Monday, January 31, 2011

Morning Brief: Egypt as test case for Internet freedoms; Murdoch's 'The Daily' arrives on Wednesday at NYC event

As the protests continue in Egypt this morning, and Egyptians are experiencing life without consistent access to the Internet and their favorite social networking sites for almost a week, some are beginning to think about the lessons to be learned for the rest of the world. Is it good that most Western governments have the same abilities to turn off the Internet spigot?

Here in the U.S. we have seen companies like Amazon, Visa and others only too willing to do the government's bidding by denying services to WikiLeaks in retaliation for the embarrassment of recent diplomatic cable leaks. I expect that the domestic conversation will be steered to issues of civil liberties and unimpeded Internet access, free from government control and tracking, in the weeks to come.

Al Jazeera is reported earlier today that six of its reporters have been arrested by the Egyptian government. "With this new incoming cabinet he [Mubarak] may be saying that he wants this dealt with from a security perspective," an Al Jazeera correspondent in Cairo is reporting.
The reporters were later released, but their audio and video equipment was taken.

The English language cable channel and website of Al Jazeera continues to be a major source of information and pictures for other U.S. news outlets.

As someone who has Comcast as their cable provider, Al Jazeera's English service is not available. But the Doha, Qatar based news network does stream its content on its website, though I have found the service spotty. Instead, by using Livestation I have been able to continue to monitor their broadcasts.

This Wednesday News Corp. will unveil its tablet newspaper at an event at the Guggenheim Museum. Evan Britton, writing on BusinessInsider, seem sure the iPad-only newspaper will be a success. I, myself, have my doubts that any of these early efforts will succeed, simply because so much had to be worked out -- from the design and content to the business model. But I am also not necessarily a skeptic, either. Rupert Murdoch, after all, has enough resources to fund and sustain this launch through the weeks and months ahead.

The question will soon turn to whether any other major media company will be willing to launch a tablet-only product in direct competition to The Daily, or continue to simply port over their existing print products.

'The Daily' won't be the only thing I will be anticipating arriving Wednesday. It appears that an epic snowstorm is also due to arrive here in the Chicago area that day -- oh goody, and I'm still trying to recover from a pretty ugly bout of the flu. Forecasts are for up to two feet of snow, something we have not seen here since another epic storm that hit January 2, 1999.

Oh yes, lest we forget, Verizon customers can begin pre-ordering iPhones this week, as well.