Saturday, September 30, 2006

US Govt Relinquishing Some of its control over the Internet

There was a recent article in the NYT that announced the US Commerce Department has agreed to loosen its control over Icann, the California-based agency that manages the Internet address system. While I knew that the US Government was heavily involved in the development of the internet, I had no idea they still had so much control. Apparently, the US government still has veto power over the agency, who's activities have been kept as a relatively private matter between the agency and the US government.

Under the latest agreement, Icann will start filing an annual report addressed to the Internet community at large, rather than reporting to the Commerce Department every six months as it did previously. The US Government is also to move towards an advisory role as other international governements currently do through Icann’s government advisory committee. It will be interesting to see in the months that come if Icann really does begin to operate autonomously or if the recent actions by the Commerce Department were only taken to give the appearance that the US government is relinquishing its control.

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/30/technology/30icann.html?_r=1&ref=technology&oref=slogin

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Ripped from the headlines (really)

So, I was watching the season premiere of "Law & Order" last night -- and the case concerned a (fictional) teenager who advertised for sex on a (made up) social networking Web site called B-Frendz.com, saying she'd sleep with anyone who killed her mother. I did try to see if such a site existed once the show ended (it doesn't). I wonder what the reaction of Friendster, MySpace, and the others will be -- did they try to get an injunction against the show airing, or did they help the show's creators to make sure that viewers understood there are safeguards in place to prevent something like this from happening in real life?

Also, in searching the NBC.com Web site, I found a blog by "L&O" creator Dick Wolf, in which he communicates directly with fans. In the blog were references to clips on YouTube.com from a "Sesame Street" spoof called "Law & Order: Special Letters Unit" (check it out, it's hilarious: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5121VjLwqZM -- even has the "chung-chung" sound that always tells you some new plot twist is coming in the real "L&O" series). Wolf said he's glad "Seasame Street" chose to do this skit, and hopes they'll do all 26 letters of the alphabet, to keep buzz about his show going with the next generation.

Is this life imitating art, or art imitating life, or art imitating life imitating art? The next "Law & Order" plot is about someone killed while walking past an Upper East Side townhouse that explodes. Hmm, sounds familiar...

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Second Life: The Future of the Web ? And why Yahoo! grows slower than competitors

Hello guys, there are two super interesting articles this week in the Economist. Both articles are on www.economist.com and if you do not have online subscription, you can read it on my own blog :
Future of Digital Media & Entertainment
(NDLR: shame on me, this blog is not updated at all)

The first article is about Yahoo! and its growth which seems to slow down. The article talks about the strategic moves that have been made (or more precisdely have not been made) and notes that the competitors have been much more agressive and innovative in the last few years. They kind of blame Terry Semel (the actual CEO) for being either too cautious or waiting too long for making the strategic aquisitions the company needs for growing (for instance it lost the MySpace deal to News Corp and then lost a second time the advertising deal with MySpace to Google).

The second article is about Second Life, and is really really interesting. Basically they are saying that Second Life is kind of the next step after the PC and the Internet (not less). The point is that virtual worlds have the ability to change completly user-interface and the way people interact and do things online (it is a big deal since user interface draw huge constraints on applications and services). I personnaly experienced second life and loved it. Now dream of a computer that you would turn directly on to your favorite Virtual World like Second Life and from there you would be able to do everything: go to the office, share documents, go to the bank, meet people, study, bur groceries etc. Like the Internet, but completely 3D and social (you bang into your friends all the time). Isn't that cool?

Cheers,
Sebastien

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Friday, September 29, 2006

Is that tune original, or just a boy-band re-mix?

I'm having flash-backs. As I sit in class listening to our various guest speakers, each of which has been excellent, I have come to realize that everything old is new again. For me, the experience is kind of like listening to the radio while driving to work. I'm hearing the same old tunes, but this time they lack static, contain edge, and have a certain snap that was missing in the originals. Consider MeetMoi, and our entusiastic guest speaker. Numerous wireless dating services were developed, promoted and ultimately shut down during the boom-bust cycle of the late 1990's early 2000's. In fact, once upon a time, in a country not too far away, the author of this very blog, and a few of his finest mates, established a company, raised $500k, and entered the nascent location based services industry. We developed an system that automatically pinpointed user location to within a few city blocks, thus negating the need to enter a zip code (as with MeetMoi), and we tested a number of services, one of which was wireless dating. But wealth and riches were not to be. Firstly, we were far too early. Few people had compatible handsets, and even fewer used them for data services. Secondly, the roll-out of new handset models in the market was as slow as molasses. Don't ever rely on the ridiculous forecasts generated by consultancies. Futhermore, we lacked a viable revenue model. Now, don't misenterpret what I'm saying here - as we were well aware of the need for a "good model". We just couldn't find one, and we tried many. Unfortunately, the models we tried were either too complex for a small company to implement, impossible to implement given the state of technology at the time, too expensive to implement, or so clumsy from a user perspective that they destroyed the service. One "attempt" involved developing a location based advertisting database. Our goal was too serve-up location based adverts to mobile users, so as to pay for the service. The idea was far from original, even then, but it introduced too many problems. Fortunately, as our guest speaker mentioned, premium SMS is changing everthing. Thanks to premium SMS, it's easy to monetize wireless services. So, my advice all you budding young entrepreneurs is - go for it. Now is the time. Capitalize on opportunity premium SMS offers, but be sure to learn from the mistakes of the past. Visit sites such as businessplanarchive.org and learn about what was done in the 1999-2000 era, consider what has changed since then - and use the latest ideas to refine "old ideas gone bad". Perhaps then, like the gent. from MeetMoi, you too will soon have a viable young start-up on your hands.

On my end, I have more than a few ideas for wireless services - and I'm always searching for more. Happy times indeed!!!!

Drop me a note sometime.

All the best.
Jack_Shalak
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War of the Search Engines Part 2 - Hardware

Yahoo! announced today that the company is going to partner with HP. Yahoo's search toolbar will be pre-installed on HP hardware in the future. I guess that means that the search engine war has found yet a new battle ground: hardware vendors.
After Google announcing its hardware-search engine agreement with Dell, this marks the second big deal of that kind. The question remains how will the #3 (MSFT) react. According to comScore Media Metrix as of end of August, Google had a 44% market share in the US search engine market, followed by Yahoo! at 29% and Microsoft with 12,5%. Guess that means the Redmond company has to quickly find a computer hardware producer, too, to place its search toolbar on it by default. Ouch! I can already hear people crying for anti-trust regulations. By the way, the funny fact is that Google and Yahoo! both insert their search engine function as an Internet Explorer toolbar.

Yahoo! Press release

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Corporate America comes around to blogs

There was a great article in the New York Times this week (9/27), about how companies that once fired employees for blogging (on personal time) about goings-on at the office are now realizing that the blog medium is something they should embrace.

One person mentioned in the article works in PR. Her blog has become such a must-read that she announced plans to relocate (physically) on her online site, rather than breaking the news to friends and colleagues in person first. The flipside is that since clients are reading her blog, and she's spending so much time on it, the company has allowed her to bill some of her blogging time as "professional development."

This article seemed to bring up a point reference in one of our readings, the _Wired_ magazine article "We Are the Web" -- that we're rapidly moving toward an age when all of us will be producers of media, and there may be more producers than consumers. Basic economics says that state cannot endure, but it is interesting to consider... if everyone can be a TV star, with a lightweight digital video camera, a high-speed Internet connection and YouTube, or if everyone can Podcast a radio show from their apartment, or publish a book using a Mac and basic, affordable software, are we becoming a purely Long Tail society?

If you're curious, the full story is here: http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/27/technology/circuits/27peril.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

Enjoy!

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Thursday, September 28, 2006

Web Analytics

To date, we haven't really discussed a whole lot about online analytics tracking. For those of you who are very familiar with the internet space, you'll recognize names like Omniture, Coremetrics, WebSidestory, but there are newer entries into the space that threaten the more traditional business models.

Here's a good link to a company called Visistat. It provides a simple overview of what the whole Web Analytics industry is based on...how the technology works etc.
http://www.macworld.com/2006/09/reviews/visistat4/index.php

Last year, Google announced that it would offer a similar free web analytics service. It remains to be seen how well these products do, although the early buzz is that they're not yet up to the standards of the current industry leaders.

A couple of years back, I researched the space and ended up negotiating a multi-year contract with Omniture who is still the biggest player in the space (I believe). I had the pleasure of working with members of the management team and really believe that they will continue to make solid decisions going forward. If you want to learn more about the very detailed side of web analytics, visit:

www.omniture.com

(shameless plug)


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Yahoo! invests in online video

Last night, I was talking with a friend who is in the class about Yahoo! and how it gets a myriad of pitches every day. Looks like someone, Jumpcut, got lucky!

http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/09/27/yahoo-has-acquired-jumpcut

As many of you know, Yahoo! recently launched a new service, Yahoo! Current TV, in a deal with Current TV, partly owned by Al Gore. (http://video.yahoo.com/currenttv) On this site, users upload their own videos. It's a typical Yahoo! site, in that it 's like something that exists (can you say YouTube?!) but with the trademark Yahoo! "human touch". You know, it's got that personal touch.

So, in line with this new move and complementing their large database of videos, it makes sense for Yahoo! to buy jumpcut, which provides a supposedly-simple way to edit and publish your own content. In short, you can do "mashups" with it (there's a Web 2.0 word if you ever heard one). Yahoo! is moving fast to stamp its own mark on online video, so I'm sure there's more to follow this announcement.

Here are a couple of other links relevant to this story.

http://jumpcut.com

http://www.ysearchblog.com/archives/000358.html

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Granny Myspace too?

Very interested to see the Baby Blogging links. Truly wonder what all of us would be like had we had these ways to connect and communicate when we were younger. Maybe we'd all still be dating our first grade boyfriend/girlfriend. After seeing that there is no limit to how young we are starting to blog, I wondered how big the eldery blog community was.

Found this interesting blog about grandparents blogging and realized I that am sadly un-hip, as this class is the first time in my life I have ever blogged. So if Grandma Rose is doing it, I certainly should be too...

Check out one Granny's Gossip Site: http://mommemoir.blogspot.com/

Interesting article about Granny Blogging:

Do Your Grandparents Blog?

MSN has an article on the growing trend of Internet blogging among seniors. According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, about 3% of seniors have created a blog, and 17% have a read a blog, but the number is growing. The main motivating factor seems to be the desire for seniors to keep in touch and stay connected with the world, as well as creating an activity with which to pass the time and stimulate the brain.

To me, the very ability of blogging to span across so many demographics and interest groups signals without a doubt that blogging is indeed a trend and not a fad. This, combined with blogging's ability to fullfill a very basic human need and desire -- that of communication -- signals it is here to stay.


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Music Companies Pull Videos From Fuse Network and Yahoo

The video wars continue. Toda Vinvendi SA's Universal Music Group pulled its music videos from Cablevision Systems Corp.'s Fuse network, and Warner told Yahoo to stop showing its music videos, in unrelated disputes over licensing fees and other issues. These disagreements demonstrate the rising importance of music videos to record labels, which used to give music videos practically free as a way to boost album sales. The labels now view the clips as valuable content that should generate revenue. Warner has actually reached a revenue agreement with youtube.

It used to be that the music labels would of been extremely cautious about pulling videos from MTV. Now, they feel that they can charge for the rights to the videos due to the fact that there are so many outlets for viewing videos. The Internet has totally changed how individuals view and purchase music. Therefore, the music video industry must also adjust and evolve.

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Sun Admits the Future's in Handsets

For those who don't know, Jonathan Schwartz (Sun's CEO) has his own blog, which I enjoy a lot. He posts to it pretty regularly and he actually makes me think with his posts as opposed to just shilling for his company.

In a recent entry, he talks about the future of the handset market. While he was saying that the killer app for mobile phones is just talk, he now says he's coming around to the fact that in more advanced parts of the world (i.e. Europe and Asia) people are staring at the phones instead of yapping in them.

"...I was asked a simple question by an investor last week, "what's the one thing you think the market doesn't understand about Sun's opportunity?"

My response: that the majority of the world will use the internet through their phones, not through a PC."


Hmmm... So is Sun basically saying that they're going to get into the handset market? Or are they pointing out that their mobile Java solution is going to be a big source of future profits? Something else? He doesn't really spell it out. But I did enjoy him taking a potshot at Microsoft:

And I don't know about you, but when I sample my nieces and nephews, even those in the USA, with "which would you rather have, a new iPod, a Motorola RAZR, Danger's HipTop, Microsoft's XBox or Windows Vista?", I get a pretty consistent answer. (Hint: it ain't Vista.)

Ha!

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Online ad spending still growing, but slowing down

In the last 2 years, online advertising growth rates have grown at 30%. However, figures published by emarketer indicate a slow down in growth rates. Specifically emarketer projects growth rates of 26.8% and 15.8% respectively in 2006 and 2007.

But despite the slow down, internet advertising translated to dollars is enormous. In 2006, $15.9 billion dollars will be spent on online advertising. By 2008, this will reach $21 billion, and by 2010 surpass the $25 billion mark.

Emarketer predicts the following 5 key trends that will support the continue growth of internet ad spending
  1. Ad spending shifts from other media, most notably broadcast television and newspapers, to the Internet
  2. Larger Internet ad budgets in general as companies both grow more accustomed to various online ad formats and increasingly seek the audience found on the Web
  3. Higher prices for both branding ads (video and plain display) and direct response vehicles (mainly paid search)
  4. Branding objectives becoming increasingly relevant online, which will lead more marketers who have spent little for Internet advertising to devote larger budget shares to various interactive formats, most especially video
  5. The continued small shares many large marketers budget for Internet advertising, which need to budge by only a few percentage points to create relatively large gains for this advertising medium.
For more on growing Internet advertising sales and the impact on other media, read eMarketer's new US onlien ad spending: Peak or Plateau report





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Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Baby MySpace

Everybody knows MySpace. Even Microsoft got the point with Wallop.
But online social networks do not only appeal to teens or adults. There is a hole bunch of sites that target the 8-12 age bracket. Two concerns that surround those sites: (A) How can the sites protect their juvenile users. (B) How can those sites place ads in a responsible way. (A) is most often more or less solved: parents' credit card, id & email and the like. The answer to (B) is harder to find, as it is not always in the best (financial) interest of the sites' operators to place ads socially responsible. Suddenly, a whole new range of products are open for online advertisement. Guess, what's next: Orkut for toddlers?

Wanna have a look:
www.clubpenguin.com
www.imbee.com
www.neopets.com
www.whyville.net
www.toontown.net
www.tweenland.com

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Open Studio 2006 - Nokia launches first wave against Apple

"Open Studio 2006" is the name of Nokia's latest marketing campaign, accompanying the product launch of a new phone series. The company actively targets at mobile music users with these mobile devices. In my opinion, we might sooner or later see a shootout between Apple plus the smaller music player manufacturer and the major cell phone players.
The new phones might make your iPod obsolete. Why? Isn't it an obious step to see the convergence between mobile phone and mp3-player? Why carry two devices: phone and player?
Nokia's strike comes only a few months after they acquired Loudeye, a digital music company. And this is most likely not the last thing to come. As Nokia already distributes its phones in some countries via wireless network providers, an alliance to distribute digital music with the help of the T-mobiles and Cingulars of this world is just a matter of time. Apple's iTunes business model will erode. And the cell phone players have the better position: First, it is easier to include mp3 player functions in a phone than vice versa. Second, they cover already a large part of the value chain: device, music & distribution.

Let's see if Apple can counter-strike.

Open Studio 2006

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PVR to World: “Hack me, please!”

From BoingBoing comes news of a new Personal Video Recorder (PVR) built from the ground up as an open source device. The $299 Neuros OSD, from the well-known AV gadget makers Neuros, is being billed as “the first open source Linux-based embedded media center.”

First, the basics:
With the Neuros OSD and almost any handheld, you can easily: • Watch your favorite TV show or movies anytime, anywhere.
• Digitize your home movies.
• Play movies downloaded from the internet on your TV.
• Hold a slide show of your latest road trip on your TV.
• Capture your video game highlights and email to friends.
Cool, but not exactly blog-worthy. As BoingBoing tells it, here’s where things get interesting:

...they’re offering cash bounties to hackers who add various features to the device, including $1000 for a YouTube or Google video Browser, $600 for a Flickr Photo Browser, $500 for a WiFi PSP or PDA remote, $700 for a TiVo-like recording function for radio/satellite radio, and $500 for getting VoIP running on the device.
Sounds like something built from a simple consumer insight: People want easy access to their stuff. All of their stuff. It gets better:

  • The power adapter is standard, the kind you can replace at any Radio Shack for $5.
  • The remote control codes are those of standard Sony VCR, so if you’ve got a better remote, use it.
  • Even the product’s sell-sheet is a wiki, enabling users/hackers to write the story of the product as it develops.

Just as exciting as the capabilities this product intends to unlock is the fact that Neuros actually gets it. Give “the community” something to shoot for and a little encouragement – and get out of the way. There’s a place for back-tested revenue models, format wars, and cross-channel partnerships…but what ever happened to innovation?

Track the project’s real-time progress for yourself.

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Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Mixi: Even Bigger Than MySpace (sort of...)

Mixi, Japan's most popular social network and it's third (or second depending on metrics) most popular website after Yahoo! Japan and Google Japan, went public over a week ago and reached a valuation of nearly $2 billion by its second day on the market. Mixi's IPO is perceived as the benchmark by which other Asian social networks will be valued.

So why all the hype?

While the buzz around MySpace and other social networks is big here in the States, Asian social networks such as Mixi and South Korea's Cyworld are even more ingrained into some cultures abroad. In the case of Cyworld, which is said to be used by ~90% of South Korean youth, the site is so popular that its messaging system is said to be usurping email as a means of communication. Mixi is "happening in a uniquely Japanese way: it's heavily mobile-based, it's privacy-oriented, and it's happening concurrently on both a mainstream and niche market level." - Metropolis Magazine.

Over the past year, Mixi’s daily reach has increased 500% to nearly 8 million visitors per day and over 5 million member profiles. Approximately 70% of these users are active, logging in at least once every 3 days for an average of almost 4 hours. Naturally, with an captive audience like that, the company is making a lot of money through advertising.

Mixi is an 18+ invite-only network with lots of features that keep bringing its users back for more. In addition to profiles, blogs, and forums, Mixi features photo hosting, product reviews, mobile connectivity, a job search site (Mixi started as a recruitment advertising site in 1999), and Mixi Station, a music player that automatically uploads your playing songs in iTunes, Windows Media Player, or Winamp to a community music site (similar to MySpace).

Is Mixi overpriced? It sure looks like it. As of last Friday's closing, Mixi was valued at 209 times its forecast earnings per share for the year to March 2007. My first reaction when I hear valuations of $1+ billion for social networking sites such as Facebook is to laugh. My second reaction is to cry since it's not me that's making all this money ;)

As social networking spreads all over the world, Mixi is being joined in the key market of Japan by MySpace, Cyworld, Windows Live Spaces, Yahoo!, retailer Rakuten, Gree, Any and other social networks. Mixi currently dominates this space and looks to continue for a while to come. Mixi appears to have some staying power over these new entrants in Japan while MySpace in the U.S. does not. I attribute this to Mixi's being built inherently for Japanese culture from a strong niche audience (5 million in Japan is not THAT much), as well as the many features it provides. While MySpace may have reached its peak, Mixi just keeps growing and growing.

On that note, Rupert Murdoch is now expanding MySpace into China.

Links:

Mashable

Paid Content

CNET

BusinessWeek


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Blogging becoming more popular in China

Blogging, already a favorite past time here in the United States, is now becoming more popular in China with the number of actual blogs reaching 34 million - 30-fold increase from four years ago.

"The rapid growth of blog sites in China also brought potential business opportunities to the advertising industry," Xinhua said. "Some blogs written by famous people attract millions of daily readers." The report said that out of the 34 million blog sites, 70 percent were "dormant," having remained unchanged for more than a month.

What is interesting about it is that the government still shuts down blogs that speak out against the current political regime. With so many blogs out there it will be tough for the Chinese government to censor each one.

Read the entire article: China blogging

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Microsoft begins assault on social networking sites

Microsoft has just started its venture in social networking. The coolest thing is that revenue model is very concrete being based on a digital marketplace where people can buy digital items for self-expression. It's a free-ad website. Myspace should take care...


www.wallop.com

Financial times article:
https://registration.ft.com/registration/barrier?referer=http://search.ft.com/searchResults?queryText=wallop&javascriptEnabled=true&location=http%3A//www.ft.com/cms/s/c82381d2-4cfa-11db-b03c-0000779e2340.html

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VC Investments in Web 2.0 companies

For you crazy finance kids, this one has spreadsheets!

The report shows investors pumped $263 million into Web 2.0 companies during the first half of this year, which is more than $199.1 million invested for the entire year of 2005.


The authors of the report went through and hand-picked the Web 2.0 companies, which I guess shows that no one can yet define them without looking...

These guys went so far as to create a matrix of VC investors and the companies they have hooked up with - a sort of ecosystem approach...

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Quick Publishers hit for comment - Publishers fight Google News with aggregate blocker

This one speakes for itself:

For some publishers, Google News aggregation capabilities have been a cause for concern. Now global publishers plan to head off future legal clashes with search engines by launching a new product. The product is an automated system that will grant or deny a search engine permission to use a publishers content. The Automated Content Access Protocol, as the system is called, does this by enabling a publishers web site to speak in a language that a search engines spider can understand.


In light of what we know about where things are going - is this a good idea? Or are they shooting themselves in the foot? Is this like saying you are going to be print-only....

The project, which is led by the World Association of Newspapers (WAN) in conjunction with a number of other organizations, should be officially launched by the end of the year. The pilot will run for a period of up to 12 months. The product announcement comes just after publishers Le Soir and La Libre Belgique won their case in the Belgian Courts against Google for illegally publishing their content on the Google news service without prior consent.


As goes print, so usually goes audio and video a few years later...

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IBM, patents, wikis...

IBM, like many similar companies, is frustrated with the long patent process in the US. (IBM is the nation's largest patent holder.) The Company will begin to publish its patent filings on the Web for public review. "It also asserts that so-called business methods alone — broad descriptions of ideas, without technical specifics — should not be patentable."

"I.B.M. used Internet collaboration to develop its new patent policy. More than 50 patent and policy experts from the United States, Europe, Japan and China exchanged views for two months in May and June on a wiki, an online site that can be added to and edited collectively. The resulting document is posted on www.ibm.com/gio/ip. "

This has many implications:
  • for patents and the US patent process, which is a long one and not suitable for technology companies.
  • legal issues
  • competition will be able to see its patents immediately
  • opens up their technology to a large community that will be able to work with it and improve it.

I wonder what the long-term ramifications of this policy are. I think that it's innovative of IBM to take this move and shows the confidence that the company has in its product and brand - or its naiveté that it can't be improved upon, made better and make their brand less strong.

Here's a link to the article:

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/26/technology/26patent.html?_r=1&ref=technology&oref=slogin


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Monday, September 25, 2006

Orchestras and Podcasts

An article on BBC News website highlights the Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (in the UK) and talks about how they are pioneering regular podcasts in the field of orchestra administration. Other orchestras (notably the Boston Symphony) have produced podcasts before, but mostly for special events. This article raises the question of how any company with limited resources, non-profits in this case, should decide which of the myriad of new content mediums they should pursue.
I worked in the marketing department at the New York Philharmonic this summer and one of my projects was to explore new media and what would be worthwhile. Initially I recommended that the Philharmonic take some video content that they currently film for their website and recycle it for regular podcasts. The Marketing Director later informed me that he had taken that idea to the Executive Director and had been turned down. The Executive Director felt that if they were to put out podcasts, these podcasts would need to be very sophisticated with all kinds of bells and whistles. Of course the marketing department didn't have the budget or the staff power to pursue the podcast any further, so the idea fell by the wayside.
Should the Philharmonic have put out their video content and taken the opportunity to reach some of their dedicated subscribers as well as a potential new audience or should they hold out and not risk damaging their brand with lower quality content?
I would have been interested to pursue the podcasts further, maybe doing some in house research to find out what segments the podcasts would go to and how many people they would actually reach before canning the idea completely.

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NY Video 2.0 Meetup This Thursday at Columbia Business School

I received the email below from the Center on Global Brand Leadership, and I thought some people in the class might be interested in attending. As we've learned, Broadband video is currently the hottest trend on the Internet. It will be interesting to preview some of the sites and functionalities that these techies/entrepreneurs have created.



Forum on the Future of Broadband Video
Join the FREE NY Video 2.0 Meetup This Thursday at Columbia Business School

Online marketing and consumer generated content were among the most critical topics discussed at the 2006 Innovative Marketing Conference and broadband video is the fastest growing space on the Internet today.

Join us as the Center on Global Brand Leadership hosts the next meeting of the NY Video 2.0 Group.

Discuss the future of broadband video with members of video startups, media companies, content producers, advertisers, techies and investors on the cutting edge of broadband video trends.

About NY Video 2.0

The NY Video 2.0 Group is a monthly gathering of NY-based Broadband video startups, media companies, content producers, advertisers, techies and investors. Each meetup includes demos by companies and/or content producers. Demos are 5 minutes, followed by another 5 minutes of Q&A with the group. Past presenters include blip.tv, veotag, Dragonfly, Rocketboom, Motionbox, Cruxy.com and Phanfare. We will also invite guest speakers from the new media industry. We're fortunate to have a front row seat here in NYC to not only watch but to directly impact the digital media revolution. We share ideas and help/inspire each other to achieve our respective goals. If you're passionate about new media and finding better ways for people to create, distribute, monetize and consume video in an IP world, or just want to learn about it, come hang with kindred spirits.

Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.

NY Video 2.0 Meetup

Date: Thursday, September 28
Time: 7:00 - 8:30 p.m.
Who: NY Video 2.0 Group, hosted by the Center on Global Brand Leadership
Where: Columbia Business School, 142 Uris Hall


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Don't Believe Everything You Read (on the internet)

People obviously have a lot of time on their hands to create and update not only their own profiles, but to create fake profiles of some high-powered executives and professionals. An abuse of this system, people are putting up phony information with pictures, etc. for people like Martha Stewart and Bill Gates. While some people may think this is amusing, those professionals who are involved don't find it so funny. They are working with MySpace to get them removed asap. I guess social networking is just the next way of giving people a means to scheme...

http://www.azcentral.com/business/articles/0925Fake-CEOs-ON.html

And for those reading the profiles, who would really believe that Warren Buffett would have time to create a profile on MySpace anyway?

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Sunday, September 24, 2006

Microsoft Office Online?

Some sources report that Microsoft may migrate its office products off of the personal computer to the Internet (see article here). This would likely be a strategic response to Google which continues to encroach on the Microsoft-dominated productivity market through the use of web-based applications.

While this microcosm is in itself interesting, this may be the sign of a larger market trend. Consumer applications are increasingly moving out of laptops and PCs and into the internet in order to capture ad revenue, take advantage of increased community interaction and provide consumers with increased flexibility. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to change computers and continue editing your PowerPoint presentation?

The implications of this trend are far reaching. Software developers will need to respond to this virtual migration or be left behind. These companies should also be prepared to swap in their subscription business models in exchange for advertisement revenue models. However, the implications of this go even beyond the software market; hardware manufacturers should also be aware of this trend. As services increasingly go online, one has to ask, "will the PC become just a terminal? Will people continue to buy expensive multi-gigabyte hard drives or will they save personal files online? Will prices for these stripped down terminals squeeze margins even further? Will commonly held files (e.g., music) be stored on thousands of hard drives, or will one server house one file to which access will be sold to millions?" As bandwidth becomes more accessible and more robust, the way that we compute is evolving - and with change comes oppotunity.

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A Virtual World: Second Life

Sorry for another post on Second Life, but I had written this earlier and was having internet connection problems, so was just going to post now when I saw Chris’ blog. Here’s my reaction to it…

There is a new online virtual reality site that has hit the scene in June called Second Life. It is a virtual world simulation game that includes interactive communities and islands where more than 700,000 players or “residents” build homes and run businesses. The virtual businesses create and sell products and services for real money, including real estate, clothing and (this killed me) “entertainment activities like club entry.” So while the products and services are virtual, real money is required to purchase them, and the creators take a cut of the transactions.

Fashion has emerged as the most popular category, and real clothes manufacturers including American Apparel and Adidas sell items in Second Life that are intended to look like actual items they currently sell in the real world. So players can express themselves by dressing their characters in the same clothes that they actually wear… and the clothing labels get advertising out of it. Given the exposure that the fashion label gets, the game has actually attracted new aspiring designers. I suppose they are hoping to launch a name for themselves by getting rave reviews in the Second Life in-world fashion magazine, Second Style.

One Second Life customer apparently “got hooked on the game while recovering from knee surgery.” “It was the painkillers,” she jokes. Another Second Life online fashion critic comments, “My wife totally makes fun of me. I don’t like to shop in real life.” Hmm, not to judge, but doesn’t it seem a bit bizarre that these folks are more concerned with their second life than their first REAL life. The power of the interactive web where the virtual world is setting trends for the real world…


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Make Real Money in a Virtual World

This Friday’s edition of WSJ featured an article about how SECOND LIFE – a virtual 3D world created by Linden Lab with 100,000s of players (Second Life claims 300,000+, WSJ mentions 700,000+) – generated a market for virtual goods which are sold for real dollars. The article focuses on virtual fashion sold in SECOND LIFE and introduces people making a living as fashion designer working on virtual collections to dress the “avatars” as virtual characters are known. Even real-world retailers and brands such as American Apparel and adidas already have setup their presence in SECOND LIFE’s virtual world. The creative process of virtual fashion design is related to real fashion design and considerations such as intellectual property protection become increasingly involved when real money is involved.

Another example for real money in a virtual world is CYWORLD, a social network site which has been widely successful in Korea. More than 90% of Korean residents in their twenties signed up to the site. Many of them actively maintain their “minihompy” – an individual homepage setup as a virtual 3-D world which can be populated with virtual characters (“minime’s”) and other gadgets. To customize their individual homepages with design features and functionalities, users pay small amounts comparable to the cost of downloading wallpapers, games, and ringtones for mobile phones. Outside of Korea, CYWORLD has launched in Japan, China, Taiwan, and the U.S.A.

With social networking sites establishing as the most important channel for interaction for the young generation, I would expect to see more virtual marketplaces like the examples discussed above. Bold fashion statements suddenly become mainstream…

Link to Article:

More information:


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YouTube to copyright holders: "Let's Share"

Okay, so we know that movie studios and record companies are worried about their copyrighted material ending up on YouTube for free. They've got the lawyers geared up and ready to go!

So YouTube announced that they will roll out a technology to automatically identify copyrighted material that is uploaded to their site. Once they identify this material, they will share the revenue with the copyright holders.

So after I got up off the floor from laughing, I seriously thought about what's right/wrong with this proposed solution. (By the way both Warner Music and NBC Universal have signed content deals with YouTube.)

wrong: Keep in mind, YouTube is already bound by the Digital Milennium Copyright Act which means they must pull down that video I posted of last week's Grey's Anatomy (at the request of ABC)

right: What about that video of the Asian kids singing Backstreet Boys? The actual Backstreet Boys didn't see a cent from that. Well now they can

wrong: Now, every customer generated clip could require a percentage for the consumer that generated it. I assume this would destroy YouTube's revenues.


And as you know, two wrongs don't make a right. Let's see how far this thing really goes...

YouTube Model Is Compromise Over Copyrights, WSJ

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Click Fraud

Click fraud is becoming a huge headache for online advertisers and companies that facilitate these ads (e.g. yahoo and google). This week's (October 2nd, 2006) business week cover story is on this very same topic. It is interesting that some people believe that companies like yahoo and google passively profit from click fraud and therefore in theory have an incentive to tolerate it. However, I believe that this logic is completely flawed.

Click fraud is a serious problem that is shaking the confidence of customers in online advertisements. This could mean serious trouble for Google, Yahoo and any other internet company (whose revenue model is ad based). First, customers will move away from this form of advertising and secondly, they will apply a "click fraud" discount to the amount of money they are "willing to pay" for these ads. Moreover, if customers aren't sure about what they are paying for, the industry cannot grow and thrive. We all know what consumer confidence can do to products and the economy in general. So, it is in Google or Yahoo's best interest to make these clicks reliable and restore confidence in advertisers that pay for these clicks. I will not be surprised to see Google or Yahoo come up with innovative ideas to address this issue very soon. There is already some talk about moving to a cost-per-action (CPA) model instead of cost-per-click (CPC). Implementation challenges still remain but there will be increased pressure on companies to do something about it soon. The stakes are huge.

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Saturday, September 23, 2006

Movies and tagging Content

Here's an interesting service called MovieTally. It is essentially a Flickr for movies.

It is Web 2.0 because multiple users can "tag" movies and make them searchable. For example, you'll get the movie "Ocean's Eleven"action, heist, thriller, suspense, casino, crime, money, gambling, robbery, or georgeclooney". Thus, users can find movies they'd like to see based on their own criteria.

Users can also add recommendations, which as we know, people find more helpful in the purchase decision than "official" recommendations (look out Roger Ebert!)

Of course, the success of this will depend on network effects. If enough people start using it, it becomes more valuable.

The thing I found interesting though is that the major studios aren't making more use of sites like this. Studios (and record companies too) own huge catalogs. Shelf space for DVDs is limited, so they must make decisions on which titles to pull out and package and sell.

Imagine being able to really capture the "long tail" though a service such as this. For example, Disney is making a ton of money off of moveis about pirates lately. Imagine all the other movies about pirates that are sitting in a catalog collecting dust. Now all the new pirate enthusiasts have a way to find every single swash-buckling epic out there. The demand is there, so the studios can sell it, no need to remaster or add special features.

Sounds like good way to make use of that catalog. I suppose the only hurdle is finding a more direct distribution system. But that's a whole different issue.

MovieTally
http://www.movietally.com/

Blog about how this relates to Web 2.0
http://opengardensblog.futuretext.com/archives/2006/09/movietally_and_understanding_web_20_design_.html

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Friday, September 22, 2006

Will TV remain a push medium?

An article in the Chicago Tribune covers the issue of whether TV lineups even matter anymore.

Network suits spend weeks, if not months, agonizing over which shows will go where on their fall schedules. But by 2010, according to the consulting firm the Yankee Group, 48 million American homes will have DVRs, which allow viewers to watch shows they've recorded whenever they choose. And then there are options such as online streaming, on-demand viewing and buying episodes via iTunes, all of which have exploded in the past couple of years.

I would argue that the TV lineups still add value for many consumers. In a world of unending choices and an increasing emphasis on information pull, I believe many people will welcome the choices being made for them. Choices can be exhausting. Audiences will thank the big networks for deciding what they are watching on a certain night so they don't have to make the choice themselves. I also think when it comes to TV news, people want more of a push model because they still value the aggregation that news programs do for them. It'll be interesting to see who becomes the most trusted aggregator in online video in a Web 2.0 world (or should I say TV 2.0)?

Additionally, for those of us who are addicted to certain shows, we can appreciate the excitement around a show's original airtime. I know I personally will still be in front of the TV watching American Idol every Tuesday night at 8 pm next year (or catching it on my DVR as soon as I can that night).

I would say, however, that TV may lose audiences as our entertainment and news options expand into the unimaginable. This is a good thing for advertisers because they are realizing new advertising channels that provide a better ROI (but that is a whole other conversation - maybe I'll cover that in my next post). Overall, I think these trends are a big win for most of the players involved, including consumers, advertisers and content creators. TV networks have the most to lose here. The ones battle that is hard to predict is whether traditional networks will take the lead in online video or whether an internet company will do the honors.

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A Marketplace for Predictions

Online trading exchanges (TradeSports, Betfair) differ from more traditional sports betting websites (Sportsbook.com, Bodog) in that there is no "house." That is, the exchanges are clearinghouses for buyers and sellers to trade with each other at prices set by each other, whereas the traditional betting websites are owned by casinos that are in business to rip off their customers.

While casinos attempt to post odds at a market clearing price, the exchanges offer "live" pricing. For example, Bodog might offer me static, pre-game odds of Jacksonville over Indianopolis at 3-to-1 on Sunday (implying JAX has a 25% chance of winning); TradeSports shows me the price throughout the game. So,
the JAX contract starts the game at $0.25, with the price moving up or down depending on how the game is going. If JAX scores an early touchdown to go up 7-0, the contract might rise in value to $0.50, at which point I can sell for a profit of $0.25 ($0.50 market value less $0.25 cost) or hold it in the hopes that JAX wins and I collect a profit of $0.75 ($1.00 less $0.25).

The price of the contracts on these exchanges are determined not by casinos, but rather by users.
By offering better pricing, more liquid markets, and a superior customer experience through user involvement, online trading exchanges are a good example of how Web 2.0 capabilities compare to the old Web (in this case, online casinos).

The potential for online exchanges is limitless, and one wonders if and when established exchange companies (NYSE, Nasdaq) will react or intervene. The most active online trading exchange markets are sporting events, but contracts in financial markets and other events ("When will Brangelina get divorced?") are also quite liquid. TradeSports has even applied to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) to open a regulated futures exchange in the US.

Wikipedia does a better job of summarizing than I can...

WARNING: This blog does not contemplate the legality of transacting on these sites, and I certainly do not wish to suggest any activity that will get readers fined or thrown in jail.

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Free Online Classes - Yale Goes One Step Further than MIT and Princeton

With the help of a $755,000 grant, Yale University will be making 7 courses available online for free. What makes this different from similar initiatives by other top universities like MIT and Princeton, is that Yale will be including videos of each class along with transcripts and syllabi. While it seems very generous to allow the world inside their prestigious classrooms for free, you have to wonder how classes like "Introduction to the Old Testament," "Fundamentals of Physics" and "Introduction to Political Philosophy" were deemed to be important enough to be part of the select seven.

http://go.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=technologyNews&storyID=13549044&src=rss/technologyNews

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Eons: 'MySpace' for the boomer set

Although most older Americans could care less about MySpace and social networking, that hasn't stopped people from trying to reach them... from the Christian Science Monitor.

Like some 300,000 others in recent weeks, they have logged on to a new website, Eons.com. The site is banking on a digital awakening among recreation-minded boomers and matures, a growing and increasingly active demographic - online and everywhere else.


While the numerical arguments are persuasive due to the amount of seniors coming online, their numbers belie the fact that older Americans search for information online, not social stimulation. And since the basis of social networking sites is having your friends on them, it doesn't seem likely that enough of any boomer's 'posse' would be on the site to make it worthwhile.

On the other hand, boomers and older Americans have two strong votes in their favor: a desire to meet new people with common interests, and the time to participate in online communities. In this respect, 'Empty nesters' are very similar to the children they just dropped off at college: Starting a new phase of their life and eager to meet friends, to spend their new-found free time with.

TIme will tell, but web publishers have found that older folks have different goals than younger ones online. They seek information, and tend to cluster around investment and health related sites. Perhaps most amusing:

And a feature called cRANKy is "the first age-relevant search engine," says Natansohn. When its research showed that senior users were frustrated by enormous, largely irrelevant yields found by major engines, Eons built in a vetting process that pulls down top sites based in part on its own editors' reviews and previous users' ratings.

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A Little Class on the Internet

Venture Capital Funds in Web 2.0

This is an interesting article about how much funds Web 2.0 companies are raising in the venture capital markets.

VentureOne, a research firm, has recently come up with a succinct definition of Web 2.0 including companies using rich Internet applications such as AJAX or those developing services related to podcasting, tagging, blogs, social networking, mashups and wikis.

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/venture/286088_vc22.html?source=rss


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Thursday, September 21, 2006

Podzinger: Another Way To Search Media Online

One problem that scientists have been trying to tackle for some time is how to search non-text data on the Internet. Traditionally, that has been done by looking at meta-data (ex: tags) or by trying to divine meaning through filenames or the context of the HTML page.

However, a new web application called Podzinger allows you to search within audio and video by doing audio recognition. I especially like it because it comes from BBN, which practically invented the Internet in the late 1960's when they created the first network: DARPANet.

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Top Execs Using Social Networks for Recruiting

Online social and business networks are becoming valuable resources for recruiting and customer service intiatives for major businesses at the mid and upper executive level. Not only can they locate possible candidates, more so, they can help in sales and marketing, performing background searches on candidates, and maintain contact with former co-workers. With precaution, all can be new components to the HR process.

http://www.businessweek.com/technology/content/sep2006/tc20060911_414136.htm

While major privacy issues exist, the benefits to the hiring party can be great. To be able to verify the validity of the a potential candidate is tremendous, and can help ensure good hiring decisions are made in return saving time and money. The network will only be as worthwhile as the time and effort the execs put into them.

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Ethics and Internet 2.0

If the Internet is the new frontier (the the wild wild west of cyber space if you will)... then the requisite ethics are certainly uncharted territory as well. Some now argue that with all that has happened in the 10 years since the inception of the Internet that a new ethical standard is need to match the countless uses and applications that have arisen with Internet 2.0

http://www.duke.edu/~wgrobin/ethics/faq.html#EandI20

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Battle for Positioning: Apple and MSFT

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/09/13/technology/13apple.html?ex=1158984000&en=eafe723d4a773175&ei=5087%0A

A movie player to complement Apple’s movie downloads? Why not?

The living room space is Apple’s next obvious frontier. MSFT has already put its stake in the ground with their XBox gaming console and Windows Media Center products; and is now positioning itself to challenge Apple’s iPod dominance with its recently announced Zune music service. Why is all of this happening? It’s a race to integrate products and services throughout the consumer’s digital experience.

Here’s a great article that provides a look at MSFT’s positioning.

http://www2.cio.com/higher/report4267.html

MSFT and Apple are now fighting battles on a few non-computing fronts. Zune will attempt to take on iPod and iTunes’s positive brand image with a more consumer/community friendly music service that they are building from scratch. Apple’s mission, on the other hand, is perhaps more tactically sound. They are planning to invade the living room space with a product that’s an extension of their already successful iTunes service.

Apple’s baby steps or MSFT’s all out blitz? It’s hard to bet against either of these companies.

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When Search Engines meet Social Networks

Following the web 2.0 trend, some companies are now attacking the multi-billion dollars search engine market via the social network angle.

www.wink.com

Wink is a Social Search Engine that uses people’s contributions and feedback - like bookmarking and tags - to make it easier to find and share current, relevant results. Instead of a robot crawling over the web to index the zillions of pages outthere, your friends and buddies do it for you.

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Facebook faces reality?

This morning, I received a WSJ alert in my email, stating that Facebook is in talks with Yahoo! to sell itself for $1 billion after talks with Microsoft and Viacom. WSJ needs a login, but here's a link to check out:

http://www.techcrunch.com/2006/09/21/facebook-and-yahoo-in-acquisition-talks-for-1-billion

Facebook, a prototypical Web 2.0 company, has been in the news lately. I think it was last week that stories about user backlash surfaced. Facebook had added a couple of features that did not sit well with users, one of them being a new tracking feature. This prompted the founder and 22 year-old CEO Mark Zuckerberg to post a message to users:

http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=2208197130

Then, I was quite shocked to hear that Facebook has opened up its service to all, meaning that you no longer need a ".edu" to be a member. (Read Om Malik's comment on this: http://software.gigaom.com/2006/09/11/facebook-goes-for-bigger-pond). This really surprised me because Facebook's strength lay in the exclusivity that protected the site, at least to a certain extent, from undesirable individuals that seem to surface on MySpace now and again. Sure, they need growth, but they had not done too poorly so far, what with 9 million users already and steady stream of high-schoolers and college kids out there.

But now, it's starting to make sense. There have been stories about Facebook wanting to sell before. Perhaps now, Zuckerberg and Co. are adding "value" to the business, readying for a sale. Little they may care about those who got them here, let the acquiring company worry about that.

Such an acquisition may not be such a bad idea for Yahoo!, whose stock needs even more help with the 11% decline two days ago.

http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/060919/yahoo_outlook.html?.v=10

Yahoo! has tried its hand with the social networking phenomenon, namely 360 360. But despite having over 300 million unique users, it's fair to say that 360 is not all that successful. Furthermore, Yahoo! as a brand is not hip and popular in thr coveted 18-24 demographic, so buying Facebook could all of a sudden make it a stronger player in the youth market. Yahoo! has had a decent track record of stitching companies into its portfolio and leaving them be. Perhaps the best example of this is Flickr, which still exists in its original format despite the existence of Yahoo! Photos.

If there is indeed any credence to this story, then I say Zuckerberg should sell before it's too late. I'm not sure whether the current users are going to be loyal with the significant changes to the business, which could devalue the company going forward. There are worst things than having several hundred million in your pocket at age 22.

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Another POV on Massive's in-game advertising

Rory brings up some good points regarding Massive's business model for dynamically served in-game advertising. There are a lot of people in the industry (both gaming and advertising) who believe this is potentially the next cash cow, but I have serious doubts. To get a better sense for what's actually going on, we have to take a deeper dive into how this all evolved...

I was at EA, when we first began to sell "hard-coded" in-game sponsorships. It was a huge challenge. Game studios had to be convinced that $50M+ titles now needed to include real-world sponsorships that often generated <$1M in revenues. Without early ad standards, advertisers and agencies often had unreasonable expectations and the user-experience "realism" was compromised. At the time, a few of us felt that this might not be a scalable business model, but agreed that driving innovation was more important. We received good press, and EA's name was front page.

Since then, a few companies such as Massive and Double Fusion have taken the next step to create the technology and network to dynamically serve in-game advertising, much like how ads are served on typical web pages today. There are obvious benefits to taking this approach over hard-coding each and every sponsorship; but we need to realize that there is a very clear line here. What was flashy and innovative (namely, driving past a hard-coded McDonald’s restaurant at 100MPH in “Need For Speed”) is being replaced by rotating in-game banner ads. Sure, dynamically served ads are scalable, but the value proposition for advertisers also changes.

I’m sure the long-term plan is to dynamically serve sponsorships, but who knows when that will happen…

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Facebook in Talks with Strategic Buyer

An article in this morning's WSJ suggests that the popular Web 2.0 site, Facebook is in acquisition talks with Yahoo! to sell the company in the ballpark of $1 billion. Though this valuation seems high, it is significantly more reasonable than the $2 billion dollar amount it was expecting from Microsoft in the recent past.

My prediction is that Facebook should pursue this sale with Yahoo! aggressively. They have penetrated the college market and are trying to find other growth opportunities by opening up the site to anyone with an email address. This move could dilute the user experience and sour their current dedicated user base.

Additionally, as the article reports, the current audience is young Internet-savvy students who are prone to switching sites. While the site is still hot, it is in the best interest of investors to exit.

It's time the Harvard sophomore hand over the reigns of the company to a Columbia MBA to help him exit!

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Online book swapping

In an effort to boost the still small swapping market, new entrants such as Whatsonmybookshelf.com, SwapSimple.com and BookMooch.com are focusing their efforts almost entirely on books, primarily because they are easy to ship and have scant resale value.

How are these sites any different to Amazon or Ebay or even used book-stores? The reason - they offer a better deal.

So what's the catch then? - these sites lack variety. Some sites such as Swapsimple are heavy on textbooks - fine if want textbooks (and actually find the one you are looking for), but what if you want Daniel Steele? Then you should go to Whatsonmybookshelf.

It will be interesting to see which site, if any, manages to become the most popular. Maybe there will be niche sites that develop selling only particular types of books.....

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

When "Opt Out" means You Want Out

During some research on the current state of on-line gift registries, we came across the site www.zebo.com. It seemed like an interesting site to explore but it was brought to my attention today that shortly after my friend logged in (through her MSN password), ZEBO blasted out emails to every single person in her contact book, as if my friend had sent the email. But my friend had never approved or sent the emails. This is a definite annoying violation and reason to have hesitation when joining and online community that requires you dish out personal inviation to be "in the network". While this isn't a pure 2.0 issue, it begs the question of privacy.

This actually reminded me of some similiar experiences people have had with Linked In. Haven't we all received emails from less than close acquitances, or even acquitances of distant acquitances to join their "Linked In" network? Sure that's the point of social networking but it just raises a flag when it seems personal information is not being kept private.
So while the default checked box that mandates a user "opt out", may seem like a smart move on the part of the marketer, it is simply not fair to bury it on the site so by accident somebody's entire address book gets spammed. And worse of the spams seem as if they are coming from a friend. Emails read "Hey friend, Debbie wants you to join XWZ and blah blah' Then followed but some jargon like "You got this email because someone who knows you sent you an invitation to join their online shopping community at ZEBO.com".
Guess again. Delete.





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Chris Anderson speaker event in NY

Here's an opportunity to hear the person who coined the 'long tail' concept, editor-in-chief of Wired Magazine, and author of the book "The Long Tail: Why the Future of Selling Less is More".

He's speaking next week, Thursday 28th, at the New York Public Library. Tickets cost $10 for students.

Here are the details.

You can also check his blog for more information on Mr Anderson (Matrix anyone?) and his book.

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TIME's 50 coolest websites

I found this list interesting not only because it lists a diverse set of industries, but also presents good examples of Web2.0, as quoted below:
Many of this year's choices are shining examples of Web 2.0: next-generation sites offering dynamic new ways to inform and entertain, sites with cutting-edge tools to create, consume, share or discuss all manners of media, from blog posts to video clips."

http://www.time.com/time/2006/50coolest/index.html

Worths a visit!

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Long Tail of web advertising

In a story today (9/20) in the Wall Street Journal, Yahoo warned of weakening third-quarter revenues. The reason - weakening online ad sales largely attributed to the less than expected increase in ad spending by automotive and financial services companies.

The question is, does this bode ill for online advertising in general or is it just a bump in the road? The article presents comments which indicates that industry participants are generally confident of no imminent slide in revenues systemwide indicating that the slide at Yahoo may be endemic.

Is it possible, though, that the 'long tail' phenomenon as it operates in the entertainment industry may be relevant to online ad sales also. Too far-fetched to imagine that the incremental ad dollar spent online may, at some point in time, move away from Yahoo and mainstream portals/websites and find its way to those obscure websites lurking at the far end of the tail?

For now, people await the fourth quarter results - often the main revenue earning season for the online advertising industry - for further clues!

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB115868088020267584.html?mod=rss_whats_news_us

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What is Web 2.0? Probably the easiest story lead out there...

Wired subset "Monkey Bites" took a user poll and came up with the winners and losers in the Web 2.0 world.

Thumbs up:
Flickr
Odeo
Writely
del.icio.us
NetVibes

Thumbs down:
MySpace
Squidoo
Browzar
Fo.rtuito.us
Friendster

My opinion is that the losers include out of favor social networkers, plus bad ideas. Fads and Bads. The good ones are user tools that have been subsumed (mostly) into Yahoo and Google - more features for the portals. Coincidence or trend?

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Privacy vs. Exhibitionism

In an interesting op-ed piece, one writer decries the web as a newborn "ExhibitioNet"

People seem to crave popularity or celebrity more than they fear the loss of privacy.

With millions upon millions of people sharing their thoughts, photos, and videos, often of the most intimate moments of their lives, where's the fear of privacy violation that most pundits predicted would slow the growth of Citizen Generated Media?

This is no longer fringe behavior. MySpace has 56 million American "members." Facebook -- which started as a site for college students and has expanded to high school students and others -- has 9 million members. (For the unsavvy: MySpace and Facebook allow members to post personal pages with pictures and text.) About 12 million American adults (8 percent of Internet users) blog, estimates the Pew Internet & American Life Project. YouTube -- a site where anyone can post home videos -- says 100 million videos are watched daily.


The answer, I feel, lies in the nature of the internet and people's unfamiliarity with the consequences. While many of the young posters on MySpace extol their current drinking, sexual, and other like behaviors, they don't necessarily realize that this may catch up to them. A recent article, for example, noted that recruiters are now scanning MySpace pages, and have no qualms about rejecting applicants based on their supposed daily weed-smoking. (Whether these boats are true or image building is another question.)

With the possible implications of seemingly innocent posts with recruiters, potential dating partners, and the like now becoming apparent, will people begin to more actively manage their image online? And where does it go in 5 years?

The larger reality is that today's exhibitionism may last a lifetime. What goes on the Internet often stays on the Internet. Something that seems harmless, silly or merely impetuous today may seem offensive, stupid or reckless in two weeks, two years or two decades. Still, we are clearly at a special moment. Thoreau famously remarked that "the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." Thanks to technology, that's no longer necessary. People can now lead lives of noisy and ostentatious desperation. Or at least they can try.


Full text here.

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Google Moving Sponsored Results Around?

I found an interesting article claiming that Google is testing a new function that moves sponsored results from the top to the side panel if a user does not usually click on the results. There's a controversy whether Google's new function actually helps advertisers and users by changing sponsored results around for users to obtain results that they might click on (thus generating more clicks for advertisers). Note that the results can be changed back to their original positions by clearing your computer's cookies.

I can see how moving sponsored results to common searches around will make users click on them more than when they keep getting the same top sponsored results which they seemingly do not find interesting or relevant.

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New Ways to Trade Travel Secrets Online

There was an article in yesterday’s WSJ about a new website, www.tripmates.com, that is designed to enable travelers to share tips and secrets first-hand. While personal reviews have been standard on many travel web sites for quite some time, tripmates has taken it a step further. It has modeled itself after myspace and other social networking sites in the sense that it requires people to register for the site and post personal profiles. Info required ranges from favorite places to travel (which would be expected) to things such as personal music taste. It’s designed to let other users decide for themselves how valuable an opinion of a vacation spot, hotel or restaurant, etc. is based on the personal tastes and interests of the person providing the review. The site also allows for email communication between users. I wonder if Fodor’s, Let’s Go and the like will start experiencing a hit in guidebook sales, as they have already started to follow suite and add reviews and online forums to their websites. I for one, plan on checking out tripmates (or any one of the various user-generated travel review sites that are out there – gusto.com, travel.yahoo.com, realtravel.com, igougo.com, tripadvisor.com) the next time I travel instead of relying on the guidebooks, many of which have been mediocre at best in the past in their ability to point me toward hidden gems in distant cities. Fodor’s seems to think that the proliferation of these online travel sites “will only complement the branded content that professional experts offer.” We shall see.

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Consumer-generated media? Not so fast.

From South Korea comes news of a new kind of corporate mudslinging. Last week, a 15-second video posted to YouTube showed a woman snapping Samsung's prized Ultra Edition mobile phone in half. The video quickly became one of YouTube's most watched, spawning the expected chain of outraged comments.

Grassroots consumer activism, right? Not so fast. As The Korea Times reported:

Youtube.com, a popular video blog service in the United States, said Motorola is responsible for the video though it didn't intended to circulate it.

The 15-second video clip entitled ``Samsung handset, easy to break at one try!'' has been circulating on the Internet since last week. It shows a smiling young woman snapping Samsung's 6.9-milimeter-thick mobile phone in two.

``The video has been removed at the request of the copyright owner Motorola, because its content was used without permission,'' the Web site said.

Samsung is furious about the video, claiming it was designed to damage its reputation.

A shining example of the power of Web 2.0, YouTube brings the power to the people, giving them the tools and means to contribute and discover content that would other wise go unnoticed.

But with the Internet awash with new types of content, is content still king?

In the words of pundit Jeff Jarvis, spoken at this week's VON conference, trust is king.

Links:
Watch the clip in question (the movie's not on YouTube, so click this link to download it)
Jeff Jarvis' blog


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Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Social Networking: More Than Just Entertainment

Interesting article on how the Pentagon is using social networking and sites like Myspace and Friendster to fight terrorism. Similar to how they monitor phone calls, the government would use these social networking sites to link people, as well as cross-reference with purchase patterns, phone calls, etc. There are definitely some kinks to be worked out, but this could prove to be either very useful or an infringement on privacy...depending on your viewpoint.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg19025556.200?DCMP=NLC-nletter&nsref=mg19025556.200

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So what do Sawyer, Jack, and Kate do in their free time?

This past weekend WSJ had a very interesting article about how Blogging is completely redefining fiction. The article, entitled “Rewriting the Rules of Fiction” describes how writers are using the Internet to “re-write” fiction, TV shows, and movies. Amateur writers are answering questions such as, “How did Harry Potter’s grandparents die,” “What do Sawyer, Jack, and Kate do in their island leisure time,” and “Did Dr. Grey have lipo-suction?”

This is definitely a good example of interactive media and Web 2.0. Suddenly, everyone has a venue to express his/her own opinion. Creativity flourishes due to anonymity. Suddenly there is a “Trekie” for every form of literature and media.

I found it very interesting that people would actually spend the time to document their fantasies about their favorite fictional and TV characters. Although I have sometimes considered myself to be an inspirational writer, personally, I do not think that I would ever have the incentive to participate in blogging about fictional characters. However, this form of media has truly offered a local for young writers to be creative.

Here is the link to this article:

http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB115836001321164886.html?mod=technorati


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Madonna & RHCP at YouTube

Warner Music Group (WMG) and YouTube announced today that they entered into a partnership agreement. It is not surprising that the suffering music industry tries to profit from the popularity of the user-generated video portal. Not only is WMG's music video library available via YouTube, but also does Warner allow users to re-use material from Warner artists, e.g. Red Hot Chili Peppers, in uploaded video content. It seems tht some music firms have understand the signs of the times. Others, like Universal Music Group, haven't. The latter just threatened to sue YouTube for copyright issues. I guess some never learn to adapt to changed business conditions.

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Napster is dead! - Long live Napster

Let me get that right: Napster, the once illegal, then "sued-to-death" and thus bankrupt comany, who's remainders were later bought by Roxio, just hired UBS as a financial advisor. According to Chris Gorog, CEO of Napster, the bank shall advise Napster on possible "strategic alternatives" - including a potential sale. The range of opportunities covers partnerships as well as takeovers.
Hello? Quite surprising to hear that a company like Napster, reporting quaterly before tax losses of $9.6m at a revenue of quarterly $28.1m, tries to sell itself off. Isn't it?
Maybe not! If you consider that the heat is going up in the online music market with Microsoft launching Zune and Nokia accquiring LoudEye. Most likely Apple's iTunes will get some heavy competition soon. Maybe we will see a takeover battle just for the sake of access to customers.

See the story here.

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Warner Music Group and YouTube

According to this article from the New York Times, it looks like Warner Music Group has taken an approach opposite to that of the Universal Music Group and has actually struck a licensing deal with YouTube. Under the deal, YouTube will find copyrighted material using special software and will offer the owner a 50% share of the advertising revenue for that particular clip.
Congrats to Warner Music for trying to work with the changing business model instead of fighting it.

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Web 2.0 Dating

OKCupid is an up-and-coming dating site. It differentiates itself in two ways: 1) it’s free to use and 2) it allows users to create their own ‘tests’ that help them screen suitors. For example, a woman may require all interested men to answer questions that she creates. Answers to these questions will be used by the woman to screen suitors. In a sense, this woman and her suitors are collaborating to create content that supports both of their objectives.

OKCupid is hoping that this collaborative testing tool will improve their matching. However, it remains to be seen whether or not people are good at creating relevant questions about themselves. Either way, they have found a new way to leverage the power of the Internet.

www.okcupid.com

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A Microsoft 'Me-Too'

Today Microsoft launched Soapbox, a service that is positioned to compete with YouTube according to a recent article. Despite there being no indication of differentiation, it seems likely that any "me-too" service launched by a large portal is destined for moderate success. Portals drive traffic to destinations and as time passes more and more people seem to use these services.

Taking a step back, this doesn't seem so uncommon. it seems that aside from Google (although Google will likely move in this direction), the common strategy that is being leveraged amongst the large Internet portals is the conservative 'me-too' approach. These companies continuously copy each other and new innovators (unless they acquire them). As the cost of developing technologies continue to decline and more time passes are we going to have four nearly identical Internet domains? Will differentiation fall by the way side? Will Microsoft be the only incumbent with a unique adjacent business?

Furthermore as these companies offer increasingly sticky services (such as photo management), it would seem that customer lock-in will become more intense. If it weren't for the increasingly integrated browser, these companies could be headed for a stalemate.

Maybe there is a management consultant out there who could align incentives within these organizations such that they encourage those with new ideas to stay in house and breathe new blood into the R&D efforts.

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