Saturday, September 29, 2012

Interpreting COPPA and Children's Privacy - A Step Too Far?

The main thrust of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) was to limit Web site operators collecting personal information from children without the express permission of their parents.   The FTC (Federal Trade Commission), which oversees COPPA compliance, recently started considering expanding COPPA coverage and reach by broadening definitions of "personal information," "knowingly collecting," and website "operator."  While COPPA explicitly gives the FTC the ability to define, or re-define, those terms, the proposed expansions are substantial, and would significantly expand both the activities covered and the online sites and services covered.  While a number of children's and privacy advocacy groups fully support efforts to protect children's privacy, a number of industry groups have legitimate concerns that some of the proposed expansions could have significant unintended effects for all Internet users.  The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), for example, indicated in formal comments to the FTC that enforcement of the expanded definitions (as formally proposed) could "restrict children’s access to online resources by undermining the prevailing business model" and "pose technical challenges to the effective functioning of the online ecosystem."
  So what are the issues, and what's really at stake?

"Operators" - or who does COPPA apply to? 
The statutory language of COPPA defined operators essentially as commercial website operators who collect personal information from users and where the website is either directed towards kids, or are general interest sites that knowingly collect personal information from children under the age of 13.  The current proposals would ad to that group third-party services such as social media plug-ins, ad networks, online gaming, and mobile apps.  In proposing the expansion, the FTC provided this rationale -
"The Commission now believes that the most effective way to implement the intent of Congress is to hold both the child-directed site or service and the information-collecting site or service responsible as covered co-operators... (A)n operator of a child-directed site or service that chooses to integrate into its site or service other services that collect personal information from its visitors should be considered a covered operator... Although the child-directed site or service does not own, control, or have access to the information collected, the personal information is collected on its behalf."
While the intent may be to assure that sites don't avoid protecting kids' privacy by farming data collection to a third party, it's difficult to frame regulatory language that would differentiate websites take use third parties to collect personal information, and/or benefit from collected user information, from websites with no interest in, or use for, user data yet link to services and sites that do. The proposed expansion would also make third party operators who collect user information liable for COPPA compliance if any affiliated or networked website is directed towards children, regardless of whether the "third party operator" has any interest in, or intent to, collect user information from children. If the implementing language is too broad, it could have the effect of making every website or online service provider legally liable for the content focus and user data collection practices of every website or online service they are linked to, or interact with. Given the nature of the internet, holding publishers liable for the COPPA compliance of affiliated services or linked sites and services would likely create a logistical nightmare of previewing and vetting of content, focus, and any user data collection practices. In their formal comments on the proposed changes, the Interactive Advertising Board (IAB) claimed that "pose technical challenges to the effective functioning of the online ecosystem." Particularly for website operators or online publishers who aren't commercial and have no interest in, or use for, user data.

"Knowingly collecting," or what evidence of intent or purpose is required?
The FTC is also proposing to expand the standard of intent by shifting from applying to operators who knowingly collect kids' personal information, to apply when operators might have "reason to know" that personal information is being collected from or content is directed towards children under the age of 13.
In regulatory and legal circles, reason-to-know is widely acknowledged as a broader, looser standard than actual knowledge of actions or behaviors. The FTC, as noted in the quote above, sees their mandated purpose as protecting children's privacy by requiring parental consent to collect personal information from kids, even if it is not knowingly and intentionally collected. The reason-to-know standard would extend COPPA to at least some incidental collection of covered user data, but not the absolute coverage that many advocacy groups have called for. They would prefer to see that privacy coverage and requirements for parental consent for data collection from kids be universal, to assure that no personal information is ever collected from children under thirteen without explicit parental consent.
Implementing a vaguer and looser standard can be problematic - "knowingly" is a clear and precise standard, even if can be difficult to provide. "Reason-to-know" is not precise, but has been interpreted in other settings as existing when an individual could reasonably expect something is probable - in this setting, would not be surprised if a third party operator collected personal user information or directed content or services to kids. Still, there's a lot of imprecision and uncertainty left - for example, should a blogger targeting seniors that links to an online social gaming app be e know what user information the app collects, or whether children under 13 are playing that social game app?
And if combined with an expansion if the definition of operators to second and third parties, the costs of compliance are spread to those who are only peripherally involved with children or collection of user data.

"Personal information," or just how personal does information need to be?
To a very large extend, the Internet, mobile, and social media systems run on user data, because sending and receiving information requires some kind of address. Data transfers online need IP addresses; mobile communications require unique identifiers for devices or users; and social media need to know where to send whatever stuff we share with friends and followers. The original statutory language of COPPA used older offline definitions widely used in privacy contexts - names, street addresses, social security numbers, phone numbers; and added email addresses as a nod to the Online context. But in an ever-evolving online ecosystem, these aren't our only addresses, or unique identifiers. If the concern about collecting personal information is that whatever other information or behaviors that are being collected can be directly linked to a specific individual, then the FTC really does need to look at what it defines as personal information.
Last year, the FTC proposed expanding the definition of "personal information" to include any "unique identifier" that could be used to link a child's activities on multiple sites. The proposal identified a few examples of unique identifiers - IP addresses, device serial numbers, tracking cookies. The online world is replete with unique identifiers; as are the worlds of mobile devices, wireless services, mobile phones, and social media. As I said earlier, they all need addresses - and addresses that aren't relatively unique identifiers aren't that useful. Are the FTC's examples appropriate?
In one sense, clearly not. As the IAB pointed out, the problem with the listed identifiers is that they aren't necessarily user-specific - what they are are primarily device identifiers. If there are, or may be, multiple users, that can decouple these unique identifiers from an unique person. (We've gone through this with IP addresses, which were initially permanently assigned to a device. When the number of devices exploded, and Internet Service Providers noted they weren't always on, they switched to dynamic IP addressing, where the unique address is assigned when the device is actively connected, but tossed back into the ISP's pool of IP addresses when the device was disconnected, to be assigned to another device when it actively connects. To uniquely link an IP address with a specific computer, you now need both the dynamic IP address and the time). The proposed new unique identifiers permit the delivery of content and advertising to a device, not to an identified individual," the IAB argues.
In addition, device identifiers are largely automatically generated and provided with online activities without user input or direct authorization. This creates a variety of potential issues - are dynamic IP addresses new unique identifiers that require user or parental validation of permission to use? would COPPA be invoked if several distinct online services share a common password/login (linking across sites)? Would Internet-connected devices need to be child-proofed in the absence of parental consent to collecting device identifiers? How might this impact "TV Everywhere" implementation, which needs unique identifiers not only as device address, but for validation of eligibility to receive specific content? How might that affect the potential distribution of children's programming, or educational content or games? There's a real conflict between the need for tracking use and validating eligibility through the use of unique identifiers and tracking user behaviors and the primary funding mechanisms for websites and online services (advertising and subscriptions). Defining unique identifiers poorly or inappropriately would create significant compliance costs that could only be avoided by prohibiting children's access and use. In such a case, the IAB expressed concern that it could "restrict children’s access to online resources by undermining the prevailing business model."
A closer look at the FTC's proposals and supporting arguments suggests that their real concern was the potential use of behavioral advertising techniques on children under 13. The FTC did include a specific proposal for a ban on using behavioral targeting techniques on young children without their parents' permission. But the courts can be reluctant to apply content-related bans without specific evidence of harm. That could explain the FTC's choice of specific unique identifiers and emphasis on linking behaviors and information across sites - their list mirrors what is needed for behavioral advertising to occur. Thus, the FTC may have felt that expanding the definition of "personal information" in that specific direction could be a backdoor means to limit behavioral advertising to kids. The problem here is that these same elements are also at the heart of a great many other online services and activities, so this expansion would have unintended (I hope) negative consequences in many other areas. Particularly if the expansion of "personal information" to include a range of other "unique identifiers" and the idea of "persistent identifiers" defined as identifiers shared across sites or services, gets carried through to other privacy regulation.
Including device registration numbers as "personal information" could really impact the rapidly expanding growth of mobile services, as apps and services would need to find other means to identify and validate devices and uses. The whole foundation of social media and interconnected sites and services is similarly built on the availability of "persistent identifiers."

A Step Too Far?
The FTC clearly has the authority to consider redefining these key aspects of COPPA, and strong arguments can be made that it needs to, considering how the online world has changed in the last decade. (Not to mention the pressures being applied by a variety of advocacy and industry groups).  The most immediate need is for the FTC to seriously consider expanding the definition of "personal identifiers."  The original statutory examples are mostly borrowed from regulatory language applying to analogue and physical concerns.  The language, for the most part, is far too narrow to reflect data or information that can identify individuals in an online world filled with myriad "unique identifiers" that could easily be used to link individuals with the information they provide and the actions they take online. But you can't ban or limit the use of all unique identifiers without crippling the Internet, or an increasing number of media devices and services - or banning their use by the people who's privacy you're trying to protect. Redefining "personal information" needs to be approached with a surgeon's scalpel rather than a blunderbuss, as any change is likely to have widespread and profound implications.
  In any consideration of expanding the kinds of identifiers to be included in a definition of "personal information" the FTC (and regulators generally) shouldn't pick them because they might achieve a specific policy goal. Even if they do, they'll also impact any other uses that rely on or utilize that specific type of identifier. Regulators need to consider the other implications and effects of proposed regulatory changes before redefining things - otherwise someone's likely to wonder why it didn't do what it was supposed to, and/or how to fix the mess it's created somewhere else.

Sources  -  FTC Proposes New Curbs On Collecting Data From ChildrenOnlineMediaDaily
IAB: Proposed Children's Privacy Rules Undermine Business Model,  OnlineMediaDaily
FTC,  Proposed Rules Changes for Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule
FTC's COPPA website

Thursday, September 27, 2012

If journalists go on strike, who will report it?

We now have an answer to this version of the continuing (if a tree falls in the forest, will anyone hear?) conundrum.

Journalists in Greece have joined the growing general strike against new austerity measures.  The 24 hour walkout left radio and TV news programs with nothing to report, and newspapers with nothing but ads to print.  Luckily, there were foreign journalists there to cover the breaking news of violent clashes between police and anarchists.
So yes, it will be reported by someone, even if it isn't being done by the people who should be doing it.

Source - No news today: Greek journalists strike against austerity,  The Independent

A Gaggle of Social TV / Second Screen Reports

The last couple of weeks have seen a number of reports coming out on multiplatform and multidevice diffusion and use.  It's busy time here, so I'm going to combine and highlight -

A study from consumer research group GfK MRI found that 63% of tablet owners report watching TV while they use their tablets in the previous week. And they did so a lot - 41% of total TV viewing time was spent with tablet in hand. The focus on tablet use behaviors is interesting, because most of the studies to date focus on what people are doing while watching TV.
  So what were they doing online while watching TV time?  34% were posting on social media; 25% visited websites or used apps tied to the show they were watching (a show's site or app, the network's site, or a fan site); 21% were looking up information about the show; 16% watched video clips about the program; 11% were voting in a show's content or event; and 9% were actively participating in a live chatroom.  As for the TV advertising, the study found that 28% looked up more information about a product advertised on the program on their tablets - and more importantly, 12% reported that they later purchased that product.
  As for which screen was primary. 36% reported being true multitaskers, with equal focus on TV screen and tablet.  Another 36% indicated that their primary focus was on the tablet, and only 28% said their primary focus was on the TV's bog screen.
  Source -  Multiscren TV-Tablet Viewing SoarsMediaDailyNews

Research from Forrester suggest that people are watching video in new ways. with multitasking (watching TV while also doing something else) is quickly becoming the new norm.  Forrester found that 74% of US viewers regularly multitask, a significant jump from last year's 58%.  Their report uses this result and the boom in digital video devices and services to argue that traditional audience rating measures are becoming outmoded and incomplete.  Digital captures so much more information about its users, while Nielsen and other ratings services are struggling to develop ways to count the viewing that occurs through the myriad potential second screens.
Forrester says GRPs no longer provide complete coverage for marketers because they only measure age and gender in a world of digital detail, are a backward-looking metric, and face digital video platforms that can already target audiences beyond the basic.
    Source -  Study: In Growing Digital Media World, GRPs Still Important,  MediaDailyNews 

Ericsson ConsumerLab's latest annual TV and Video study concluded that Social TV is rapidly becoming a mainstream, mass-market phenomenon.  The study looks at TV and video trends world-wide, based on thousands of interviews and data from online activities collected from consumers in 14 countries.  The found that 62% of their sample combine social media activities with TV viewing on a weekly basis; up from 44% last year.  Women were slightly more likely to do this than men (66% vs. 58%), and a quarter (25%) of respondents reported engaging in more narrowly defined Social TV activities - using social media to share their thoughts about the program they were watching at the time.
  Other relevant report highlights - two-thirds report using laptops or mobile devices for TV viewing; 60% reported using on-demand services to get programs they wanted to watch each week; and over half the sample want the ability to choose their own video content. The desire to control both the selection of content and the viewing experience (time, location, device, and quality) is reflected in the video characteristics consumers were most willing to pay for - improved technical quality (HD or higher), the ability to control the viewing experience (time-shifting, on-demand), access to recent movies. Interest in paying more for personalized content jumped from about 22% to nearly 30% in the last year.  Despite their interest, consumers reported that a variety of technical and regulatory barriers had limited their TV watching outside the home.
  An Ericsson spokesman concluded,
”As the number of screens and services increase, people are eagerly looking for an easy-to-use, aggregated service that can bring everything together. It should allow consumers to mix on-demand and linear TV including live content, facilitate content discovery, leverage the value of social TV and provide seamless access across devices.”
  Sources -  Social TV becoming a mass-market phenomenon, says EricssonInformationWeek
TV and Video: An analysis of evolving consumer habits, 2012,  Ericsson ConsumerLab report.

Networked Insights has developed an interesting Network Executive's Social TV Survival Guide that identifies the major lifecycle segments of television, and discusses how social media and social TV can help the producers and programmers.
At the very least, they suggest, take advantage of the fact that using social media and social TV tie-ins provides real-time access to a wide array of audience responses, preferences, and behaviors - rather than traditional data collection methods that are highly focused, and can take weeks or months for meaningful results to trickle in.
Industry observer Simon Dumenco of Advertising Age describes social TV this way: “Millions of people are now partaking of the ‘dual-screen’ experience -- watching TV while using a smartphone (or tablet) to share their thoughts about what they’re viewing and to ’check in’ to shows. The result: a massive and rapidly expanding real-time focus group (and promotional force).
   Source -  How social media affects the TV lifecycle,  Lost Remote 

Social TV interactions  have exploded in the last year, according to a white paper by media research firm Trendrr.  They found that that last June set new records for social TV activity, with more than 81 million social interactions generated from 5500 telecasts that they tracked.  That was a 681% increase from June 2011, and a 15% increase from the previous month.  Interestingly, recent growth was fed by social activity tied to cable programs (up 45% from May), while social interactions tied to broadcast network programs fell 18%.  In June, more than two-thirds of social TV activity was related to cable programs.  I'll note that June's not a big month for new broadcast programs or episodes, which are much more likely to generate social interaction than repeats. Broadcasting's share of social TV activity should rebound this fall with the start of the new seasons.
    Source - Social TV interactions skyrocketed 171% this year, Lost Remote

A study from the Online Publishers Association shows tablet adoption and use continues to grow.  The study found 31% of respondents had tablets, and three-quarters of tablet owners reported using them daily.  Tablet use averaged almost 14 hours a week, predominantly in the evening.  Some 85% of their sample of mobile device owners (tablets and smartphones) reported using their devices to multitask while watching TV - averaging 1.6 hours a day (about a third of all TV viewing).  Looking deeper, the study identified a group of "heavy" TV/ Second Screen users, who averaged 3.1 hours of multitasking daily.  Roughly a third of mobile device users were included in this group.  Other interesting TV results - a quarter of tablet owners had bought a movie to watch on their table, and 18% had purchased full-length TV programs.
    Sources  -  Tablet Adoption Explodes, study reveals key usage patternsLost Remote
     A Portrait of Today's Tablet User Wave II, an Online Publishers Association report.

"Cable" to enter Gaming markets

It's not a totally new idea - using cable systems to stream videogames.  Sega tried it with Time Warner and TCI in the 1990s with the Sega Channel - subscribers to the channel could download games into a blank cartridge to play on their game consoles.  However the cost of a monthly subscription and the reusable blank cartridge were high compared to the cost of games, which limited demand.  The addition of low cost videogame rentals at major video rental outlets effectively killed the experiment as players quickly embraced the low cost option.
   Time Warner looks to be testing the gaming market again, this time with partners AT&T and Verizon.   This time, however, instead of partnering with existing videogaming platforms, the plan is to develop a cloud-based gaming platform, with game play processing in the cloud and the display platform integrated within the cable box.  This could save the consumer the cost of purchasing stand-alone gaming platforms (and repurchasing them every 3-5 years for upgraded technology).  The new system would combine the networks high-speed data connections and cloud computing to shift most game action processing to the Cloud, removing the need for increasingly complex local processing units like Playstation, Wii, and Xbox.  Shifting processing to the cloud would also reduce the need for avid gamers to regularly upgrade to new consoles (and new versions of favorite games re-engineered for the new consoles).  The three home distribution networks hope to introduce their new gaming system next year, after upgrading data transmission, cloud-based game processing, and set-top box video processing technologies.
  The videogaming market is huge, generating an estimated $24.1 billion in sales last year.  And while hardcore gamers still focus on consoles for gaming play, a growing portion of casual gamers have been shifting their focus to gaming apps on smartphones and tablets.  This shift is reflected in a 39% drop in videogame hardware sales over the last year.  Further development of cloud-based gaming options could enable the most complex and intricate hard-core games to be played on TV screens - even on tablets and smartphones - without the need for consoles, cartridges, and discs.  That would likely significantly disrupt the current console-based business model - with hardware (consoles) being sold near cost, and profits generated from operating system royalties from sales of game discs and cartridges.
   Developing and implementing a cloud-based gaming system would seem to have benefits for consumers, content providers, and carriers.
With cloud gaming, consumers will be able to avoid buying Sony’s PlayStation 3, Microsoft’s Xbox 360 or Nintendo’s Wii, and play using generic controllers connected to their set-top box or TV. Some carriers are looking at software that turns smartphones into controllers, (representatives) said.
Working with a single online cloud-gaming operating system would have clear benefits for game producers, who could avoid excessive royalty payments to console developers, and save the costs of having to adapt games for multiple platforms.  As for cable operators and carriers,
“It makes perfect sense why they would want to go after this market,” said (Mitch) Lasky, who was previously an executive at Electronic Arts. “Streaming games use a ton of bandwidth and really benefit from good networks. But it’s a gnarly execution problem they’re trying to solve.”
  Cloud-based gaming systems are already being tested and deployed in a number of markets around the world.  Playcast, based in Israel, currently has deals with telecommunication networks in South Korea, Singapore, France and Portugal for a subscription cloud-based gaming service featuring Activision gaming titles.  Another firm, CiiNOW, is running multiple trials in Europe.  Its CEO, Ron Haberman, commented that
“If there was ever a service that fit network providers, it’s this one... 2013 is going to be when we see big commercial offerings.”
  Cable giants Comcast and Cox also indicated an interest in offering videogaming services, although declining to provide details.  Meanwhile, Sony's hedging its gaming future - purchasing cloud-gaming company Gaikai for $380 million in July.

  Cable and other multichannel operators are losing subscribers, so have been searching for new revenue sources.  Gaming is a big market; the introduction of reliable, high-quality, cloud-based gaming that would equal or surpass the gaming experience offered by dedicated consoles would likely profoundly reshape gaming markets by offering significant benefits and savings for players, game-creators, and network operators and access-points.  The only likely loser would be console manufacturers.  It's a good thing that those big conglomerates (Sony, Microsoft, Nintendo) are likely to be pitted against other big conglomerates (AT&T, Time Warner, Verizon) - with both sides having deep pockets, consumers are likely to benefit while the alternative gaming structures battle it out.

Sources -  Xbox Challenged as Cable Plots to Make Consoles Obsolete,  Bloomberg.
Sony buys cloud gaming company Gaikai for $380m,  the guardian

SmartTV Adoption - The Future is Over There

Despite TV set makers pushing Smart (internet connectable) TVs for the last couple of years, a report from Magid found that only 21$ of U.S. consumers have actually connected their TVs to the Internet.  In contrast, a study by Rovi found that around two-thirds of smart TVs and gaming consoles are connected to the Internet in Germany and Western Europe, while only 25-30% of smart TVs and game consoles are actually connected to the Internet.  A third report, from online ad platform smartclip, suggests that 60% of smart TV owners in the U.K. and Germany have connected their sets to the Web.
  One possible source of the difference is that new technologies and services are often tested in smaller European markets before being introduced in the U.S.  Another is that the smaller average dwelling sizes in Europe encourage consumers to look for integrated devices.  It's also been suggested that slower connection rates in the U.S. may be a result of the fact that connectivity is widely included as a basic feature of many new TVs, disc players, and game consoles, but is yet something that American consumers are looking for.  A study from GfK found that only 29% of U.S. consumers reported that Internet capabilities was something they looked for in new TV purchases.
  What's more interesting is that the emerging markets of India, Brazil, and China seem to be leading in the way in adopting and using Smart TVs.  GfK found that 61% of consumers in India, and 64% of those in China indicated that Internet capabilities was an important factor driving new TV purchases.  And once purchased and connected, they tend to be regular uses - three-quarters of Smart TV owners in China report having used connected features in the last month.
“We are seeing the developing countries such as India, Brazil and especially China viewing an increasing amount of content away from a television set, but also using TV in a more advanced way,” said Richard Preedy, research director at GfK, in a statement. “They combine viewing a programme with increased levels of online activity -- giving us a glimpse into how the West will start to move in the coming years. China, India and Brazil essentially are the early adopters at the moment. However, in the coming decade, critical mass will be reached in traditional TV markets such as the UK, U.S. and Germany and the way we all watch programming will be changed forever -- finally burying analogue for good.”
  While initial adoption may be faster, it's less clear that connected TV users in developing countries are using their connections in the same way as American consumers.  Outside the U.S., consumers are less likely to be interested in social applications.  In a 13-country survey of consumers, only 28% thought that the ability to interact with programmes were likely to make them more interesting.  Only 25% thought that commenting on programmes through social media "enhances the viewing experience."  Consumers in developing countries were more interested in discovery than interaction; a third more viewers used connected TVs to search for information on programs than used social media to share the viewing experience with friends.  GfK also found strong consumer interest in expanding and facilitating user control of viewing - 43% were interested in using devices other than the remote to control the TV, and two-thirds were interested in touch and gesture control.  The study suggested that "western consumers are stuck in an ‘analogue’ mindset, whereas viewers in emerging markets are more likely to exploit the digital capabilities of Connected TV."
  The GfK research report concluded -
"While TV does not show any signs of losing its position as the top content-viewing device, other technologies are starting to catch it. The growth of online catch-up and streaming services makes devices such as laptops, tablets, smartphones and games consoles far more accessible in terms of content delivery and therefore more appealing to viewers looking for content rather than a mechanism for consuming it. ... (Viewers are looking  for) the most convenient and intuitive method of consuming this content across their device ecosystem.”

  As for connected TV devices, it seems that the future is now - it's just not here.

Sources -  U.S. Lags Europe, Emerging Markets In Smart TV AdoptionVidblog
Western analoque viewers fail to keep pace with digital connected TV revolution,  GfK press release

Streamworks aims to help TV capture breaking news

One of the major problems in capturing and rapidly disseminating breaking news is the wide array of video standards used in cameras, network signals, and display devices.  Another is getting access to channels for disseminating video on the fly.  Streamworks is a UK start-up that's working to address those issues and provide a mechanism for TV news organizations to capture video from a variety of sources, convert it into appropriate standard configurations, and stream it to users through multiple channels and devices, all in real-time.
  Ray Mia, Streamworks' founder and CEO, says the aim is to provide a "(s)ingle live solution, publish once deliver any and everywhere... fully integrate(d) with social tools... allowing the audience to choose that manner in which to select, see & share video content."  Their service combines structural and technological elements to minimize bandwidth needs - video goes from source to an authorized transmission partner, where the video is processed before being fed to fiber optic Internet infrastructure.  
  They're already  working with AP Television News, and have been designated the streaming partner for United Nations Web TV.

  Anything that fosters faster distribution of multiple news video sources to the full panoply of screens and devices - particularly with breaking news - is likely to help news organizations and the interested public.  Streamworks looks like its taking a good step in the right direction, although there's still a bottleneck/ gatekeeper in the form of the "authorized transmission partner."  So there's still a ways to go to  achieve the goal of real-time total coverage and access.

Source -  How Streamworks is helping TV capture breaking newsLost Remote

update - corrected typo in header.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Broadband for the World - Still Too Costly

A new ITU (International Telecommunications Union) report argues that broadband services remain unaffordable for much of the world.

  Comparing the cost of broadband access to average national income, the study identified 19 countries where broadband cost exceeded average income, and another 30 where the cost of broadband access was greater than half of national average income.  In contrast, the price of broadband access amounted to less than 2% of national average income in 49 countries (mostly in the developed world).

  That's despite continuing and significant drops in the cost of broadband technologies and service.  The ITU reported broadband access prices in most areas fell more than 50% in the last two years, and mobile broadband access costs have fallen 22%.  In classic bureaucratic understatement, the report concludes that "huge discrepancies in affordability persist."

  The report's authors urge governments to further reduce broadband access costs through subsidies, improved competition and improved regulation - in support of the ITU's goal of having basic broadcast access costs fall below 5% of average income in all emerging markets by 2015.  Telecommunication costs have consistently fallen over time, and where allowed, newer technologies will naturally bring costs down as they replace older technologies.

  But the problem isn't just that broadband prices are too high. The real and more serious problem is the other side of the comparison - that national average income levels are too low.  However, that's both too big, and too impolitic, to be the focus of a short-term UN agency goal, so for now the ITU will stress efforts to reduce costs.

Source -  Broadband still unaffordable in many emerging markets, says ITUTelecomEngine
ITU Report - The State of Broadband 2012: Achieving Digital Inclusion For All

TV, Media Execs Embrace Multi-Platform Distribution

A recent survey of broadcasters and media executives found that three out of four believe that online, social, and mobile platforms are driving audiences to watch more television content.
  The Avid broadcast survey interviewed more than 200 "executives and decision-makers from leading broadcast and post and professional organizations in Europe and North America," who were asked questions about where they thought their businesses were headed, and the role and impact of a variety of digital delivery platforms.
   Two thirds of the media organizations indicated that they were optimistic about their future, despite declining audiences and revenues in many traditional media operations.  The optimism was more than wishful thinking - it was linked to the belief that new digital distribution platforms would offer "unprecedented" opportunity for business growth. The researchers identified three drivers for continued growth - increased audiences, multiplatform distribution (MPD), and revenues growth potential from both advertising and audience payments.
  As noted above, 74% of respondents agreed with the statement that the Internet (digital video delivery) will also drive viewers to more traditional linear media (Broadcast, Cable, Satellite).  As for fears of digital options further fragmenting their markets, more than half (55%) of the executives felt that current economic uncertainty was a bigger threat.  They also felt that current and emerging digital video delivery options gave them entry into new and expanded markets - an entry that could be exploited in a variety of ways.  85% of respondents said that multiplatform distribution was critical to capturing new markets and their growth potential.
  One largely undeveloped opportunity is the ability to access and exploit existing content archives.  Respondents felt that, on average, 40% of existing archives could be monetized (potentially profitable) - but at this point they felt that only a fourth of their archives were accessible.  Expanding access could make more valuable content readily available.  The survey found that 83% of respondents felt that all premium video services would be available online, as a means of increasing accessibility and market size. Almost tw0-thirds (63%) also felt that MPD opened a new market for professional content. But most critically, the media executives seemed to be recognizing the full range of opportunities that multiple digital platforms offer - not only access new and expanded markets, but potential to add value to their content streams by customizing them to specific platforms and individual customers.  Adding value increases demand generally, and if high enough, it can justify direct payments from consumers.
Gary Greenfield, CEO and chairman of Avid, says "... media organizations worldwide are moving from addressing homogenous audiences to delivering personalized experiences... this change in the relationship between broadcasters and their audiences... forces a change in business models... “
More than three-quarters of those surveyed (78%) thought that within the next ten years, most of the content delivered would be customized for individual viewer preferences.  70% felt that most content would also be optimized for the particular device viewers are watching the content on.
  Survey participants also thought that moving towards an emphasis on exploiting content assets, by expanding accessibility or adding value through customization, could also be beneficial on the operations/cost side.  When asked about the potential effects of an increased emphasis on asset-based workflows, 75% felt it would increase business efficiency and the bottom line, and two-thirds (67%) felt it would enable new business models.  More specifically, 79% felt that implementing asset-based workflows would enhance operational agility, 69% indicated it would enable better automation, and 62% thought it would largely solve the problem of increasing content volume.
  Exploring new business models and markets opens the way for new growth opportunities at a time when the traditional broadcast model appears static or in decline.  The media executives recognize this, and are looking for their future growth to occur in other areas: 85% see growth potential in multi-platform services; 78% look to new markets and increased audiences for growth; 71% feel those increased channels and audiences will lead to increased advertising revenues; and 70% see growth from audience direct revenues (fees/sales).  There's also a general recognition of the potential of the Cloud; almost all respondents indicated they were already using the Cloud (24%) or exploring how to use the Cloud in their future operations (75%)

  For me, the survey results confirm that today's broadcasting and media executives now recognize the fundamental market transformation that digital has brought - they no longer see themselves as monolithic "broadcasters" relying on long-established revenue streams.  They have recognized that they're primarily purveyors of content in an increasingly competitive market; that the source of their value is content and not merely a signal; and they should seek and embrace multiple mechanisms for exploiting their content and the multiple revenue streams available.  While the various MPD options have yet to show they can fully replace losses in traditional revenue streams, early efforts suggest that when fully developed, the added revenues from multiple streams and operational savings could provide the basis for broadcaster survival into the future. 

Sources -  Multiple Digital Platforms Boost TV ViewingResearch Brief blog
To request research results, go to Avid/Ovum The Future of Digital Media Survey

Profit Moves Among Media Corps.

Media research firm SNL Kagan latest review of media firm revenues and profits is showing quite a bit of movement in the top ranks.  The results are culled from the latest quarterly earnings report filed for publicly held companies.
  Disney held onto the top spot, reporting $2 billion in net profits in the second quarter of 2012, a gain of 22% from the second quarter of 2011.  Last year's number 2, News Corp., fell off the list, reporting a net loss of $1.5 billion this last quarter, a result of the company writing off restructuring charges from its ailing print newspaper unit.  Replacing News Corp at #2 this quarter was Thompson Reuters, whose reported $935 million net profits was up 63% from the previous year.  News Corps fall allowed Viacom to move into the third spot, with $547 million in profits, down 7% (in part a result of ratings issues surrounding Nickelodeon).  Time Warner dropped to the fourth spot with profits of $429 million, a 33% fall from the same quarter last year (revenues and profits this quarter took a hit from the company shutting down operations for its cable channel TNT in the Turkish and Indian markets).  CBS posted net profits of $427 million, up 8.1%; advertising group Omnicon Group reported profits of $314 million, up slightly (2.3%); Discovery Communications reported $293 million in net profits, up 15.4%; Liberty Media moved down, reporting profits down 12% to $249 million.  Completing the top ten was McGraw-Hill, holding steady at $220 million (up 2%).

  Among those discussed, three reported substantial gains in net profits, four reported falling profits (and one a massive lost), and three with modest gains in reported net profits.  Even for the biggest players, media markets remain volatile.

Source  -  Disney Is Tops In Profits, News Corp. DropsMediaDailyNews

Radio Evolution Conference Proceedings

Last year, an academic conference was held in Portugal with the theme "Radio Evolution".  The conference proceedings, comprising 47 research papers in 7 thematic areas, is now being made available online.
  You can access and download individual papers, as well as the entire proceedings, here -

Radio Evolution: 2011 ECREA Conference Proceedings

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

A Guide for Measuring Mobile

Advertisers want to know who their ads are reaching, so they can evaluate the cost-effectiveness of different types of media or messages.  The lack of widely accepted metrics for online and mobile audiences has hampered the acceptance of those media as conduits for advertising campaigns - so there are continuing efforts to develop metrics for analyzing reach and impact, and building consensus within the industry as to their viability and validity.

   The Mobile Marketing Association has been trying to build such a consensus, and has recently released a Primer on Mobile Analytics to that end.
“This paper establishes the groundwork on how marketers can leverage mobile analytics, tap into the tools in the mobile toolbox and apply the data to not only evolve their mobile experience, but also evolve their entire marketing strategy,” said Mike Ricci, vice president of mobile at Webtrends and co-chair of the MMA’s Mobile Analytics Committee.
It's a start, but it's not clear whether the various parties will buy into the MMA recommendations.

Sources  -  MMA Issues Mobile Analytics Guide, OnlineMediaDaily
MMA Primer on Mobile Analytics
MMA Paper on the State of Mobile Measurement  (2011)

How much News on Local TV?

While industry surveys show incremental growth in local TV news schedules in the last few years, one report suggests that it's the few mega-news broadcast stations that are really profiting from the expansion of local news operations.  In particular, there's a group of stations, predominantly Fox O&Os or Fox affiliates, that have been very successful while airing more than 60 hours of local news a week. 
   As a network, Fox has no network news broadcast, the smallest primetime schedule, and offers very little daytime network programming - which translates as more potential time for news or other content. 
   The report suggests that several factors can contribute to the growth in local TV news.  Locally produced programming, like local news, is one of the few areas where the station controls all of the advertising spots, and thus gets all the revenues.  Historically, even with more traditional levels of news content, local news brings in about 50% of a station's total revenues.  Expanding the amount of news programming is also fairly inexpensive, as added programs can recycle stories, use stories and content that didn't make their primary newscasts, and offer significant opportunities for soft news coverage of local events and community activities.  New newscasts in the fringe hours (between midnight and the start of the morning network shows) can be done with minimal cost, while offering a means for local broadcasters to stay relevant in an era of 24/7 cable news channels and the Internet.  In addition, the relative low cost and increased revenue potential of newscasts can be a better bargain that filling mid-day schedules with increasingly high-priced syndicated programs.
Station leaders say that airing local news when others can’t — for, say, four to five hours in the morning, or from late afternoon straight until 7 p.m. — has given them an edge with viewers, who see them as the closest things to 24/7 news on broadcast TV.
“You almost can’t get away from us,” says Dana Hahn, news director at WJBK, which airs two hours more news before lunch (7.5 hours) than the average station airs all day. Morning news, which starts at 4:30 a.m., runs straight until noon. News returns for another 90 minutes at 5 p.m., and again at 10 for another 90 minutes.
WJBK's efforts in Detroit seem to be paying off, with their morning and late afternoon newscasts coming in number 1 among adults in the 25-54 age demographic, and coming in second in direct competition with local Big Three affiliates' newscasts.
   Going long with local news can also provide the buffer and time to follow through with breaking news and to pursue enterprise stories.
“Because we’re effectively in news 24/7, it gives us the opportunity to makes sure our stories are accurately researched so that we have really strong hooks into the story,” says Bill Schneider, GM of Fox-owned WAGA Atlanta... “We’re not pressed for news and sound bites.”
   The longer news schedule also allows more opportunity for community outreach, and can help to build engagement and trust with the local community -
“For our viewers, it doesn’t matter what time you’re heading out to work or whether you’re sleeping late,” Hahn says. “We are going to be there for you.”
   The strategy may not work for everyone, but is something for news directors, station managers, and station owners to consider.

Source -  More News Turns Out To Be Good NewsTV Newscheck

China to Push Broadband Deployment

China's Ministry of Industry and IT has announced plans to significantly increase broadband Internet deployment and use in the next few years.  The basic goal is to extend broadband coverage to 95% of the country by 2015, and its adoption by 250 million users.  (The 95% probably refers to population reach rather than geographic coverage).  While the announcement did not provide specifics as to how that would be achieved, Ministry leaders have previously urged Chinese tech industries to increase research and development, with a goal of developing inexpensive yet reliable equipment to meet the various needs of smaller schools, communities, and small and medium-sized enterprises.  The Ministry has also signaled that additional regulations are in the works "to ensure fair competition" and "smooth development" in the broadband sector.
  According to the Internet Society of China, there are currently more than 150 million broadband users, and 355 million users with dial-up Internet access.

Source -  China to speed up broadband

Election 2012: Is TV Relevant?

A recent post on MediaPost's TV Board blog suggests that television is becoming increasingly irrelevant in elections.  In it, Gary Holmes points to the minimal impact of the two major party conventions on surveys of candidate preference and the large declines in audience size.  While the decline in viewing isn't good, he turns to the demographic mix of convention coverage audiences for an explanation.  On each convention's final night, more than half of the TV audience was aged 55 or older; and more critically, those 18-34 made up only 15% of Democratic primary viewers, and 11% of Republican primary viewers.  News channels and shows skew older anyway, but not as extremely as live election event coverage seems to.  TV news and political coverage of the conventions just don't seem to be reaching uncommitted or swing voters in the electorate.
  History suggests that the audiences for the coming Presidential debates won't attract many of that segment of the electorate either - the debate audiences will most likely continue to primarily attract the older, committed partisans of the candidates, looking to score the hits like a prize fight judge.  And afterwards, there's likely to be a lot of punditry about disinterested and lazy publics failing to devote their attention to these "serious" debates.  However, I'll suggest that its increasingly rational for people looking for reliable information on which to base their vote to ignore the live coverage of the upcoming Presidential debates.  History shows that modern televised Presidential Debates rarely offer rational  discussion of the issues and positions. Rather, they're all about the candidates getting their pre-scripted talking points in (rather than providing meaningful answers to the actual questions asked), and the moderators doing their best to trigger "gotcha" moments about trivialities (rather than addressing and exploring the substantial candidate differences on critically important and pressing issues).  Modern debates don't have much impact unless a candidate makes a grievous error - which will be massively covered in the following weeks.
  Well, then, what about political advertising, slated to reach stratospheric levels this year?  The trouble with having a lot of political advertising is that you have a lot of political advertising.  TV stations and networks will be awash in multiple airings of attack ads - but ads, and particularly political ads, can quickly reach a saturation point beyond which they have little, if any, positive impact.  (Personally, I identify most of them in the first few seconds and immediately change channels - particularly attack ads)
Anecdotal evidence from the last few weeks might even suggest a backlash.  In the last few weeks, mainstream news media, television in particular, have trumpeted multiple claims that Romney "gaffes" have ended his campaign, a plethora of Obama campaign attack ads (labeled misleading and dishonest by fact-checkers) and additional buys for a PAC ad blasting Romney that even the Obama campaign said was dishonest and inappropriate.  And the result of this avalanche of all this negativity from television on Romney's support and approval levels?  National tracking polls show him picking up support from voters, to the point that he's come from several percentage points down, to being tied with (or slightly leading) Obama.
  But the money's been raised, and will be spent.  Attack ads will flourish and will likely to become really dirty and dishonest as the election nears (when the folks running campaigns calculate that it's too late for preposterous claims to be challenged effectively).  But by then, one hopes, a lot of people will have already tuned them out - and perhaps even tuned out the channels, stations, and programs they appear on (I predict a big increase in delayed viewing, as DVR let you quickly skip the nastyness).  And television, in terms of news coverage and live coverage of political events will become even less relevant.
  I do think that TV could correct the trend if it wanted to - but when media think partisanship and conflict drives ratings and profits, it doesn't seem likely.  So to the American electorate - let's make TV irrelevant in elections.  Maybe then the TV's incentives will shift to providing objective reporting and analysis instead of the current incentives to uncritically repeat partisan talking points.

Source - Is Television Becoming Irrelevant to the Election?TV Board, a MediaPost blog

Keeping Pace w/Apps

With both technology and operating systems improving so rapidly, it can be tough keeping up.  For app developers it can be particularly tough and problematic, as a growing body of research suggests that having apps optimized for specific device/OS combinations can have a significant impact on their adoption and use by consumers.  There's been a pack of announced upgrades recently -
  • Twitter's put out a significantly revamped and improved version of its iPad app - improving the timeline function to allow one-touch access to photos, videos, and Web page summaries.  It also adds new tools for tracking "favorites" and accessing stories and social media content popular with friends.  Twitter has 140 million users who generate 340 million tweets daily.
      - Twitter rebuilds iPad app with new profiles, photo streamsFierceMobileContent
  • Google announced that it had acquired Nik Software, developer of the iOS app Snapseed.  Snapseed allows users to shoot and edit photos, apply filters, and share photos via Facebook - and was named 2011 iPad App of the Year.  Nik had been working on optimizing the software for Android - and with Google's purchase that should now be fast-tracked, as Google is hoping that Snapseed can challenge Instagram and help push the growth of it's own social media system, Google+.
      -  Google acquires Sanpseed photo sharing app to rival Instagram's dominanceFierceMobileContent
  • DirecTV is expanding its Audience Network app to iPad.  The app allows DirecTV subscribers to access programming on their mobile devices, both at home and on the road.  At the moment the app allows access to some 60 channels through the home network.  The app can also deliver programming outside the home, but so far few channels permit streaming of live TV to locations outside the home.  While DirecTV continues to work with programmers to license their signals for live streaming, its proceeding with plans for releasing an iPhone version of Audience Network next month, and an Android app by the end of the year.
      -  DirecTV streams Audience Network to iPad: pushes programmers for mobile video rights, FierceCable
  • Hearst Television recently launched an Election 2012 app that combines current national election coverage with content from its 25 local news stations.  The app also lets users access background information on candidates and their positions and voter guides with information on registering to vote and poll locations.  The effort is part of Heart Television's Commitment 2012 election coverage project.
      - Hearst Television taps second screen to enhance election coverage, Promaxdba Daily Brief

Monday, September 24, 2012

Move towards Global IPTV Cloud

A new service, called PurpleCloud, aims to provide a Cloud-based broadband IPTV service to allow Asian and Indian broadcasters access to the North American, European, and Australian markets.
  The service is a joint venture of Octoshape (provider of cloud-based streaming technology) and video content delivery specialist PurpleStream.  The combination of the two companies' cloud and streaming management technologies should allow the PurpleCloud system to optimize streams to available bandwidth and user devices, allowing users to access streamed content on any Internet-enabled device without buffering. 
Offered as a managed service for broadcasters and OTT operators, PurpleCloud is intended to deliver "stable and dependable HD quality video streams to any device, any platform, in any geography at a fraction of the cost of current delivery services," the press release added.
The two primary delivery mechanisms for broadcasters seeking to reach international audiences are satellites and dedicated Internet-based channels - both of which can be prohibitively expensive for smaller channels and networks, or even leading networks from smaller markets (countries).  The service aims to continue adding content partners and is working on getting the PurpleCloud service added to SmartTV and OTT service bundles.  The next stage will be expansion into the live events broadcast market.

The Decline and Fall of American News

(with apologies to the spirit of Edward Gibbon)

The latest edition of Gallup's examination of the American public's attitudes about news and media is out, and shows distrust of news media at an all-time high.

Further troubling news was when it came to paying attention to news about national politics, only 39% said they were following it very closely, down from the 43% who did so at the same point in 2009.

Partisanship & News -

The report shows and increasing differentiation in terms of following national political news by party affiliation - in 2008, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents clustered, with around 30% paying very close attention in 2008.  In the latest results there's a 9-point gap between Republicans and Democrats, and a 6 point gap between Democrats and Independents.  The likely surprise for those not following the Gallup trends, is that Republicans have lead Democrats in terms of paying close attention since 2009.
If you break down news media trust by party affiliation, you also get a strong trend of increasing partisanship...
If you think of these in conjunction, there are several interesting potential interpretations.  First, consider why Independents and Republicans have about half the trust in media reporting news "fairly" that Democrats do - and the possibility that that difference may be due in part to media bias.  If there is bias towards one group, it's natural for that group to have more trust - and for the out group to see the coverage as incomplete, inaccurate, and unfair.   What's interesting here is that for the last few years, that Independents largely share that perception of bias.
  Second, I wonder about the implications of Republicans greater interest in following national politics while showing very little trust in the ability of traditional mass media to provide "fair" coverage.  This would seem to suggest that those Republicans with a strong interest in national politics are likely to be going elsewhere for news and information about national politics.  And likely contribute further to the declining audiences for traditional news media.
  Gallup's own interpretation is not rosy, although they try to spin it a bit.
Americans are clearly down on the news media this election year, with a record-high six in 10 expressing little or no trust in the mass media's ability to report the news fully, accurately, and fairly.
On a broad level, Americans' high level of distrust in the media poses a challenge to democracy and to creating a fully engaged citizenry. Media sources must clearly do more to earn the trust of Americans, the majority of whom see the media as biased one way or the other. At the same time, there is an opportunity for others outside the "mass media" to serve as information sources that Americans do trust.
   The really bad thing is that I have seen very little effort on the part of "mass media" to try to restore trust among older consumers, or try to earn the trust of new generations of news consumers.  If anything, political news coverage has become increasingly trivial ( focus on horse race aspects, and gotcha moments rather than serious reporting and analysis of policies and impacts) and partisan - spin is blatant, overt, and in more and more cases, openly acknowledged.  These are not necessarily good things for news organizations struggling to remain competitive - not under the imprimatur of being news anyway.  Journalists have, over the years invested heavily in portraying news as objective, honest, and fair - as something very different from their image of PR "flacks" as spinning and distorting information to their clients' advantage.
  Do mass media really want to abandon those historic standards of "news" - and the perceptions of trust and credibility within the public sphere - to become just another promotional venue?  I would hope not, but that's just me.

Source - U.S. Distrust in Media Hits New High,  Gallup press release.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Top Online News Sites

Just a quick snapshot
  1. Yahoo News - 110 million UMV (Unique Monthly Visitors)
  2. CNN - 74 million
  3. MSNBC - 73 million
  4. Google News - 65 million
  5. NY Times - 59.5 million
  6. HuffingtonPost - 54 million
  7. Fox News - 32 million
  8. Digg - 25.1 million
  9. Washington Post - 25 million
  10. LATimes - 24.9 million
  11. MailOnline - 24.8 million
  12. Reuters - 24 million
  13. ABC News - 20 million
  14. USA Today - 18 million
  15. BBC News - 17 million
Interesting mix, isn't it?

Source -  Top 15 Most Popular News Websites - September 2012eBiz

Shazam Expands to TV

For a while now, Shazam has offered an app that lets users tag the music they're listening to, as an aid in identifying songs and artists, keeping track of preferences, sharing music through social networks, and previewing and purchasing music.  Shazam claims it connects 250 million people from 200 countries, in 33 languages, making it "the world's largest media engagement company.
  Now Shazam has announced its entry into the world of TV.
Shazam's chief revenue officer, Doug Garland was quoted as proclaiming “Now you can tag any show and what you’ll get back is a rich experience that gets you more engaged with TV programming, more invested with the show.“
  Shazam works by using an archive of "sound fingerprints" to identify songs and programs; once something is tagged, Shazam identifies the content, and then offers access to other content and activities linked to it.  Shazam has partnered with some specific TV shows and programming in the past, but full entry into TV was delayed while the company built up a library of "sound fingerprints" for TV and movie programming.
  Tagging a program will identify the program if it's in the archive.  Among the additional options for users tagging a show, can be things like accessing cast information and celebrity news, playing trivia, and engaging with other viewers on social media.  And harkening back to Shazam's origins, it can also be used to identify the music being used within a TV program.
“You’ll see people engage with a show while its on air, but I don’t necessarily think it’ll be in a way where you distract them from the show,” Garland said. “It’s a buzz tidbit, a mini content snack. You get more invested in the show the next time you watch.”
  The rise of "second-screen" and social TV viewing has created new opportunities for program producers, networks, and advertisers to provide a range of additional content or activities to interested viewers.  Shazam, and similar services, offers a delivery system.  And among "companion" apps, Shazam has scale and reach - currently adding an additional 2 million users a week, and a user base that generates around 10 million new tags a week. 

  Shazam and similar apps seem like they'd be useful tools for active listeners and viewers, and for those who are looking for ways to engage with content and/or with friends and other fans of programs.  But ultimately the key will be how well a particular app can correctly identify tagged program content, and the quality of the value-added extras offered through the app.  It will likely be a while before its clear how successful these "companion" apps will be.

Source - Shazam Wants to Dominate the TV Market, and Here's How,  The Wrap / promaxBDA daily brief

No Surprise - Most Mobile Video Delivered Through WiFi

The latest report from mobile video ad network Rhythm NewMedia suggests that 70% of videos delivered to mobile devices uses WiFi for the data streams.  That's up from last year, when about half used WiFi for mobile video access.  (The numbers are for delivery of their videos, but should reflect general use patterns).  Their most recent quarterly report also indicated that half of tablet users watched videos or clips on their tablets more than once a week; the report for the previous quarter noted that people had a strong preference for tablets over smartphones for their viewing.  Rhythm NewMedia also noted that a survey indicated that more than half of tablets are shared by 2 or more users, while smartphones are rarely shared.
  Another survey result suggested that mobile news users may be starting to regularize their news consumption - about half of those who visited a news site on their mobile devices "today" had also visited that site "yesterday".   This suggests a certain stickiness that could evolve into habit.
  The report suggested several factors that contributed to the continued growth of mobile video use and the increased use of WiFi - the proliferation of WiFi networks, particularly in homes; the rapid adoption of tablets (primarily used at home); and a conscious shift to WiFi from wireless as wireless operators shift to capped data plans that can ring up heavy data charges for mobile video users.  In addition, there is a separate trend in terms of increasing use of online videos and video streaming - a report from Cisco projects continued growth in the share of all mobile traffic.  In 2011, video accounted for 52% of mobile data flow; Cisco predicted that video will have accounted for 58% of all mobile traffic in 2012.

Source - Rhythm: Wi-Fi Powering Most Mobile VideoOnline Media Daily

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Internet Archive adds TV News

One issue that historians have with the Internet is that it's not permanent.  Online content can disappear as people shift interests or move to new jobs or institutions.  Embarrassing content can be revised without notice, or disappeared.  Enter the Internet Archive, a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving as much of the Internet's content as it can and making that material available to everybody.  What started as a project to archive web pages has expanded its focus to include texts, images, audio and video files, software, and now TV news programs.
  Inspired by the Vanderbilt TV News archive, the Internet Archive of TV News seeks to collect and preserve a wide variety of television newscasts, and make them available to researchers and interested individuals.  The Archive currently goes back to 2009, and includes programs from more than 20 networks (broadcast and cable) and stations aired in Washington DC and San Francisco, CA.  The archive currently hosts more than 355,000 programs, and is working to add pre-2009 programs as well.

  While the Vanderbilt collection goes back to 1968 for some programs, its focus has been on major national evening news programs.  The Internet TV News archive only goes back 3 years (for now) but includes a much wider range of news programs - local news programs in the two markets, a wide variety of non-primetime news programs from the cable news channels, and news shows from cable and satellite networks that aren't full-time news channels - including Spanish language programs and faux news favorites the Daily Show and The Colbert Report.

Sources -  Every Minute Of Every TV News Program, Online and SearchableTVNewser
Internet Archive home page -
Internet Archive TV News home page  -

Boom in TV Tweeting - Impact of Social TV

Tweets about TV have boomed, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.  This July saw more than 75.5 million comments about TV posted on Twitter and other social media systems.  That's compared to 8.8 million generated the previous July (2011).  The article goes on to talk about how the comments are beginning to influence the writing of shows.
  The writers at Covert Affairs added a scene to the season's final episode to specifically address continuing fan questions about the eyesight of a major character.  When Vampire Diaries had one of the vampire characters violate the "unwritten law" that vampires can't enter a dwelling without an invitation, there was an immediate flood of comments and questions seeking an explanation.  The comments kept coming well into the next season before writers finally provided an explanation in a later episode.  The record for per-viewer social TV commenting is cable program Pretty Little Liars, which received on comment for every one and a half viewers for an episode this August (1.6 million comments).
  Program producers note that the huge number of comments over a month are primarily produced by a much smaller number of active social TV users.  July's 75 million social media comments, for instance, were produced by about 8 million viewers (out of 113 million TV households in the U.S.).  Some consider it important to keep the support of fans who are the most active social media commenters.  Matt Corman, creator and executive producer for Covert Affairs put a positive spin on the situation - "Fans who watch the show can become grass-roots organizers for the show... In politics they say don't ignore your base."  Others like the chatter, but would rather it not come while watching the program.  Brad Falchuk, creator and executive producer for Glee (the show with the highest average commenting last year) quipped "I would love to do an episode that was so amazing you got fewer Tweets."
  You can also see the growing importance of social TV - commenting on and discussing TV programs on social media - in the rise of analytics firm Fizziology, which is monitoring pre- and post-premiere social buzz for a number of this fall's slate of programs.  Fizziology's big winners - Fox's The Mindy Project, NBC's The New Normal and ABC's 666 Park Avenue.  NBC is using social metrics to complement traditional ratings research, as a means of indicating viewer passion and involvement.  For example, NBC's Go On generated significantly higher ratings that The New Normal, but The New Normal generated more than two and a half times more social buzz - with many of the commenters starting to quote the show's characters.  At this point, however, the value and precision of social metrics is unsettled - at best they can be a reflection of viewer interest, attention, and involvement that can be combined with traditional viewership metrics to gauge public awareness and interest.
  That can be good enough for some in the industry.  NBC used the social buzz around the London Olympics to support increases in cross-media advertising deals.
 "It was a really bright, shining example of how social could fuel ratings," said Peter Naylor, NBC Universal's exec VP-digital media sales. "People were really, really concerned about social being a spoiler, but it actually worked as an accelerant, and when we sold advertising packages, we made sure that for all the windows, all the platforms" -- most notably the NBC Olympics Live Extra app, which offered live streams of more than 3,500 hours of content -- "we associated marketers with those platforms."
Executives at CBS note that social buzz can drive traffic to its online sites.
"As we push stuff onto Twitter and Facebook -- a clip or a photo or a comment made by talent from one of our shows -- we can see that large portions of the traffic to our sites are being driven by leads generated that way," said Marc DeBevoise, senior VP-general manager at CBS Interactive. "And, of course, more traffic to our sites drives more revenue."
As social buzz reflects audience engagement, it supports the ability to develop highly targeted social TV initiatives, such as Lexus building on the social buzz surrounding USA Network's Suits, and its affluent viewers, to combine Lexus sponsorship of the program with its social-gamification program "Suits Recruits." American Express partnered with Glee, a show with strong social buzz and viewer involvement to promote their Members Project campaign - "a feel-good charitable initiative with the tagline 'Everyone can help change the world for the better, one step at a time.'"  The potential of using social buzz to support highly targeting marketing and advertising efforts can be particularly beneficial for smaller niche networks - one example is the partnership of Hyundai with AMC's The Walking Dead.

With most TV viewing research showing continuing increases in social TV viewing (where the second online activity relates to the program being watched) and two-screen viewing (where the online activity is focused elsewhere), its clear that a significant portion of the TV viewing audience will be active online and during viewing.  Comments about TV programs on social media services can provide insights into these more active viewers' attitudes about, and engagement with, programs (but not reliable quantitative measures; not yet anyway).  Still, those insights can be valuable for some network executives, program producers, and marketers and advertising - helping to evaluate how programs and viewer engagement can match up at meet specific desired goals.  We're seeing the beginning of that, with the likelihood that much more will be coming.

Sources -  When Twitter Fans Steer TVWall Street Journal
Networks Track Social Buzz for Fall ShowsAdWeek
Wait, Who's Actually Making Money Off Social TV?AdAge

Sports Fans Moving Online

TV used to be the overwhelmingly dominant medium for sports coverage, as well as sports news and commentary.  While TV remains a valued and important source, a recent survey conducted by Burst Media indicates that those naming TV as their primary source for sports information has dropped below 50%.  Perhaps more critically, more than a quarter of respondents identified content Web sites as their primary source for sports information.  Looking towards the future suggests that the gap between TV and the Web will continue to shrink - when respondents were asked to indicate what they thought was the best source for news, TV's share shrunk to 41.3%, while content sites rose to a 35.4% share.
  The growing importance of the Internet as a source for sports information is reflected in other survey results.
  • 35.1% of sports fans report going online at least once a day for sports-related reasons (the share jumps to 66.8% for tthose who self-identify as dedicated fans
  • 34.7% of younger sports fans (18-34) report they frequently use social media to comment on or share sports content (that stat drops to 15% for the 35-54 demographic and 5% for those over 55)
  • 31.6% of sports fans use tablets for sports, and 45.7% report using smartphones to access online sports content
  • 35.7% report using mobile devices to access online sports content while they watch sporting events on TV
  • while casual fans reflect the general population in terms of demographics, those identifying themselves as devoted sports fans skew heavily male (79.0%), more educated (50.6% having at least a college degree), and higher income (43.7% are in high income households).
  The results suggest that sports fans are finding value in online and mobile sources for sports content and information.  Combine that with the younger fans' adoption of social media as a platform for connecting with other fans, and you can see the foundation for increased use of online and mobile media as valuable sources for sports information.

  I think that TV's larger screen will keep it the predominant and preferred source for watching sporting events live.  On the other hand, the Internet offers access to a wide range of sports content and information beyond that, in a format that's easily searchable, available any time and almost everywhere, can be interactive and social, and is readily customizable to the user's specific preferences as a sports fan.  The Internet's already overtaken TV, cable, and newspapers as the preferred source for news (for many of the same reasons).  It probably won't be long before we see the same shift in preference for sports information (if perhaps not as quickly for watching live sporting events).
  Now the methodologist in me will note that the survey sample targeted U.S. online users, not the general population, so some inflation of the online numbers should be expected in the survey's findings.  On the other hand, with more than 80% of US adults online, the differences between online adults and the general population are becoming minimal.

Source -  Sports Fans Turn More to Web, Social MediaOnlineMediaDaily

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Media museum discovers it has first color film ever shot.

Staffers at the National Media Museum in Bradford, UK, opened an old tin reel box to discover what they think is a reel of test shots for the first system for capturing natural color in motion pictures.  The reel was apparently produced in 1902, but later research suggests that problems with the film's nonstandard format and projection system, and Turner's untimely death in 1903, led to the process being abandoned and largely forgotten for the last 110 years.  While film historians knew of Edward Turner's 1899 UK patent for his color process, and thought that some footage likely existed, confirmation awaited the discovery of the film tin and the development of a process for transferring the original nonstandard film onto modern film stock, then digitizing and assembling the overlying frames to produce a single color frame that could be reassembled so that the film could be displayed as shot.

Two experts in early film technologies had to create a special gate to hold the film's frames, and then match the differently colored frames individually before capturing the image digitally, restoring it, and combining it into a motion picture.  Going into the project, it wasn't clear whether the process would work.
"Then we saw it on screen. We looked at it and we were absolutely astonished with it. We never expected it to be so good... Knowing all about colour reproduction, and all the pitfalls along the way, to do something as good as that coming from 1901, 1902 was really totally unexpected. It was very exciting."

  While a number of early filmmakers produced "color" movies, those were produced by adding color to individual frames of the normal black&white film stock.  Capturing natural color on single film stock didn't make inroads into the film industry until the late 1920s and early 1930s.

Source - World's first colour film footage viewed for first timeBBC News

edit - had to correct a couple of technical steps in the restoration process.

Local TV big winner this election cycle

A report from Moody's Invester Service predicts that the winner of the November elections will be...

Local Broadcast Television Stations

Moody predicts that when it's all said and done, $2.8 billion will be spent for political advertising on local TV, which will account for 9% of all local TV ad revenues.  Moody suggests that the heaviest spending will come in October, and will be heavily targeted at markets in swing states.  It also notes that which states are considered as "swing states" could vary as the campaigns continue and and the opinions of the electorate shift.
  Wells Fargo analyst Marci Ryvicker concurred, noting that the top markets for political ad spending has already shifted several times over the last few months.  She also upped her prediction for total political ad spending this cycle to $5.2 billion, as August's political ad expenditures were 77% higher than July's total.

Political advertising has always given a boost to local TV ad revenues, despite FCC rules mandating that stations provide them at their lowest rates.  But as regular ad revenues stagnate or fall in a weak economy, and as political campaign spending has exploded, the regular injection of political funds can become a critical (if transient) source of station profits.  And that's not necessarily a good thing.

Source - Local TV Stations the Real Winners This ElectionTV Spy blog