Category Archives: Business

DNC Online Video Footage

I’ve been terrible about keeping my blog current this summer.  And, I envision staying fairly inactive for the next couple weeks unfortunately. But, I felt the need to pause from my hectic schedule tonight to post about a meaningful and very public advancement in online media this week. 

It’s no secret that more and more professionally produced video content is moving online.  And, while YouTube still drives the majority of online video viewing, some of the content is compelling enough that people are actually watching. 

But, there has been nominal advancement in the actual quality of the video delivery over the past decade–until the past 12 months or so.  Average bit rate delivery of video content online has remained around 350 Kbps for many years, largely because of delivery costs as well as the ability for end user’s CPU rates to take on anything meaningfully higher. 

This week though, the DNC, with the participation of folks including Move Networks, Microsoft and some bright colleagues of mine at Level 3 are movin’ on up, so to speak.  If you haven’t seen it for yourself yet, check out the HD quality content that can be found live and on-demand at www.demconvention.com.  Move is using it’s adative streaming video format, in conjunction with Microsoft’s Silverlight player, to deliver a world-class viewing experience that rivals what one would experience on their massive plasma screen TV at home.  Level 3 is the CDN and the signal acquisition provider.  It’s almost humorous to compare the DNC site to the quality of the Windows Media content that can be found at, say, CNN.com.  Night and day.   

And, the results of this high quality content delivery are what one would hope them to be…record numbers of viewers, longer viewing times and some rave reviews.  Here is what Rafat at PaidContent.org had to say the other day (and he’s generally skeptical and cynical about most activity like this):

“Every major site and TV network is live streaming it online in full…But the most awesome (I have probably never used that word in seven years of this site) online video feed is on the official Democratic Convention site, on DemConvention.com.  It is in HD and uses Move Networks’ plugin and Microsoft Silverlight.  You have to watch it to see the potential of HD video online…certainly shows how great HD video can look online.”

In the case of the DNC website, view times are interesting and important but it’s not a monetized site so we can’t yet realize the true implication of higher viewing times resulting in more meaningful advertising revenue online.  But, when that happens, and this week’s experience is proving it WILL happen, a virtuous cycle begins.  And, then, all of us who have been dreaming of the day Internet video becomes a principal means of content delivery get to feel the rewards of the hard work over the past decade plus.

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360 Degree Music

bandsphere.jpg

In the constantly changing and, these days ever fledgling, world of the music business, revolutionary concepts and business models will be required to reverse the course. 

I’m not certain yet if it qualifies as radical, but I was introduced today to a concept and term I liked a lot called 360 degree music.  The premise is simple: In today’s online world, most consumers attach no direct value to the music itself anymore.  The music itself is becoming free  However, the larger world of music still has great appeal and is being experienced on more platforms, in more ways, than ever before.  In the 360 degree spirit, licensed music effectively serves as a marketing tool to attract consumers to that which is still valued, namely concerts, merchandise and portable devices.  I was once told by a senior executive at a Hollywood studio that the self-aware media person sees themself as a marketer above all else.  The idea of 360 degree music is clearly a marketing play.    

Again, while this may not be a revolutionary answer on it’s face to the music business challenges, it’s the right way of thinking about the future.  And, at a minimum, I definitely like the 360 degree play more than the proposed notion of, oh say, a music tax.  If this theme begins to pick up some steam, one player out in front appears to be Live Nation, who made some interesting noise in 2007 when they signed their record deal with Madonna and paid $80M for a music merchandising firm. 

2007 was a bad year for the music industry and, as a fan on many levels, here’s hoping it was the bottom of the slide.  If 2008 is the year the comeback begins, the focus should be on emphasizing the experiential components of the industry rather than scraping for pennies on per download license fees or music taxes. 

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Improvisation

I was hanging out with two of my more intellectually stimulating friends the past couple weeks at different times.  Ironically, in both conversations, we hit a very similar discussion topic.  Both of these gents are current entrepreneurs and both confessed to me that, even with age, life is one, large improvisation.  Hence, one’s success in life is largely dictated by how well they bob, weave and tumble through the continual adventures they face. 

I was in the midst of some serious packing today (I’m moving) so had some time to ponder the thought further.  It’s so simple, eloquent and amazing.  We’re all just improvising.  Among other things, that means that, even with age and experience, we often times don’t and won’t know what we’re doing before a situation actually arises.  There are not certain and magic answers; there are not absolute truths.  It’s a deep thought as it relates to parenthood, working with bosses, managing, coaching and generally handling life. 

I also appreciate this thought in the context of entrepreneurialism.  A famous VC once said, “everything is always impossible before it works.”  I think this quote also ties nicely to the subject matter: “The young do not know enough to be prudent, therefore they attempt the impossible, and achieve it, generation after generation.”  Via the transitive property, if we can agree that life is an improvisation, and we can also agree that youthful people are more likely to persevere through challenges (due to ignorance, boldness and likely less risk), it makes sense that young people are likely to do well in entrepreneurial ventures.  OK, that might be stretching things a bit.  🙂

I love this thought.  The more I consider it, the more I realize how peaceful it can help make life.  It encourages more empathy for others, more patience at difficult moments, and a more chill approach to living life in general.  

Kandinsky Print     

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Rationalizing Apple – Part Deux

I posted last week about a crazy few days in the world of Apple and the iCon, Steve Jobs. 

I have two updates since that time:

1) Do NOT rush to an Apple retailer to redeem your $100 credit yet:  I made the mistake of printing my iPhone receipt from July tonight and heading over to a retailer in the University Village area of Seattle.  I compounded the error by selecting a nice assortment of iPhone accessories over a half hour timeframe.  Wherin lies the mistake you ask?  “Did you read Steve Jobs’ open letter?” an Apple store “Genius” inquired of me at the cash register as I laid down my items and printed iPhone receipt.  (I actually don’t think she was technically a store Genius but I’m humored by that concept and it helps the anecdote.)  Apparently, the lesson is that one cannot do anything about the credit until the iCon says “go.”  It’s not as simple as taking your receipt back and getting the credit.  There are more details (the current open letter is super vague) and we must all wait for those mysterious details to unfold.  I wasn’t particularly irked about any of this last week–I’m a bit more so now after tonight’s experience.

2) Watch the Steve Jobs’ Keynote From Last Week:  I got a chance to sit through most of the lengthy video presentation over the weekend.   It’s really an inspiring piece of work.  As a quick aside, I loved the presentation slides used by Jobs.  They reminded me of something Guy Kawasaki would preach about how to make PPT slides succint, direct and effective.  That’s not surprising though considering Kawasaki was at Apple for years.  Secondly, I really enjoyed the walk-through of many of the new developments, particularly the iPod Touch capabilities and potential as well as the Starbucks deal.  My friend, Dave Schappell, blogged about his perspectives on the iPod Touch the other day and he’s also linked to the video from his post. 

In summary, I don’t double Apple will successfully and easily overcome any “blips” from last week’s activities and the next several months should be very strong on iPhone sales, iPod Touch sales and more.  That said, in a manner similar to the famous quote from Better Off Dead, it’s not my $2 that I want so much–I want my $100 rebate!    

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Rationalizing Apple

Rotten Apple 

There was a compelling editorial that ran today on the Digital Media Wire about some of Apple’s challenges this week:

http://www.dmwmedia.com/news/2007/09/07/waiter-the-iphone-tastes-a-little-fishy 

It certainly has been an interesting and unusual past week for Apple–significant video content provider challenges and then fall-out from some evolutionary steps in their product and pricing offerings.  The ed piece raises some good questions and issues.

First, I do believe Apple was fully prepared to offer the rebate to early iPhone customers. There is no way they would have made a potential $100M decision within 24 hours without foresight. The Apple words about “listening to customers who complained” is marketing spin…and, prudent. But, hopefully for Apple, there are no further steps taken from here. As the expression goes, if you find yourself in a hole, it’s typically best to stop digging.

The last week, by and large, has been a perplexing one for Apple and the market.  I don’t fully comprehend some of the thinking behind the NBC negotiations.  And, I am still struggling with why Apple did an exclusive deal with AT&T (although I admittedly don’t know the term length or other key exclusivity facets of the deal.)  I don’t grasp the advantages to the company of introducing the iPod Touch, a device so similar to the iPhone, and I struggle to fully understand why a 66% price discount was necessary at such an early stage.   

All that said, the Company should be just fine here–and, this statement is not coming from a long-time Apple snob. Most iPhone consumers in the past few months (including myself) understand the product and price risks associated with being an early adopter.  As an example, this USA Today article from today notes that the price of Motorola Razr’s have repeatedly dropped since it’s launch. Further, the new price offering is highly compelling for such a damn good phone. If the price point was an issue before for someone, it certainly shouldn’t be anymore–the current iPhone is well worth it.

Further, Apple still maintains the best digital media players, digital media store and smartphone in the market…by far. And, despite the looming Google phone (which makes zero sense to me), I think their competitive advantages are safe for the near term future at least.  The iPhone is already the best selling smartphone in the market and it puts previous such efforts from folks like Nokia and Microsoft to shame.  Also, the new iPods have wi-fi capabilities and the Starbucks deal is smart–both advancements are the beginning of very cool things that can make the iPod/iPhone even more ubiquitous in the future.  And, lest we forget, the iPhone should sell 1 million total phones by month end–I may be wrong on this but I’m not sure T-Mobile sold that many Sidekicks in the history of the product line.  Apple is clearly “suffering” in part here from the challenge of massive expectations.   

In the meantime, as it all plays out, I’m certainly looking forward to redeeming my iPhone rebate at a minimum.     

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Is Content Still King? Update.

I posted a piece, approximately six weeks ago, around the notion of shifting leverage in the pervasive world of distribution and content:

https://brettgoldberg.wordpress.com/2007/07/10/is-content-still-king/

The topic, as it relates to Apple in particular, continued to heat up this past week.  NBCU announced it is not planning to renew its distribution arrangement with Apple’s iTunes product come December.  Apple then turned around later in the week and suggested it will pull NBC content down altogether in the September timeframe.  Here was one piece I liked on this topic during the week:

http://www.ipdemocracy.com/archives/2007/08/31/#002638

There is obviously some jockeying going on in this case.  NBC content accounts for 40% of the video sales of iTunes.  NBC is in a JV now with Fox to launch a new digital platform called Hulu.  Clearly, some of this relates to the fact that NBC is posturing that Hulu’s presence makes them less reliant on the iTunes distribution platform.  Humorously, a few places including TechCrunch, noted last week that Hulu means “cease and desist” in Swahili.  Some branding and trademark folks clearly didn’t do their homework on that one.    

But, aside from the negotiations, if Apple was to lose NBC content, or jettison NBC content in the coming weeks, it will have little impact on iPhone or iPod sales.  I do question though what happens if this is the beginning of other video content providers going away.  Apple is set to announce some exciting new iPod feature updates this week, which will likely include Wi-Fi integration.  But, the higher priced iPods rely largely on video.  For those reasons in part, here’s betting NBC and Apple have a deal in place come the expiration time of the contract in December. 

So, the answer to my question stands that content is still king when it comes to Internet distribution.  As the article at the beginning of this piece correctly states though, I’m also betting Apple and Steve Jobs start making some more aggressive plays to take control of the content, as was the case with Jobs and Disney last year.  These kinds of negotiations have to be nothing but infuriating to Steve Jobs in this day and age of Apple brilliance.     

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LinkedIn vs. Facebook and the Need for Innovation

LinkedIn 

I realize it’s a fairly cliche topic to post about the comparisons between LinkedIn and Facebook today.  So, I’m not really planning to do it here.  Or, I should state, I’m planning to do it but only to make a straightforward observation and point. 

Anyone who knows me knows that I have been somewhat biased against the Facebook for quite some time.  And, they’ve also likely known I appreciate the verticalized, professional network approach of LinkedIn. 

But, seemingly against my will these days, I’m finding myself using Facebook more and more and LinkedIn less and less.  The rationale has some to do with the fact that many of the people I interact with appear to be much more active in Facebook today.  Even more so, the continued innovation and progress, product wise, of Facebook as compared to LinkedIn seems dramatically apparent to me now. 

Facebook effectively became the de facto social utility platform several months ago when it made the move to open up its APIs for allowing users to integrate outside apps in to its network.  I blogged recently about the business objective of developing a platform when it can be achieved and, in this case, the results appear to have been significant for Facebook.  There is so much dynamic activity happening within the platform daily.  My contacts are not only inviting new friends in to their network but they’re pinging me through the Facebook inbox, uploading pictures, joining groups, installing new apps and generating thousands and millions of page views for the network.  One almost can’t help but be intrigued by the level of activity and sheer volume of things to do. 

On the other hand, LinkedIn appears increasingly stagnant.  I can see which of my contacts are adding new contacts as well as questions that are being asked, and answered, inside my network but, beyond that, what else is really happening with the product these days?  I appreciate LinkedIn’s capabilities as a job hunting network, as Jason Calacanis talked about a few months ago, but beyond that, isn’t there other valuable things that can occur within the network?  I’d be interested to hear about upcoming conferences, posting photos would be fine, joining groups would be great, Amazon commerce service integration could provide value and so much more seems possible.  Conversely, the only features that appear present to generate repeated usage are items such as the Q&A, checking out who’s “viewed my profile” and one or two other occasionally updated items.  Even in the case of the who’s “viewed my profile” feature, which honestly is a little sketchy anyway, I’m not sure it’s been getting regular updates in the LinkedIn database over the past two to three months. 

There was a part of me that felt for a few months there that Facebook’s seeming growth in popularity was more about its near-daily coverage in blogs like TechCrunch than actual usage.  At this point though, I’m realizing that’s not the case.  I’m not ready to get on the Facebook bandwagon fully yet but, from a user perspective, I truly have come to appreciate the dynamic and powerful nature of their continued product development.  And, the fact that they have outsiders at other companies achieving that goal for them makes it all the more impressive.  LinkedIn is starting to claim that they, like Facebook, should open their APIs soon to acheive the same goal–they need to do something soon or the prediction I made three years ago about trendy networking sites like the Facebook going stale is actually going to happen to them first.   

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