May 182015
 
Alibaba-corporate_offices_china_hangzhou

Streaming video service Netflix is looking to launch in China reports Bloomberg Business.

The Chinese joint venture to be run with Wasu, a company backed by Alibaba founder Jack Ma, looks to increase Netflix’s global footprint.

Netflix plans “to be nearly global by the end of 2016,” the article quotes a company spokesperson answering questions about a possible China partnership.

The Netflix model is a major departure from the established broadcast television and movie business where studios and producers would enter distribution agreements with local TV stations and theatre chains.

With Netflix and the streaming model, the licensing of rights to local outlets becomes largely irrelevant with the producers – which increasingly includes Netflix itself – able to cut out the local licensees.

A similar thing is happening in sports, one of the mainstays of broadcast television, where the professional leagues are taking control of their own content and leaving the networks, at best, minor players.

Neflix’s move is part of a shift that’s affecting many industries, including those like broadcast television that thought they were untouchable.

Mar 162015
 
Michael arrington became an unpaid blogger

Ten years after being founded YouTube is facing competition as new sites are being setup or existing video services start aggressively courting creators reports Variety magazine.

YouTube is the poster child of the user generated content movement where it’s largely unpaid contributors who generate the material that people  watch on the service.

This model works fine as long as it’s amateur cat videos people are watching but when as it becomes a big business the justification for not paying content creators becomes flimsy.

Google’s management recognised this some time back and started rolling out its own partnerships with creators to add more income than the often tiny advertising revenues most earn.

Now it turns out those popular video bloggers are being tempted over to other sites and for YouTube the cost of premium content is about to get expensive.

For the Silicon Valley businesses is requires a change of culture as they simply don’t like paying creators; in the tech startup view of the world it’s only coders, founders and few lucky support staff who get the rewards while the bulk of people who add value to the product are treated as commodity ingredients.

For a period it was difficult for media startups to get funding unless they had a free source of user generated content, as Buzzfeed founder Jonah Peretti revealed in 2012.

Tech investors prefer pure platform companies because you can just focus on the tech, have the users produce the content for free, and scale the business globally without having to hire many people.

The movie studios and record companies on the other hand have a culture of paying their artists and production staff, despite their reputation of exploitation and stinginess.

It may well be that we’re past the golden era of user generated content and the free lunch for the sites that depend upon free materials.

If it is, then standards on sites like YouTube can only improve even at the costs of Google’s profit.

Mar 122015
 
are corporations becoming the new Internet gatekeepers

Quartz magazine is held up as one of the most innovative news websites and one of the models for the future of online publishing however its president Jay Lauf suggested at the Digital Media Strategies conference in London yesterday that web users are increasingly shifting towards social sites to find their content.

This isn’t new, most sites have been dependent upon referrals from the popular social media services and companies like Buzzfeed have built their entire strategies upon traffic from Facebook.

Lauf suggests that sites like Quartz and Buzzfeed are increasingly losing control of their own audiences which raises risks for publishers and readers as they become dependent upon the social media gatekeepers.

Quartz’s traffic from LinkedIn is a good example of how a gatekeeper can control traffic with referrals falling away as the social site pivots into a publishing platform of its own.

It could turn out that control of traffic backfires however as people find those services deliver less value or relevant information.

Ultimately it may be the gatekeepers who suffer from restricting traffic as readers decide they aren’t getting the news they want.

Dec 282014
 
sensis-phone-print-phone-directory-dying-as-digital-takes-over

After twenty years the Yahoo! Directory closed down five days early reports Search Engine Land.

The rise and and fall of Yahoo!’s core product illustrates both the volatility of the web and how the underlying dynamics of the internet has changed; at the time Yahoo! Directory was launched, we were struggling the task of keeping track of all the information being posted online.

Even in those early days it was clear that task was becoming unmanageable and this was the problem Google set out to solve and its success destroyed the directory business along with a whole range of other industries.

Yahoo! Directories’ demise needs to be noted by today’s web and social media giants; just as these technologies are disrupting old industries, new businesses aren’t immune to those changes.

 

Dec 262014
 
IMG_1433.JPG

One of the ongoing tensions in the new media landscape is that between the demands of advertisers and content creators.

This isn’t a new thing as a 1959 interview between Mike Wallace and TV pioneer Rod Stering shows.

Sterling describes how pressures from networks and advertisers created often weird compromises along with a fair degree of self censorship among TV writers and producers.

Little that Sterling describes would surprise today’s online journalists, bloggers and social media influencers who find themselves subject to identical pressures today.

Oct 272014
 
the retail industry is cahnging with our shopping habits

For three months in 2007 Joe Fernandez had his jaw wired shut following surgery and found himself relying on social media for news and companionship.

Over that three months of sitting on the net Fernandez found he had become a social media influencer and the idea for Klout was born.

In many respects Klout is the classic startup in that Fernandez started with a series of spreadsheets with the algorithm being an Excel formula, something he now calls a ‘Minimal Minimum Viable Product’.

“It was super minimal,” Fernandez remembers. “When people would register for Klout, it would send me an email and I would manually download their social media data into Excel and run the algorithm and then I’d manually update their page.”

Today Klout processes fifteen billion accounts every day with data pulled from four hundred data points including 15 social media services.

Like all tools, Klout does have some limitations and Fernandez admits he gets frustrated with businesses giving priority to users with high scores, another area that concerns him is marketers who don’t examine the relevance of individuals to the business before making judgments on that person’s influence.

One of the key things that Fernandez is proud of is how Klout is spawning its own alumni in a similar way to the PayPal mafia that developed out of the payment service at the beginning of the Century.

“It’s really awesome to see people go on and take on big challenges and do different things.”

As social media develops, tools like Klout are going to become more important for businesses trying to understand how

Oct 192014
 
social media services like facebook have fan pages

The story of Whisper and the betrayal of its users continues to roll on, but the real problem is the way social media services are desperately trying to recreate the dead business model of print advertising.

Whisper’s problems with The Guardian continue as the company tries to salvage its reputation but the irony for the service is that it was trying to shoehorn its business to fit the print publishing model that the internet started to erode twenty years ago.

It’s not just Whisper; almost every social media business from Facebook to Twitter wants to be an advertiser funded publishing company, just like the newspapers of thirty years ago.

A few weeks ago I wrote about LinkedIn’s pretensions of becoming a publishing platform and this week Forbes tells of Pinterest’s adventures at the Cannes advertising festival as it sells its marketing services.

Every social media service has some sort of angle that harks back to the golden age of newspaper publishing where print advertising was a deep river of gold. Most of them want to become publishers themselves.

It would be hard to think of a service less suited to being a media company than Whisper; but then there’s Yelp whose main business of reviewing eating houses and bars seems to be totally at odds with newspapers of yore.

On the Salesforce PayPal Media panel last week, Yelp! Founder Jeremy Stoppelman was asked if he saw the restaurant review site as being a media company, his response was “sure, it’s a blogging platform.”

So we have new media aping the old media business models where these platforms try to lock users into information silos; in the same way that a London Times reader would never buy the Sun.

The problem with that is the internet broke down the geographic barriers and today a Sun reader in London can just easily find celebrity gossip on TMZ and the broadsheet reader might find more thoughtful analysis in the New York Times.

Certainly someone browsing the web for restaurant reviews might find a better site than Yelp while a bride researching wedding dresses could just as easily find ideas on Facebook as much as Pinterest.

In reality, social media sites have nothing of the stickiness of the old fashioned newspapers in the days before the internet.

Of the social media services it might be that Facebook is the best placed to succeed as an old media publishing service with its advertising smarts pushing messages to its diverse and deep user base but that isn’t certain given the widespread user dissatisfaction with its news feed.

For the social media services much of the problem – -particularly for Facebook – lies in their contradictory aims; they are trying to be identity services, buying platforms, publishing services and advertisers.

For publishers that balance between content and advertising was always a delicate one; and one that shifted over time. For online services that balance is far more complex and the future far less certain.

One thing that is clear Is those contradictory aims aren’t going to be easy to reconcile and the quandary may prove to be insurmountable.

What’s clear though are the advertising models of the future are still waiting for a David Sarnoff moment.