Monday, April 28, 2008

Pay me or Play me?

How do companies make a connection with people who need their products in the web-to-tv age?

TV commercials are broadcast to everyone. Right now, there is a hamburger commercial playing on my TV, but I haven't eaten a hamburger in thirty years. The broadcaster doesn't know that - and they're wasting they're money to pay for my eyeballs, whether I DVR-skip it or mentally skip it.

The TV viewing experience can be compelling if the product matches your needs. At some level TV is absorbed subconsciously better than repetitive dancing stick figures on a Flash banner ad.

Internet video does offer behavioral targeting with cookies or user-defined preferences that feed advertising delivery options.

How about TV embedded advertising that is tailored to the viewer. Cable can deliver neighborhood localized advertising, but having neighbors that love hamburgers won't change my dietary bias. Web-to-TV has the potential to match the highest impact ads with the right potential customer.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Place-shifting and web-to-tv

Location free TV
, and the Slingbox by SlingMedia are place-shifting technologies. They allow you to watch "your TV" from a PC/smartphone through the internet - from anywhere in the world. And InFunGo> has a software solution that connects your mobile devices to your home media server, from anywhere in the world.

What does "your TV" mean when TV moves to the web. Similar to Google Web Apps, "your Excel" is available wherever you and a working browser happen to be. Ditto your pictures on Flickr or your home movies on YouTube. Place-shifting becomes meaningless when the media is on a server for anyone to access if authorized.

Broadcast TV excels at quality (production, acting, and predictability).
Live means live regardless of how many people are watching. But you pay for it with longer and longer ads. And there is a growing trend to "free" actors (who can't act). The barriers for production and distribution keep dropping. Web TV will excel at variety - any topic at any time. Instead of 50M people watching one show, 50M people watch 50M shows. Many believe there is a collective desire to watch a show everyone else is watching. Everyone can talk about the same show the next day at the water cooler at work or the social network equivalent. Web-to-TV threatens to change that.

Is there utility in combining web media with broadcast media? The networks want their audience to switch back and forth between broadcast TV and companion web content - during a commercial, or after the show is over. (They do this to supplement ad revenue lost to DVR ad-skipping - a $30B loss by some estimates.)

Ultimately web content and broadcast content could be combined on the same widescreen. Early examples of this exist today. Mainstream solutions will require new ways to control and lean-forward content with lean-back content.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Footprints, Footsteps

The news today is full of stories and examples of carbon footprints. How much carbon dioxide does an action create? I read it may be cheaper (by carbon) to drive your car to the store than walk. Walking will burn calories that you will replace with carbon footprints whose sum will exceed the quantity released by the burning of the gas your trip consumed. Probably untrue but a bit humorous.
Carbon footprint is a fad - an early 21st century fad. The measure that will worry the world this century is water footprint. Unlike CO2 which is released by mother nature in levels that make your trip to the store inconsequential by 8 orders of magnitude, water is a finite resource. Global warming will change water distribution in ways we don't understand and in ways that will be difficult to react to. Los Angeles can't move 1000 miles to the south, but the water could.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Age of Web-To-TV

YouTube launched the age of user-generated-content. They didn't invent it, but they made it mainstream. With cell phones, laptop cameras and cool new gadgets like the Flip-Ultra, you can vlog easier than blog. Everyone wants to source UGC, but would you watch someone else's UGC on your HDTV?

CBS broadcast every NCAA March Madness game on their website. This is Web-To-TV. Hulu has organized years of Fox and NBC content for free viewing. Web-To-TV is not restricted to repurposed broadcast TV content. Technology has lowered the barriers to entry. A $1000 HD video camera, a MAC running Final Cut Pro, and a few aspiring actors can create TV quality content. The lure of advertising dollars has create a surfeit of aggregation outlets begging to distribute content. The only dilemma for the viewer is how to scroll thru a million virtual channels with a hand-held remote control.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Do people want to watch internet media on their HDTV?

I posed this question to the world on Ask500
This is an interesting site that uses the "wisdom of the crowd" approach. Similar to an exit poll, standard statistical tests (e.g. Chi square) can identify a non-random result with strikingly few samples. Think "Obama in a landslide, before the sun sets in California".

In my question, the respondents are net-savvy by definition. They probably watch internet media on their computer screen. So far the results look like a landside. Click the link and make your choice.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

User Generated TV

I am sure there are a lot of people who watch Saturday Night Live "live" (if you count tape-delayed for the West Coast as live), but most of us tape the show for viewing another day, with one hand on the ad-skip button. Out of several ha-ha funny skits, and one or two totally dumb skits, one or two will be off-the-chart funny. The lip-sync musical hiatus is interesting for about ten seconds. And the endless food and car ads would put anyone still awake at 12:35AM fast asleep.

The "Best of SNL" has been a favorite TV Special for years. The compilations change as the SNL crew evolves. What if you could create your own SNL mash-up? You can. Online media producer offers individual skits from SNL and other NBC and FOX programs. Combine those with the best gems from ex-SNL star Will Farrell's and you have something completely new.

Video mash-ups become "User Generated TV" when XML playlists can be easily shared and played on the family TV.

Playlist in my Pocket

Is there anything your phone can't do for you? It can tell you where you are, where you want to be and how to get there, amuse you on your way to get there, tell you where your friends are and what they're twittering their life away with, encourage you to buy something, and make the money transfer without reaching for your wallet. All of these features exist in some phase of roll-out on some hardware in some markets in the world today.

When you get home and turn on the widescreen TV, shouldn't your viewing desires also come from your phone? It knows what you like, it knows what your friends like, and what they think you like. The channel changer is the rotary dial handset of the 21st century.

Hollow Men?

"Google is like a gigantic parasite that hollows-out existing (media) businesses," says Jason Pontin, editor and chief and publisher of Technology Review. For example, newspapers distribute ads through-out the paper. These ads pay the bills for the reporters and columnists to cover a broad range of topics that are read, skimmed, or skipped as people flip-thru the pages. Online newspapers get read by the home page headlines. Only things that drive pageviews get funded by ads. Any page more than a few clicks in, might as well not be written because it won't be read. The ads that support that page won't be scored and the paper might as well fire everyone but the headline writer and the guys who mash-up news from other blogs in the world. And they are, at newspapers and all other forms of printed information. The result is the disappearance of diversity, the disappearance of critique, and the disappearance of depth. Only the very wide and very thin survive. Only a paper that reads more like every other paper than any other paper survive.

At the same time, if Obama blurts out something in Smallville, USA, it's published on a video blog almost instantly. The (hollow) news has become more transparent (but only if you are famous).

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sound more like everyone else than anyone else sounds like everyone else

Lee Siegal, argues in Against The Machine, that the measure of internet viral success is pageviews. And a high pageview often means "sounding more like everyone else than anyone else is souding like everyone else".

"Mentos in a Coke" with a twist. Mascara and androgynous tears for Britney. A motivational speaker mimics thirty years of dance moves. Forget the Oscars, we have the YouTube Video awards. One implication is that knowledge is devolving into information. And web information has a half-life of about one day. In a week you're off the page. Information is devolving into spiky noise. Perhaps Francis Fukuyama's The End of History was prescient in ways he didn't anticipate?


Sunday, April 6, 2008

The Three Phases of RAAM

June 7 & 8, is the start of the 26th Race Across America - a non-stop bicycle race from Oceanside, CA to Annapolis Md., covering 3000 miles and 100,000 vertical feet of climbing. It's no picnic but parts of it are fun. The race can be described in three distinct phases: Euphoria, Pain, and Focus.
Euphoria lasts about three days, when the pent up strength from months of training is unleashed. You can marvel at the scenic beauty of western America without having to worry about food, water, where your next nap will occur. A RAAM rider has a full complement of crew to take care of every detail. You might ride all day without hitting a single traffic light!
The second phase starts when your body reacts to riding more miles in three days than you've ridden in the last month. Everything hurts, everything is swollen. The difference between permanent and temporary damage is hard to distinguish, but you start poppin' Advil's like Jelly Beans, and ride through it.
Two orthogonal things happen in the last phase: your legs begin to grow like Popeye-on-Spinach, but your brain is fried. The scenery become numbingly repetitious (to you). You have the strength to ride, but all you want to do is sleep. The veterans wait for this phase - where huge gains or losses can occur. As eight time veteran Danny Chew put it, "the real race starts at the Mississippi".
To finish you must focus on getting to the next time station, the next bump in the road, or simply getting to ten pedal revolutions so you start counting to ten again. Repeat until your crew says stop and you are a RAAM finisher.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

CND & P2P - Can't we all just get along?

The worlds of content delivery networks (CDN) and peer 2 peer (P2P) seems to be at odds. At first glance they serve different markets. CDNs are essentially to deliver a webcast to a large number of simultaneous users, e.g. Oprah's weekly sessions attract 1M homes. P2P originated with music sharing site Napster. At that time it was about access to a large library of music, not bandwidth. But in today's video laden world, bandwidth is the key issue. Video-on-demand services like BitTorrent (founded by the inventor of P2P for video) relies on public P2P to accelerate movie downloads. Private box video on demand provider Vudu relies on their installed base of boxes to accelerate movie downloads - the more users they have the better the average user experience.
All P2P providers appear to gain from no having to make CDN payments. But that gain ignores the cost of the "pipes" they are using. As long as the "pipes" are free and their users are freely offering their upload bandwidth this works. But is it the optimum arrangement for the web? A good technical reference is A Practical Guide to Content Delivery Networks. I'm reading some technical articles on hybrid architecture proposals.

Bit Torrent

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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Back to Kindergarten

I spent a morning tutoring five and six year olds at my grandson's charter school. It was a hoot. I plan to make it a regular experience.

Rational Economics

Are people rational or irrational when making economic choices. People are rational, individuals are frequently not. Though ration is in the eye of the rationalizer. People make decisions on their perceived values and costs of the alternatives. Perceptions are easily fooled, especially when facts are too complex to evaluate. I just read The Logic of Life, by Tim Hartford. He exposes some non-obivous but rational decisions groups of people make. The threat of higher cigarette taxes causes more smokers to quit than higher cost - society would be better off with repeating small tax increases than one large increase every several years. On the other hand, the availability of over the counter anti-smoking drugs has led to an increase in new smokers - teens figure they'll have the tools to quit when they're ready to.