New Media: Saw-You.com ; coolbeansworld.com; auditing statistics; digital TV e-mail

'My mate fancies you' for generation text
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The Independent Online

I think I've seen it all now. Crazy new media ideas used to hit our PCs first and were later translated on to mobiles, but now there are an increasing number of mobile initiatives that go beyond reporting the latest towel-slippage in the Big Brother house and seek to revolutionise our social lives.

A Glasgow-based company called Saw-You.com is hoping to solve the problem of how to chat someone up in a bar without looking like a fool. Users are invited to register their details, including hair colour, type of clothes and favourite hangouts, on the site. When they spot someone they like the look of, they send a text message describing that person to the team at Saw-You.com, who check whether it matches any registered user on its database. If it does, Saw-You.com sends a message out to the desired person to notify them that someone in their immediate vicinity is interested in meeting them.

A bit like "my mate fancies you" for people with no mates? The service currently has about 1,000 users, and hopes to boost this by striking up revenue-sharing deals with the likes of Orange and BT Genie. There are probably enough shy people in the world to make it work.

Making the Web pay

I was at an event last week where FT.com discussed the challenges it faces as it considers charging for some of its Web content, now that online advertising has lost much of the credence it had during the dot.com boom. Its major rival, The Wall Street Journal, has often been held up as one of the few companies to make the subscription model on the Web work. But as companies struggle to bring money in and satisfy investors, it could be the beginning of the end of the free internet.

A site launched last week by Cool Beans Productions, a Sheffield-based digital animation studio (www.coolbeansworld.com), turned heads when it announced that, apart from a preview page, its entire content would be offered on a paid-for basis, starting at $2.95 for a four-week subscription.

People are used to paying for financial information and porn, but despite the cries of, "Who is going to pay for entertainment when most of the internet is free?", the simple fact is that businesses can no longer afford to pay their staff if their only income is from advertising. But if, like Cool Beans Productions, you have quality exclusive content in a visually appealing site, then why not charge for it?

Named and shamed?

Auditing statistics for websites has been a hot potato for ages, particularly since the announcement by e-district.net that its chief executive, Steven Laitman, had been sacked because of an allegation of "overstatement" of site traffic figures.

The latest company to join the crowd of voices asking for something to be done is Chrysalis New Media, which has launched an "audit or be damned" campaign aimed at naming and shaming websites that don't produce officially audited traffic figures. Chrysalis is calling upon all UK b2c sites to register for an official traffic audit by 1 September or be publicly "shamed".

Although the sentiment is shared by many people in the business, not everyone is happy about the "name and shame" idea. One such dissenting view comes from Richard Withey, managing director of Independent Digital, which produces The Independent's website. "First, I don't think we have good enough standards to impose on the industry yet, and second, publicly shaming small companies that depend on advertising for revenues is in my view a restraint on trade. If they tried it with me, my lawyers believe they could have some fun," he said.

E-mail for couch potatoes

A few weeks ago, I scoffed at the memory of two friends e-mailing each other over digital TV to discuss their TV dinners. It made me cringe. But, according to Continental Research's most recent digital TV report, high up on the interactive wish-list of TV viewers is sending e-mails and ­ wait for it ­ seeing them on the TV screen.

Because televisions are almost always switched on in many homes, it is considered an instant way of reaching people. You don't have to get up and turn on the computer, or do anything fiddly with a phone. It is an always-on medium. Other desires expressed by square-eyed respondents include listening to new music with a potential to buy; booking holidays; ordering takeaways; banking; and getting the TV to alert them to their favourite types of programmes.

Which all sound about right. But imagine the din as mothers the nation over tear their hair out at the couch-potato lifestyle of their kids, who will be able to play with their friends without ever leaving the sofa. It's only a matter of time before pubs start installing webcams to allow men to have a night at the local boozer and keep the missus happy.

Lisa.Simmons@haynet.com

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