27 Print Dollars for $1 Digital; Social News; Papers in Trouble; Kodak v. Fuji I posted this picture via Twitpic earlier today, and my digital brethren quickly chimed in on how much they felt like this in their daily lives. And I get it. Working in the media industry these days is far, far different [...] [...more]
27 Print Dollars for $1 Digital; Social News; Papers in Trouble; Kodak v. Fuji
I posted this picture via Twitpic earlier today, and my digital brethren quickly chimed in on how much they felt like this in their daily lives. And I get it. Working in the media industry these days is far, far different from the way it was when the journalists of my generation got into the biz. Looking back at recordings from the early 90s, I am struck by how much free time we all seem to have had back then – these days, you feel like you can’t take your eyes off your Twitter feed for even a second, lest you miss the Next Big Meme and are thus branded as a digital troglodyte who “just doesn’t get it.”
Strung out and exhausted, journalists are wondering when this migration ends, or even when they might run across a handy signpost telling them which way to go. (click to embiggen)
So yeah, if you feel like you’re lost in the desert and that the only future involves your bones bleaching in the sun next to a steer skull … well, maybe it’s because most newsrooms these days evoke the feeling you get when wandering through any of the weathered ghost towns that dot the arid landscape in Arizona and Nevada, left behind when the seams of gold and silver petered out.
Today’s news of the antitrust suit filed by the DOJ against Apple and a consortium of large book publishers raises some interesting questions. First, here’s what the government alleges (h/t Wall St. Journal) In a civil antitrust lawsuit, the Justice Department alleged that CEOs of the publishing companies met regularly in private dining rooms of [...] [...more]
In a civil antitrust lawsuit, the Justice Department alleged that CEOs of the publishing companies met regularly in private dining rooms of upscale Manhattan restaurants to discuss how to respond to steep discounting of their e-books by Amazon.com Inc., a practice they disliked. The executives also called and emailed each other to craft a solution to what one of them called “the wretched $9.99 price point,” the suit said.
The five publishers and Apple hatched an arrangement that lifted the price of many best-selling e-books to $12.99 or $14.99, according to the suit. The publishers then banded together to impose that model on Amazon, the government alleged.
Note the diversity in prices for the books on this page; contrast that with the uniformity of pricing for songs on iTunes (i.e. 99 cents, no matter what).
Now, this can be read two ways:
1. The book publishers and Apple got together to put the vise on Amazon to fix the prices of books at a level that benefitted the publishers (and Apple) by allowing them to jack up the prices of ebooks to be more in line with the print versions (thus protecting what the publishers see as still their core business, dead-tree editions).
What does this mean for indie authors, and larger startup publishers, such as small-to-midsize newspapers that want to bundle up special editions and monetize their content by selling it via as an eBook (as enthusiastically proposed by the estimable Robert Niles)? Nothing good, I’m afraid.
A certain champion of self-publishing recently decried all of the “whiny bitches” complaining about Amazon, and argued how Amazon treats authors so much better than commercial publishers.
While there are certainly advantages to Amazon’s program, anyone who thinks Amazon is in this to help authors is a fool. Amazon, like pretty much any other business, is in this to make money. As for how they treat authors, let me share what I’ve experienced over the past week and a half.
Amazon can and will adjust your price as they see fit.
So what’s the big deal? Don’t retailers put things on sale all the time? Well, sure … which leads me to my second lesson.
Amazon can calculate royalties based on the sale price, not your list price.
With my DAW books, if a bookstore offers a sale, I still get my royalties based on the cover price. Amazon is selling Libriomancer for pre-order at almost half-off, but I’ll get paid my full amount for every copy sold. Not so with self-published titles. Looking at my reports for last week, my royalties were slashed by 2/3 for every copy sold, because Amazon paid me 70% of the $.99 sale price, not my list price.
The lesson here is that when you’re looking to get paid for the creative work that you do, and when the opportunities for you to sell said work are increasingly running through only two channels (Amazon or Apple), then you are going to get paid what they feel like paying you. And they are going to take just as big a cut out of your earnings as they feel like taking.
Yeah, sure, they built up the stores. But those stores would have nothing to sell without the efforts of millions of creative people. Amazon and Apple are benefiting from being classic middlemen. They are the bottleneck between the consumers and the content that audience wants to consume. And they are starting to throw some very, very sharp elbows.
The DOJ says Apple “knowingly served as a critical conspiracy participant” by promising all the publishers the exact same deal and keeping everyone informed about the status of negotiations. When Penguin explicitly said that it wouldn’t sign unless at least three other companies signed, Apple “supplied the needed assurances.”
To persuade other publishers, Steve Jobs himself had to get involved. He wrote an email to one publishing CEO saying that the only existing choices were to “keep going with Amazon at $9.99″ or “hold back your books.” He then offered a third choice: “Throw in with Apple and see if we can all make a go of this to create a real mainstream ebooks market at $12.99 and $14.99.”
The details read like some kind of overheated Mafia book by a cut-rate author – secret meetings at restaurants, high-level collusion, contemptuous disregard for the customers, and finally – yes – DOJ wiretaps on the guilty parties. Christ. It’s like they were dealing with garbage-hauling contracts in New Jersey.
It’s hard to know who to root for in this situation. Both sides seem to have rapaciously eyed the book-buying consumers the way velociraptors eyed up the poor heifer being lowered into their pen.
The point is that the problems with the news business bear surprising resemblance to the problems of society as a whole. We've tied our fate to the unfettered free-market economic forces, without really taking notice of the fact that there are a few industries, at least, that are not prepackaged Cheetos. Where diluting quality and streamlining production schedules and all the other tricks of modern corporate management may work in the short term ... but in the long term are not only killing the industry, but harming ... well, basically Western Civilization. [...more]
The good folks at CNN asked me to appear on Backstory” to talk about the News of the World’s phone-hacking scandal.
I tried to oblige them with some insights onto why this kind of scandal keeps happening, and why. You can see the results of the interview in the segment below:
More on why the news business keeps getting hit with privacy scandals like this, and why it won’t stop after the jump…
Being able to add people to the circles is an absolutely frickin' brilliant move! The little animations are absolutely killer. I have been wanting this and talking about this and boring the living shit out of my tech-dw33b friends about how the one big problem STILL with social media is that it's damn near and all-or-nothing game.
No longer. Someone at Google "got it," and this is a killer feature that Facebook DOES NOT HAVE. [...more]
In less than five minutes, I responded to an invitation (that is probably still in pretty high demand) and signed up for Google+.
Being able to add people to the circles is an absolutely frickin’ brilliant move! The little animations are absolutely killer. I have been wanting this and talking about this and boring the living shit out of my tech-dw33b friends about how the one big problem STILL with social media is that it’s damn near and all-or-nothing game.
No longer. Someone at Google “got it,” and this is a killer feature that Facebook DOES NOT HAVE.
Also: Google+ aggregates my information from all manner of sources, so I don’t have to go through that goddam tiresome “OK, let’s fill in all the blanks on this profile page yet again … wait, what? … it timed out? (long cursing session)”
Check out the screen cap below – this is after only a few minutes of cursory work:
All this got added to my profile automatically. It borders on the creepy … except for the fact that I wrote and posted all this info about myself in the first place, and I approve of it and can tell instantly where it came from. Also note on the right-hand side: all the various places where I have established a social profile, all aggregated in the same place.
While tech pundits are widely praising Google’s new Plus product, I’ve found the one feature that could take away from Facebook where it’s most dominant: Time on the site.
Facebook users are known for staying on the site for over half an hour a day, something no other site could compete with… until now.
To be honest, my gut reaction after using Google Plus was initially, “Why on earth would anybody switch to this from Facebook?”
However, when I loaded up Google Finance as I do every morning, I suddenly realized that I was asking the wrong question. The reality is that users won’t have the option of not using Google Plus.
However, later on, they kinda stumble into something interesting, that’s also come up recently in the kerfuffle over the “Open Letters to RIM” – that is, that tech companies are starting to realize that what will really make them successful, is making it easy for developers & propellorhead-types like, well, us … to come and play in their sandbox.
The clash of ancient and modern is never more stark than in these developing nations I’ve been in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the last week, training the local journalists and government information officers (aka PR flacks) on how best to take advantage of the way that “New Media” is creating new ways of connecting with [...] [...more]
The clash of ancient and modern is never more stark than in these developing nations
I’ve been in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, for the last week, training the local journalists and government information officers (aka PR flacks) on how best to take advantage of the way that “New Media” is creating new ways of connecting with each other, and the world at large. I’m here as part of the same US Embassy program that has sent me to places like Chile, Kazakhstan, Georgia, Costa Rica, etc., to try to bring people the benefits of experience (aka the way newspapers & TV news has imploded in the U.S.), so they can start planning for the Great Digital Migration.
This is my class of TV journalists at Addis Ababa University (AAU). I tried to cram as much about online video and sharing into my short sessions as I could. Here, I'm showing how to use both professional tools like Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, as well as free alternatives like Windows Movie Maker.
The one thing that everyone here agrees on is that Ethiopia desperately wants to change its international image – c’mon, admit it. When you think of Ethiopia, what images come to mind? Deserts, starving people, vultures, Live Aid, right?
Well, it’s not like that any more. In fact, if you look around at the Addis Ababa skyline, you’ll mostly see cranes and highrise towers under construction. The real-estate bubble that burst and devastated the rest of the world never took hold here.
There are still many reminders that the ancient ways of living are still very much in existence here in Addis, but please also note all the other markers of modernity in this shot.
However, they are facing many of the same challenges as the rest of the world, at least when it comes to the emergence of the internet, and the struggles of newspapers, radio and TV stations to come to grips with social media, and the ability of anyone to become a publisher/broadcaster/internet troll.
The very first place I visited was Sheger FM, the one independent radio station in Ethiopia. This is the courageous owner, who is really struggling to walk the razor's edge here in Addis.
I’ve found many of the same behaviors and attitudes I’ve encountered in the other places that I’ve done web/online video/social media training sessions – stubborn insistence that things will never change, toxic skepticism, and even outright hostility.
After a bit of a rocky start, these guys really came around and appreciated the hands-on lessons I gave them on how to do live video stand-up reports and how to compress video into the best codec to upload to YouTube. The Nelson Mandela building is a challenge, though; between the thin air at this 8000-foot altitude, and having to haul my big carcass up 5 (five) steep flights of stairs, the first few minutes of every class were mostly spent huffing and puffing, and hoping that someone in the class had a particularly insightful comment.
Dave LaFontaine and his tv production class in front of the Nelson Mandela building at Addis Ababa university in Ethiopia.
Not to sound like a whiny ex-Apple fanboi here (check out the wrath Cory Doctorow has incurred over a BoingBoing by addressing this issue, if you dare) — but every time I tap to update my iPhone apps, I gotta swallow another amended EULA from Apple. This latest cramdown seems to center around the whole [...] [...more]
Not to sound like a whiny ex-Apple fanboi here (check out the wrath Cory Doctorow has incurred over a BoingBoing by addressing this issue, if you dare) — but every time I tap to update my iPhone apps, I gotta swallow another amended EULA from Apple.
This latest cramdown seems to center around the whole subscription issue – one that mag publishers have been screaming about for the last year.
This is a great flow chart, explaining how the Dark Side of the internet uses your unwary clicks to generate real money. (h/t ComputerSchool.org) It’s interesting to see the actual breakdown of how stealing your passwords and compromising your bank accounts can pay off for fraudsters. I was surprised to see that bank account passwords [...] [...more]
This is a great flow chart, explaining how the Dark Side of the internet uses your unwary clicks to generate real money. (h/t ComputerSchool.org)
It’s interesting to see the actual breakdown of how stealing your passwords and compromising your bank accounts can pay off for fraudsters. I was surprised to see that bank account passwords are not as valuable as I thought – only a 1% return, because of “risks for withdrawing the money.” Woulda thought the scammers were better than that – a couple years ago, my accounts were drained using withdrawals from ATMs at casinos out in the No-Man’s-Land between LA and Vegas. Guess they must’ve patched that particular security hole.
Anyway, this is one of the more interesting (and frequently alarming) flow charts I’ve run across in a while.
A collective snicker/groan radiated out through the interwebs today with the publication of this AdAge piece on how video is like the news business was in 1998, as legions of print journalists who have seen the number and budgets of the news outlets for which they once worked steadily dwindle. Welcome to Disintermediation 2.0, where [...] [...more]
Welcome to Disintermediation 2.0, where the content is video. It’s entertainment not news. And the stakes (at least the monetary ones) are much higher.
While everyone in online video is challenged by the reality that digital presents to any media — measurement, targeting, accountability — traditional “editors” are also being squeezed by the very same process that beset news in the late 90′s.
This has led to a new rating system, called either “C3” or “live-plus-three”; instead of only counting viewers who watch shows live, Nielsen counts anyone who records and plays back the program up to 3 days later. This captures more of the time-shifted viewing audience. By the end of 2010, McDonough says, Nielsen’s ratings will combine both DVR’d and online streaming content.
Kate Sirkin, executive vice president and global research director for Starcom MediaVest Group, sees the DVR, particularly the TiVo, as fundamentally changing the way Americans view television. “We have three in our house,” Sirkin says. “My 5-year-old doesn’t understand live TV; she’s always had a DVR.”
The other effect of DVRs, of course, is the commercial-skipping. Used to be that you had to hack your TiVo to be able to skip 30 seconds at a time. Now that comes programmed directly into the remote on the DirecTV HD controller (but I still prefer the TiVo, since it skipped you automatically 30 seconds forward in time, rather than making you watch blurred fast-forwarded action).
But the biggest eye-opener for me is that articles predicting that broadcast TV, the cash cow for so long for the advertising industry, is about to head into the abyss … well, that’s news. Because what took down newspapers was not that nobody was reading them anymore – in fact, the stats show that more people are reading newspaper content than ever before.
What has laid print newspapers low is that the revenue streams from traditional print advertising have dried up & blown away.
This relationship is inherently abusive, much like the relationship was between newspapers and their advertisers. When a viable alternative comes along, and you’ve managed to piss off your customers, guess what they do?
$8 billion a year to POTS; “we are no longer on the right track” Anyone who’s traveled around the world has probably noticed what Janine and I have these last couple of years: we can usually access the internet much faster in other countries than we can here in the good ol’ US of A, [...] [...more]
$8 billion a year to POTS; “we are no longer on the right track”
Anyone who’s traveled around the world has probably noticed what Janine and I have these last couple of years: we can usually access the internet much faster in other countries than we can here in the good ol’ US of A, where the internet was invented (take a bow, Al Gore!). When we were in Costa Rica, even in a hotel lobby, web pages just zoomed into view; we attributed the speed to the massive online gambling infrastructure that’s been built in Costa Rica recently. (It’ll be interesting to see what happens long-term to Costa Rica; it’s my hope that the law of unintended consquences will kick in, and the somewhat sordid gambling biz will actually result in more legit businesses using that bandwidth to grow & flourish.)
“The report points out the great broadband successes in the United States, including as many as 290 million Americans who have gained access to broadband over the past decade,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said. “But the
statute requires more. It requires the agency to reach a conclusion about whether all — not some, not most — Americans are being served in a reasonable and timely fashion.”
That’s not happening, he added.
Additionally, it appears that the revenues from the tax on long-distance service that we all grit our teeth and pay each month, and that was supposedly earmarked for improving service just like this has been instead diverted to Plain Old Telephone service (POTS).
More and more, we’re seeing governmental agencies starting to recognize that bringing high-speed internet to communities is an essential ingredient to lifting the local economy. This might have particular impact in the rural areas of the U.S. where coverage is lagging (and where the challenges are most severe), because the farmers/loggers/fishermen might be able to circumvent the supply bottlenecks that are eating up any hope of profits.
Still, I am reminded of the statistic that was widely quoted early last decade, where AT&T got the “gulp-adjust-your-collar” number of $90 billion just for the landscaping costs of stringing fiber-optic in the Western U.S. So what’s the solution?
Well, an interesting experiment was featured on Scobelizer – and the genesis was the big skyward-pointing light atop the Luxor Casino in Las Vegas. As I understand it, a giant laser system in the purple band could provide more than five (5) times the bandwidth than even the fiber-optic lines (Fiber To The House or “FTTH”) that are the fervent dream of all us techno-nerds still being held captive by Time-Warner Cable/Adelphia/Comcast/whatever. Basically, the information is streamed up into the sky, and
A purple laser which is almost invisible to the human eye and which is
inexpensive to buy (they are the lasers inside every Blu-Ray disk player
— the lasers are actually purple light, the “blu” in the name is
marketing) is aimed at the sky and an array of sensors reads data from
the beam of light. Readable due to scattering of light due to the
atmosphere. He showed me how this works: you aim a laser at the sky and
everyone can see the beam. If your human eye can see it, sensors can see
it too and due to some tricks can get massive amounts of bandwidth out
of the laser.
What would this mean for mobile bandwidth? Plenty. The problems I’ve seen with cell coverage in rural areas have less to do with the bandwidth coming from the towers than they do with the capabilities of the radios in the handsets to make the connections. Or, to put it another way, if you make the transmitter in your mobile strong enough to send a signal to a tower 4 miles away, it’s also strong enough to make the hair on the side of your head warm from the microwaves (anyone else remember this phenomenon?). Or to cook your retinas.
But if the bandwidth/connectivity issues can be solved by having some cheap Wi-Fi routers spaced around, connected to sensors pointing at the purple laser beam, then all of a sudden, we have a lot faster, cheaper and more reliable coverage. Even having a little Blu-ray laser integrated into the various existing 3G antenna arrays would be a massive improvement (if their various whitepapers aren’t just hokum).
This could really have an effect in some of the more rugged countries that I’ve done work in – I’m thinking of the mountainous regions of Chile, Colombia, Kazakhstan, and most recently, Georgia. The upstream bandwidth is probably still pretty limited, so in a certain sense, this is just a variation on the DirecTV/satellite internet service paradigm, but still, most users tend to download about 1,000 times more information than they upload.
Cosby is a shrewd marketer & hustler; I wouldn't put it past him to stage a non-event like this to take advantage of the overheated, overhyped nature of the Twitosphere to get his name out there (and how many times in the past six months have you actually even heard Bill Cosby's name? Yeah, like that). One of the surest ways to cause a kerfuffle was proved a year ago when the news of Michael Jackson's death caused the FailWhale to appear ... so maybe Cosby & his web team figured out that sock-puppeting a rumor of Cosby's sudden death would be enough to set off a ruckus. [...more]
First day back from a much-needed “decompression” trip to the redwood forests of West Marin, and I’m greeted by the strangest trending topics when I fire up Tweetdeck for my re-immersion in the raging info-torrent:
So many people are ReTweeting Cosby's denial of his demise that the keywords are showing up all over trending topics.
Strange. The words “Cosby,” “demise,” “rumors,” “confirming,” and the Palin-esque portmanteau “rebuttaling” are trending. So when I click through to see what everyone’s talking about, this comes up:
Check out how many people are just hitting the "RT" button to repeat what Cosby said -- without any sort of editing of the message whatsoever. Thus including the bit.ly link.
Wow. OK, either there’s some sort of radio or TV contest going on here, or there’s a genuine story brewing. How can I tell that it’s not just one Twitspammer clogging up the Twitosphere? Well, check out the sources of the Tweets: Twidroid, web, UberTwitter (not shown: Tweetdeck, Hootsuite, and about a dozen other clients).
Spammers give themselves away by using only one (or at most two) channels to shovel their dreck. Usually they just compromise one platform and then quickly cram their message through the crack in the security wall before someone notices and plasters it over again.
Still, there’s a possibility that there was a massive exploit of user’s Twitter accounts, and that the weblink will lead to a page where the Trojans & Spyware lurk. So, setting the various anti-virus & script-blockers to “Red Alert” status, I clicked on through. Turns out that the Cos actually does have an app.
A simple message - and one that has been picked up by a significant portion of his million-plus followers.
Now, I’m not sure if this was entirely scam-free. Cosby is a shrewd marketer & hustler; I wouldn’t put it past him to stage a non-event like this to take advantage of the overheated, overhyped nature of the Twitosphere to get his name out there (and how many times in the past six months have you actually even heard Bill Cosby’s name? Yeah, like that). One of the surest ways to cause a kerfuffle was proved a year ago when the news of Michael Jackson’s death caused the FailWhale to appear … so maybe Cosby & his web team figured out that sock-puppeting a rumor of Cosby’s sudden death would be enough to set off a ruckus.
Which Cosby could then take advantage of by issuing a denial … and tying that denial to a message plugging his new money-making app.
Convoluted? Damn Skippy. Like setting up a three-cushion shot on an uneven billiards table. Being carried in the back of a flatbed truck. Over a rutted backwoods Arkansas dirt road.
Then again, Bill Cosby was something of a hustling pool player, once upon a time…
Bill was not always "Mr. Establishment." He had a funky side - maybe it was Sidney Poitier that brought it out of him...