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Why Humans Are Better Than Robots, Part XXXVII April 29, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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What th-? You mean the Google news algorithm didn’t already apply judgement to the source of the news story?!? Gee, I always prefer an AP story posted by the Podunk, Iowa Statesman to the version from the Post or Times because it’s more recent.

But tell me, oh Google Wise Men, how will you know staff size? And who cares about number of countries linking? And what does story length have to do with anything? Are longer stories better? Worse?

The database will be built by continually monitoring the number of stories from all news sources, along with average story length, number with bylines, and number of the bureaux cited, along with how long they have been in business. Google’s database will also keep track of the number of staff a news source employs, the volume of internet traffic to its website and the number of countries accessing the site.

“TrustRank” my @ss.

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Why Academics Should Just, Well, Shut Up April 28, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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In an article about the probable cancellation of UPN’s Kevin Hill, the Boston Globe quotes Elizabeth Amelia Hadley, a professor of Africana and women’s studies at Simmons College:

”Where are the ratings boxes located?” she asks. ”I’ve never been asked to rate anything and I don’t know any other African-Americans who have either. I do know plenty of people who watch ‘Kevin Hill.’ “

Yes, Professor, and I know plenty of geeks that watch Enterprise. Betcha Nielsen is missing them, too.

More Monday Night Skepticism April 27, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Wall Street Journal TV columnist Joe Flint raises many of the same issues I did about Monday Night Football’s migration to ESPN. He also points out that ESPN’s hugely popular and presumably quite profitable NFL PrimeTime will have to move to a later time slot on Sundays.

Under the deal, which kicks off in the fall of 2006, NBC walks away with several prizes: The network will be able to air a Sunday post-game highlights show in prime time, potentially grabbing the audience that used to tune in to ESPN for its popular Sunday highlights show, “NFL Primetime.” The ESPN show, which might as well be renamed “NFL Latenight,” will be pushed several hours later, until midnight on the East Coast.

Waxing Fairly Rhapsodic April 26, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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RealNetworks rolled out a new version of Rhapsody and an innovative free offering. Rhapsody is the current leader in US music subscription services, and this is a solid, if unspectacular, announcement. A handful of observations:

– Rhapsody will deliver portable rentals via Janus, or Windows Media 10, and is wisely downplaying the near-term impact of that. Portable rentals are a truly cool thing, but consumers don’t understand the concept, portability across devices is sketchy, and the only device that matters – Apple’s iPod – doesn’t support ’em. Still, they’re one of the few opportunities for device makers to differentiate versus Apple.

– Rhapsody is in the right market(s). We’re sort of between forecasts, but JupiterResearch still projects that music subscription revenues will outpace a la carte downloads in the long run, and the combination will approach $2B, or 12-15% of music spending, by 2009. US spending in 2004 was about $300M and could cross $500M this year. Subscription services are for music aficionados – not mass-market consumers – for the near-term.

– Rhapsody is introducing a low-end tier of services that amounts to a renewable free trial – 25 songs and 25 radio stations a month, no credit card required. A) This is a very good idea. Jupiter surveys show that users of trial offers for online content are six times more likely to convert to paying customers than those who didn’t trial. B) This isn’t the ideal offer – 25 songs is not the way a music fan would really use a jukebox in the sky. It’s a taste, but it’s not a deep exposure to the service. Real had to renegotiate deals to pull this off, but it’s far from perfect. C) While Real had a jukebox, Rhapsody did not, so this is a great way to get people to try out the software and perhaps get addicted.

– Rhapsody is using a mix of Real DRM and Windows DRM. “Harmony,” Real tech that lets paid downloads – but not rentals – play on iPods, is not going to be a key message, nor is it key to Rhapsody’s success. Frankly, I’d dump it. I think it risks confusing customers.

Internet Gains as Preferred News Source April 26, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Most Internet media behavior is stabilizing – it’s been a while since I’ve seen a real solid increasing trend. But looking at a series of JupiterResearch consumer surveys, we found that the Internet is steadily gaining share as the preferred news medium among online users. Twenty-six percent of online adults prefer the Internet for national and international news, while nine percent prefer it for local news.

From the report:

JupiterResearch consumer surveys show that the percentage of online adults using the Internet for daily news has been flat—hovering around 50 percent—for the last few years. However, the number of consumers who say they prefer the Internet as their primary news source has been increasing steadily. Young adults, ages 18 to 24, are driving this trend, especially in national news. Preference for Internet local news is also growing, but hasn’t broken 10 percent among online adults.

Jupiter clients should check out the extra slides in the Web appendix Powerpoint that’s attached to the report. They show the historical trends, and break out the 18-24 year-old group.

Eloise to Leave Plaza? April 26, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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I was wondering who was going to write the story of Eloise‘s fate while the Plaza is reborn as condos. Trust my favorite paper. Sadly, as with most of these stories of author’s estate versus modern media companies – not to mention real estate developers – it is a tawdry tale.

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Personally, I think Eloise would move to Paris, but not under these circumstances:

In next year’s planned feature film, “Eloise in Paris,” the little girl won’t stay at the creaky Relais Bisson where she stayed in the 1957 book of the same name. Instead, (film, TV, and merchandising rights holder Patrick) Meehan is putting Eloise up at the Four Seasons George V, with which Mr. Meehan says he has struck an agreement to film the movie. Caroline Mennetrier, director of public relations for the George V, says “we will be thrilled to have the movie filmed here,” but that nothing has been finalized.

I always liked the Moscow adventure – all those fur hats – but the current political situation is probably not to Skipperdee’s tastes.

Gushing Over MTV Overdrive April 25, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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MTV launched Overdrive today and raised the bar for online video programming. Requiring a download for buffering optimization – not to mention, ugh, ActiveX controls – MTV probably went a little too far in streaming at 700K. Watching at work on a crowded network is pretty much impossible, even though the app sniffs for bandwidth and computer horsepower. The app is Windows Media 10 and Flash, and very slick and polished.

MTV has no qualms about taking control of an on-demand medium: Overdrive is a heavily programmed environment. Regular readers know I’m a fan of herding the sheep. MTV execs even used the word “curated.”

Overdrive offers a mix of videos and exclusive performances, interviews, extra material to back up MTV shows (who knew Punk’d even had greatest hits?) and movie trailers. Most segments are 2-4 minutes long. News segments will be updated four times a day; the promoted Lineup channel will change about 7-8 times a day. Channels are teed up by promotional talking heads. Users can also cue up a playlist similar to MSN Video. (Didn’t Real try that once, only to abandon it?) There’s no twin-screen (simultaneous TV and broadband) content.

Programming is all ad-supported. MTV aims for a 1:6 ratio of ads to content. It’s trying to push advertisers to 15-second spots but will accept 30-second spots as well. No targeting yet. In fact, watching the exclusive first 10 minutes of Sony/Revolution Studios’ latest, xXx: State of the Union, as sponsored by Always was a little…disturbing. Pantene is all over the site; Sony, Sony Pictures, and Microsoft are also early advertisers.

It’s fascinating that MTV went this route but hasn’t done VoD. Execs told Jupiter that was an easy decision – the broadband audience is just so much bigger, and advertising is easier to pull off.

DTV Transition April 25, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Mark Cuban displays a prevously undiscovered (by me, anyway) talent for scenario analysis. Scroll down a little ways on this posting to see what he thinks will happen on and around the eventual DTV switchover day:

The minute a date is set, everyone and anyone who can make money selling their product and service to the estimated 20 pct of the American population who gets their analog TV over the air is going to start selling like it was their last chance.

He then reels off some sensible bullet points about different TV industry sectors.

New PBS Head Doesn’t Watch Much TeeVee April 24, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Let me acknowledge that PBS needs a swift kick in the pants. My tax dollars pay for Antiques Roadshow? But is this guy really the right man for the job? From a NY Times magazine interview:

I’m not much of a TV consumer. I like ”Masterpiece Theater” and some of the ”Frontline” shows. I like ”Antiques Roadshow” and ”Nova.” I don’t know. What’s your favorite show?

Monday Night Musings April 21, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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I’m still trying to get my mind around Monday Night Football moving to ESPN. Regular readers know I’m a defender of broadcast TV networks for their relatively broad reach and their promotional capabilities. I also like live sports as one of the few TV genres that is pretty much Tivo-proof. Well, less affected anyway. And interactive-friendly, not that anybody’s going to be doing much of that soon.

Though MNF’s ratings have been degrading over the years, it’s still real, live Event Programming. The kind that belongs on broadcast networks. And it’s a sports event that is not just for 12-24 year-old boys. Moving it to ESPN may save ABC a lot of money – while it’s costing the much richer ESPN tons – but will limit its audience, and remove a tentpole program from the ABC lineup (though giving ESPN one, in addition to SportsCenter).

Wildcard guess: this is the first step in Disney selling off ABC. Nah, it’ll never happen…..

ADDED LATER: One of my favorite Timesman Richard Sandomir’s take.