Some b-obs to start your day with Fairfax digital. The Age got a bit risque today, inadvertently entering the debate on internet censorship with this delightful link:

Leading to an even more delightful article and photo gallery with, you guessed it, more b-obs:

Now the question is, would ISP internet filtering block out The Age?

Ziff Davis To Close PCMag Print; Focus on Online; Still Looking For Options For Gaming Division. Ziff Davis, the tech/gaming media company that recently exited Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is now taking the brave but inevitable step of closing down the print version of PCMag to focus its energy on its growing PCMag online network of sites, led by flagship PCmag.com. The magazine, which was started in 1982, has a storied history, but its print base eroded over the years as its core brand of journalism news you can use while shopping for computers moved online. It cut back from bi-weekly to monthly earlier this year. PCMag, which literally invented the idea of comparative hardware and software reviews, at one time during the 80s averaged about 400 pages an issue, with some issues breaking the 500- and even 600-page marks, according to Wikipedia history.

The last issue will be dated Jan. 2009; the closure will claim the jobs of about seven employees, all from the print production side. None of the editorial employees, who are now writing for the online sites anyway, will be affected. The site will still be called PCMag (with mag remaining in the name), but the online network which has sites such as ExtremeTech, Gearlog, Appscout, Smart Device Central, GoodCleanTech, DL.TV, Cranky Geeks, and PCMagCastwill now be called PCMag Digital Network, with PCMag.com as its lead property. The company has about 200 employees, and the PCMag division has about 140 employees.

I spoke in detail today with Jason Young, the CEO of Ziff Davis, about this move, the online focus, and the status of the company’s more-troubled gaming division. On the online side, he wouldnt disclose the revenues for the PCMag brand, but said it was in tens and tens of millions of dollars. He said the revenues on the online side have grown an average of 42 percent yearly since 2001; digital is about 70 percent of the revenues for the PCMag brand, and overall is profitable. He said that despite the economic situation, the PCMag brand revenues grew about 18 percent in Q308, and thinks that it will hold up despite advertising downturn due to the power of the brand. Of course competition is heavy for those shrinking ad dollars, from everyone including other established brands like CNET, to newer ones like Engadget and others.

As for the status of its gaming group, which consists of its 1Up online brand and other gaming sites and EGM print magazine (the only print book left within Ziff Davis), Young said it is considering strategic options for the division. Same is true for its now shuttered DigitalLife consumer tech expo event. The company has tried to sell the gaming division before as well but was not able to find the right buyer then, our sources say. — Rafat Ali, Paidcontent.org

American moviegoers not interested in visiting Australia. The latest US audience research numbers from Nielsen NRG reveal that with just two weeks to go before the film enters wide release, the campaign for Baz Luhrmann’s $130 million epic Australia is not connecting with the core moviegoing audience — and not even Oprah could change that. Overall, the film has a 5% unaided awareness, and only 60% of respondents said they were aware of the movie when its title was mentioned to them. Among those who were aware of the film, only 29% expressed definite interest, and only 6% said it would be their first choice at the box office. — Advertising Age

Iranian blogger arrested ‘as Israeli spy’. A prominent Iranian blogger has been arrested in Tehran and accused of spying for Israel after visiting the country with the aim of being “a bridge between Iranian and Israeli people”. Hossein Derakhshan, 33, was reported by the Iranian website Jahan News to have confessed during initial interrogations to being involved in espionage. The Jahan News site, which is widely believed to be linked to the Iranian intelligence services, also said he had been described in Jewish newspaper articles as a “friend of Israel”. Derakhshan is known in Iran as the Blogfather after effectively launching the country’s craze for blogging. He has claimed 20,000 people a day read his postings. — The Guardian

Murdoch eyes off subscription media… Rupert Murdoch believes the global financial crisis will wipe out at least half of the world’s hedge funds. “I would welcome their disappearance,” he said. He added that his News Corp. will continue to look for acquisitions “that are not so dependent on advertising and are more based on subscription.” — The Australian

German dinosaur robots can sell me almost anything. A fast-paced spot by German agency Scholz & Friends for an electronics retailer tells an ultra-high-tech tale of robotic “evolution,” and rockets by like an awesome H.R. Giger-fueled nightmare. The end result of all this evolution turns out to be a s-xy dancing fembot who looks like she could wipe out the human race all by herself. I’ll buy whatever those machines are selling if they promise to obey the Laws of Robotics and leave me the hell alone! — AdFreak

Google, iPhone and the future of machines that listen. How do you talk to a search engine? In Googlish, of course. Google’s new speech recognition service for the iPhone understands you most accurately when you speak to it just the way you enter queries into the Google search box. That makes sense, because the system’s accuracy comes from the billions and billions of typed queries that Google has recorded over the years. So don’t bother with polite formalisms like “What is the best pizza restaurant in San Francisco?” Simply say “best pizza restaurant San Francisco.” After all, you’re talking to a dumb machine — or perhaps several, distributed across multiple states. — The New York Times

Peter Fray

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