a year."
  • Kevin: Alan Mutter writes about the passing of Walter Cronkite. He was the anchor that I remember (barely) from my childhood, but even those very early memories were of someone trustworthy and honest. Alan believes that we will never see another anchor like him in this age of multi-channel television. There are some great comments on this post, well worth reading if you are familiar with Cronkite's work.

    I'm not certain that we won't see someone like him again, but it will be much more difficult to see someone who has that position in the US journalistic landscape. It was a much simpler world back then in terms of that people had fiewer choices. There were three major broadcast networks. No cable. No internet. People had fewer choices. It's a good post. It will get you thinking.

  • Kevin: Kim Krause Berg writes on Search Engline Land: "Success in search engines was never quantity of pages vs. quality. It still is not. Rather, search engine market success is keenly tied to understanding user behavior and this is becoming more and more obvious every day."

    And I'd have to say that understanding user behaviour is what we need when it comes to building news sites and building new journalism businesses. We need to understand how users behave and also what they want. It's not about pandering to users' needs as much as finding out what their informational needs are and how journalism might go about meeting those needs.

  • Kevin: Derek Willis (who works at the New York Times) writes: "The folks at Sunlight today announced an effort to build a catalog for national and state datasets, going beyond what is doing at the federal level."

    There is a great opportunity here for journalists, academics, civically minded programmers and government transparency advocates in the UK to join forces on a project like this. It's about sifting through the masses of data to find the sources that are most relevant. It's not about replicating the data as much as it is about sifting through it and highlighting it. It's a fascinating idea, and I hope that we can work not only in the US and UK but elsewhere.

Saturday, July 18th, 2009

links for 2009-07-18

Posted by Suw and Kevin

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

links for 2009-07-16

Posted by Suw and Kevin

  • Kevin: Clay Shirky writes: "The change we’re living through isn’t an upgrade, it’s a upheaval, and it will be decades before anyone can really sort out the value of what’s been lost versus what’s been gained. In the meantime, the changes in self-assembling publics and new models of subsidy will drive journalistic experimentation in ways that surprise us all."
  • Kevin: Google explains what any geek knows. If news publishers want to prevent the search giant from indexing their content, they can do that tomorrow. Will they? The ball is in the news publishers' court, and quite frankly, seeing as a solution exists alreday for newspapers to 'protect' their content from Google, these publishers might have little chance in court of winning a case against Google. Instead, the newspaper publishers want to change the rules of the internet. It also shows once again how newspaper publishers show an amazing ignorance (and arrogance) when it comes to the basic working of the internet. As I've said before, if newspapers want to wage war against the internet, when they think they are just waging war against Google, I know which side I'm on. Don't break the internet to make up for a broken, but repairable, business model.

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

links for 2009-07-14

Posted by Suw and Kevin

  • Kevin: Alex Linde writes: "So then, people want intelligent witty (and perhaps tabloid) articles that are insightful, relevant and easy to read – just like they always have. But I’m not going to pay for them, and I can change provider in an instant. So good luck to the newspapers, if they can’t reinvent their businesses they’re toast."
  • Kevin: Dana Oshiro at RWW writes: "At the recent Real-Time CrunchUp 2009, Khris Loux, CEO of one of the web's largest commenting services, announced the
    "death of the comment". This declaration was extremely significant as Loux's JS-Kit is currently installed on over 600,000 sites. He blames the death on social media sites like Twitter and Flickr and the rise of "parallel channels away from [the] product". In essence, dialogue has moved from a singular destination to a series of parallel but separate social networking channels."
  • Kevin: Robin Wauters at TechCrunch writes: "International publishers demand new intellectual property rights protection to safeguard the future of journalism.

    That’s the title of a press release distributed late last week by the European Publishers Councel (EPC), which you can find here. Pretty heavy stuff, right? They don’t ask, they demand. They’re not looking for more effective application of the current IP rights protection, they want an entirely new one. And once they’ve secured that, the future of journalism will be safeguarded (hold the applause)"

Monday, July 13th, 2009

The plural of anecdote is not data

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

The City, and sections of the media, are getting a touch over-excited by a “research note” written for Morgan Stanley by Matthew Robson, a 15 year old on work experience. The Guardian said:

The US investment bank’s European media analysts asked Matthew Robson, an intern from a London school, to write a report on teenagers’ likes and dislikes, which made the Financial Times’ front page today.

His report, that dismissed Twitter and described online advertising as pointless, proved to be “one of the clearest and most thought-provoking insights we have seen – so we published it”, said Edward Hill-Wood, executive director of Morgan Stanley’s European media team.

“We’ve had dozens and dozens of fund managers, and several CEOs, e-mailing and calling all day.” He said the note had generated five or six times more responses than the team’s usual research.

The research note itself can be read on The Guardian’s site.

I’m going to start by giving Robson the kudos that he deserves. He has written a very well thought out piece which describes the media habits of him and his friends. In no way do I want to criticise a teenager for being thoughtful, engaged and articulate.

But one has to put this research note into context: This is one teen describing his experience. It is not a reliable description of all teens’ attitudes and behaviours, yet both Morgan Stanley and the media seem to be treating it as if Robson has Spoken The One Great Truth. “Twitter is not for teens, Morgan Stanley told by 15-year-old expert” coos The Guardian. “Note by ‘teenage scribbler’ causes sensation” says the FT in astonishment.

Neither Morgan Stanley nor the media seem to be able to tell the difference between anecdote and data. This “research note” is more note than research, and it should not be taken to be representative of all teens. A teenager in a rural setting, or in an inner city estate, or one who feels socially excluded from web culture will have a very different experience than a teen who’s well-connected enough to get himself an internship at Morgan Stanley.

What is worrying about this is not Robson’s note: He’s simply doing what most teens (and most adults) do, which is to extrapolate from his own and his friends’ experience to form generalisations about the world around him. It’s a very human thing to do, but the important thing about businesses like Morgan Stanley, and the journalists who write about them, is that they are supposed to be able to tell the difference between data and generalisations. Yet they don’t seem able to sort the wheat from the chaff. It seems yet another symptom of the group-think in the media and financial sector that led to the Great Recession, rather than an indication that we have learned anything from it.

Sarah Perez on ReadWriteWeb says:

Matthew Robson, a 15-year-old intern at analyst firm Morgan Stanley recently helped compile a report about teenage media habits. Overnight, his findings have become a sensation…which goes to show that people are either obsessed with what “the kids” are into or there’s a distinctive lack of research being done on this demographics’ media use. Robson’s report isn’t even based on any sort of statistical analysis, just good ol’ fashioned teenage honesty. And what was it that he said to cause all this attention? Only that teens aren’t into traditional media (think TV, radio, newspapers) and yet they’re eschewing some new media, too, including sites like Twitter.

Well, research has been done. danah boyd has done some excellent research into the use of the web by teens - it’s her speciality and she’s one of the foremost experts in this area. Her research would help Morgan Stanley understand the teen demographic much more clearly than any single anecdote, however well written, ever can. The fact that they haven’t ever had a clear insight into the teen demographic would seem to imply that their existing researchers and analysts aren’t doing their jobs properly. The information is out there, a lot of it is freely available, and all that remains is for someone to read it and write the report.

This story also feeds into the concept of the ‘digital native’ which, as I’ve blogged before, is a very poor way to talk about a very diverse section of the population. But because this report fits in with widely-held assumptions about teens and technology - not only does it describe ‘digital natives’, it’s written by one too - it’s immediately accepted without query or question. Morgan Stanley and the media both seem to be more interested in having their biases validated than they are in exploring the evidence to see where it leads them. Sadly, it seems that neither have been spending enough time watching CSI and drawing from it key lessons about assumptions, evidence and how to draw conclusions.

If I had been Matthew Robson’s boss at Morgan Stanley, on receiving his report I would have praised him on his good work and then asked him to look for evidence to either support or refute his points. That would have been an interesting exercise for Robson, and would have led to a research note that actually had some research in it. Instead, Morgan Stanley seem to have taken his work as gospel. I wonder why. Perhaps it was because they thought that, as a 15 year old, he’s privy to the inner workings of mysterious teen minds, a High Priest in the Digital Native Mythology?

If I relied on Morgan Stanley for anything, I’d be rather concerned right now regarding their lack of critical thinking.

Friday, July 10th, 2009

links for 2009-07-10

Posted by Suw and Kevin

  • Kevin: A good old rant about media moguls at an exclusive gathering in Sun Valley Idaho in the US. "Yes, why haven’t you, the kings of the media universe, invented almost anything?

    You just buy, copy and follow.

    Not innovate."

  • Kevin: Mark Glaser interviews freelance technology journalist Cyrus Farivar, EFF's Danny O'Brien, Kenyan-born journalist, writer and humorist Edwin Okong'o, co-founder Scott Rosenberg and award-winning producer of over 50 documentaries and television specials Kim Spencer. They discuss free speech online in various countries, from Iran to China to Kenya — and even a mention of the U.S. government's attempts at curtailing speech online over the years.
  • Kevin: Will Sullivan writes: "Beyond new interfaces, augmented reality allows for a new layer of location information that could help fuel more mobile crowdsourcing, collaboration, gaming and more."

    I've written about this for the Guardian, and while I think that these applications are fascinating, like so much bleeding edge technology, one of the key factors limiting or helping mass adoption will be the user experience. The other limiting factor will be that AR applications only work on a small subset of the small subset of high-end smartphones. That will change over time, but we are still in very early days with AR on mobile phones.

  • Kevin: At exclusive US event, Murdoch says: "News Corp. doesn't look to be in the business of developing an e-reader either. Says Murdoch: “I don’t think that’s likely. We’re looking and talking to a lot of laboratories and big companies around the world, like Sony and Samsung. We’re all working on wireless readers for books or newspapers or for magazines. I think they’re a year or two away being marketed in a mass way, high quality ones, and we’ll be absolutely neutral."
  • Kevin: "The iPhone audience is age-diverse: a device this powerful isn’t just for kids. There are roughly as many iPhone users 55 and older as there are 13-24."
  • Kevin: Afghani presidential candidate Dr Ashraf Ghani launches social media offensive. A leading contender in Afg­hanistan's upcoming presidential election has called in UK social media agency Red Narrative to replicate the digital success of Barack Obama.
  • Kevin: All US states except Wyoming have some form of 'shield law' that allows journalists to protect confidential sources. Courts in the US are extending the laws to apply to bloggers. "But a judge in New Jersey has just made the questionable decision that blogger Shellee Hale isn't covered by that state's reporter's shield law, which allows journalists to protect their confidential sources.

    The judge ruled that Hale shouldn't be considered a journalist because she hadn't shown she was affiliated with a "legitimate" media outlet, according to"

  • Kevin: Lois Beckett writes: "There were plenty of proposals for collaboration at the summit of nonprofit news organizations that I wrote about on Monday, but one idea is worthy of Rambo: a “mobile strike force” of investigative journalists, ready to deploy at any moment, anywhere in the country, to dig into scandal, cover natural disasters, or otherwise power up a local news outlet."
  • Kevin: Roland Legrand has these five suggestions: 1) Create micro-sites 'focused on a specific topic of interest to our communities'. 2) Streams of content such as a stream of blog posts or Twitter updates 3) Use wikis for context 4) Boost audience interactions, possibly even '2.5-D environments such as Metaplace' 5) Give participants more control.

    He also makes this very interesting comment about print-online integration, which he says that he supports. "There's one major risk to this: that we might end up seeing the web as just another way to distribute newspaper articles rather than a radically new opportunity." It is more than a theoretical risk.

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

links for 2009-07-09

Posted by Suw and Kevin

  • Kevin: "
    Ron Royals / Corbis

    24/7 Wall St. has come up with 10 ways in which Twitter will permanently change American business within the next two to three years, based on an examination of Twitter's model, the ways that corporations and small businesses are currently using the service and some of the logical extensions of how companies will use Twitter in the future"

  • Kevin: You can now toggle the advanced Google Image search options to restrict images to those with a Creative Commons license, ready for certain re-use.
  • Kevin: A gem from 1994 by Jon Katz, that's right 1994. Katz wrote: "Over the past decade, newspapers have made almost every kind of radical move except transforming themselves. It's as if they've considered every possible option but the most urgent - change." Nope. We never saw the current problems coming. You keep believing that if it makes you feel better.
  • Kevin: Scott Rosenberg talks about how most journalists don't understand the motivations for why people blog. Journalists write professionally, for money, for fame, for influence.

    Scott says: "But nowhere in his world is there room for the actual motivation that drives most bloggers: a desire to express themselves, to think out loud, to exult in the possibilities of writing in public — and learn from the pitfalls, too. Maybe there’s a payoff in enhancing your reputation, but there can also be a payoff in simply enhancing your experience at communicating your thoughts and ideas. Speaking to a big crowd is alluring but speaking even to a small group of friends is rewarding, too. For the great majority of participants, blogging is a social activity, not an aspiration to mass-media stardom."

    Spot on.

  • Kevin: "Hoping to compete with emerging foreign markets and prevent another major industry collapse, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Tuesday the city’s launch of eight initiatives aimed and drawing and keeping new media technologies in the Big Apple.'

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

Why is social media important to civil society?

Posted by Suw Charman-Anderson

And another draft section! This is basically the introduction, explaining why this is all important. It is not the executive summary. Again, comments welcome. I’m getting a bit ‘word blind’ on this report now, so there’s bound to be not just typos but also various conceptual repetitions. Hopefully I can smooth out the rough edges once I start editing the report as a single piece, instead of lots of sections.

Building Civil Society 2.0
In their report, Public Media 2.0: Dynamic, Engaged Publics[1], Jessica Clark and Patricia Aufderheide describe how “Multiplatform, participatory, and digital, public media 2.0 will be an essential feature of truly democratic public life from here on in.”

Replace “public media 2.0” with “civil society 2.0” and the sentence holds just as true. Social technology, (see box) are transforming many aspects of modern society, from the media to government, from education to business. The third sector is no different. Change is happening and the challenge is to understand not just the nature of the change, but how civil society can embrace and benefit from it.

Clark and Aufderheide describe the landscape we now inhabit:

“Commercial media still dominate the scene, but the people formerly known as the audience are spending less time with older media formats. Many [people] now inhabit a multimedia-saturated environment that spans highly interactive mobile and gaming devices, social networks, chat—and only sometimes television or newspapers. People are dumping land lines for [mobile] phones and watching movies and TV shows on their computers. While broadcast still reaches more people, the Internet (whether accessed through phones, laptops, or multimedia entertainment devices) has become a mass medium.”’

At the same time, trust in — government, business and the media, and in traditional information sources — is low and often declining, according to the Edelman Trust Barometer Survey 2009 [2]. Trust in the media has suffered the most, but trust in other sources, such as business analysts, press releases and company CEOs is also low/declining, with respondents needing to see information three to five times before it is deemed credible. Whilst NGOs are trusted slightly than other types of organisation, they are not bucking the trend towards mistrust.

In order to combat mistrust, Edelman recommend — and this applies as much to the third sector as to business — that, “Organizations must be forthright and honest in their actions and communications.” And when problems occur “stakeholders need to see senior executives take a visible lead in acknowledging errors, correcting mistakes, and working with employees to avoid similar problems going forward.”

The combination of a fragmented media and a decrease in trust suggest that the future may not be so rosy for civil society. Organisations will find it harder to:

* Move from broadcast model to a conversational model to form and maintain relationships with the audience.
* Become transparent about the way that the organisation works.
* Put participation at the centre of their web strategy.

For some civil society associations, this implies a profound shift in organisational culture. But the price of such a shift is a small one to pay compared to the risks of failing to engage with social technology. In a world where everyone else is talking, keeping quiet is the first step on the way to irrelevance. Publisher Tim O’Reilly once observed that, “Obscurity is a far greater threat to authors and creative artists than piracy” [3]. For civil society associations, obscurity is a far greater threat than letting go of control.

Yet Outsell’s report, CEO Topics — Social Communities & Expert Networks [4] , as quoted in Michael Collins’ Memcom 09 presentation [5], warns that despite associations being “the poster child of communities”, bringing together as they do people with common interests, “their absence form the community phenomenon and their seeming inability to move their offline communities online into vibrant digital communities is stark. Associations… stand to lose… their very reason for being if they cannot move their professionals into digital environments.”

The role of social technology in civil society
People have been congregating in online social spaces, such as Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Flickr for years. But these tools are not just being used for day-to-day socialising and content sharing, they are also being used as news filters, platforms for collaboration, and places to organise activism. Information and requests for action can ripple quickly through such networks as people forward on interesting or important messages to their peers.

Civil society associations, by using social tools, can extend the reach of their web presence and the strength of their network, and form direct relationships with the individuals in their constituency. Social tools can also provide website visitors with something immediate to do, even if it is a small action. Establishing these one-to-one relationships and facilitating immediate action both increase engagement, which in turn increases the likelihood that the member/supporter will become a more active and valuable participant in the community.

The Association Social Technologies report [6] draws on the report The Decision to Join by ASEA & The Center for Association Leadership [7] which showed that “the extent to which a member is engaged in their membership association is tightly correlated to their likelihood to renew their membership and to talk to friends and colleagues about their association. [And] the number one way members first learn about their membership association is from another member.”

They go on to say that even a “small improvement in member engagement should reliably produce an increase in membership retention rates”, which will in turn improve revenue. Because “research shows that engaged members are more likely to talk to prospective members about their association” it also follows that increased engagement will not just improve income from those members, but increase income from new members too.

Further more, if member engagement alone isn’t enough to encourage organisations to engage with social media, then the more direct effects of increasing merchandise sales, conference registration and other such transactions should help organisations realise the benefits of an investment in social technology.

Increasingly, people want direct involvement in civil society, rather than action by proxy, and social tools can help them experience that direct involvement. That may mean that they want to be a part of an active community, rather than a passive individual isolated from their fellow supporters. Civil society associations can use social tools to provide an environment for conversation, whether that’s on a blog or a social network or on Twitter, which will then allow a vibrant community to grow.

Social media allows individuals to easily come together to discuss and solve shared problems. Associations can either tap into that, facilitating self-organisation that benefits the association, or can ignore it. But if they do ignore the opportunity provided by the internet to engender collective action, they risk sidelining themselves as individuals bypass existing organisations and structures to achieve their goals.

Challenges to using social technologies
It would be foolish not to recognise and address the challenges posed by social technologies. The main challenge is cultural. Social spaces online each have their own culture and unwritten code of conduct. Often, behaviours that are acceptable in a PR or marketing context are not acceptable in a social media context, so care must be taken to understand the culture before engaging with the tools.

Resourcing is also a potential problem. Social media can be time consuming, and has to be worked into employee’s work schedules in a way that guarantees the time and freedom to engage fully.

Social technology changes constantly, so engaging with it has to be an ongoing process of discovery and learning. It’s not a one-off project, but a permanent change to the way the organisation communicates, collaborates and thinks.

These challenges can, however, be overcome and should not pose significant problems for associations that wish to engage with social technologies.

[5] get citation

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

links for 2009-07-08

Posted by Suw and Kevin

  • Kevin: " Last week saw a wave of developments in the opening of government data, coinciding with the Personal Democracy Forum in New York. The new CIO of the country, Vivek Kundra, announced a site called the IT Dashboard that shows government spending on IT contracts for many federal agencies, and includes detail on the progress and performance of those contracts, as described here. This follows the launch of in May, the first step in a new direction for federal government transparency."
  • Kevin: "BUT Politico also realized it couldn't be a Web-only outfit. Two things make Politico what it is, thanks to "old line" media. The continued investment of the Allbritton Family, which owns several TV stations and is struggling with debt like McClatchy, Gannett, etc. And the print version of Politico has allowed the organization "to thrive and more than double the company’s revenues," writes Wolff. He attributes the success of the print tab to the Web site. Maybe so. But print is paying the bills. And there's nothing new in that."
  • Kevin: Martin Langeveld writes: "A from-scratch news organization today would, of course, be an online-first enterprise. That doesn’t rule out print as a niche byproduct, but print would not be among the 'initial efforts.'"