Stories Making Headlines in Digital and Social Media News This week

3I pulled the social and digital media headlines from across the interwebs so you wouldn’t have to. Here’s what you need to know to get up to date this week..

Fast Company: How Periscope, Meerkat, and Snapchat Will Change How TV Covers News, Sports, and Weather – The $70-billion-a-year television business (in the U.S.) has been under attack from all sides—Amazon, Netflix, YouTube, and other services are all stealing attention (and revenue). But amid the shift to on-demand entertainment, traditional TV has doubled down on what only it can offer: live events, particularly news, sports, and weather. Easy-to-use, mobile live-streaming services could upend what has been the last sacrosanct aspect of the TV industry. This doesn’t necessarily mean doom and gloom for TV networks; in fact, it creates a universe of fascinating possibilities for them to reimagine their businesses. [ED NOTE: Just last week my media partner and I did a Periscope, Meerkat and LiveStream event for a Baltimore Reporters Roundtable. These easy to use platforms made the programming accessible and allowed my Digital Media Mavens partners and I to share our content across platforms in ways that would have been impossible just a few short months ago. You can watch an archive of the live stream here.

CopyBlogger: The Disgustingly Simple Rule for Web Writing That’s Often Hard to Swallow – Web users are mission-minded. Cramped for attention. Bent on standards. And uninterested in learning new navigation methods. What you have to remember is that people don’t go to the web to window shop. They go there to drive 60 miles per hour — and look at billboards. Thus, there’s only one good reason why you should learn how to write clear, concise and compelling copy for the web… [ED NOTE: If you need some tips who writing for your blog, you can check out my blog post, I BLOGGED FOR 21 DAYS STRAIGHT. HERE’S WHAT I LEARNED]

Mashable: Facebook Messenger now gives context about the people contacting you. – To make new connections less jarring, Facebook Messenger is introducing a new feature on Thursday that gives you bits of information about someone messaging you for the first time, whether the person is one of your Facebook friends or not. The Messenger team is rolling it out to iOS and Android users in the U.S., UK, France and India over the next few weeks. [ED NOTE: That’s not creepy. Not creepy at all. You know I’m kidding… right]

More of Facebook, because, well, it’s FACEBOOK!

Re/code: Microsoft, Facebook, Google And The Future Of Voice Communications – All of a sudden, it seems like Facebook, Google and Apple are climbing all over each other to own the voice interaction, and specifically, the phone conversation. They’re in a race to compete in the most valuable part of “social” — as if they’ve forgotten, until now, just how much humans ultimately value one-on-one conversation.

Dealing with Diversity and Tech… or the lack thereof


There is no shortage of conversations surrounding Blacks In Tech at SXSW 2012. Day one kicked off with the panel Blacks in Silicone Valley: The Aftermath.

In CNN’s fourth installment of their “Black In America” series, CNN anchor and special correspondent Soledad O’Brien explored “The New Promised Land, Silicon Valley.”

Over the course of nine weeks, O’Brien followed a technology-focused accelerator program designed to help eight African-American digital entrepreneurs, who share a three-bedroom house in Mountain View, Calif., in an effort to secure funding to establish their businesses.

At SXSW, O’Brien brought together a handful of those digital entrepreneurs to talk about the aftermath of the show. The biggest takeaway? While Blacks in tech have come a long way, there is still a long way to go! How do we get past the diversity bias? We have to work together and become leaders.

A Profit Is Forecast in the First Year for Oprah’s Network

It’s still too early to tell but early results are in and Ophrah has yet another hit on her hands with OWN. Did we every really doubt her… come on… did we… really?

About 770,000 people tuned in on New Year’s Day for the inaugural hour of OWN, which Discovery expects to be profitable within its first year. Above, Oprah Winfrey with Christina Norman, C.E.O. of OWN, and David Zaslav, president and C.E.O of Discovery Communications.OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network About 770,000 people tuned in on New Year’s Day for the inaugural hour of OWN. Above, Oprah Winfrey with Christina Norman, C.E.O. of OWN, and David Zaslav, president and C.E.O of Discovery Communications.

Discovery Communications expects Oprah Winfrey’s cable channel to achieve profitability in its first year.

Discovery and Ms. Winfrey flipped the switch on OWN, short for the Oprah Winfrey Network, on New Year’s Day. The new channel enjoyed heavy sampling among viewers over the weekend, though executives have cautioned that they expect a bumpy ratings ride in the beginning.

Brad Singer, the chief financial officer for Discovery, said at an investors’ conference Tuesday that OWN should be “Ebitda positive” in 2011 “because of ad acceptance and good performance.”

Ebitda is shorthand for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization, and is a standard measure of operating profitability.

Discovery had previously told analysts and reporters not to expect the joint venture to turn a profit before 2012 or 2013.

Nielsen data showed that about 770,000 people tuned in for the first hour of OWN on New Year’s Day, and almost 1.2 million watched two prime-time episodes of “Season 25: Oprah Behind the Scenes,” a reality show about the last season of her talk show.

Programs that did not feature Ms. Winfrey did not fare quite as well, but OWN said that “Ask Oprah’s All Stars,” a special featuring Dr. Phil McGraw and others, attracted 968,000 viewers on Sunday night.


Internet Gains on Television as Public’s Main News Source

I have to admit, I check my newspaper apps (which seems like an oxymoron) upon rising each day. If I find a national news story particularly interesting, I’ll head to the Internet long before I turn on the TV. I even turn to a TV station’s website long before I actually watch the news on TV. So, where do you get most of your national news from and what does this say about broadcast news?

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The internet is slowly closing in on television as Americans’ main source of national and international news. Currently, 41% say they get most of their news about national and international news from the internet, which is little changed over the past two years but up 17 points since 2007. Television remains the most widely used source for national and international news – 66% of Americans say it is their main source of news – but that is down from 74% three years ago and 82% as recently as 2002.

The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 1-5, 2010 among 1,500 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, finds that more people continue to cite the internet than newspapers as their main source of news, reflecting both the growth of the internet, and the gradual decline in newspaper readership (from 34% in 2007 to 31% now). The proportion citing radio as their main source of national and international news has remained relatively stable in recent years; currently, 16% say it is their main source.

An analysis of how different generations are getting their news suggests that these trends are likely to continue. In 2010, for the first time, the internet has surpassed television as the main source of national and international news for people younger than 30. Since 2007, the number of 18 to 29 year olds citing the internet as their main source has nearly doubled, from 34% to 65%. Over this period, the number of young people citing television as their main news source has dropped from 68% to 52%.

Among those 30 to 49, the internet is on track to equal, or perhaps surpass, television as the main source of national and international news within the next few years. Currently, 48% say the internet is their main source – up 16 points from 2007 – and 63% cite television – down eight points.



Disney TV chief says talking with Google

In other Google World domination news…

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Anne Sweeney, president of Disney/ABC Television Group, speaks at the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York November 29, 2010. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Anne Sweeney, president of Disney/ABC Television Group Credit: Reuters/Brendan McDermid

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) and Google Inc (GOOG.O) are in talks that would allow ABC’s online shows to be viewed on Google TV, but the two remain far apart on piracy concerns, Disney’s TV chief Anne Sweeney told Reuters.

“It’s fair to say there’s conversation with Google,” Sweeney told Reuters and the Reuters Media Summit.

Google TV is a Web television service that lets viewers find Web content on television screens.

Last month, three networks, including CBS (CBS.N), Disney’s ABC and General Electric Co’s (GE.N) NBC blocked their programing from Google TV, which puts the Web on people’s television sets.

“More conversations are planned with them,” she said, but added, “I can’t characterize them as negotiations.”

Sweeney said the talks have been mostly focused on Disney’s concerns about piracy issues. Disney’s concern is that Google TV doesn’t completely block out all pirated content.

Read more at now blocking Google TV devices

There is a work around… “you bring up the browser menu, then go to “more”, and then “settings”. From there go to “advanced” (as seen above) and then “mode”, and finally change the user agent mode from “default” to “generic. There you have it, you may now go back to watching all of your favorite Fox shows on Google TV… that is until Fox plugs this workaround like Hulu did. Stay tuned”.

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11.11 – Update: User agent fix unblocks…for now.

Another one bites the dust. A couple of weeks ago, was atop our list of Websites that could still be accessed on Google TV to stream full episodes of content. Well, you can go ahead and cross Fox off that list, as they are now blocking Google TV devices (see the photo above).

The list of networks allowing Google TV devices to access their online content appears to be dwindling. Stay tuned.

[Cheers, Brian]


Adobe AIR Coming to TV

Now that we’ve gotten use to Smartphones… make way for SmartTVs. Watch how this plays out as both Apple TV and Google TV take their position in this area.

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Adobe AIR, a cross-platform runtime environment developed by Adobe Systems, Inc., is coming to the TV screen, the company announced today at its developer conference Adobe MAX 2010. With the launch of Adobe AIR 2.5, the software, already supported on various smartphone, tablet and desktop platforms, is being extended to televisions with the first AIR-enabled TV shipping in Q1 2011.


The Future of Television and the Digital Living Room

The future of TV & Film will be as different as the transition from radio to TV was. As is widely known “many of the earliest TV programs were modified versions of well-established radio shows.” Why wouldn’t we think that 50 years from now our initial Internet meets TV shows won’t seem just as quaint?

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Nobody can predict 100% what the future of television will be so I won’t pretend that I know the answers. But I do know that it will form a huge basis of the future of the Internet, how we consume media, how we communicate with friends, how we play games, and how we shop. Video will be inextricably linked to the future of the Internet and consumption between PCs, mobile devices, and TVs will merge. Note that I didn’t say there will be total “convergence”–but I believe the services will inter-operate.

The digital living room battle will take place over the next 5-10 years, not just the next 1-2. But with the introduction of Apple TV, Google TV, the Boxee Box, and other initiatives it’s clear that this battle will heat up in 2011. The following is not meant to be a deep dive but rather a framework for understanding the issues. This is where the digital media puck is going.

While we won’t get through all of this, here are some of the issues in the industry that I plan to bring up and ones I hope we’ll discuss tomorrow:

1. “Over the Top” video distribution–Apple TV is brand new and is priced at $99. Given how Apple’s products are normally delivered to near perfection it is likely to be a huge holiday hit this year. While their past efforts at Apple TV have been mediocre it seems clear that this time they’re really trying to get it right. That said, Apple will remain a closed system designed to drive media consumption through a closed iTunes system and a take a toll for media distribution.

apple tv The device itself will have no storage. So without my weighing into the pro’s / con’s of this I can say that I believe it will capture a large segment of the market but leave room for “open platforms” to play a big role.

Just as in the mobile battle when Apple goes closed it creates an opportunity for somebody that is substantively open. Enter Google. If you’re an OEM who wants to move more hardware but you don’t have the muscle to create an entire media ecosystem then you’re best off finding a partner who can build a software OS, app platform, and search capabilities.

So it is unsurprising to see companies like Sony, Logitech, and Intel partner with Google. Google balances the universe and helps all of the hardware, software and media companies ensure it isn’t a “one horse race.”

That said, it would be an understatement to say that traditional media is skeptical about Google’s benevolence and many fear a world in which video content margins are crushed in the way that print & music have been with the primary beneficiary having been Google. So while they enjoy a race with two major brands competing they also have three other strategies they’ll pursue.

  • they’ll try to “move up the stack” and provide some of these services themselves. Thus you see television manufacturers rushing to create content ecosystems, app platforms, TV OS’s and Internet offerings.
  • they’ll continue to partner with the MSO’s: tradition cable & satellite providers as well as the new FiOS offerings from Telcos. The MSO’s are today’s distribution platforms and they still have a lot of muscle in the ensuing years.
  • they’ll continue to look for independent technology partners. They will find the Hobbesian power relationship more palatable than strengthening what they consider their “frenemies” (Apple & Google) and as a result will work with independent players like Boxee.

I have always thought there was room for an independent success story like Boxee or someone similar. I’ve always believed that such a player would only succeed if they could capture an enthusiastic user base that feels compelled to use their platform to discover and consume content. Clearly Boxee captured the imagination of this early-mover user base 2 years ago. The launch of their new Boxee Box in November and the user acceptance of that will be telling for their future development.

2. Attempts at “moving up the stack”–In 1997 I led a project to help senior management at British Telecom define its Internet strategy. I did some market sizing analysis and wrote a strategy paper called, “It’s about the meat & potatoes, not the sex & sizzle.” I argued that if BT was focused there would be a large business in access services (dial up, ISDN and the equivalent of T1′s), hosting services and other infrastructure related products that would be very profitable and they had a great chance to corner the market on a high-market growth business.

samsung tv app storeMy paper warned of the dangers of trying to “move up the stack” and become a content company. At the time all telco’s were envious of Yahoo! and Excite in particular as well as all of the Internet companies with grandiose stock market valuations. The attitude was “I’ll be damned if those young kids are going to get rich off of our infrastructure.” Needless to say BT didn’t follow the advice of my paper and it went bananas for content deals signing a string of money-losing content partnerships. I guess shareholders would have probably punished them for being boring and prudent.

Fast forward nearly a decade and it was unsurprising to me to see the death grip that global mobile operators placed over the handsets. They threatened any hardware manufacturer with not putting anything but operator approved software on the phones. In this way they locked down the device (they controlled the phone distribution market through owning retail stores and subsidizing handset costs). The mobile operators were run largely by the same people who ran the wireline telcos a decade early and still felt screwed by the tech industry. The created a hegemony that delayed innovation until January 2007 when the iPhone was introduced.

The iPhone broke the hegemony with hardware and software that had no telco software on it–thus the Faustian AT&T / Apple iPhone deal. They both gained. They both lost. But ultimately we all won because consumers finally had enough of locked down, crappy software from telcos. Imagine how much mobile telco money still exists in meat & potatoes. Imagine if one of them had created a Skype competitor.

So entering 2011 why does this matter? I see a repeat from television manufacturers and MSO’s. They know that the world is changing and they’re shit scared of what that means for hardware and pipeline providers. The hardware manufacturers are on razor-thin margins and see that having apps on TVs will be a way to build direct relationships with consumers and built higher margin businesses. It’s hard to blame them. But none of this will stick. Not because they are bad companies–but because software is not a core competency.

They will never succeed in these businesses. And I think the smartest hardware providers & MSOs are the ones that will sign unique and daring partnerships with startup technology firms. But the whole market will develop more slowly as we watch this bum fight take place. Get your seats ringside–it will take place over the next 2-3 years.

3. The “second screen”–One of the most exciting developments in television & media to me will be “second screen” technologies built initially on iPads and extended to the plethora of devices we’ll see over the next 3-5 years. And this will be real innovation and revolutionary in the way that the iPad is, rather than just being incremental. It will involve 3D (see Nintendo’s moves, for example). You’ll likely see applications that draw you into interactive experiences, connect you to your social networks, help you browse your TV better, and create a richer media experience overall.

ipad iphone couchI think we’re in the 1st inning of second screen technologies and applications, and this movement will create whole new experiences that the 50+ crowd will lament as “ruining the TV experience.” The 15-30 crowd will feel like this is what TV was meant to be–social. In my opinion this will replicate what most of us 40+ year olds already experienced when we were in our 20′s. We’ll have the post show water cooler effect that was popular in the Seinfeld era. We’ll have simultaneous viewing parties like we did for Friends or Melrose Place. But most of it will be virtual.

4. Content bundling–When there was one pipe capable of broadband delivery leading into our house the person who controlled this could control what we saw and it was delivered in a linear timeframe. As a result it became popular to bundle content together and get us to pay for “packages” when all we really wanted was The Sopranos or ESPN. We all saw what happened when technology let us buy singles on iTunes rather than whole albums pushed by record labels. No prizes for guessing what the future holds for video. The idea of forced bundles will seem archaic. Smart companies will figure this out early. The “Innovator’s Dilemma” will hold others back. The bundle is the walking dead. Only question is how long it survives.

5. Torso TV – Television was designed for a mass audience in a single country. One of the things that has fascinated me over the past couple of years is the rise of global content and its ability to develop a “niche” global audience that is relevant. Think of about the rise of Japanese Anime, Spanish Novelas, Korean Drama, or the rise of Bollywood entertainment from India. It’s not a mass, mainstream audience but I would argue that it’s “global torso” content that will be meaningful at scale. Websites like ViiKii, which have been launched to create realtime translations of shows by fan-subbers, have huge followings already. And I’m sure that this is what popularized the SlingBox in the first place. British, India & Pakistani ex-pats on a global scale want to watch cricket.

I believe that NetFlix has won the battle for the “head end” of content from films. They have such a strong base of subscribers and their strategy of “Netflix everywhere” is brilliant. We watch it on the iPad. We pause. We turn on our TV and get it streamed through the Wii. And it’s available also on the Apple TV. It’s on Boxee. It’s effen awesome. Game over. IMO. But the torso? It’s up for grabs. And I think players like Boxee understand this is a juicy and valuable market. As does ViiKii and countless others racing to serve fragmented audiences the good stuff.

6. YouTube meets the television–It was funny to me to hear people say for years that “YouTube had no business model.” It made me laugh because it is so obvious when you capture an entire market of passionate consumers in any market–especially in video–that in the long-run it becomes a huge business. So many people are stuck in the mindset that YouTube is UGC (as defined as people uploading silly videos or watching Coke and Mentos explode) and that brands don’t want to advertise on UGC.

And meanwhile I’ve seen several L.A. startups focus on creating low-cost video production & distribution houses. They are quietly accumulating audiences in the same way that Zynga did on Facebook. And if you think that these guys can’t monetize then I’ll refer you to everybody’s arguments about games–that free-to-play would never work in the U.S. And meanwhile Zynga is one of the fastest growing companies in U.S. history.

kassem gWhat Zynga understood is that you need to go where the consumers are, capture those audiences, build a direct relationship and then diversify channel partners. This is happening in spades now on YouTube as a new generation of viewers is being served up by a new generation of TV production houses that are currently under the radar screen of many people. This will change in the next 2 years.

And as they explode and become bigger companies YouTube becomes even more of a Juggernaut. And don’t forget that as the Internet meets TV, YouTube will continue to be a brand to be reckoned with served up by Google TVs.

7. Content discovery–new metaphors–Anybody who tries to search for a program to watch on TV on an EPG (electronic programming guide) knows just how bad they are for finding “the good stuff.” And for a long time the Internet has been that way, too. The best online video search tool (in terms of usability) that I’ve seen is Clicker. By a long shot. Do a little test yourself. Trying searching for something on Hulu. Then try the same search on Clicker. Try it first for content that is on Hulu and then for content that is not. And Hulu’s search is actually reasonable.

Much of web video search is bad at finding “the good stuff” including YouTube itself. Try searching “Dora the Explorer” in YouTube and then try it on Clicker. And then try it on Hulu. I feel confident that any user trying this will not go back from Clicker (no, I’m not an investor).

But as the Internet & TV merge it will be a major fight for how you find the good stuff. Google isn’t that good at video search today. Will this change in a world of Google TV’s? Boxee prides itself on social TV & content discovery. Will their next version blow us away and be the way we search our TVs? Will the MSO / EPG world improve (answer: not likely)? What about discovering content on our TVs via Twitter or Facebook? Or some unforeseen technology? Will we discover stuff through second-screen apps?

Technology such as that being created by Matt Mireles over at SpeakerText is trying to make video transcriptions and make video more searchable and discoverable. Imagine that world. I’m sure others are focused on solving this great problem.

The amazing thing about content discovery is that it can alter what is actually viewed and thus becomes a powerful broker in the new TV era where pipes don’t have a stranglehold on eyeballs.

I have no idea who will win. I only know who won’t.


If You Can’t Beat ’em, Join ’em. Time Warner Decides To Join Forces With Google

A staggering stat (from Google) indicated that YouTube (owned by Google) has more content uploaded in 60 days then the three major TV networks broadcast in 60 years. It would stand to reason then that the networks would want to become play ball with Google. This is exactly what Time Warner Inc. is doing by playing ball with Google Inc. Not to be outdone, NBC Universal’s CNBC network and the NBA also announced they would build Google TV software applications. The plan for Google world domination continues.

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The chief executive of Time Warner Inc. said he is turning to Google Inc. as an ally in his push to bring cable shows to users across various devices and that the Web giant’s new service for accessing and searching Internet programming on TVs isn’t the threat many television distributors fear.

Jeffrey Bewkes, who oversees a company that includes the TNT, TBS and HBO cable networks, also predicted a “massive amount of competition” for Netflix Inc. and Hulu LLC as more content owners make their TV shows available through operators on demand and online and as cable and satellite companies improve their experiences.

“When all of the content on the big screen works like the content on the little screen what will happen? The programming will trump the interface,” he said.

[BEWKES] Bloomberg NewsTime Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes, shown in May, says content is still key.

Mr. Bewkes’s comments come as media executives are agonizing over which new Internet distributors to supply shows to and whether to pursue new digital distribution methods on their own. Hulu and Netflix had no comment.

Time Warner has been championing a model it calls “TV Everywhere,” allowing cable and satellite subscribers to watch the TV shows they pay for in their traditional TV bundles online, free.

Tuesday Mr. Bewkes said that Time Warner, which already has deals to enable Comcast Corp. and Verizon Communications Inc. subscribers to watch shows from its cable networks online, has or is close to finalizing similar deals with Dish Network Corp., DirecTV Group Inc., AT&T Inc. and other cable operators as well.

Monday, the company also endorsed the Google TV technology, saying it would optimize some of its television websites, including those of TNT, TBS and CNN, for viewing on TVs carrying Google TV. It said it would do the same with its HBO GO website, through which some viewers who subscribe to the premium cable channel can watch its shows online. The arrangement isn’t a business deal.

Google is working with several partners to build televisions and boxes carrying its software. Logitech International SA plans to discuss its set-top box running Google’s new software Wednesday.

NBC Universal’s CNBC network and the NBA also announced they would build Google TV software applications that provide access to content like financial news and sports scores. Other television networks—including the major broadcast networks—have largely been mum about whether they plan to work with Google’s service.



Google TV’s marketing site goes live; our questions finally get answered.

Not to be outdone by Apple TV, Google TV just rolled out thier new offering. It’s enough to make your head spin!  I have no idea what to ask Santa for now!

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It appears that Google is betting big, showing logos from CNN, TBS, CNBC and even HBO on its mock-up. The question, of course, lies in the licensing. This has been a major concern for Apple, which was only able to launch it’s latest Apple TV with the support from ABC and Fox in the US. NBC has already stated that they felt Apple’s $.99 rental price point wasn’t a good valuation of its product, so let’s cross fingers that Google can come up with an idea that works better.

So now we have the Roku box, Apple TV and of course Google TV all coming into the market. That leaves a load of choices, and Google had left us a lot of questions. While I was personally ready to pull the trigger on an Apple TV the day that it launched, both Roku and Google have made me glad that I decided to wait.


Google TV’s marketing site goes live; our questions finally get answered.

Not to be out done by Apple TV, Google TV just rolled out their new offering. It’s enough to make your head spin!  I have no idea what to ask Santa for now!

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It appears that Google is betting big, showing logos from CNN, TBS, CNBC and even HBO on its mock-up. The question, of course, lies in the licensing. This has been a major concern for Apple, which was only able to launch it’s latest Apple TV with the support from ABC and Fox in the US. NBC has already stated that they felt Apple’s $.99 rental price point wasn’t a good valuation of its product, so let’s cross fingers that Google can come up with an idea that works better.

So now we have the Roku box, Apple TV and of course Google TV all coming into the market. That leaves a load of choices, and Google had left us a lot of questions. While I was personally ready to pull the trigger on an Apple TV the day that it launched, both Roku and Google have made me glad that I decided to wait.