IM tv

The new TV is a lot more social. Really. That’s why every new fancy-schmancy TV client (yep, forget about tv sets) is adding Instant Messaging to its services. Joost has got it. Microsoft’s XBox for IPTV has got it. Just watch the show and chat it up. Way cool, isn’t it? Or, maybe not.

Fair enough: IM’ing whilst watching Lost not only sounds kinda convincing. It’s happening anyway. But on completely separated devices. You watch the show on your tv set. Your logorrhoea is restricted to your PC. XBox and Joost are putting everything into one basket. Nice. But troublesome.
Think screen real estate: PAL and NTSC tubes have about the same resolution as a 1994 PC, interlace the picture, and if you want to make static text really readable, you have to use billboard like type sizes.
Think privacy: watching tv at its best is shared watching, not Lonelyguy57 vegging on his couch (just me and my Bud). IM (usually) is a more private endeavour. Do you really want to open up you IM account to everybody whose just happening to hang around with you? And whose the one who’s going to use the keyboard?
Think usage: the not so well hidden secret is is how people are watching it. Because they’re not watching. My late grandmother’s viewing habits might be a good example for how people tend to use tv. I guess sometimes she really switched channels, but usually she didn’t care anyway as long as the loudspeaker was turned up to Iron Maiden/Motörhead-levels (as you might guess, she was a little bit hard of hearing).
Because TV, like radio, is mostly used as a background noise generator. It pushes tidbits of information, entertainment, and you name it onto a blaring, flickering device somewhere in your living room. Sometimes it triggers a reaction, and you’ll have a look. But mostly, you don’t watch tv, you use it.

Blaming Steve

May you live in interesting times. Naughty Steve tells the pop execes what’s wrong, and some are steaming. The probleme is. Steve Job’s arguments are rather flawless. And his contrarians sometime have to hide their real feelings behind the officialy rigid copororate points of view.

Jobs argument goes like this:
– The iPod plays music. The majors only want them to sell restricted music. They have a rather convincing 70% market share. So Apple offers DRM.
– Consumers don’t like restricted music that much. So they want to rip their CDs (In 2006, under 2 billion DRM-protected songs were sold worldwide by online stores, while over 20 billion songs were sold completely DRM-free and unprotected on CDs by the music companies themselves) and put them on their iPods. So Apples offers MP3.
By popular vote, consumers are filling up their iPods with unrestricted stuff (just 3% of the music listened to on iPods is bought at iTunes). Voilá: Forget about the DRM-thingy as the phantastic lock-in of the Apple iPod customer.

So why is Apple the undisputed leader in music download sales. And making gazillions with their shiny little iPods? Other people are selling downloads, too. As other companies built cutesy music players.
Music has always been a software/hardware business. That’s why Sony still owns a major part of a major label. The old thinking went like this: Own the software (A.K.A. music), push your hardware (your real money maker). Unfortunately, the walls of this fortress made out of love, money and eternal happiness crumbled a couple of years ago. The dematerialization of music (ooops, there goes the CD) lowers the barriers of entry into the music player market. Step into any electronics discounter, and you’ll find USB-sticks with head phones attached. Because technically speaking, all you need for a music player is storage and some cheapo computing power.
But now comes to the tricky part. The user interfaces. Yes, interfaces. Because you need two. One for the player (if it’s not just a sub standard iPod shuffle-like music stick). And one for the PC, which feeds/syncs with your player.
Ever tried Sony Connect? Do you think Windows Media Player is a masterpiece of usability? Here we go. iTunes is far from perfect. But it’s holy trinity of player, PC and managing software seems refined enough to make consumers stay. Of course, the brand isn’t that bad, either.

But is this a lock in? Probably not. Let’s have a look at the German market. The download market leader seems to be Deutsche Telekom’s musicload. Well, tons of tv advertising should have at least some effect. Now let’s look at the portable music player market. In 2006, 22% of all households now do own a portable MP3 player (up from 14% in 2005). High penetration you’ll find in the higher income bracket. Lower income brackets are finally slowly taking on.
This means: the early adopters are in Apple’s core market. The downscaling already starts. And with virtually all mobile handsets becoming equipped with removable storage and MP3 players, the scene will change dramatically anyway (Hello iPhone).
But let’s come back to the Jobesian argumentation. His point is clear and simple: we don’t want or need no steenkin’ DRM. And you guys just think you do. And why is this all coming up? It happened at Midem. Some industry execs couldn’t get stopped talking about DRM. Some people couldn’t get stopped talking about execs talking about DRM.
And with <a href="Midem“>The NY Times / Herald Tribune jumping in, the whole thing started to become really public. Because, as stated before: the public doesn’t like DRM either.

Bill sez: DRM s*cks

Well, of course he didn’t. But he meant it. Or how would you explain an advice like this, while meeting the politburo of the US blogosphere: People should just buy a CD and rip it. You are legal then. As Techcrunch’s Michael Arrington notes.

Now, what is this all about. DRM is a well loathed acronym of the digital entertainment world. Depending on your point of view, it either stands for Digital Rights Management. Meaning, as a publisher you can remotely control the access to digital data. Or Digital Restriction Management. Meaning, it’s a stupid/devious scheme to extend a business model of the 15th century (Johannes Gutenberg invents European movable type printing, thereby enabling mass media production) into the 21st century, which causes immense collateral damage.

To be honest, I understand both positions. Probably the most important digital media topic right now is the question of the content value chain. It’s a nice thing, that now everybody can get worldwide distribution. It would be even nicer, if this distribution could be monetized. In the current setup, producing user generated content means you become an active member of the attention economy. Attention economy always means, that all your efforts will pay out, if you get enough attention of a player with a more tradtional economic approach. It’s the American Idol model. Lots of people give their heart and soul, accept the possibility of public humiliation, to finally get an intern job at a global whatever conglomerate.

I theory, DRMing digital content would transform an infinitesimaly copyable digital file into ressource of virtual scarcity. Transforming it into a sellable good. Sounds good. Unfortunately, this just theory. In it’s current setup, DRMed content is cumbersome for consumers and adds layers of cost and complexity for copyright owners: choosing a DRM, licensing a DRM, paying for DRM – and paying for 1st level customer support, because the consumer does neither understand the tech nor the legal licensing stuff involved. And it can get worse. Just ask Sony BMG about its brilliant idea to infect consumer computers with black-hat-hacker-style root kits.

Of course, DRM is about Digital Restriction Management. Take a freely accessible set of data. Shrinkwrap it using DRM. And whoosh, you’ve restricted the total accessabiliy, and made those restrictions manageable, too. The concept is of course highly attractive. Let’s say, if you put some sensitive data on an intranet. In mass media, there a two different proponents. Traditional media companies, wanting to protect their traditional business model. And governements from überdemocratic countries like China and Iran. And that’s where the collateral damage starts. Because unfortunately, if you really want to shrinkwrap some media into a closed shop, you have to include pretty much all devices which potentially might be used to play such a file.

Which translates into: for protecting a nice old business model we put everything in place to jumpstart a dystopian surveillance society, modeled after Orwell’s 1984 and the East-German Stasi.

But I think, it really stands for Does it Really Matter. Correct me if I’m wrong. But even in a totally shrinkwrapped media world, you will have to leave some space for consumer produced media. Uncle Umpty will have to be able to make his dreadful birthday movies and post them somewhere in the digital realm. The next Robbie Williams will have to put some first moves and shakes onto a web site of his choice. And let’s not forget consumers. Yes, DRMed music downloads are picking up and the iPod saved the Apple. But the digital format of choice is still yer good olde MP3, no strings attached. When the Bill says: People should just buy a CD and rip it, he’s just stating the obvious. Guess where all the music is coming from, filling all those iPods. And the gazillion other MP3 devices out there in the wild, wild consumer world.

But let’s come back to the digital value chain. Is DRM evil? Nope. But it can be used for mighty evil things. So better be careful of the collateral damage. In its current implementation, DRM ist mostly stupid. Interoperability is a word consumers should not have to learn to hate (as it per se does not exist). DRM can be a nice thing in a confined setup. But it’s not a silver bullet. As a value chain of one chain link is a pretty feeble excuse for not being able to adapt to the brave new world of networked entertainment.

Podcast-ad spending

Some 9 million people will listen to a podcast this year, estimates radio research group Bridge Ratings. “If even half of that content is commercially viable, a very decent business can be built on it,” says Andy Lipset of online-radio advertising firm Ronning Lipset.

Uhum. Half of that? And what’s commercially viable anyway? Podcasts are still in the search of a business model. And without a peer to peer solution, your success will lead to immediate punishment. As your hosting provider will either charge you some bucketfuls of money for the bandwith you’re needing. Or he will cut you off.
But then. Yer good ole radio works well, because spectrum is scarce and even if you broadcast utter nonsense, you’ll never have more than a handful of competitors.
And the ad spending forecasts for podcasts are a bit humbling, too. Research company eMarketer predicts that podcast-ad spending will hit $80 million this year and $300 million by 2010. But that’s not much when compared with the $20 billion spent annually on traditional radio advertising, and some observers say even those estimates may be high.

Via – Who’s Paying For Podcasts?


People don’t listen (to radio) any more. Well, of course that’s not true. But the old Video Killed The Radio Star-melodram hasn’t been in effect, well, during car rides (for some pretty obvious reasons). Seems like, in the last three years, in-car radio has been battling a new enemy. The chatter of people on their mobile phones. Research shows: commuters listened to the radio 6 minutes shorter now than they did three years ago. And they’re spending three more minutes on the phone. So yes, cars are the phone booths of today. The average duration of a call inside a vehicle is 4 minutes and 21 seconds. On the other hand, all other mobile phone calls last 3 minutes and 15 seconds on the average. OK. The real enemy of radio aren’t dashboard MP3 players. But the people themselves. A fact, the music industry knows since quite some time …

Via Mobile Mag – Mobile phones cutting into in-car radio listening