Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Embedding your name on my face

I was directed to this post from the MIT Ad Lab via Publishing 2.0. The Ad Lab suggests a different way to look at advertising on YouTube, namely this:

Embedded ads. My response is... duh. Anyone who's in the television business knows that embedded advertising works without seriously eroding the user experience. Why do you think the CBS bug (that's the term for the little graphic in the corner) sits there through all 46 minutes of CSI?

And for those of us who see the path to success for video on the web as light, portable content that you can embed, share, and discover at sites you already visit, the only viable monetization solution is embedded advertising. Your advertising has to be as light and portable as your media.

I can't figure out why no big video site has tried this monetization model yet - to me it is the single most obvious solution - it's easy, it doesn't take any of my time as a user, and it has a track record of actually WORKING - embedded advertising, integrated marketing, product placement and sponsorship. Those are the only ad strategies that will work in the evolving web video space.

Perhaps the only place where that's NOT the case, however, is Youtube. Like mySpace (ok, mySpace is another exception to my video advertising rule) Youtube is a destination. It's a social networking site that seamlessly integrates video and has an audience. You can sell ads around content and banner ads, etc in this context. Youtube's got an entirely different monetization problem, which I blogged about here (and provided my idea for a solution).

But back to the embedded ads - think about where that takes you... so I've got this portable media... and I've got portable ads that go in my portable media. That means I can distribute my media like ads are already being distributed online - because I make money anytime anyone watches it. I can start distributing my videos through adsense, or doubleclick.

To me, this model just makes sense. It allows the content producer to monetize their product in a way that's good for the user (good content with no ads that they don't have to hunt for - in context with what they're doing already online) and good for the websites that have traffic (valuable and entertaining content for their audience).

The beauty of the web to me is synergy.

When the Internet works, things just make sense and fit together. Everyone's life gets easier and everyone makes money. That's the kind of monetization model we should be working towards, and embedded ads are a key part of that.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Who's side are you on, anyway?

A little video hosting performance art from Chris Pirillo. Nice!

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Zune Nation

I don't have one (yet) but I have played with it. Well, at least I played with it for a little while... then the battery died.

After that, I read this article - which falls pretty much in line with my experience.

"Avoid," is my general message. The Zune is a square wheel, a product that's so absurd and so obviously immune to success that it evokes something akin to a sense of pity.

I wish it had a clickwheel. But Apple has the copyright. For now, at least.

It has a wider screen than the iPod, which is way cool. But it's the same resolution, just spread over more space, which is way uncool. It's mighty impressive to make a screen improvement that gives you a net loss in image quality.

It has wi-fi, but it doesn't really. It just lets you share a song for a few plays, and then replaces it with an advertisment. It's like the "beam" feature on my Treo, but lamer... and my Treo has real wifi too. Did I mention that this doesn't?

The DRM sucks. Hard. And so does Apple's. No reason to complain when the competition sucks too.

But the Zune has NO podcasts.

How disappointing. Really, I mean it. I'm not just kvetching. To me, this shows a startling lack of "getting it."

Even though the vassst majority of the media consumed on iTunes is music bought from big record companies, the podcast integration makes the Music Store an interactive user experience.

Think about it - anyone can link to their RSS feed right now and have an instant presence on the music store. I produce a few podcasts up there, and when someone clicks on my show, the interface looks just like NPR, or ABC or CNN. I'm placed on equal footing. That's important. It's a little of the mySpace magic sprinkled on Apple's music interface.

It's part of what makes iTunes successful - it's about me, the user. It's also about Apple (that's the reason for the sucky DRM). But, to a great extent, it's about Apple and me tolerating the record companies together (that's the reason for no wifi), and rolling our eyes privately.

The Zune is about Microsoft and the record companies selling me something. That's old news, and not very interesting.

If you want to come after the iPod, I would think you'd want to hit hard in the first round.
But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they've got a "rope-a-dope" strategy... or at least some kind of strategy. I'm sure the Zune will get better.

Really, I'm not sure why I'm bitching. I can't use the damned thing on my Mac anyway.

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Saturday, November 25, 2006

Why is no one watching video on their iPod

In case you missed it, Neilson reported that less than 3% of video iPod owners watch video on their iPods last week. This was based on a survey of 400 iPod users (only a portion of which own a video iPod).

I question whether you can reach meaningful conclusions based on such a small sample. And their are other problems with the study, some of which are outlined in this article.

But even if the results are accurate, I don't think they say too much about the demand for video.

Don't forget - Apple never released a video iPod. Instead, they added video to the iPod without changing the price point. That means for the past year, anyone who wanted to buy an iPod had to buy a video iPod.

This was sheer brilliance on the part of Apple. With that one move, they created an industry around video on the iPod, from The Office to Ze Frank. But it also means that most people who have a video iPod didn't make the decision to buy a video iPod. And that's why it's not surprising to me that the percentage isn't higher.

What Apple is counting on, and what the rest of us in the industry are counting on, is that the people who didn't have any interest in video when they bought their iPod might try it out. Maybe they'll like it. Or maybe they'll miss an episode of their favorite show, and decide to download it on their iPod.

Regular users? Maybe. But more importantly, they'll get familiar with consuming video that way. The biggest hurdle to overcome in making the leap from early adopter to mainstream is lack of familiarity.

Your grandma doesn't use firefox, and if she does, she doesn't download toolbars to customize it. Your quicktime movie doesn't play on her computer.

But maybe she has iTunes, and if she knows how to get a song, she can get a video. And if she has an iPod, and she listens to her music on it, the video she downloads will just show up on the iPod too. And maybe she'll watch it.

And then next year, when some thing she really wants to see is available only online, the chances increase that she'll watch it.

That's not the way you build big numbers in a year, but it's an interesting long term strategy. And, I think, a good one.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Turkey for you, Turkey for me...

Well, actually, chicken.

I'm enjoying a Thanksgiving feast with close friends here in Sunnyside, and due to oven size issues, we're eating the wrong bird.

How wonderfully rebellious of us, don't you think?

Glad to be among friends in the first city that's really felt like home for Ciara and I. It may be cold and raining, but the Bucs are on at 4, and it's warm inside, so I'm happy - and thankful.

I usually resist cliche's like lists of what I'm thankful for - but I think it's gotten more cliche to resist such cliche's than to give in to them. Plus, it's a good exercise, so here goes:

I'm sooo thankful for my amazing wife who has changed the way I see the world. And for my obstinate dog for keeping me in my place.

I'm thankful that I have a family that's tolerant and supportive and warm and tight-knit. Everyone should have that and most people don't.

I'm thankful that I have a business partner who I want to work with everyday, even after ten years.

And I'm thankful we're working at things that are hard, and that might fail. And that I have the support I need to take that risk.

I'm thankful that people like Howard and the folks at Kontent Real trust me to create work from their vision.

and I'm thankful that it's my job to meet amazing and inspirational people every day, and listen to them.

I'm thankful that I was born in a place where I do not lack nourishment or shelter or opportunity like most of the people in the world do.

and I'm thankful that I'm not the guy huddled under my subway stop right now, trying to keep his legs warm. I know there's probably not much difference between us, other than luck.

Happy Thanksgiving - and thanks for reading.

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Monday, November 20, 2006

Youtube vs. Cuban

Is this stuff that Cuban is saying about YouTube true?

We know that Youtube makes a ton of money of the advertising around infringing content. We know how they use their adscripts with doubleclick to serve ads by category and track all ads served by who uploaded the content. We checked the scripts when UFC ads popped up around the WEC videos we found. (cagefights from HDNet.) UFC ads above WEC infringing videos seemed too much of a coincidence Its all right there with a viewsource of a youtube page

If so, then this company is going down the copyright tube, period. That's like the cigarette companies getting caught jacking up nicotine levels. You can't "not no" and simultaneously act in a way that's to your advantage based on the very information you claim not to know.

I know this other stuff that Cuban is saying is true:

If you are under the safe harbor rules, and merely a conduit to others hosting files, how in the world could you give yourself a license to those files ? In other words, Youtube owns what you just uploaded, and can do anything they want with it, without limitation, but at the same time under the DMCA they want to be considered only a conduit that falls under the safe harbors.

I never thought about it quite that way, but of course he's right. When you grant yourself a license to content, you are taking responsibility for that content. When I produce a documentary, I don't get my subjects to sign releases to protect me - I don't have enough money to make it worth their while to sue.

I get the released signed because no television channel (read - video platform) would license my content if I didn't. YouTube is all wet in this department. They say they can do whatever they want with your content, yet they're not responsible for what they're licensing?

That's harbor's not looking too safe to me.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Thinking about the future

Friday's Wallstrip interview was with Seth Goldstein. It was a fascinating discussion, where he laid out a vision for the future of the web.

Unfortunately, because of time constraints and in order to stay true to our show's tone, we were only able to slip a portion of the meat of the interview into the episode.

In case you weren't able to glean from the video - Seth is talking about attention in terms of giving (or even selling) your attention, not getting attention.

I'm interested in ideas about the future that envision how we will do things, rather than exactly what we will be doing.

I've talked a lot about the potential of RSS. Most people who dismiss or don't understand RSS are looking at it as an "application technology" (a technology you use to do something).

RSS interests me as a background technology. In the same way that search changed the internet by answering the question "How do I find what I'm looking for", RSS has the potential to revolutionize the interent by answering the question "Once I find what I'm looking for, how do I hang onto it."

It has already started - in fact, you could argue that 2006 has been less about video and more about RSS - iTunes, YouTube, the Google Reader, widgets, gadgets, etc. People who see web 3.0 as the "widgetized web" are predicting that RSS will become a critical component of how we interact with the web.

Last week, Seth talked about attention in the same terms, and that's what fascinated me about the discussion. Attentiontrust.org is about recognizing the value of how you behave on the web, and part of that is recording your clickstream to build a data set about you. Once you have that data set, you can do a lot with it... you can sell it, you can combine it with other people's data to create a more valuable comparative data set, and you can share it with others.

"Who, besides a stalker, would want to look at someone else's clickstream" was the very logical question that Lindsay asked Seth. The answer was, basically, that it doesn't matter "what" you can do with it.

It's a way of thinking that can answer a "how" question: "How do I interact more meaningfully with people on the web?"

Clearly, that's what a majority of the users are looking for right now. Growth in web activity is being dominated by the social networking trend.

Seth gave an example, using technology that's available to all of us right now, that clicked on my lightbulb - maybe it'll do the same for you:

Seth recently decided to move to Mill Valley, CA after spending his adult life in New York. While his family was making their decision, he kept it a secret, and was careful not to record his visits to sites about the Mill Valley schools and real estate market. When the family was ready to announce the move, he simply added one tag to his del.icio.us stream: millvalleyschooldistrict.

Soon he started to get calls from friends who subscribe to his tag feed, asking if he was moving to California.

It's as if, by his behavior on the web and his decision to share that behavior, he had telepathically informed his friends of the decision to move. That's interesting.

Now expand that concept out to a future where the conscious steps in Seth's example were handled by web applications. So my application is constantly analyzing my clickstream data and, based on my parameters, observing and communicating my intentions.

Then, based on how much I've decided to share with my friend, their application is analyzing my clickstream and making observations about me that are available to my friend.

Sure, there's been a lot of science fiction where people decide to open a door and it opens, or communicate with each other telepathically. This is the first time I've met someone who's shown me a path to that end that's in any way rational.

Is that really possible? I have no idea, and I don't even know if that's even part of Seth's project, or just my own interpretation. Clearly, I've thought about this idea a lot less than the impressive list of people involved with attentiontrust.org.

Regardless though, I found the interview to be a refreshing mix of imagination and critical thinking, and I am glad that Seth was willing to talk to us, and that Fred Wilson pointed us in his direction.

One are where Seth left me wanting more was privacy. To take ownership of your data means, to some extent, creating a record of you that would not exist but for your recording it. Privacy can be protected to some extent by limiting the exposure of your data... but aren't you, simply by creating the recording, leaving yourself vulnerable to people who can take your data without asking - by force of law or by brute force? Richard Nixon can tell you a thing or two about that.

It's an important question, one that Seth and his organization need to answer thoroughly if attentiontrust has any chance of gaining traction.

Look at what happened with facebook's friend monitoring feature... privacy is #1 concern for people when they're thinking about these issues, and it absolutely cannot be ignored or dismissed. It must be addressed.