Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Show Me The Bubbles

Confirmation continues that we are in the midst of a bubble, big time. Genealogy site was valued by investors today at $100 mm today. Charles River Ventures paid $10 mm for a 10% stake in the social networking company, described this way in

Geni difference from other social nets rests on its specific focus on people interested in genealogical research and cataloguing. Instead of identifying Geni as a social networking site, Sacks calls it “family networking” and the hope is that people interested in mapping out their personal history will recruit other family members to the site.

Fred Wilson keeps things on the ground by pointing out that the actual cash paid out by Charles River was only $10mm -- by no means chump change, but not $100mm. He also points out that there is cash to be made in a bubble. You just need to be extremely careful and selective.

In a sign that the bubble is not ending life as we know it, the much discussed and at one time much touted Disney on-demand venture Moviebeam was sold to Movie Gallery for about $10mm. That's after it was re-capped last year for $48.5mm and much after Disney poured an estimated $70mm into the project. It was the price that probably did them in. Disney was charging almost $300 for the hardware alone. In the evolving on-demand world hardware is a losing proposition. Everything you need will sooner or later be delivered on-line.

Newspapers Enter Video Age

It was disclosed today on that MSN and AP have worked out an arrangement with thousands of client newspapers and other news organizations around the country by which they will make available thousands of hours of client and user generated content. It's estimated that some 3,500 of AP associated news organizations could participate, ultimately. The day may be a bit further off for newspapers and others who are not yet up to speed with video. But the opportunity is there.

Monday, March 5, 2007

New Geico Caveman Commercial

Who Pays For New Media? The Cavemen

The question of just who will finance the media revolution seems to have been answered... the Geico cavemen. You've seen the commercials, but you probably didn't see, until today, that is, is that ABC has decided to commission a pilot around the characters in the Geico commercials. Says Geico's vp of marketing Ted Ward, "We sell car insurance; we don't make TV shows. We are excited to have an opportunity to do brand extension."

The ad campaign has been successfully extended across platforms. A Caveman showed up at the Oscars, even attending an after party. He also played a round of golf with Phil Simms on the Superbowl pregame show.

But that's not really odd. It's the inverted relationship between programming and advertising that truly makes this seem like a trip to the bizarro world. If I've got this right.... It's a TV show based on a thirty second spot. Granted, ABC has had problems creating a hit TV sitcom in recent years, but taking your lead from a commercial sponsor does not seem like a winning proposition. If history is any guide, it won't work too well, according to the WSJ. In the 1980's the California Raisins had a TV special and a short lived cartoon series and a TV special. The same was true for a talking baby, "Baby Bob," found in an Internet commercial.

And just a sign that we live in a truly bizarre world.... The Burger King will be the subject of a feature film.

Kudos to USA TODAY

USA TODAY went live on Saturday with a revamped website, featuring tremendous social networking features....

"While we've refined the design, we've also expanded the journalistic mission," wrote editors Ken Paulson, Kinsey Wilson and John Hillkirk in an editor's note Saturday. "Our ambition is to help readers quickly and easily make sense of the world around them by giving them a wider view of the news of the day and connecting them with other readers who can contribute to their understanding of events."

It's a great example of a newspaper really getting and extending its branding.

Ford Foundation Conference

I am producing a roundtable on "The Future of Media (and who will pay for it)" under the auspices of the Ford Foundation and UCAL Berkeley in NY on March 23. It will be a small gathering of people from the worlds of media, finance and academe. I will start blogging about it and presenting some relevant materials on this site.

Initially, I'd like to call your attention to the documentary produced by the Ted Koppel Group that will air on Discovery on Sunday. It's called Our Children's Children's War. The Executive Producer is Tom Bettag, who will be present at the Roundtable.

One of the things that is extremely interesting about the Koppel unit is the transition that they (producers and Ted) have made from network television to cable. I would argue that Koppel has realized that he was no longer dependent on ABC for the perpetuation of his brand. Rather, through Discovery as well as through op-eds in the New York Times and regular contributions to NPR, Ted has become a true media brand. I think that he (and we) are the better for it.

Monday, February 26, 2007

In It For The Big Bucks... Not

Guys: Sorry, I was swept up amidst the excitement of February vacation last week, and while I did mean to check in on the blogosphere.... Well, I needed a break. Never fear, we're back in force.

A story in the Toronto Sun declares that there may be some 65 million blogs out there and that almost none of them are making money. We may be in the early stages of a business model according to the paper. That, guys, is not much of a story, but I haven't got too much to work with today.

Speaking of getting paid for these labors of love, there's a kind of odd article in NYT today on YouTube celebs ditching the Web's hottest property for the greener pastures reportedly offered by some other video sites. I find myself in good company of others like Fred Wilson of A VC who are confused. There doesn't seem to be any exclusivity or very much money involved. Why not post every where.

Google's AdSense is also working with Dow Jones, Conde Nast, SonyBMG, and others to syndicate their video on other websites. The websites get the video for free -- not only that, they split the ad revenues with Google and the source of the video. Sounds a little bit like what Mochila is doing on the print syndication front.

I'd like to humbly request that everyone in the Multi-Platform audience, please pass the word and forward any comments, rants, etc. that you might have.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Video Saved the Radio Star

You may or may not recall the first video shown on MTV way back in the Golden Age of TV, circa 1981 (Actually any Age of TV you just missed seems to become the Golden Age. I was actually quite alive and in college in 1981, but I digress). It was, "Video Killed the Radio Star" by the Buggles.

Now it seems that video may actually be saving the radio star. That is the tack taken by Richard Siklos in today's NYT. Video is now a growing complement to many of the popular radio shows out there. According to comScore Media Metrix, Clear Channel radio sites ranked sixth in December among music Websites. That's behind MTV, AOL, Yahoo, MySpace and Artistdirect.

The article describes how radio stations have added video in an effort to offset dwindling audiences. The efforts seem to be working. I have a slightly different take on it.... I believe that one reason why video is working in tandem with radio is that it offers audiences yet another source of original, local media. Local media is hot right now, whether its offered as Websites, magazines, television. There are numerous opportunities to find out what's happening around the world or across the country, but far fewer reliable sources to discover what's happening around the corner. I believe that's what these video versions of local radio are now offering to their audiences, and people can't get enough of it.

Age of the Blog
Today's WSJ runs an interview with Technorati Chair and CMO Peter Hirshberg. Hirshberg is betting the farm on the future of blogs (well, he does after all, know where his bread is buttered) but it's a point of view with which I agree. He stresses the importance of listening to and engaging with customers and consumers and urges companies to hire a person whose job it is not only to blog but to engage with bloggers and to monitor what's being said. While he is careful to say you shouldn't listen to everything everyone says, you can get a general vibe from monitoring the traffic. Self promotion warning: This is something that I've been advocating for a while now, but it has been falling on mostly deaf ears.

Animal House: Multi-Platforming It
I was at a Dartmouth College event last night taping a book reading by Chris Miller. Miller who co-wrote the screenplay of Animal House has just published "a mostly lucid memoir" entitled "The Real Animal House." From the reading, I can tell you it's not something for Mom's birthday. But what's interesting is that Animal House was adapted from the "Tales from the Adelphian Lodge" that Miller wrote for National Lampoon in 1975. Now, many years later, he's gone back to write the book that was what the articles were supposed to precede. Well, a small cultural icon, starring the artistry of a young man named John Belushi intervened. Thirty years later, here we are.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Fox Business On the Runway

Fox News continues to make noise about the forthcoming launch of its biz channel. At last week's media summit Rupert Murdoch talked about being more business friendly that the competition -- that being CNBC. I'm not exactly sure how CNBC is unfriendly to business, but what is clear is that Fox wants some of the $500 million that CNBC is scooping up in licensing fees and ad revenues.

Fox News Chair Roger Ailes and biz honcho Neil Cavuto also indicated that they would be going for a wider audience in this excerpt from Multi-Channel News...

Cavuto, who worked for eight years at CNBC, said: “We’re going to be entertaining, informative, youthful. We’re going to appeal to groups beyond old white guys with money.”

Riffing on that remark, Ailes said: “I have no problem with old white guys with money, being one of them. Having said that, it would be good to broaden the audience.”

Comedy Central, at least, doesn't have too much to worry about. Clearly. There are some doubts that there's a need for another biz channel, friendly or unfriendly.

News watcher Andrew Tyndall, who monitors TV-news viewing through the Tyndall Report, is not sure one is really needed.

“This is not an underserved market,” he said. “CNNfn didn’t make it. Bloomberg [Television], a very well-established name in the financial field, hasn’t really succeeded.” CNNfn shut down on Dec. 15, 2004, with distribution to 30 million homes. Bloomberg currently counts some 43 million subscribers.

Snickers Scores on Superbowl
You may not have liked the Snickers ad that was quickly pulled and criticized as homophobic, but it did score among some viewers. Visits to the Snickers website was 16 times higher than it was the week before the game, a gain of 1,4447.7%. Similarly, Budlight saw traffic grow by over 655 percent. Granted, traffic to those sites was relatively small to begin with, so the percentages may be somewhat misleading.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Lights, Camera.... MySpace

Just a short one today guys... MySpace is linking in the U.K. with Film4 and Vertigo Films to get a low budget film ($1.96 mm) off the ground. Anyone in the U.K will be free to enter the contest, MySpace Movie MashUp, by submitting a short. The massive quantity of expected entrants will be cut down to 12 by the companies involved. The final 3 will be submitted to MySpace users, who will choose the winner. MySpace users will also have an opportunity to be involved in script selection, casting and other decisions for the eventual feature. They'll even be able to put themselves forward as cast members.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

The Gold Rush 2.0

Before I get to work on today's illuminating column, I'd like to take a moment to thank Melissa McNamara of CBS for her mention of Multi-Platform Media for the mention in Blogophile! Now you know we've hit the big time.

OK, now that the self-promotion is out of the way, it's over to Barry Diller. Today, he announced that IAC would be pouring millions into producing original content on their myriad of sites. He sees the value of user generated content, ala YouTube and MySpace, but feels that the future is really in professionally produced content. Good point, but you have to remember that he comes from the world of professionally produced content, and, oh yeah, he doesn't own either YouTube or MySpace. That said, overall, I agree with him.

Speaking of user generated content, Facebook and Comcast are teaming up to offer even more video. The content will appear first on Ziddio, a new Comcast site devoted to ugc. The best stuff will end up on Comcast's video on demand channel and on a new television show in the works.

Doc/Reality producer RJ Cutler is working to develop 10 episodes of a project called Facebook Diaries that will devoted to topics like "Heartbreak" and "Life During Wartime." The show will be shopped around, and Comcast, with some 23 million subscribers, does have some pull in the TV world.

Not to be too glib about it, but it strikes me that this one for the "more things change, the more things stay the same department." Remember "America's Funniest Home Videos," which is still on btw. Isn't that a network show that runs video submitted by users? The only difference there is that it doesn't appear on a website first.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Coach Potato Edition

The best ads on last night's coverage of the Superbowl were brought to us courtesy of Doritos. I didn't even realize that they were user generated until I saw the winners on the Today Show this morning. What's quite cool is that the winning ad, "the crash" was filmed on a budget of $12. Opps. A ad exec quoted in the WSJ said it was scary that amateurs could put together something so good. It definitely scored with the group with whom I was watching.

On Today's discussion about the ads, Matt Lauer roundly dismissed the automotive ads. Donnie Deutsch threw in something complimentary about one of the ads featuring a robot for GM. While the NYT also praised it, I also happened to notice that the ad was produced by Deutsch. Okaaay.

On the topics of coach potatoes, Reuters reports on an article from the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. It reports that a 4 year study of more than 10,000 U.S. children found that, "Simply restricting television viewing may not be effective in increasing physical activity."

Advertisers Discover Video
Another article in today's NYT reports on a number of advertisers meeting with success as a result of posting videos, much of it user generated, online. Notables are,, and At this point, the videos are novelties. What remains to be seen is whether they will translate into real sales. Some companies are wary of getting involved with soliciting user generated videos, fearing a loss of control. That problem should be solved, at least to some extent, by, a company that helps clients review posted content.

Thursday, February 1, 2007

The Museum Closes

British theaters have pulled the plug on "Night At The Museum," in response to Fox's plans to release the DVD just 13 weeks after theatrical release. The accepted theatrical window has been four months. It's the second showdown in two weeks. Last week German theater owners pulled all Fox pictures in response to the studio's plan to move up the DVD release date of Eragon. Fox blinked on that one. It seems that the war over theatrical windows (a battle between platforms) has just begun. In the US directors like Steven Soderbergh have been playing with the concept of simultaneous theatrical and home releases. The theatrical window is bound to close, but the timing is still up in the air.

Web: TV's Minor Leagues?
As reported on Mashable today, the indomitable LisaNova will be making the move to the big time (well, semi-big time) having signed a deal to join the cast of MADtv. LisaNova, aka Lisa Donovan, moved to LA and auditioned unsuccessfully for MADtv the first time around, the traditional way. She made it once her YouTube show took off into the stratosphere. Fred Wilson reports that her YouTube shows sometimes generate more than 1mm viewers, always more than 100,000.

The real question here is whether the web is a farm club for TV or a end in and of itself. I would argue that, at least for now, it's a training ground. MADtv is now a farm club for bigger and better TV shows and films in the same way that the Groundlings as been a feeder for SNL. What's quite cool is the opportunity that forums like YouTube allow for training and truly open auditions.

More Bad News In Timesville
Yesterday the Times reported a $648 million quarterly loss. As reported by the AP...

The New York Times Co. posted a $648 million loss in its latest quarter as it absorbed an $814.4 million charge to write down the value of its struggling New England properties, The Boston Globe and the Worcester Telegram & Gazette.

Interesting, some of the loss is attributed to the economic clime, but a part of it is reported to have been caused by the consolidation of major retail chains, like Macy's and Filene's, the bread and butter of newspaper advertising.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

The New TV

I had a great conversation today with Adam Elend and Jeff Marks, the producers of Wallstrip. Wallstrip is an irreverent video series, looking at stocks topping the charts on Wall Street. Elend and Marks are TV pros and the daily videos are slick without being glossy. You know what I mean, they still have that sort of underground edge. Now that they've started and have caught on to the tune of 10,000 viewers per segment, they are being courted by potential partners and advertisers. I should also mention that Howard Lindzon is the third, non-production member of the Wallstrip triumverate. Howard is, however, featured on today's segment.

Wall Street is definitely the right way to go. After porn, gambling, and, maybe, technology, personal finance attracts a huge audience of the right demo of people with money and some tech savvy. Wallstrip definitely does it right by bringing production values to a web video world that has long been dominated (OK, it hasn't been around for too long) by talking heads and dark and gloomy shooting.

Adam and I had a long conversation about how web video is likely to be monetized in the future. We agreed that the winning formula is not to create a tent pole site, but to make your video available to everyone who wants to see it by whatever means possible. They post on YouTube,, iTunes, etc. You can also subscribe or catch it on their own site. I have attempted to do this in media campaigns I've been running. Post it everywhere, and do not assume people will find it and come running to you.

We also discussed the state of web video advertising. Adam feels that pre and post rolls will be of limited utility, and that the winning formula will be to embed and integrate advertising into online content and also to create affiliations with consumer and service brands. This is another example of history repeating itself. Soap operas, variety shows (Hello, Uncle Miltie) and even the news were once presented by and named after single sponsors.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Google's In The Library

Jeffrey Toobin's generally favorable profile of Google Books hits magazine racks in this week's New Yorker. Aside from having been fortunate (?) enough to have visited Google HQ during pajama day, Toobin reports on Google's plans to scan every book ever to have been in print -- by hand no less. They believe it can be accomplished inside of 20 years.

His take on the legal wrangling.... It's all part of a protracted negotiation process. Deep pocketed Google actually wants to strike a deal with publishers and copyright holders. The company's acknowledgment that writers have financial rights will create a precedent, and leave Google the only one in the House with the ability to pay. It's estimated that paying the bill could cost Google $800 million. The bill will be painful but not at all insurmountable for a company with a cap in the billions.

The publishing industry newsletter goes on the defense, taking Toobin to task for offenses large and small....

We're thus supposed to believe that Google would pay more than Microsoft could? That Amazon can't handle this for nearly all books that people want to read now? That the world needs multiple search-engine libraries of every book ever written? And, grim, panicked, slow and desperate that we are, publishers' own extensive efforts to develop digital distribution of their books on their own terms--for indexing by any engine and access through a myriad of sites--doesn't get mentioned all.

My experience, though limited, is that publishers have been slow to adapt to digital technologies, especially on the promotions front. It's been just a couple of years since promotional websites became widespread. And that's about all I've seen thus far.

Ask A Ninja This
It's being reported that the popular video site Ask A Ninja has a deal in place with Federated Media to be paid $300,000 if they keep their numbers up. It's said to be an upfront against expected ad revenues. There's apparently some gold in them there video hills.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Superbowl YouTube Style

For better, worse or somewhere in between, Superbowl Fever is here. The WSJ commented this weekend how the first contest seems to be between fans who are posting videos to YouTube. In the last week alone there have been more than 60 take-offs of the Bear's much remembered "Superbowl Shuffle." Interestingly, the original video circa 1986 was removed at the copyright holder's request. YouTube itself is actually holding a competition for users to submit their own takes on Superbowl commercials.

Sundance Takes to the Web
While we're at it, the WSJ also comments how Sundance has gotten websavvy. Of the 71 shorts at the festival, 44 can be watched for free. 17 can be downloaded via iTunes. This year, the organizers also commissioned several short films exclusively for mobile devices.

Online TV Revenues to Raise the Roof
Call this burying the lead on this blog entry, but it is predicted that online TV revenues will jump by ten-fold in the next ten years. That, ladies and gentlemen, will amount to some $6.3 billion. That forecast is announced in a study released today by British research firm Informa Telecoms and Media.

According to Adam Thomas, Media Research Manager at Informa, "these trends are now so pronounced, that the term 'social revolution' no longer seems too much of an exaggeration. With social change occurring on such a large scale, traditional media companies are being forced to change their behaviour and business models to adapt their offering to consumer demand. The challenge for the TV industry is to monetise this massive interest in online content."

The big risk here for traditional media is that they will blow it, in the same way that the recording industry has never recovered from early missteps in dealing with the Internet and piracy. NBC and CBS and to some extent ABC have all found ways to deal with -- and increase viewership and revenues, potentially -- through digital means. There is a real opportunity for traditional media to use these developments for good, at least their own good.

Broadband penetration is a factor that will make all of this possible. Japan and Korea are expected to lead the way with penetration expected to reach 91% and 81%, respectively by 2012. The UK will be next at 79%. The US at 76%.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Decision 2008

A few short observations today. I want to start looking at what the different presidential campaigns are starting to do online. The early multi-platform results are not good. Fred Wilson reports his disappointment at what the candidates are offering. He says that it looks closer to 1995 than 2007. No real blogging or grassroots efforts. Screened questions answered by email.

I had lunch today with a friend who's become very involved with creating the King's Academy in Jordan. It's been termed by the New Yorker, CBS and the NYT as Deerfield in the Desert. King Abdallah has modeled it after his alma mater, the centuries old Massachusetts prep school. But it strikes me that he's really on to something. The idea is to deliver a secular education to kids in the Middle East. True, there will be a lot of rich kids, but 15% of the tuition is geared toward providing scholarships to kids from the region. There are also scholarships being put into place for kids from Israel. If there's anything that can be done to broaden the horizons of smart and ambitious kids from the Middle East that does not entail sending them to radical madrasses or religious schools, I'm all for it.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Popular Wisdom: Wrong Again

The commentators and critics were wrong about vcr's in late '70s. The popular wisdom then, at least in Hollywood, was that videotapes would put the studios out of business. Doom and gloom abounded. That proved wrong. Videos delivered a much needed boost in the arm to the "industry."

Until recently, the popular wisdom has been that the Internet would put the television nets out of business. OK, it's an exaggeration, but cut me some slack, I'm working on a larger point. That point is that Nielsen is now reporting that the number of people watching television shows is actually up.

The conclusion is rather dramatic according to the Nielsen press release...

Video on PCs and iPods actually is expanding the audience of traditional TV programs, supported by the fact that total TV usage was at a record high in U.S. households at 8 hours, 14 minutes a day during the 2005-2006 TV season according to Nielsen Media Research data.

The study also reports that television advertisers and programmers are finding new and lucrative markets in broadband television. Nielsen also reports on advertising models, saying that 15-30 second pre-rolls work best and should demand a higher CPM than traditional television advertising due to the level of interactivity. There is debate, however, regarding whether pre-rolls will emerge as the favored ad model in broadband tv. Some critics argue for the potential of post-rolls. Others say that subscription models will rule.

Newspapers Pull Back
The Boston Globe has announced that it will be closing its three remaining overseas bureaus, Jerusalem, Berlin and Bogota. The WSJ comments that this reflects a "painful" issue for major metropolitan dailies. In the face of mounting losses and budget cuts, do they concentrate heavily on local reporting?

Jill Carroll, the Christian Science Monitor stringer in Iraq and one-time kidnapping victim, who was a fellow at Harvard's Shorenstein Center notes that the number of U.S. newspaper correspondents stationed abroad had dropped 12% between 2000 and 2006, dropping to 249 from 282.

Last week, Jack Welch on CNBC said, "I'm not sure local papers need to cover Iraq, need to cover global events." I'm not going to get into whether Jack Welch is the commentator most qualified to talk about the state of journalism (although he is trying to buy the Globe), but what he said makes a lot of sense. There is so much timely coverage of major issues across the board 24/7 that local newspaper dollars are perhaps best spent on local coverage and enterprise or investigative reporting. Those are things that readers aren't going to get elsewhere.

Advertising Age's Madison + Vine reports that OfficeMax totally rocked the house in its aggressive Holiday campaign. On one of the 20 websites they launched,, where people pasted their faces on a singing and dancing pixie, 11 million people turned themselves into elves. That's not me btw.

The site was splashed across "Good Morning America," CNN, ESPN and national print pubs, and more than 100 user-generated videos were posted on YouTube. Elf Yourself generated 79,000 MySpace hits and 2 million Google queries, all in about five weeks. Consumers spent 300 million minutes on all 20 sites, which pulled in $2.5 million in media exposure.

Multi-platform rules!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Mochila: Syndication for a New Generation

Welcome to today's column. I begin what will be a regular feature on Multi-Platform Media, company profiles of ventures in this multi-platform space, or just companies that I want to write about.

Today it's Mochila, a company that has come strong out of the gates and is creating a new paradigm for syndication in our fragmented media world. Mochila reaches syndication agreements with various media partners -- a slew of them so far -- and offers the material to other media sources for use other plans and on other platforms. Unlike other syndication companies, Mochila does not require that those use the material sign long term subscription deals or anything like that. You like it. You use it, for a fee, of course.

There's also a new offering that enables licensees to use material for free if you run it with ads embedded. So, I can run pages on this website with content provided by Mochila. You'll see the ads, and I'll get 30% of any revenues, Mochila will get 30% and the content owner will get 40%.

I had an opportunity to speak with CEO Keith McAllister yesterday -- he's a veteran of CNN -- and he was extremely encouraged by the media response since the company emerged from stealth mode last year. His strategy is to go after the biggest brands in the business, and their members include AP, , Hearst, Hachette, Washington Post/LA Times News Services. In all, 1542 media outlets and 139 organizations. They are planning to add still photos and video shortly.

Mochila has just received $8million in second round funding. The round was led by Charles River Ventures, and previous investors, Mission Ventures, The Greenspun Corporation and Jerry Colonna also participated.

It looks like a great service. The only variable I see are the scads of websites out there who are inclined just to lift stuff for free. Of course, it's not the right thing to do, but that hasn't stopped many people in the past. I think the most likely clients are corporations and "official" media companies who won't just lift stuff for free. McAllister offers that the opportunity to make money off the content will keep the small guys in line.

Keep an eye on these guys. If they can continue to line up name media brands as partners, they'll have a considerable advantage over others that follow.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Adult Entertainment Edition

A wise man once said, "As pornography goes, so goes the world." Well, maybe it wasn't a wise man. Maybe it was me about ten minutes ago. But, in any event, I think it's pretty well known that gambling and porn are early adapters in the world of tech and media. Everyone else follows the money.

The biggest news I heard over the weekend was that adult entertainment powerhouse, Vivid, would be beginning production on Blu Ray technology first, and possibly later on competing format HD-DVD. This is big news as the slug fest continues between the rival technologies.
Vivid CEO Steve Hirsch said to

"As of now, it (the first release) will just be Blu-ray. But that's not to say we won't release it in HD-DVD later. Blu-ray seems to have the momentum. But we're not in the business of picking winners. We will produce content for all formats."

However, as On the Media pointed out this weekend, the final adoption of one technology or the other as the successor to the standard DVD format is likely to have fewer ramifications than the Betamax/VHS war of the 1980's. There are now too many ways of delivering content for any one to be pervasive. BTW, Vivid's first Blu-Ray release will be Debbie Does Dallas... Again. It's a remake.

The Times wades into the subject today with the take that introducing HD into the world of porn could be asking for too much information.... "The biggest problem is razor burn," said Stormy Daniels, an actress, writer and director. She goes on to say that she's not too sure why anyone needs their porn in HD. The answer is provider by the director known as Robby D., "It puts you in the room." OK. Asked and answered.

The format status, according to the Times, seems uncertain. It reports that Sony, one of the major players behind Blu-Ray has been reluctant to give it's blessing to mass production of tapes for the adult industry. Digital Playground, a Vivid competitor, will begin releasing HD-DVD titles this month. Beginning now, there will be four new releases a month.

Let's put this in context. 7,000 new adult titles were distributed on DVD last year in the U.S. That's $3.6 billion.

Quote of the day, from actress Jesse Jane, "I'm having my breasts redone because of HD." In my house the adoption of HD has necessitated fewer changes. We're buying a new tv.

Last week Behr Entertainment was at NATPE trying to sell a video version of Naked News, the site on which women delivery the day's headlines while -- getting undressed. The program, dubbed, "All the news with nothing to hide," is available daily, weekly, with either men or women. There's even a non-nude version. I think that one's already pretty much around. I haven't been able to track any news on a sale.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Digital Breakfast NYC 2007

I am planning to launch a breakfast series this year called, for now, Digital Breakfast. The idea is to pull together people from the worlds of media, advertising, technology and finance who have a personal and professional interest in the future of media.

I am putting this together under the auspices of my new media marketing/pr firm, Gotham Media Ventures, and each month we plan to host an invite with a keynote or panel. The event is modeled after the First Amendment Breakfasts that I produced for many years for the Columbia School of Journalism.

There will be no charge for the events, but they will be by invitation. We plan to pull together a diverse group and generate some great conversation and presentations. I am in the process of pulling together a group of advisors and sponsors, and am soliciting the participation of anyone who wants in. I'm looking forward to this!

Fox Business
It looks like the Fox News business channel may finally become a reality. The holdup since the idea was first floated in 2004 was acquiring adequate distribution. That has now happened in the critical NYC market and Time Warner will be carrying the channel on its system, beginning probably beginning mid-year.

Crain's NY reports that it's part of a four point deal. Included are re-transmission of Fox owned and operated stations, carriage of the new business channel, carriage of Fox Reality Channel, and an extension of the Fox News contract. It's a great deal for Fox, apprently. They will receive 75 cents per subscriber, up from a current 25 cent per subscriber level. The new business channel will be priced at 15 cents.

The online finance space is getting extremely hot. News literally just came to me that Yahoo! will be offering a personal finance vertical on its site. That from Media Post. This seems like a vertical with lots of room for expansion.

Social Media News Releases
There's a lot of controversy in PR about what are being termed social media news releases. These seem essentially to be electronic press releases with lots of links, graphics, widgets, etc. I may be missing something, but I don't see what the big deal is. It seems like a useful tool, but hardly revolutionary.

In a related developed PRNewswire and Technorati announced an alliance of sorts this week. They have entered into an agreement whereby you will be able to connect directly from an electronic press release to the blogosphere to see what people are saying about the press release. It is a marriage of sorts between traditional pr and new media. Will it be a happy marriage? I guess it depends on what people are saying about you press release in blogland.

It seems a bit dangerous to me in that the company or firm issuing the release essentially loses control over the message. Granted, people can always look it up for themselves, but it's an extra step or two that you have to be willing (and know how) to take.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

MobileTV: Darling or Deadbeat?

The media (me included) can't seem to figure out whether mobile tv is the next best thing since sliced bread or a disaster (betamax, anyone?) in the making. My opinion (not that you asked, but it's my pulpit) is that it will gain widespread acceptance once everyone figures out how and when to use it.

Here's where the chips fall today. The WSJ runs an extended take under the header "Banner Year: Companies Vie for Ad Dollars on Mobile Web." The article profiles the tremendous, initial success of AdMob. Third Screen also grabs its share of print.

Pamela Anderson : Virgin mobile commercial - kewego
Pamela Anderson : Virgin mobile commercial - kewego

Pamela Anderson : Virgin mobile commercial - kewego
What does Pamela Anderson always have by her side? Her new Lobster 700TV ! Discover the phone now...

The numbers are interesting, though I'm not sure what they mean at this point. In 2006, mobile ad spending reached an estimated $871 worldwide, most of it on text messages, according to the research firm (quoted by WSJ) Informa Telecoms and Media. Meanwhile Internet spending was around $24 billion, according to ZenithOptimedia.

Meanwhile, reports (quoting The Guardian) that Virgin Mobile TV has failed to gain traction in the UK, despite the considerable charms (?) of Pamela Anderson in its $4.9 million ad campaign. The paper reports that considerably fewer than 10,000 subscribers have tuned in thus far. The culprits? Delivery mechanisms, price points, limited service... take your pick. But stay tuned.

Fiction on Demand
The Washington Post reports that it will be publishing fiction for the first time on its website. The paper is serializing a novel written by biz section reporter David Hilzenrath. New serials will be available every Monday and Thursday. In a deal with Lulu, Inc. the book can also be printed on demand. The $18.95 revenue will be split among Lulu, Hilzenrath and the Post. The article comments that providing these ancillary services is another way for newspapers to lure readers in through non-traditional paths.

In related news Mediapost reports that newspaper blogs are catching on....

Now, however, there's some objective support showing that online newspaper readers have taken to the publications' blogs. Data released this morning by media measurement company Nielsen//NetRatings shows that blog pages within the top 10 online newspapers drew around 3.8 million unique visitors last month--more than triple December 2005's 1.2 million.

By contrast, total online readership at the top 10 newspapers during that time has only grown by 9%, from 27.3 million in December 2005 to 29.9 million last month.

These numbers also mean that the proportion of online newspaper readers that also visit the paper's blog has grown from around 4% at the end of 2005 to around 12% last month.

Nielsen//NetRatings also reported that newspapers' blog readers tend to skew male--even more so than online newspapers in general. Men accounted for 66% of visitors to blogs, and 60% of visitors to online newspapers last month.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Mobile: Where are We Now?

Today's WSJ reports on social networking by cellphone. It reports on more companies rolling out GPS services that can locate anyone with the service. It profiles Loopt, a service available by wireless operator Boost Mobile which is owned by Sprint Nextel. I could see where it makes some sense, but, uh, can't you just call your friends and ask them where they are?

I wonder if the privacy concerns outweigh the utility. Sure you can make all the promises you want that the info is not retained. I would also be concerned about stalkers using the service. Also, to be somewhat serviceable a greater number of online providers are going to have to offer the service.

In any event, the numbers are interesting. According to Gartner, 63% of mobiles sold in North America in 2007 will have some GPS utility. That's up from 55% last year.

Speaking of mobile, Steve Smith has an interesting column today in Media Post's Mobile Insider, entitled "User Generated Crap." That should give you a pretty good idea of what it's about. His main point is that the tech now far ahead of the content available. The long and short of it is that content that looks OK or at least passable on the the web is often totally unviewable on the really small screen. Also, where you may tolerate a lot of crap on the web where you have a fast connection and pretty good visibility, we're a lot less forgiving on our mobile devices. He draws an analogy to what content providers went through when they started may making material available on the web.

Newsweeklies Cheat Death
At least they're trying, according to this week's Crain's New York Business. The article discusses how Time has been shifting gears with more commentary and features to become less dependent on breaking news. This in an effort to shake up a stagnant (at best) ad market. Newsweek is, however, staying the course and sees an opportunity to break out of Time's shadow. Crain's points out that Newsweek got a much earlier start on the web and that its owner Washington Post Co. is largely controlled by the Graham family, thus easing the pressures exerted on Time by Wall Street.

Non-Traditional Advertising
Yesterday's Times lamented the loss of ad free space. I'm not sure what the big deal is. Granted, I don't need to see Al Roker in the back seat of a cab, but 1) I don't have to look; 2) I can turn down the volume; 3) It's better than looking at whatever is usually on a seatback in a cab. I am not talking about plastering scenic vistas with billboards, but about the creative employment of advertising. It's sometimes a better use of time and space than what's typically sold as entertainment.

Ad Pages
An interesting development . The New York Times Sunday Magazine has for the first time ever beat out all other pubs in ad pages. In 2006, it boasted 3,965 ad pages, a 5% increase over the previous year.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Mobile TV: Who Knew?

Just a couple of shorts today to get your weekend off to a rip roaring start. TelecomWeb reports that mobile TV is starting to catch on. Things are far from standardized in terms of mobile devices, capabilities and offerings, but the quality is much better. US and UK providers are much more likely to offer mainstream channels. Asian operators, Maxis and Mobile One, are providing content geared more specifically to local interests.

A new study by Bivings reports that newspaper websites (54%) are much more likely to offer mobile content than blogs (24%). Based on earlier studies that show newspapers by and large are lagging far behind other forms of media in web availability, this would indicate that those that are on the web are going for it. But what the study also indicated that there is no uniform way to access the mobile information available. Some requires going through third party services, others charge a fee.

At this point, the overall conclusion that mobile still has a way to go. We'll follow what develops over the year, and I'd like to hear any and all observations.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Eye Care

CBS' Les Moonves is getting with the program, tearing it up at CES in Vegas....

"There's no such thing as old or new media anymore; we're just media.... Whether 'programming' means 'CSI' or 'C++,' we're all playing on the same big digital field."

Among the initiatives he's announcing is bringing Star Trek to Second Life, where there will be some sort of Entreprise mock-up. OK. Hoping to catch the viral buzz that amateur videos are finding through YouTube, CBS has also teamed up with Sling Box to create a "Clip and Sling" product that will enable viewers to send network clips far and wide.

Moonves also introduced YouTube's Chad Hurley. They announced a joint contest in which viewers will be invited to make a 15 second video on any subject. They winning entry will be shown during the Superbowl.

Some of this will work, some won't. But CBS is certainly in there pitching.

Colbert Reporting

Comedy Central's Steve Colbert gets it. He is quickly turning his phenomenal television show into a media brand. In a column in Mediapost's TV Board, Manning Field gives a rundown...

For those who don't know, here is what TV host Stephen Colbert has done:

1) Understanding his audience and the You Tube creative community, Colbert filmed an action sequence behind a green screen, and then issued a challenge to his viewers to edit in a background. I don't know how many entries there were in this challenge, but it was huge. Colbert understood his audience and engaged with them on their terms. Go check it out in You Tube or

2) Colbert has created an alternate set of "facts," repurposing the "Wiki" idea. Just Google it. It's both hysterical and extremely smart.

3) Some central European country was having an Internet vote to determine whom to name a bridge after. After Colbert asked his viewers to vote for him, he got the largest number--millions--of entries. He lost the rights to the bridge name on a technicality, but he was very effective at using his television show to drive online behavior.

The Collapase of Paper, Continued

In a stunning announcement, E.W. Scripps has announced that it may spin of its newspaper operations -- it currently owns newspapers in 18 markets -- in an effort to unlock what it sees as the true value in the company's stock. Joseph NeCastro, Scripps EVP of finance and administration, said that, "Newspapers are much more troubled.... It's hard to call the bottom." Newspapers now account for just 29% of Scripps revenues. Growth in recent years has come from cable properties like HGTV and the Food Network.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Media Convergence 2.0

OK. We were all wrong the first time. Things did not converge in the mid-90s. Your phone did not become your TV, your computer did not walk your dog, etc. But technology finally appears to be catching up with big ideas, and it looks like it may actually happen this time. iPhone and Apple TV are two, big examples. I suspect, though, that the phone will be a tougher sell than was the iPod. The early adopters will do it. That's a gimme. I think the problem will be widespread adoption among folks who already have phones AND already have mobile contracts. All of sudden you could be talking about $750 to buy a new phone.

Another example of convergence a-coming is today's announcement that Meredith, the old school publisher of titles like Better Homes and Gardens and Family Circle, has acquired Genex and New Media Strategies. The former a digital ad agency; the latter a word of mouth agency. This would seem to be a sign of a traditional content company diversifying (i.e. spreading the brand) into marketing services. Time will tell if a content company getting into the ad game is the wisest way to go.

The WSJ take on it....

“The acquisitions follow Meredith’s purchase of LA-based interactive-marketing agency O’Grady Meyers ... The latest deals are the strongest signal to date that Meredith—confronting slowing growth in its core publishing and television businesses—is broadening its focus to include marketing services, one of the fastest-growing parts of the advertising industry. Even after these purchases, the Des Moines, Iowa, company is still on the prowl for other acquisitions to round out its marketing-services offerings, says Stephen Lacy, Meredith’s CEO.

I had an opportunity to speak with my friend Aaron Brown last night. No, not the deposed CNN anchor, a former producer. For the last couple of years, he has been with an outfit called The company provides info on travel deals and links to providers of travel services. Aaron has been at the forefront of getting the company to make a commitment to new media initiatives. They now host a videocast (while you're watching the video you can actually link to the deals) on their site, and there's more in the works. He believes that travel is an area where there are numerous multi-platform opportunities that have not even begun to be tapped.

But Will You Pay for It?

I didn't realize that the has more subscribers than all but three print newspapers in the country -- The New York Times, USA Today and the print version of the Wall Street Journal. WSJ publisher had this to say about it in Romanesko....

"I am very concerned that many other publishers with high-quality news brands have devalued their brands by trying to charge in one medium (print) while giving away access to brands and content in another medium (online)," he says. "But I understand that it's very hard to change strategies."

Interesting thought, but numerous publications, including the NYT, have found it exceedingly difficult to find an online model that readers will pay for.

Tuesday, January 9, 2007

MySpace RIP?

That headline should grab your attention. While it's obviously much too early to sound the death knell for MySpace -- and that day may never come -- it is no longer the social networking choice of those in the know. I am not a hipster (as my wife informs me on a regular basis, and I actually agree), but my friend Spyro Poulos is. Spyro is the advertising director for Tokion Magazine. It is a decidedly hip pub and Spyro is a decidedly hip guy, and he tells me that those in the know are moving on. I have felt for some time that the next big thing in social networking will be proprietary social networks, those delineated by niche or those inviting membership. These are the new places to be, and the places to find early adapters.

Politics Online

It will be interesting to see what happens later this month with the launch of The Politico, the primarily online political publication, financed by Allbritton Communications. These guys are cutting the papaer out of newspaper almost entirely, as reported by The Times.

As many newspapers across the country are cutting their staffs and trimming back on Washington coverage, The Politico is finding younger journalists and some veterans — including John F. Harris and Jim VandeHei from The Washington Post, Mike Allen from Time magazine and Roger Simon from Bloomberg News — who are willing to leave the once-secure confines of traditional print to join a start-up.

The content will be first rate. What remains to be seen is whether The Politico will be able to attract readers -- and profits -- in a niche where there is so much already available for free. I think a lot of it is going to depend how quickly the pub can establish a brand and demonstrate multi-platform chops, meaning incorporating video, perhaps social networks and other forms of media into the mix.

Monday, January 8, 2007

When Worlds Collide

Merrill Lynch reports that VOD and DVD rentals are headed for a death match. As reported earlier today in Merrill Lynch analyst Jessica Reif Cohen says that VOD is coming into its own, offering better quality films and gaining a foothold in consumer homes with the wider adoption of digital. VOD releases are now timed closer to theatrical release windows, leaving less time alone for DVDs on rental shelves. The two big winners: Comcast, the country's leading provider of VOD, epxected to have 40% of VOD subscribers by 2011 and to capture 40-50% of total VOD revenue (projected to be $2.8 billion) at that time; and, the studios who have not fared well by rentals over the last few years. Rental revenues will rise 10% in the next few years, due to VOD.

Funky Media

Crain's New York Business reports that poor local radio and television revenue figures for 2006 have left broadcasters "glad that 2006 is over."

Unfortunately, 2007 isn't looking much better. Television insiders are predicting a low single-digit drop in ad billings this year as the Internet continues to steal advertisers.

Stay tuned....

Good News, Bad News

The good news, according to Forrester Research is that mobile consumers are beginning to adopt other services, creating audiences for mobile marketing. The bad news is that 79% of consumers find the idea of mobile ads annoying.

As reported in the Boston Globe....

To avoid the perception of mobile spam, marketers must work with the unique elements of the mobile channel itself and the relevance of their message," Forrester Research principal analyst Christine Spivey Overby said in a statement. "In contrast to other channels, mobile is highly integrated into people's daily activities and physical environment. This means marketers can embrace the real-world connections with relevant location-based services and campaigns that tie mobile and on-premise advertising."

One Nation Under a Groove

At the risk of losing whatever credibility I may have, I suggest you check out Bootsy Collins. Bootsy helped to redefine the James Brown sound ... Do you promise to funk, the whole funk?

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Newspapers, The Next Generation

The newspaper business is the only industry around that draws 20% profit margins whose owners routinely cry poverty. Probably because the market has already factored the much anticipated demise of print into financial forecasts. As I've discussed previously, I believe print will be around as long as there are trees. The challenge for newspapers is how they will change and adapt to changing technology and circumstances.

There is newspaper news. Today marks the day that Daylife went live in beta. Daylife is the online news aggregator that Craig Newmark and Jeff Jarvis have been quite involved in building. I haven't had a chance to sample it yet, but it's been panned by TechCrunch already. I haven't yet had a chance to sample it, but will get back to it once I check it out.

Gigaom's initial reaction was also less than a rave.

Daylife’s goals7 overpower what it’s doing, at least with the beta. It aims to “Make the news ecosystem more transparent and self-correcting, for the benefit of all involved,” “Develop new models for funding journalism,” and “Enable a civil discourse that is pragmatic, solutions-oriented, and doesn’t exaggerate divisions in favor of celebrating what unites us,” among other things.

Sounds great, but we don’t see any progress on these fronts so far. There’s not even any way for readers to comment on stories!

Those media folks can be harsh.

The Washington Post also joined the ranks of newspapers that are linking their online and print newsgathering operations. Post Executive Editor Len Downie explained the rationale to Reuters.

Starting in January, print editors will "help us at the Web site and at the paper think smartly about more three-dimensional ways that you can present that news," Post Executive Editor Leonard Downie Jr. told Reuters.

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

We're Baaaack.....

I hope all of you had a great holiday. We're back. We're rested, sort of (the whole family caught a nasty virus in Jamaica). But we are ready to go ahead to a great 2007!

A very interesting article in this week's issue of the Madison+Vine newsletter, an interview with Magna Global's new head honcho Bill Hilary. Magna, as you may recall, is the leading agency in the world of branded entertainment. Anyway, I'm happy to include a quote from the interview, primarily because Hilary agrees with me.

You've talked about your interest in digital and multiplatform entertainment. Can you give some examples of how this could work for your clients and what some of your priorities are in that area? "Multiplatform entertainment is already happening in a big way and it is going to be huge. It's like an octopus. The body is the brand concept-content and the tentacles are the many varied ways of getting the message across to the consumer. The days of creating content solely for linear broadcast are over. Every project we are developing is designed to exist on many platforms. It opens so many more opportunities and ways to reach a more diverse range of consumer."

Saddam TV
The video of Saddam's execution, as captured by mobile phone camera, has by now been widely distributed on the Internet. One of the things that's extremely interesting about this is that the fact that you can hear the taunts and jeers of the crowd, something that was missing on the Iraqi government's official video. This says a tremendous amount about the power of citizen journalism or whatever you want to call it. The fact is that it's a tidal wave that is just getting bigger and bigger. The challenge for established media outlets is how they will use and edit it.

The cameras are getting better, both the lenses and the memories. It's getting easier to establish a link from mobile device to websites. NPD, a market research firm, reports that 2/3 of phones shipped in November, 2006 were video equipped as compared with just 49% percent the year before.

There's a very interesting article about it today's WSJ. Fox News and CNN. Fox is actually issuing Palm Treos to its correspondents, so they can start broadcasting from the moment they hit the ground. The WSJ article reports that CNN correspondent Nic Robertson used a two mega-pixel Nokia N90 camera phone to show his vehicle being attacked in Darfur.