November 30, 2005

Post-secret book releases: taking transmedia confession-telling to a new level

Another one of those simple and crazy little ideas that suddenly take off.... (courtesy The Cool Hunter.) Post-secret is "an ongoing community art project where people mail-in their secrets anonymously on one side of a homemade postcard." These postcards are then displayed on a blog, which is viewed by literally millions of people all around the world (but not archived online), published in several alternative weeklies and newspapers, and also exhibited as a part of a travelling art show. Now on the shelves, the Post Secret book in hardcover with 288 pages of select postcard images, published by Harper Collins/Regan Books. And of course, the future possibilities for such a project are immense. Very interesting.

Luxe coverings for new iPods

As with their predecessors, the two new iPods are spawning a whole industry of accessories around them. Since I'm particularly interested in luxe, here are two recent gems, from Charles and Marie, that caught my eye recently.

For the iPod Video:

Nothing says sophistication and elegance like a unique iPod case made of wood: each piece is as unique as the piece of wood it is made from. Miniot uses maple, mahogany, pear, weng, and walnut to bring a bit of warmth to our technological age.

For the iPod Nano:

The case is handmade, and features a full silk lining for the utmost protection. Inside expect hand stiching, and a cover over the screen in a thick plastic, so no nicks or scratches get to your little gem ever! Each case is individually numbered, and you can choose from over 40 different exterior fabrics (wood leather shown) and 70 silk linings (silk 25 shown) as well as thread and trim colors.

End of DAYS: What will happen to soap?

NBC's longtime soap opera Days of Our Lives may have just celebrated its 40th anniversary last week, but there is talk, evidenced by an article in this week's Soap Opera Digest, that the show could end up on the cutting block around this time next year.

According to the article, the soap may soon have to consider other distribution options. The President of NBC Entertainment, Kevin Reilly, addressed the cast and crew at the meeting, claiming that Corday Productions and their partner Sony Pictures Television should consider other options, like Video iPod feeds, mobile phones for distribution, etc.

"We're going to be working very hard trying to figure out how we will keep this great franchise alive," Reilly said, noting the constant flux of the main networks these days in trying to keep content fresh that involved constantly shifting lineups.

NBC indicated that they were in constant conversation with Sony about alternate distribution methods should the show be taken off the network but said it was Sony's decision, since NBC doesn't own the show.

Ken Corday signed with NBC in 2003 for a three year deal with a two-year option, meaning that the end of 2006 may see DAYS attempting these new forms of distributions we have been discussing in the consortium.

Other talk, such as a discussion on the Media Domain message board for DAYS, indicates many believe the "great franchise" could end up on ABC, FOX, or the cable network SOAPNET.

These rumors come at a time when soaps have settled into a much lower ratings than they had 20 years or even a decade ago, as cable competition for daytime programming proliferates. DAYS remains a fairly popular soap in comparison with its competitors and almost always does better than most in the key young female demographics.

However, these threats reflect an overall downsizing of the soap opera industry with lower ratings than in former times and what many perceive as a major drop in quality of the DAYS show in particular.

What do you all think? What are the implications if a major TV franchise like DAYS, with a 40-year history, starts using the iPod or mobile phones as the primary means of distribution?

November 29, 2005

Mobisodes = DVD Extras

A couple weeks ago, when the producers of Lost announced a deal to offer exclusive mobisodes through Verizon, I guessed that I wouldn't get a chance to see them until they surfaced (inevitably) as extras on the next set of DVDs.

If 24: The Conspiracy is anything to go by, it looks like that will indeed be the trend; the 24 1-minute mobisodes will be included as part of the Season 4 boxed set when it hits shelves next Tuesday. - '24' offers it all

Fortune on "Profitmon" has a fantastic write-up detailing how the anime industry has thrived by treating file-sharing and P2P piracy as free advertising, rather than theft and isolence.

"The hard-core fan base is very rabid," says Ledford. "They will get behind you as a company. You don't have to spend a dollar in marketing; you just have to be friends with them." (With the understanding that any true friendship needs limits--and visiting hours.)

There must be a few studio heads out there who would accept 2 a.m. chats with customers in exchange for a rosier state of business.

Definitely worth the read.


Not that it comes as a surprise to anyone, but now that there's a video iPod, there's an obvious market for free video content... and what better freebies than promotional clips and entertainment advertising?

Red Herring: RED HERRING | Disney Uses iPods for Ads.

Prison Break Goes Interactive

Variety article reports that the producers of Fox's hit Prison Break are experimenting with some transmedia tactics similar to those that were used in the failed Majestic... but with a TV show, it seems like a reasonable way to keep fans engaged and emotionally invested.

In recent weeks, as the show worked up to Monday night's fall finale, viewers might have noticed that a cell-phone number used by character Nika Volek (Holly Valance) wasn't of the typical "555" variety. Instead, it was a working phone number, (312) 909-3529. When called by viewers, it leads to a cryptic voicemail message from Luca.

Earlier in the season, producers also dropped an actual email address used by another character, LJ Burrows (Marshall Allman). Send an email to the address -- -- and you'll get a coded response back.

Apparently they've had a good deal of response from fans, some of whom even leave "in character" voice mail messages which the the creative team listen to at work. Now what would be fascinating is if a new character got introduced to the show on the basis of an idea that a fan developed through these interaction channels.

Uberpremium vs. mere massclusivity

This month's Trendwatching newsletter focusses specifically on the increasing fascination that the very rich have with the uberpremium, as opposed to the massclusive longings that mere mortals have to contend with. What is uberpremium?

Well, for one, it's not the stuff that most members of the MASS CLASS in theory could afford, even if they'd have to actively 'trade down' for weeks or months. A Jo Malone candle selling for GBP 260 is therefore not UBER PREMIUM, but MASSCLUSIVITY. Same for Godiva's USD 100 a pound G-collection chocolates, even though they're billed as the chocolatier's ultra-premium, couture-style line of hand-made bonbons. It's not Dolce & Gabbana 's crystal-studded Mickey T-shirt, retailing for USD 1,400. It's also not Masa's USD 350 tasting menu, or Gordon Ramsay's new GBP 100 woodfire-baked pizza topped with shavings from a USD 1,400 Umbrian white truffle. Not even over the top A.P.O. Jeans, which can cost up to USD 1,000 a pair, qualify. So... UBER PREMIUM is everything that is truly out of reach of the vast majority of consumers. Not just financially, but also by not being invited, or by being too late. No wonder then that UBER PREMIUM is increasingly found in the experience part of the economy: an exclusive personal experience can provide for hard-to-imitate uniqueness in ways physical (and uniform) products can't.

For more, read here.

November 28, 2005

Has Apple Switched Sides?

From Scott Kirsner at SFGate, courtesy New Media Musings:

Some of Apple Computer's most memorable advertising campaigns have celebrated the power of the individual....

[But] As the company starts selling its latest iPod device, which is capable of playing video, and begins adding short films, television shows and music videos to its online iTunes Music Store, Apple is aligning itself with Big Media, rather than the ingenious individual. ...

The way the company treats independently produced audio and video in its iTunes Music Store has been surprising. Apple has decided, essentially, that major media companies should be allowed to charge for what they produce, but individuals ought to give their work away for free. That's a big deal for solo creative types who want to make a buck...

Mobisode wave hits India!

The mobisode gold rush is truly global. Almost every major Indian entertainment network has jumped on the mobisode bandwagon! First Star and MTV with a select few serials, and now, forever snapping at the heels of market leaders Star and Sony, Zee TV has announced that it would digitize over 50,000 hours of its programming, and explore mobisodes in a big way. From a certain perspective, I'm excited at all these changes. With IPTV, HDTV, mobile video, video on demand etc all poised to hit the market, Zee's efforts make imminent sense. However technology and digitizatgion are just one part of the equation. The other part is optimum utilization of the digitized content, and it is here where I fear that the Indian companies may falter. No one is doing any real research on what kind of content people want to consume, across all the exciting platforms. So, what is we threw a digital party, but nobody downloaded? I'm afraid that many of the Indian media company executives might be scratching their heads and wondering the answer to that soon enough. For now however, it's making hay time.

Read the Content Sutra coverage on Indian mobile entertainment related programming here.

Lunarstorm takes Swedish youth by (uhh...) storm

Lunarstorm, an online community on the lines of MySpace, has taken Sweden literally by storm, reports the International Herald Tribune. Much like Cyworld in Korea, the IHT notes that "more than 10 percent of Sweden's population is a member of the community, including more than 90 percent of the country's high school students." The community is proffitable - and the business model is similar to other succesful online communities - 60% of revenues come from advertising, and 40% from a Pro version of the service - that allows for extras like icons and pics.

"We are moving from the information society to the interaction society, and Lunarstorm is leading the trend," said Ola Ahlvarsson, chairman of Result, a Stockholm-based technology consulting company. "Young people here no longer accept a flow of information from above. They trust what they hear from friends on their network.

Read the entire article here

Videotones set to take off in India

Videotones (videos accompanying ringtones) are all set to explode on to the already exploding Indian cellphone scene, reports These are now being offered by handset makers like Nokia, cellphone service providers like BSNL, as well as specialist cellphone content companies like Popular categories so far include Bollywood (not surprising at all), international pop albums, and original animations (very interesting).

"Over the next four years we expect close to 60 per cent of the new 100 million handsets that get added in India will be high end and support video ringtones and with faster wireless networks, we expect video ringtones to form as high as 50-70 per cent of the ringtone category," says Arun Gupta, COO,, a leading mobile content provider...

Read the rest of the article here

November 27, 2005

Point of Purchase

The 2003 book Point of Purchase was released by Routledge and was written by Sociology Deparmtent of Brooklyn College.

As with Branded, the book attempts to study the current pattern of consumption in America today and what might be driving this desire to constantly own and consume.

Marshall Fishwick, who is a retired professor of interdisciplinary studies at Virginia Tech and a pioneer in popular culture studies, reviewed the book for the September 2005 edition of The Journal of American Culture, praising what is a macro study of the compulsive consumption phenomenon in America.

However, once again, it appears the work looks at the advertising process and commercialism from a perspective that puts all of the power in the hands of the advertisers, with the drive for consuming becoming an obsession for customers who are ultimately not fulfilled by their constant rate of purchasing.

As with its predecessors, this book demonstrates the current lack of understanding of fan communities and the empowerment fans receive from these brands and properties.

Fans have gained many new ways and avenues to demonstrate their power through their use of brands in fan communities, whether that be fan fiction, discussion boards or clubs, videos, parodies, or the endless other ways fans have gained in power, sometimes much to the chagrin of companies who are uneasy with what fans might want to do with their copyrighted material.

Books such as Point of Purchase, despite their potential merits, demonstrate the lack in most analytical works at this point to look at fan communities in a meaningful way.

"Crewing My Pirate Ship of Love"

Rana Eros posted her essay "Crewing My Pirate Ship of Love: An OTC Approach to the Question of Relationships" on a site called The Fanfic Symposium this past week.

Members of the fan fiction writing community are invited to write in and join a conversation of thinkers who are debating greater themes within the fan fiction community.

As the home page details, the The Fanfic Symposium has been around for a few years now and has become a respected place within the community to discuss larger themes and issues of fan writing.

This piece in particular is a good introduction to the language people use for fan fiction.

For instance, Eros shares her thoughts on OTC (One True Character) and OTP (One True Pairing), issues in the fan fiction world of one particular element of a story being more true to a canon than others, in this case a core character or an inseparable relationship.

Fans become attached to particular characters and particular pairings, whether they be a sexual bond or a friendship (which fans will often then turn into a sexual relationship through their fictional writing).

The essay gives quick insight into the elaborate ways the fan fiction community has developed its own language and ways of thinking of its writing traditions.

Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers

The 2004 book Branded: The Buying and Selling of Teenagers, released by Perseus and written by Journal of Popular Culture, the November 2005 edition, by Richard J. Larschan of the English Department of the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth.

The book is in the same line of Naomi Klein's widely read book No Logo in asserting a disconnect with the loss of public space and the continued branding of most of American culture.

Although, as with Klein, the book seems to present some compelling evidence of some of the negative aspects branding might have when entering schools, the book seems to be in the vein of most anti-corporate rhetoric in trying to separate commercialism from intellectual discourse instead of seeing brands as an integral part of contemporary American culture.

Although such approaches may be in many ways antithetical to many of the tenets of our labs and our projects, it is important to remember the concerns of the other side, those worried about the effects of branding on culture.

However, what this study ignores, in many parts, is the active ways in which people interact with brands.

Branded is not afraid to point out when people becoming active in demonstrating AGAINST brands, but it ignores the important ways that people actively become involved in fan communities.

The section which seems most beneficial for further reading is on "Peer-to-Peer Marketing," even though the work, on the majority, overlooks the varied ways people become involved with their entertainment and products. The link provides suggested assignments from the publishers of Branded that includes thoughts on the PTP marketing chapter.

"When Worlds Collide: Fandom and Male Privilege"

A piece entitled "When Worlds Collide: Fandom and Male Privilege" was posted by Lucy Gillam on her LiveJournal this past week.

Gillam, who is active in both writing and in discussing greater themes of fan fiction, tackles gender issues in the fan fiction writing community, particularly when it comes to slash and other often female-oriented writing styles of fan fiction.

The piece provides not only a good example of how much the fan fiction writers see themselves as a collective community with several niches inside of them but also how issues that have affected society at large--issues such as gender equality, the perception of reverse discrimination, etc.--become a part of the political side of the fan fiction community.

The essay and its responses provide a great window into the fan fiction world and some of the issues that fan actively debate their mark on new material generated from characters or pieces they have appropriated and remediated from the mass media. It is a good demonstration of how important this community comes to be in some people's lives and in the formation of their identity.


My, oh my, how media savvy today's kids are! A recent Foxtrot comic strip offers a brilliant commentary here . (Thanks to David Edery for bringing this to our notice). It has Paige, designing her own ad campaign to get her parents to buy her the iPod for Christmas. Paige's ads are iPod spin-offs, and the text reads iPod+Paige = Christmas. And Daddy wryly comments, "Let's hope they skip the billboards this year."

November 26, 2005

New kind of media company

More from the NYT. Lime (Steve Case funded) is a new kind of media company - small sized, nimble, extremely focussed on what they want to do, which is create cheap content that can be repackaged and recylced throughout the media universe. And what's their mantra? Convergence, of course. :-)

For example... Lime is not looking for 13 half-hour episodes, the traditional season for a TV series. Instead, she said, "We are asking for 26 11- minute segments or 50 5-minute segments. We will cut these down for cellphones and maybe also use them to make two DVD's."

... As Lime adds to its original programming, it will focus on shows that are simpler, less expensive and more flexible than that on traditional networks, including a lot of content contributed by its users.

One early example is a series of short video segments by Deepak Chopra, the personal growth guru, answering questions about common life problems. These are already on Lime's Web site, and there are plans to send them over wireless phones and to bundle them into longer programs for the cable TV channel....

"The cable operators have said loud and clear, they don't want new channels," Ms. Laybourne said. "Anyone who wants to start a new property has to figure how to expand to other platforms."

Read the full article here .

November 25, 2005

New York Times reports on innovative advertising

A recent New York Times story on innovative advertising talks of the current mind change of big corporations as they look towards blogs and other non traditional advertising mechanisms for breaking through the mainstream media clutter.

The campaigns from Hasbro and Budget are a sign of the increasing appeal of nontraditional media to once-conservative mainstay marketers as they seek to reach bombarded consumers. The growing willingness to consider alternatives to television commercials, billboards and print ads is one of the most significant changes in marketing in decades.

November 20, 2005

Playing Hardball

C.E. Petit, in reference to a dispute in which the University of Alabama sued and blackballed a fan and booster of the school's football team over trademark infringement in his (very popular) paintings, writes:

Don't get the idea that I think this is "poor [alma mater]-- the law made them act like a bad guy" post. While I do think that the "defend it or lose it" aspect of trademark law is often a bit silly-- strike that; almost always a bit silly, and often counterproductive-- [alma mater] still blew it with its particular approach. A more-inventive approach might have involved hiring Moore as an adjunct professor of art with a specific exclusion of copyright in his contract, and paying him a dollar for teaching a seminar or studio class each year. Then there is no "market value" placed on the license that could muck up other actions. Too, the value of the museum's collection has no doubt been enhanced by the painting's increased value since acquisition; why couldn't the university consider that factor in tailoring a remedy? And so on.

Then he gets to the really interesting bit:

The ultimate problem is that too many lawyers-- and, oddly enough, an even higher percentage in art/entertainment/publishing law than I have encountered outside those areas-- are not very creative in resolving disputes. They push either a "boilerplate contract" or "hardball litigation." That isn't representing the best interests of the clients. It certainly isn't representing the best interests of the public. In that sense, I think art, in the broadest possible sense of the term, is "special"-- if only because of the public's First Amendment interests.

This is particularly true when dealing with fans and fan cultures, as taking a hardball approach with people who support and evangelize for your product and company (or school, in this case) is often totally counterproductive.

(Read the whole thing here.)

Intrusiveness vs. Relevance

An interesting shift in attitudes is revealed in a story on Google ads in The New York Times. Remember pop-under ads from way back in 2001?

In a survey in mid-2001, X10's company Web site was the fourth-most visited in the online universe, though the statistics did not distinguish between voluntary and inadvertent visits. Its apparent success led some in the advertising industry to publicly endorse the loathsome pop-under. Brian McAndrews, the chief executive of the online ad agency Avenue A, was quoted in Advertising Age in 2001 as saying, "Just because something is intrusive doesn't mean it's bad."

This is the same man, four years later:

Mr. McAndrews, the onetime defender of intrusive pop-unders, has taken note. He is now the head of aQuantive, the parent of Avenue A/Razorfish. When reminded last week of his past statement that intrusive-doesn't-mean-bad, Mr. McAndrews said, "I've evolved my thinking. The key is no longer intrusiveness; today the mantra is relevance." No ad is more relevant to a user than that linked to a Web search, he said.

Of course, the key never was intrusiveness, and while I'm sure X10 got some business out of spamming the known universe and making it nigh-impossible to close a web browser, I can't imagine that the proportion of people who inadvertently went to their site and then actually bought something was particuarly high. There's a lesson to be found in the success of Google ads, if one cares to look.

Snocap: the P2P killer?

So Shawn Fanning, the guy who created Napster, has come up with a new program called Snocap that aims to prevent peer-to-peer piracy of music files:

The heart of Snocap is its sophisticated registry, which will index electronically all the files on the file-sharing networks. "Rights holders," which are what he calls musicians and their labels, will use the system to find those songs on which they hold copyrights and claim them electronically. Then they will enter into the registry the terms on which those files can be traded. It could be just like iTunes - pay 99 cents, and you own it - or it could be trickier: listen to it five times free, then buy it if you like it. Or it could be beneficent: listen to it free forever and (hopefully) buy tickets to the artist's next concert. Of course, the rights holders could also play tough: this is not for sale or for trading, and you can't have it.

It's an interesting idea, although since only two P2P companies (Grokster & Mashboxx) have signed on so far, it's unclear whether Snocap will make a big splash or sink without a trace. Also, people who stick with the old version of Grokster will be able to continue pirating music without impediment.

Personally, I think the "listen five times free, then buy it if you like it" model sounds the most sensible, though as usual with anti-piracy schemes, it'll be interesting to see how resilient the DRM on the limited-use files proves to be.

November 19, 2005

Fixed-mobile convergence: telecom guys perk up their heads

From a recent article that appeared in the Financial Times (London) dated September 21, 2005.

...convergence will break down the barriers between mobile and wireline services, enabling new services while saving everyone money.... But few converged services exist. That is why Nokia finds using today's mobile phones to access PBX services attractive. "There are about 430m PBX lines worldwide and about 200m business mobiles. We aim for market share in the fixed space," explains Mr Olkkonen. Nokia hopes to speed this up by signing deals with market leaders Avaya and Cisco.... The Finnish group's agreement with Avaya is a perfect illustration of this strategic shift. Nokia developed software for its Series 60 business-class mobiles that allows Avaya PBX users to access all of the functionality of their office system via a simple graphical interface. The cellphone itself becomes just another PBX extension. Combining mobility with PBX functionality is a long-standing enterprise requirement that few mobile service providers have addressed. With convergence, enterprises can take matters into their own hands.

I'm trying to think of the cultural and entertainment aspects of this union..... Anyone?

November 18, 2005

Eddie Guerrero fans

In a letter published in the Star Tribune Tuesday, I wrote about the death of pro wrestling superstar Eddie Guerrero.

Since Eddie died in Minneapolis, the local paper has given a lot of coverage, including both the story of his death and a short followup on the grieving of Eddie's fan base and his fellow performers.

I was compelled to write in because I saw the hardcore wrestling fan community grieving in a way that most entertainers would not be mourned.

As a wrestling fan myself, I was amazed at the number of people I heard from who I hadn't talked to in months or even years. Newspaper reporters, university professors, several professionals from different walks of life, some pro wrestlers, and a lot of my childhood friends all called or e-mailed to participate in a process of collective grieving.

This is not quite unlike what the WWE is doing itself. Through its Monday night show and its Friday night show, as well as myriad reflections from fellow performers.

Fan communities, especially in a niche market like the WWE's, can share powerful feelings, as the WWE fans are doing right now.

For grown and sometimes (hyper)masculine men like the WWE performers to cry on television and show their vulnerability and their sorrow demonstrates the power of the connection between wrestling fans and performers.

Most of my friends, myself included, shed a few tears along with them, grieving the loss of possibly the best performer in pro wrestling today.

The WWE has already been flooded with over 100,000 e-mails that will be compiled in a book and given to Eddie's wife as a memorial from his fans. They have invited feedback here.

And, in Eddie's online funeral guestbook, there are currently almost 5,000 signatures on his online funeral guest book from all over the United States, Canada, Central America, and around the world, including India, Portugal, South Korea, France, Italy, Germany, the United Kingdom and many other countries.

I think this past week was a powerful demonstration as to why I believe WWE is a primary place to look for a company that creates lovemarks through its performers and develops emotional ties that have a real impact on people's lives.

WWE Unlimited

A couple of weeks ago, I had a letter published in TelevisionWeek, the Halloween edition. The letter was based on a TV Week article by James Hibberd on the WWE's new online service that shows viewers what is happening while the live televised show is on its commercial break .

Several advertising agency types claim that the tactic is costing advertisers viewers, as people tune into the Web site instead of staying in their seat and watching the commercials.

My take is that the opposite is happening and that tactics like this is as close as you'll get to saving the 30-second spot in the long run.

By providing content during commercial breaks, the WWE is, in effect, encouraging fans who have TiVo and similar capabilities not to record the show and watch it later sans commercials but to watch it in real time and find out what's happening during the commercial breaks.

In my opinion, that actually keeps fans in the room and with the commercials on instead of flipping channels or TiVoing the content.

You can find out more about WWE Unlimited here.

Writers Guild Launches Subservient Donald

Writers Guild of America that pushes for limits on product placement has launched a Subservient Donald website as part of a larger campaign. The Donald dances, shows off pantyhose he's wearing, and sells paper towels.

Shakespeare as a TXT MSG

CNN reports that a British cellphone company aimed at students, Dot Mobile, plans to condense key elements of Shakespeare, and other authors into text messages to be sent to students. Of course, the move has attracted all the required publicity:

Academic purists will be horrified. Hamlet's famous query, "To be or not to be, that is the question," becomes "2b? Nt2b? ???"

John Milton's epic poem "Paradise Lost" begins "devl kikd outa hevn coz jelus of jesus&strts war." ("The devil is kicked out of heaven because he is jealous of Jesus and starts a war.")

What interests me about the CNN article however (read it here ) are two points:
1. Dot Mobile is a cellphone company aimed at STUDENTS. Niche marketing - perfect. American companies should take notice. If service and branding are going to be differentiators - then clearly this is the next logical step for cellphone companies.
2. On a related note - the Shakespeare TXTs will be available FREE to subscribers. I.e. its an innovation not for tangible revenue per se, but rather to build and build upon existing brand affiliations.

Very, very interesting.

Mobile Gaming in India - snapshot and predictions

Found an extremely interesting summary of a recent conference on mobile gaming held in India. As a background, India hasn't really had much of a gaming culture... there are still only about 100,000 consoles in India. However with the fast growing popularity of cellphones over the past few years (over 60 million handsets as of date in the country), mobile games have emerged as a significant phenomenon - both culturally, and as a space where LOTS of money can be made, for both the domestic market, as well as an oursourcing hub for the international market.

Continue reading "Mobile Gaming in India - snapshot and predictions" »

November 17, 2005

DRM "an inept solution"

C.E. Petit, a prominent IP lawyer who's represented Harlan Ellison in a number of piracy cases, talks sense over at Scrivener's Error:

The underlying difficulty is that DRM is inherently an inept solution to the basic problem, no matter how elegantly implemented; the problem extends far beyond limitations on (or expansion of) fair use. Instead, this is a matter of economics and price points.

This is a point that comes up again and again in studies of file sharing; people don't want to pay a premium for a CD with only one or two tracks they'll actually listen to. In addition, there's an issue of goodwill involved; when consumers consistently find themselves buying $14-$18 albums for one or two radio hits, it's not unreasonable for them to feel like they're being cheated.

Mr. Petit continues:

This points out the economic model for preventing (or combatting) piracy: The perceived quality and availability of the genuine article must substantially exceed the premium over the counterfeit [...] All of this implies that instead of DRM, the media giants need to take a close look at their pricing structures, accounting, release timing, and value added to physical products.

In other words, if you can give people positive incentives (worthwhile extras, the sense that they're not being ripped off) to buy your product instead of pirate it, they'll do so. Funny how that works.

Go read the whole thing.

Extended Previews Hit iTunes Tomorrow

Cinematical reports that IFC Films is collaborating with the iTunes Music Store to make the first 10 minutes of Lars Von Trier's upcoming film Mandalay available for free download. I'd expect to see a lot more of this in the near future, but I'm glad that IFC was the first one to make this move.

Lost Explores The Outer Reaches of Transmedia

Lost, for better and for worse, is doing its best to push the boundaries of transmedia experimentation: a few weeks ago they announced plans to publish a book, which would figure into the show's plot(s) later this season. Now, according to the Hollywood Reporter, they plan to launch Lost Video Diaries, a series of 20 cell-phone exclusive episodes:

"Titled 'Lost Video Diaries,' the series will introduce two characters said to be stranded alongside the cast featured on the primetime version. As fans of the series know, not all of the dozens of survivors of the fictional plane crash depicted on the series get screen time. While the story lines of the pair will be new to 'Lost' viewers, the events depicted in the primetime version will inform their story lines... A tie-in connecting broadcast and mobile versions also is being considered."

I'd be excited, except that (a) I'm still not convinced that people are chomping at the bit to watch television on screens the size of post-it notes, and (b) none of the cast or crew from the network program seem to be "directly involved." (Cuse and Lindelof "have oversight," which I find less-than-reassuring.)

As the New York Times reported a few weeks ago in relation to the mobile episodes of 24, I suspect that most viewers aren't going to get excited about watching no-name actors stand in for the stars they've grown attached to... unless they're clever enough to occasionally emphasize crossover, with plots from one series emerging in the other.

At the very least, I look forward to watching these when they surface as extras on future sets of Lost DVDs.

Indian Cellphone Market - statistics and interesting promos.

From: DNA India

With cellular subscriber base touching 2 million in October, the highest-ever mark, service providers are gearing up with attractive offers to further enhance their market shares.

Reliance Infocomm recently introduced the full money-back offer, under which a subscriber gets an LG 2340 handset free with a new connection. While the connection cost is Rs 2,500, it offers full talk-time of the equivalent amount.
The offer is open for both prepaid as well as postpaid customers across the country on new connections.

According to S P Shukla, wireless products and services president, Reliance Infocomm, "We found that a significant number of mobile phone users, who make high amount of outgoing calls, do not mind paying upfront for the benefit they derive. This offer marks the continuation of festive celebrations."

However, on loading people with new handsets with every new connections, he said, "Mobile penetration is increasing by the day and people who have other connections should sell off their old handsets and avail of the new lucrative offer."

Airtel pioneered the bundling offers as early as 1995 when mobile telephony took its roots in India. At present, Airtel has two schemes - recharge 599, which offers talk time of Rs 300 with a validity of six months, and recharge 995, which offers talk time of Rs 400 with 12 months validity.

Jayant Khosla, chief executive officer, mobility, Mumbai circle, Bharti Tele-Ventures told DNA, "We analysed the requirement of our customers and realised that there was a need for longer validity products. Thus, while the customer intends to restrict the recurring airtime spend to pre-decided limits, he also wants hassle free and longer validity time."

Airtel is also planning to further cash in on its success of hello tunes, by offering a slew of innovative personalised ringtone services. "In Maharashtra & Goa circle, Airtel has launched a new product called the 'Airtel Hum-It' ringtone that caters to customers growing demand for personalised ringtones," said Christopher Tobit, COO, Bharti Tele-Ventures Ltd, Maharashtra & Goa circle.

The new service allows the user to simply hum or sing a song and use it as a personalised ringtone. Cellnext, India's wireless application and solutions provider, is providing this service to Airtel users. Airtel has also introduced a 'free flight' offer recently, wherein postpaid customers can avail of a free Indian Airlines return ticket.

The offer is valid for all existing post-paid customers who opt for the new monthly rental plan of Rs 349 and above. "To be a part of the Airtel offer, all new customers will have to pay Rs 599 as one-time activation fee, and Rs 500 as security deposit. The free flight offer is India's first by a telecom company and this is in line with the company's marketing strategy to offer innovative opportunities to customers," he added.

However, unlike Reliance and Airtel, BSNL and Hutch have not come up with matching offers though both companies stressed on competitive call rates and better connectivity.
"Being a state-owned company BSNL cannot bundle or give free handsets as we offer attractive call rates. BSNL provides lowest call charges in roaming and offers the state-of-the art connectivity and reception in remotest areas across the country where no other private operators have reached yet," said B L Bordia, general manager - marketing, BSNL (Maharashtra). 

According to Hutch spokesperson, "Hutch caters to a different segment compared to Reliance Infocomm. Hutch is more focused on better connectivity and services rather than giving free handsets to lure customers."

According to Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) figures, the cumulative GSM subscriber base grew 4.15% to 52.98 million last month from 50.87 million recorded in the previous month. While Bharti saw an increase of 6.7 lakh subscribers, BSNL reported a rise of 6 lakh users. Similarly, Hutch saw an increase of more than 4 lakh while Idea saw an increase of 1lakh subscribers.

The number of subscribers in the metros touched 13.06 million in October, up from 12.62 million in the previous month. Delhi and Mumbai continued to dominate in terms of volume and market share. Delhi continues to be the leading cellular market with 4.84-million subscribers accounting for 9.13% of the total market, followed closely by Mumbai with 4.71-million subscribers.

Sony Recalls DRM-ridden CDs

After taking a beating in the court of public opinion for releasing music CDs which install DRM software that leaves computers vulnerable to viruses (which I blogged about in more detail here), Sony has not only halted production of CDs containing the program, but has bowed to consumer pressure and issued a recall.

How long will it take for companies to figure out that copy protection doesn't work? The problem with DRM technology is that if it's non-invasive, it can and will be cracked or circumvented-- and if it is invasive, you run into problems like Sony did, with people using it to cheat in World of Warcraft (on the one hand) and hackers using it to make viruses and malware impossible to detect. No matter how clever you get, you're going to have some piracy-- hell, you could tape songs off the radio long before Napster showed up.

To continue my 5 stages of grief metaphor from an earlier post, the RIAA and the music industry have moved past denial (their pre-Napster apathy towards mix tapes and expensive CD burners) straight into anger, and have stayed there for most of the last decade. Whether alienating their audience with DRM counts as anger or bargaining is debatable, but until people begin to come to terms with the new media landscape spawned by P2P, they're going to keep making the same mistakes over and over again.

(Hat tip to Lost Remote for news of the recall.)

November 16, 2005

Design Issues 101

Via Mike McArtor,'s Xbox 360 Hardware Pr0n page contains a classic example of design failure:

Leave it to industrial designers to put the "how to remove" instructions under the [hard] drive, where you can't see them until after you get it off.

Note to industrial designers-- it helps when your clean, crisp instructional diagram is actually, y'know, visible.

Strained Partnerships: "Medium" & "Geisha"

The Hollywood Reporter suggests that a recent promotional deal between NBC and Sony Pictures predicts the future of product placement.

Since I don't know anyone who watches NBC's Medium, I hadn't noticed that the November 14th episode featured a plot point revolving around Sony's upcoming theatrical release Memoirs of a Geisha:

"In the episode, Arquette's character, Allison, finally got a much-needed night on the town with her husband, and the two decided to attend a special advance screening of "Geisha." When they arrived at the theater, not only was the film's title bannered on the marquee, but the couple also ran into two friends who had just seen the movie and loved it. And just to reinforce the film's title, throughout the episode Allison's daughter Bridgette kept asking for the definition of a geisha."

The logic behind the deal, which will surprise absolutely no one, stands in stark contrast to the multi-network press conference earlier today insisting that DVRs and TiVos are not eroding commercial audiences. Apparently Geoff Ammer, Sony's President of Worldwide marketing, disagrees.

(Credit to SciFiWire for the heads-up.)

Major Networks in DVR Denial

From Gizmodo:

CBS, ABC, NBC, Fox, UPN and the WB hold a rare joint press conference to inform advertisers that the DVR isn't death incarnate for conventional TV commercials. One of the tenuous linchpins of their argument: DVR users pay more attention to what's flashing on-screen, even if it's a commercial that's being fast-forwarded at 10 times normal speed, so if something catches their eye, they'll rewind back to see it.

Does anyone who's not drinking the networks' kool-aid believe this?

Let me be blunt: The conventional TV commercial is going the way of the dinosaur. We don't know what will replace it yet, but it's an open secret that even as the price of prime-time advertising goes up, its impact is dropping like a stone. Although there are only an estimated 8 million DVRs in homes and playback viewing is less than 5% of the total viewing audience (numbers via adweek), it's indisputable that DVR viewing is on the rise (to say nothing of other recent ad-free trends, like people BitTorrenting TV shows to watch on their computers and ABC's recent partnership with Apple).

The major networks appear to be in complete denial about the impending demise of the TV commercial. That's the first of the 5 stages of grief. Personally, I can't wait until we hit anger and bargaining.

Update: Ilya takes issue with some of my conclusions in comments. Come join the fun.

November 15, 2005


Just dropping a first post to inaugurate the new official blog for the Convergence Culture Consortium at MIT. More to follow...

November 4, 2005

Burger King, the Video iPod, and the "Cool Uncle"

Last year, Slate featured an article about Burger King's revival of the King mascot that remarked on the mocking tone of the recent advertisements. In the article, Burger King's advertising agency describes the advertisements as trying to appeal to the elusive 18-to-35-year-old male market - the "most cynical consumers out there" - by evoking "the cool uncle - the uncle who tells you how things really are, and lets you get away with a little more than your mom and dad do."

Today, MediaPost reports that Burger King, partnering with video download site, is sponsoring a series of free videos that can be downloaded and played on a video iPod. MediaPost calls the move "Madison Avenue's highest profile foray into the new medium yet."

In an interesting move by Burger King, some of the videos are user-generated, created by members who were sent Subservient Chicken and "the King" masks to use in their videos. The first result? A short video that shows a young man (wearing a King mask and robe) repeatedly requesting a Whopper at a McDonald's drive-through, giggling all the while. I'm sure the "cool uncle" approves.

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