Facebook Connect and lock-in through ubiquity

Here’s an interesting piece from the New York Times that looks at Facebook Connect’s growing role as a sign-on / social graph utility. Twitter and Google have similar products. Why is this important? This excerpt sums it up: Since Facebook…

FacebookHere’s an interesting piece from the New York Times that looks at Facebook Connect’s growing role as a sign-on / social graph utility. Twitter and Google have similar products. Why is this important? This excerpt sums it up:

Since Facebook Connect was introduced in December 2008, more than 80,000 Web sites and services have put the log-in feature to use, said Ethan Beard, director of the Facebook developer network … “Facebook is evolving through Facebook Connect into much more than a Web site,” said Mr. Beard, who works closely with Facebook’s community of third-party developers. “It’s also a technology and a service to provide social plumbing and creating a social layer the whole Web can leverage.” [Emphasis added.]

These sign-on services, along with other APIs, attempt to achieve lock-in through ubiquity. That’s infinitely fascinating to me. Take Twitter, for example. It’s become the standard for micromessaging (or microblogging or whatever you want to call it) not by forcing people into a Twitter.com silo, but by allowing the Twitter service to seep into the web’s nooks and crannies. Put another way: “platform” is way more powerful than “website.”

Heads up, traditional media! Pay very close attention to what OK Go just did

It’s rare when you see such a clear example of the Internet’s disruption: OK Go, the band best known for its clever music videos, has severed ties with its record label, EMI. The reason? The label is caught in old-think…

It’s rare when you see such a clear example of the Internet’s disruption: OK Go, the band best known for its clever music videos, has severed ties with its record label, EMI. The reason? The label is caught in old-think and wants to disable the embed function on the group’s web-based videos.

OK Go … God bless ’em … told EMI to politely bugger off. The band knows embedding is an absolute must-have if you want to harness the web’s power.

Speaking of which, here’s the group’s latest masterpiece:

The Long Tail and iPhone app usage: Nothing surprising here

From The New York Times: The average iPhone or iPod Touch owner uses 5 to 10 apps regularly, according to Flurry, a research firm that studies mobile trends. This despite the surfeit of available apps: some 140,000 and counting. I’ve…

From The New York Times:

The average iPhone or iPod Touch owner uses 5 to 10 apps regularly, according to Flurry, a research firm that studies mobile trends. This despite the surfeit of available apps: some 140,000 and counting.

I’ve seen the same stat mentioned before. Heck, I referenced that stat in a piece I wrote. But what I find surprising is that anyone is surprised by this. It’s the behavioral equivalent of the Long Tail: a few apps get frequent use — the blockbusters — while the others wane after post-installation popularity or, even worse, don’t get downloaded at all.

Instead of this broad-based stuff, what I’d really like to see is data that links up people’s interests/professions with their most-used apps.

YouTube’s rental experiment wasn’t a failure

This piece looking at results from YouTube’s rental experiment illustrates the short-sighted thinking that handcuffs content companies: Ouch! We’re talking about 1,422 total views, or $5,673.78 for all of the rentals at $3.99 apiece. If Google is giving the filmmakers…

This piece looking at results from YouTube’s rental experiment illustrates the short-sighted thinking that handcuffs content companies:

Ouch! We’re talking about 1,422 total views, or $5,673.78 for all of the rentals at $3.99 apiece. If Google is giving the filmmakers roughly two-thirds of the take — and I’m going by other digital-media standards, since the site isn’t publicly spelling out the royalty payouts — each of the five productions will walk away with just hundreds of dollars for their role as video-sharing pioneers over the weekend.

I put this paragraph in the “trading analog dollars for digital pennies” genre. It’s catchy. Reasonable on first glance. But when you dig deeper, it’s ultimately ridiculous.

That $5,673.78 figure isn’t the key. The big deal — and the hope — lies in the 1,422 views. That’s 1,422 chances for filmmakers to have their work seen. That’s 1,422 more chances than they had before. The value of those views lies not in financial rewards (although that would be nice), but as a counter to an artist’s great enemy: obscurity. Isn’t that why film festivals exist? To show off work? To create the possibility of engagement? To create the possibility of landing theatrical distribution? How is YouTube’s effort any different?

Here’s the broader problem with this type of bottom-line analysis: digital income will almost always be lower than traditional income because digital audiences are smaller and empowered. They don’t have to blindly accept what’s given to them. They can pick and choose. They can sample. That’s a powerful set of tools. It means control rests solely in consumers’ hands.

Consumer control is the essential truth of digital content. Until that’s acknowledged — and until businesses are built to work in conjunction with this truth — content companies will spin their wheels, lose money, and whine incessantly.

Hey, journalists, this is why you need a blog

A phenomenal post from Jason Fry at the National Sports Journalism Center: When I started Faith and Fear in Flushing with my friend Greg Prince in the winter of 2005, I’d been at The Wall Street Journal Online for nearly…

A phenomenal post from Jason Fry at the National Sports Journalism Center:

When I started Faith and Fear in Flushing with my friend Greg Prince in the winter of 2005, I’d been at The Wall Street Journal Online for nearly 10 years. But despite all that time as a Web guy, I’d adopted some rather unhealthy attitudes. I was studiously uninterested in knowing how many readers read my columns, and only took a passing interest in their reactions to them. I thought that my job was to be a thinker and a writer. Worrying about traffic numbers? That was somebody else’s job – and a lesser calling.

This was arrogant and dumb, and a few weeks of writing Faith and Fear showed me that. On my own blog, the numbers were of immense interest to me. I pored over them every day in an effort to figure out what posts were connecting with readers and what posts weren’t. I was singing for my supper, and it made me a better columnist. If a column was well written but didn’t seem to connect, I wasn’t happy with it. I no longer dismissed Web traffic as not my job, complained about writing promos for my stuff, or gave reader comments and emails short shrift. And I realized those folks on the business side were critical to our collective success, and could teach me things. [Emphasis added.]

I’ll add this: journalism’s biggest mistake was allowing business apathy/hatred among the editorial ranks. That’s a far more egregious “sin” than publishing free Web content.

Hey Amazon, this is what you need to do with the Kindle

Books lock content into a container by default. There’s no easy way to excerpt or share or disseminate. But digital sets that content free, and that means hardware that delivers digital content needs to facilitate that freedom. False obstacles that…

Books lock content into a container by default. There’s no easy way to excerpt or share or disseminate. But digital sets that content free, and that means hardware that delivers digital content needs to facilitate that freedom. False obstacles that seek to duplicate the limitations of print are ridiculous. Hear that, Amazon?

Thankfully — seriously, thank God for this — it looks like magazine publishers are getting the message. From the New York Times:

Sports Illustrated’s demonstration version — developed with the Wonderfactory, a design firm — lets readers organize the magazine by subjects like baseball or football. They can circle photographs or articles and use a toolbar to e-mail an article, print it, view comments, view related items, see relevant Twitter posts or save the article to a favorites file. They can rearrange the order of the issue, see dozens of photos that don’t make it into print and pull live scores from all the teams they follow. [Link and emphasis added.]

One last thing. I try to include a source link with all of my tweets and excerpts; just a little something that allows people to go deeper if they’re so inclined. That’s why tablet editions need a link-to feature. It could take the form of a web-based version of the article (with advertising and marketing all around it, of course). Perhaps it’s some sort of intermediate, email-to-a-friend edition. Maybe it’s an iTunes-esque redirect. I really don’t care what the links look like. They just need to be there.

Social media doesn’t make money directly, but it still has enormous value

Perhaps it’s a function of the intricate tracking the Web provides, but I’m still amazed at media’s inability to grasp the secondary (and often, tertiary) value of community efforts. So let’s make this as clear as clear can be: Twitter,…

Perhaps it’s a function of the intricate tracking the Web provides, but I’m still amazed at media’s inability to grasp the secondary (and often, tertiary) value of community efforts.

So let’s make this as clear as clear can be: Twitter, Facebook, forums and other social media functions rarely make money directly. Their value comes from the attention they gather and the opportunities that attention creates. If you have a mass of people who have willingly opted-in to your messaging, you damn well better put useful, for-pay products in front of them. Otherwise, all you’ve got is a social club.

This recent piece from Forbes does a nice job tearing down the direct-revenue mindset.

My line between edit and sales blurred years ago. It’s not that big a deal

I was fortunate to have my ill-conceived notions about editorial/advertising segregation blown to bits early in my career. It hurt. No doubt about that. I came out of journalism school with all the requisite ethical boundaries and red flags intact….

I was fortunate to have my ill-conceived notions about editorial/advertising segregation blown to bits early in my career. It hurt. No doubt about that. I came out of journalism school with all the requisite ethical boundaries and red flags intact. So it was tough to let that go.

But it was so useful to let that go. It made me see that most journalism organizations are businesses. That’s it. All that stuff about objectivity and watchdog roles and the Fourth Estate sounds good, and it feels good, but news companies must ultimately adhere to the same criteria as every other business: does it make money or does it lose money?

That’s why it’s interesting for me to watch others go through the same gyrations now that the Dallas Morning News is moving editorial and sales closer together. I get it. This is hard to swallow. It goes against everything journalists know, everything we’re taught in the vacuum of j-school. It seems dangerous.

But having lived through my own transition, and having traversed some tricky edit/ad terrain along the way, I can tell you the danger is minimal. Perhaps even non-existent.

First off, consumers don’t care. If the content is informative and entertaining and useful, if readers can justify the time and money spent, they’re good. Second, a smart news business understands that it cannot undermine the trust it’s established with the community. This has nothing to do with public interest or greater good. It’s about money. Trustworthy content builds an audience, and audience attracts advertisers. Kill the trust and you kill the audience; advertisers will take their business elsewhere. That’s all there is to it.

Blurring the edit/ad line within a newsroom isn’t a big deal. It’s what happens after the blurring that matters. If the Dallas Morning News cranks out great stuff and serves/educates/helps people, this can work for everyone involved. If they do something stupid — like violating trust by kowtowing to clients — they’re screwed. That’s just business, and bad businesses die.

Well, damn. DVRs aren’t so bad for advertising after all

Remember how DVRs were going to kill TV advertising real bad? Yeah … about that: Against almost every expectation, nearly half of all people watching delayed shows are still slouching on their couches watching messages about movies, cars and beer….

Remember how DVRs were going to kill TV advertising real bad? Yeah … about that:

Against almost every expectation, nearly half of all people watching delayed shows are still slouching on their couches watching messages about movies, cars and beer. According to Nielsen, 46 percent of viewers 18 to 49 years old for all four networks taken together are watching the commercials during playback, up slightly from last year. Why would people pass on the opportunity to skip through to the next chunk of program content?

I love the explanation for this seemingly impossible turn of events:

The most basic reason, according to Brad Adgate, the senior vice president for research at Horizon Media, a media buying firm, is that the behavior that has underpinned television since its invention still persists to a larger degree than expected.
“It’s still a passive activity,” he said. [Emphasis added.]

Sure is! Never underestimate the power of passivity.

The New York Times deserves kudos for writing this story because, far too often, the Chicken Little projections of execs and analysts are left unchecked. Consumer behavior and disruptive technologies are moving targets, so remember that the next time the latest iPhone killer or Kindle killer or ad killer or media killer is touted. Reality is contextual and complicated.

Early signs that content creators and platform providers aren’t on the same team

It often seems that major content companies and platform firms walk in lockstep when it comes to digital distribution, but two articles published today reveal significant philosophical differences. Here’s an excerpt from a Bloomberg story on Viacom’s uneasy relationship with…

It often seems that major content companies and platform firms walk in lockstep when it comes to digital distribution, but two articles published today reveal significant philosophical differences.

Here’s an excerpt from a Bloomberg story on Viacom’s uneasy relationship with online viewing:

Viacom has to ensure that placing television shows and films online adds to its profit, through sources such as advertising sales, subscription fees and revenue from enabling users to buy content by downloading it, [Philippe] Dauman said. The viability of such a model relies on strong intellectual property safeguards, he said. [Link added.]

And here’s a passage from an AP story looking at a similar online offering from Comcast:

Comcast executives said the company plans to generate revenue by adding more and different types of ads on the sites. But the company’s goal is not necessarily to profit from it but to keep subscribers happy enough so they don’t cut the cord or defect to a competitor. [Emphasis added.]

The content creator is worried about direct revenue from the content, while the platform provider is more concerned about keeping its subscribers happy. It’ll be interesting to monitor Comcast’s mindset if/when that NBC deal goes through.