Sunday, January 29, 2012

Latest YouTube Stats

The average number of videos watched on YouTube each day continues to grow, now passing 4 billion.  That's twice the number watched in May 2010, and four times the volume reported in October 29.  It's not just the viewing that's exploding - currently, an average of 60 hours of video are uploaded to the site every minute, up from 10 hours-per-minute four years ago, 20 hours-per-minute in May 2009, and 35 hours=per-minute in November 2010.
  Despite these numbers, it's still not clear whether Google is turning a profit on YouTube yet.  Only 1 in 10 of the videos watched in any week are "monetized." Analysts suggest that YouTube's revenues are on the fast track, rising from $825 billion in 2010, to $1.3 billion last year, and is predicted to surpass $1.7 billion this year.  While that sounds like a lot, the storage and server costs to host, handle, and distribute all that content to the world can't be cheap.

Source - YouTubers Watch 4 Billion Videos per DayThe Social Graf

Coming Next Big Thing? Better Compression

Researchers at MIT have developed a way to speed up digital data compression.  The MIT group has developed a new algorithm that relies on two ideas - first, dividing the bandwidth into narrower pieces, which can then take advantage of a more efficient signal-processing strategy.
  This can provide a better, more efficient compression system for large digital files (such as digital video).  When adopted, this can enhance the delivery of digital video through various media, expanding the available market and encouraging demand.

Source - The faster-than-fast Fourier transformMIT News

ABC News' Social Media Success

Mallary Jean Tenore has a post on the Poynter blog that looks at what ABC News is doing with social media that is making it more successful than the other major networks.  Part of it is a concerted push to make use of social media to inform its reporting, and not just as a marketing device to build audience.  Another is that ABC is willing to experiment - Joe Rubbolo, the senior VP of ABC News Digital said that in today's rapidly evolving media landscape, "that's the only way we can learn."
“The market is continuing to grow and shift — there are new entrants, new user expectations, new technologies — and we have to continue to try new things just to stay current, but also to learn how to optimize ABC News experiences going forward,” Ruffolo said. “We’ve tried a lot of things, from increased involvement from on-air correspondents, to sweepstakes, to breaking news information, to polls, and feedback.”
Another lesson is that to be successful on social media, you can't just broadcast - it's not enough to post content, you need to engage with the social media audience.  For John Shehata, ABC News' director of search and social media, the key is not to push content, but to give users a reason to care about it.
“When it comes to content, be selective and interesting. Don’t just promote your work, show your personal side as well. Let users be involved in your work, ask them questions, collect questions for guest interviews, etc.,” Shehata said. “Always try what’s new on social platforms. Get involved in up-and-coming social networks if your brand feels like it could work well there, even if the audience does not exist yet. If the new initiative does not take off, you tried. If it does, you were a groundbreaker.”
  The post's worth a read.

Source - How ABC News built a top social media presence with a small dedicated team,  Poynter

Good Web presence can help Local TV

Nielsen research is suggesting that stations can use their websites to expand the reach of their news content.  A close look at late-news performance at a couple of network-affiliated broadcasters suggest that traffic to their websites could add 10-20% to their late-news reach.  In the key 25-54 demographic, web traffic on one station added an additional 3% to the broadcast reach of 22.9%, while for the other, web traffic expanded the late-news broadcast reach of 27.6% by another 4.6%.  It also found that web traffic skewed male - for one station, the late news broadcast audience was 29% male, while website audience was 51%.
  Now you have to be careful with this result - it's based on a close look at two stations, and it doesn't examine what drives website traffic.  You really can't generalize from it.  Still, it's an indication that websites can be useful in expanding audience reach, and supports the value that websites can bring in, both in terms of general reach, and in the increasing online advertising market.

Source -  Nielsen: Web Sites Can Increase Local TV ReachMediaDailyNews

TV Audience Behaviors and Live vs. VOD

A post from Tim Carmody at reinforces my argument that technology has enabled audiences to become more than passive consumers.  More specifically, that for a growing portion of the potential audience, behaviors are driven by content rather than channel.
  Carmody's approach is a bit different, and contrasts how audiences view Video on Demand (VOD) and live broadcasts.
With live television, we flip; with video on demand, we binge. This means that shows have to catch and hold our attention in very different ways — not just over the commercial, but from episode to episode, season to season, and from television to videogames
 He bases this on a look at how the most popular live scripted shows seem to be doing poorly on VOD streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, and iTunes. He points to a chart by another blogger (Tristan Lewis), which finds that neither Netflix nor Hulu subscription services carry a full range of the most recent episodes.  Amazon and iTunes have many more available on a pay-per-view basis (each has 43 of the top 50 available).  Carmody first seems to suggest that lack of availability on streaming services is a reflection of a lack of audience interest in watching those shows through a streaming service.  He does later mention what's the real reason (as streaming services will gladly host any content they can get) - that the program producers trying to maximize revenues want to preserve broadcast rights fees and PPV revenues by limiting their availability on subscription streaming services.  (This also explains why some shows that aren't doing all that well on broadcast are eager to get their content on streams, in the hope of building an audience base that will extend to live broadcasts).
  Carmody then offers an alternative explanation, drawn from looking at the nature of programs that are successful both on live broadcasts and VOD.  He finds that those programs tend to be constructed with long story arcs that build over a season, their audiences are younger, and they have a strong and devoted fan base.  In other words, programming that builds a connection with its audience, and a demand that remains regardless of channel. In the words of Hulu Senior VP of content Andy Forssell,
We’ll look for content that’s beloved not beliked. The content that really pays off and punches above its weight in our ecosystem is a show that somebody’s going to see and then they want to go e-mail five of their friends or get on Facebook and post about it…
Carmody then points out that a devoted, net-savvy fan base is one that is much more likely to be willing to subscribe to VOD streaming services, as well as promote the show (and those services) to others.  Furthermore, such a dedicated fan base makes it much easier to target for the delivery of personalized ads.  Success for streaming services may well be related to the ability to identify and acquire niche, must-have, content that will keep a dedicated fan base subscribing month after month.  (I feel the need to also acknowledge the value of a long-tail strategy - of providing content that may be of more limited demand, but which is not available elsewhere.)  Carmody finishes with this thought -
In digital video, the only thing that might be better than a big, amorphous crowd tuning in is a highly engaged community that wouldn’t think about changing the channel.
Or, is willing to use whatever channel has the content they seek.

Sources - "Beloved, not Beliked": Why TV's Live and Streaming Audiences Are
Legal streams for 2011 TV

edit track - added missing title;

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Getting People Jobs

Susannah Breslin  is a young journalist who writes for the Forbes Blog, mostly on job-hunting for journalists.  I highly recommend her "Pink Slipped" blog - not just for the tips and advice, but for the quality of her writing.
  Yesterday, she resummarized what she learned from being downsized a year ago; the day before she wrote about what she's learned in that year, and in doing her column, about helping others find jobs.  And since she's a  better writer than I am for that kind of stuff, I'll encourage you to follow the links and read her, rather than me trying to summarize.

Source -  Susannah Breslin's Pink Slipped column on

Analog to Digital to IP - News about the Future of TV

The last few days have seen the release of a number of stories and studies that all point to one simple conclusion - IPTV is, or will soon become, the dominant transmission mechanism for TV programming.

  A report from  Needham & Co. suggests that in 2012, the U.S. TV ecosystem will generate more revenue from licensing and subscriptions ($85 billion) than from advertising ($80 billion).  Further, the continued rollout of "TV Everywhere" technology (using IPTV to deliver content to mobile and other devices) is likely to add $10-12 billion a year to the US TV market.  They note that these numbers currently don't include what's being earned on online video sites like YouTube.
Interest in video content will continue to grow. We'll see it in display ads and search engine queries. Brands not only want to monetize pre-recorded content for channels on YouTube and other video sites, but to stream live programming effortlessly from their YouTube Channels to mobile devices. It appears this will become Google's unofficial long-term strategy.
Most of the new IPTV revenue, the report suggests, will come from advertising - as research is beginning to suggest that that Video-on-Demand viewers are less likely to skip standard spot ads than viewers who access programs through DVRs. As the IPTV experience is much closer to VOD than DVR, this suggests that TV Everywhere content can be monetized with standard TV ad loads, pricing, and monitoring.  The report concludes by saying "We believe that TV Everywhere will be one of the primary drivers of valuation growth for today's TV ecosystem over the next five years."

  While global demand is likely to remain high, the recent news for leading U.S. telco IPTV providers is mixed.  Verizon recently announced a halt to major expansion of its IPTV service (FiOS) as well as most system upgrades for existing customers, and seems to be shifting its focus to more the profitable wireless sector.  AT&T's U-verse, on the other hand, is seeing greater-than-expected demand as it continues to build out its network - experiencing delays as it runs out of critical equipment and having to hire more installers.

  Research firm Ovum released a report suggesting that most of the early roadblocks to IPTV are disappearing as newer broadband and IPTV systems continue to diffuse and achieve scale economies.  They suggest that as these improved telco nets expand, IPTV use will shift to those platforms, as well as bringing new audiences and demand for IP-delivered digital video.  Ovum notes that for the 114 million subscribers around the globe who get TV through telcos, less than half get the TV through a telco IPTV feed.  However, demand is high, and with the next-gen systems enabling expanded (and lower-cost) delivery, Ovum predicts that by 2016, IPTV revenues will account for 60% of global telco TV revenue, and 71% of their pay-TV subscribers.

  Mobile devices lies at the heart of the TV Everywhere experience, and there's good news on that front as well.  New research from the Pew Research Center showed that ownership of two main mobile devices doubled over the holidays.  In the one month between mid-December 2011 and early January 2012, both tablet and E-book ownership nearly doubled, rising from 10% to 19% in each case.  Nearly one-third of adults in the U.S. (29%, up from 18%) own at least one of the devices.
  For TV Everywhere, Ultrabooks (fast, slim, light laptops with wireless connectivity and long battery life - like the MacBook Air) may prove to be even a better platform for mobile video viewing.  Juniper Research suggests that with the introduction of a wide range of new models at CES, Ultrabooks will become strong competition for tablets, and predicts a faster rate of adoption than experienced by tablets.  Specifically, they see ultrabook sales growing at three times the rate of tablet sales over the next five years.  Ultrabook sales, regardless of its growth rate, adds to the growing potential audience for mobile video, and is likely to contribute to its growth and diffusion.

  Meanwhile, a NATPE panel addressed the future of mobile video, and most of the panelists were strongly positive:
“The opportunity appears to be enormous by any stretch of the imagination,” said Nielsen Senior Vice President Scott L. Brown, noting the boom in smartphone penetration.
Mike Bloxham, the executive director of the Media Behavior Institute, said: “There’s a huge amount of growth yet to come in mobile-related revenues … we’re almost at a Jurassic stage of development.”
Brown added later that advertising might not even be the dominant revenue source for mobile video, reminding the audience that pay vs. ad-supported business models are still being developed.  Other panelists reported on studies that suggested that there's likely to be increasing demand for live events streamed onto mobile devices.

All said, the future of IPTV, TV Everywhere, and mobile video seems bright, as long as the industry can resolve licensing and rights issues.

Sources - YouTube: Influence TV Everywhere Will Have on SearchSearchBlog (MediaPost)
TV Everywhere Will Overshadow Hulu and YouTube,  MoBlog (MediaPost) 
Does Verizon Cable Deal Spell Death of FiOS Expansion?
Modem shortages lead to delays in Milwaukee U-verse installs,  FierceIPTV
Telco TV delivery to grow to 71% IPTV by 2016 as hurdles fallFierceIPTV
Tablet and E-book reader Ownership Nearly Double Over the Holiday Gift-Giving Period, Pew Research Center report.
Ultrabooks Growth To Outpace Tablets,  OnlineMediaDaily (MediaPost)
Mobile Video Primed, Ad Model in Early StagesOnlineMediaDaily (MediaPost)

edit track - fixed spacing issues

Monday, January 23, 2012

PolicyFail - SOPA/PIPA protest update

I've commented before on the bad policy at the heart of the SOPA/PIPA legislative proposals.  Last week, thousands of websites "went dark" for a day in protest.  Some gave an indication of what a DNS seizure (perhaps the most egregious part of the proposed anti-piracy legislation) would look like, by blocking access to their main sites.  Many others, including a number of the largest Internet sites, placed protest notices and directions for contacting Congresscritters to register their objections.
  The efforts did not go unheeded.  “The voice of the Internet community has been heard,” said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), indicating that House leaders would not vote on a bill that included the most problematic sections.  The White House also issued a strongly worded statement, saying the President would veto any bill that did the things critics alleged that SOPA/PIPA would do, after months of "strong support" for the bills.
  After the protests, though, came news that U.S. officials had arranged for the arrest of the chief executives of Megaupload in New Zealand, and seized their DNS address.  This action, however, raised questions about the "urgent need" for the SOPA/PIPA legislation, and the negative side-effects of DNS seizures.  Megaupload offers what's called cyberlocker facilities - a place where users can store files online, and allow others to access them.  There are plenty of legitimate uses for such a service, and, of course, it could also facilitate online content piracy.  The U.S. argued that Megaupload facilitated piracy, by not verifying that every uploaded file was legally licensed (and in the way it promoted and rewarded high-volume file-sharing that was likely to be trafficking in pirated content).
  While proclaiming a victory against piracy, the action showed that they didn't need the SOPA/PIPA legislation, flatly contradicting their earlier positions, and the content industry's vehement claims, that the proposed bills were essential to combat global piracy.  It also amply illustrated the major problems with the approach.  The piracy continues - the larger content pirates quickly moved to other sites, as has happened with previous DNS seizures.  In fact, a DNS seizure does nothing about the alleged pirated content - it only disconnects the site's text name (domain name) from its numeric web address. A simple registration and the site can re-open under a new domain name (or savvy Web users can use the numerical web address for direct access to the content).  Yahoo! News is already reporting a numerical address for the Megaupload cyberfiles.
  In the meantime, until the numeric address or a new domain name is publicized, the seizure prevents legal users from accessing their files; one of the biggest problems with such an approach is that it does not discriminate between legal and illegal uses, another is that the action is based on an allegation of criminal activity rather than actual evidence of it - it's akin to seizing and closing a drug store because someone complains that they saw a counterfeit aspirin.
  And rather than fighting cyberterrorism, such actions encourage it.  In response, the hactivist collective ANONYMOUS countered the seizure with cyberattacks shutting down more than 10 websites at the DOJ, RIAA, MPAA, and large content providers backing the bills, all within a 20 minute period.  A posted statement allegedly from the group promised "more is coming"
  So, while a few people were arrested, thousands of innocents are harmed, and the piracy continues unabated.  It's a preview of what passage of the SOPA/PIPA could mean.
  I've been arguing for more than a decade that the only thing that could kill the Internet would be strict application of a copyright system designed for physical media to a digital world, combined with over-reaching enforcement policies and actions.  We've seen a demonstration.  Can we allow it to continue?

Sources - SOPA protests shut down Web sites, Washington Post, Post Politics blog.
Why Did the Feds Target Megaupload? And Why Now?Gizmodo
Megaupload is Back with New Domain NameYahoo! News
Web War!  Anonymous Downs, RIAA, UMG, MPAA, Justice Dept. Websites, 

edit track: a draft was published due to a bad mouse click.  This first edit was to complete the post.

Online to pass Print Ad Spending

eMarketer's updated ad forecast is predicting that online advertising will continue to grow rapidly next year (23% in 2011, 23.3% projected growth in 2012) to reach a total of almost $40 billion this year.  As for print (newspaper and magazine combined), the forecast is for a further decline of 6%, falling to around $34 billion in 2012.  TV ad revenues are expected to grow moderately (6.8%), and remain the largest sector, bringing in almost $65 billion in 2012. Total U.S. media ad spending is projected to rise 6.7%, supported by expected election-related ad spendings and the London Summer Olympics.
  eMarketer suggests that "digital remains the sole bright spot" for print-based publishers.  Digital  newspaper ad revenues grew 8.3% in 2011, while print newspaper ad sales drops 9.4%.  Print magazine ad sales were stable, while digital ad sales for magazines grew 18.8% in 2011.

Sources -  Stop the Presses (Again): Online to Surpass Print Ad Spending This Year, MediaDailyNews

Apple's Push for iTextbooks

Apple made several big announcements in connection with the recent CES, aimed at developing a low-cost digital textbook market in support of its iBooks marketplace and its iPad and laptop hardware.
  • the free iBooks 2 application is updated to integrate interactive textbooks, which can include video, audio, pictures, and motion graphics designed to take advantage of the iPad's touch interface.  There is also the potential to highlight or take notes on the interactive text (which automatically convert to study cards), and to work through included problems and examples.
  • Apple's working with large textbook publishers to offer titles through the iBooks store, with most priced under $15.  This could make them more affordable, and more portable, alternative to traditional printed textbooks.  So far, the available texts suggest a focus on K-12 texts for now.
  • Apple introduced iBooks Author, a self-publishing tool for Mac users, aimed at non-commercial and educational uses (the license agreement makes commercial applications more complex and messy).  iBooks Author uses a "drag and drop" (or cut-and-paste for us older folks) approach, offering several templates and widgets to help develop more of a interactive feel.
During the announcement, Apple also mentioned it's current iTunes U app, with its substantial library of educational materials and apps.
  The mix of materials and applications may provide Apple with a bit of a competitive advantage over Amazon's Kindle and its offerings.  Amazon, though, handles both physical and eBook textbooks, and offers both new and used versions, as well as rentals.  Until the Kindle Fire, though, interactivity was limited.  Amazon also offers authoring software, although theirs is not optimized for educational and noncommercial uses.  Also, the Kindle textbook offerings seem targeted towards college and graduate school offerings, where even at a 30-60% discount, textbooks remain pricey.
  What will be interesting is to see to what extent the potential of eBooks can enter the academic mindset, allowing scholars to make their work (in terms of both texts and research results) more widely available to the global market.

Source - Apple tackles textbooks with iBooks 2 for iPad,  FierceMobileContent

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Parks Associates: 2011 Trends and 2012 Storylines

Media research and consulting firm Parks Associates, collected its thoughts on last year and the one coming up for its recent newsletter.  Here's some of their conclusions -
  • Consumer viewing of online video dramatically increased in 2011, and will continue to grow in 2012.  The growth in 2012 will be driven by diffusion and use of mobile devices for watching digital video.
  • In 2011, 12.7% of U.S. pay-TV subscribers dropped or downgraded their service.  This trend will continue in 2012, impacting revenues throughout the video content ecosystem, and forcing firms to explore new and creative ways to monetize content through VOD and multiscreen delivery.  By mid-2011, 80% of U.S. pay-TV subscribers could receive VOD on a non-TV screen at home.  Multiscreen options will continue to expand in 2012, and the impact on subscriber churn and business models will be clearer.
  • Video, mobile, and broadband services will continue to grow, globally.  Hotbeds for growth in 2012 will be Latin America, Eastern Europe, and Asia, as services expand and competition helps to bring prices down.
  • TVs and other connected devices will get smarter and more connected, driving sales. Broadband households in North America and Europe will average more than five "connectable" devices, and is likely to double by 2016, fueling digital media distribution.
  • Smartphones and tablets will drive mobile data adoption, testing the network capacity and pricing power of network operators.  Consumer dissatisfaction with the caps and prices of monthly data plans will force operators to develop new approaches.  Tablets are expected to surpass PC's as the top driver of Internet traffic in the next few years.
  • Second screen content and ad integration will take off in 2012, as consumers become more comfortable with personalized TV and online advertising (including targeted ads).
  • 2011 saw more than 135 million people in the U.S. play at least one hour of games a month.  2012 will be a formidable year for mobile games, with the increased penetration of lower-priced tablets like the Kindle Fire.
  • There is a huge opportunity for consumer and small-business oriented technical support services, with 2011 revenues of $16 billion expected to double by 2015.
Source -  Trends of 2011 and the Storylines for 2012Parks Points online newsletter

Media with Digital-only Sales Staff Do Better

Recently, a number of traditional media companies have consolidated offline and online ad sales forces.  A new report from Borrell Associates suggests that might be another poor decision on their part.  Their survey of local sales managers suggests that media companies with dedicated digital ad sales staffs outperform those with a combined staff by a factor of 2.5 to 1 in terms of gross revenues per rep ($185,000 vs. $73,300).  For TV stations, the difference was even greater, almost a three to one difference ($208,200 vs. $70,300).
“It’s clear that having a staff dedicated to selling online advertising -- and combining it with the efforts of the legacy media sales force -- drives more digital revenues. But what’s not clear is how many online-only AEs might be needed,” states the “Assessing Local Digital Sales Forces” report. Some legacy media companies with five digital-only reps generated the same amount of online revenue as those with 20.
 The survey found that newspapers were the only media segment where more than half of outlets reported having sales staff dedicated to digital sales (40% of TV stations did, but only 11% of radio stations).
  The report found that digital reps were paid better (averaging $44K vs $35.5 for converged reps), and were more likely to be characterized as having "Excellent' or "Outstanding" motivation (72% of digital reps vs. 18% of regular sales staff), and of having a better understanding of customer needs (81% good or better for digital reps, vs. 49% for other sales reps).  This may be related, in part, to the report's finding that many media companies are paying higher commissions to digital than traditional reps as a result of their push to increase digital advertising revenues.
  The Borrell study also noted that having completely separate sales divisions was not as helpful as having reps who specialized in digital sales within a combined sales force.
“It’s clear that those with completely separate divisions have fumbled badly, leaving large amounts of money on the table by failing to leverage their existing sales forces.” At the same time, those with fully converged operations with no digital-only sellers mixed in “have shown pallid revenue growth.”
 Sources -  Media Companies with Digital-Only Sales Staff Perform Better,  OnlineMediaDaily

Where TV and Mobile Intersects

One of the ways the current generation differs from their parents and grandparents is in the degree to which they multitask - and the fact that one of those "tasks" is often media use.  From talking on the cell phone while walking to listening to music or talk shows while working, we often have one ear cocked towards media while engaging in other activities.  However, in the last year or so, we've also experienced an increase in multitasking media.  A Harvard Business Review article indicates that people multitask media use to the extent of consuming 12 hours of media within a 9 hour timespan.
  A Razorfish/Yahoo study sought to better understand this rising phenomenon of media multitasking, at least among those who have Web-enabled phone owners.  One of the findings is the widespread mobile/TV multitasking is among this sample.  80% reported mobile multitasking while watching TV, and 70% of those (56% of the whole sample) do so at least once a week, and almost half indicated using their mobile while watching TV on a daily basis.  And when they've got both on, more than 60% indicate checking the mobile at least a couple of times while they're watching a particular program, and 15% report being on the mobile Web for the full duration of the TV show they're watching.
  Interestingly, perceptions of whether this form of multi-tasking is considered an enhancement or distraction is equally split - 38% consider using the Internet on a mobile device while watching TV a way to enhance their viewing experience, and 38% feel that using mobile devices while watching TV is distracting.  That opinion might be related to the type of, and reason for, mobile use while engaging in the dominant activity of TV viewing.  94% of mobile multitaskers engage in communication activities - text, talking, email, social networking, and IM in order of prevalence.  Some 60% use their mobile devices to access additional content of some type - 44% is unrelated to what's on TV at the time, while 38% is program-relevant.  In some good news for advertisers, 36% of mobile multitaskers reported using connected devices to look up information about a commercial they just saw (26% looking up a website, 24% using a search engine to find more information).
  Whether or not to multitask also seems related to the type of programming being watched.  The inclusion of entertainment programs over some informational program types (talk shows, how-to, etc.), and the high use of multitasking for communication would see to suggest at least a degree of mobile use for socializing and connecting with programs.  This would support the notion of the rise of a "social TV" enhanced viewing experience.  This idea of a more connected and involved audience is also supported by some results on the almost half of respondents who reported mobile multitasking during sporting events (a third also reported mobile multitasking while attending live events).  Even the result that TV ad breaks seem to trigger mobile use (and primarily for communication uses) suggest an audience more involved with the program, and interested in sharing with a connected community, than an uninvolved TV audience seeking distraction.
  Some anecdotal research of Yahoo! homepage usage from mobile devices suggest clear spikes in traffic during the TV ad breaks of top programs and events.
TV ad breaks are triggers for multitasking because phones and tablets are, not surprisingly, more likely to get fired up and accessed during regular commercial pods. And, our survey respondents were more likely to state that they frequently engaged in multitasking during ad breaks. What people do during this time doesn’t change all that much. It’s still communication first and content second.
  The Razorfish Outlook report findings are consistent with other recent reports on TV/Mobile multitasking (On social TV here, on mobile/TV multitasking here, and here).  It's diffuse and growing.  In many ways, it's also helping to build a more active, connected audience for some TV programs, if not for TV more generally. 

Sources - Where TV and Mobile Intersects: The Media Multi-tasker Lives,  Marketing: Health blog
Forget Mobile - Think Multiscreen, Razorfish
Full Razorfish Outlook Report, Vol. 10  (pdf)

Friday, January 20, 2012

US HDTV Diffusion

A new research report from Leichtman Research Group suggests that more than two-thirds of US households have at least one high definition TV set, up from 17% in 2006.  For those households getting cable, satellite, or Telco TV programming, the average number of HD channels received was 75, up from 26 five years ago.
  On the other hand,, older standard definition sets still abound, accounting for 60% of all TV sets in the U.S.  For many buyers, the purchase of HD TV sets are seen as an upgrade or a supplement to existing TVs in the home - and people hang onto their older sets.
  The research also reported that 3-D TV set sales are still in the early adopter stage.  While 80% had heard of 3-D TV, only 5% indicated a strong interest in getting a 3-D capable set, and less than 3% already have a 3-D capable set (and almost half of those reported they don't watch any content in 3-D).
  HD sets have replaced standard definition in the consumer marketplace for all but the smallest screen sizes, and so should continue to be the dominant new TV purchase going forward.  On the other hand, the reliability of TV sets suggests that the numbers of existing standard definition sets in homes will decline much more slowly.

Source -  2/3 of U.S. Households Have Hi-Def TV... With Room For MoreResearch Brief from the Center for Media Research

Thursday, January 19, 2012

"Online Video's Manifest Destiny"

  In a post to the Online Video Insider blog, Rob Manoff uses the phrase "manifest destiny" to talk about some recent projections about the size and growth of the online video market.  It's no secret that online video, as a market, is booming.
  Part of that is the continued diffusion of the Internet. Analysts from the Royal Pingdom firm in the UK found that there are around 2.1 billion Internet users globally (roughly one-third of all the people in the world), browsing some 555 million websites.  They also indicated that there were more than 1 trillion YouTube video plays in 2011, an average of 140 for every person on the planet (and more than 400 for every Internet user).  And YouTube accounts for about 45% of the online video viewing, so double that figure again for total plays of online video.
  In the U.S., numbers suggest more than 158 million Internet users watch at least one online video a month.  But the average is much greater - numbers from last October suggested U.S. online video users watched an average of almost 290 videos that month. Predictions are that the number of regular online video users will swell to around 200 million by 2015.  And the advertising industry's taking note - spending on online video advertising reached $2.16 billion in 2011, and is expected to more than triple by 2015, reaching $7.11 billion.
  Manoff suggests that the driving force behind this growth is the wider use and adoption of online video by websites.  He suggests that online video will soon become an integral part of every website, large, small, commercial, noncommercial, and that online publishers need to develop a strategy for handling online video.  He provides a short checklist of questions for publishers and site owners to consider in developing their individual strategy for online video:
Q. How can I optimize the use of video on my site?
Q. Do I build or license my own video player?
Q. How can I ensure my video will also work on the mobile Web?
Q. Should I sell my own advertising or utilize advertising networks?
Q. If I do utilize third parties, do I work with just one, or all of them?
Q. Do I create my own content or license content from others?
  Whatever strategy emerges, it suggests a growing market for providers of online video content, or for video content owners to consider putting their content online.  For a lot of sites, the strategy will be licensing videos, or contracting for video creation and video distribution services, expanding those markets and opportunities.

Sources:  Online Video's Manifest DestinyOnline Video Insider
What Happened on the Internet in 2011?PC Magazine

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ideological Segregation in News Consumption

In the good old days, those seeking news had limited choices, and those outlets tended to want to maximize circulation and thus limited their ideological slant.  Technological and economic forces over the last few decades have opened up news markets and greatly expanded the number of news outlets available.  That's had two major consequences - news consumers have greater choice, and the multiplicity of outlets has encouraged greater ideological diversification.  Critics have alleged that this "cyber-balkanization" is socially harmful - that rather than delivering a common message, competing outlets and ideologies encourage polarization of news use and, as a result, political perspectives.

Researchers at the University of Chicago have tried to measure that first presumption - that given a choice, people prefer to use news sites that more closely reflect their own ideology.  They use an interesting multistage approach - they identify a number of news outlets (119 online sites, 5 cable news networks, major broadcast networks with evening newscasts, 3 "national" newspapers (NYTimes, USA Today, Wall Street Journal), 10 news and opinion magazines, and include a generic "local newspaper" measure).  They use individual survey results self-identifying political perspective and self-reported media use to construct the "share conservative" for each outlet - the percentage of people who identify as conservative among those who use that outlet.  They then construct a measure of "conservative exposure" for each individual - defined as the average of the "share conservative" measures for the media outlets they report using.  They then measure segregation by an "isolation index", defined as the difference in the average "conservative exposure" scores for self-identified conservatives from the average "conservative exposure" for self-identified liberals.

The journalist perspective, or at least the report on the study on the Journalist's Resource website, makes a big deal out of the reported result that the "isolation index" is higher for readers of online news than it is for broadcast network news, cable news, national magazines, and local newspapers, while acknowledging that the difference is greater for those reading national newspapers.  Further, the online news isolation index is much smaller than the differences within the communities those individuals interact with.  They also try to make a claim that top news websites are relatively centrist, and report a finding that the average "share conservative" of sites are more extreme than the average "conservative exposure" of individuals, but quote a misinterpretation by the researchers to suggest that users of more extreme sites get most of their news from other, more centrist, sites.  (Since the study only measures "use of" sites, and not amounts of news consumption, there's no basis for the conclusion - what that result means is that while some sources may have more homogeneous users, that individuals tend to be more heterogeneous in their use of news outlets).  And there's the underlying "conservatives are dumb because they rely on the internet" tone to the interpretation and presentation of results which is not supported by the study data.

But if you look at the actual reported results, you can get a different picture.  Conservatives are actually heavier users (percentage using daily is higher than population percentage) of cable news and local newspapers, while liberals are heavier users of the Internet, magazines, and national newspapers.  The study also reports that segregation, as measured by the isolation index, has been declining over time.  The researchers conclude that their results support two key features of online news - that there are a large number of highly differentiated sites, and that online news users visit a range of sites reflecting a range of ideological perspectives.  This, they conclude, would tend to mitigate concerns that proliferation of nontraditional news sources will increase ideological polarization.

There's three additional limits of the study that I'll stress.  First, the researchers did not look at the actual content of the sites - the results aren't indicators of how conservative, liberal, or even ideologically consistent a news source is, only of the proportion of users self-identifying as conservative. To be clear - the study shows nothing directly about the actual ideological slant of a site, or whether a site is ideologically consistent or diverse, and its findings should not be used to label news outlets as extreme or centrist. Second, the online news source usage is from a different study and sample than was used for other media use measures, and is therefore not necessarily directly comparable.  Further, there's a lot of missing data that dropped the originally identified 1379 online sites identified as news and opinion sites to a final sample of 119 of the larger sites (and included news aggregators as well as those with original content).  While this doesn't necessarily invalidate the online results, interpretations, particularly in comparisons to other media, should be made cautiously.  Finally, while it's a 2011 published study, the data were collected in 2008 (or earlier in some cases) - thus the results should not be interpreted as reflecting current attitudes, preferences, or uses.

For all the limits, it's still an interesting approach and result.

Sources: Ideological Segregation Online and OfflineJournalist's Resource
Ideological Segregation Online and Offline,  Quarterly Journal of Economics

edit track - (fixed some typos, added one sentence to clarify first limitation (1/18)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

CES: A Peek at the Future of TV

Art Wittman gives his view of what the CES show indicates about the future of TV in a post on Information Week blog, accompanied by a number of pretty pictures.  In a nutshell, here's what he sees:
  • Size matters - from ultradef displays (4K, or 3840x2160 pixels) to 85" displays, CES abounds with big and bigger screens
  • Thin is in - a new glasses-free 3D 55" OLED screen from LG is 4 mm thick
  • Stay connected - Panasonic promises a full Web browser in connected TVs
  • Improved contrast - getting LCDs closer to giving real blacks
  • Wider widescreens - demos of 21-9 widescreens (HDTV is 16-9)
  • Game thrones - all in one sound, video, gaming, and motion chair

Anti-Piracy Bill Stalls in House

Every other year or so, the content industry (led by recording industry group RIAA and movie studio group MPAA) tries to sneak an "anti-piracy" bill through Congress.  While content piracy is a problem (although not as big a problem as the industry groups claim), the policy proposals tend to be ill-considered, likely to be largely ineffective, and potentially seriously harmful.  Most have been so badly conceived that any serious reflection tends to stop it in committee.  Thus, it seems the new lobbying approach is to try to fast-track legislation before anyone notices.
In the case of the current proposal (called the Stop Online Piracy Act in the House version, and the Protect-IP Act in the Senate version), initial efforts seemed successful, the bills garnering lots of co-sponsors and being fast-tracked through the relevant committees without testimony from anyone other than content producers.  Lots of lobbying and campaign contributions seemed to help things.  However, Congress eventually has to post the bill's language, and when it did, and people looked at what was actually being proposed, strong and active opposition began.  As before, portions of the Act seriously overstep civil rights; perhaps more critically for the major online companies opposing it, the Act has provisions that could seriously undermine the technological foundation of the Internet: the Domain Name System.

Today's news is that the concern, and furor, is enough that in the House, at least, one main sponsor has promised to drop the DNS-related provisions, and a leading opponent said that he had assurances that the bill in its current form is dead, and won't be reintroduced until a consensus is reached on a revised bill.  It's also led the White House, which had strongly supported both bills until this week, to change it's mind, issuing a statement disavowing all its previously strong support for any bill “that reduces freedom of expression, increases cybersecurity risk, or undermines the dynamic, innovative global Internet.”  (One has to wonder whether they bothered to read the bill, or consider its consequences, when it was giving its full support - or was the support the result of the $1 million-plus in Obama campaign contributions from the entertainment industry?).
 The Senate still plans a vote later this month, despite six Senators on the Judiciary committee saying that more time is needed to study the bill and its impacts.
  So continue to raise the pressure on these folks, please.  Also, a number of websites are going black on January 18th as a protest and a way of promoting opposition.

Sources - Anti-piracy Bill Stalls in HouseOnlineMediaDaily

Some Anti-SOPA/PIPA sites:

YouTube expands support for Professional Content

YouTube recently indicated that it will expand its relationship with professional production companies, investing another $100 million to create programming exclusively for YouTube, and designed for viewing on mobile devices, computers, and connected-TVs.
  YouTube's VP of Global Content, Robert Kyncl, announced the first wave of YouTube "artist channels" featuring original programming at this year's CES show.  Kyncl predicted that online video will drive 90% of all online traffic within a few years, and that by 2020, 75% of all media channels will originate on the Web.

One question is whether YouTube will rely on advertising to monetize that original content, or whether it will create a subscription service like Hulu+. 
It's all about ads -- as Google knows well, according to Forrester Principal Analyst James McQuivey. "When millions of people watch something, advertisers will happily pony up the cash to sustain it," he said. "Since YouTube content is relatively cheap to produce -- $100 million may sound like a lot to you and me but for video production, it’s a drop in the bucket -- Google doesn’t need advertisers to spend as much as they do on TV content to come out ahead."
The potential for such channels to drive viewing is amply illustrated by the Machinima channel, which is said to deliver more than a billion video views monthly to more than 116 million viewers around the globe.

Clear Channel Rebrands

Clear Channel wants you to know that they're more than just the largest radio broadcaster, operating more than 800 radio stations across the U.S.  Thus, it's renaming itself Clear Channel Media and Entertainment, and pushing their proliferating digital channels, including the iHeartRadio digital platform, and it's content-creation activities (including Premiere Radio Networks and the Total Traffic Network.

While not abandoning the radio business that first brought Clear Channel to national prominence, it has slimmed down the broadcast station side, spinning off about a third of the stations acquired in an acquisition binge that followed the 1996 Telecommunications Act's lifting of national radio ownership caps.  The shift in focus to content creation and distribution through a wide range of media and outlets can be seen as a reflection of what's seen as the limited growth potential of local radio broadcasting vs. the increasing demand for content and the rapid rise of digital and mobile media platforms.  The iHeartRadio platform is configured both as a mobile distribution platform for radio stations and as a social media platform, hoping to create synergy between mobile, social, and audio media use.  On the other hand, the corporate emphasis on tightly controlled national programming feeds for its local stations may save some operating costs, but ignores the real competitive advantage of local broadcasting - the ability to build relationships with local audiences.

Clear Channel Communications also owns Clear Channel Outdoor, which focuses on display ads in a variety of venues (billboards, venue displays (stadiums, airports, malls, transit systems, etc.), and is building a network of digital billboards and displays.

Source -  Rebranded Clear Channel Downplays Radio, Pushes Cross-Platform,  MediaDailyNews

Thursday, January 12, 2012

One More Reason Hollywood's In Trouble

In an interview with the Reelz network, George Lucas talked about the problems he had with getting Hollywood studios and distributors interested in his forthcoming release, "Red Tails."  One might think that with the Lucas name and track record, an action movie set in the skies above Europe in WWII would be a no-brainer, but in over 20 years of trying, Lucas was unable to get any studio interested in producing the movie, and once he decided to produce it himself, he couldn't get a single major distributor interested in a distribution deal.  So Lucas funded it himself, putting more than $90 million into production and distribution so far.
Did Hollywood's lack of interest have anything to do with the fact that the film's heroes were the African-American pilots coming from the famed Tuskegee training program?
Well, as Lucas quipped,
Well, Will Smith's not in it and it's not a sequel. If we had that, we wouldn't have had the problem.
So as a result, Lucas added,
I financed the movie myself and went to the studios to distribute it and nobody wanted it. They just didn't feel there was enough of an audience out there for it...
So, a Hollywood system that thought they had sure winners in Heaven's Gate ($108 million in losses), Ishtar ($78 million in losses), The Adventures of Pluto Nash ($137 million in losses), Speed Racer ($108 million in losses), and last year's The Nutcracker in 3-D ($75 million in losses so far) and Mars Needs Moms ($136 million in losses to date), thinks a George Lucas action flick starring Cuba Gooding, Jr. is too much of a risk. (Loss figures in 2011 dollars, adjusted for inflation) 
Its what happens when media lose touch with their audience in a competitive environment where audiences get to choose what entertainment content they consume.
I hope Red Tails blows the competition away. Lucas has done it before, self-funding American Graffitti, and using its critical and financial success to launch the Star Wars saga.

Source - George Lucas Talks About Making Red Tails in
George Lucas: Hollywood Didn't Want to Fund 'Red Tails' Because of Its Black Cast, Huff Post, BlackVoices Pop Culture
List of Biggest Box Office Bombs, Wikipedia

edit log - shifted one sentence around for better flow

BlackBerry will flip FM Radio switch

For some time now, the radio industry has been pushing to get mobile device builders to include FM receiver chips in their sets, and if they didn't, to get Congress to mandate installation and use of those chips.  For several years now, manufacturers have been including the chip in handsets, but mobile systems in the U.S. have kept them turned off.
This week, RIM and Blackberry announced that they'll be the first of the major operators in the U.S. to turn the chips on.  Customers who use several of the Blackberry Curve units and install the forthcoming BlackBerry 7.1 OS will find an app that allows them to use those devices to listen to local FM stations, without having to rely on data services or data plans.

International experience suggests that this new potential audience is not likely to significantly impact radio listenership or solve radio's financial problems, but it shouldn't hurt, either.

Source:  BlackBerry Flips on Radio SwitchRadioInk

Near Field Communications shows promise

One of the hot topics at this year's CES is Near Field Communication (NFC), a technology that brings very short-range wireless communications to mobile apps.  NFC is the technology empowering mobile e-commerce systems like Google Wallet, and can also be used to display info on nearby items to consumers.  It's also being incorporated into conference technologies to identify participants and as a "virtual business card" exchange.  Industry sources predict that the technology will be built into up to a half billion high-end smartphones by 2015.

A big issue for now is the fact that current NFC systems are not encrypted, making it a bit of a concern for e-commerce uses and consumer privacy.  Still, as NFC systems improve and diffuse, it should join GPS-enabled mobile devices to offer a range of hyperlocal services.

Sources:  CES 2012's Big Sleeper: Near Field CommunicationsInformationWeek
IT Pro Impact: NFC and Mobile Commerce, InformationWeek Reports

Univision adds new networks

Univision has landed its first distribution deal, with Dish Network, for three new cable networks set to launch on April 1 this year.  The flagship sports network, Univision Deportes will launch first, offering games from top Mexican soccer teams and other content from a Mexican sports channel..  Next to launch will be an all-novela network, building on the extensive and popular programming base for the long form drama series.  A 24/7 Spanish-language news channel will follow, hoping to take advantage of the U.S. election campaign as it starts to heat up.  Univision also announced programming deals that will enable it to add a second sports channel later in the year.  As part of the deal, Univision will make the novelas and other Spanish-language movie content available for Dish's Blockbuster@Home video-on-demand service.  The deal also calls for Dish to include retrs-consent payments for Dish carriage of Univision and Telefutura local TV stations.

Source:  Univision Lands First Carriage Deal For New Networks, MediaDailyNews

NBC will supply 3D from 2012 Olympics

NBC announced that it will partner with Panasonic to provide its cable and satellite affiliates with a 3D feed from this summer's 2012 Olympics from London.  The 3D feed will be available to any multichannel distributor that takes the full Olympics programming package, which includes live, taped, and on-demand programming on NBC and affiliated cable networks.

Sports programming in 3D has generally been a hit with audiences, but cutbacks in 3D programming availability are likely to have contributed to continuing disappointing sales of 3-D capable TV sets.  It's unclear at this point how much programming NBC will make available, or how much it will cost consumers.

Source -  NBC to supply cable and satellite affiliates with 3D feed from 2012 Summer OlympicsFierceCable

Sony joins crowded music service field

Sony is expanding its Music Unlimited streaming service with apps for iPhones and iPads.  The service currently is optimized for a variety of Sony devices and smartphones running the Android OS.  The service offers the same basic access to some 15 million songs licensed for streaming, as well as channels for a range of genres, and local caching for off-air play, for $9.95 a month.  The company hopes to use the service to help its international retail operations, and will focus on recruiting subscribers new to music streaming, rather than competing with other cloud streaming options.

While competitition is generally good for the consumer, the promised Sony service doesn't seem to have a competitive advantage over its competition, so it's unclear what impact it will have on the market.

Source - Sony's Music Unlimited streaming service coming to Apple's iOSFierceMobileContent.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

UltraViolet's New Moves

Last year, Hollywood announced the creation of their own online movie system, dubbed UltraViolet, and some DVDs and Blu-Ray movie discs began including UltraViolet links last fall.  In the UltraViolet system, viewers can enter their purchases into an online content system, and then stream the movie to multiple devices.
Earlier this week, Panasonic announced that it will be the first set manufacturer to allow direct access of UltraViolet titles through its Flixster service on connected TV sets, beginning later this year,  That news was quickly trumped yesterday, when Amazon announced that it's working with movie studieos to implement UltraViolet service on its streaming media system
Amazon's EVP for Digital Media, Bill Carr, said Amazon was "very excited about the additional possibilities from a customer's point of view that UV enables.... The best movie and TV service for consumers is the one that provides them with the broadest choice possible."
The Amazon tie-in in particular should be a big boody for the UltraViolet system, bringng Amazon's user-friendly interface to a system that has been a bit of a dud following its October introduction.  While registering some 750,000  households, reports suggest many of those users were frustrated and confused in trying to get the system to work with their devices.

Size Matters (in portable media players)

New research from NPD In-Stat suggests that when it comes to viewing media content and more sophisticated interactive uses, a screen size of 9-11 inches (like iPad and larger tablets) seems optimal.  Stephanie Ethier, Senior Analyst, said
The larger screen supports more heavy text consumption and greater user interaction. Portable media players, which can be virtually identical to tablets except for the smaller-than-5-inch screen, are used primarily to support entertainment-focused uses, like listening to music and watching video
 Other reported findings were that 47% of study participants had a PMP woth a screen size of between 2.5 and 5 inches (basically smartphone size), and that smartphones were the PMP most likely to be used when watching television.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Movies, Music and Really, Really Bad Policy

Like most traditional media, the traditional movie industry (films shown in theaters) is losing market share, and has been for decades).  The movie industry's had a long and consistent approach to this problem.  First, claim that other channels for movie distribution would bankrupt the industry, and try to ban the competition (or at least keep movies from being available through these new channels).  Second, when those efforts fail, embrace the new technologies, which often generate more revenues than the old theatrical releases did.  In 2011, the movie industry made $30 billion globally from theatrical box office revenues (a third from the U.S.), and $57 billion from other distribution channels.

Steve Blank has an interesting post on why the movie and music industries can't seem to handle technological progress well, and end up resorting to ever-stricter copyright enforcement efforts.  Here's his list of their "end of the world" predictions
  • 1920s - Record and music business complained about radio, because radio was free and "you can't compete with free."  They claimed no one would ever buy music or a ticket to a performance again.
  • 1940s - Movie studios had to divest their theater chains (due to antitrust issues), and claimed "it's all over."  And if that didn't do it, TV would kill local theaters because TV was free.There are twice as many local screens today showing movies as there were in the 1940s. 
  • 1950s - After succumbing to the temptation to market films to TV, the movie industry lobbied to ban pay channels on cable, arguing that "free couldn't compete with paid"
  • 1970s - The movie industry sued to prevent home recording and VCRs, proclaiming the end of both movies and TV.  When the movie industry caved and started marketing movies for the home video market, it quickly became the largest revenue source for the industry
  • 1998 - The music and movie industry lobbied Congress and got the DMCA to enforce copy-protection schemes and prohibit consumers from copying content they already owned
  • 2000 - The movie and TV industries proclaimed that DVRs would destroy their industries.  Instead, DVRs reignite audience interest in programming
  • 2006 - Broadcasters sue to prevent MSOs from offering out-of-home DVR and on-demand content feeds.  (And lose)
  • 2011 - Movie studios and TV/cable networks sue to prevent MSOs from offering "TV Everywhere" streaming services, while licensing their own content to other streaming services.
  • 2012 - SOPA/PIPA - Movie studios, music labels, and other content producers push for legislation that would make it easier for them to disrupt (delete from DNS servers) Internet sites they suspect may have unlicensed content, or even may link to unlicensed content.(For more on SOPA, check here)
Brand suggests that much of the problem is that the movie industry dealt with a single basic technical standard (35mm film) for its first 75 years, with only ancillary improvements (sound, color) - and sound was only really disruptive for theaters. On the other hand, they have a history of manipulating regulation to their advantage, starting with the industry's roots in the Motion Picutres Trust (legally-enforced monopoly) and copyright.  As Blank opines:
"When lawyers, MBAs and financial managers run your industry and your lobbyists are ex-Senators, understanding technology and innovation is not one of your core capabilities."  With SOPA/PIPA, "(t)he studios don’t even pretend that this legislation benefits consumers. It’s all about protecting short-term profit."
"The SOPA bill (and DNS blocking) is what happens when someone with the title of anti-piracy or copyright lawyer has greater clout than your head of new technology. SOPA gives corporations unprecedented power to censor almost any site on the Internet. It’s as if someone shoplifts in your store, SOPA allows the government to shut down your store."
If you're wondering why Congress and the White House are doing ill-considered favors for the industry, consider - those industries spend more than $100 million annually in lobbying and regularly contribute to re-election efforts (President Obama got more than $1 million, and more than 20 others received between $50K and $250K, in the 2011/2012 election cycle so far), that the Justice Dept. division in charge of IP rights is staffed exclusively with former lawyers from the RIAA (music industry trade group) and MPAA (movie industry trade group), and that the latest head of the MPAA is former Senator Chris Dodd (D), who explained that the lobby was only asking for the same kind of power to censor the Internet as that held by the government of the People's Republic of China (where they arrest, imprison, and shoot people for posting critical comments - but interestingly have a largely hands-off approach to stopping online piracy of Western content).

Sources - Why the Movie Industry Can't Innovate and the Result is SOPA,  Steve Blank
MPAA Head Chris Dodd on Online Censorship Bill: China's the ModelThe Weekly Standard
TV?Movies/Music: Top

edit record - fixed typo and missing link

Monday, January 9, 2012

CES 2012 Preview - Hot Gadgets

From InformationWeek, their selection of 16 Hot Gadgets being introduced at this year's Consumer Electronics Show (CES).  From digital recorders to external storage to cameras, audio, and more.

CES 2012 Preview: 16 Hot Gadgets,  InformationWeek

Nielsen's Digital Tops for 2011

Highlights from Nielsen's report on the top online destinations, social media sites, and smartphone devices:

  • Top U.S. Web Brands - Google, Facebook, Yahoo!, MSN/Bing, YouTube (all averaging over a 100 million unique visitors a month)
  • Top Social Networks/Blogs - Facebook, Blogger, Twitter, Wordpress
  • Top Online Video Destinations - YouTube, VEVO, Facebook, Yahoo!
  • Top Smartphone Device Manufacturers (recent purchases) - Apple (29%), HTC (21%), RIM Blackberry (17%), Samsung (11%), Motorola (11%)

Blowing it Big Times

The digital hiccups continued at the NY Times last month, when a day after announcing plans to launch a dozen regional online editions, the promotions department botched a promotions offer.
The offer, for an "exclusive" 50% discount on subscriptions to the paper, was designed to be send to 300 people who had recently canceled their print subscriptions.  Instead, it went to their entire promotional email list - some 8 million individuals.  Rather than honoring the offer, the Times disconnected the phone number in the email and sent an apology, asking recipients to ignore the message.
So much for truth in publishing from the really old grey lady.

Source - New York Times Publishes Correction, Via Email: Retracts "Exclusive" Sent to Millions, MediaDailyNews

TV and China

Interesting juxtaposition of two items about TV and Chnia.  In the first, China announced that it will be launching a state-run TV network in the U. S.  The channel, to be called "TodayChina" will initially be available via digital broadcast in the New York City area.  The channel will reportedly offer news and entertainment programming in both English and a means of propagating Chinese culture internationally.

On the domestic front, the state is also cracking down on local broadcasting, in response to President Hu Jintao's crackdown on the spread of "foreign influence" on China's society.
“International forces are trying to Westernize and divide us by using ideology and culture,” Hu said in an October speech that was reprinted as a signed essay in Qiushi, a magazine backed by the ruling Communist Party, and published on the government’s website on Jan. 1.
 On January 3, 2012, state0run Xinhua News Service posted a news release detailing draconian changes in local broadcasting in China.  The State Administration of Radio, Film, and Television (SARFT) reported that a new rule would force cancellation of two-thirds of local and satellite television stations' prime time entertainment programming.  Each outlet would be limited to broadcasting no more than 2 entertainment shows a week,  Entertainment programming would be limited to no more than 90 minutes in prime time, while stations would have to provide at least 2 hours of news, including at least 2 separate shows of 30 minutes or longer.  The agency's list of restricted programs includes dating shows, talent shows, talk shows, and "emotional shows of 'excessive entertainment' and 'low taste'."

It reminds me of a similar announcement when I visited Shanghai a few years ago, when reacting to supposed infiltration of Western ideas into local television, the head of SARFT announced a ban on "colored" hair and skimpy clothes by Chinese performers on TV.  Then, the emerging middle class fled to the Internet for their content - but China also seems poised to make another attempt to restrict access to outside content through the Net.  Will this close off rising unrest with a heavy-handed state apparatus, or be seen as a short-term overreaction to the idea of independent thought?

Sources -  China to Start U.S. Television Channel as State Media Takes Culture AbroadBloomberg
An Alarming Development in China That Everyone Has Missed, Business Insider

More Bad News for traditional media

A recent piece in The Economist has an interesting take on the competition between physical media products and the digital world.  In "Not Worth Nicking," they look at criminal activity in the UK - with a focus on what is being stolen.
“Years ago, you’d see a man in a pub selling CDs,” says Eric Phelps, a detective in London’s Metropolitan Police. “Not any more.” Indeed, thefts of entertainment products like CDs and DVDs have collapsed in England and Wales, to the point that they are now taken in just 7% of all burglaries in which something is stolen
 The article contributes the decline to the drop in the price and value of recorded content from legal outlets, and that the "dishonest" can get pirated digital versions for free.

On the other hand, computers and digital devices are not only valuable, but increasingly portable, 

On a side note, the recording industry in the U.S. reported that digital music sales in the U.S. topped sales of physical media products for the first time.  Digital music sales accounted for 50.3% of purchases in 2011, while sales of physical copies dropped 5%.

The most recent Nielsen Company & Billboard’s 2011 Music Industry Report also found that:
  • In 2011, more than 76,000 albums were released that sold at least 1 copy
  • There were 1.27 billion digital tracks sold in 2011, a new record (up 8.4% from 2010)
  • Digital album sales reached a new all-time high of 103.1 million sales, upf nearly 20% from 2010
  • Top genres in 2011 were: Rap and Electronic (up 42%), Country and R&B (up 27%) and Latin (up 23%)
  • For the first time ever, a digital song had more than five million downloads in a calendar year; Adele’s “Rolling In The Deep” (5.8 million) and LMFAO’s “Party Rock Anthem” (5.5 million) both topped the mark
  • For the first time, more than 100 Digital Songs (112) exceeded the 1 million sales mark for the year
  • In 2011 there were 38 different digital songs with sales that exceeded two million (there were 37 in 2010, 31 in 2009, 19 in 2008 and nine in 2007)
  • In 2011, eight different artists broke the 10 million digital track sales mark
  • In 2011, 31% of albums were purchased from online sources,  31% from mass merchant outlets (like WalMart), 20% were bought at retail stores, and only 7% came from independent music stores
It sure does look like digital is winning.

Sources -  Not Worth Nicking, The Economist
See Ya, CDs: Digital Music Sales Overtakes Physical Media, PCWorld
The Nielsen Company & Billboard’s 2011 Music Industry Report, BusinessWire

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012 Predictions - Television

From MediaPost's OnlineSpin blog, Dave Morgans Top Ten list of reasons 2012 will be the Year of Television, and my comments on the list (in italics -
  1. TV Beats Boredom - When asked about whether online video viewing would better TV, Mark Cuban reportedly said no, that TV's "only real competition was boredom, and {TV} was winning."
    Yeah, it does.  But so do many other things.  If TV is really going to succeed, it's got to be better than those alternatives, not just better than nothing.
  2. Social media is driving more TV viewing - 2011 was marked by the growth of social media, and the birth of the concept of social TV.  Social media can complement TV viewing.
    To the extent that social media complements TV viewing, it can add value to the experience, and perhaps increase demand (or at least slow down its decline).
  3. Better TV devices - TV sets continue to get better and cheaper.  3-D may be a flop, but connected TVs are poised to explode.
    Like HDTV, 3-D may yet succeed as available content increases and equipment improves.  On the other hand, connected TV's value is that it can take you to content beyond regular TV - good news for customers and equipment manufacturers, not so good news for the TV content and distribution industry.
  4. Better set-top boxes - there's an explosion of things to connect to TVs, and they're getting better and are becoming easier to interconnect.
    Yes, and all also take you away from traditional TV viewing (see above)
  5. Apple's much-anticipated iTV - maybe 2012 will finally see this much-hyped device's arrival.  And maybe it will really enhance the TV experience.
    Another set-top box (see above).  The impact on the TV industry will depend on whether it emerges as an enhancement of traditional TV (adding value to the experience), or a substitute for traditional TV.
  6. Better programming - TV networks and studios are continuing to produce and distribute ever-better programming.
    Well, the technical quality continues to improve, but there are few shows outside sports and the various "competitions" that seem to have lasting appeal to audiences.  And fewer still with any originality.
  7. More sports - 2012 is an Olympics year, and the added sports programming in the lead-up will provide much more programming, and hopefully more interest.
    The Olympics are a big event, and always help.  On the other hand, the money paid for sports rights continues to inflate beyond supportable levels.
  8. Presidential elections - a big news event that can drive TV audiences to local news.
    I'm not so sure about the impact on news audiences, since political coverage seems to have devolved into gossip sessions.  On the other hand, election-related advertising buys will certainly help local station and network coffers.
  9. More channel diversity - Will the growth in retransmission fees for broadcast networks, and in carriage fees for the big cable networks encourage system operators to drop marginal specialty channels?  This should open up opportunities for new small, niche-focused networks.
    I don't think increased fees will lead to channels being dropped, not as long as multichannel services continue to expand capacity..  Still, niche programming remains where opportunities are for new channels and networks.
  10. TV advertising will become more digital - With connected TV and Multichannel Service operators providing the ability to micro-target ads, maybe 2012 will see the development of a system to target ads to viewers.
    This is the dream of advertisers - making sure their ads are seen by those they want the ad to be seen by, and not paying for all those households for whom the ad is irrelevant.  But there are serious technical and privacy issues at play, as well as a lack of any industry-acceptable audience measurement system that would be adaptable to such a targeted ad system.  Not likely for 2012, at least for traditional TV.  It's starting with streaming channels (who have the customer info and metrics in place), and will likely move to the multichannel system operators before it will transition to national networks (and local broadcasting coming last, if at all).
While 2012 may not be the "Year of Television" (frankly I think it will more likely be seen as the year of mobile or the year of tablets), it should at least be a better year for the Television industry in almost all of its aspects.  Olympic and election related advertising traditionally adds significant demand for limited ad space, and the economy should remain stable, if not improve slightly.  People will quite likely increase their use of their TV sets, but not necessarily for traditional television viewing.  Online video viewing, whether by browsing or through streaming services, is also booming, and should be increasingly competitive with traditional TV as a viable alternative to boredom.  Whether the increased use of online video comes out of traditional TV use or other options is tough to forecast. 

In the end, a lot may depend on how one defines "television" - traditional TV viewing in traditional settings (regular TV sets) should see some improvement in 2012, but the real expansion is likely to be in use of TVs through connected devices for streaming, gaming, and online video viewing, and the emerging mobile TV market (viewing via tablets or other mobile devices).  If that's all TV, the maybe 2012 will really be "The Year of Television"

Source - Top 10 Reasons Why 2012 Will Be The Year of TelevisionMediaPost OnlineSpin blog

Big Data and Journalism

With the rise of cheap computing and data storage has come the ability to measure and store huge amounts of data.  What's coming along a bit more slowly is the interest in, and ability to make use of all of that data.  Another jump in the ability to make use of all that info came with distributed computing - first with standalone projects like SETI@home, which used the processing power of millions of home computers to process billions of pieces of data (2 billion so far), and now the ability to harness the thousands of virtual computers in the Cloud.

So what is  Big Data and what does it have to do with the future of journalism?  The "Big Data" concept refers to the tools and processes for managing and using large datasets.  The idea of data-driven journalism, has been around for decades, but for the most part been limited to focused use of datasets to answer specific questions.  And, quite frankly, it's been severely limited by most journalist's seemingly inherent antipathy to numbers and math, as well as the decline in investigative journalism.

More recently, the concept of database journalism has emerged.  Unlike data-driven journalism, the idea of database journalism is to aggregate the materials collected by journalists into databases, which can then be used to spot trends or provide local illustrations for local versions of stories.

Neither of these fit the idea of Big Data, however.  What the Las Vegas Sun is doing with data may qualify, though - they exploit the massive amounts of audience metric generated by their online edition to suggest coverage, link to public databases to generate real-time informational maps of things like police reports, real estate listings, and retail hours  for local editions, and used public and online databases to research a story on local healthcare.

But there is the potential for much more - particularly in today's age of big data and huge document dumps (often designed to hide the big stories from easy access).  Only traditional journalism hasn't had a lot of interest in, or ability to exploit, Big Data.  From various Wikileaks dumps to the release of Stimulus-funded projects data, to Sarah Palin's emails, journalists have let others do the analysis and largely just reported what they were told (if they reported it at all).  That's a shame, because there is an unprecedented amount of publicly available information on government activities at all levels, campaign contributions and links between big money and "independent" public interest groups that should make a "watchdog" press drool.  Not to mention how monitoring search engines and social media could alert journalists to emerging issues and hot topics.  (For example, Google does a faster and better job of tracking flu outbreaks than the CDC, simply by monitoring searches for "flu remedies" and "flue symptoms.").

If journalism is to have a future, they need to do more than simply report what others say and do - they need to originate news, add value to stories, and reveal the needle in the haystack.  And doing that through Big Data, through the use and analysis of available information, is becoming easier and cheaper.  Will journalists acquire the interest and skills to do so, or will they leave that to others? (and in doing so render themselves even more irrelevant).

Source -  Big Data: Why All the Fuss?  InformationWeek Global CIO

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New way to Connect your TV

Roku has announced that it's developed and will soon offer a new way to connect your older HDTVs to the Internet.  The device, about the size of a flash drive, is said to be able to plug into any MHL-enabled HDMI access port and connect to the Web through WiFi, and is expected to cost between $50 and $100. 

Roku offers access to a wide, and growing,  range of streaming video services (400 channels at this time).  Needing only an available HDMI port (no cables or power supplies),and accessed through the TV's remote, the device should quickly open up the connected TV marketplace when it comes to the market later this year.

 Sources - Roku Breaks the Smart TV MoldFierceTelecom

More Outrageous Online Video Use / YouTube metrics

The latest comScore Video Metrix report on global online video viewing continues to show the rapid growth in online video use.  They report that during October, 2011, about 1.5 billion people aged 15 and older watched more than 200 billion videos online.  YouTube continued to dominate the market, delivering 88+ billion videos (43.8% of the market), with the second largest source for online videos, Youku Inc. (China's version), delivering less than 5 billion.
 The highest numbers for online video viewing were in Canada and the US, followed by the UK, Turkey, and Germany.  Viewers in Canada watched an average of 303 videos a month, with US viewers coming a close second with a 286 average.  UK viewers averaged 268 videos a month, and viewers in both Turkey and Germany averaged around 250 online videos watched in October.  Online video viewing also continued to be ubiquitous, with a reported high reach of 93.6% (of all Web users) in Turkey, and the U.S. coming in at the 8 spot with 88% of all Web users watching at least one online video a month.

More evidence of the burgeoning impact of IPTV and mobile media.

Source: 200 Billion Videos Viewed Online in October; YouTube Delivers 2 out of 5 WorldwideResearch Brief, MediaPost Blogs

Goin' Mobile - Tablets Update

Some quick notes from the news/rumor world.

Amazon recently announced that the 2011 holiday season was the best ever for the Kindle family,  This December, Amazon sold over a million Kindles a week, making the Kindle Fire its best-selling product on Amazon's mobile website, followed by the Kindle Touch and the basic Kindle model.  The Kindle Fire was the top-selling, most-gifted, and most wished-for product available on Amazon.  Gifting of Kindle books was up 175 percent over the same period in 2010, and the number 1 and number 4 best selling Kindle books released in 2011 were both published independently using Kindle Direct Publishing.

In the business world, a report from Tne NPD Group's 3Q SMB Technology Monitor suggests that almost three-quarters of small and midsize businesses plan to purchase tablets, with the Apple iPad cited as the most considered. One question is whether they'll wait for the iPad 3.
 If so, they may well have a choice of models.  Rumors from supply-chain sources suggest Apple may unveil two iPad 3 models at the MacWorld/iWorld Expo later this month, while a lower-cost iPad 2 will be positioned to compete head-to-head with the Kindle Fire.  Speculation suggests the new iPads will have have higher-resolution screens and employ dual LED-light bars to provide greater brightness.

In the meantime, the iPad's larger competitors, the Motorola Zoom and HP TouchPad had weaker than expected sales in the last quarter of 2011.  Also, RIM has slashed prices for its recently introduced tablet, offering all three models for $299 through January, and announced a new OS release for February that will feature integrated email and other Blackberry features that users expected from RIM devices.

Meanwhile, the battle between the two leading tablet operating systems, Apple's iOS and Google's Android continued, even as both await the introduction of Microsoft's Windows 8 OS.   Analytics firm Flurry estimated that there were some 6.8 million iOS and Android device activations on Christmas day.  Flurry also reported that Apple's App store was on pace to exceed 10 billion downloads, a number the Android Market was also expected to reach by the start of this year.  Apple and Google are also battling in court, were Apple has accused Google of patent infringement in its Android OS.

It should all make 2012 an interesting year for the mobile and tablet markets, at least until SOPA enforcement crashes the Internet.  Let's hope sanity trumps content industry campaign contributions in Congress and they don't pass the proposed legislation.

Sources - Kindle Sales Top 4 Million in December:
Apple iPad Tablet of Choice for Small Businesses:
RIM Cuts PlayBook Price as Tablet Battle 2012 Begins, CIO Insight
Apple's iOS, Android Battle Over Holidays: Flurry,