The WWW and the Holy Grail

Adolph Ochs in 1896 put his slogan on a newspaper, “All the News That’s Fit to Print”. It still survives. Only just barely.

Sound arrived to movies in the late twenties, the silent-film industry and the Broadway theater industry were both broadsided. They never saw it coming. It was a running joke to them.

Radio was king for years. No one thought it would be overcome – there was a radio in every home throughout America.

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Then television started to gain traction in the late forties. Radio scrambled to adjust to the newer media – TV. Then, TV began to replace the radio in homes. Orders for TV sets were up 400 percent in 1949, many of them sold by the most popular shows of their time, (i.e. Milton Berle). Supply could not keep up with demand. Free television was for decades considered an American right, rabbit ears, ghosts and all.

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Then broadcast TV scrambled to adjust to newer media – cable TV. For a while during the reign of ‘Free TV’, “Pay TV” was a joke.   Americans now pay for 24/7 foreign news networks in their cable and satellite packages, news, weather, sports, movies, etc. That which used to be free on broadcast TV was no longer free.

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Then the hammer dropped for everyone. The Internet dawned, the digital revolution.  The Holy Grail of media. This was a change as great as the invention of electricity and the construction of transcontinental railroad. It was large, transformative and caused massively sweeping changes. No one was prescient enough to gauge even remotely how big this change was upon the whole planet.

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The recording industry became the first to fall in the digital pipeline. They thought by suing Napster in court they could stop their declining bottom line.  Movies and DVD’s became next to fall in.

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And then 2 large social media behemoths came along; Facebook (2004) the more social of the two and Twitter (2006) the most current up-to-the-minute form of news delivered to us not by a news anchor but by a neighbor.  Twitter made CNN, NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX ancient delivery mechanisms of news overnight.  We don’t select publications anymore, we select links.

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An ecosystem of “group journalism” in which consumers with a cell phone eyewitness reporting of the news submitted by ‘US’ rather than actual reporters in the field, changed everything. Witness Captain Sully on the Hudson river. The proliferation of the Internet made every publicly available source of information in the world openly available to everyone. This change in and of itself has altered the landscape for everyone forever. The NYT’s and CNN no longer have a lock on exclusive. Exclusive is old news – we are now the prevailing ‘exclusive’.

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Within all of this history of media, the largest companies, the ones we can name by brand have been caught sleeping by transformative change. From newspapers and magazines to Hollywood, aging media executives resistant to technology became overnight ostriches.  It was easier to take a paycheck, stick their heads in the sand then risk being ‘wrong’ about how future technology could transform their own business. Status quo was ‘safe’ harbor.  A herd of dinosaurs.

The decline and the fall of old media. It was inevitable and unavoidable. Casualties were and are in print, TV and soon cable channels. Yes, even cable TV will be falling (cord cutting: Aereo TV and Otoy). Old media will scramble to adjust just as before, but it will not be enough. The fall of old media is unavoidable.

And for us the consumer, the ‘hippie’ stage (freemium) of the Internet is over.  We will pay for more for media then ever before – not in print but whatever form it comes in. The trees will love us once again. However, the cost for this will be higher than it once was.  What is less talked about are the adjustments that consumers have to make. Paying for media that was free or easy to access is now the norm.

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And still only 65% of the country has broadband Internet access. What Google fiber offers is just a beginning and will become the norm. Google fiber speeds will knock cable TV off its legs.  We wont need coaxial cable – just access to the Internet.  And it won’t have to be coming from the white coaxial cable coming into your home – it will be wireless.   TV channels will be become specific apps downloaded on a phone or tablet.  Bundles will be forgotten. The ‘triple play’ of a phone, cable and the internet that we all familiar with for $ 150.-200 a month will soon be broken down.

Perhaps even the app store will disappear too. The potential disruptiveness of Otoy (http://goo.gl/aQZSl ), as a breakthrough streaming service could, in the near future, could end the need for app stores and computer upgrades.

Advertising will never ever again subsidize any old-media news organizations in the style to which they (and their audiences) have been accustomed.

News organizations used to be able to overcharge and under-deliver in their deals with advertisers; the pizza place and the car dealership had nowhere else to go, and no one knew how many people saw, or acted on, a given ad anyway.  Not anymore. Nielsen, one of the old guards struggles to stay relevant – even if they purport to have new measuring technology. There are at least the 10 other companies who are in the process of eating their lunch.

We are in for years of re-adjustment. Transformation from print and paper to digital – cable TV to Internet TV, YouTube, social apps and the like. Consumer adjustment will take time. But less than you think. Our kids are growing up ignoring cable and television, without radio and traditional print media. The norm:  downloading of apps, mobile phones, tablets and no desktop computers. It’s different and disconcerting for the parents. It’s happened before – it just happened without the Internet. How we used to do things in the seventies, eighties, and nineties is no more – change is good.  Breath in – breath out.

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A Train Wreck Indeed!

How do you f’up the pay-per-view business? You don’t. No need to – it has been one train wreck since 1984. (Full disclosure: In 1984, I started a nationwide satellite delivered ‘A’ title Movie service called’ The People’s Choice’ alongside of Jeff Reiss’s ‘RequestTelevision’ and Scott Kurnit’s ‘Viewers Choice’). When I was in this business, Bill Mechanic (ex-CEO, Chairman of Fox, Disney, green lit ‘Titanic’) and Barry Diller were at Paramount, Jamie Kellner ( Orion Pictures who went on to run ‘The WB Network’), Hal Richardson ( President at Paramount) was at Disney/Dreamworks, Eric Frankel (President for 26yrs) and Stanley Solson along with Eddie Blier were at Warner Bros. ( close to the Steve Ross reign whom I knew well from High School days), Mike Medavoy at Tri-Star, Ned Nalle at Universal and Andy Kaplan at Sony. Most all of these people now still are around and are running their own ship BECAUSE back then, they had a some foresight and moxie. They DID agree to let the PPV at least try and get off the ground by granting PPV rights to a few nascent, early entrants in the business. At that time, there were only a few addressable homes to see the films.

Since the inception of PPV on the cable landscape, its always been a ‘promise’ business at best. Nothing really ever took off or was unbelievably successful (and I am referring to MOVIES, not the WWF, Boxing or the Adult business). Many a business and consulting firm was built around it, hardware made for it, ordering systems invented and manufactured and in the end, most went out of business. Most cable operators didn’t even understand it or what it was suppose to be, what ‘tier’ to put it on and how to promote it. Most felt it would cannibalize their existing cash cow, PAY TV.

It never cannibalized anything because it never got off the ground. No one could agree on a movie PPV ‘window’ (the timing of when a PPV movie should be allowed to be seen and ordered on PPV). Many a conference, discussion group, speech and convention sessions were had – all futile. Nothing was ever decided. The VCR’s were blamed as the culprit, then it was the movie studios, then it was theater owners, then it was Pay TV and the ‘exclusivity’ wars of the 90’s. Then the Internet crept upon us all and that was the new Darth Vadar. You can’t release a film on PPV too early because it could be copied easily and even easier become distributed by means of the internet all over the planet (meaning no more duplicating and bicycling cassettes as if my friends ever did this in mass to begin with). Now, using the Internet, movies would be all over the place, everywhere. Everyone would have a copy. Well? Do we ALL have copies of Avatar? Tootsie? As Good As It Gets? Dirty Harry? A good industry has got to know its limitations! And this one never did!

Now, theater owners are afraid of the 60 day release window. Pahleeese! Just read a few of the articles below.

http://engt.co/lWRaty

http://bit.ly/kXEgRU

http://lat.ms/kiRwwc

Theater owners and the Hollywood creative community are livid about Premium VOD, which they perceive as paving the road to cannibalizing theatrical attendance which would in turn harm a movie’s overall economics, creating a dangerous downward spiral. In addition, there’s concern that if consumers switch to watching movies on the small screen then the creative license implicit in a big screen emphasis will get squeezed. While their concerns MAY be justified, the good news for them is that Premium VOD will be lucky to achieve even minimal success.

Why? The cost is one – $ 30.00 for a poor film or film that has not done well at the theater or is released directly to DVD (or what was once called DVD) is insane. Sorry, justification by babysitter fees and popcorn costs don’t cut it. These are niche films. Avatar and other BIG films will never see this light of day through this window. But ‘Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs ‘ will (and has already, sort of). Example – first film up is Just Go With It” starring Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston. Ho-hum. Good cast and a flop a the box office for the most part. I’d be pissed if I paid $30.00 for this AND CAN’T EVEN KEEP A COPY IN A DIGITAL LOCKER TO SEE WHEN I WANTED AGAIN? WTF? And frankly that could be one of the keys to making this viable. Give me the ability to KEEP it as if I bought the DVD ( keep it in a ‘cloud’ locker) and I’d might buy a few films – that would help at least justify the cost.

And, as Will Richmond from VideoNuze so aptly points out, “Studios seem to believe that making movies available sooner in the home will attract demand. But the problem is that there are already so many choices for watching movies in the home – pay-TV, Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, Vudu, etc. etc., that it will be very hard to break through the noise, solely with a “sooner” positioning, which is more than offset by a ridiculously high price point. Consumers are savvier than ever; they’ll quickly realize that they can get the same movie for $4-5, a sixth to a seventh the price of Premium VOD, just by waiting a couple more months for it to appear on pay-TV or online VOD.”

So, theater owners who vow to ‘go to war’ are wasting their time and efforts. I guarantee them that the Movie studios and cable operators and satellite delivery services will win the war for them. Somehow, these guys think that consumers are not too smart. When are they going to wake up and smell the coffee? When are they going to realize that all of us don’t rush to ‘steal’ digital copies of films for any number of reasons (i.e., they are 700megs of data AT LEAST, cumbersome to store, less than perfect copies that lack subtitles at times and extra’s.) They are not MP3’s! Music and movies may both have a digital base as a common denominator but ultimately I’ll listen to Hotel California many more times than I can watch Avatar in my lifetime. And the pirates don’t make a bit of difference except barely on the streets of lower Manhattan or Tokyo where poorly made copies sell for $5.00 until those vendors get caught that day. And they on sell about 30 movies at that point – no MASS market like that that would ruin a $250m box office in the theaters or in any ancillary market I know of.

Theater owners should rejoice that soon this whole business will be in Netflix’s (or some other digital distributors) capable hands and not the studios. (Apologies to those friends of mine at the studios now – its not your fault, it’s just the ‘economics’ to blame and perhaps a few at the top thinking we are still in the DVD/VCR age). Make the business consumer friendly – give us a copy of what we buy and allow us to watch it whenever we want for our money that we spent. After all, I can do this with new music released, why not new movies released?

It’s the pirates who are on the right side of history.

In Praise of Piracy – a well written article and one you might want to read, by Jon Evans.

http://techcrunch.com/2011/02/05/in-praise-of-piracy/

then visit this site:   http://www.dontmakemesteal.com/   –  a Digital Media Consumption Manifesto

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Chrome OS NotebookUser thoughts and first observations – by Happily stuck in a cloud

Chrome OS NotebookUser thoughts and first observations – by Happily stuck in a cloud.
(written entirely on the chrome using googledocs)

So never did I dream that after submitting a request to google to become a beta user for their new ChromeOS Notebooks that I’d be accepted. I’m not even sure of what the reasons were that I mentioned to them ( and I do remember them asking for some) that I wrote down. Yes, I have over the years managed to amass a good deal of apps that I use from Google. But so what, I’m sure I’m not alone on the planet – others probably use more. But nonetheless, here I sit with a brand new notepad on my lap writing my 1st impressions about this machine and its OS. I have read some of the reviews on this laptop – some written using a ‘prototype’ – (http://techcrunch.com/2010/12/12/cr-48-chrome-notebook-review/) (http://searchengineland.com/first-day-review-the-google-chrome-os-cr-48-notebook-58322 – or http://www.engadget.com/2010/12/09/google-cr-48-chrome-laptop-preview/ some of the parts of these reviews I agree with, some I don’t.  Google has a place where you can apply and on the notebook itself, it has a feedback button which I will be using.

I am MAC an PC proficient, have been under and in a few Apache OS servers (and even less so for Linux servers) and I don’t sling code seriously, just dabble in html5 and now starting ruby as I understand Mac is or will be releasing a ruby for Mac platform and perhaps one day I’ll be able to write my own apps for the iPad in ruby ( but that’s far off for now).  Back to my Chome OS thoughts.

When this lap arrived in a box ( see my previous posts to see the cover) I thought someone sent us a housewarming gift. We moved our family from Los Angeles (and L.A. is  literally falling apart) to the white warm watered sandy beaches of the gulf coast near Clearwater Beach Fl. If someone from Gooooogle is reading this – A BIG ‘thank you!’ many times over.

So, the biggest changes I have noticed thus far from the traditional lap is:
1. Verizon was incredibly smart to partner and offer 3G wireless access (100mg for free a month); Verizon will be reaping the reward – no one uses 100mgs a month of data unless you are an ant.
2. Cloud computing works and will take the masses some getting used to; but its where EVERYTHING is going.
3. This laptop is on of the lightest and coolest (temperature as well as hipness factor)I have ever encountered;
4. Apple was a heavy influence and its ‘app’ store concept a key part of how this OS works;
5. Its a bit disconcerting NOT being able to view my files and docs by browsing a file structure a la windows; but I’m almost used to it.
6. Using this requires a change of habit and thinking and that will be tough for some, but its refreshing (at least for me).
7. It ‘feels’ nice – like my black rubber iPhone protective casing. Easy to grasp and hold. Plus, Google gave me ‘stickers’ !! (I feel like a kid again).
8. EVERYTHING is done using a browser and you can’t minimize it to look at a blank or customized screen ( that’s right, you ‘skin’ the browser instead of place a ‘desktop’ image on your laptop screen.
9. The instructions were written by the same guy who wrote some other Google instructions – with a sense of humor, thank f’ing god!
10. Screen, resolution and powering up once closed up- is great.

So, let look at he above points.

1- First, Verizon – who  approached who is not important – Google or vice versa. Nonetheless, Verizon will capture a lot of new revenue from new COS (ChromeOS) owners. If you can’t find a hot spot, activate this service and you’re connected. Depending on your activities, you’ll pay for your usage. Hence, a nice new rev. source for Verizon Wireless.  Unless of course Google buys all the white space spectrum and wires the major cities for free with 4G, but that’s another post for another time.

2-.Cloud computing – if you have not figured it out by now, hard drives that spin and even SSDS drives (unless they are used to start the computers OS) are ancient history. Between Microsoft’s 25 gigs of free space at Skydrive, Google Docs, Dropbox and many others, you have plenty of choices where to store your precious word, excel, power points, pictures, videos, music files, etc, etc. forever. Use LastPass as a password reminder (browser based AND works with chrome) so you don’t need to remember each of your storage lockers as you want to get in and the rest is pretty easy. Once you store it in a cloud, you can basically drop kick your laptop or desktop (going by way of the Model-T as well) and not care. Buy a new one, and install Lastpass again and access your files. Nothing lost. Ever. Microsoft and Google are NOT going anywhere. Not closing their doors in the near future or at least as long as I’ll be on the planet.

3.- It’s light – I have not weighed it, but its VERY light. Lighter than anything I own and I’m a nut for light and portability. No one wants to lug a big heavy PC anywhere outside the home.  And yes, it is cool temperature wise. Especially the bottom of the computer. I’m sure if you have ever taken your laptop into your bed with you, you know what I am talking about.  Typically, all laptops have a small fan that cools the processors and hard drive. Not so here.

4.- You don’t download .exe’s or programs. That’s ancient history too – Apple was the influence here. Google made an chrome ‘App’ store. They prepared popular applications without drivers so they could be chromized and made installable on the laptop. I wish they made a bluetooth app so my wireless bluetooth mouse worked, but I’m sure they are working on it. In the meantime, there must be hundreds of programs turned apps that you can grab. Just like iTunes, you download the app. Thanks Apple!

5.- Not being able to view my LOCAL files was at first a bit disturbing. But I had to remember that since I began using PC’s and Mac’s, that’s what you did. There was no ‘cloud’ computing. So, at first, you need to think a bit different and realize that ultimately this is in your best interest.

6. – Change of habit. No more ‘save as’ locally. Use Google Docs which = word, excel, PPT, etc., save them to the native Google doc acct. or save them to dropbox, etc. It all works except saving them to ‘my documents’ or your ‘c’ drive. Its different, but not that much different. Besides, the PC still does all the work saving it whether its local or remote – what do you care? Your habits and thinking just changes.

7.- the outside of this feels great. It is an easy grip and feel similar to my iPhone outer case cover. Rubber-like and not slippery. Better to me than a sleek plastic feel most laptops have.

8.- When it boots up for the first time, its a chrome browser you operate in, nothing else. When you click for a new tab, it brings up a new tab BUT that tab also brings up the chrome store. The chrome store is where you grab whatever apps you want to operate within the laps environment. So, just like the iPad, you’d grab apps of a similar nature.  Homage to Apple, doing this was easy enough and not unlike something have not done before. Nice and it was as easy to install these, if not easier as I wasn’t asked for a password or verification each time I requested an app like I am at the iTunes store. Although, to be fair, I have not bought any apps yet and this will more than likely prompt those screens.

9.- So, some of the ‘good humor’ part.

Safety Notices
(This is the usual yada yada…just more fun).

“This product contains sensitive components. Do not drop, disassemble, open, crush, bend, bake, deform, puncture, blend (guess we’ll never know if it will blend), shred, incinerate, paint, bring to the moon, or insert foreign objects into the device. Do not spill liquids, rocks of any size, or food on the device. Do not expose the device to water, moisture or rap music.

This product contains small parts, which may present a choking hazard to small children, as well as men who have not emotionally matured.  Keep the device away from small children, regardless of how much they want to bang on the keyboard.

This product does not contain any user-serviceable parts. Repairs should only be made by an authorized technician. Note that the authorized technicians do not necessarily include your neighborhood 15 year old brainiac that you call anytime you get an antivirus pop-up on your computer. Do not do anything silly with the battery. We already said not to bake the device but apparently we had to repeat ourselves.”

10. – The screen is 1280X 800 resolution with a 12.1 inch size viewable space. Better than most. Once turned on and if you close the screen and then open it, it takes about 2 seconds to come back. Far quicker than a PC or Mac. And 2 seconds is not an exaggeration. This is an Atom chip powered laptop, and its pretty quick but the chip COULD be updated to a newer version Intel chipset now being used in the 64bit laps. But I’m not complaining. I did own a 9 inch laptop which was way too small and then a 10 inch, which again was too small. The 12 inch seems perfect however, I’d bet that a new AirMac at 12+ would give this a run for its money.

Next up – switching over to using it more than full time.

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What’s to come in 2010

Some thoughts and predictions for 2010:

Computers/OS:

Google’s OS and Google’s Browser Chrome will further erode Microsoft’s OS dominance.

Phones:

Google’s Nexus One is not an iPhone killer but what would be much more powerful and meaningful would be for Google to offer a ‘subsidized’ cell phone service through a carrier in exchange for watching ads – no more cell bills. That MIGHT make me give-up my iPhone habit.

TV/Cable:

TV Everywhere will dominate as cable subscribers will WANT to get what they see at home on their PC’s, phones, etc. They will want this because its only a matter of time before Hulu (and other online content aggregators) lose their premium content or require a subscription fee. (Smell Comcast here?). Boxee, Roku, Sezmi and Zillion TV will have tough sledding IF Apple TV hopefully syncs a (rumored) TV subscription service with their upcoming iTablet/iSlate.  Apple MIGHT offer consumers an a-la-carte menu of the best of cable and network TV on their televisions through the AppleTV box, iphones and the iTablet  (along with several newspaper/magazine subscriptions) for a single monthly fee. Their version of  a cable ‘triple-play’ subscription. Do you remember when cable TV was “sold” as a way to escape the ads on free, OTA broadcast TV? Those were the days…

Movies/Music/Web:

iTunes will announce an iTunes web service, thanks to the Lala acquisition. Disney will move forward with their Keychest initiative and so will the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem, or DECE. However, only one system will survive this year to avoid consumer confusion.

‘Live’ streaming video and UGV will replace the jpg /gif as the dominant content format of visual sharing online.

Facebook, Hulu, YouTube , Twitter, and other ‘weapons of mass distraction’ these days will be increasingly ‘filtered’ out from the workplace due to too much time by employees during work hours spent on ‘social media’ causing a huge traffic shift in several social networks most notably, Facebook.

Facebook will go public and the IPO will be a huge financial success until Facebook becomes the Borg unless it allows data portability. Its number of users will continue to climb until the network is as large as Google and people will confuse Facebook with “the Internet” like days of old when the internet was ‘AOL’ to many people.

And then one day…

A new social network will rise to join the big ones. It may offer the privacy that Facebook is moving away from; it may be mobile and location-centric; it may focus on personal content recommendations, but it will come and the minnows will swim like fishes to the next ‘big’ new network to be seen and heard on.

We are all ‘Paparazzi’s’ and ‘Jimmy Olsen’s’ now…with the Advent of ‘live’ broadcasting apps on the iphone and android makes paparazzi’s and Jimmy Olsen’s (instant news ‘scoops’) out of us all further diluting the worth of major news org’s that can’t be expected to be everywhere at all times.

Cloud computing heats up. AWS, Google, Microsoft and others begin price wars to compete for customers.

MySpace will try to become as important to online viewers as MTV was to cable subscribers in the 80’s.

MOG and Spotify will invade the US and give iTunes(lala) and MySpace a run for their money.

And hopefully:

Data portability will become more real, standard, expected and viable. Why isnt’ there a way for me to make 1 Avatar, use 1 password and login to store all this info in a central location that my ‘social networks’ and other internet related service use and fetch each time I access these services?  Here is where I’d place all my photos and videos and then simply choose which services get access to which photos and videos. So, when I leave a social network, my ID and photos and videos LEAVE too.  Go ahead and just try moving or populating another social network again with all of your pictures, comments and videos that you’ve uploaded at one time or another. Hard to do and time consuming beyond belief. It would be nice to able to take MY STUFF (and data preferences) with ME with 1 click.

Comments welcome.

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Are CBS, NBC, ABC and FOX must haves ??

I’ve taken quite a bit of time off from posting any thoughts, but the media business is changing so rapidly that I just had to put a few thoughts down for kicks.

Question: If you were required to pay to receive the broadcast networks (as we’ve come to know them), how much is too much? That means, what is it worth to you to see shows on ABC, CBS, NBC or FOX each month? $ 1.00 a month per network, more? Would you pay to get these channels?
receive
For years these ‘broadcast’ networks have been free, over-the-air channels that are supported by advertising. They still are. But you might say, ‘c’mon now, these are free channels’ why should I pay now? Answer: its NOT Hulu. Think about what you’d not be able to watch if you decided NOT to pay; Super Bowl, the Grammys, CSI, The Final Four, Survivor and David Letterman, The World Series and I could add another dozen or so shows and events. How about now, is $ 1.00 a month too much?
I believe that soon, we will be seeing a ‘fee’ to have these channels included in our cable packages, satellite packages, etc. And the reason we’ll see this fee is that these networks can charge for this and will most likely get it. They will charge a fee to cable op’s to carry the network and cloth them as ‘retransmission’ fees.
“Going forward, we will be seeking retransmission dollars from our distributors,” said Murdoch, FOX Chairman. Chief Executive Leslie Moonves announced that he intended to charge retransmission fees for CBS.
I think its just a matter of time before we will see those fees ‘bleed’ into our monthly bills. And once Hulu begin to charge, there won’t be anywhere else to go…except the torrents and newsgroups which are out of the reach of most people.
Welcome to the future.