Friday, August 26, 2011

Flipboard to add TV, and ads

If you have an iPad and don't have the Flipboard app, you really need to get it.  Sometimes labeled as a "social media magazine", Flipboard works as a personalized aggregator of various information and content feeds, reformatting content from user-selected information feeds into a very user-friendly and multiple media-friendly interactive display reminiscent of a digital magazine. It is also highly integrated with social media, letting you share content and comments with friends and followers.  The basic app is free, but limited to the iPad for now (there are rumours of an iPhone version being available in the near future)  It recently launched its first advertising program, partnering with magazine publisher Conde Nast.  The program will insert targeted ad pages into the content from affiliated content feeds.

Flipboard is a great example of how the innovative exploitation of the potential of new devices and systems can add value to content.  At this point, Flipboard has featured ties to more traditional media sources (for example, The Economist and The New Yorker), social media (Facebook and Twitter), news (BBC News, ABC News) and a variety of focused information services (National Geographic photography, Lonely Planet on travel).  It's been named iPad app of the year by Apple, and one of Time Magazines top 50 innovations in 2010.

While the application has fully integrated audio and video capabilities from the beginning, the early focus on print-based resources relegated that capacity to playing an occasional clip.  Now Flipboard is working to make deals with movie and TV producers and distributors to make more video content available through their app by the end of the year.  A greater inclusion of video and audio content should bring in whole new user demos, and expand its reach.

I wouldn't be surprised if Flipboard becomes one of the next huge-dollar Internet acquisitions.

Source - Flipboard's New Ads Aren't Just for Magazines, ReadWriteWeb
Flipboard to add films and TV to iPad app,  The Telegraph

Pandora forecast - Partially Cloudy

Revenues for online music streamer Pandora over the last quarter were twice that of the same quarter last year.  Pandora earnings of $67 million also surpassed analysts' predictions.  However, Pandora also reported a loss of $3.2 million for the quarter, eight times the reported loss a year ago.  Pandora's revenues, still primarily from advertising, reflected a doubling of total listening hours.  If you consider Pandora as a radio station, it would account for 3.6% of all U.S. radio listening.  An increasing proportion of that is coming from mobile.  Research from comScore showed that, in June, 42% of Pandora's audience traffic came from mobile devices, and that a greater number of monthly visitors to Pandora sites came through mobile phones and tablets than from home or work PCs.  These numbers, though, don't really reflect the entry of European music service Spotify,, which began US service last month.
Looking ahead, Pandora expects continued, if perhaps slower, growth - and that losses will continue until online advertising matures.  Wall Street analysts are a bit more pessimistic, citing the entry of Spotify, Pandora's reliance on a ad-based business model, and concerns about increased uncertainty about the effects of a possible economic downturn or recession.

Blackberry users get a (small) cloud

In the smartphone wars, Blackberry is a distant third to iPhone and Android devices. With much of the iPhone and Android marketing focus on their ability to handle music and video, Blackberry is developing a cloud-based music application.  The subscription service is expected to cost around five dollars a month, and will allow subscribers to build a personal music library (based on digital locker concept), as well as building a personal profile of 50 songs to share through the Blackberry BBM social networking service.
The move to the cloud is a good idea, as it allows expansion of media-based uses and applications without having to upgrade memory levels in the access devices.  I suspect, however, that it's overall impact as a marketing tool will be limited - the service is tied to the device, limiting its overall usefulness, and the price level is higher than a number of other cloud-based, or IP-based music streaming services that can offer access to a much wider music library and/or the ability to access music from a range of platforms.

Source - Blackberry users get cloud-based music

Sports Rights & Colleges

It's no surprise that the value of sports rights is increasing, as TV and cable networks around the globe try to lock in exclusive rights in an increasingly competitive programming market.  Rights for college sports, especially the big sports and big programs, are seen as particularly valuable due to their large and dedicated fan bases that can be counted on to tune into live broadcasts.  An article in the Wall Street Journal wonders if this will further the discrepancy between big name programs and the rest of college sports.
Today (Friday, Aug. 26, 2011) will see the launch of the University of Texas Longhorn Network.
The Longhorn Network is predicted to bring the University and its licensing partner an average of $15 million a year for 20 years.  Compare that to the roughly $14.3 million the university will get from its membership in the Big-12, a number that also reflects a deal that U Texas cut to stay in the Big 12 that gives them a larger share of league revenues than most of the other Big 12 schools.  On money alone, that's creating quite a disparity between Texas, and, say, Iowa State.
Texas isn't the only university or conference reaping extreme benefits.  The 12-year deal that the Pac-12 conference signed in May with ESPN and the Fox Sports Media Group is expected to generate an average of $20 million a year for each school. For Washington State University, that's a five-fold increase from last year. WSU AD Bill Moos tied the funds directly to recruiting - "All of us are investing to get in a position to compete with each other for the best athletes."  The increasing conference rights splits are spreading the wealth around a bit - Neal Pilson, former president of CBS Sports, quipped "More schools are reasonably wealthy ... instead of the top ten schools chasing some player, you have 20 or 30."  But the discrepancy between those 20-30 colleges and universities and the rest of the nearly 350 NCAA Division 1 schools is looking more and more like a chasm.
When you add to that the furor that occurred when the Longhorn Network announced plans to carry a slate of Texas high school football games.  Other schools and the league worried about whether that might give Texas an unfair advantage in recruiting - enough that the Big 12 voted to place a hold on the games, and asked the NCAA to consider a national moratorium of carrying high school sports on college-affiliated networks.  Recently the NCAA responded, ruling that school- and conference-affiliated networks can't air high-school games or other youth programming.

Source - TV Cash Tilts College Playing FieldWall Street Journal

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Use of online video continues to grow

A recent report from Omnicom media agency OMD on the spread of online video supports many of the results of the most recent Pew Cross-Media Study (my earlier post on that is here).  The OMD study concluded that more than half of the U.S. population, and 80% of Internet users are including streaming video as a regular part of their TV viewing.
The study found that among those in their sample who regularly stream online videos, 24% either have cancelled their pay TV services (cable, DBS), or are open to doing so. Streamers also are showing different viewing patterns: a large chunk of their viewing (27%) occurs outside traditional TV viewing periods, and the most popular streamed genres are weather reports, news, full-length TV programs, celebrity news and gossip, and music videos.  Growth in streaming, the study suggests, is driven by interest in watching programs according to their schedule rather that network programming schedules, and their desire to reduce annoying ads and interruptions.  Interestingly, they also found the general tenor of programming in traditional TV channels to be increasingly annoying.
When people in the sample were asked for reasons they weren't watching more streaming video, more than a third just said they preferred regular TV.  After than, the most frequently given responses were related to issues with the quality of the streaming experience.  As continued development and expansion of broadband should lead to quality improvements, viewing of streamed online video should continue to expand.

Source - OMD: Streaming Reaches Tipping Point, Used By More Than Half Of All TV ViewersMediaDailyNews

(edit - I originally forgot to add a headline)

Miramax Testing direct sales

Film company Miramax is testing a direct video rental service that may allow it to bypass larger streaming and digital media sales and rental firms.  Miramax will use Facebook for its interface, offering free streaming of trailers, and currently offers rentals on 20 films, some of which have yet to be made available to other distributors.  One distinct difference with the Miramax offerings is that it is also making some films available outside the U.S.  !0 titles are available to Facebook users in the U.K. and Turkey, and there are plans to open access to users in France and Germany. Direct sales (or rentals) to consumers can have the benefit of bypassing intermediaries in the distribution stream, letting content owners capture more of the retail revenue stream (or conversely, offer content at a lower price). In this case, not the entire stream, as Facebook takes a chunk for running the payment system.
Besides direct film rentals, the Miramax eXperience Facebook site can help with branding and promotion efforts.  The site will offer free streaming of trailers, and will host a online game that lets users cast themselves and their friends from Miramax movies, with rewards of unlocking bonus content as they play.

While the potential to capture more revenue is enticing, developing a new market and distribution system can be daunting.  In addition, the current online video services offer consumers better experiences (some early users of the Miramax Facebook site say it's not quite up to the standard of Netflix, Amazon, or Apple); a wider range of content options (Miramax only offers films it distributes); and intelligent recommendation systems that can help users find programming that they might be interested in.  It seems unlikely, at this point, that direct marketing will replace the large aggregators totally, but it can be an additional revenue stream that content producers and distributors may want to take advantage of.  And it can have considerable potential in terms of film promotion, building relationships with consumers, branding, and fan service.  It is the mix of value streams which is prompting more and more content producers/distributors to add direct sales to their revenue mix.

Source - Miramax app the Largest Streaming Deal on Facebook YetBroadcast Newsroom
Miramax, Facebook Team for Streaming AppThe Wrap

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

With broadband comes cord-cutting

Recently, many traditional multichannel TV distributors (cable, DBS, telco-IP) have seen significant numbers of subscribers downgrade to lower service levels, or fully drop their services.  Research by Parks Associates suggests that some of the decline is enabled by broadband adoption.  Their research suggests that 13% of consumers with broadband have made cutbacks in paid TV services in the last year, and another 9% are likely to do so in the near future.
What's worse for TV services is that these users tend to be heavy TV viewers.  The study indicates that nearly a quarter of broadband households use the Netflix Watch Instantly service, leading to their suggestion that pay TV services upgrade their video on demand offerings to better compete with Netflix and other streaming services.
In a related finding, the study concluded that "TV Everywhere" expanded services was unlikely to be significant retention tool, with only 11% of pay TV subscribers willing to pay $15 or more a month for the service.  (At this point, most talk of TV everywhere is not as a separately offered service, but as a feature of a service's premium (and higher priced) service bundle.)
With broadband services continuing to expand, and with forecasts that half of all flat-panel TVs sold in the US in 2011 will be Internet-connectable, access to online video looks to continue to expand.  If this wasn't bad enough news for pay-TV, the research results suggested that likelihood of downgrading or cutting TV services was linked more to broadband adoption than high levels of watching online video - suggesting that "cord shaving" and cord "cutting" is not driven by demand for online video per se, but the capability to access traditional types of TV programming at similar quality levels as that delivered by pay TV systems. A capability that broadband diffusion provides.

Source - Downgrade: Broadband Adoption Linked To TV Cord-Cutting  MediaDailyNews

Is News or Gaming Top App?

Research from analytics firm Localytics, based on data on usage provided by firms using their analytical platform, has found that gaming apps are used the most frequently (counting separate sessions), but that users spend much more time on news apps than most other types of apps. In fact, users spend more than two and a half times as long on news apps than on other apps (on average). Because of this time differential, and the fact that news apps use in terms of number of sessions also places among the top 3, they conclude that news apps are the most "engaging." 
  • In terms of number of sessions per app per month, the top app genres are gaming, news, and music.
  • In terms of the average length of app sessions, top app types are news, music, health and fitness, and reference apps
Focusing on iPad users, Localytics concluded that news apps generate long interactions with apps and users, and that iPad users seemed to prefer playing short, casual games rather than in-depth time-consuming ones. Sports apps, they found, were used mainly to check scores than to delve into sports news and stories.  The report concluded that "these levels of interaction do have an important message to app marketers: Know your audience and pick the right type of app to generate the most engagement possible."

That's good advice for any media content or service provider.

Source - App Popularity: Gaming or News?  Online Media Daily

Social Media and Social Movements

Recent coverage of the use of the Internet and social media in the various social movements comprising the "Arab Spring," prompted research, by the Dubai School of Government, into the role played by Twitter and Facebook.  For the study, researchers analyzed access and usage trends in 25 Arab region countries during the first three months of 2011. Among their findings:
  • The number of Facebook users rose significantly, the growth rate during the protests were at least twice the level of the previous year (with the exception of Libya).  Still, overall penetration rates were quite low.
  • In those countries where protests took place, Facebook was used to share calls to protest, often with specific dates attached.  In Tunisia and Egypt, more than 8o% of Facebook posts raised awareness, shared information, or organized actions "related to the movement and events."
  • During that time, the approximately 1.15 million active Twitter users generated almost 23 million tweets.  The most popular topics were #Egypt, #jan25, #libya, #bahrain, and protest.
The researchers concluded that, while the data did not allow consideration of direct causality, "the report provides empirical evidence suggesting that the growth of social media in the region and the shift in usage trends have played a critical role in mobilization, empowerment, shaping opinions, and influencing change."  The academic report provides a lot more details, and is linked below.

Sources -  Civil Movements: The Impact of Facebook and TwitterJournalist's Resource
Civil Movements: The Impact of Facebook and TwitterArab Social Media Report, 1(2), May 2011

Court ruling opens way for music clouds

A federal judge hearing a music industry copyright lawsuit recently issued a ruling that may well open the way for cloud-based music services.  In the suit against digital music service MP3tunes, the music industry argued that MP3tunes contributed to copyright violations because it did not delete allegedly unauthorized content from users' digital lockers, even if it did comply with DMCA requirements regarding posting notices of alleged infraction and preventing access to the content in question.  Federal District Court Judge William H. Pauley III ruled that MP3tunes, and by inferences other ISP and music services, was not required to investigate whether user content was authorized or not, effectively saying that users are responsible for any copyright infringements, not the ISP, music service, or digital storage facility.

MP3tunes service model is conceptually similar to music-sharing cloud services announced by Amazon, Apple, Google, and others.  MP3tunes service allowed users to build online music libraries from a range of online sources for their own use.  The current and proposed music cloud services have similar options, storing songs purchased from their online music stores, as well as allowing users to add tracks from their personal collections (in some cloud models, that requires users to upload digital tracks - in others, it is a list of user's songs that is stored, and the service then provides access from a central library to those songs).  The ruling basically sets the foundation for consumers to use cloud and similar services to store and access, for their own use, legally acquired music without having to pay an additional licensing fee.  The ruling did specifically indicate that this does not mean that users, or services, can share the content with multiple users (unless those other users also have the same file in their digital library), thus upholding the central infringement complaint against users..

Since the ruling is based on the language of the law, and not some specific attribute of music files or service, it should apply to all forms of digital content, digital library services, and services providing users with access to their digital libraries from multiple devices and/or locations.  Cloud services can, unless the ruling is reversed,  proceed without being held liable for the content placed there by users - setting the stage for rapid expansion and adoption of Cloud services.

Source - MP3tunes/EMI copyright ruling paves way for cloud music servicesFierce Mobile Content

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Skype to add social messaging

Skype, the leading Internet telephony service provider, is in the final stages of acquiring GroupMe, a group messaging service.  GroupMe applications enables text messaging and conference calls among designated circles of friends or colleagues across a range of operating systems (including smartphone apps for Apple, Android, BlackBerry and Windows operating systems.  This marks Skype's second major move into social messaging - the first, Qik, gave Skype access to video capture and sharing applications.
The acquisition helps Skype to expand it's offerings from traditional point-to-point audio and video communication in real time, to the potential of adding text and messaging, facilitating group and social media distributions, and adding archiving and asynchronous sharing features.  This helps Skype, and Microsoft (which has agreed to by Skype), better match up with announced real-time and social messaging initiatives from Apple, Google, and Facebook.

The move to shift to social media for messaging has some interesting implications, bringing to fruition the long-identified potential for digital and IP networks to develop new patterns of communication (beyond one-to-one and mass models).  It could foreshadow a major shift in how people communicate.

Source -  Skype pushes into social messaging with GroupMe acquisition  FierceMobileContent

Local TV News Expanding

Local TV stations around the U.S. are expanding their news programming - or at least their length.  News has long been the primary source of local TV production efforts, providing stations programs where they control the amount of commercial time, and the ability to sell all of it.  (Network programming and much syndication programming split commercial time with local stations).  When you also see that local TV is consistently identified as a primary news source, it's easy to understand that local news programming provides much of the local revenues for stations.

While local TV took a revenue hit in the last couple of years, along with other media, revenues are increasing this year, and the added demand for TV ad spots that the 2012 election cycle has analysts projecting a continued recovery for local broadcasting.  Expanding the hours of local news lets stations add to commercial spot inventory, and the election cycle will also bring a lot of opportunity for low-cost stories.  While research shows some expansion of news staffing, a lot of the expanded hours recycles news stories, has much more "chatter" between anchors and reporters, and soft news.  A FCC study earlier this year found instances of excellence, but concluded that a emphasis on weather, sports, and crime - and it's unlikely that the expanded hours of news programming will change that.

Sources - Local TV Newscasts Expanding  New York Times
The Information Needs of Communities: The changing media landscape in a broadband age.  Chapter 3: Television  FCC Report

FCC dumps Fairness Doctrine, other outdated rules

The FCC announced Monday that is was removing 83 media-related rules from the books, as a response to President Obama's push to reduce regulation.  Included among the outdated rules were the Fairness Doctrine (which has not been applied since 1987); "broadcast flag" rules (never enforced), cable tier pricing rules (overturned by 1996 Telecomm Act), and a variety of application and proceedings rules that have either been overturned by courts or waived.  While reducing the number of rules, the move really does nothing to actually reduce regulation, as they weren't in use for years.

The Fairness Doctrine is the most widely known, and had a troubled history of enforcement which led the FCC to formally announce, in 1987, that it was no longer in effect.  With the rise of talk radio, there have been periodic calls for reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, mostly from politicians and individuals who felt that critical and opposing views were getting too much coverage and exposure.  They hoped that re-enforcement would force critics to give them equal time (which it wouldn't - that's a different set of rules), or impose enough of a burden that broadcasters wouldn't address any issue that was even remotely controversial (that is, kill talk radio).  But the Fairness Doctrine was only occasionally applied to political speech - what led to its downfall was when public interest groups started arguing that the rules should be applied to commercial speech in broadcasting - that is, to ads.  Early success with ads for cigarettes (opportunities for anti-smoking & health PSAs) encouraged other attempts to apply the Fairness Doctrine to auto and gasoline commercials (the claim was that these promoted anti-environmental views).  Rather than get into that swamp, and cognizant that just about any advertised product could be claimed to present or support some issue that the Fairness Doctrine might be applied to, the FCC decided to stop enforcing the rule in 1987.

At a minimum, the FCC deserves kudos for clearing out the deadwood, even if it doesn't really reduce the overall number of regulations by much.  However, the FCC's claims of reduced regulatory burden are more spin than reality - and considering that the FCC is simultaneously pushing significant widening of its regulatory authority in other areas, it seems that the net regulatory burden is, or will be, increasing, rather than falling.

Sources - Outdated US media rules to be taken off the books  Reuters
FCC Chairman Genachowski Continues Regulatory Reform to Ease Burden on Businesses; Announces Elimination of 83 Outdated Rules  FCC Press Release

edited to remove extraneous source title

Monday, August 22, 2011

Amazon Adds to Streaming Catalog - updated

Amazon has been making deals to expand its on-demand and streaming video titles to keep pace with Netflix and new competitors Google, Apple, and WalMart.  It recently reached the 100.000 title mark, of which 9,000 are available free to Amazon prime customers.  In contrast, Netflix has more than 20,000 titles available for streaming to subscribers.
Analysts note that Amazon's Prime membership works out to about $6.60 per month, slightly below Netflix's subscription level for streaming-only service.  However, Netflix is available through many more devices, and offers not only more titles, but arguably better ones, which should keep Netflix at the head of the pack.

Apple has had limited titles available through iTunes for a while, but is also working to expand offerings, as Google is ramping up it's Android market to stream videos, and porting some 3000 titles through YouTube.  Walmart's recent purchase of video streamer Vudu has jumpstarted its newly rebranded Wal-Mart Video on Demand through Vudu service, with some 20,000 titles.  For now, only Netflix, Amazon, and IP streamer Hulu+ have subscription based offerings - the rest offer per-download short-term rental or purchase options on digital versions of films and television programs with prices in the $1-5 range for rentals.  It looks like Hulu+ is up for sale, and there's talk of interest from Apple, Google, and DirecTV - which could change things.

Look for Netflix and Amazon to hold the lead in terms of titles streamed, although the per-unit pricing of the Video on Demand services (including Amazon's) may generate strong revenues for a while.

Sources: How Much are Amazon's Streaming Efforts a Threat to Netflix?  SeekingAlpha

Update - fixed graphics size issue, some minor rewording. 
Update II - added DirecTV to possible Hulu+ bidders. DirecTV is also expected to bid for Hulu+ to help remain competitive with Dish Network (which recently acquired Blockbuster(content) and Sling Media (IP video distribution)).  Expanding online options would also help DirecTV compete against emerging "TV Everywhere" offerings.

Radio & TV News Salaries Rise

The latest electronic news salary study is out. Sponsored by the Radio Television Digital News Association, the Hofstra University study showed that TV news salaries rose an average of 7.3% last year, while radio news salaries rose 9.8%.
In radio, News Directors topped the scale, with median salaries running from $28K in small markets, to $60K in major markets.  News anchors median pay ran from high 20s to low 50s, and for reporters in small markets (the most likely entry positions), median salary was $18.5.  News Producers median pay ran from $20.5K in small markets to $34.5K in majors.  Median salaries for a Web producer/editor in radio ranged from $26K to $25K.
In television, News Directors and Anchors topped the Median Salaries list.  Anchors in the smallest TV markets reported a median salary of $35,000, rising to a median of $165,500 in top 25 markets.  Directors in the smallest markets had a median salary of $56,000.  Entry-level positions are most likely outside the top 100 markets - median salaries for reporters ranged from $21-25K, for producers the range was from $24-28K, while tape editors/graphics specialists ran from $17,500-26,000.  Web positions had median salaries running from $23K-35K in smaller markets.

The full study gives a lot more breakdowns of salaries, including starting salaries for new employees with no fulltime experience (Radio - ranging from a low of $15,000 to a top salary of $35,000; TV - ranging from a low of  $15,000 to a top salary of $60,000).  Check the full report (linked below) for details.

Source - RTDNA/Hofstra Survey Shows Sharp Rise in TV and Radio News Salaries  RTDNA

CBC goes Cross-Media for 75th Anniversary Celebration

Canada's Public Broadcaster (CBC) will celebrate its 75th Anniversary on Nov. 2, 2011, with 75 days of programs and events across a range of platforms.  Hubert T. Lacroix, head of CBC/Radio-Canada, announced the plans for both the celebration and a strategic plan for the public broadcaster::
"For 75 years, the public broadcaster has had a relationship with Canadians built on trust, giving a voice to the stories and issues that matter to them ... In the same year as we celebrate our 75th anniversary, we've also geared up for the future of public broadcasting in Canada. On February 1, 2011, we unveiled 2015: Everyone, Every way, our strategic plan to deepen our relationship with Canadians, and remain a leader in an ever-changing media environment. I invite you to take ownership of these celebrations and reaffirm the role that CBC/Radio-Canada has in your life."
Kirsten Stewart, head of CBC English services, stressed the continued focus on Canadian programming and diversity:
"For 75 years, CBC has celebrated the stories of Canadians and has connected people through the telling of important stories made for, and by, Canadians, ... Throughout our anniversary celebrations, we're going to continue to share these relevant Canadian stories across all of CBC's media platforms, as well as in communities across the country."

Sources - CBC Launches 75th. Anniversary Celebrations  Broadcaster
2015: Everyone, Every way  CBC strategic plan

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Great Moments in PC history

Just for fun - Great Moments in PC History, Byte

Do Radio and TV compete with, or augment, each other?

Arbitron's released some interesting results from its tests of Portable People Meters, which they hope will provide better cross-media and multiple-media usage measures.  A limited test in the Denver area suggested that peak usage for radio and TV occur at different times - during the day (6 am to 4 pm), radio dominated, accounting for 70-80% of the combined audience, while at night (7 pm to midnight) television dominated (80% of total audience).  In addition, the study showed different audience profiles. 
This suggests that use of radio and TV differs enough that they don't compete that much for audiences, but rather serve largely different audiences.  From an advertising perspective, that suggests that TV and radio shouldn't be seen as direct competitors, but as complements in reaching general audiences at different times.

Source - Arbitron Study: TV and Radio Augment Each OtherTVBlog

Interactive Ads better for Digital Mags

Research from Affinity's VISTA Digital service (which tracks digital magazine use on iPads and other mobile devices) show that readers prefer interactive ads to static ads.  Looking at use of interactive ads with video, those who tapped through to the ad content gained from the effort - 88% said they enjoyed the experience, 87% said it enhanced the magazine experience, 88% said they learned more about the product, and 89% saw the brand as innovative.  The numbers were even higher for photo galleries (scores in the 91-93% range.  This supports other research from GfK MRI that reported that 55% of consumers reading magazines on tablets "noted" ads, compared to 41% of digital magazine readers using the less interactive e-readers.

Exploiting the potential for interactivity in systems and technology, in a meaningful way, looks to be a benefit that other media can also explore.

Source - Interactive Ads Pay Off for Digital MagsMediaDailyNews

NBC tops in Product Placement

An increasing number of TV shows are using product placements as a new revenue stream.  Nielsen reports that NBC is setting a high pace with some of its programs - "America's Got Talent" integrated brand and product placement 59 times last month; and drama "Friday Night Lights" had 47.  The next highest number of placements was 22.  There were 5 NBC shows in the Top 10 user of product placement.

Source - NBC Shows Continue to Set the Pace for Brand IntegrationsAd Age

Scripps TV promotes investigative stories

Scripps reports that it's hired new staff, and given extra training to others, in an effort to improve investigative reporting at its local TV stations.  While total news staffing is still down, Scripps recently hired 8 new reporters, and has sent 58 others to the recent Investigative Reporters and Editors conference.  IRE's executive director, Mark Horvit, suggested a return to investigative reporting makes good business sense -
“When you cut back service too much you start to lose our audience as well. The only way to have an exclusive voice and stand out is to present something audiences can’t get elsewhere and, in most cases, that’s the enterprise watchdog story.”
Bob Sullivan, Scripps VP of content, said that the move wasn't just about differentiating yourself from other local stations.  "It's not about the old ratings game," he stated. “For me, it’s about serving your community and providing them with journalism and stories they need to know about.”

I hope the move is successful, from both social and media business perspectives.  From a media business perspective, firms need to differentiate in order to compete - cutting resources and standardizing content makes your product less valuable.  For local broadcasting, a better move is to focus on the local, and in more original content/stories.  Investigative local journalism can bring that focus back.

Source - Scripps Bucks Investigative Reporting TrendTV News Check

Primer on Connected TV

One way to define convergence is as the increasing interconnectedness of things.  A clear example is emerging in the world of television, where viewers can access a world of programs (from channels, networks, streaming services), delivered across a range of distribution channels (local broadcast, cable, DBS, telco-based Multichannels, the Internet, mobile TV), on or through a number of viewing devices (TVs, computers, tablets, smartphones & cellphone, other connected devices tied to one or more screens), synchronously (live) or asynchronously (DVRs, recorded media).
Phew! That's a mouthful, and one chock full of jargon to boot.  Mashable's got a basic glossary for the types of connected devices and services available today.that can fill you in.

Source - How Connected Devices and Streaming Video Are Changing the Way We Consume Content, Mashable

SMS (Text Messaging) Evolves

Text messaging (SMS) has been a major success for cellular networks - last year more than 6.1 trillion messages sent, worldwide.  Locally, the U.S. took over as the king of text, with SMS subscribers sending an average of 660 messages a month.  And with the extremely low cost of sending SMS, texting has historically been a huge profit center.

Revenue growth from SMS has started to slow, however.  Analysts attribute this to several factors.  First, as texting became popular, people switched from per-unit pricing (typically 10 cents per text in the U.S.) to larger and larger bundling plans with lower per-unit costs. More recently, wireless carriers are dropping these bundles in favor of unlimited messaging plans.  Wireless carriers are seeing higher SMS use, but generating less revenue on a per-message basis.

Second, the rise of smartphones have opened a second channel for text services through the Internet.  A number of IP-based text services have emerged in the last few years, some tied to social media like Facebook and Twitter.  These run through a wireless provider's data plan, rather than through their SMS channels.  However, wireless providers are starting to phase out unlimited data plans, which could mean more revenues from IP-based texting, or a shift back to using SMS.  In addition, many of the IP-based texting systems require both users to have the same applications open at the same time, while SMS works on any cell phone and any service anywhere in the world - a valuable feature as yet unmatched by IP-based services.  Thus, most analysts don't see IP-based texting replacing SMS as much as carving out some niche uses.

Chetan Sharma (Chetan Sharm Consulting) predicts a larger shift -
"...within 5-10 years a good portion [of users] will have shifted to Internet messaging as opposed to traditional SMS messaging... (Still) messaging is in trillions so even if somebody has millions of messages [being sent via his app] going on a daily basis, it is still a tiny fraction [of the market],"
The ability to message has enough value to users that the concept of mobile messaging isn't likely to disappear anytime soon.  There may well be shifts from one form to another along the way, but as networks and services become more intelligent, its likely that the various forms of messaging will integrate into a universal messaging system;

The article (link below) also identifies and discusses a number of the alternatives to wireless carrier SMS and MMS (Multimedia Message Service) channels.  If you're interested, click through.

Source: "SMS: The dying cash cow for wireless carriers?" FierceMobileContent

Friday, August 19, 2011

Rumors on iPad 3 - Gotta wait til 2012

Just to pass along, a couple of stories today indicating that Apple's started to test some of the components likely to appear in the next generation of iPads.  Expectations are that the iPad3 will feature a higher-resolution screen, with wider viewing angle and better visibility in sunlight, and a new processing chip.  With testing just beginning, the pundits don't expect the iPad3 to be available for public sale before the second quarter of 2012.

Sources: "Apple nears trial production of high-res iPad 3 coming in early 2012", Apple Insider
"Apple preps iPad 3 for 2012 launch", Fierce Cable

Use of newer video channels expand, yet total viewing up.

The Nielsen Cross-Media Platform Media Report for the first quarter of 2011 is out, and shows continued growth of mobile and Internet viewing of TV and video content.  Better still, for the industry, total viewing across all platforms is rising, averaging an additional 22 minutes a month per person.  Watching TV in the home largely remained at previous levels,  The increase in total viewing came largely from watching time-shifted programming (up 13% - DVRs are in 40% of US TV homes have a DVR); increased watching of videos through the Internet (up 5%), and watching video through mobile devices (up 41% among users, but only 10% of USTVHH are using mobile for this purpose).
There's a lot more in the report, but I'll leave with this teaser: 91% of US households paid for a TV subscription in the last quarter (or - only 9% of USTVHH rely exclusively on local broadcast TV signals).  While the proportion accessing TV programming through cable or DBS (combined) is relatively steady, there is a slow shift from cable to DBS among US households.  Use of telco-based video delivery services is showing slow but steady growth.  There seems to be a significant generational shift in preferred viewing source - adults 50+ are the most likely to rely on local broadcast sources; those in the 35-49 age group are the most likely to use Internet sources; and 25-34 year olds are the most likely to use mobile devices.

Source:  "Understanding the Video Consumer", MediaPost Research Brief
"State of the Media - The Cross Platform Report, Quarter 1, 2011" Nielsen

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Future of News Report

Business Insider has a Special Report out on "The Future of News", featuring a number of interviews with leading media figures, and sections on consumer willingness to pay, what brands are likely to continue to succeed, role for social media, etc.
Some of the predictions are pretty standard stuff - news and info will move ever faster, be more portable, and people will have access to more and more sources; but that also means we'll have to be our own editor - judging importance and considering reliability and accuracy. Some are predictions on what changes are coming - the value of curation (editing and assembling news into meaningful stories), better integration of content with new delivery forms (aggregation and presentation of news), further blending of news and commerce, the idea that Facebook could take over as main source for local news.

Top Quotes:
In the future a lot more stories will be uncovered that have been ignored for too long—stories that people actually want to read about but that the media gatekeepers either finds disinteresting or is afraid to report. The power is shifting from the media to the people. (Glenn Beck)
The future of news will consist of a small collection of news networks that the public trusts, based on hybrids of different business models. (Craig Newmark, Craigslist)
I think the fastest growing segment of the news business will be individuals who create a brand around their name and a niche about which people trust them to educate or entertainment them. (Mark Cuban)
(N)ews will appear in multiple guises on multiple platforms, delivered not only by trusted craftsmen and women known as journalists but also by individuals newly enabled by the internet revolution.  (Lionel Barber, editor, Financial Times)

The future of news is social... successful media companies will use social technologies to expand their relationship with the reader, not just port the written word to digital.  (Mike McCue, CEO Flipboard)
The Future of News is video from experts. The age of journalists--and simple "writers"--having exclusive control of the news flow has ended. (Jason McCabe Calacanis, CEO Mahalo, ThisWeekIn)
 Source: "Special Report: The Future of News". Business Insider

Monday, August 15, 2011

FCC Suspends "Eligibility" Rules for Ownership Waivers

For some time now, the FCC has been trying to promote diversity in national ownership numbers.  One particular mechanism was to offer waivers to some of its rules (ownership, attribution, etc.) rules to "Eligible Entries" - small businesses, firms qualifying as minority or woman-owned, etc.  A recent court decision vacated several aspects of its ownership rules, including the notion of "Eligible Entries."  As a result, the FCC has had to suspend all of its eligible entity rule provisions and policies are suspended until the Court issues its final mandate.
This will slow the already feeble efforts to improve diversity in ownership.

Source: "FCC "Eligible Entity" Rules Suspended- Build Out Deadlines Affected for Some Broadcasters", The NAB Pulse

Video Subscribers down for most U.S. MSOs

For cable and DBS MSOs, the second quarters numbers are generally down, at least in terms of the video side.  As the table below show, DirecTV showed small gains in the number of video subscribers.  The rest of those listed saw declines - cable subscribers have actually been declining generally over the last few years, mostly moving to other Multichannel Services (DBS and teleco-based IPTV operators).  The major MSOs have been gaining voice and data subscribers, although mostly from their existing video subscriber base.

Q2 2011 Results - U.S. Multiple System Operators (MSOs)
Revenue Gain/Loss Y-O-Y
Video Subscriber Adds/Losses
Voice Subscriber Adds/Losses
Data Subscriber Adds/Losses
Total Subscribers
$14.3 billion
49.1 million
$12.9 billion
19.43 million
$4.94 billion
53 million
$3.59 billion
14.05 million
$1.79 billion
5.20 million
$1.68 billion
3.64 million

Source: "Cable in the second quarter of 2011" - FierceCable 

IBM Exec - End of PC Era?

"My primary computer now is a tablet," Mark Dean, now the CTO of IBM's Middle East and Africa unit, wrote in a blog post. "When I helped design the PC, I didn't think I'd live long enough to witness its decline. But, while PCs will continue to be much-used devices, they're no longer at the leading edge of computing. They re going the way of the vacuum tube, typewriter, vinyl records, CRT and incandescent light bulbs."
He added that it's not so much the computing power of new technologies like tablets and smartphones are supplanting the PC, but that these new devices are encouraging new ways of working and communicating.
"These days, it's becoming clear that innovation flourishes best, not on devices but in the social spaces between them, where people and ideas meet and interact. It is there that computing can have the most powerful impact on economy, society and people's lives."
The important thing here for media and journalism is the vision expressed - the continuing expansion of more mobile connectiveness and use, and the continued growth of social computing activities.  Media and journalists should be thinking about how to take advantage of this shift.

Source: "IBM Exec: The End of the PC Era is Here",

Ken Doctor - The Newsonomics of the Next Recession

Ken Doctor's latest piece for the Nieman Journalism Lab has a lot to say about the future of major urban dailies, if or when the next economic downturn occurs.  The piece is worth a read (linked below), but here's some of the bad news highlights.

  • Newspaper advertising revenues in the U.S. have declined for 22 consecutive quarters (that's 5 and a half years), and aren't much better in the U.K. or Japan.
  • Digital ad revenues are booming, but are not going to news sites
  • The digital transition remains in the early stages - no major publisher is getting more than 20% of revenues from digital
  • In a recession, the shift in advertising from print to digital should accelerate
  • The remaining portion of classified advertising that goes to newspapers "will crater"
  • The shift to digital reading may accelerate - with increased print subscription prices, should see shift to partial subscription packages that include online access.
  • Look for consolidation in newspapers, as media concentration is a logical consequence of economic stress
Doctor sees a recession as accelerating current trends, and continued speculation about what newspaper companies will fail next.  As he concludes,
The long game of change has gotten progressively shorter. Maybe, we’ll dodge a second recession in the short-term, but the game is the game, and publishers are simply running out of good choices. They’ve been dealt a deck of wild cards, misplayed a few hands and now have fewer chips left to play.

Source: "The Newsonomics of the Next Recession", Nieman Journalism Lab

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ad Revenues: Bad News Coming?

Research by Deutsche Bank has led to a prediction of another major economic crisis that will hit ad agencies and impact ad revenues in 2012.  While they felt it was too early to tell whether the result will be a slowdown or full "double-dip" recession, they predict either will dampen prospects for the U.S. and global advertising economy.   As a result, the firm is downgrading its earlier projections of 5-6% basic growth for ad agency stocks prices to 1-2% growth rates.  The analysts' report concluded that:
"Ad spending has not fully recovered from 2008-09 lows so our assumption is that if there is a downturn, it will not be as severe as 2009, ... Agencies have stronger balance sheets now (as do the major brand owners who pay them), and industry headcount has not been rebuilt to previous peak levels."
Total ad revenues for U.S. media, particularly broadcasting, is likely to still show growth in late 2011 and 2012, as the industry expects record levels of political advertising expenditures on top of normal advertising demand.

Source: "Wall Street Downgrades Madison Avenue: Major Impact of Economic Turmoil Will Be On 2012 As Budgets", Media Daily News 

Social Media and Net Use by Business Journalists

Business-to-business media continues to do quite well, arguably in part because they have embraced new media forms, both for distribution and as information resource.  The 2011 Arketi Web Watch Media Survey shows high levels of social media use, as well as use of other Internet resources for information-gathering.
This latest report found that 92% of business journalists surveyed had a LinkedIn account (up from 85% in 2009).  Respondents reported using LinkedIn to research and connect with potential sources.   But they don’t rely solely on one social media outlet: 85% had Facebook accounts, and 84% had Twitter accounts (up from 24% in 2009).  Roughly half also reported having YouTube accounts (58% - YouTube is increasingly used by businesses and PR firms to post interviews and other promotional materials) and 49% of the business journalists reported subscribing to one or more blogs.
What’s perhaps more important is that the report showed that business journalists use these resources – 64% spend more than 20 hours a week online, and 21% report being online more than 40 hours a week.  71% reported getting story ideas from email pitches,, 56% had found ideas for stories on blogs, and 44% indicated using Twitter or similar sites. Virtually all used the Net to read news (98%), and 91% report using the Net to search for story ideas or resources to use in their stories. Two thirds report microblogging (such as Tweeting), and half report also contributing to blogs.
Other interesting findings dealt with credibility.  In the 2011 survey 82% of the journalists saw companies without websites as being less credible.  On the other hand, in an earlier survey (2007), 84% of business journalists indicated a willingness to use blogs as primary or secondary resources for articles, and most felt that monitoring employee blogging was ethical.

Sources: “Journalists Get Idea on Social Networks: Company Sites and PR for Support”, Research Brief from the Center for Media Research.
2011 Arketi Web Watch Media Survey”, (2011, 2009, and 2007 reports available for download)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Alternatives to Cable/Telco Broadband Duopoly

Today, high-speed broadband options in most communities is limited to local cable systems and/or major telco operators.  For years, though, a range of possible alternatives for providing Internet access to people and homes have been explored and tested – and mostly proving too expensive and/or inferior to cable/telco solutions. Alternative focused on wired networks (such as using power lines) still haven’t reached the point where they are competitive with constantly upgrading cable/telco options.
Systems integrating wireless components have looked more promising, from wide-area WiFi and Wireless ISP systems (WISP), to the still-awaited promise of full 4G cellular. Wide-area WiFi looked promising, but when implemented it encountered the problem that access speeds slowed drastically with increases in users (being a shared bandwidth).  Standards for full 4G systems promised broadband speeds, competitive with wired broadband capacity at the time; however, by the time cell  providers implement those standards, growth in use of online video has increased demand for even higher bandwidth services, and cable/telco upgrades in the wired net has provided significant boosts in available bandwidth.
That leaves WISP. A piece on the Online Video Insider blog looks at the potential of WISPs to provide a competitive alternative to the cable/telco duopoly. WISP differs from Wifi and cellular (mobile) services in that the wireless component is a dedicated signal from a user’s fixed base to a wired network access point – users get a dedicated bandwidth (based on the signal used) that is not shared.  Historically, the major issue with WISP was the cost of the wired broadband Internet access point, which made WISP an expensive alternative and limited its use to areas without wired broadband service to the home.  But as cable starts offering services more and more like the telco, and the telco reciprocates, the cable/telco duopoly is actually getting more competitive, particularly in the market for high bandwidth dedicated services which become de facto Internet access points.  This is bringing the WISP cost point down to where it is becoming more competitive, even in the heavy telco/cable duopoly strongholds of urban markets.  Now, WISP can provide broadband for a cost 30-50% lower than wired broadband prices in some areas.  The piece suggests that for the moment, WISPs are likely to be most competitive for commercial accounts than residential services, as they often have high upload needs which often bump up against the cable/telco residential systems, which are designed to maximize download speeds at the expense of upload capacity.

Source: “Bypassing the CATV-Telco Internet Access Duopoly”, Online Video Insider

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Should Government Save Journalism?

It’s an interesting question, and one that led a few years ago to calls from several US newspaper publishers for subsidies, and then to the creation of a Federal Trade Commission panel that looked into the issue and came up with a report outlining several proposals for how government action might help save the big-city newspapers  that are failing.  By that time, the publishers started thinking that government subsidies maybe weren’t such a good idea after all.  A lot of media economists thought that many of the FTC proposals also weren’t likely to provide the kind of help big city dailies needed.  Still, discussions continue, including at a panel at the Association for Education in Journalism & Mass Communication (AEJMC), here in St. Louis.
After some introductory comments outlining some of the concerns, Robert Picard put the question in context by reminding us that the economic problems with newspapers and news organizations more generally really aren’t the result of some recent crisis, but are the result of a number of long-term trends, aided by some really bad business decisions along the way.  Further, the history of government interventions in media has been decidedly mixed – such efforts are typically misguided, come to late, and  have been, at best, ineffective.  Still, Picard felt that government support might be helpful, but only if focused and well thought out and grounded in market behaviors and economics.
Some of the early proposals to “fix”, or “save”, journalism mirrored the initial attempts for the music and movie industry to recover market losses through an emphasis on enforcing intellectual property rights.  A couple of speakers were associated with such efforts (although they didn’t talk much about them).  Several of the FTC proposals focused on the idea of trying to expand copyright and intellectual property rights for news content. 
One central problem with this approach is that copyright isn’t applicable to facts, which are the essence of news content.  Copyright does extend to the particular way those facts are described, but not the “breaking news facts” that form the core source of value to the story.  News content is also an area where the definition of what counts as “fair use” is well-established and fairly broad.  Unlike music or other commercialized entertainment content, there’s not much of a tradition of using IP-rights as a substantial revenue source.  Thus, to be an effective mechanism for “saving” journalism (or at least urban daily newspapers), an IP rights approaches needs to come up with new sets of rights to apply or new ways to limit non-licensed use.  One proposal was to create a new protected category of “hot news facts” that would grant intellectual property rights (IPR) similar to copyright to the facts of a  breaking news story – but for a much shorter period of time.  A second proposal is to enhance copyright enforcement of existing copyrights, possibly by creating a national licensing and enforcement organization (similar to what ASCAP does for songwriters and music publishers).

I think there are two big problems with this approach – first, in a context where the problem is increased competition, neither approach does anything to increase the value of news and is more likely to result in reduced demand for news products, just as IP enforcement efforts have negatively impacted the music industry.  The second problem is that when you really look at the product that is the newspaper or the output of other news organizations, it is not a single story, but a bundle of many stories – and a large share of those are not original to the news organizations or the kind of sole-source breaking news that would qualify for “hot news” rights.  For most, if not all, news organizations, implementing such ideas would cost news outlets more (payments to "owners" of the new rights) than it would likely earn from its own original content.  And it comes at a fairly high cost in terms of monitoring and enforcing the rights systems.  It seems doubtful that taking the IPR approach would generate the significant new revenue sources to “save journalism" - rather, it’s likely to further imperil it.
Well, as it turns out, they never got around to talking about IP-rights proposals, so I didn’t get a chance to make the above point at the panel session.  Good thing I can still make it here.

Source: Panel discussion at AEJMC conference, St. Louis

Building Value: Belo’s deal with Yahoo

TV station group owner Belo is one of the latest to explore new digital market opportunities.  Belo has broadcast television stations in 15 US TV markets, led by major network affiliates in Dallas and Charlotte.  Belo has websites associated with each station, and claims that it has seven of the top 50 station-linked websites.  It previously had an agreement with Yahoo to provide it with video content from its stations, and the new agreement gives Belo access to a wide range of Yahoo content that it can provide on its station websites, expanding accessibility and (hopefully) value and revenues.
The deal is not the first media group deal with Yahoo. Both Gannett and Media General have deals where their ad sales forces can also sell from the Yahoo inventory.  The Belo deal, though, seems to be the first that focuses on multilateral sharing of content and the potential to expand offerings and value for both media and Yahoo, with the potential to bring in new revenues, rather than just including Yahoo in the media ad sales portfolio.

Source:  Belo Partners With Yahoo To Bundle Inventory”, MediaDailyNews

Almost third of US homes can watch online videos through TV.

Research from Leichtman Research Group indicates that 30% of  TV homes in the U.S. have at least one “TV device” connected to the Net.  About 10% have TVs that are directly connected,  and 23% are connected through videogame platforms that are also connected to TVs.  Access through other devices remains in single digits.

Another study by Frank Magid Associates looked at what devices and brands provided net access.  Videogame platforms dominated, with the Sony Playstation 3 at 19% and Microsoft’s Xbox 360 at 13%.  Another 6% get Internet access through Tivo or other DVRs (mostly provided by cable or DBS systems).  Single purpose access links trailed – Apple TV and Google TV each with about 4%, Roku at 3%, and Slingbox and Boxee at 1% penetration each.  While brands/models were not broken down, 7% of US TVHH had a Net-connected Blu-ray player connected to their main TV entertainment centers.
Magid also provided some use metrics, finding that 10% of adults watch at least one video a week through Net-connected TV devices, compared to 15% using mobile phones, and 9% using tablets.  But for online video watching generally, most viewing was through a laptop or PC (89% 0f viewing time).

As penetration of alternative display devices and interconnection of devices continues to grow, new markets and potential uses emerge.  You can think of this negatively, as increased competition, or you can think of it as opportunities to enter new markets and new potential sources for revenues.  You can see some of this in how different groups to the notion of “TV Everywhere.”  Cable MSOs, DBS services, and emerging telecomm based services see that growth as a way of adding value to there services, and hopefully expanding use and viewing of TV signals beyond the TV set in the home (and helping to retain subscribers).  On the other hand, many of the networks and program producers are concerned that this may impact on their ability to market content to video-streaming services.  Both arguments look at short-term concerns.  In the long term, though, the potential to develop new markets and add value should trump concerns about shifts in the traditional markets.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Off to AEJMC

I'm off to AEJMC - new posts will depend on wireless access and schedule.

Traditional News Media Failing to Exploit Online Versions

Back in the early days of the Web, I worked with a team of our graduate students studying how radio and TV stations were making use of the Web. (And I mean early, for the first study we looked at all 61 TV station websites online in 1995). One of the main findings of that and the subsequent additional studies was that local broadcast media was, for the most part, not taking advantage of the potential that the Web offered.  According to a new study by brand research firm knowDigital, they still aren't. knowDigital President Sam Mildman concluded that "most online news sites have failed to take ownership of the images that are most important to online news consumers ... whether it's top headlines, traffic, weather, sports..."
To a large extent digital sites associated with traditional media simply reformats or repurposes content created for other media - assuming that consumers want the same content of traditional media, only in digital forms.  The report suggests that's a false assumption - the report argues that as familiarity with digital media develops, users discover the distinctive values and attributes that digital media offer.  Readers of online news sites of newspapers, for instance, are generally seen as little more than electronic versions of the paper, lacking the visual attractiveness, graphic appeal, and customizability of other online news sites.  knowDigital also found that many local TV station sites fail to generate much traffic because their audiences think of them solely as broadcast TV brands, and don't expect them to have online versions.

Sources: "Local TV Stations, Newspaper Sites Slammed by Users", Online Media Daily
Bates et al., Television on the Web, 1996 study.

Most Innovative Digital Magazines

Affinity's American Magazine Study, Spring 2011, tracked 172 digital magazine brands, their content and features on various digital platforms, and consumers perceptions about them. Digital platforms included magazine websites, social network use, mobile apps, and other digital delivery systems, as well as full digital versions.
The study came up with a number of "mosts" - "Most Trusted" (WebMD), "Most Entertaining" (Maxim), "Most Authoritative" (The Economist), "Most Enjoyable" (Playboy), and "Most Interesting" (Smithsonian), among others.
The folks at Affinity felt that the most critical criteria for online magazines was "Most Innovative", because

"magazines are now competing with all of the content and advertising available in digital form, not just their traditional set of print competitors. Only those brands that leverage the latest technologies in creative ways and offer consumers interactive and meaningful experiences will stand out among digital users."

The top 10 "most innovative" were 1. Dwell, 2. Popular Science, 3. Architectural Digest, 4. Wired, 5. Mother Earth News, 6. Fast Company, 7. Organic Gardening, 8. Elle Decor, 9. Martha Stewart Living, and 10. Popular Mechanics.

Source: "Dwell On This: Which Digital Magazine Do Readers Deem Most Innovative?" MediaDaily News

Monday, August 8, 2011

Some ISPs redirect search results

Just when I finish one post, something else comes along. A report published in New Scientist, based on research by UC-Berkeley's International Computer Science Institute, indicates that more than ten Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are redirecting search traffic headed for Yahoo and Bing.  The report says that when users search for brand names on those engines, the ISP is sending them directly to the brand's site rather than displaying the actual search results.  The report indicates that the ISPs had also been doing the same thing for searchers on Google, but recently stopped.
The report suggests that this behavior, sharing user info with outsider firms, raises privacy issues and may violate network neutrality principles. It also has potential financial impacts for the search engines, as referral fees paid by some companies would also be redirected.  Expect lawsuits.

Source: "ISPs Redirect Search Traffic On Yahoo, Bing, Raising Legal, Privacy Issues," Online Media Daily

Dark Clouds & Raging Streams

I've had a number of posts lately talking about major online players and their cloud offerings (Apple, Amazon, Google) and the growing success of media streams (both music and video - expanded content offerings, Pew Report, Magid report,, Yahoo report).  These and more show expanded use of the Internet for the delivery of media content of almost all forms. In addition, networks are improving their network infrastructure, extending the range of broadband access as well as their capacity to handle high-bandwidth applications like video streaming.

But the vision of the future of media clouds and streams is predicated on having not only a secure, high-speed broadband network, but also on pricing schemes that can accommodate normal usage within basic pricing structures.  If networks aren't secure, people may not want to place their faith in the clouds - and keep programs and content off-line.  And if spending a few hours or more a day listening to streamed music and/or watching streamed  video programming pushes people past their ISP's price-level download caps - to the point where they encounter high per Gb fees - well, that's when users will think twice about relying on streaming for their media use. Several stories from last week raise those spectres. In one, a former US counter-intelligence official told a conference of net security officials that cyber-warfare is an imminent threat. Already, a number of government agencies and large corporations have seen major attacks on their systems.  Another looks at another bottleneck in the network infrastructure - signalling.  Expanding the pipe - the total capacity of a channel is fairly cheap and easy, at least compared to the capacity to get those data packets to the right place in a timely manner.  Mobile networks are experiencing increased congestion as users increase their use of high-bandwidth and increasingly complex applications run on smartphones and tablets.  Some are concerned that the new high-capacity broadband mobile network being launched (LTE) may not be able to cope with smartphone and tablet uses, and the tendency for those users to have their devices remain connected to multiple platforms for long periods.
The darkness on the edge of town, though, is what's happening with mobile and ISP pricing plans.  Here in the U.S., one mobile provider after another are dropping "unlimited data" plans, and many cable operators are placing download caps, or implementing added delays on downloads past a certain limit.  Now most can offer higher caps, if you move to a more expensive service tiers, but the fundamental impact is the same - as the cost of using clouds and streams increases, the value they offer to consumers declines.  This could slow or even halt the development of these and other new ways of delivering media content to potential users.

Sources:  "Ex-CIA Official Warns Black Hat Attendees of Coming Cyber-War",
"Signaling: the other bottleneck?"
"Verizon Tiered Data Pricing is a Mistake: 10 Reasons Why,"

Friday, August 5, 2011

YouTube Stars cash in

A recent post on SearchBlog looked at how some top YouTube stars and producers are pulling in more than $100,000 a year supporting and facilitating interactions between brands and targeted audiences through their content and channels, and/or through merchandising.  And YouTube wants to help, offering a Playbook with new strategies, tips, and optimization techniques.

Another example of how people are learning how to monetize new media opportunities. 

Source: "How YouTube Stars Make More Than $100,000 Annually", SearchBlog

Debt Ceiling Efforts May Impact Media

One of the things that I fear politicians don't understand clearly (or just choose not to consider) is that actions have consequences.  The deal Wednesday to raise the debt ceiling and trim the budget certainly had clear consequences as the stock market dived, with the Dow Jones average falling more than 500 points in one day.  Caught in this were many media stocks - a range of cable and DBS related stocks lost 3-7% of their value.

During the fractious debate, one of the 'revenue enhancements' that some politicians pushed was to fast-track plans to auction off a large portion of the broadcast spectrum to mobile operators, generating revenues that could be claimed as budget cuts (see earlier post).  The idea of an auction is not new - there have been discussions for years concerned with how much spectrum will be converted, and at what cost in terms of current and potential uses by broadcasters. The concern is not so much about an auction per se, but that Congress would look at this solely in terms of maximizing potential revenues, without considering consequences or competing uses for the spectrum.  The idea of using spectrum auction revenues was dropped in the final debt limit bill after an extensive PR and lobbying effort by the NAB, but other bills to push the auction have been proposed.
Identifying some of the potential consequences, the NAB suggested that more than 200 full-power local television stations would be forced off the air.  Another concerned group is a coalition of low-power TV (LPTV) stations.  LPTV exists by exploiting gaps in spectrum coverage, often providing minority-interest programming.  The NAB indicated that as many as 3000 LPTV signals could be lost with the proposed spectrum grab, many of which target ethnic communities with foreign language programming.

These and other potential consequences should be considered and weighed in any decision on how much spectrum is to be reclaimed from TV broadcasters, and what alternative uses are considered.

Source: "Wall Street pounds cable stocks" Fierce Cable
"In spectrum battles, Mom & Pop TV loses", Gigacom