Monthly Archives: February 2008

Adventures in Video Conferencing–funny video

This is a pretty funny commercial.  I’m not sure this ever made it to television but I enjoyed finding it online today. 

I might have to try something similar from the ski slopes before the end of the season rolls around! 

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SI Swimming Online

 SI Swimsuit Edition

I finally got an opportunity a few days ago to peruse the new Sports Illustrated 2008 Swimsuit edition.  Around the same time last week, I found myself reading this perplexed blog article on Digital Media Wire regarding the increasing online popularity of this SI hallmark. 

To Heather Hopkins or anyone else out there confounded by the online success of the Swimsuit edition, I encourage you to stop racking your brains.  This isn’t any kind of rubix cube.  First, I doubt there is any particular logic to the prominence of one search term (“sports illustrated swimsuit”) over another (“SI Swimsuit issue.”)  If anyone feels differently about this, or there is some particularly marketing ploy at the heart of this, I’d love to stand corrected.

To the larger issue, though, of the online success of the Swimsuit edition, there is clear and logical explanation behind that.  First and foremost, the product itself remains unmatched.  We’re talking about really beautiful women and its less about the bathing suits this year than ever.  The SI Swimsuit edition appears to have gotten somewhat racier over the years and I’ve personally deduced a lot of that has to do with awareness over their principal competition now: online adult content.   At the same time, it’s increasingly integrated with pop culture and other popular content tie-ins: Will Ferrell and his new movie, Semi- Pro, Danica Patrick, athlete’s wives and more.  I’m sure the studio behind Semi-Pro paid a pretty penny for its sponsorship integration which makes that tie-in all the more compelling for the magazine.   

Furthermore, the Swimsuit edition is heavily marketed and have fairly massive distribution.  Unlike regular, weekly editions of SI, the Swimsuit version can be found on the shelves of just about any drugstore, grocery store, hair salon or tienda of almost any other kind throughout the US (and possibly beyond I assume.)  I’m curious how and why they’ve secured distribution that goes so much wider for this edition than their others but I’m assuming they have a much heavier cost structure to maintain on this episode.   

Lastly, this year more than year’s past, the supporting online website for the SI Swimsuit edition is great.  The UI is clean and there are some clever applications including a video mash-up feature that could keep a teenage boy engaged on the website for hours.   This year, much of the magazine’s content is online for free and its principally monetized through advertising.  But, the ads are relatively non-intrusive and the whole user experience online is well thought through.   

It’s not a stretch to call the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition a hallmark of winter and, even more broadly, of American society for the last 40+ years.  As a product, it continues to evolve with the times and, so, it’s not in the least bit surprising to me that,  in 2008,  it’s such a popular destination online.

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ESPN360 Goes to College

 ESPN

The digital media news headlines these days are smothered with stories about Yahoo.  It’s hard to find any articles of interest that don’t pertain to their sale of their premium music service to Rhapsody, purchase of a small Israeli music company, purchase of Maven Networks, sizeable lay-offs and more.  Oh yeah, and Microsoft wants to buy them for a few billion dollars or so. 

But, amidst all Jerry Yang’s activities, one piece of unrelated news caught my eye today pertaining to another large media company: Disney and its ESPN property.  According to Digital Media Wire today, ESPN360 has taken the bold step of announcing a strategy that gives away its 360 online broadband property to all .edu and .mil email addresses.  In other words, 16 million plus college aged students and a lot of loyal military types with ample free time and nice broadband connectivity. 

The New York Times first noted this news today.  Having worked with ESPN for several years earlier this decade, I’m not at all surprised by their interest in pursuing these two markets aggressively.  They have always wanted to make in-roads here, especially among colleges, where they see college aged students sans TVs as a ripe audience for their broadband video product.  And, given that, according to the NY Times story, their usage figures for ESPN360 have been paltry with just over 500k viewing hours in the past six months, it’s not surprising they are taking a more aggressive stance towards entering the market. 

I’m not at all confounded by the potential reality that ESPN360 hasn’t gained much traction yet.  While its mosaic style player, courtesy in part of its relationship with Move Networks, is catchy and effective, its content library is still limited and its user experience is fully tied to ISP distribution rights.  In other words, their historical audience could never have been larger than the 20M some odd users on available ISPs like AT&T and Charter and its likely to assume their regular audience wasn’t more than 1-5% of that total figure.   

It will be interesting to see whether this move is a small, nonchalant “experiment” of sorts in order to grab more eyeballs, ad dollar potential and brand loyalty among essential user bases.  On the other hand, I won’t be surprised if this is part of a “last battle” effort to see if something can be made of this ESPN property.   

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