Saturday, February 27, 2010

Week in Review

Short reads on a Saturday morning:

•  Economic news dominated the week: jobless claims went up, the stock market almost tanked before recovering somewhat, the crisis in Greece has citizens in the streets and economists on the edge of their seats. The resale homes report was a disaster, but one former exec got a $18.5 million payday just for going away.

•  While Washington went through the motions of the President's health care reform "summit" one Senator had his priorities straight: basketball rules. Senator Jim Bunning (R-Ky) decided that he was mad as hell and not going to take it any longer. So, after being forced to miss a Kentucky-South Carolina basketball game, the aging Senator put a hold on a bill that would have extended unemployment benefits. The bill, which passed the House on a voice vote, faced no opposition in the Senate.

Sen. Jim Bunning (R-Ky) shows the world his IQ.  ☞

As a result of Sen. Bunning's actions, unemployment benefits for 1.2 million Americans expire on Sunday. The Senate will not reconvene until Tuesday. "This is -- literally -- taking bread off the table of human beings," Rep. Jim McDermott (D-Wash) said. "This is turning out lights in peoples homes. This is crazy. With unemployment at nearly 10 percent and millions of families depending on this, what Bunning is doing is inexplicable."

•  The Associated Press (AP) announced it is getting into the tablet publishing game, creating a new digital unit: AP Gateway. The new division will concentrate on paid applications, and has an iPad application ready to go. "Much like the AP Mobile news product, the iPad app will show custom packages of headlines, stories, photos and video from the AP and from newspapers and broadcasters that choose to contribute their content and share the revenue. AP members also could use the same system to offer their own iPad apps that show their own content," the AP said through a release.

☜  Hang 'em high: Italian Judge Oscar Magi.

•  The tubes were still vibrating from the news out of Italy: three Google executives were held liable for a video that was posted on YouTube. The video, admittedly vile, showed a young autistic boy being bullied by a group of Italian youth. Eventually, but apparently not fast enough, the video was pulled. But the Milan court ruled that the three execs, David Drummond, senior vice-president of corporate development and chief legal officer, Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel, and George Reyes, a former chief financial officer, were guilty and were sentenced in absentia to six months in prison (In Italy, sentences of three years or less are automatically suspended.)

Silvio Berlusconi, Prime Minister of Italy, and media mogul.  ☞

The reaction was shift and pretty much unanimous: the judge is crazy. But the ruling may have its genesis in the media/political situation -- one where the media is dominated by one person, who just happens to be the Prime Minister, as well.

•  Finally, some great news (snark alert): all those layoffs are producing profits for someone. The Washington Post reported that profits quadrupled thanks to staff reductions. So obviously the move by ABC News to cut hundreds of jobs has to be seen a great news, too, right?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Photoblogging Friday - 8

It's Friday, and that means more Photoblogging Friday. Well, in this case, movie still Friday as we celebrate the premiere of the newest version of a classic: Fritz Lang's Metropolis.
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This 1927 silent classic has seen its share of comebacks. The original release premiered in Berlin at 153 minutes long. But then the Americans got hold of it and chopped the film down, simplifying (and confusing) the story line and themes. Additionally, if reports can be believed, many movie houses showed the film at the wrong speed -- showing the film at the new sound standard to 24 frames per second instead of the silent standard of 16 frames per second. This same silly mistake still takes place all the time when silent footage is used in modern documentaries.

In 2001 a restoration attempt for Metropolis was made by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung and the result was screed the following year at the Berlin International Film Festival. The running time was 124 minutes as much of the original material remained missing.

But miracle of miracles, an early 16mm copy of the film was discovered in an archive of the Museum of Cinema in Buenos Aires, Argentina and an additional 25 minutes of film could be added to the 2001 restoration. This version of Metropolis was screened outside in Berlin last week as part of this year's Berlin Film Festival. We look forward to yet another DVD release to follow.

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Understanding the differences between mobile users could help boost your mobile media efforts

AdMob, the mobile advertising company whose acquisition by Google is currently under government review, has released a new study of mobile media users and the results could come in handy for those currently entering the mobile media space.

Apple's iPhone and iPod Touch devices still dominiate the market, according to the study.  Fifty percent of all web traffic remains tied to Apple products, with Android-based phones quickly catching up.  Apple also dominates the the mobile ad "requests" market with 40.4 percent of mobile ad requests originating from Apple iPhones or iPod Touch devices. Nokia is far behind with a 16.2 share. Research in Motion's Blackberry products barely register at only 2.3 percent of requests.

(Apple recently purchased the mobile ad network company Quattro Wireless, a competitor to AdMNob.)

BBC may be ordered to trim back assets; close two radio stations; lose magazines

The Times of London is reporting that the BBC will be ordered to cut back its media assets, ending an era of expansion for the publicly funded media organization. The BBC operates under a Royal Charter and decisions concerning such moves must be approved by the BBC Trust.

According to the Times, Mark Thompson, the Director-General, will announce that digital radio stations 6 Music and Asian Network will close, and will introduce a cap on spending on broadcast rights for sports events.  A report in the Daily Mail also mentions that the recommendations include halving the size of BBC Internet efforts

The moves seem targeted to please private media companies in the UK who complain of BBC activities and expansion. Last week, the UK based National Publishers Association requested that the BBC curtail its plans to launch iPhone apps for news and sports.

The formal review and recommendations are due in March, and is seen as a preemptive move by the BBC as a potential future Tory (conservative) government is seen to move toward privatization of media assets.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Short takes on Google's Italy adventure

Was yesterday's ruling against Google a major event? Or will it be forgotten by the time the Winter Olympics end on Sunday?

For the general public -- that is, those not living in Italy -- yesterday's ruling probably won't mean much. But in the Internet industry, and much of the media industry, many believe yesterday's ruling was astounding.

The Guardian:
Italy has taken a step closer to China
Expecting Google to adopt a censorship system that automatically filters videos published online is like expecting highways companies to be incriminated for lack of traffic control at the toll booth. Of course Google should adopt the best possible technology to avoid abuses. But if someone is to control driving licences, that someone should be the police, not the highway owner. And it's about time that authorities took into account the technological problems arising from certain measures.
San Jose Mercury News editorial:
Reason to believe Google verdict in Italy will be isolated
... But the reaction — ranging from head-scratching to condemnation, even among privacy advocates — has been heartening. Despite worries the case will set a precedent in Italy or the European Union, we're hopeful that this backlash will keep other countries from following suit. It should also help persuade an Italian appeals court to rethink the verdict.

If not, the implications for free speech and commerce, at least as Americans understand them, are worrisome.
PC World:
Google's Case in Italy Was Always Lose-Lose
So in light of the Italian court decision, Google's options were to self-censor its video site (or obliterate it completely), or go to jail. Hopefully Google can win the case on appeal, and end the madness.
National Post:
Fascism alive and well? Italian court rules against Google
There is much speculation that, in a country where most private media is owned by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, and public media is controlled by the government, the real motive is not to defend the dignity of a disabled child, but to crush a competitor. The New York Times reports, 

“there is a strong push to regulate the Internet more assertively than it is controlled elsewhere in Europe. Several measures are pending in Parliament here that seek to impose various controls on the Internet. Critics of Mr. Berlusconi say the measures go beyond routine copyright questions and are a way to stave off competition from the Web to public television stations and his own private channels — and to keep a tighter grip on public debate.”
Does Italy’s Google Conviction Portend More Censorship?
Leslie Harris, the president of the influential Washington, D.C.-based Center for Democracy and Technology, argued the ruling would be used by authoritarian regimes to justify their own web censorship.

“Today’s stunning verdict sets an extremely dangerous precedent that threatens free expression and chills innovation on the global internet,” Harris said in an e-mail statement. “If the conviction is allowed to stand, it will chill the provision of Web 2.0 services that provide user-generated content platforms in Italy, and Italian internet users will find themselves without a powerful forum for free expression.

“Most troubling, what happened in Italy is unlikely to stay in Italy. The Italian court’s actions today will surely embolden authoritarian regimes and be used to justify their own efforts to suppress internet freedom.”

Losing sight of the strategy

I read this column today and thought I was in a time warp. Peter Kafka of the WSJ writes that Apple does not make much, if any, money selling music on its iTunes store. "But you won’t hear Apple boast about how much money it’s making from iTunes," Kafka writes. "Because it’s not."

Talk about a "duh" moment. Anybody that has been paying attention has known this for years. Selling music on iTunes does not not bring in millions in profits, but it does brings in boatloads of iPod (and soon, iPad) sales -- and those are very profitable indeed.

Apple sells elegantly designed, but high-priced electronic gear for those who want the best (or the coolest) stuff. You want an iPod Touch -- a device that does not make a call -- you'll have to pay $200-400. That's a lot for a music player, no? But once you own one of Apple's devices you find that you get lots of extras: from contact and e-mail apps, to music and video, to whatever the genius developers bring to the platform. Oh, and you get cheap music, too.

 iPad? No way, I got a note pad and a hat!  ☞

There seems to be a pile on strategy going on today. The WSJ's Kafka wants to show Apple is not so smart because it doesn't make a lot of money on iTunes; Damon Kiesow at Poynter loves to link to stories that warn media companies to shy away from the iPad, or Apple, in general.

Yet no one wants to talk about the strategy. In this case, Apple has gotten the music industry to offer its content cheaply so that there would be a huge demand for media players. And the music industry went along. Who are the fools here?

Actually, no one is. Apple created the store to feed the device -- brilliant. The music industry went along because the future was digital. Physical music stores were going away, and digital players were coming in. Playing nice with Apple meant lots of little transactions with very little overhead. Is this stupid? Tell you what, ask the music labels if they really want to lose all those little transactions now?

Sounds like Google's strategy, doesn't it? That is, lots of little transactions taking place bringing in billions. While the music industry was learning that its "art" was really just content, the media industry is still under the impression that they are producing irreplaceable journalism. In the meantime, the aggregators rule the roost.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Six global publishers win ruling in German court against Rapidshare; 148 works cited in lawsuit

A group of six major publishers won an injunction against Rapidshare, the Swiss-based file sharing service. The group that included McGraw-Hill, Elsevier Inc., and John Wiley & Sons, got a Hamburg, Germany court to issue the injunction which ordered Rapidshare to implement measures to prevent illegal file sharing of the 148 copyright-protected works cited in the lawsuit, which was filed on February 4, 2010.

"After spending years of my life writing and refining my book, it is truly demoralizing to see it up on an Internet share site free for download within days of publication. Companies like Rapidshare derive substantial profit by facilitating the theft of the work of others, adding no value to the creative process and providing no compensation to the creators," said Jonathan Harbour, an author and college professor whose book on gaming was among those cited, in a statement.

"This ruling is an important step forward. Not only does it affirm that file-sharing copyrighted content without permission is against the law, but it attaches a hefty financial punishment to the host, in this case Rapidshare, for noncompliance. Consider this a shot across the bow for others who attempt to profit from the theft of copyrighted works online," said Tom Allen, CEO of the Association of American Publishers.

The lawsuit was filed by GEMA, a German copyright group. The suit was filed on February 4th, and the judgement orders Rapidshare to make sure book titles named in the lawsuit are no longer available for sharing on their system.

Last summer another judgement was issued by a regional court in Hamburg to ban some 5,000 music tracks from being shared. Again, that lawsuit was filed by GEMA. At the time Bobby Chang, Rapidshare's COO, said: “We do not consider the court’s decision to be a breakthrough. As other proceedings in similar disputes with GEMA have shown, there is considerable disparity amongst the individual courts in some cases.”

R.R. Donnelley narrows loss in fourth-quarter; announces deal to buy NY printer Bowne & Co for $481 million

R.R. Donnelley & Sons Co. announced a deal to buy New York printer Bowne & Co. for $481 million as the giant printer works to cut back on printing capacity and maintain print price levels.

R.R. Donnelly also announced fourth-quarter results losing $78.6 million on the quarter as revenue slid 7.6% to $2.58 billion.

A cycle of losses and attempts to maintain print prices is running into a cross current of publisher ad page declines, reduced folios and circulation. Last year Donnelley attempted to purchase Quebecor World. In January Quad/Graphics announced that it would purchase the company, which is now called World Color Press.

Three Google executives convicted in Italian court; held liable for video uploaded to its YouTube site

A court in Milan, Italy convicted three Google executives today for violating Italian privacy laws. The judge, Oscar Magi, ruled that a video that showed an autistic boy being beaten and bullied by four students violated the rights of the victim and that Google should have reviewed the video prior to posting.

The video was posted on September 8, 2006 and remained online until pulled down by Google on November 7, 2008. Approximately 20 hours of video in uploaded to YouTube every minute according to a YouTube blog post from last year.

Google reacted immediately to the ruling, calling it a "serious threat to the web in Italy".

"(W)e are deeply troubled by this conviction for another equally important reason. It attacks the very principles of freedom on which the Internet is built. Common sense dictates that only the person who films and uploads a video to a hosting platform could take the steps necessary to protect the privacy and obtain the consent of the people they are filming," Google VP and Deputy General Counsel Matt Sucherman wrote on the Googleblog.

☜  David Drummond, Google senior vice president, said "I intend to vigorously appeal this dangerous ruling. It sets a chilling precedent." (Photo: Google)

"European Union law was drafted specifically to give hosting providers a safe harbor from liability so long as they remove illegal content once they are notified of its existence. The belief, rightly in our opinion, was that a notice and take down regime of this kind would help creativity flourish and support free speech while protecting personal privacy. If that principle is swept aside and sites like Blogger, YouTube and indeed every social network and any community bulletin board, are held responsible for vetting every single piece of content that is uploaded to them — every piece of text, every photo, every file, every video — then the Web as we know it will cease to exist, and many of the economic, social, political and technological benefits it brings could disappear.," Sucherman wrote.

Four Google executives were tried in absentia. Held liable were David Drummond, senior vice-president of corporate development and chief legal officer, Peter Fleischer, global privacy counsel, and George Reyes, a former chief financial officer.

Google video marketing executive, Arvind Desikan, was charged with defamation but cleared.

The three Google employees do not face jail time, despite the fact that the judge sentenced each to six-month sentences, as prison sentences of less than three years are automatically suspended in Italy.

TargetSpot partners with Slacker to stream ads on mobile media; TargetSpot team will sell the spots

TargetSpot Inc. announced the introduction of a new mobile advertising platform, as well as an advertising partnership with Slacker radio. TargetSpot will serve audio advertising to mobile applications on the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry smartphones.

“We believe mobile audio will become one of fastest growing segments in digital advertising,” said Eyal Goldwerger, CEO of TargetSpot. “Google and Apple have made significant investments in mobile display advertising and TargetSpot is committed to bringing to the market the final major missing component - mobile audio ads. Our unique ability to effectively target mobile consumers will be of great value to advertisers.”

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Flash Wars continue: Adobe promotes its Flash 10.1 and Adobe AIR for tablet publishing

With pre-orders about to be accepted for Apple's Flashless new iPad tablet, this would be a good time to remind publishers what they could be missing it neither Flash, nor Adobe's AIR platform will work on the iPad.

Here is a video, admittedly a bit biased as it was produced by Adobe, that promotes the company's new Flash products.  The video features an interview with Neil Trevett, Vice President of Mobile Content for NVIDIA Corp., a leading graphics technology company out of Santa Clara, Calif.

This video, along with Wired magazine's demo of their tablet publishing vision which uses Adobe AIR, can be seen on the TNM's YouTube Channel.  (Warning: the featured video has a rather loud soundtrack to it.) Last week, TNM reported that using Adobe AIR and its conversion tools could be a way around the lack of Flash support in Apple's iPad.

Finally: on-demand publishing makes headway

The Computer History Museum (CHM) announced that users will now be able to find and print their publications on-demand using Hewlett Packard's MagCloud service.

"By leveraging MagCloud's print-on-demand platform, the Museum can reach and engage a larger, global community by enabling easy access to high-quality content and providing individuals the ability to order personal printed copies on a one-off basis at an economical price," the Museum wrote in a release.

CHM publications that will be available on-demand include Core Magazine, CHM's annual publication which includes images from the Museum's Collection and articles written by curators, scholars and industry pundits, the Visibile Storage Calendar, and 1401, a commemorative booklet concering the IBM 1401 Data Processing System (1959).

In other on-demand printing news, RPI, a company focused on personalized manufacturing and fulfillment for the consumer print-on-demand market, announced it will implement Xerox Corporation's iGen4(TM) Press into its product lines.

"With the iGen4 presses, we not only increase our flexibility in meeting on-time customer delivery -- we can do it more efficiently and cost-effectively, thanks to the automation and streamlined maintenance. Given our increased order volume produced on tighter timelines for personalized print products, the iGen4 will be instrumental in meeting consumer desires with new products and a shorter time to delivery," said Rick Bellamy, CEO of RPI.

At the intersection of branding and censorship, Apple acts to protect its brand by cleaning up the iTunes app store

Apple recently began deleting applications from its iTunes app store that the company considers objectionable -- that is, that contains "overtly sexual content".  The move has been received differently by consumers, developers and media. As one MacRumors reader said, "Good. You have to draw the line somewhere."

"It came to the point where we were getting customer complaints from women who found the content getting too degrading and objectionable, as well as parents who were upset with what their kids were able to see," Phil; Schiller, head of Apple marketing told the New York Times. So far Apple has removed around 5,000 apps from the iTunes store based on "objectionable material".

Developers are not happy with the move, though it should be said that developers had been increasingly unhappy with Apple app approval process.

Jon Atherton, the developer behind Wobble iBoobs, received a letter from Apple stating "Your application, Wobble iBoobs (Premium Uncensored), contains content that we had originally believed to be suitable for distribution. However, we have recently received numerous complaints from our customers about this type of content, and have changed our guidelines appropriately."

Followed by the hammer: "We have decided to remove any overtly sexual content from the App Store, which includes your application."

Marketers RFPs increasingly include app inventory and capabilities according to AdAge

Nothing spurs action among publishers like the fear of being left off an ad schedule. Need to give away Internet advertising in order to win that quarter page schedule? Done.

But now, according to AdAge, marketers are increasing asking about a publisher's mobile capabilities. Expect this trend to continue. (It should be noted that the article provided no proof of this claim, so at this point all evidence is anecdotal.)

In an article primarily supporting the notion that readers will pay for mobile before paying for online, the author, Nat Ives, talks about how paid apps have already achieved consumer acceptance.  Time Inc,. executive John Squires states "We really believe that it's going to be immersive, it's going to be friendly to brand-building and it's going to have incredible impact against consumers, plus some really great metrics."

But if ad agencies really do begin to regularly include mobile inquiries, the floodgates will be open as publishers rush to make sure they look good on those RFPs.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Zinio follow-up: challenge of ad sales for digital magazines remains educating advertisers and publishers

Here's a quick follow-up to this story from this morning concerning the Kia Motors ad buy in Zinio's new ad network, ZPAN.

I spoke to Jeanniey Mullen, Chief Marketing Officer for Zinio, about the new ad network, and the fact that Zinio was selling advertising into digital magazines that use the Zinio digital service. Mullen confirmed that the agreement to accept advertising is separate from that of using Zinio, in general.

"Zinio doesn't necessarily have a whole team of ad reps that on the street trying to sell advertisers as much as we're showcasing the Zinio solution to advertisers and they're asking us if we can help expand our network. Its something we're very careful of about trying not to get in the way of an ad buy, or cutting down the ad rates at all. That's certainly not our intention," Mullen told me.

Mullen said the company tries to stay away from traditional categories, and that digital magazine buys are by category, not individual title.  Additionally, the ads are not sold on impressions, but are based on open magazines -- as opposed to a CPO or CPC model.  Once sold, publishers are informed of the buy and can choose to accept or decline the order.

Mullen said that because this type of advertising is a hybrid of print and digital, she would like to see advertisers take advantage of the interactive nature of digital magazines. Mullen said she'd love to hear advertisers say "I want this ad to go in print, and I want this ad to go in digital, and to come up with their own dynamic ad. That's the best thing that could come out of this, whether Zinio gets any money for it or not."

"Maybe there's a way we can help as magazines transform into this digital future, and go live on the iPad, Android, the iPhone and all these devices that are coming out," Mullen said.

New York Times execs: don't call it a paywall

It's not a paywall, it's a metered solution: at least that is what Janet Robinson, the president & CEO of the New York Times, would like readers to believe. But whatever it is, the Time is committed to implementing their new paid service.

The Times unveiled its approach at a paidContent conference in New York.

One weakness to the Times approach involves the traffic being fed into their web site from bloggers and other news sites. "For the readers who come to the 60 percent of users come from the homepage. There are people who come to the as a destination. There’s a broad group of people who come from the side doors. They’ll still be able to read for free. But at a certain point, they’ll hit a paywall and they’ll become subscribers," said Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr.

The problem is that this does not take into account the fact that bloggers would be the one who would have to pay, then link the stories for their readers. But if experience with TimesSelect is any guide, bloggers may not only be loath to pay for a subscription, but may not directly link, either.

Nevertheless, the Times clearly wants to balance traffic, advertising with subscription revenue -- showing a sensitivity to losing ad revenue if the doors are closed tightly. Is this a pragmatic approach? Or simply a political solution that somewhat satisfies the conflicting interests at the Times? If reports of conflicts over iPad pricing are true, it may simply be a way Times management can present these new media opportunities to internal constituencies.

Kia Motors signs up for 45 digital magazine buy with Zinio; first significant sell for ZPAN, Zinio's ad network

Kia Motors announced today that they have purchased a wide reaching advertising campaign for its Sorento CUV, with ads appearing in 45 digital magazines, across 15 publishers. The buy is a first for Zinio's Publisher Advertising Network (ZPAN), Zinio's own network.

"Teaming with digital-publishing pioneer Zinio, this innovative campaign furthers Sorento's tagline – 'a departure from the expected' – by exposing the Kia brand to a wide variety of readers across iconic magazine brands," said Michael Sprague, vice president of marketing, KMA, in a press release. "ZPAN enables Kia Motors to convey Sorento's impressive attributes in a new digital format, generating consumer awareness in fresh, innovative and unexpected ways."
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The release does not specify, of course, whether the program was discounted, or even paid for at all -- a question to be asked with all start-ups and first "sales". Nonetheless, the buy is another demonstration of the fact that publishers are willing to surrender ad sales to new networks established by their third party vendors. The publishers involved in the first sale included Active Interest Media, Bonnier Corporation, Hachette Filipacchi Media, Hearst Magazines, Source Interlink Media, VIV Publishing and Ziff Davis Media.

"Historically, advertisers have loved what magazines provide: big, attractive, full-color ads with fixed placements," said Zinio Chief Marketing Officer, Jeanniey Mullen. "Zinio has created a way to reinvent the full-page spread, digitally and dynamically, with the introduction of ZPAN. Kia Motors' commitment to providing the most innovative reading experience made the company the perfect match for our launch."

A demo of the advertising campaign can be found on the Zinio site.