Sips from the Firehose
A blog that seeks to filter the internet into a refreshing, easily-gulped beverage


Sep 02

Janine Warner shows off top 10 new Dreamweaver CS5 features

Posted: under Design, New Marketing, Web Tech.
Tags: , ,

Janine played to a packed house at Photoshop World. Apologies for the muddy pic and the brevity of posts, but I am in info-overload mode.

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Aug 31

Premiere Pro Demo at Photoshop World

Posted: under Online (Multi)Media, Online Video, Video, Web Tech.
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Great presentation today about the explosion in using DSLRs to shoot video.

Learned some cool workflow stuff from the Adobe Premiere Pro product managers.

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Jul 20

Mobile Web Design for Dummies — DONE!!!(eleven)1!

Posted: under Mobile marketing, Mobile Web Design, Web Tech.
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UPDATED WITH NEW COVER: Like any project, the last 5% takes 50% of the effort. So here is the new&improved cover of the book, which shows the essence of what we want to communicate — that it is possible (if you take the time and know what you’re doing) to achieve a consistent good design look&feel, even across a variety of mobile devices.
While this does not quite rank up with “Our long national nightmare is over…” I assure you that the relief that Janine and I feel over finally putting the finishing touches on the book we’ve been co-writing for the last six months is truly special. We knew going in that writing about designing web pages for mobile devices was going to be a difficult and intense task — but we didn’t know it was going to be THIS difficult.
Cover of Mobile Web Design for Dummies book by Janine Warner and Dave LaFontaine

Contrary to what you might see on Amazon.com, this is what the cover of our new book will look like.

But the upheaval and changing standards in the mobile web space in just the last year have been, from a designer’s perspective, a real handful. What was once the conventional wisdom – create a dumbed-down, simple website that will work on any device – has been supplanted by a much more nuanced approach, involving using sophisticated scripts to detect what device is accessing your site, looking up what technology that device supports in a vast (you hope) database, matching your content to the capabilities of the device (that means video in Flash, 3GP or MP4 formats), and then assembling a site on-the-fly and delivering it quickly and cleanly.

If the struggles of Apple with their antenna (see the Mobile Web Design Blog for more on this) have provided us with a stunning example of how even the market-leading mobile device company can stumble, well, trust me, we have had our moments these last few months. I’ve felt like the digital/authorial equivalent of Dr. Stanley searching for Dr. Livingstone, hacking my way through the dense underbrush of acronyms like WAP, WML, 3GPP, LTE, GIS and many more guaranteed to make your head spin.

We have worked extremely hard to ensure that the book is as current and accurate as possible; re-reading it one last time before it went to the presses last week was a real moment of pride for us both. We are going to deliver some real value to both designers that want to figure out how to jump on the mobile bandwagon, and for business owners who want to look beyond the “Gotta get an App!” frenzy that is leading so many down what is increasingly apparent as a blind alley.

By the way – the cover illustration above is only the placeholder – we redesigned it to feature our grinning faces. At least in Janine’s case, it should help spur casual walk-by sales (cue soundeffect: “Awwww…”).

We now return to your regularly scheduled online media-commentary snarking. The last six months have kept me hopping so much that I’ve really had to de-prioritize my blogging. I’m looking forward to being able to devote some more time to writing about all the developments in the content monetization & distribution space.

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Jan 23

Bookworms love the new Nook e-reader

Posted: under E-ink devices, Mobile advertising technology, monetizing mobile content, Multimedia, new media, Platform obsession, Web Tech.
Tags: , ,

Setting a couple of bookworms loose to play with the next generation e-readers is like setting Augustus Gloop loose in the Wonka Chocolate factory.

The first thing that strikes you about the Nook is how much *faster* it is than the Kindle. And Janine loved the touchscreen. More video to come on Digital Family.

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May 15

Micropayments and Unintended Consequences: See LUN in Santiago, Chile

Posted: under Digital Migration, Newspaper Deathwatch, Newspapers, Web Tech, Webconomics.
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Over at The Digitalists, the question of “What would micropayments mean for journalists?” was raised.

Well, there are two schools of thought to this.  The first is the one that was espoused there:

What exactly do these people think that newspaper execs will do with
data showing exactly how profitable every single article is? Just sit
on that information? Or will they use it to make business decisions
about which departments, types of articles and individual journalists
are delivering the most ROI? “Sorry, Woodward, we know you won the
Pulitzer last year, but your articles only generated $97.85 in revenue,
so we’re going to have to let you go.” Of course, it wouldn’t just
influence the executives. Journalists themselves would start shading
their stories to what sells, and the most successful would be the ones
who were the best salespeople (or who knew the most tricks). Get ready
for a lot less zoning-board recaps and a lot more “Top 10 Sexual
Positions.”

You can see one example of this over at the Santiago, Chile daily Las Ultimas Noticias, where the publisher started to let the tail wag the dog — that is, the stories that garnered the most clicks on the website would be the ones given the biggest play in the paper edition the next day.

Also, the stories that got lots of attention would lead to follow-ups. The upshot of this was that the coverage did start to resemble a deranged issue of Maxim magazine.

Business news? “Picture of Women Executives Working Out & Getting Sweaty”

Political news? “Vote on Whether Japanese Women Have Cute Butts.”

Religious news? “Priest Develops the ‘Catholic Kama Sutra.”

…and so on.

But before everyone starts jumping on the already-crowded “I Told You So” train, LUN was always a bit of a downmarket paper.  They were #8 out of 8 daily newspapers in Santiago, Chile.  So their core, and the people they attracted with their marketing blitz, were readers that were not already dedicated to the bigger papers, such as El Mercurio and La Tercera.

And yes, LUN did vault from last to first, and a big part of this was the aggressive strategy.

But since then, LUN has been branching out in its coverage; they no longer have T&A on every page.  They have the core audience of what the British call “Lager Louts” or “Yobbos,” but they are branching out to include more technical content that appeals to the same young webheads that come for the biscuit shots.

And for the editors and reporters who fear that switching over to a reader-driven basis for content is going to lead to endless pages of bikini shots and [fill in the anatomical blank] slips … well there are plenty of sites dedicated to that kind of content already.

The users have the power, you see, to go to wherever it is that we want to go to, to find the kind of pictures/video/stories that we want.

If all there were on the web was imitations of Maxim-meets-Ogrish, that would be unbelievably boring after a while.

And as we’ve seen with OhMyNews, even when users are allowed to pick their perfect, tailored mix of stories and information, after a while, we kinda want someone (read: an editor/blogger/”curator”) to surprise us.

We want to see things from outside the bubble.  Well, most of us do. Some people will gleefully sustain themselves on a steady diet of mental Twinkies, and never get tired of them.  Never mind them. They were never your readers anyway.

I think that the recent political campaign and the economic meltdown have hammered home to a generation of news consumers that it’s kind of a good idea to pull our heads away from whatever dingbat thing Paris & Britney did this week, to see what it is that our elected officials are doing with our money … and how they’re funneling it to the equally dingbat financiers and bankers that bribe them.

So yeah, maybe there will be a bit of a blip when the micropayment model is implemented.  But it will shake itself out.

If you believe that all your audience wants is cheezcake … well, aren’t you saying then that your audience is a bunch of pervert dimwits?

To quote Frank Sinatra (as filtered through the late genius Phil Hartman): “Contempt for the audience! That’s what killed Dennis Day’s career!”

UPDATE: Over at The Editor’s Weblog, the debate over charging for online content has attracted comment from industry experts Jeff Jarvis and Rob Curley, as well as Agustin Edwards, the editor/managing director of LUN, speaking at the INMA World Congress:

In terms of charging for content, both Jarvis and Edwards are wholly in agreement. Jarvis is of the opinion that it is now more valuable to build audience – “I think the odds of success in charging now are slim to none”. Edwards echoes his sentiments, with his belief that “if we charged for content on the internet our traffic would go down significantly… It’s abandoning the trust in the advertising as a financial model.”

Well, that trust has been strained recently, and it is only going to get worse, unfortunately.  The continued soft economy is going to put some severe downward pressure on ad revenues, at least for the next nine months. The best news that I’ve seen today came out of the LA Times – a small article about how the bottom-feeders are out snarfing up low-priced houses in the Phoenix area (which was pretty much the most overinflated area in the U.S. when it came to the housing bubble).  If this holds up over the next couple of months, that would mean that a lot of the “frustrated money” that’s been sitting on the sidelines is going to start getting back into the game.

Again: I do think that there is a place for charging for content online.  But that model necessitates a radical change in how the news business does/would operate, one that makes shutting off the presses and moving only to web distribution look positively timid by comparison.  I’ve worked at magazines that were almost all circulation supported. The key to survival is that you have to have something that the consumers can get nowhere else.

Perhaps I’ll write more about my experiences in this vein in a post later this week.  It might be helpful for those considering this kind of a move.

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Apr 15

John Battelle – Packaged Goods and $100 CPMs

Posted: under advertising, Multimedia, new media, Online Video, Video, Web Tech, Webconomics.
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This is part 3 of John’s keynote at OMMA 2009.

…and yes, I know, I don’t have the excerpts and such that made the other videos interesting to watch. But I figure if you’ve gotten this far, you’re probably already pretty interested in what this guy has to say.

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Mar 26

Twitter Ads – More Valuable than 30 Second Superbowl Spots – Calacanis OMMA Keynote (part 3)

Posted: under Digital Migration, Online Video, Social Media monetization, Twitter advertising, Web Tech, Webconomics.
Tags:

“The obligatory Twitter section of every keynote address in 2009.”

Calacanis describes how web companies could really leverage their audience attention by using innovative new ad models. He “works the numbers” to show how a (proposed) $250,000 investment to be recommended by Twitter would pay off in as many views as a 30-second ad for the Super Bowl – and at the end of that process, you would have a big mailing list, rather than just a press release.

I have not included stills from his PowerPoint as I did with previous clips from this speech. The presentation is available at SlideShare, if you want to see it.

While I am happy bordering on ecstatic to see someone at least thinking about inventing new ad models, I think that Jason kinda contradicts what he said earlier about ads being unwelcome on social media sites.  He had us convinced in the first half of the speech that advertising is useless on Facebook, and then he shows off a classic intrusive movie trailer that you have to sit through before you can log into your home page.  Not sure I agree with him on this – even though he leads the audience through an exercise to see how many people would be willing to jettison their Facebook or Twitter usage if it starts getting crammed with ads.

Well, first of all, you’re talking to an audience of advertisers and marketers.  People who voluntarily watch & applaud for ads. 

I think the reactions of a younger, more anti-authoritarian audience might be a little different.  Yeah, the 14-24 y.o. males might kick & screech a bit about the corporate bastards who are slowing down their SuperPokes of the new hottie in homeroom, and then in a few weeks, calm down and accept the new ad-heavy paradigm.

Or – they’ll use Facebook to organize themselves and perform a mass exodus to some other social media platform (Hi5 – this is your opportunity knocking!) and Zuck‘s beautiful baby will have its value utterly destroyed in a matter of months.  It’s happened before.  It will probably happen again.

nnnnn

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Mar 11

Why 4G Matters: 300Mbps Data Rate (well, almost)

Posted: under Mobile advertising technology, Mobile commerce, monetizing mobile content, Multimedia, Video, Web Tech.

HD video demands – at pretty decent color depth & resolution - about 15-25 megs. (Well, unless you’re trying to deal with uncompressed 1080i HD, which calls for about 400 megs - but the only reason to do that is to capture/edit, rather than watch, which is a whole other can o’ crawlies.)  That means that a 4G phone is basically the final linking device to provide the addressable TV & instant content delivery that we’ve all been blathering about for the last 20 years.

This article on Gizmodo is about the clearest, best-written piece I’ve stumbled across in the last year or so of baking my noodle in the alphabet soup broth of mobile media acronyms.

But what’s so special about WiMax and LTE? And how fast can they really get? Very simply, West told us, “The magic is the channel width.” LTE and WiMax use really fat wireless channels, so they can move a lot of data at once. For example, AT&T’s Kafka told us that “peak speed for LTE in 10MHz is about 140Mbps and peak speed in 20MHz is about 300Mbps.”

Did you see that? 300Mbps? Over the air? Whoooa. Well, don’t let your panties get blown away yet. Yes, 4G will be way faster than 3G. But don’t expect Asian city internet speeds wirelessly in the next couple of years. Clearwire’s Barry West throws a bit of cold water on the ridiculously scorching speeds you might see hyped for LTE: To get to that 170Mbps, “that’s like 8.5 bits per hertz and I’ve never seen a system achieve more than 5 bits per hertz.” Huh? Basically, it doesn’t take a whole lot of interference to slow your connection down, because it and WiMax use a complicated modulation scheme that you can’t have constantly cranked to 11. So real world speeds will be slower.

This, coupled with the laser-projection capabilities being built into the next phones, and the ever-smaller and higher-rez cameras, is pointing to one helluva information device in the future – one that can capture, upload, download and display crystal-clear video.

“In the future everyone will be a television network. For 15 minutes.”

Quick glossary:

4G: 4th-Generation cellphone.  The big clunky analog beasts that we used up til the late 90s were 1G. The switchover to digital (when bad connections were echo-y and robot-sounding rather than crackly and static like bad radio reception) put us to 2G.  iPhones operated at 2.5G, which means data rates of about 200K.  The faster data rate is 3G.

CDMA/1XRTT/EVDO: The compression & transmission technology sets used by Verizon and Sprint. Popular in Korea, Japan, South America and U.S.

GSM/EDGE/HSDPA: The data transmission sets used by AT&T and T-mobile. Everyone in Europe uses GSM technology. It allows you to swap SIM cards between phones, but is slightly less efficient than CDMA.

LTE/WiMax: The coming data transmission standards that phone companies have been beating to death for the past 10 years. LTE = Long Term Evolution.  This is a the data speed that will also be known as 4G.

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Nov 08

Blast from the Past: Indecision 2000 and How Video Stories Have Evolved

Posted: under Digital Migration, monetizing mobile content, Multimedia, Online Video, Politics & New Media, Web Tech.

Man, check out John Stewart.  Is it me, or does he look just a little bit like the Muppet Beaker?

Ah yes. The pardon of Marc Rich. Makes you nostalgic for a time when this was the worst crime that could be laid at the feet of the outgoing president, don’t it?

Just looking at this video makes me feel 1,000 years old.  It’s a reminder of how, when the party in charge of the White House changed back in 2000, there were all manner of investigations into the misdeeds of the previous administration.  Wonder if that’s going to come around again … and if we’re going to spend most of 2009 having to sit through a re-hash of all the grubby insider deals perpetrated by the Bushies

I am of two minds about this issue – on the one hand, I think that to distract ourselves with chasing down Bush partisans to whack them around & humiliate them in front of banks of TV cameras, would be a mistake, taking our attention away from dealing with all the massive problems we face.

And then, on the other hand, there’s the fact that the massive problems we face are a direct result of the actions of these sleazy, incompetent thieves. To let them skip merrily away into the night, their pockets stuffed with stolen taxpayer funds, chortling in glee at their cleverness … well, that just grates.

Anyway. The point of this was to do a compare/contrast of viral video from then, to the political online video we see now.  Makes you realize how far we’ve come, with production values.  And how we’ve come to expect that when outlets like The Daily Show air a segment, they back it up with video clips culled from the past.

This is a very Web 2.0 concept … I think it comes out of stories on the web, where we have hyperlinks within the stories that allow us to see the evolution of the meme over time, and then compare it to the current story. 

My point is that in the last eight years, the way that we process information has changed in a fundamental way that we’re really not fully cognizant of. We expect to see the background, the history from primary sources, that supports what the person is telling us in the present.

In a very real way, The Daily Show and John Stewart are the equivalent of the “content aggregation” sites that have succeeded so well online. 

I just want to find a way to make sure that the aggregators have something to aggregate. That original reporting of facts & events does not die off, and that the persons who do the pick & shovel work to unearth the sound bites & images that are then stitched together (for great acclaim & profit) by middlemen like the Daily Show (or Drudge, or HuffPo, or Sadly, No!, Politico, etc. etc. etc.) start to share in some of the extraordinary wealth that is generated off of their sweat equity.

The link economy.
We needz it.

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Oct 07

Barry Diller on Internet Advertising: “It makes my head hurt.”

Posted: under advertising, Digital Migration, Mobile advertising technology, monetizing mobile content, Multimedia, new media, Web Tech.

I know how you feel, Barry.

This quote from an excellent Wall St. Journal interview with one of the smarter (and more ruthless) guys in the media biz. He’s coming forward to explain why he busted up IAC.

“You really want to get a headache? Try to understand Internet advertising. Social-networking advertising is being discounted because there is so much inventory [of available ad spots], and because methods have not yet been found to make it very effective. Will that get figured out? I absolutely believe it will. What form will it take? Absolutely unknown.”

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