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August 2007

this is the life

Flower Last night my wife and I celebrated our first anniversary.  Two weeks ago we moved into a new place.  Six weeks ago we had our first - our beautiful son named Ari.  On a much smaller note, this week my blog got picked up on TechCrunchLife is great!

One of my lifelong mentor's used to constantly repeat the refrain -

Count Your Blessings.

As a kid I never really appreciated just what he was saying or why he always reiterated that we thank our mothers for cooking wonderful meals and give our dads big hugs every weekend before they left for synagogue.  No matter the practical example, no matter the topic of his stories or his lectures, this mentor always ended his classes, presentations, one-to-one talks and school-wide assemblies with the same message - Count Your Blessings.

As a teen I began to appreciate the sagacity of his advice.
As an adult I am slowly beginning to understand just how good we have it.

When was the last time you worried about putting food on the table, a roof over your head, or were concerned for your physical safety?  When was the last time you thought about your freedom to speak your mind, practice your religion or post your own thoughts on a blog?  It's amazing to consider just how great we have it.

It's a holiday weekend.  Most of us will be spending 3 days out of the office, 3 days at home.  I don't know about you, but I plan on soaking in the time with my wife and newborn son. 

So enjoy the weekend!  Take pictures, create memories, appreciate everything that you're been blessed with.  Don't worry about the traffic, enjoy the extra opportunity to spend some time with your loved ones.

Happiness isn't about being there, it's about getting there. 
Life's isn't about things, it's about you and those most valued by you.

So take the time and just enjoy! 

Have a great weekend.

the blondest blond & most teenage teen in all the land

So, it's been a long week and I's like to wrap up before the holiday weekend with a little something-something that doesn't contain the word 2.0 or Hulu.

I'm sure that by now many of us have seen the incredibly hilarious / embarrassing video from this past week's Miss Teen USA Pageant (if not see below). 

What would you do if you were in her shoes?  As a teenager, I probably would have acted like I didn't care, then found a way to craft a business around it - probably doing local commercials and sponsorships, but that's just me.  And while I made money off of my own shame, I would have acted aloof, as if I didn't care, all the while kicking myself for saying something that mind-numbingly stupid LIVE ON NATIONAL TELEVISION.

Well, this beauty queens chose to go on live tv for the second time in what is clearly (note the sarcasm in my voice) an unscripted bought of banter.  Check out both videos below:

swing and a miss

The Second Time Around

So what do we say?  Can we give this girl a break? 

What if you were her interviewer for college, for a job?

the youtube killer that wasn't

Death Why do we obsessively use the term - killer?

The Killer App, The iPod Killer, the YouTube Killer the list goes on and on.

What do we mean when we use this phrase? 

Hulu is being called a YouTube killer (TechNewsWorld, EGear, The UTube Blog, Silicon Alley Insider, Reuters)- so this should mean that they are in direct competition, right?

Joost is being called a YouTube killer - so again, one would assume that they are playing in the same market, right?

Now this is where I start to get frustrated.

  Joost and (presumably) Hulu are in the business of serving up copywrite protected professional made-for-tv television longer form content.  YouTube is America's Funniest Home videos; YouTube is by and large a UGC clip factory.  We don't go to YouTube to watch clips longer than 10 minutes in duration (and I believe YouTube places the maximum video length somewhere around there).  Other than music videos, Joost doesn't have much that is shorter than 10 minutes long!

YouTube is for leaning forward viewing, mouse in hand, actively watching.

Joost is about lean back viewing - and multitask picture-in-picture viewing when in windowed mode.

I would completely understand if we were putting Hulu in competition Joost, Veoh, potentially Babblegum, and maybe even Zattoo if it ever makes it stateside, but where does YouTube fit in?

Are we suggesting that the launch of Hulu will create a new depository of clips from television shows that YouTube won't be able to stream for intellectual property reasons?  While this would probably present the strongest case for direct competition between Hulu and YouTube, I would like to present two objections to this argument as well:

  1. While Hulu has principle rights to stream content from their sponsors, fair use laws still apply. YouTube users will still upload pirated content and Fair Use laws will often justify YouTuve's streaming of these short clips.
  2. From a marketing perspective, if Hulu wants to play in the world of clips, they should work WITH YouTube, not against YouTube. 
    • Hulu is the new kid of the block, YouTube has a gargantuan established audience.  Rather than removing content from YouTube, Hulu should both post and encourage users to post short clips - 45 seconds or shorter - of Hulu content on YouTube with a Hulu logo embeded in the corner and Hulu splash screen after all content.  If I were Hulu I would even work with YouTube to run advertising before and after their new little pop-up ad bar - containing a link to Hulu (this is advertising on the little bar  before and after the regular advertising, not pre roll or post roll).  Everybody would win.

Let's not call something a Killer unless it's in direct competition with the existing category leader OR it can easily obviate the need for an existent product or service.

In other news, how is NBC going to handle digital paid content distribution now that they've broken ties with Apple? 

Is Hulu about to become iHulu with a direct to download sales component? 

And if they do bake in this offering - how will they enforce DRM against the largest media distribution/player portal (iTunes - iPod) without working together with iTunes on DRM?


the disconnect - Hulu & the future of online TV video

Cut Unless you've been in a cave for the past 24 hours, you've probably seen the wave of reports around the announcement of the upcoming beta launch of NewCo/ClownCo/NewSite/Hulu.  With much ado about not much, we're left with nothing to do but wait.  But we don't like to wait, so we report and analyze the few nuggets of information we have, namely, a freakishly odd name and a short letter from the CEO.

Where do we go from here?

A great man once suggested that we "Sit sit sit, but we did not like it not one little bit."  So we will take look at where our current online video user/subscriber market, and hope that Hulu may overcome it's name (that was my last cheap shot at the name, I promise) and deliver a truly unique breath of fresh air into an under-served and poorly delivered online television video market.

6 Streaming Video Viewer Groups/Behavior

The Snacker - watches short clips on YouTube, MetaCafe and StupidVideos.  The Snacker wants their 3-4 minute clip of whatever it is, and then to move on, possibly to another video.  The Snacker will visit a site for a specific compelling video, but will then expect to be able to embed, email and share the video. 

The Artsy Fartsy - watches short films and concept videos with similar viewing behavior (destination/channel) to The Snacker.

The Pirate - Lives on the OVGuide and Joox, mourns the YouTube and more recent Veoh crackdown on IP violations.  The Pirate enjoys professional content but wants it on his/her own terms.  The Pirate watches some programming in full screen, but often chooses to view it in streaming (screen-in-screen) rather than downloaded formats (via BitTorrent) because they are multitasking while online.  if you're not sure what I'm talking about and want to stay on the up and up with the law, check out ABC's new video player.

The People Who Wait For The Walk Sign - Early adopters who care about the law but want the same control and access as The Pirate.  This market is consistently underserved.

The Fan - visits program homepages and forums.  The Fan probably wants to be able to view missed episodes or watch repeats of their favorite episodes online.  The Fan may want to view reruns while multitasking (screen-in-screen viewing), but is far more likely to view programming on a standalone web page when viewing content for the first time.

The Subscriber - Subscribes to video (think vodcasts) via RSS, YouTube, Veoh etc.  Expects all video to be delivered to them.  If the video isn't short, they will probably want to take it with them on an iPod or be able to watch it in an screen-in-screen player/window while multi-tasking.

Based on the above analysis it looks like the strongest opportunity would be a legal Joox alternative offering high quality streaming, embeddable, resize-able content delivered in a streaming player allowing full screen and screen-in-screen multitasking viewing - with direct links on the player to Fan Sites.

So What About Hulu?

That being said, it looks like Hulu's distribution solution is largely portal/partner based, with no news about additional embeddable, multitasker friendly options.  Adding additional destinations doesn't speak to current consumer demands based on the segmentations I've outlined above. 

So why should Hulu succeed where all others have not?

Love to hear your thought on all this, please feel free to comment!

ClownCo is now Hulu - Update with Interview!

Breaking News: NewCo/ClownCo is now in private beta!   
Check it out here.  For some initial analysis click here.  (Sept 19th update including NBC DIrect click here)
While there is little information on the site, below is the Hulu Hello letter from CEO Jason Kilar.

Welcome to Hulu! Our passionate and growing team here has been very hard at work on a service that we're quite excited about. We'll keep you updated with news as we go along.

The first bit of news we'd like to share is that we have a name: Hulu.

Why Hulu? Objectively, Hulu is short, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and rhymes with itself. Subjectively, Hulu strikes us as an inherently fun name, one that captures the spirit of the service we're building. Our hope is that Hulu will embody our (admittedly ambitious) never-ending mission, which is to help you find and enjoy the world's premier content when, where and how you want it.

The second bit of news is that we are now accepting sign-ups at for invitations to our web site's private beta. The Hulu private beta will be available in October. In the interest of delivering a great customer experience and making sure that we can address any feedback that comes along the way, we're going to start small and grow iteratively in terms of the volumes of people that we invite to participate in the beta. Within that same timeframe, we will also be offering great programming through our distribution partner sites: AOL, Comcast, MSN, MySpace, and Yahoo.

Ok, now it's time for all of us at Team Hulu to get back to work! Don't forget to register your email address for the upcoming private beta.

Jason Kilar
CEO, Hulu
[email protected]

Since the announcement that broke the news around NewCo/ClownCo, Fox has certainly made a number of interesting moves in the online video space.  Given Fox's strategic plays over the past few months it will certainly be interesting to see where they go with Hulu. For more on video trend analysis check this out.

And on that note - anybody know what Hulu is supposed to represent, mean or convey as a brand name?  I know Jason speaks to this in the letter above, but what does this name really say to you? 

It feels kind of Hawaiin to me.

For more on Mainstream Media Going 2.0 check out my posts here, here and here.

Update: Just got off the phone with Christina Lee, who is leading Strategic Communications over at Hulu.  Christina, like Jason Kilar (CEO) has come over from Amazon where she worked in marketing.  Prior to Amazon Christina was over at Microsoft.

While Christina exuded confidence and enthusiasm around Hulu, there really was little to report.  When I asked for her visions for the Hulu and projections six months out, I heard a promising line (see big words below), and if they can truly activate against this goal, this may be a significant step in the never ending saga of mainstream media's acceptance of the web 2.0 consumer first infrastructure.  In the short term, Christina reported that they are focusing on a successful October launch while six months from now they are "Aspiring to fulfill the mission of helping users and helping people find and enjoy premier content however and whenever they like it." 

Bravo.  It's a bold task, and the effort alone may very well be a worthwhile endeavor.

Just in case you missed the coverage, check out Om Malik's coverage here, Reuter's reports here, CenterNetworks here, Silicon Valley Insider here, Mashable here, and Drew here.

Next Steps: Twitter

Communications Twitter hit it big with the early adopter crowd, but it doesn't look like it's going mainstream any time soon.  Why is this?  What steps would you recommend Twitter take to create a stronger, more compelling solution?  Where would you like to see Twitter in six months from now?

Below are my 5 recommended next steps for Twitter.

Next Steps - Twitter

  1. Encourage integration within other online platforms - create an embedable drag and drop add to my iGoogle solution from within iGoogle (already available from 3rd party developers) and on the Twitter homepage.
  2. Create and encourage usage of a desktop AIM alert type component where Twitter updates are displayed.
  3. Enable thumbnail photo and video posting with blowout full display on cellphones, laptops or within desktop application.
  4. Twitter is remarkably similar to a chatroom in it's form if not function.  Why not enable one to one and build-out group chat functionality?  Not all Twitter subscribers want to read all responses!
  5. Make Twitter smarter.  I want a Twitter feed that only sends me relevant content.  I don't want a text message ever time anyone I subscribe to says "good morning" but I do want to know what other people at events are thinking while we're all listening to the same speaker.

Disclaimer - I am a Twitter subscriber and while I have Twitted on a personal front (not professional or media related) I am probably not the typical Twitter user.  Please feel free to comment both in agreement and disagreement regarding the Next Steps presented above.

I think most would agree that Twitter, Jaiku, Pownce and others represent a growing set of powerful communications tools with tremendous future potential.
  What strategic next steps would you like to see over the coming months?  Will these steps help these tools gain mainstream adoption, or is microblogging really only for the digerati?  Will the growth of mobile extensions of social networks like Facebook and MySpace affect these tool's futures?

For more Twitter analysis I would strongly encourage that you check out Chris Brogan's breakdown of Twitter users and user behavior.

MyStreams - Bringing it all together

Bringing_it_all With the blogosphere all abuzz over and Armano's Lifestreams and Rubel's Replystreams (follow up here), I'd like to weigh in.  In case you've missed the discussion, here's the quick summary:

  • Lifestreams are aggregates of the all the media we create and possibly consume from an experiential standpoint.  A Lifestream is your life, both digital and analog, tracked, saved and published.
  • Replystreams are aggregates of all the media we create and possible consume as part of other media offering (that we don't publish on our own platforms) - such as replys and comments.

The common thread here is this: as our lives are increasingly going digital and we are embracing a balance between always on, and purposefully offline (which in itself suggests a level of market maturity - the good kind that lasts) we need a way to aggregate our lives in a single asset and possibly widgetize this offering to share with others.  Tumblr is just the next step, but does not represent the end game (if there is one?).  We need a tool, we need a solution, we need a digital appointment book that integrates with all of our existent media. 

The main issue at play here is integration.  We want a tool that works with our current behaviors and requires little additional input.  This is much easier said than done, but if you can figure this out - possibly by securely collecting password and login info - you've got it made.

We are sick and tired of registering for yet another piece of 2.0 rubbish.  Deliver something that works, something that is personal, something that bobcasts my life, my content, my media habits, my recommendations, my twitters, my kitchen sink, and you finally have something worth looking at.  Note that I said bobcasts, not broadcasts.  Bake in a smart feed tool that allows me to subscribe to tag swarms, not just total feeds.  Once you're building a system, don't just go one step ahead, nail the tool I will be using for the next three to five years.  In today's startup world, overnight success is rarely assured, and even a few months of massive success will not guarantee a future. 

We need rich StumbleUpon powered bobcasts + Lifestreams + ReplyStreams in a package that speaks to the best aspect our microblogging platforms - cross platform integration.  Lets make it as easy and integrated at Twittr, but with everything Twittr is still lacking - such as one to one break away conversations, rich media sharing capabilities and more.  Put that on your Facebook page, and you will look a hell of a lot better.

Gone will be separate widgets for Amazon recommendations, favorite TV Shows and iTunes purchases.  Everything will live in one place.  My life aggregated, shared and published.  This is my life as I live it. Welcome to the next step in social evolution, MyStreams.

For more on this conversation check out the following:
Steve Rubel here and  here
David Armano here and here (same post hosted on FutureLab)
Rex Hammok here
Dan York here
Easton Ellsworth here
Scott Weisbrod here
Lifestream Blog here - I recommend checking out this blog in general, some great perspectives on... Lifestreams
Good example of Lifestream aggregation and the need for a dedicated Lifestream client - here

curing the mondays

Ari_023 It's been a wild weekend and a cranky but cute 6 week old who thinks nighttime it party time doesn't help. 

So what's the best cure for a getting through the day mentality?  A shared sense of adventure.  We can all recall a time when the possibilities were endless; we were the drivers of our own lives, and the sky was the limit.  Years of grudging acceptance of reality often jades this perspective, leaving us with the distractions and escapes of entertainment, television and movies, living lives of forgotten dreams and eventual regrets. 

So why is it that we flock to media for distraction?  For a fake, plastic sense of adventure gained through association with compelling content that requires no personal risk and no effort greater than flicking the remote from the comfortable confines of the lazy boy?  We as a culture spend ridiculous amounts of time and money living vicariously through the fictional characters on TV, simply because we're looking for escape.

CK raised some great points around the ethical parameters of reality tv, but it is the reality behind that television experience that drives our attention to the unscripted.  While the fictional characters created by talented teams of writers often provide compelling venues for escape into lives far more compelling than our own, reality tv has an air of authenticity that cannot be scripted.

The next step in the reality revolution will not be MORE reality programming, but true reality, often featured in UGC.  For all the inane mindless dribble that is much of YouTube, there is the occasional clip that generates a true emotional connection.  For me, the clip below encapsulates the true power of this media.

As poorly produced as this clip may be, tell me you didn't root for the kid to do something amazing.  Tell me a little bit of you didn't celebrate when he splashed down into the pool.  Tell me you didn't feel the sense of victory that often accompanies your team winning the championships when his friends took the dive. 

Our complacency often comes from burn out.  The only way to get yourself back on track is to remind yourself of the greatness and achievement that is possible.  I once worked for an elderly man who surrounded himself with younger people.  I thought he was crazy, but he said that he fed off their youthful exuberance.

Next time you're around some kids, watch them play.  There is no limit to the boundaries of their imagination.  Why are there fences on ours?