2007: Don't just watch, blog!

Vegging in front of the telly is no longer enough. A generation has got up off the couch and gone to live online instead, creating new identities and stars like Leona and Lily Allen. But with corporations moving in, is the revolution already over?

"For most people," wrote Don DeLillo in his 1985 postmodern masterpiece, White Noise, "there are only two places in the world. Where they live and their TV set." How innocent 1985 seems now. For many people in Britain, in 2006, their TV set, and, indeed, where they lived, made little impact on their existence. Why just watch, when they could digitally do?

I met a girl at a Paolo Nutini gig in Oxford in October who filmed the performance on her videophone, without pause, from the moment Nutini stumbled on to the stage to the moment he rasped his last. She looked delighted. I asked her whether she'd enjoyed her evening. No word of a lie, this was her response: "I got some nice stuff."

For a generation of kids and hipsters in 2006, this was their only imperative - record, record, record. And then upload, and share and blog and contribute. It is for this reason - "for seizing the reins of the global media, for founding and framing the new digital democracy, for working for nothing and beating the pros at their own game" - that we are all Time magazine's 2006 person of the year. That's very flattering - thank you, Time - but is it true? Have we all, really, seized the reins?

I didn't care to ask the destination of the Nutini fan's "nice stuff", but a safe bet might have been her MySpace page, or YouTube. These sites - one a social networking site, on which music, video and gossip can be shared, and the second a forum for uploaded video clips - have done more to change the way the world approaches media this year than any others. When YouTube's founders, a couple of laid-back cats from San Francisco called Chad Hurley and Steve Chen, sold their business to Google for $1.65bn (£840m) in October, some commentators thought that Google had paid a little over the odds - but not by much.

By October, YouTube was showing 100 million video clips a day. Many were deeply asinine - "Hey look, Gary ate a Coke can!" - but some had the power to shape entire careers. When George Allen, a Republican shoe-in for re-election to the Senate in the midterm elections, called a member of his Democratic rival's staff (a young man of Indian descent) a "macaca", he lost the race. Because Allen was being filmed. And because, in 2006, if you said something stupid, it was on YouTube in minutes.

For the traditional media - that thing you're holding in your hands - the most exciting aspect of YouTube or MySpace came when these forums showed they could create "stars". Following in the footsteps of the Arctic Monkeys, talented Sheffield indie kids who generated a violent rush of fans around their MySpace page in 2005, came this year's MySpace queen, Lily Allen, who had everyone singing "Smile" before it hit the shops. Guy Goma, meanwhile, won the hearts of the nation as his bungled, impromptu performance on BBC News 24 was displayed hundreds of thousands of times on YouTube.

You'll have noticed, however, that, while the Arctic Monkeys and Lily Allen are still with us, Mr Goma has retreated quietly from the public eye. Proof, if it were needed, that man cannot live by web alone. YouTube and MySpace may be the perfect ground on which to plant the seeds of stardom, but every potential star still needs validation by a traditional system. Just like half a century's worth of artists before them, they need the deal.

Allen, indeed, was signed to Parlophone well before she became a MySpace fixture. Her story is symptomatic of the depressing fact that MySpace has lost much of the punk ethic that made it cool in the first place. While the Arctic Monkeys did something canny and revolutionary in 2005 - banning record scouts from their sell-out gigs, and relying on a fanbase maintained by the MySpace phenomenon - 2006 has seen the site's chic eroded.

Heard of a "friend-adder"? That's a device to add friends to your, or your band's, MySpace profile. It's often used by a record company executive, whose sole purpose is to maintain his artist's "online presence".

In many ways, MySpace was over before it began - in June 2005, Rupert Murdoch bought Intermix, the company that created MySpace, and there went the neighbourhood. The links to 20th Century Fox productions and other Murdochalia you find on the site are no mistake.

If you want to see a genuine force for change, look to Wikipedia, the online, not-for-profit encyclopedia that, in 2006, passed the one million mark for English language pages. Entirely created and edited by users, the site has used the "wisdom of crowds" philosophy to ensure its accuracy. Naturally, crowds can be stupid as well as wise, and there are frequent glitches in the truth matrix, but as an idea, and a product, nothing in 2006 has come close to matching Wikipedia for influence. It can only grow in 2007.

Look, too, to the influence of the political blogger - this year's big story for Westminster's media village. In contrast to America, where political bloggers have held huge influence for the past three or so years, it has taken Britain until 2006 to realise the potential of the medium. Only Iain Dale and Guido Fawkes, both right-wing scribblers, have made an impact, but when they shake cages, people now listen. It was, for instance, Guido Fawkes who first named Tracey Temple as John Prescott's squeeze, and it was Fawkes who maintained pressure on Tony Blair from the first moments of the cash-for-honours row.

Dale's scoop about Philip Anschutz and the future of the Millennium Dome, meanwhile, was so juicy, that, when the Daily Mail wanted to put it on their front page, they asked Dale to remove the story from his blog, so that they could claim exclusivity. He refused, because he knew that he was a major player in his own right. In 2006, Fawkes and Dale have, often with little more than a blithe disregard for traditional reporting proprieties, made themselves essential reading. It is not a coincidence that both these men are blogging "in opposition"; when Blair leaves office in 2007, we should look forward to Labour forcing a powerful counter-argument in the political blogosphere.

What to make of podcasting - the downloadable radio-esque shows that media organisations are now very keen on promoting - is anyone's guess. In 2006, we listened to more and more podcasts. Which largely meant that we listened to Ricky Gervais (who saw his series of comedy podcasts for The Guardian downloaded millions of times), Jimmy Carr and Russell Brand. But podcasting created no new stars, merely reinforced some established ones. Indeed, the podcast was just one more outlet for Gervais, Carr, and Brand to entrench their ubiquity - along with the TV programmes, the books, the live performances, the films, the newspaper columns and radio shows.

So don't call it a revolution. If 2006 shows us a general trend, it is that we're all still suckers for a blockbuster. If anything, mainstream tastes in this country have become much more conservative. How else to explain the success of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest, a movie that has taken over a billion dollars worldwide this year and that has just pipped the new Bond film to be Britain's favourite cinema film in 2006?

How else to explain, too, that the stars of British television this year were reality television spins on old formats? Almost 13 million people tuned in to watch the final of ITV's The X Factor. The BBC's Strictly Come Dancing has fared equally well. Deal or No Deal, a brain-numbingly simple game show that has been syndicated into dozens of languages, has, meanwhile, rocketed up the Christmas DVD bestseller lists.

So don't tell me, Time magazine, that we are all your people of the year, because when you said that we had framed the new digital democracy, you weren't talking about my mum. The digital democracy - the girl with her videophone at the Nutini gig - is still a niche constituency, albeit an increasingly influential one. The podcasters are still outnumbered by the people with analogue radios listening to The Archers; the old narratives are still pulling the biggest crowds; and, the odd internet start-up billionaire aside, the old media powers are still the ones making money.

But there has been a shift in vision in 2006 - one that can only redouble in 2007. And, in one sense, it is a democratising tendency. It is that we can get whatever we want, wherever we want. The trend's power became clear to me as I watched, along with a quarter of the nation's population, the old-fashioned heartstrings-fest that was The X Factor live final.

We were told, at the same moment that the winner, Leona, was crowned, that her Christmas single would be available as a download later that night. This ruse was so successful that by the time a physical compact disc hit the record shops, Leona had sold enough copies of her single to be Christmas number one for the next five years. But, more revealing still, we were then guided into a message from the show's sponsor, Nokia, which was promoting its new "Music gets you talking" campaign.

The phone that appeared in the advert was a Nokia 3250 - a device that not only stores up to 750 tracks, but has a 2-megapixel camera for stills and video, internet capacity, and a one-gigabyte memory. It was evidence that we have almost come to a point when phone screens are so advanced, their memory so expanded and their internet sites so user-friendly, that they become our cultural nodes.

In 2007, a desktop computer may start to feel like a blunt instrument indeed. For most people, soon, there will be only one place in the world, and it will fit in their pocket.


Michael Grade

After his defection from the BBC, Grade, takes his seat at the head of ITV's board on 8 January, when his priority will be to reverse the broadcaster's fortunes. ITV1 has seen advertising revenues down 12.5 per cent in the past year, and its audience share fall too. ITV has a total programming budget for 2007 of £1bn; Grade's own pay package could top £4m a year.


From 1 January the old Board of Governors makes way for the BBC Trust, to be chaired by Chitra Bharucha until the Government appoints a permanent replacement for the defector Michael Grade. The trust's first task will be to decide which of its long-term plans to shelve if the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, confirms a below-inflation rise in the licence fee.

The Digital Switchover

The great switchover - or analogue switch-off - kicks off in the Border ITV region in 2008, to be completed by 2012. But, to date, just under 30 per cent of UK households have yet to follow the little white logo, right, and go digital, with the Secretary of State for Culture, Tessa Jowell, piling pressure on the BBC by ordering that the £600m switchover subsidy for "vulnerable" homes come from the licence fee.

High-Definition Television

HD-ready televisions have been a big seller for retailers in 2006 but few owners seem aware that, while their expensive sets are HD-ready, it will be several years until they receive HD images. The BBC has trialled terrestrial HDTV in a limited number of London homes, and hopes all its output will be in high definition by 2010. But until the digital switchover, Freeview has inadequate capacity for a nationwide launch.

Sir Richard Branson

After a merger between ntl:Telewest and Virgin Mobile, the Virgin chief takes the reins at Virgin Media, hoping to shake up the market by offering "quadplay bundles" - single packages providing digital TV, broadband, mobile and home phone services. Sir Richard will be looking for a smoother ride in 2007 after BSkyB scuppered his plans to take over ITV by snapping up nearly a fifth of its shares, and then beat NTL, in which he is the biggest shareholder, to a coveted sponsorship spot on Virgin Radio.

Rupert Murdoch

He may have turned 75 in 2006 but Murdoch shows no signs of loosening his grip on a media empire that now includes the 18 per cent stake in ITV. He and son James, chief executive of BSkyB, will be keeping a close eye on the UK's biggest commercial broadcaster. Meanwhile, BSkyB hopes the sponsorship deal with Virgin Radio's breakfast show will help promote Sky+, its broadband service and its TV programming, including Lost.

Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

Mario Balotelli, Divock Origi, Loic Remy, Wilfried Bony and Karim Benzema
transfersBony, Benzema and the other transfer targets
Spectators photograph the Tour de France riders as they make their way through the Yorkshire countryside
voicesHoward Jacobson: Line the streets for a cycling race? You might just as well watch a swarm of wasps
Life and Style
lifeHere's one answer to an inquisitive Reddit user's question
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
peopleDave Legeno, the actor who played werewolf Fenrir Greyback in the Harry Potter films, has died
Detail of the dress made entirely of loom bands
Life and Style
There were mass celebrations across Argentina as the country's national team reached their first World Cup final for 24 years
transfersOne of the men to suffer cardiac arrest was 16 years old
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
A mugshot of Ian Watkins released by South Wales Police following his guilty pleas
peopleBandmates open up about abuse
Basketball superstar LeBron James gets into his stride for the Cleveland Cavaliers
sportNBA superstar announces decision to return to Cleveland Cavaliers
Javier Mascherano of Argentina tackles Arjen Robben of the Netherlands as he attempts a shot
world cup 2014
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Media

(Junior) IT Systems Administrator / Infrastructure Analyst

£28000 - £32000 per annum + pension, 25 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A highly ...

Sales Engineer - Cowes - £30K-£40K

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: Sales Engineer - Cow...

Web / Digital Analyst - Google Analytics, Omniture

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My client who are a leading publisher in...

Sales Perfomance Manager. Marylebone, London

£45-£57k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice