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Feb 2 2006
Straight From the Source
Following Neal's comments earlier about direct distribution of content that could increasingly render middleman distribution channels unnecessary, CBS has done something similar with its famous "Survivor" reality show. Though CBS is a distribution channel itself, in this case it is cutting out the digital �on-demand� distribution channels that have recently formed for online content such as iTunes and the Google Video store.

Along those lines, NBC has announced that it will do the same thing with its new reality show � an "American Idol"-like music competition called "StarTomorrow" � by offering it exclusively on NBC's site.

This is a young industry, so expect a great deal of experimentation with distribution strategies such as this. PaidContent reports on another online distribution model that is beginning to gain attention, which mirrors that of the offline broadcast world in that it relies on local broadcast affiliates. In this setup, such affiliates would offer downloads and streams of network programming on their Web sites.

In the offline world, local affiliates make sense because they can provide local news and broadcast towers. But online, these things are less relevant. So local affiliate Web sites need to prove a value-add to networks if they are going to use their content and profit from it. Local advertising and increased distribution of content (with a revenue share model) might be the answer.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  15:44 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Feb 1 2006
Notable VoIP Happenings
Google�s well-publicized earnings announcement yesterday overshadowed another notable piece of news about the company. The San Jose Mercury News reported that Google is working with Florida-based VoIP Inc. to possibly add voice calling to its network of offerings, which can be seen as a step toward bolstering its search advertising with pay-per-phone-call.

Google currently offers PC-to-PC calling through its Google Talk IM client that was released in April. But adding PC to PSTN (land line) would bring it closer to click-to-call functionality, a key underpinning of a PPCall model. SEW reminds us that Google has been testing click-to-call since November.

Given that many small businesses prefer calls to clicks, this could be a powerful tool in leveraging the base of SME advertisers that already participate in its AdWords program and could appeal to the larger segment of SMEs that haven�t been enticed by the promise of clicks. It could also be more disruptive to directory publishers whose businesses thrive on such SMEs.

BusinessWeek meanwhile reported today that Microsoft has a similar plan up its sleeve to integrate PC-to-PSTN calling to its e-mail and IM clients. Also notable is the possible VoIP integration into its Windows Live Expo classifieds service that hasn�t officially launched yet.

From BusinessWeek:

It will allow people to find buyers and sellers who are connected, even if distantly, to their social network of IM buddies or e-mail friends. For example, a user could see if a pal or member of another friend's social network has a sofa for sale.

Where VoIP comes in: In addition to e-mailing the sofa seller, the Live Expo user can lob a call directly from a PC. Currently in an internal trial, Expo will enable Microsoft to compete with classifieds services Google Base, currently in beta tests, and Craig's List, one of whose investors is eBay.


Indeed, this could be similar to eBay�s possible plan to integrate the VoIP platform of its recently acquired Skype to its auction and classifieds listings.

There are also mobile implications according to BusinessWeek:

Microsoft's VoIP plans even reach beyond the PC. The company is also angling for a piece of the mobile-search pie. Though it involves tiny screens � consumers can use cell phones or personal digital assistants to search the Web � this market has huge potential. It's expected to rise to $1.4 billion in 2010, from $90 million last year, according to consultancy Visiongain.

In other VoIP news, Om Malik reports that Time Warner (as announced in its quarterly earnings report) has added 246,000 VoIP subscribers for the fourth quarter and 880,000 for the entire year, which gives it a grand total of 1.1 million (this class of VoIP service doesn�t involve an IM client or a computer at all, but rather a normal phone that is connected to a piece of hardware to make calls over the Internet. Competitors in this space include Verizon and Vonage). In a separate post, Om also provides some good stats on overall VoIP adoption and projections.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  15:00 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Jan 30 2006
My Yahoo! Reaches 30 Million Mark
To add to Greg's post last week about My Yahoo!, there was an interesting article in The New York Times yesterday about the site's usage and strategy.

The Times reports that as of December, there were 30 million Americans that have created a My Yahoo! page. RSS is the main feature of My Yahoo!, but the site has marketed its advantages without ever using the term "RSS" (yet another tech acronym that has the potential of scaring away mainstream Internet users).

Making an easy way to create RSS feeds, and partnering with news and travel sites on which an "add to My Yahoo!" button is offered, has proved successful.

The company is now developing the next-generation RSS software called media RSS, in anticipation of the ramp up in demand for online video. As Yahoo! told us directly, this will be a powerful tool for users to create a personalized hub and launchpad for all their digital media.

The next step is to continue forming partnerships with travel, shopping, auto, jobs and other verticals to make it easy for users to set up feeds on their My Yahoo! pages for alerts that fit their predefined criteria (see our recent advisory RSS and Email Alerts: Shopping 2.0). This could prove to be a powerful tool for classifieds and other advertisers to get in front of users that have expressed a very specific interest.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  12:11 | permalink | comments [6] | trackbacks [0]



Jan 26 2006
Rich Media Ads on Google?
Blogger Jennifer Slegg uncovered today that Google is experimenting with rich media ads. The undisclosed plan will, according to Slegg's sources, involve site targeted campaigns (rather than contextual) and have interstitials (those that precede a link's destination), expanding ads and floating ads.

If true, this will be a major departure from Google's text-only ad setup and could provide a much different (read: inferior) user experience. Although there will be many advertiser benefits that Slegg does a good job of describing.

Along with Google's decision to censor certain content to enter the Chinese search market, the company is going down paths that many thought it never would. Little is known about the rich medi ad plan, but we'll follow it as closely as we can.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  17:49 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Jan 26 2006
IPTV in 10 Million Homes in Five Years?
Microsoft will be an integral part of the IPTV revolution, running the software that will reside in the set-top boxes of IPTV systems for Verizon, AT&T and BellSouth. As in the PC market, it has made a very smart and forward-thinking decision to corner the market for software that will dominate the node level of IPTV systems (it also provides some back-end software).

With so much tied up in IPTV, the company has a vested interest in making predictions about how the medium will change our lives and how quickly and seamlessly it will be deployed. Its latest public prediction is that IPTV will reach 10 million homes in the next five years. This could happen because of broadband penetration, anticipated demand and an increasingly digital culture. But consider that cable took 17 years to reach the same goal.

We will get more into this topic, and our predictions for IPTV ubiquity, business model sustainability, and the all-important advertising model in an upcoming Advisory.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  17:18 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Jan 26 2006
My Yahoo! Addendum
To add to Greg's comments on the strengths and potential of My Yahoo!, see our post earlier this month about Yahoo!'s expressed plans for the personal hub.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  12:23 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Jan 25 2006
March Madness: the Next Live 8?
PaidContent reports today that CBS Digital president Larry Kramer announced the network will offer all of its NCAA March Madness coverage online for free. The coverage will be ad supported, and Kramer likened it to AOLs Live 8 coverage which put its broadband video delivery on the map.

Online would seem to be a great venue for the NCAA tournament because like Live 8, there will be simultaneous events (games) happening. CBS has traditionally dealt with this issue by showing different games in different regions -- using a combination of formulas and judgment, that never fails to irk a certain segment of transplanted basketball fans that want to see their alma-mater or favorite team from a different region. This is especially true during the first round of the tournament which has 64 teams playing in about 48 hours.

CBS is hoping that online coverage of such a high profile event will incite the same PR storm that AOL received post Live 8, in staking its claim as a new source of digital and interactive media.

There is a big difference here however. Live 8's smashing success was partially because there was a dependent variable with which to compare it; MTV�s lackluster coverage of the event. But in the case of March Madness, the comparison is CBS�s own television coverage. So the online coverage, if successful (as successful as Live 8), could in fact make its television coverage look bad.

Every year, there are qualms about CBS�s March Madness coverage � some involving the game choices as mentioned above; and others such as inane commentary during and between play, and the over dramatized segments about �cinderella" teams or other inspiring stories surrounding the tournament. These are usually met with a fair share of grumblings from fans, but then are mostly forgotten until the next year. But with an online alternative that delivers just the good stuff (all games) without the fluff, CBS could be setting itself up for quite a conflict.

Indeed it was similarly overdone commentary, and choices of events to cover (i.e. cutting away from Pink Floyd mid-set) that were at the top of the long list of grievances of MTV live 8 viewers.

It will be interesting to see how CBS handles this, and what the media world can learn from broadband content delivery, and its effect on affiliated offline channels. We can only wait and see.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  15:58 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]



Jan 24 2006
What is News 2.0?
Om Malik has an interesting take on what constitutes the term "News 2.0" (the latest phrase within the Internet buzzword parlance that started with "Web 2.0").

There are many high-traffic news sites out there, he contends, that don't create any news at all -- they only aggregate. This has been a successful model for many news aggregators such as Topix, Google News (which came out of beta yesterday after four years) and others. But we must remind ourselves that these sites are nothing without the "News 1.0" (as Malik phrases it) that provides the content.

This concept applies to a broader argument of the necessity and longevity of print newspapers in a Web 2.0 world. As much as some bloggers will take the anti-establishment, free-content attitude that continues to be chic throughout Internet culture, it must be recognized that the source of all their information, and the generously supplied daily flow of fodder for their ruminations, is the work of newspaper and magazine reporters. And you can't have the newsroom without the newspaper.

Newspapers are facing unprecedented challenges, as shown by the ongoing woes of Knight Ridder and others. But their assets (original reporting, journalistic standards, established trust within their communities, etc.) are fueling the success of the medium that is in some cases slowly exacerbating their decline. An interesting paradox.

Some newspapers will always be around. But online is clearly where the growth is taking place, and established publishers need to find a way to compete with online distribution of both news and classifieds. Given the long-established business models and cultures of many publishers (and inertia), this might not happen without partnerships with online players, or some M&A activity (i.e., Classified Ventures). The latter is hard to execute in the face of falling margins. But we hope it does for the sake of quality news and its survival.
Blog: Local Media Blog
 
posted by  Mike Boland at  14:35 | permalink | comments [0] | trackbacks [0]





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