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Sunday Times Nails Political Bloggers September 26, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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The Times – actually the Sunday Times Magazine – finally does a good story on Internet culture. Matthew Klam does a great job capturing the zeitgeist of political bloggers. They’re in over their heads; they don’t know whether they’re advocates or journalists; they hate but are starstruck by mainstream media and party politics; etc. Some great lines:

On Wonkette : She was finally getting paid for being drunk at gifted-and-talented camp.

On Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo : With his arms folded across his chest, in an incensed yet somewhat professorial tone, very up-all-night, very corduroy, he talked on and on about Douglas Feith and Ahmed Chalabi and Karl Rove.

On the results so far: When the bloggers first arrived in Boston for the Democratic convention, some of them had high hopes for what they would be able to accomplish there — that together they would cough up an astounding Rashomon collective of impressions and insights, interlinked, with empowering conclusions…But those first few posts, so highly anticipated by their fellow bloggers, the ones who didn’t score credentials, were more about the bus ride from the hotel, the heavy security in the parking lot; their seats in the rafters were terrible, they had trouble getting floor passes…

The best political bloggers know they are the ultimate meta-media (media about media) and filter, link, snark, and analyze. Journalists they’re not. But are they players? In a weird way, yeah, some of ’em really are.

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Google and Browsers September 24, 2004

Posted by David Card in Digital Home & Personal Tech.
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If I had to bet money on whether Google would do a browser or a portal, I’d bet on the browser.

PassAlong: eBay Music Downloads & Multilevel Marketing September 24, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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PassAlong Networks launched its digital music store on eBay yesterday. Ironically, the characteristics that make it unique are practically buried in the store and its promotions. Here’s what’s new:

– PassAlong allows users to create digital stores they can promote via pages, email, and IM. If you buy a song or album I recommend, I get 10% of its value in points I can used to buy more music. If you pass that recommendation along, I get another 1%. This is one of the first easy-for-consumers multilevel marketing network I’ve seen in music. That’s a great idea for communities and P2P networks.

– The primary payment mechanism for PassAlong songs is PayPal, which, as we wrote here, can actually make selling 99-cent singles profitable.

Otherwise, it’s a Windows Media DRM store that supports auctions (who’s going to bid up 99-cent singles?), it’s kind of buried on the eBay site (although there’s an auction for 15 minutes on the phone with Avril Lavigne), its catalogue is thin (500K songs), and its store merchandising and programming is weak. PassAlong execs have software, community, and label expertise, but no retail or merchandising.

The company will also OEM its services to other stores, and has plans to give users credit for passalong sales even if they didn’t purchase the songs at the PassAlong store.

eMusic Back in Action September 22, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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eMusic, one of the digital music originals, re-launched today. Its business model is a quirky hybrid of downloads and subscriptions: Kind of like a record club, you pay $10-20 a month for 40-90 downloaded singles per month. No committment, so there’s a big risk of drop-off. If so, then the model just looks like a digital store rather than a service. Retention rate wasn’t too bad back in the old days – the company had maybe 30-40K sustainable subscribers.

The songs are in unprotected MP3 format (hurray!) and come from about 1,200 indie labels. A lot of mainstream artists did early work or live albums with indies, so its collection isn’t completely unfamiliar to the masses. eMusic is targeting world music, too, signing labels in India, Africa, and Latin America. Also, its parent company owns The Orchard, a distributor, and what used to be the Digital Club Network. The club connection gives it about 50 new live concerts a week. You can get a feel for its collection by checking out its charts. Who knew Taj Mahal still had some steam?

eMusic has over a dozen staffers doing programming and reviews, including some famous names. An interesting play, clearly targeted at sophisticated music fans. I don’t think digital music is a winner-take-all market, partly because musical tastes are reasonably varied, especially among the likely early adopters. Smart programming and audience targeting, plus the no-hassle MP3 strategy, could give eMusic some staying power.

Demise of TV Journalism? September 19, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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Frank Rich’s Sunday Times column is painfully on the money. Fox News sets the tone for coverage, since the networks and CNN caved to gung-ho war coverage. Now CNN employs Kerry advisors as “journalists,” 60 Minutes gets sloppy, we’re talking about Vietnam instead of Iraq and North Korea, and Americans think Baghdad ordered 9/11.

It may be too late for real American-style, objective/contrarian journalism to recover on TV, especially at the networks. The only hope may be for politically-biased, but opposing networks and shows. That would be a shame.

Could It Be….Album Advertising?? September 17, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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Other than radio or outdoor (and in-store), you rarely see much advertising for CD releases. So it’s great to see Matador promoting the new Interpol album. I saw the ad on Gawker (well, actually, Defamer, Gawker’s LA sister blog), which is highly apropriate, Interpol being so New York. On the other hand, I’m not a regular reader of either site, but I do like Interpol. Hmm.

The promotional site lets you listen to extended clips, and has the requisite IM buddy icons and tour dates. Radio and on-air music videos still carry the most influence on music purchases, according to JupiterResearch surveys. But listening to a clip is effective for 13% of music buyers, and for 32% of the key big-spending, digitally active aficionados, according to our latest.

So Much for My Punk Cred September 16, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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So here I am, reading Eric’s obit for Johnny Ramone, where he says the Ramones

opened my young eyes to a world outside the standard “Breakfast Club”, “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” fare that dominated radio at the time

all the while I was listening to Duran Duran. Ouch. (Thank goodness I’d listened to Rocket to Russia directly before.)

In defense of 80s teen bratpack movies, while Breakfast Club only has Simple Minds to recommend it, Pretty In Pink features New Order, the Smiths, OMD, Psychedelic Furs (of course), and Suzanne Vega. And Bueller has B.A.D. and the proto-punk Beatles’ Twist and Shout.

Yahoo-Musicmatch First Take September 15, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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I was out visiting clients most of yesterday so am just getting around to posting on Yahoo’s proposed acquisition of Musicmatch. I think it’s potentially a very strong combination. (I’m not paid or equipped to understand valuations, so I won’t comment on that.) Musicmatch makes a great collection of services but was in danger of being lost in the noise created by big brands’ entries in the digital music space. Yahoo has been very strong in music media via its music channel and Launch for some time. (However, don’t believe the traffic data time-spent numbers; they can’t do streaming. Also I think published estimates of $50M in Musicmatch sales are, um, overly robust.)

I had a very brief conversation with Yahoo execs yesterday, and they didn’t say much, claiming quiet period. Yahoo, like JupiterResearch, is more bullish on the music subscription business than on digital downloads. One interesting tidbit – Yahoo hopes to tap into a younger audience than Musicmatch’s typical customers: it’s easier for parents to manage subscriptions than a la carte downloads. The Launch music video audience skews young. And Yahoo hopes to improve its online/offline marketing offerings (expanding on things like its in-store Target endcaps featuring Lauch Breakout Artists).

I really like the opportunity for Yahoo to take advantage of multiple music revenue streams: advertising, subscriptions, downloads, and even CD and software sales and ticketing. I also like the chance to weave together for its audience music discovery, listening, and retail – something that’s unique to the Internet, and one of the reasons we like the subscription business.

AOL has a similar strategy, although equally kludgy offerings right now. Sony, MSN and Apple just have stores (but Apple has THE store, and of course, THE device.) Napster needs some media partners (it’s working retail and colleges). Where’s Viacom? MTV reportedly is coming. Amazon remains absent.

And Gary, Google? Why oh why do you think Google should be a content company? Since its business is advertising, I have to grudgingly call Google a media company, but programming by algorithm still doesn’t cut it. Music discovery needs human talent.

A Music Upfront September 13, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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This strikes me as a good idea, and a sign of hope that record labels are thinking hard about expanding their role in their artists’ business. An upfront, a la television, where the labels present what they’re doing for the next 12 months to advertisers in the hopes of striking some branding deals.

Blown Call September 12, 2004

Posted by David Card in Uncategorized.
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Today on Fox’s pregame show, host James Brown told us to go vote at Foxsports on MSN for who would be Terry Bradshaw’s interview subject next Sunday. Problem was, at the time the front-page poll was for which play the all-star hosts would diagram. The interview poll came up about 15 minutes later. I wonder how many people remembered?