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04/30 2009 | 04:59 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Rapidshare's cooperation with German rights holders that led to the raid of the flat of a suspected Metallica uploader continues to make waves. P2P Blog reported about the case a month ago. Ars Technica and other online publications caught up in recent days, and Rapidshare has finally reacted with an official press release that tries to reassure users of the service that it is safe.

The release explains that, under current German law, services like Rapidshare only have to reveal the identity of an uploader in case acts of commercial or otherwise substantial infringements. Rapidshare CEO Bobby Chang comments:

"Most German users are not affected by this provision, their privacy and their data is protected like before (the recent copyright changes). We don't keep logs about the files our users download. Freedom of information is a fundamental part of every democracy. At the same time, we do obey the laws. It's surprising that this fact has been treated as a revelation."

The release goes on to explain that it is legal for German users to upload copies of media to Rapidshare as a way of backing them up, and that users can also send links to these files to their friends or relatives due to fair use protections.

However, publishing links to MP3s or movies saved on Rapidshare's servers in web forums is illegal in Germany. Shared file hosters would be forced to give up information about the uploader in such cases regardless of their place of incorporation or the location of their servers. "People are wrong if they believe we would give up IP addresses without a good reason," concludes Chang.

Of course, this doesn't answer the question why Rapidshare keeps logs of these IP addresses in the first place. The company kept mum about the types of data it collects for a long time, and only recently revealed to P2P Blog that it does collect the IP addresses of uploaders (for details, see our FAQ: What does Rapidshare know about you?). Technically, that doesn't seem to be necessary. One could easily imagine a set-up that would involve uploaders logging in with their account information and then identifying themselves via a cookie without Rapidshare's servers keeping logs of IP addresses.

04/29 2009 | 08:30 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Bittorrent hosting service Vipeers is scheduled to launch an upgrade this Thursday that will offer users the option to only share files with their friends. Users will be able to compile a list of friends and subsequently chose the access rights for each file they upload to the Vipeers servers.

Vipeers started as a free Bittorrent file hosting service last November. The service has since started a cooperation with Mininova that has resulted in a substantial increase in users. Louis Choquel from the Paris-based start-up ZSlide that runs Vipeers told me in a phone conversation last week that he sees these private sharing features as an important step towards monetizing Vipeers. In his own words:

"I think privacy and trust are becoming important today. People are afraid of Big Brother making some surveillance in what they share. They want to have a secure way of sharing with their friends."

Vipeers recently introduced a premium membership level that offers more bandwidth and the ability to share larger files. Future iterations of the premium service may include more advanced privacy features. Friends will for example be groupable, and you'll be able to define which files you want to share with each group.

For now, users will have to make friends by inviting the manually to join the Vipeers universe, but Choquel told me that you'll eventually also be able to import friends from Facebook or GMail through OAuth and similar technologies.

Check out some first screenshots of the new features below:

screenshot of vipeers private file sharing

An account overview.

screenshot of vipeers private file sharing

Uploading a file.

screenshot of vipeers private file sharing

Your friends list.

04/29 2009 | 01:07 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The Distributed Computing Industry Association (DCIA) is having it's fourth annual P2P Media Summit in Los Angeles on the 4th of May, and readers of this blog will recognize quite a few names scheduled for speaking. Attendants will hear from Littleshoot's Adam Fisk, RedSwoosh founder Travis Kalanick and BigChampagne's Eric Garland, amongst others.

Personally, I'm really looking forward to the lunch-time keynote, which will be held by Ron Berry, who is the E-Commerce Advisor of the Isle of Man and as such deeply involved in the talks about a possible P2P flatrate solution.

DCIA events have been kind of intimate gatherings in the past, featuring lots of well-known faces, but the organization apparently decided that it's time for some flesh blood and came up with some interesting discount rates. Regular tickets cost about 400 bucks, but students only have to pay $75, and a total $150 if they also want to attend Digital Hollywood Spring. Under-employed P2P enthusiasts are charged $99, and unfunded start-ups get in for $250. Can't attend at all? There's also a webcast-only ticket for a mere $39.

You should get in touch with the DCIA (+1-410-476-7964 or e-mail sari (atsign) dcia.info) if you want any of the discounted rates. I'll definitely be there, so feel free to say hi.

04/28 2009 | 11:28 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The well-known Swedish author Unni Drougge was so upset by the court verdict against the Pirate Bay that she uploaded a home-made audio book version of her best-selling new novel Boven i Mitt Drama Kallas Kärlek (The villan in my drama is called love) to the site, complete with a manifesto for free file sharing and a link to her Paypal account.

screnshot of unni drougge upload

Drougge complained that some of her author-colleagues have become cannon fodder in the entertainment industry's war against the Internet - a clear reference to Henning Mankell and other well-known Swedish authors who recently started to sue users for uploading their books. However, she gave her colleagues the benefit of the doubt:

"I suspect that a large number of creators have been deceived or are afraid to step on the toes of their publishers. Most are definitely shortsighted."

Drougge believes that this conflict is not just about compensation. It's about increasing control that will lead to the "end of the web as we know it" and eventually a surveillance society:

"The Internet and it's technoology will be in the hand of big politics and big business. That which we were part in creating will be used against us."

This Youtube video features a complete translation of her text:



Swedish file sharers apparently liked this kind of support. Her book is currently the most popular audio book on the Pirate Bay, surpassing even Harry Potter torrents, with almost 900 seeders and around 270 comments. Drougge also continues to be surpised by the fact how generous P2P pirates can be. She received more than 3000 dollars in donations within 48 hours of her uploading the book.

04/27 2009 | 12:37 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Some folks at Microsoft Research of all places have come up with a clever way for you to save electricity and increase your ratio: The researchers have built the prototype of a new network adapter called Somniloquy that can download data via Bittorrent and even offer basic Instant Messaging capabilities while the PC is in sleep mode. A PDF detailing their research is available here.

picture of microsoft research bittorrent ethernet card

How is this possible? Somniloquy uses a secondary, low-power processor that can handle basic tasks even while a PC is asleep. It's also capable of better wakeup triggers in the case that someone calls your Skype account. From a recently published paper about the network adapter:

"Experiments using our prototype Somniloquy implementation, a USB-based network interface, demonstrates energy savings of 60% to 80% in most commonly occuring scenarios. This translates to significant cost savings for PC users. BitTorrent and large web downloads, in the background. In existing systems, these applications would stop when the PC sleeps."

Somniloquy uses ctorrent for all its torrent downloading needs. Media files are temporarily stored on an SD memory card, and the PC occasionally starts up to copy those files and free up the space on the SD card. The researchers tested the interface's Bittorrent capabilities with torrents from Legaltorrents.com, and it seemed like the device was fine as long as only one torrent at a time got transfered.

So how green is Somniloquy? Your potential personal energy savings of course depend on the time your PC has to sleep, as well as the size of your "cache" SD card. Somniloquy's developers did however test a few scenarios, and came to the conclusion that a network card like this one could theoretically lead to energy savings of up to 91% for a large web download. Bittorrent download are expected to lad to similar results.

04/25 2009 | 12:50 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
The verdict against The Pirate Bay could turn out to be something of a game changer for P2P file sharing. Granted, the four defendants have already filed their appeals, and the site is currently up and running. In fact, there are 22 million peers connected as I write this, which suggests that most Pirate Bay users don’t feel threatened in any way by the court’s decision.

However, history has shown that court verdicts against high-profile file-sharing services can lead to the emergence of newer and technically superior platforms. This trend could be accelerated by renewed attempts to take down The Pirate Bay’s infrastructure. So what’s in store for the future of P2P? Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

04/24 2009 | 12:25 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Here we go again: German book publishers are tying to force local ISPs to block Rapidshare and similar websites through a controversial new Internet censorship bill. The bill, which received the backing of the German government two days ago, is meant to crack down on child porn with a centralized DNS block list that would include 1500 or so illegal child porn websites.

However, music industry representatives have already demanded that file sharing websites hosted in other countries should be added to the list as well. A representative of the German book publishers association (Boersenverein des Deutschen Buchhandels) used a media law forum in Cologne to add Rapidshare to the list of sites he'd like to see blocked.

"I don't see any other way than access controls to get to platforms like these that are based in foreign countries," said Boersenverein chief counsel Christian Sprang according to heise.de. ISPs should charge their customers for the costs of instituting these block lists. Sprang also called one-click-hosters like Rapidshare part of the "Internet mafia", and complained that ISPs would finance these services with ad buys on their sites.

Rapidshare is based in Switzerland, but has in the past shown the willingness to engage with rights holders in Germany. The service has been processing take down requests, and there are reports that claim that Rapidshare has also cooperated with German law enforcement officials that tried to hunt down the uploader of an unreleased Metallica album.

04/24 2009 | 12:21 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Remote torrent downloading / caching service Btaccel.com is opening up its service for a so-called controlled alpha test. Btaccel essentially offers a basic hosted torrent client, making it possible to download data from torrent sites onto the company's servers and then access it with any regular browser.

screenshot of btaccel.com

This isn't exactly a new idea. Many of the so-called seedbox providers are offering similar services for monthly fees, usually in combination with the PHP Bittorrent client Torentflux. Services like Furk.net and the Imageshack torrent downloader have also been experimenting with their own interfaces.

However, Btaccel seems to play in a leage of its own. I've had a chance to play with the service a bit today, and I must say I'm really impressed. Btaccel's interface is reduced to the bare essentials, and it just hits the sweet spot when it comes to ease of use.

screenshot of btaccel.com

Just enter a torrent URL into Btaccel's form field, and it automatically queues up for download onto the Btaccel servers. The waiting time before it actually starts up depends both on your account level (Btaccel is open for both free, registered as well as unregistered users, and premium service levels are apparently in the works) and on the actual server load, but I found that downloads would start after a few minutes max even when not logged in.

Just leave it open in the background - and you might even miss the actual download. Btaccel's servers are currently really, really fast. I was able to get transfer rates of up to 5100 KB/s for well-seeded torrents when downloading to the Btaccel servers.

screenshot of btaccel.com

Transfer rates should be even better for content that already has been requested by other BTaccel users because the service essentially acts as a proxy. HTTP download rates for the files, which are automatically zipped, were high enough to max out my admittedly pretty average DSL connection.

Also neat: Btaccel can be used as a web proxy server for any torrent site. Just use an url like http://proxy.btaccel.com/beta.legaltorrents.com, and any torrent from that site will automatically be downloaded to Btaccel.

It's exactly those clever features that make Btaccel so enjoyable. Of course, some users might be wary of any service that could potentially log their Bittorrent downloads. I don't really want to weigh in on this question, but one should note that Btaccel is run by a California-based company called Acceleration Labs, and the site does have a privacy policy, which is more than you can say about Rapidshare, for example.

I'm also not really sure how sustainable a service like this one is in the long run, but I was able to get a few more infos about Btaccel's current set-up. A company representative told me that Btaccel is both based on cloud services provided by Rackspace as well as its own hardware. The service currently has 500mbps of bandwidth available, according to company information.

Curious to test it our yourself? Well, you're lucky. I was able to secure 100 invites for readers of this blog. Just enter the invite code "p2p100" here, and you're set up for a free account with 100 GB of bandwidth. And please let me know how you like it.

Update (05/14): The invite code should work for another 250 invites. Check this article for details and updates.

04/23 2009 | 01:57 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Germany's coalition government advanced a bill yesterday that would force all ISPs to block access to around 1500 websites hosting child porn. Users that access these sites will instead be greeted by a stop sign. ISPs will be logging the IP numbers of visitors trying to access any of these sites and provide that data to law enforcement officials upon request.

The bill has been highly controversial in Germany. Net activists and civil liberties advocates have staunchly opposed such a centralized block list, and the German weekly Die Zeit called it "undemocratic".

However, not everybody is that unhappy about the prospects of a government-controlled Internet. Dieter Gorny, head of the Germany IFPI, recently said that the block list is "the right signal," according to c't magazine. Gorny continued:

"This is about government regulation of the Internet favored by our society, and part of that is the protection of intellectual property."

In other words: Child porn is just a first step, torrent sites like The Pirate Bay are next. This is not the first time the music industry is trying to enforce ISP-based censorship in Germany. Gorny's organization proposed a similar scheme back in 2000 that was touted as "digital border checkpoints." These efforts went nowhere, but that won't stop the industry from trying again.

04/23 2009 | 11:15 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
A computer science student of the Rochester Institute of Technology has done some interesting testing of Youtube's audio fingerprinting filters, which are, amongst other things, supposed to prevent the upload of clips with unauthorized music.

The results in a nutshell? Users that want to circumvent those filters just need to pitch their tunes by 6%. Resampling at a higher speed also works, as do several other simple modifications. From the article describing the test results in detail:

"It's likely that some of these workarounds will never be totally fixed, as the amount of computational complexity required to address some of the time/pitch changes would likely create a tremendous strain on a system that's probably already working as hard as it can."

In other words: Even all-mighty Google doesn't have enough servers available to check whether that Mickey Mouse voice used in your video originally belonged to Barry White. Welcome to the happy hardcore age of online video.

04/22 2009 | 04:32 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
I know you want to be the next Google with your P2Pwords advertising system. Your dream of making billions even made you buy an old bank office building in the middle of nowhere. That's all great, but can you please stop botching every new product release with completely unprofessional PR moves?

First there were those astroturfing attempts. Now you're releasing a new and supposedly phenomenal music metrics tool called P2Ppulse, and your press release reads:

"To take advantage of P2Ppulse and P2Panalytics, an artist simply goes to www.P2Pwords.com/P2Ppulse, provides a media file, six keywords and contact/billing information."

However, anyone who actually actually clicks trough to that URL simply gets a 404 error message. Whoops. You might want to fix that. (And while we're at it: How about publishing those case studies you've been promising for the last six months?)

Yours,

P2P Blog

04/22 2009 | 12:56 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Two Spanish ED2K / Emule link sites have been shut down by a court order, according to a blog post of the site owners. The Spanish P2P community group GrupoET has published a short note on its blog this week, stating that the two sites Elitemula.com and ETMusica.com have been shut down by a court order that was delivered to the site's web hoster.

At the core of the matter is apparently a civil lawsuit of the Spanish music publishers association SGAE against a member the group. GrupoET hasn't received any official court order yet, but the author of the blog post believes that the recent verdict against the Pirate Bay may have swayed the judge to take action against the two sites.

04/21 2009 | 03:07 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Sony Computer Entertainment America vice president Peter Dille told game industry magazine Gamasutra this week that his company is losing tons of money because of PSP game piracy. "It's criminal what's going on, quite frankly," Dille said, adding that the video game industry needs to cooperate to address this problem together. He specifically referred to Torrent sites as one of the main culprits for P2P piracy:

"We can look at data from BitTorrent sites from the day Resistance: Retribution goes on sale and see how many copies are being downloaded illegally, and it's frankly sickening."

Sony's PSP uses a proprietary Universal Media Disk (UMD) format which, initially thought to be safe by the company, was eventually cracked in 2005. Since then, various methods of loading and playing these pirated games have appeared, most of which involved firmware downgrades or customizations.

Sony can't really do too much about this because a more effective protection would involve changing the hardware, and there are millions of PSPs already out there. Dille agnowledged this problem by saying that the "toothpaste is out of the tube".

However, he believes that Sony can appeal to gamers to do the right thing and buy, rather than download, games. Video game fans should understand that a platform like the PSP could go away if people continued to pirate games.

04/20 2009 | 10:32 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Want to watch something on YouTube? Get ready to show your ID first — if you live in Germany, that is. Politicians from the conservative German Christian Democratic Union (CDU) are proposing a bill that would force online video sites to institute strict registration requirements for all of their users. Even casual video viewers would have to register with full name, address and federal ID card number before being able to access a single clip. The measure is geared at reducing the number of violent and gang-related videos on YouTube.

Registration requirements like these may sound drastic, but they’re not without precedent in Germany. Politicians have instituted even harsher access barriers for porn sites, and the country is in the process of setting up an official Internet censorship list that would require ISPs to deny access to thousands of illegal web sites. Continue reading on Newteevee.com.

04/20 2009 | 12:23 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Firewall solutions company Palo Alto Networks just released the 2009 edition of its annual Application Usage Risk Report that is looking at what kind of application and web services people use in corporate networks, and guess what: That guy in the cubicle next to you may be downloading videos via Bittorrent right now.

palo alto networks report
Chart by Palo Alto Networks.

Palo Alto Networks analyzed the traffic of more than 60 large organizations, and it found evidence of P2P file sharing in 92% of these cases. One of the companies even had 17 different file sharing apps active on its network, and the most common apps were Bittorrent and Gnutella clients. 76% of these companies had employees that used web-based file sharing like Megaupload or Yousendit.

Why should companies care? Because accidental file sharing is a big threat to corporate security, according to Palo Alto Networks. The company somehow forgot to mention that Bittorrent apps usually don't allow any accidental sharing, but it warned against the threat of web-based file swapping:

"Angry at being laid off? Or moving to a competitor? Launch YouSendIt! and transfer the customer database or the next-generation product plans to an online archive like BoxNet with ease."

Thanks for the suggestion. Of course, there's another issue with P2P, and that's bandwidth. However, it doesn't look like P2P is much of a bandwidth hog in corporate networks. The Palo Alto Networks report claims that "P2P file sharing usage is rampant", but the numbers don't sound all that threatening:

"In terms of bandwidth consumed, P2P file sharing increased dramatically (92%) over the previous report, chewing through 2.3 terabytes or 5% of the total bandwidth viewed across all organizations. From a bandwidth perspective, BitTorrent was the most voracious."

Just as a frame of reference: The report shows that photo and video sites, which include sites like Hulu, consumed twice as much bandwidth as P2P and web-based file sharing together.

The report can be downloaded for free after a quick registration.

04/17 2009 | 02:14 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Funny, I really thought I could take two weeks of vacation and everything would still be the same when I got back. Oh well.

In any case, don't expect another news story about the Pirate Bay verdict here. Just go to Techmeme and read any of the other 50 or so stories about the subject if you haven't heard about the year in jail for each defendant plus the 3.6 million bucks in damages yet. Just a quick note for all my German readers: There is a short opinion piece I wrote about the verdict in Saturday's taz.

Okay, that's it for now, I have to get back to complaining about my jetlag. Regular posts will resume on Monday.

04/14 2009 | 12:54 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Reports that Rapidshare may have cooperated with Geman law enforcement officials who pursued and eventually raided the residence of a suspected Metallica uploader have generated quite a stir, mostly because Rapidshare has been seen by many as a more anonymous alternative to P2P file sharing.

It's not really clear whether Rapidshare did in fact provide any data to law enforcement officials in the case in question, but the company admitted to P2P Blog that it does in fact routinely save data that could be used to identify uploaders. Of course, this raises the question: What else does Rapidshare know about you?

Rapidshare.com doesn't have a privacy policy available, and its Terms of Use don't contain any information about Rapidshare's log files either. However, a company spokesperson answered almost all of my questions, providing for the first time a detailed overview of how Rapidshare deals with privacy issues. Here are the most important use cases:

What happens if an unregistered user or the user of a free account downloads a file?

Rapidshare: "In the case of Free Users, we log how much data is downloaded from which IP address within the last 10-100 minutes. This information is kept for about two hours."

How about downloads initiated by premium users?


Rapidshare: "We log how much data is saved on which day from which IP address by Premium Users. This information is currently kept for 30 days and can be accessed within the Premium Zone."

Do you keep a record of the files I download?


Rapidshare: "We don't have any logs about which user downloads which file."

So what about uploads?

Rapidshare: "For uploads we save when and from which IP address a file is being uploaded."

Rapidshare did not tell me how long the company keeps IP addresses that link uploaders to certain files, even though this is probably the most controversial measure. However, answering these questions is already a big step to make the service more transparent to its users, and one can hope that a formal privacy policy will eventually be available as well.

04/10 2009 | 12:00 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
This is pretty great: Some guy called Mobi figured out how to get SMS notifications from his PC once uTorrent has finished a download. He also came up with a way for simple email notifications for all those Blackberry, Android and iPhone users out there. From his tutorial:

"C:/Sendemail/Sendemail -t email@email.com -u test email -m hi, this is just a test email to learn how to use the program. -f fromemail@email.com -s smtp.gmail.com:587 -xu username -xp password"


You know you're gonna love it. Read the complete tutorial here.

04/07 2009 | 02:45 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
German blogger Robert Gehring recently published a fascinating piece analyzing the reasons CD sales have been declining in the US. Gehring took a closer look at the US sales numbers published by the RIAA for the years 1990 to 2007 to figure out what exactly causes the current crisis. His conclusion?

"The market for physical audio recordings has been significantly impacted by the specific features of CDs."


In other words: Don't blame file sharing networks for effects that are caused by the CD format itself. Gehring believes that the initial boom of audio CDs was primarily caused by the fact that people wanted to convert their entire music collection to the new, digital format, and as a result even bought legacy albums that they already owned on vinyl or tape. Gehring calls this the growth phase of the CD, which approximately lasted from 1991 to 1994.

graph of recorded music sales
(used with permission)

After that, the market went through a phase of consolidation, which approximately lasted from '94 to 2000, according to Gehring. There's not much more growth during that phase, and sales of recorded music are more or less stable, averaging around a billion recordings per year. The CD has gained a market share of 90 percent at this time, and most consumers are starting to have substantial CD collections.

Of course, those CD collections are all digital, perfect copies. People may not copy or rip CDs that much during the 90ies, but that doesn't mean that they don't trade or sell them, opening up a whole new secondary market.

Sure, there's always been second hand record stores, but vinyl recordings were scratching, and only hardcore collectors were willing to wade through huge bins of used vinyl to find what they wanted. The sound quality of CDs on the other hand didn't deteriorate as much, so it was easier to resell the ones you didn't like.

Add Ebay to the mix, and you'll end up with a huge secondary market that eats away shares of traditional music sales. And that's what exactly what happened after 2000, Gehring believes. Here's a quote from his article:

"Up until 2007 a total of 12 billion CDs have been sold (in the US). It's safe to assume that at least 10 billion if these CDs still exist, even if you consider a certain degree of wear and tear. A substantial number of these CDs is part of the secondary market."

graph of circulation of cds
(used with permission)

I think that's a very interesting perspective, especially if you consider that traditionally, most of the best-selling albums that get the RIAA's gold and platinum awards have been legacy titles, meaning that classics from the Rolling Stones and the Beatles have been huge money makers for the industry for the years. of course, those are the very albums that are also big on the secondary market. You simply don't get as many used 2009 CDs on Ebay.

Does that mean that file sharing has no impact at all on record sales? I doubt it. Napster and its predecessors have taught a whole generation to consumer their music via their PC and mobile players. Those folks don't really care for physical sound recordings, be it used or new. However, the fact that an older audience that may not be as much int file sharing also has access to cheap music through this secondary market has definitely worsened the crisis the music industry is facing.
04/02 2009 | 12:01 PM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Nine Inch Nails mastermind and Bittorrent friend Trend Reznor is taking part in Digg's next Dialogg session, and users of the social news site are already compiling a bunch of interesting questions. The idea of a Digg Dialogg is that Reznor gets to answer the questions with the most Diggs, and P2P seems to be on everybody's mind when it comes to NIN. Here's the question that's currently leading the pack:

"Trent - you've embraced Creative Commons and file sharing, but your business model (aside from touring) still primarily involves selling music either digitally or physically. Why haven't you embraced advertising as a business model, e.g. placing ads on your torrent tracker? Why let Pirate Bay take all the ad revenue you deserve? Furthermore, why aren't you building a brand new record label based on a modern business model?"

Will be interesting to see what is answer is going to be. Proposing new and voting on existing questions is possible until Saturday, and the actual interview will happen on Tuesday, the 4th of April.

04/01 2009 | 12:53 AM
Posted by: Janko Roettgers
Things will be a little slower here in the coming days because I'm taking two weeks off for a well-deserved vacation. I queued up a few things, but regular updates won't resume before April 18th.

I was toying with the idea to suggest a few other blogs for you to read in the meantime, but I bet you can do a better job digging up noteworthy links. So where else do you go for P2P and digital media news and analysis? Feel free to add your suggestions or plugs in the comments.