theEweekly Wrap: YouTube, magazines, and libel reform

By Rachel Hand topicIcon Manchester
Gadget Britain Communications regulator Ofcom has published its fifth annual report on the technology market in 17 countries. Overall, the findings were positive, with Ofcom concluding: "UK consumers are some of the earliest adopters of new communications technologies" and are "the best connected for broadband, mobile and digital TV". In the past year, smartphone take-up has grown by 70 per cent, but Italy is still ahead in terms of smartphone-owning population.

There was good news for e-commerce too, as the study showed the UK spent an average of £1,031 online and made 14 purchases every year, second only to Poland. James Thickett, Ofcom's director of market research, said the popularity of new technologies was "driven by younger people in the 18 to 24 age range".

Mag drag Another annual report has revealed less favourable results. The International Federation of the Periodical Press found that magazine production dropped by 10 per cent in 2010, with 319 British titles going out of print. Just 2,924 remain, but they aren't out of the woods yet.

One of the biggest reasons for magazines going out of business is the decline in ad revenue. Press display advertising has been the worst hit of all media platforms, with magazines taking the brunt of the loss. UK adspend dropped by £60 million in 12 months, with no improvement on the horizon until around 2012.

Pick an ad YouTube has begun rolling out a new 'family' of ads called TrueView. Soon to be common in the UK, USA and Canada, the advert clips will play before certain videos. Viewers can click to continue to the main event after five seconds, in which case advertisers will not be charged. If the ad is viewed for 30 seconds, the pay-per-view charge will be implemented.

The most interesting aspect of the decision is that viewers will be able to choose from several ads. Google hopes this will improve engagement and the relevance of the ad to the viewer; in their words, "connecting the right message with the right audience at the right time". There is also hope that the 5-second feature will encourage production of better adverts, so that viewers watch to the end; in tests, the view-through rate ranged from 20 to 70 per cent. TrueView will operate through AdWords accounts.

The Twitter law The Supreme Court has ruled that libel laws must be changed for the social media age. The libel defence of fair comment was invented in the 19th century, to permit critical reviews of artworks and plays. However, since the internet gave every British citizen the means to communicate their views to the world, the rules became a little less clear cut.

As a result, fair comment has been updated and renamed 'honest comment'. In the past, the comment had to list enough facts for the reader to make up their own mind. Now, due to the 'common base of information' created by television and the internet, a passing or general reference to the facts will be enough to use the 'honest comment' defence. In other words, a hashtag such as #xfactor could justify a comment like '[insert name here] is a rubbish singer', as it references the performance that opinion is based on.