March 31, 2007

Pondering the State of Mobile Video

Matt Kapko of RCR Wireless News had a great look at the current state of wireless video that was shared with TelevisionWeek this past week. The story started with a particularly apt anecdote, one reminiscent of the fate of Bill Gates and his Windows display.

Kapko, reporting from Billboard's Mobile Entertainment Live meeting, wrote about the Producing Mobile Content session of the conference, in which "a ballroom filled with tech-savvy players in the wireless industry" watched as five panelists from the mobile video industry struggled through audio and visual problems in trying to make their presentations.

The irony of the situation is particularly appropriate for the vexing problems currently facing the industry, in which the number of mobile video services are burgeoning, customer interest is expected to grow rapidly, and content is starting to make the cross-platform shift. However, technological concerns like the ones facing the panelists today remain important, as services could be ruined just by reaching an early tipping point prematurely, before the infrastructure and content is in place to give mobile video consumers what they are looking for.

I believe that early adopters may be moving in that direction, but the state of mobile video is still quite a ways away from the average user, both because of cost and lack of content.

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NBC Universal Mobile Plan Launches with MediaFLO on Verizon, MobiTV

Earlier today, I wrote about the partnership between MoviTV and Yahoo! to sell a variety of advertising for MobiTV's mobile television platform, now with 2 million subscribers.

At the end of the post, I mentioned a comment from Rick Mathieson on Branding Unbound, who said that, "with MobiTV's new ad capabilities, it makes for a compelling mobile advertising partner for just about anyone looking for compelling ways to provide contextually relevant, interactive advertising to today's most tech-savvy consumers."

As I noted in the earlier post, Mathieson was referring to a deal between MobiTV and NBC Universal to launch a significant amount of NBCU content as on-demand for mobile users.

The announcement for the service was made earlier this month, when Mathieson wrote, "Now this is what mobile television should be - over the air and on demand."

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Yahoo! Launches into Mobile with MobiTV Deal, Increasing Cross-Platform Advertising Reach

Yahoo! is expanding its advertising reach further, thanks to a big deal announced this week with MobiTV, the mobile television service provider. Yahoo! will sell advertising for the mobile platform's video advertising sales and will include not only video ads in the deal but also text advertisements and banner ads.

The deal comes along with Yahoo!'s announcement of new mobile publisher services which will allow publishers "to increase the discovery, distribution and monetization of their content on mobile phones," as Blake Robinson with Mobile Crunch writes. Robinson provides a detailed account of each component of the suite of services, concluding that "this is a vital movement in the charge toward the independence of information. Before the Mobile Web has even really cleared the gate, Yahoo! has developed a mechanism for users to conveniently distribute and monetize their content."

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Crowdsourcing, Elizabeth Edwards, and the Times Quoting Blog Comments

The Nation's Ari Melber had a great blog piece this week about crowdsourcing and how the phenomenon relates to the recent surge in online interest in the John Edwards campaign, based on the news that his wife Elizabeth has cancer.

The article, entitled "Crowdsourcing Elizabeth Edwards," focuses particularly on the outpouring of online debate about the Edwards' decision to move forward with his bid for president, even after her cancer diagnosis. Particularly, Melber's article focuses on how perhaps the most respected newspaper in the country, The New York Times, is covering the event.

In short, the New York Times blog The Caucus had a 22 March post about the news of Elizabeth Edwards' cancer, written by Kate Phillips, which received a total of 695 comments.

Times reporter Kirk Johnson then sought to write an article for the front page of the Times on 23 March (published 24 March) which focused on public reaction to the Edwards' decision. As Melber asks, though, "Besides cold-calling the phonebook, how do you learn what people really think of the news? How do you find people who have followed the story or care about it? And in a country with two million women who have been treated for breast cancer, how do you learn what survivors think?"

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The Stress Monster and Executing Creative Meaning Management in Advertising

Convergence Culture Consortium Affiliated Faculty Dr. Grant McCracken, over on his blog This Blog Sits at the, wrote a great examination of the recent Gatorade Propel 30-second spot.

For those who have not seen the ad, myself included, the commercial begins with a giant monster running through San Francisco's streets. However, the monster is a composite of a variety of objects from everyday life, including a loud television set, a screaming baby, jackhammers, taxi cabs, and a variety of other aspects of city life. The amalgamated beast eventually begins to fall apart, with various objects falling away, until it is revealed to just be a man exercising, who stops and takes a drink of his Propel water.

As Grant points out in his post, the ad draws on the idea that exercise helps one release from the stresses of everyday life, and then links Gatorade's Propel water with that stress.

Grant writes, "Meaning management sometimes goes like this. The idea is not to find a new meaning for the brand. The idea is to go after an existing meaning with new vigor and skill. In the language of marketing, the idea is to 'own' an idea that is already out there."

Grant's piece, and the Propel commercial (by the agency Elementy 79 Partners), raise two issues about the current status of the 30-second spot and about playing with existing meanings.

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March 26, 2007

The Votes Are In for YouTube's First Awards

The YouTube Awards are now history, and the seven winning videos have been selected. The famed OKGo video has won the most creative video award for their "Here It Goes Again, while the Ask a Ninja videos won Best Series. Among the other winners was Kiwi!, the Free Hugs Campaign, TerraNaomi's Say It's Possible music video, The Wine Kone's Hotness Prevails commentary, and Smosh's short Stranded.

Over the weekend, I wrote that the attempt of the awards was not just to recognize some of the most creative user-created work that appeared on YouTube in 2006 but also "to create the air of authenticity for YouTube videos." I was interested in seeing how people would debate, in the end, divisions between the degree of which the various videos were professionally produced versus completely amateur.

However, Steve Bryant has harsh words for the choices made in the award categories in the first place. "The problem, of course, is YouTube's press image. Can't very well make tough editorial choices or promote controversial fare. What about best hoax? Best police brutality? Wittiest international racism? Most artful use of a stun gun? YouTube is the world's town hall. This is Chuck E. Cheese fare."

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Sheamus O'Shaunessy: Great Example of Transmedia Personality Promotion

Dr. Anthony Lioi, a professor here at MIT who has mentored me in the course I'm teaching on the cultural history of American professional wrestling (Web site here), recently referred me to a Web site he had stumbled upon and paid special attention to due to his recent involvement in my planning the class here at MIT.

It's the Web site of Sheamus O'Shaunessy.

This "Irish Curse" is a pro wrestler from Ireland looking to use the Web as a way to get significant attention for his character from an international wrestling audience.

Anthony called it a "walking cultural studies article waiting to happen," and while I don't have time for that right now, I was intrigued with how the Web site and various transmedia extensions are used by an independent wrestler in this regard to sell his persona. While Anthony is probably right that some people of Irish ethnicity might not be so crazy about the blatant use of Irish stereotypes, the site includes a lot of extremely interesting promotional materials.

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March 25, 2007

NBC Universal/Fox Plan Online Video Distribution Site--But Are They Competing with YouTube?

News Corp. and NBC Universal just can't let go of that dream, the one where the networks all band together to eliminate the new threat on the block. After all, they've been engaging in legitimate business, while this newcomer is violating all the rules. In an organized crime analogy, the networks have engaged in racketeering, while YouTube came along to sell drugs to babies.

Back in December, I first wrote about the "network alternative" to YouTube. At the time, I said:

It sounds like something out of The Godfather. Three families who have long competed, shot at each other, and undercut each other's businesses--sometimes even using questionable tactics--all think about banding together when a new threat comes into the town. They may have always despised each other because they wanted complete control, but the last thing any of them want is a new guy on the block, especially one that doesn't play by their rules.

So you set up a meeting and start thinking about doing the impossible--working together to run that new power off. This new ring has the gall to do the things you never imagined you could get away with.

NBC Universal and News Corp. have hung on to that goal and announced plans to team with C3 partner Yahoo!, MSN, and AOL to create an online destination that will include free television shows and full-length movies with advertising support.

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Viacom's iFilm Questioned by Online Reporters for Having Copyright Violations Among Online Videos

Another set of interesting pieces over the past week focuses on Viacom's iFilm and how a variety of copyright infringements on the Viacom-owned video hosting site could cause major problems for the company's quest to sue YouTube for $1 billion.

According to the story from Eric Bangeman at ARS Technica, ARS "found several instances of infringing video hosted by iFilm--content for which Viacom does not own the copyright."

The story got quite a bit of online play in the past week, including an oft-quoted blurb on Slashdot.

Bangeman writes that Viacom sent him a statement in return that "contributions to iFilm are all screened by iFilm employees prior to posting, to ensure that copyrighted, pornographic or other restricted content is not posted on the site," but he questions how Viacom owned the footage to various NBA and college football fights he saw on iFilm.

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Netflix Users Steadily Competing to Find Better Recommendations for the Rental Service

From time-to-time, I want to initiate the chance to follow up on questions raised in prior posts, particularly looking back at various contests or initiatives that I found to be of interest but have not publicly followed back up on. The first is to return to a major contest launched last year to embrace "the wisdom of the crowd" by Netflix.

Last October, I wrote about Netflix's plan to create the Netflix Prize to award to those who can increase the accuracy of the company's predictions as to what users would like to see.

The company is looking for 10 percent improvement over the accuracy of their own recommendation system.

I wrote, "The amount of intellectual capital that the company may become privy to during this contest demonstrates the power of a collective intelligence, as Henry Jenkins writes about. And, with people saying things like, 'First, I have to generate my test bed and get to work this is so cool. I don't know what it is with me and large, nicely formatted, datasets, but I don't think there's anything that can get me more excited,' they've certainly hit a research nerve with a section of Internet users."

At the time, I questioned, "Could Netflix cause a change in the way companies think about researching complex questions? Or could this be forgotten in a couple of months? We shall see..."

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MySpace Battles to Keep Other Businesses Off Its Users' Sites

Over this past week, a situation exploded in the MySpace community, with MySpace's request for user and music performer Tila Tequila to remove a non-MySpace music store offered on the site, because the store from Indie911 competed with News Corp's "MyStore."

As Eliot Van Buskirk with Wired wrote, "Furor among fans and onlookers escalated."

The New York Times covered the story on Tuesday, as journalist Brad Stone wrote, "At stake is the ability of MySpace, which is owned by the News Corporation, to ensure that it alone can commercially capitalize on its 90 million viewers each month."

The two perspectives are spelled out in this article. One comes from the community, who believe that the reason "MySpace" has become a powerful revenue source for Fox Interactive Media stems from the "MY" part of MySpace, the fact that viewers are able to create their own space as part of the community. Multiple sources quoted in Stone's story emphasize that it is this sense of community at stake and questioning whether the corporate ownership from News Corporation now means that it is no longer a community that "belongs" to the viewers.

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RS-DVR Struck Down in Federal Court, But the DVR Isn't Going Away

The battle between Cablevision and various content owners has come to a head with a decision from a New York federal judge this past week, ruling that the cable provider has no right to create a system through which viewers could choose to pick particular programs and have it stored by the cable system itself for later viewing, instead of recording it on their own DVR. The system is called RS-DVR, which stands for "remote storage."

The decision was made that such a system in which the cable system would save the content and allow viewers to watch it later was a violation of copyrights, while the DVR was not, because of where the content would be stored.

The suit involved CBS, NBC, Disney, Time Warner, Twentieth Century Fox, and The Cartoon Network, which is a member of Turner Broadcasting, one of the partners in the Convergence Culture Consortium.

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March 24, 2007

YouTube Video Award Winners Announced Monday

Nothing legitimizes a medium like awards. After all, the pinnacle of the film industry is the annual Academy Awards, just as the Tonys for the stage, the Emmys for TV, the Grammys for music, and the Slammys for the pro wrestling world (okay, the last one hasn't appeared since 1997...)

So, what better way to create the air of authenticity for YouTube videos than to create the YouTube Video Awards, with the competition taking place of the past week. The winning videos will be featured on the site and, of course, immortalized by winning the first edition of the awards.

The awards will be decided for a variety of categories, including best overall series, best comedy, best music video, best commentary, most creative video, most inspirational video, and most adorable video. Videos from 2006 were voted on by YouTube users over this past week, with the winners planned to be announced on Monday.

Of course, plenty of creators were openly lobbying for readers to vote for their videos in the YouTube Awards.

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CBS Forms Deal with Sprint for Significant Mobile Television Content

CBS announced another major deal this past week that will lead to cross-platform distribution of a significant amount of its content to mobile devices through the Sprint service system.

Those who subscribe to Sprint TV will be able to start receiving video clips and live streams, as well as full episodes, provided by CBS.

The deal is that CBS provides the content to Sprint as an incentive to get more subscribers for Sprint TV, while Sprint in turn allows CBS to have complete access to sell advertising during those mobile programs. These mobile ads will include short spots before clips air as well as commercial breaks within planned live simulcasts of news content, such as a live mobile airing of The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric for Sprint customers.

Full episodes of Jericho will be available on demand, while clips will include a variety of the crime genre television shows on CBS, as well as the late night talk shows and reality show Survivor, Entertainment Tonight, and classic shows from the CBS archives.

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Ad Sale Increases Driven by Rise in Internet Sales, Top 100 Spot Sales, While Product Placement Numbers Drop

The verdict on 2006 is final, at least according to Nielsen Monitor-Plus, and it looks like the Internet and spot television in Top 100 markets were the major drivers.

The report was that advertising spending on the Internet increased 35 percent, while Internet ads in the Top 100 spot TV markets rose 9.1 percent, followed by Spanish-language television and outdoor programming, both at 8.1 percent.

According to the official press release, "Growth in a number of media remained flat or slightly down" with a list including business-to-business magazines, coupons, smaller spot TV markets, network radio, and local newspapers.

According to the study, dramas overtook situation comedies for the most appearances of "brand integrations," largely due to the growing number of dramas as compared to sitcoms on the air. According to the press release, "American Idol featured 4,086 product placements, with more occurrences than any other program, a 17% increase over 2005."

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March 23, 2007

CBS News Contest Provides Venue for Student Journalists, with the Winner Getting a Summer Internship with Katie Couric

Speaking of user-generated news, as I wrote about earlier today with Wired's Assignment Zero project, CBS has created an interesting initiative of its own to get students involved in the journalism project.

This past week, CBS' news division made the announcement that it would be soliciting user-generated content from college students for a contest called Springboard, with the winner receiving an internship this summer with Katie Couric, the famed host of the CBS Evening News.

Contest submissions can include both video and text and sponsored not only by CBS's online news site but also by U-WIRE, the College Sports Television news service that links together more than 800 colleges and universities to report college news stories by college students.

The deadline for the project is looming on the horizon--April 7--and the winner will be traveling to New York for the summer. The announcement will come at the end of April. According to the official site from CBS, qualified print and video entrants will be posted online after decisions have been made.

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Citizen Journalists and Professionals Collaborate in New Wired Project

Earlier this month, our research manager Joshua Green sent me the Wired story about their new in-depth investigative series surrounding the phenomenon of using the crowd itself as a source. The catch: the project, called Assignment Zero, will be conducted both by the journalists on staff at Wired and readers as well.

According to the description on the Assignment Zero site, the project will examine "how the Web makes it possible for the crowd to be the source of good ideas. But instead of one journalist reporting, we've created a site where many people can work on the story, with editors as guides."

The initial announcement claims that the magazine's "hope is that a team of professionals, working with scores of citizen journalists, is capable of completing an investigative project of far greater scope than a team of two or three professionals ever could."

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March 19, 2007

Acceptable.TV Features Hybrid of Voter Control, User-Generated Content

VH1 is launching an intriguing new show at 10 p.m. EST this coming Friday, considered an interactive comedy series that also features user-generated content. The show is called Acceptable.TV, and the premise is that the folks in the Acceptable.TV creative ensemble will create five 3-5 minute pilot episodes that will air on the main show. Viewers will then be able to go to the show's Web site to vote for their favorite episodes that week. The two shows with the top votes will return the next week for another 3-5 minute installment, while the three mini-shows with the fewest votes will be cancelled.

In addition, each week's show will feature the digital short that has receive the most votes from the user-generated content that will be featured on the Web site, meaning that a user-generated version of this same competition will take place on the site, with the top vote-getter each week being featured on the show. The Web site will feature all the user-generated content, as well as both the "acceptable" and "unacceptable" pilots from the television show.

The show is being marketed through the involvement of executive producer Jack Black and also features the creative forces of Channel 101 co-creators Rob Schrab and Dan Harmon. According to the press release, the two "became pioneers of the do-it-yourself TV movement with Channel 101, a competitive forum for digital shorts founded in 2003, anticipating the YouTube revolution by a several years" (sic). Embarrassing typo aside (I have had a few of those in my day as well), you can still see the anti-YouTube-ness come out, even in a Viacom company's press releases these days.

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The Cereal Serial, Part IV: Visual Icons--The Kellogg Characters

The following is the fourth in a four-part serial on the world of breakfast cereals. This concluding piece in the series looks at the Kellogg's icons themselves and how they appeal to children. The first part of this series focused on the history of marketing breakfast cereals and the trickster motif among breakfast cereal icons, based on the recent article by Thomas Green, while the second part focused on the actual presentation of Kellogg's products in the grocery store. The third part presented an analysis of the various Web sites associated with Kellogg's cereal brands, including packaging which directs users to the Web site.

Since the Kellogg's company seems to try, for the most part, to avoid over-gendering any of its products, an examination of the visual icons associated with the Kellogg's products is especially illuminating. The most well known and marketed Kellogg's icons--Snap, Crackle, and Pop of Rice Krispies, Tony the Tiger of Frosted Flakes, Sunny of Raisin Bran, Toucan Sam of Fruit Loops, Dig 'Em of Sugar Smacks, Cornelius, or Corny, the rooster of Corn Flakes, Cocoa the monkey of Cocoa Krispies, and CinnaMon and Bad Apple of Apple Jacks appear to share one common characteristic--they are all male. Therefore, it appears that the accepted non-gendering of products in Kellogg's is, by default, male.

This likely reflects the lack of new Kellogg's icons. Of the products listed, only CinnaMon and Bad Apple are more recent products, while, according to the corporate Web site, Snap, Crackle, and Pop were created in 1933, Tony the Tiger in 1952, Cornelius in 1958, Toucan Sam in 1963, Sunny in 1966, and Dig 'Em in 1972. In the Kellogg's tie-in products, the majority are still male characters--Chicken Little, Batman, Scooby Doo, and Nemo--although Lilo is female, and Kellogg's markets one particular fruit snack--Princess Jewels--very explicitly gendered, with various Disney heroines from throughout its animated history on the cover of the product.

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March 18, 2007

The Cereal Serial, Part III: The Kellogg Web Site

The following is the third in a four-part serial on the world of breakfast cereals. This presents an analysis of the various Web sites associated with Kellogg's cereal brands, including packaging which directs users to the Web site. The first part of this series focused on the history of marketing breakfast cereals and the trickster motif among breakfast cereal icons, based on the recent article by Thomas Green, while the second part focused on the actual presentation of Kellogg's products in the grocery store.

An attention to the "healthiness" of its products appears to be the primary way that products are marketed to parents. Many of the children's cereals include a "Breakfast Nook" section which outlines some of the healthy aspects of its various cereal lines. This content becomes a major feature, though, when we move to the online version of the Kellogg's brands. This includes a link to, an independent Web site that focuses on conveying to children from 9-14 to incorporate a healthy diet into their lifestyle. Although this is out of the age range of our study, parents may look at the site themselves or help their children navigate some of its features. Kellogg's also features several simple online games that espouse the products' nutritional features and provides all the nutritional facts and guides for parents online. The company appears very well aware that the concerns of increasingly astute parents--the consumers who still control the funding for this age group--must be addressed for the product to be successful, much as video games marketed to this age group must be. For more on this aspect of marketing video games to parents, see Carolyn Handler Miller's piece "Tackling Products for Children," part of her 2004 book Digital Storytelling: A Creator's Guide to Interactive Entertainment, available here.

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The Cereal Serial, Part II: In-Store Display

The following is the second in a four-part serial on the world of breakfast cereals. This is the presentation of analysis from an afternoon spent in the Stop & Shop next to my apartment a little over a year ago, back in Fall 2005. My class with Henry Jenkins on the media industries was looking particularly at products offered to young boys, and I was interested in how Kellogg's has survived with a collection of long-term brands aimed at this demographic. The first part of this series focuses on the history of marketing breakfast cereals and the trickster motif among breakfast cereal icons, based on the recent article by Thomas Green.

Kellogg's, founded in 1906 by W.K. Kellogg, has been a staple in marketing to all age groups through developing brand identification. The Kellogg's corporation is proud of their company's history of branding, and corporate rhetoric about the early years of struggle culminate in pride with Kellogg's rising above competitors by increasing advertising budgets and creating icons for their various cereal brands. The company owns various product lines, including the Keebler brand name and all of the products under that umbrella, Pop Tarts, as well as Eggo waffles and various products affiliated with the Eggo line, including syrups and other frozen breakfast foods. The company aggressively markets its products through its in-store packaging and display, its Web site, and its use of television and print advertising, primarily through brand iconography.

I began my study of Kellogg's by acting as a consumer at my local Stop and Shop grocery store here in Boston. The cereal aisle is divided into sections vertically by brand. Then, each section is divided horizontally by a layer of generally five shelves. The top shelf is reserved for cereals one would likely only seek out to buy, the cereals that market themselves completely on being "healthy": Product 19, Kellogg's Complete Wheat Bran Flakes, All-Bran, Fruit Harvest, and Cracklin' Oat Bran, among others. The second aisle features slightly more mainstream variations of the healthy strand of cereal, such as Special K and Smart Start, and also starts to get into the cross-generational cereal brands, marketed on appeal to the whole family, such as Rice Krispies, Frosted Mini-Wheats, Raisin Bran, and the pinnacle of Kellogg's brand, Corn Flakes.

Continue reading "The Cereal Serial, Part II: In-Store Display" »

The Cereal Serial, Part I: The History of Breakfast Cereal and the Trickster Icon

This is the first in a four-part serial post on cereal. This piece stems from the research presented by Thomas Green in the February 2007 edition of The Journal of Popular Culture. Green's article, entitled "Tricksters and the Marketing of Breakfast Cereals", provides a fascinating primer on the history of cereal brands in America and how they were developed based on the philosophies of Sylvester Graham and the work of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church and their Battle Creek Sanitarium.

In short, moral reformers believed that the American diet needed to be changed. Problems from sexual aggression and masturbation to whiskey consumption were linked to a diet high in American meats, and the pork-heavy breakfast rituals of Americans was one of the targets. Enter Graham (whose legacy stays with us through the cracker which bears his name) and later Sister Ellen G. White with the church, whose call for a dietary reform led to the work of John Harvey Kellogg and C.W. Post, whose names persist as two of the most well known cereal companies (Kellogg's brother Will is actually the founder of Kellogg's). This really interesting history that Green summarizes quickly helps set the stage for his essay, which focuses on the history of the trickster character in marketing campaigns and how that legacy coincides and conflicts with the earlier, spiritual health-based campaigns around cereal.

Green looks at the origins and various types of trickster tales and then applies them to the icons of breakfast cereals, from the Trix Rabbit to Barney Rubble's relationship with Fred in the commercials to Lucky of Lucky Charms fame. He writes, "Cereal tricksters always either compete for the cereal, or bestow it on the consumer. Motifs of disguise, transformation, defiance of authority, taboo violation, and uncontrolled hunger/enthusiasm are common" (61). Green finds that the main ways in which the modern trickster tales of cereal icons are linked to the Battle Creek marketing backgrounds is through "the manic enthusiasm for the mysticized qualities of the specific brand in question" (61).

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MySpace Plans to Expand Services to News Aggregation, Commenting

On Thursday, my colleague here at the Convergence Culture Consortium Ivan Askwith alerted me that Fox Interactive Media is hoping to create a MySpace-branded competitor for news and blog aggregation sites like Digg, called MySpace News.

According to initial press surrounding the service, MySpace News will allow users to create a personalized news portal through which readers can not just receive aggregated news but also rate stories on the service, make comments on those stories, or upload stories of their own.

I don't know how much new ground MySpace News will cover, but marrying the news aggregating function with the popularity MySpace already enjoys may be a key in taking this Web 2.0 behavior and spreading it into more widespread use.

According to Thursday's Cynopsis, from Cynthia Turner, "FIM figures it improves stickiness, as MySpace users won't have to leave the site to check out the latest gossip from elsewhere."

Michael Calore at Wired writes about a leaked sales document that outlines the business plan for the planned site, providing some of the screen shots for the service. Calore also includes a few PowerPoint slides that show how the service would look. According to those slides, one of the goals of the service is "making the news social, allowing users to: rate and comment on every news item that comes through the system; submit stories they think are cool and even author pieces from their MySpace blog."

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William Morris/Narrowstep Deal to Create Branded Channels for Each Star

This past week, the William Morris talent agency announced that it would be forming a partnership with UK-based online TV group Narrowstep to give William Morris clients Internet channels. The programming on these channels would be free to view and supported by advertising content.

The partnership with Narrowstep includes creating mobile content as well.

Steve Safran with Lost Remote points out that such deals "could mean a web channel for every star," what he terms "another disruption in the traditional media mold."

Interestingly, Safran questions that, if talents were going to create their own channels and bypass traditional media in reaching the audience with entertainment properties, why would they need the agents, either? "Agents, after all, are the ultimate middle-men."

Of course, Steve's being facetious, and this digital deal with Narrowstep is only a minute part of what William Morris purports to offer its talents.

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March 17, 2007

Television Without Pity Sold to Bravo

News broke earlier this week that television network Bravo will buy popular recap and fan community forum site Television Without Pity.

The purchase, announced last Tuesday, has not included an abundance of information, other than that Bravo said in its press release that the Web site generates more than 1 million unique visitors each month and that the average time spent on the site by a visitor is 13 minutes, figures the network cited in support of its purchase of Television Without Pity.

The co-founders of the site, Sarah D. Bunting and Tara Ariano, will remain on in an editorial capacity after the sellout. There have been no indications as to whether there will be any noticeable editorial or aesthetic changes with the new Bravo ownership or not.

According to that announcement, "For starters, it means that TWoP will still be TWoP--that is to say, we'll be offering the same no-holds-barred commentary and critique we always have. Our new bosses dig what we do, and after all, they were the ones who launched Brilliant But Cancelled, the mid-season death watch which predicts the early demise of all the networks' new shows."

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CBS Uses YouTube for March Madness Cross-Platform Distribution, but Users Angered at Lack of Grabability

My cousin Steven, who I recently mentioned clued me in on the I Hate Steven Singer campaign, is a basketball fanatic, so I was worried about him on his trip home recently DURING March Madness. After all, my soap opera is preempted, so it's hard to forget that March is NCAA season.

But CBS has forged a new deal to make sure the 64-team tournament is even more ubiquitous this year, with video footage appearing on YouTube, with only a very short delay. The site, co-branded by YouTube, CbS SportsLine, NCAA Sports, CSTV, and Pontiac, seems to have driven significant traffic so far, as the tournament begins. The channel is certainly not going to replace CBS coverage of the games, but the deal has provided yet another way for viewers to keep up with the games in the most convenient way, as well as to review highlight clips on-demand.

Not surprisingly, the blogosphere points to the irony of Viacom's suing YouTube while CBS is finding effective and profitable ways to work with the video sharing site. David A. Utter with WebProNews points out that the first CBS March Madness clip on YouTube prominently displays UPS advertising and indicates the potential for major profit for the network and YouTube as well. Utter says, "Why Viacom misses the potential of YouTube while their former brethren at CBS embrace it would be a question we would like to see Viacom answer if their YouTube/Google lawsuit ever comes to trial."

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Viacom Lawsuit Directed at Google/YouTube for More than $1 Billion

Alongside news that MTVN plans to inject some of the defining features of YouTube into its own video services, such as grabability and quotability of clips, its parent company Viacom is suing YouTube for more than $1 billion in damages.

The lawsuit was filed this past Tuesday in U.S. District Court in New York using such words as "intentional" and "massive" to describe the company's culpability in copyright infringement. As Jeremy W. Peters with The New York Times writes, "Viacom's suit is the most aggressive move so far by an old-line media company against the highly popular but legally questionable practice of posting copyrighted media content online."

In Daisy Whitney's coverage from TelevisionWeek, she quotes a Google spokesperson as saying:

We are confident that YouTube has respected the legal rights of copyright holders and believe the courts will agree. YouTube is great for users and offers real opportunities to rights holders: the opportunity to interact with users; to promote their content to a young and growing audience; and to tap into the online advertising market. We will certainly not let this suit become a distraction to the continuing growth and strong performance of YouTube and its ability to attract more users, more traffic and build a stronger community.

Continue reading "Viacom Lawsuit Directed at Google/YouTube for More than $1 Billion" »

March 13, 2007

MTVN Speaks Out on Their Vision of User Grabability and Quoting Moving Forward

Interesting story in Reuters recently by Kenneth Li that had some preliminary promising points about MTV Networks' focus post-YouTube on how to work with and empower the viral spread of video content on the Web but through the company's own channels rather than YouTube. I haven't commented yet and was interested in the fallout, but I have to say that it's a major rhetorical step forward.

Basically, Viacom has plans to make videos from their sites "grabbable," in that users will be able to embed those videos in their own sites/blogs, much as users can from YouTube. The hope is to incorporate some of the technologies that has made YouTube work well into the videos they provide themselves, thus lessening the damage from not being a part of YouTube.

The ubiquity of YouTube is one thing that draws viewers to that site and which this service won't be able to overcome. After all, people love a one-stop-shop, but the move toward being able to imbed the videos into users' own sites is a major advantage for MTVN, since that "grabability" is one of the features that has driven interest in using YouTube.

MTVN's Global Digital Media President Mika Salmi spoke of not just opening their Web sites "for consumers and for other companies" but of opening content as well. I'm personally interested in what opening the content means. He said, "Part of that is allowing people to take our content and embed it and make your own things out of it, whatever they want."

Embedding and making whatever you want from video clips are two quite different activities, but both are what drives a lot of the interest in YouTube. I think the "grabability" issue will be covered well by MTVN, and I'm excited about the possibilities of letting users play with the content as well, if they really mean it as openly as it sounds.

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Finding More Nuanced Ways to Discuss Convergence in Journalism

Last Friday, I wrote a post on Augie Grant's piece in the February edition of The Convergence Newsletter, which focused on the need for understanding the history of how journalism adapted to and with new technologies in order to understand the present and future of "convergence" in journalism.

The March edition of the newsletter features a thought-provoking piece by George Daniels at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, who writes about the trend of "unconverging," news entities that were converged pulling apart, and having students in the classroom who had worked in converged spaces and had detailed reasons why it does not work.

The short essay is worth a read for anyone interested in "convergence" in journalism and particularly in journalism education. Daniels writes:

These students had their own war stories to tell. Most of them had worked at newspapers with broadcast partners. Some of them had been called on by their editors to appear on TV to answer "three questions" about their newspaper stories. One of the students had an exclusive story that he was encouraged to share with a TV partner. As a former local TV news producer, I was the lone electronic journalist reminding my students of the "benefits" of convergence - at least in the minds of those who championed it in recent years. I call this "un-convergence" classroom discussion in February 2007 a watershed moment in my own convergence teaching because for the first time, I had reached a point where students were coming into our classroom having done convergence reporting.

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March 12, 2007

Fashion Brands and Branding Style: Looking at Reviews for Mark Tungate's Book

I've pointed out in the past that, whether one is interested in fashion or not, studies of clothing brands can identify some very astute observations about brand meaning and brand communities in general.

That's why I was particularly interested when I saw a review for Mark Tungate's Fashion Brands: Branding Style from Armani to Zara in the October 2006 version of The Journal of Popular Culture. The reviewer, Joseph Hancock from Drexel University, provides some nice details about Tungate's book, which I haven't read.

The book, published in London, focuses particularly on European brands and is written by a former journalist for the World Global Style Network. Hancock writes that the book provides "original insights into the world of trends, haute couture fashion, photography, modeling, and popular culture" (905).

Continue reading "Fashion Brands and Branding Style: Looking at Reviews for Mark Tungate's Book" »

Two Interesting Ad Campaigns: Ink Is It and I Hate Steven Singer

I wanted to write briefly this morning about two ad campaigns that have been brought to my attention that I thought were both very creative in their own way. Both operate through storytelling, display quite a bit of creativity, and, while I don't know enough about either campaign and its reception to declare them a success, I certainly think they SOUND headed in the right direction, Kodak's InkIsIt and a longstanding example, the jewelry store campaign "I Hate Steven Singer."

First is the Kodak "Ink Is It" campaign, from the same guys who brought us Mr. McMahon's Ass (not the actual body part, but the cartoon), Animax Entertainment. Actually, I didn't really hear of this new ad campaign virally, as Animax contacted C3 to let us know about the new project based on our interest in their bizarre transmedia cartoon work for the WWE.

In this case, the campaign focuses on the KODAK EASYSHARE, for which black ink cartridges are only $9.99 and 5-ink color is only $14.99.

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March 11, 2007

Y&R/ATWT's L.A. Diaries on CBS innertube: An Intriguing Approach to Transmedia Storytelling

Following up on the reality show InTurn on CBS innertube, As the World Turns is now partnering with fellow CBS soap opera The Young and the Restless to produce a transmedia Webisode series called L.A. Diaries. The project, branded "Daytime Digital," takes an interesting and innovative approach in how to use a Webisode in several ways, which I will get into below.

The plot? As Linda Marshall-Smith with Soapdom explains, "It's a five-week series and takes place in a recent flashback sometime after Alison left ATWT in 2005 and before Amber arrived at Y&R last fall. Apparently, the two met while working at a dive bar in Venice, California where both young women resorted to a life of - get this - internet porn in order to make ends meet."

In short, I think the L.A. Diaries approach is instructive because of the way it appeals to the fan bases of multiple existing shows, the tight focus of the story, the way the series reintroduces characters by explaining their backstories, the way the series is used to launch a new storyline on the shows, and the crossovers back onto both ATWT and Y&R.

Continue reading "Y&R/ATWT's L.A. Diaries on CBS innertube: An Intriguing Approach to Transmedia Storytelling" »

March 10, 2007

General Hospital: Night Shift Could Be Fascinating Case Study in Cross-Show Storytelling

A few weeks ago, my colleague Ivan Askwith made an appearance on the blog to announce a recent report that soap opera General Hospital would be spawning a primetime spinoff as part of the first original dramatic programming from cable network SOAPnet.

The partnership makes sense because ABC owns SOAPnet, and the network also owns its own soaps, as opposed to CBS Daytime, which gets programming from Procter & Gamble Productions and Bell.

In Ivan's report, from information he got from Cynthia Turner's Cynopsis, he pointed out that the show would be seralized, with 13 one-hour episodes that will focus on some current characters on the show. He wrote, "Not transmedia in the traditional sense -- no platforms being crossed just yet -- but it's an interesting experiment in creating television spin-offs that remain tightly linked to the narratives of their parent show."

As more news comes out about General Hospital: Night Shift, I wanted to add further information. Connie Phillips, who writes Making the Rounds at General Hospital over at, emphasizes that the show will be "centered around the hospital and will go a little deeper into the storylines originally run on the base show as well as dig a little deeper into the characters' lives and relationships."

Phillips writes, "One can only wonder if they will choose to use this platform as a showcase for veteran actors and characters that have not been receiving much screen time as of late. Long time fans of the show were broken-hearted over the recent decision to kill off Dr. Alan Quatermaine, a character who has graced the show for thirty years, and many fan-based boards have clamored for the soap to turn away from the mob-driven stories and bring focus back to the hospital the show was built on."

The show will be written by Robert Guza, Jr., who is the head writer of General Hospital as well. Apparently, the plan is for a storyline to start on the daytime show and be the driving force for beginning the SOAPnet series. The show will be starting on SOAPnet sometime this summer.

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March 9, 2007

Two Small Steps Made in Effort to Transition from Analog to Digital Broadcast Television

Two new pieces of news surfaced over the past few days indicating that a more direct and concerted effort will be made to move definitively toward a conversion from analog television sets to digital television sets. First, I read in James Hibberd's weekly HD report that, as of the beginning of this month, companies are restricted from importing any more analog television sets internationally and that interstate trafficking of analog sets has also been prohibited.

I hadn't been aware that the restriction was now law, which doesn't bode well for the public education campaign and the likelihood that the average American has a clue. Hibberd writes, "Trouble is, there are still about 20 million U.S. households using purely analog sets."

As he writes, "The change is expected to cause some hiccups among poor and elderly viewers who are accustomed to a manner of viewing that has been unchanged for decades."

Then, yesterday, I also read news on TelevisionWeek that the Office of Management & Budget is about ready to give approval on setting standards for the converter boxes and the eligibility citizens would have on discount coupons for buying a converter box for their existing analog television sets.

Continue reading "Two Small Steps Made in Effort to Transition from Analog to Digital Broadcast Television" »

WWE Expands Mobile Content in Exclusive Cingular Deal

World Wrestling Entertainment has launched a significant mobile platform deal this week with Cingular Wireless. According to the WWE's announcement yesterday on, by Noah Starr, the WWE will be launching significant media content for Cingular customers.

The service launched yesterday, and fans who have third-generation capable video phones and the Cingular video package, which costs $19.99 a month can automatically receive previews for upcoming WWE pay-per-view events, a collection of WWE News, and video clips like WWE's Slam of the Week, featuring a significant event from one of the WWE's three major weekly television shows.

What's more, the WWE is launching a service called WWE Premium Video that will cost an extra $4.99 per month. According to Starr's story for WWE, the service will include "exclusive videos, interviews, classic clips, hot Diva action and more," particularly a series of "Wrestlemania Magic Moments" right now, as they build for their biggest pay-per-view event of the year.

The Cingular service also allows for the chance to shop for various WWE multimedia offerings for the phone.

The WWE will provide approximately 100 video clips per month to Cingular customers through the premium service.

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Understanding Journalism Convergence in Historical Perspective, with an Eye Toward Emerging Technologies

The February 2007 edition of The Convergence Newsletter has some great points in its first feature article from Augie Grant, the newsletter's executive editor.

The newsletter, put together by the University of South Carolina and focusing on convergence in the world of journalism, has been a great forum for debate about changes in the journalism world, both technological and cultural. The whole discussion of "convergence," has stretched on for a few years now in the journalism realm, when it was first a buzz word back when I was in J-school, but the debates continue.

Grant's piece is about how new media is "the next generation of convergence." Based on the work of Tim Bajkiewicz, Grant writes about how a historical understanding of how journalism shifted with the introduction of new technologies helps shape the modern debate about convergence as well. Tim's work is looking particularly at journalism education and how that education has shifted with the introduction of new technologies.

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First South Park Episode in HD Available to Xbox Live Members

A few days ago, news broke that the first episode of South Park in high-definition would be made available to members of Xbox Live to download the episode to view on Xbox 360s.

The episode went up on Tuesday and will stay up for two weeks.

Best Buy is also going to offer the episode free as a promotional gimmick with the purchase of an HD DVD drive or an Xbox 360 if purchased from March 20 until April 3. The episode is actually a South Park from a few years ago, titled "Good Times with Weapons" and featuring ninjas.

Kevin Kelly with Joystiq writes, "The style changes from the traditional cutout look into anime style pictured above, and it will look, er ... extra-animated in HD. Couple this with the fact that South Park's new season starts this Wednesday, and new episodes will be on XBLM each following week, the fanboys and fangirls should be fairly happy."

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Next New Networks the Newest Online Video Competitor

Next New Networks, yet another broadband video service hoping to gain strong footing in the growing online market for video networks, has announced that it is going to launch 101 "micro-networks" on its site through a long-term content expansion plan over the next five years.

According to their press release yesterday, this "micro-networks" plan will start with six networks and will add three or so networks each month as part of this slow expansion of content. The video networks will be formed around themed content, with some shows appearing on a daily basis and others weekly. Most episodes will be three to eight minutes in length.

The site will focus on building communities around these various programs, targeting 18-to-34 year olds.

The first round of channels will feature comic books, automobiles, and DIY fashion. The mini-sites initially announced include Fast Lane Daily, providing daily news for the auto enthusiast; Threadbanger, a five-minute show every week about homemade clothing; VOD Cars, focusing on automobile culture; and Channel Frederator.

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George Lucas Declares the Future as Television, Forging Ahead with 3D Animated Star Wars Series

The future is television, or so saith George Lucas, anyway.

For those who haven't heard, the venerated caretaker of the Star Wars universe has decided that he is going to dedicate himself to the television platform with his upcoming Star Wars projects planned for television distribution, one live action, the other animated--in three dimensions. Not that he won't still be making pictures for the big screen, since Indiana Jones 4 is going to be on its way, but Lucas is moving his most famous franchise of all away from the blockbuster film and into the television series.

The comments stemmed out of an event at New York City's Museum of Television and Radio, at a festival named in honor of one of the most well-known figures in early TV history, William S. Paley.

I'm assuming that his "future is television" is referring particularly to the Star Wars franchise, since television is not exactly the newest of platforms on the block. However, Star Wars properties on TV is quite new, revolutionary even, and a 3D animated series is even more so.

At the event, Lucas revealed quite a few details about his 3D series, including his plans to finance the creation of 100 episodes of the animated series and to have that creation process well underway before ever finding a distributor.

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March 6, 2007

BBC Deal with YouTube Raises Questions About Quoting, "Damaging the Brand"

YouTube has created another "official" deal this week, now with BBC. According to news that was announced last Friday, the BBC will provide two official BBC channels on YouTube focusing on properties such as the popular Doctor Who, as well as a third channel focusing on content from BBC News.

Mathew Ingram with WebProNews points out how different the BBC reaction is to Viacom's.

"The venerable BBC--an 'old' media giant that has been teaching much younger media outlets a thing or two about new media for some time now--has taken a different tack when it comes to YouTube." Ingram believes this is "a much smarter strategy" than pulling clips.

However, keep in mind that there will be blocks for people in Britain for viewing the news content on YouTube because they will include ads. More controversially, though, Rafat Ali at paidContent points out that BBC Worldwide content will include pre-roll ads that can be seen in the UK.

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Electronic Arts Releases Music from Its Games on iTunes

Here's an interesting example of ancillary content that will likely receive some focused interest from video gamers. Electronic Arts is releasing music from its video games for download through Apple iTunes. According to last Thursday's press release, the music can be purchased through the Electronic Arts Web site. At EA Trax, users can create an "iMix of their usic for their favorite EA game on iTunes."

The market will soon expand from North American into Europe, and new music content will continue to be added from games past and present.

Steve Schnur with EA says in the press release, "As our culture goes increasingly mobile, music fans have demanded to take our game music with them. They have been looking for a singular destination that houses all of EA's music--and this is it."

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March 5, 2007

Sony vs. Kotaku, Edery vs. Ramsay, and Important Ethical Questions about Journalists in the Blogosphere

Last Thursday, for people in the lively world of the blogosphere for the video game industry, will be likely remembered most for the heated war of words between Sony and Web site Kotaku.

In short--Kotaku is an online site dedicated to covering video games, edited by Brian D. Crecente. According to their own about page, "Kotaku provides hourly links and commentary for obsessive gamers--and explores the cultural ramifications interesting enough to attract a wider audience."

Last Thursday, the company posted what they call a "rumor story" that Sony planned to unveil what is called a PlayStation Home. Clearly labeling it a "rumor," the story includes information on a "tip" that was "juicy and quite believable" but would not be confirmed by Sony. The understanding from the source is that a central room would be created for a console avatar and, as accomplishments are reached on various PlayStation games, new items would adorn that central room. The full story is available here.

Later on Thursday, Crecente posted a followup story called "Sony Blackballs Kotaku." They claim that Sony asked them not to publish the rumor story "first nicely, then not so much." He claims that they were threatened that they would be blackballed, that they would be uninvited to meetings including ones on "blogger relations," and, according to Crecente, that they "would no longer deal with us."

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V CAST Mobile TV Launches in 20 Markets

Plans for mobile television capabilities have expanded, now that V CAST has launched a mobile television service in 20 American markets. The product comes along with the full V CAST plan, which includes mobile Internet and video clips, for a package of $25 a month or costs $15 a month on its own. The launch took place last Thursday.

Initially, V CAST Mobile TV will offer eight channels of television content, featuring content from C3 partner MTV Networks, as well as CBS, NBC, and Fox, among others.

Markets who feature the technology initially will not include usual suspects like NYC and LA but rather major cities in Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, Oregon, Washington, Nebraska, Utah, Kansas, Nevada, Illinois, Virginia, Minnesota, and Missouri, as well as Palm Springs, California, and Jacksonville, Florida.

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Fox Plans to Open Up Fox On Demand to All Affiliate Web Sites

Fox plans to continue expanding its online content, called Fox On Demand, by making it available to all of the Web sites of its affiliate stations, according to news that broke late last week.

The company had started by making online content available to 24 of its 200 affiliate stations that the company itself owns. This plan for expansion of the primetime lineup for the network exists alongside distribution of Fox programming on MySpace as well.

The business model is that the affiliate stations and Fox will share advertising revenue for ad-supported streaming as well as part of the fees for pay-for-download material.

The news, which broke Thursday, also included information on Fox plans to use their own new video player, which will be made available to affiliates as the company plans to expand its content to each station's site by the end of this month and have all of the affiliate stations' sites prepared for playing video by late June.

According to Cory Bergman with Lost Remote, "the affiliates will be able to sell 30 percent of the streaming ad inventory. Video downloads -- which include 24, Bones, and Prison Break - will sell for $1.99 an episode. Visitors to will have the option to enter their zip code and be directed to their local Fox affiliate site for the video."

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MGM Moves Its Brand, Video Archives into the HD TV Market

News has broken over the past few days that major film brand Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) is planning to launch a high-definition channel on cable and satellite, a first for the company. The plan would be to put the television business together and launch it by the end of 2007.

The channel will operate as a movie network, with no current plans announced for original content. Rather, the plan is to draw people in by offering high-definition movies, as well as its other movies and television shows.

The company is no stranger to running a television network, as its MGM Channel is available in 120 countries, not including the United States. According to this piece from a news release, the company launched an HD version of this channel in Poland, broadcast in Polish, in December.

James Hibberd with TelevisionWeek writes that the studio will be "drawing from its library of 4,100 theatrical titles-about 1,200 of which currently are available in the high-definition format-and hundreds of hours of television content."

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March 4, 2007

Famed Pro Wrestler to Take on Superman Artwork Project for DC Comics

Here's an interesting crossover between worlds. WWE's Jerry "The King" Lawler, who is being inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame, has been asked to draw Superman for an upcoming Web-based project by DC Comics. I don't know the particulars, but the news was announced back in January and sounds like an interesting cross-extension of two worlds that have touched on each other many times throughout history.

According to WWE's official announcement back in January, this is "the fulfillment of a lifelong fantasy" to draw Superman for an official DC project, since Jerry is "a huge comics fan and a lifelong Superman enthusiast."

The WWE promised a followup in the next week, but I have never seen it.

I'm interested in the way this impacts convergence culture because it is quite rare that a well-known performer in one entertainment world is asked to do a creative project in another. Celebrity art is fascinating in general, and it will be interesting to see if Lawler fans will be interested in crossing over to view his work on the Superman franchise. One would think that there could potentially be significant crossover between comic book and wrestling fans, so there is also a natural extension in the target demographic for both groups as well.

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March 3, 2007

BooksPrice RSS Price Watcher Creates a New Variation on Comparison Shopping for Media

Back in January, I was contacted by Lucy Orbach, the co-founder of an online business called, regarding a new service they had created and a press release that they had sent out about it. The idea is actually pretty innovative, in that I haven't heard of similar products from others, and it makes sense for the online competitive shopping services that offers.

In short, is a site that compares the price of a book across various online stores. While plenty of services are competing in this space, BooksPrice seeks to set itself apart by offering the chance to compare the price of not just a particular book but a bundled "cart" of media. In her e-mail to me, Orbach wrote, " is a self financed start-up that offers a twist on the standard price comparison services. While other price comparisons used to compare a single price at a time, BooksPrice offered a way to compare the complete content of a card (including books, dvds, cds, and video games)." The site launched in April 2005 and is based in New York City.

Orbach wrote me about the company in January, touting 75,000 monthly users. I'm not sure if that number has fluctuated by now, but I am interested in the product that launched in January--an "RSS Price Watcher."

Of course, it's a logical extension, but the idea of having an RSS feed that follows the price of a package one is interested in buying on multiple sites makes sense when one is trying to catch the best deal on their "wish list" while waiting for the funds to buy. I'm sure many of us have had some TV show on DVD we wanted to buy but just couldn't afford it at the price listed--an RSS update on the price would be a lot easier than repeated trips to Amazon.

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March 2, 2007

BitTorrent Transforms into Digital Video Store

BitTorrent is getting their feet wet in the world of "legitimate" media distribution, with their store opening this past week offering content for cash from content providers such as our partners MTV Networks, as well as 20th Century Fox, Paramount, and plenty of other heavy hitters.

Building off the standard set by Apple iTunes, the idea is TV shows for $1.99 an episode and the ability to rent films for a buck or two more, to keep with the going rental rates.

I'm extremely interested in seeing whether BitTorrent can transform itself into a strong competitor for groups like Apple and Amazon and the other companies that have launched strong products in the online video distribution space. I don't doubt that there is significant room for competition there, and we already have Wal-Mart and plenty of other players stepping into this space, but I continue wondering whether BitTorrent's reputation as a sharing technology where a lot of material was blatantly pirated and shared, would transfer over well to a "legitimate" business model.

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Preparing for the Digital Conversion: Dingell Criticizes Industry and Government Alike

Back in February, I published a six-part series called Access vs. Censorship, looking at two very different types of media policy in the American government and urging our government to prioritize between them.

One of those access issues not mentioned there, in which access is going to butt heads with more efficient technologies, is the switchover from analog to digital television signals.

This issue has become a major discussion point this week, based on comments made by Democratic U.S. Representative John Dingell, who is the chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, while speaking to the National Association of Broadcasters at their state leadership conference.

Ira Teinowitz had a good summary, based on the account I read over at TelevisionWeek, where I follow a lot of the daily television news.

According to Ira's piece, Dingell felt the industry and government had done little to create standards for converter boxes, guidelines for allocating coupons for converters, and that little has been done to inform the average viewer. Blame from Dingell was directed throughout government bureaucracy, toward the Bush Administration, and toward the industry, meaning everyone but the viewers themselves were to blame, an account I can hardly disagree with.

He did acknowledge that it is a daunting task to inform viewers but that what had been done so far is "regrettably not sufficient to avoid raising Americans' ire."

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Cramming That Genie Back into the Bottle: Industry Desires to Protect Copyrighted Video Online

"The genie has to be put back in the bottle, or the entire economics of the entertainment industry on a global basis are subject to ruinous counterfeiting."

That quote comes from Medialink Worldwide CEO and President Laurence Moskowitz. Guess what the subject is? Would you believe it if I said copyright?

The quote is part of an interesting piece from Daisy Whitney at TelevisionWeek from Monday, focusing on the major questions surrounding copyright protection for online video sites, certainly a hot-button topic in the industry and regarding online distribution of television and film products.

These include seeking new types of technology to imbed in videos to protect the copyright, as well as ways in which to seek out content that violates copyright, such as the Audible Magic deal with MySpace Whitney refers to, in which Audible Magic would help the social networking site "filter out unauthorized video and audio from its site."

Whitney writes, "Because of these ongoing infringements, copyright owners are starting to demand that sites include built-in tools to protect their asses, while sites themselves are recognizing they must be more proactive material."

One technology Whitney examines is digital fingerprinting, in which video on a site is matched with a registration of official content from rights holders, to find out if it violates a copyright. The article points out that the technology can also be used to identify popular content and help create ways in which to create ad-sharing revenues around user-posted content on sites like YouTube and MySpace.

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March 1, 2007

MobiTV's Users Double to 2 Million in Less than a Year--Signs of a Coming Explosion in Mobile Consumption?

MobiTV has been bragging about success in getting new subscribers this week, based on a press release sent out yesterday. According to their press release, the company has grown its customer numbers to 2 million subscribers internationally, up from 1 million less than a year ago.

The quick turnaround in growth for the company was driven significantly by new content, which is no surprise, as well as $100 million in new investments and a drive into new international markets.

That press release highlights a deal with AT&T "to deliver real live TV to any PC broadband user in the US," a deal with Sprint-Nextel Cable JFV for "cable-to-mobile deployments," a "pan-Latin alliance," etc.

Julie Ask at Jupiter Research writes that "most impressive is the time difference between how little time it took to get the second million."

Continue reading "MobiTV's Users Double to 2 Million in Less than a Year--Signs of a Coming Explosion in Mobile Consumption?" »

Hip-Hop Japan

For some time, I've been meaning to draw attention to the work of C3 Affiliated Faculty member Dr. Ian Condry, who published a book in the fall entitled Hip-Hop Japan: Rap and the Paths of Cultural Globalization. Even though we've worked with Ian as part of C3, I actually read the book as part of a study on globalization in Dr. James L. Watson's globalization and culture class at Harvard.

Bringing this up is especially timely, considering the cover appears on the front page, in the left bottom corner, of today's Metro here in Boston. The article by Brian Coleman, featured on page 18, focuses on two of the artists discussed in Condry's ethnography of Japanese artists and the appropriation and cultural remixing of the hip-hop/rap genre by Japanese artists in the Tokyo clubs he visited. Those two artists, Miss Monday, and DJ Umedy, are going to be appearing at The Middle East Upstairs tonight, as part of the "Cool Japan" conference Ian is hosting here at MIT throughout the week and weekend.

Continue reading "Hip-Hop Japan" »

First Round of Decisions in NBC Universal and WGA Spat Over Webisodes

The Webisode battles continue. Mark February 2007 as the first round of decisions in the battle between the Writers Guild of America and NBC Universal over how compensation should be handled in regard to Webisode product for the writing team that has to develop these new platform shows.

Last week, the National Labor Relations Board announced that it was rejecting an official complaint filed by NBC, as the company had complained that the decision by the writers to quit working on the Webisodes until a compensation agreement could be reached was unfair business practice.

Apparently, the NLRB finds the decision of the writers not to write ancillary content until the way they will be compensated is worked out to be on the up-and-up, so it looks like these decisions will be ongoing. In the meantime, the content for the Web platform has not significantly explored the viability of Webisodes for NBC because of this ongoing skirmish.

In the meantime, other shows have been more successful with getting Webisodes out, most recently CBS innertube's L.A. Diaries, a crossover between CBS soap operas As the World Turns and The Young and the Restless which I will write more about soon.

Over at TV Squad, Joel Keller points out that reports are conflicting, however, as to whether this is a "victory" for the WGA or not. "So, while NBCU technically lost, all they wanted from this case was for the WGA to admit that they didn't presure anyone, which is what they got."

Continue reading "First Round of Decisions in NBC Universal and WGA Spat Over Webisodes" »

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