Column: Cash in the Static

Opinion

Column: Cash in the Static

It's that time of year where we ask questions about life after death. Such as: What must your breath be like when you've risen after three days, and your Last Supper was a boozy affair that was broken up by the police? Bringing life to the vaults is a talking point in IT too, with everyone from startups to The Spectator raising the dead.

Dead Social, for example, allows you to keep posting up messages after you're dead. Well, technically speaking, you must load them onto the system before you start flatlining, but these postings can be timed to appear whenever is apposite.

Don't laugh, there's already a healthy Morbidity Marketing sector. Princess Diana-style shrines are springing up all over the place, making a shrine side advert a brilliant media buy. Your message will be seen by millions of people with proven levels of gullibility.

I wonder if Dead Social isn't going to run into challenges though. Will GCHQ be able to monitor it? What if it gets used by Al Qaeda for martydom posts? Will the police demand access? These are issues that Camden-based founder James Norris must wrestle with and good luck to him.

Dead Social is a finalist at the Next Web Start-Up Rally 2012 and Norris will in Amsterdam batting for Britain at this Dragon's Den-style tech pitch. Who says Britain's industry is dead?

Talking of reality game shows, UK start-up Netcopy has created a brilliant format for a TV format. That wasn't their intention - their business plan was to create digital archives for print publishers. That seems to be going brilliantly and ancient texts from magazines such as The Spectator, Tribune, The Catholic Herald and Gramophone are being made available for digital searches. Who knows what treasures are buried in the archives of a magazine like The Spectator, which has been published weekly since 1828 and whose editors frequently rise to high office in the government. The roll call of great writers whose earliest works have been buried in this archive is endless.

Publishers of technical information, such as Jane's Defence Weekly, must have decades worth of valuable data that is being liberated from static pages and given a digital life. The value of analysing logistical information about the shipping, airline and freight industries must run into millions.

Even old newspaper archives would be worth a fortune. I can see a derivative Cash In The Attic-style show being made for Channel 5. Picture the team calling on a pensioner in Wapping. What's in your archive Rupert? "I've got these old back issues of The News of the World," the old digger might say. Imagine the joy on his face when Rupert finds out how much they're worth. Priceless.

Meanwhile, book publishers could ask Netcopy to digitize their back catalogue and repackage them for new audiences.

Cash in the Static. That would be a good name for the show. In the meantime, it might help many of our book and newspaper publishers rise from the dead.

This was first published in April 2012

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