Intellectual Property

the battle over dvr in the clouds > why it matters

R!!!!

Image by obieta via Flickr

Call it nDVR.  Call it VOD.  Call it on-demand streaming.  Call it ad skipping.  Call it TIVO, SlingBox, or ORB.  Call it place-shifting, copyright infringement or distribution democratization.

The outcome is the same.

The present is changing.  The past has changed.  Now is too late, but Tomorrow may be to soon.  The key to success in today's market is adaptive innovation, planned flexibility that protects today's revenue streams while laying the foundations of tomorrow's solutions.

Broadcast Networks and Content Owners will by and large continue to cling to what is known, familiar and therefor immediately advertiser friendly.  They will fight change for the upheaval and turmoil it will cause the industry, for the massive investment and effort required of both manpower and resources (not to mention infrastructural costs) towards deploying a new model.

But a new model will emerge.  And fighting the future will not keep it from coming.  I tried.  I took the batteries out of my watch.  But the day ended.  And tomorrow came.

The battle over nDVRs will continue.  And it should.  This court battle matters.  It sets a strong precedent for future technologies... which will in turn demand new models.

The Mainstream Media outlets and Cable Providers are smart.  They are battling to protect their current revenues.  But most importantly, while they are battling to protect their wallets today, they are innovating, fostering tomorrow's future all the while.  Hulu is out and is (to my mind) a success.  TheWB relaunches in weeks.  But this is only the beginning. 

The entire concept of change is still in it's infancy.  And I for one, am looking forward to quite a ride.


next steps: Windows Media (Player and DRM)

Wmp11Windows Media Player is a mess.  It's slow, doesn't natively bundle a robust codec support base and ties into a less-than-popular DRM scheme.  It looks like a dieing product.  But I believe that Microsoft may be sitting on an untapped goldmine.

Over the past couple years Microsoft has continued to invest in their desktop media player and DRM (beyond the media suite coupled with Vista).  Microsoft has fully revamped the UI and redesigned overall experience, delivering a far better looking player. But the success of their player is going to hinder on the value it delivers, not the wrapper it presents.  A shiny nickel will always be worth less than a crumpled dollar bill.

But there is hope for Microsoft in this world.  Microsoft has one thing that Apple, iTunes and the popular VLC Media Player don't have - advertising.  Wow, that sounded evil.  Let me explain.

Microsoft has:

  • an incredibly powerful network of users and strong desktop penetration,
  • a robust network of content owners (they are a Hulu syndication partner)
  • and their key differentiation: advertisers. 

When properly and strategically leveraged, Microsoft is in the unique position to offer ad-supported downloadable video.  I'm not talking about NBC Direct's poor excuse for ad supported downloadable video.  I'm talking about a seamless experience.  I'm talking about leapfrogging iTunes in their own field.

Microsoft is the best suited company to deliver this eventual reality.

Microsoft's desktop player should become everything that Joost could have been, had Joost had access to first-run mainstream network content.  Microsoft should be providing downloadable, portable (to Windows DRM capable devices) premium ad supported content. 

This would give the Windows Media offering an amazingly unique value prop, one that nobody else could deliver.  Google, AOL and Yahoo! don't have the desktop penetrations that Microsoft has.  Apple doesn't have the advertiser relationships.  And users don't have a free and legal way to gain access to portable content.

Everyone wins.


PS3 as a Tivo + SlingBox - PlayTV (w/ video)

PlayTV is a hardware add on that allows any PS3 to record AND stream live TV (video below).  You can also perform a wireless sync to a PSP.  Now THIS is where Tivo and Xbox 360 need to go next.

Think about the power of wireless syncing of pre-recorded content to your Zune. 

Better yet, how about offering this add-on free, coupled with relevant advertising.

And how relevant would this advertising be? How about...,

  • advertising targeted to your online behavior as determined by MSN,
  • your TV viewing and recording and determined by your embedded DVR solution,
  • your purchased content as determined by your Xbox360 and Zune Store,
  • your social network as determined by MSN and Zune Social,
  • your tastes in music as determined by your most played in Windows Media Player and your Zune,
  • and let's not forget, your tastes in video games. 

Let's just say, this could be extremely well targeted advertising. 

Or you could just pay for the premium ad-free service.

PlayTV Video (after the jump)


why is the record industry still chasing waterfalls?

Broken_record Here's an idea!

Never move forward.  Never adapt.  Fight progress.  And above all else SUE EVERYONE who tries to adapt your offering to their needs.

You wouldn't think this business would be worth billions...  but the music industry is.

Sure, they got past Napster and got on board with web 2.0 (more or less).  But they're still stuck in a RECORD industry world. Today's youth and tomorrow's masses aren't about buying the hottest new record and having friends over just to listen to it.  We want to EXPERIENCE it.

Today's user is looking for EXPERIENCES, not just passive music.

When are we going to see audio tracks bundled with Guitar Hero or Rock Band extras? 
When are we going to see the music industry INNOVATE? 

Rather than begrudgingly following users from CDs to MP3s to DRM-Free MP3s, why couldn't the music industry LEAD us into the future rather than chasing long gone waterfalls?


first impressions & next steps : kindle and mobile RSS

Kindle_2 Update: This entire post was written before looking at the pay-as-you-read RSS pricing structure.  Click down to the end to see how Amazon's pricing has changed my point of view.

The Story: So Amazon launched Kindle, the first major US release of an ebook reader.  Sony has had e-readers for some time now with little US success.  However, given Amazon's US and global market positioning, they will probably gain far more traction than Sony from day one.  Amazon is our digital portal to reading.  Kindle is the digital solution to digital reading on-the-go.

The e-Reader Innovation: For those who may be unfamiliar with the technology, e-readers are digital displays with a basic amount of memory (equivalent to what you would find on an SD card) and a fairly low-end processor slapped on.  The real innovation in e-readers typically lies in their screens, which utilize a technology called e-ink.  E-ink is not a traditional "on or off" pixelated display, rather it is a set display where elements or "ink" can be reconstituted to display other content utilizing of a small shot of electricity.  Once the image is displayed, the screen is essentially "off" until new content needs to be displayed.  So rather than being a display that is always on when in use (such as the screen you are mostly likely reading this on), e-ink displays are always off - even while displaying information!  They only turn "on" to flip a page.

The Amazon Innovation: While seamless integration with the Amazon store is certainly welcome, the innovation here lies in the distribution platform.  Amazon has baked in connectivity with Sprint's EVDO network to provide "live" push updates of content - certainly a welcome and unexpected addition.  This device essentially removes the need for a computer and dedicated internet connection from the equation.  Bravo!

But I won't be buying one of these toys anytime soon, and here's why: there is no responsive RSS reader functionality.  Sure I read the NY Times daily - and am a paperback novel-phile -  and a serial magazine reader (I read over 2 dozen a month) - and an addicted RSS feed reader, all of which Kindle has.  But in order to serve as a true digital text-on-the-go solution, I need a true RSS interaction solution on the go, one that downloads my content so that it can be read and interacted with/socialized when not connected - such as on the NYC subway system.  I need a reader that can save my del.icio.us tags, marked as read reads, emailed articles and more - and then complete these tasks when synced with a data connection.  I need to be able to interact with my content much as I would online, on the go, from wherever I am.  This should be nothing more than a firmware upgrade, and once it hits, I'm in.

Once this hits, I'll be all over this bad boy.  And most of the world won't be... and here's why: there is a wonderful tactile interaction with books and magazines that most users value.  Magazines aren't going away anytime soon. 

I don't want to read a Kindle on the couch after a long day,

    I want my beautifully printed analog issue of Sports Illustrated. 

I don't want a Kindle in my bathroom for family or guests -

    I want a Readers Digest. 

I don't want a Kindle at my Sunday Morning breakfast table,

    I want the Sunday paper, complete with comics, circulars and sales. 

There is a place in our culture for the tactile, for the real, for the analog.  And it's not going away any time soon.

The Kindle features amazing capabilities.  It can bring the digital market to places we have never been before. The server side DRM solution is brilliant.  Users actually own a re-downloadable license, not a single download license!  The distribution deal with Sprint is brilliant, and this is a direction I would like to see other mobile device companies mirror (Zune 3?).  

As for me?  I'm going to wait for a digital text device that works seamlessly with my digital text media lifestyle.  Until then, I hope you all enjoy!

Update: I just did a bit more reading and realized there is a service/subscription fee for reading blogs.  AND you can ONLY read blogs that are registered with Amazon's system.  

This changes everything!  Why would I pay for free content?  (I know, I know, you're paying for access - but the whole principle of payment for RSS KILLS this device as an RSS reader and therefor as a viable e-text device - at least for me.)  So Amazon, come up with a better RSS solution, (like free WiFi syncing ala Zune2 AND integration with Google Reader via Google Gadgets) and I then I would go all out for this unit.

Until then, the pricing structure doesn't deliver sufficient value to make this a worthwhile purchase.


New Dynamics: BlinkBox Vs. Hulu - sharing & commenting

Piracy_2 So you just saw a fantastic DVD or a fall-off-the-couch hillarious episode of The Office.  Now you want to share your favorite clip - and comment on it.  But how?

How would YOU share or comment on premium video content?

Until recently, I would have searched for the clip either on the content owner's site or more likely on YouTube - and then posted the clip to my social network site (ex. this blog) with a comment written above or below the content.

There are now new ways to share and comment on premium video content.  And while both of these solutions are still works in progress (still in beta), this is a trend traditional media properties NEED to continue to embrace.

Hulu

If I want to insert a comment, I have to insert it below the video itself - as I am doing here.  Alternatively, I could email this clip with my own comments and a link to the video (link).

BlinkBox

www.blinkBox.com;

BlinkBox's format allows me to comment within the video stream itself.  This format is ideal for posting in a social network environment where I am most likely posting the video as a standalone piece of content and not as part of a text post. 

You can also share your video with other BlinkBox users internally, via email or direct to a mobile phone (UK and select European regions only).

There is some great content, and the video quality is quite good.

That being said, there are a few experiential elements I would like to see corrected in future builds:

  • There is an 80 character limit to embedded comments.  This just isn't enough space for meaningful commenting.
  • Finding clips is a pain.  You need to go into the BlinkBox site, find the right show and THEN find the right clip.  If the clip you're looking for isn't there, you're stuck.  It's too rigid.
  • Share to mobile is a nice feature, but not one that I would pay for - though the free sampleing offer is a nice touch.
  • BlinkBox automatically inserts their URL below the clip - see above. They already brand the player, inserting a text URL is taking it a bit too far for me.

Solutions RoundUp

Clipping
Winner: BlinkBox - cutting your clip is far easier on the BlinkBox system.  Hulu's editing tool leaves much to be desired.

Content
Winner: Hulu - Hulu's got GREAT content.  BlinkBox's content offering is spotty.

Overall Experience
Winner: Hulu - Hulu integrates the clipping/sharing solution within  the content viewing experience.  Clipping outside of the content viewing platform is not the most natural behavior.

Key Takeaways

  • Clipping and sharing are integral parts of the social media user experience.  Empowering users to interact with and promote your content in these manners is fundamental to New Media/Social Media Activation.
  • Both BlinkBox and Hulu will have their place.  BlinkBox's tight relationship with studios could generate a strong promotions channel for trailers and new releases.  Hulu's clipping tool is just the first step in sharing and socially interacting with video from within the viewing experience.
  • While ALMOST EVERYONE is busy suing YouTube, it's imperative that content owners provide easily accessible and user friendly channels for embedding premium video clips. 
  • These channels won't replace the YouTubes and OVGuide's of the world, but they do represent a significant shift in old school marketer strategy.
  • NBC Direct, Hulu, Joost, Veoh TV, BlinkBox and others are not the end game solutions,  but they do represent a significant trend. Traditional Media houses recognize that new models and solutions are needed to monetize their offerings in a new media environment.  While these may look like baby steps to digirati, they are significant strategic first steps from a mainstream media perspective.  Solutions will be found, the market will find a happy medium between user control and content owner rights. 

My Take: As for me, I'm going to be staying positive, focusing on the positive steps and suggesting next steps.  Mud slinging may be fun, but it isn't productive.  So let's try to stay positive everybody, alright?


transparent privacy : tracking, targeting and user outrage

Peeping_tom Digital media users are understandably upset over undisclosed industry wide user-tracking practices that have gone on for some time now.  But where is this going and what will this do to out industry?

The History: Digital user output has always been tracked on a gross scale.  Most Popular Search Listings on search engines have been publicly available for years.  Digital/Online conversations in social networks and blogs have been monitored for some time now.  Behavioral targeting is nothing new.  Google has "reading" people's mail since the launch of Gmail.

The Question: So why is everyone crying foul over the new behavioral/contextual relevancy efforts?

The Trend: Users they never realized how much of their lives are being tracked and listened to.  Digital users never really thought about the billions of people out there with free access to watch their videos, view and save their photos, or read their public conversations. 

The Concern: What would happen if Google's walls were to come down for even a day?  What would people know about YOU if they saw every search and subsequent click off that search  - that you performed over the past few years?  What would people know about you if they were to see how your search behavior relates to that of others - and who is most like you?  Wouldn't it be scary to find out that you (as a 24 year old male) are in the same behavioral grouping as old women, tweenage girls or some sick online fetish group?  And if you don't think it's true, play around in Facebook a bit - and watch the ads.  I was in meeting just two days ago where a male salesman in his 30s got an ad for a menopause solution. No matter how he is grouped or targeted (if at all), this is an uncomfortable situation.

The Underlying Reason: Digital media is unlike analog media.  Posting to a blog isn't like speaking with friends at a Starbucks.  Digital content is liquid.  It's flows freely wherever it is welcome.  Even if I regret this post in an hour from now and choose to take it down, there is still the possibility that a blog aggregator has clipped this post or quoted me.  Once digital content is published, it's "out there" for good.

The Future: Is this user demand for privacy something we as a marketing industry need to adapt to, or is this "unprivate" world THE future - and digital users will just have to learn to live with it (as they have with Gmail)?

I really wish I had the answer to that one. 

My bet:  This is going to be decided by good old guns and butter.  It's a question of supply and demand.  Demand will be generated both by public opinion and the level of value delivered to the consumer.

  • If relevancy can deliver value to the user experience - such as a on Amazon.com, then most users will accept this reality and move on.
    • Caveat - If ads and widgets seem a bit too relevant to a user (such as getting an ad for erectile dysfunction on your social network page after you performed a search for ED) then users may get frightened away, even if the experience has value.  There are some times I just don't want brands to know about me.  Just because I'm interested in something, doesn't mean I want brands telling me about it ALL THE TIME.
  • If however, there is no added value, and this is a pure advertising play, then users will understandably be upset.  In this scenario one of two things can happen:
  1. Virtually every online property continues to grow their behavioral monitoring solutions.  In this world, users will have no choice other than to accept the reality of BT or pay for their online utility.  Most of us will opt for the free and tracked solution, while the older, more affluent and professional users will pay for more of their online behaviors.  This is good old fashioned. supply and demand.
  2. A handful of industry leaders will publicly take a stand against behavioral targeting and tracking.  If this happens, the public may shift onto these platforms, creating a new industry standard and new rules that everyone will have to play by.

The Bottom Line: In either case, transparency is a positive trend, impacting both the user and the marketer. Walls are coming down.  Accountability is on the rise.  If you were ever evil, it's going to come out.  If you're still evil, it's time to come clean.  Those ghosts in your closet are going to cause you trouble, it's time to start playing by the rules.  And speaking of... check out the video below. 

This is not cool.


Writers get it right!

The writers and actors from The Office are getting their point of view out there, on the internet.

Forgetting the amazing irony here (protesting contracts over internet video via an internet video), this is one smart video.  It's human, impactful, tells a story and is sharply to the point. 

THIS is how you drive a message via YouTube.  Want to know how NOT to tell a message?  Check out the video at the very end of this post.

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And after a VERY long day at the office, I discovered this awesome video. 

Too funny, well worth the watch.  Check it out.

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This is how NOT tell a story.  It's long, it's wordy, it's technical and the visual look like they were created an animated on Powerpoint.  It reminds me of a driver's ed video.  I love the writers and support their demands, but this was not their best work.  You would think a Writers Guild could write something a little more compelling.