Friday, March 03, 2006

If it smells like a monopoly...

A couple of weeks ago, I had a nice debate with my cousin about whether or not iTunes was a monopoly. She works for Microsoft, and was arguing that all the complaints about Microsoft's mopolistic behavior could be applied to Apple's forcing the music industry to sell their songs for $0.99. I took the other side, and said that Apple has a right to sell their music for whatever they want to, and if the music industry want's to take their business elsewhere, they're free to.

It was odd because I'm usually on the other side of that sort of debate, and anyway I suspect we're both right. I think my defense of Apple was less about me being a big Apple fan (and I am) and more about being so sick of the whiny stone aged record industry. $0.99 is a fair price to pay for a song that's all DRM'ed to hell. Period.

That said... it get's harder to defend Apple, when they insist on ACTING like a monopoly... and doing it to my face, no less.

Exhibit A:

I have a client for whom I'm producing a series of high profile video podcasts. These pods will be released in conjunction with the national broadcast of my client's show. I want to develop a relationship with the iTunes music store. I need to coordinate marketing, timing of the launch, etc. I've emailed, I've called, and they never call back.

Look, I know I'm not ABC here, but this is a high profile product. It's a national show... the podcasts are narrated by Brad Pitt. I am ramping up a big campaign to get that relationship solidified next week. Usually, I would just say, "forget it, these guys don't know how to do business." But I won't be saying that... why? 'Cause they're the only game in town. And they know it, so they make it really, really hard for me. Stupid.

Exhibit B:

Playing around with RSS, I launched a vid cast called The Daily Voogle, which gives you one good google video a day so you can watch it online or download it onto your iPod. The idea is that Google Video sucks, Google Video search sucks, so now you don't have to go wading through videos of tweens lip synching to Cold Play in order to get your entertaining viral vids.

So I go to put the feed on the iTunes music store, (I tested it by adding it manually to my iTunes, and it worked great) and boom. "There is a problem with your feed, please correct it and try again." So I do everything I can thing of, change around my RSS feed, change the wording of my title and description to avoid any content concerns, but I keep getting the same message. Finally I email the iTunes fairy and tell them my dilemma. They send me a form response, telling me to check the technical specs (duh... I already did this) and the content guidelines. I email the guy right back and tell him that I have scoured the tech specs and that I don't think content is the problem, because my error message told me to resubmit. He writes me back the following response:

Dear Adam,

Thank you for contacting the iTunes Music Store.

The error you received when submitting your podcast may not be due to a technical problem with your feed, but rather a content issue with the podcast's title or description..

Unfortunately, I cannot provide any further details about this issue, and respectfully ask that you refer to the technical specifications for more information regarding acceptable content:

http://www.apple.com/itunes/podcasts/techspecs.html

Sincerely,

Andres
The iTunes Music Store team
http://www.apple.com/support/itunes/ww/


Nice. Really nice. I then tried fireant, encountered the same problem and, in about 10 minutes, got an email from a tech drawing my attention to a small error in my RSS feed, which was the source of the problem. They were courteous and helpful... you don't say.

Look, I know that iTunes has exponentially more customer demand than FireAnt, but they don't have to be unapologetically unhelpful and snide. It's just not good business. But I guess that's Apple. That's life as a monopoly.

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