Saturday, June 5, 2010

Week in Review

Short reads on a Saturday morning:

A rather uneventful week compared to last week, which saw the introduction of the iPad internationally, and next week, which will see a new iPhone introduced on Monday. So we'll bookend this Week in Review with the topic of the upcoming WWDC.

• WWDC: I don't expect that the new iPhone, or the new iPhone OS, will have much of an impact on the media world -- those developments have already occurred. The new iPhone is expected to have a front facing camera which will come in handy for those small number of people who will use it for video conferencing, as well as a flash on the backside. The new OS will introduce multitasking and tethering -- all important elements for users, but hardly ground breaking for media.
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I suppose the biggest addition to the iPhone OS4 will be iAd, Apple's new ad platform which the company hopes will be used as a way of creating a better user experience on the iPhone (and, I suppose, the iPad, as well). From my perspective, the non-content perspective, I think the best sales team will win the mobile advertising battle. Because of that belief, I wouldn't bet against the AdMob/Google team. As one of the last people in media business, it seems, who still is a strong advocate for sales, I think getting advertisers onboard will be thing that makes the difference. In Apple's favor, however, is the fact that iPhone users are heavy users of the Internet -- and that according to AdMob -- meaning that if you are an advertiser you had still better be on the iPhone if you actually want to reach customers. This may change significantly if and when an Android-based tablet is introduced.

• Blogger proves his worth: the NYT announced on Thursday that they had entered into a partnership with Nate Silver and his FiveThirtyEight blog. The blog will be absorbed into the Times website (with its won URL) and Silver will become a contributor to the Times. As I wrote later that day, this is a wise move and should be emulated by other publishers.

• Ziff Davis will be changing hands again, and once again will be owned by a private equity firm -- this time Great Hill Partners. But unlike the infamous Ziff sale of 1994, in which Softbank paid an eye-popping $71.4 billion, this sale will leave the company without debt and run by former Time Inc. executive Vivek Shah.

"This is an unusual opportunity to acquire a recognized category leader with a very deep team of talent that has already fully transitioned to digital,” said Shah, on the Ziff Davis website. “Ziff Davis is an incredible foundation off which to build an exciting new digital media company focused on delivering fantastic content to our audience and unprecedented opportunities to marketers.

Ziff Davis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in April of 2008 when it was reportedly $225 million in debt. Since then the company has been owned by its creditors. The total lists of brands associated with the company has shrunk considerably over the years. If the acquisition can lead to a more nimble company, capable of launching its own titles and apps, then the sale should prove profitable for Great Hill Partners. But if this is about exploiting the PC market . . .

• Most in the media-watch world had their eyes on the WSJ's D8 conference -- so named because it was the eight All Things Digital conference held. I would have loved to attend the conference simply because it was held in Rancho Palos Verdes, Calif. I used to live nearby when I worked for Hearst at the L.A. Herald Examiner -- it's a truly beautiful location, and still in L.A. County.

But as far as news was concerned it was a snooze. Everyone tried to make a big deal out of the words that came out of the mouths of various CEOs, but there were really no revelations. The best that can be said is that the CEO talks reinforced the prevailing views: Steve Jobs came off confident, single-minded; Steve Ballmer came off lost, bitter and desperate; Rupert Murdoch came with notes.

• It is increasingly hard to get the big tech companies to playball with the media events folk. In the past year Apple has pulled out of MacWorld (still an amazing thought) and both Google and Apple have begun making their big product announcements at their own developer conferences.

Google, which held its I/O event a couple of weeks ago, announced so many new things that it was impossible to keep up -- crowning their event, I suppose, with their Google TV announcement.  Apple's WWDC10 starts Monday at the same venue that Google used, Moscone Center. (Apple doesn't normally put a number after "WWDC", but who could resist using "10", such a nice round number).

Developer conferences are usually of less interest to the general public. Their purpose, after all, is to introduce changes to code and other technical matters. But they are also of far more lasting importance. In January 2007, Apple introduced its iPhone at MacWorld; but in June of 2008 Apple introduced iPhone apps and the app store at that year's WWDC. This year will come iAd, as mentioned above, and possibly more -- we'll see Monday morning. See you there.

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