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New Toys: RSS for Yahoo Webmail November 30, 2005

Posted by David Card in Digital Home & Personal Tech.
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Yahoo smoothly slid RSS support into its already-slick Webmail beta. (The AJAX-toting, three pane, drag and drop supporting Oddpost derivative.) Nice. It automatically remembered my MyYahoo feeds. Easy to post to personal pages in Yahoo 360. It’s light on features — doesn’t do images, weak on feed discovery, and, what, no “mark all as read”? But it’s very gracefully integrated.

It works well on the new Firefox 1.5, which is also snappy. I still prefer a dedicated RSS reader, or the Sage extension to Firefox, but that’s just personal taste. Nor is Yahoo’s beta a real substitute for someone who’s wed to, for instance, Outlook-integrated NewsGator.

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Looking for Ads on Tivo — Don’t Laugh November 29, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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It’s too easy to mock Tivo for working on a platform “allowing users to search for commercials to skip.” (Great line, though, Gary.) A couple reasons why this initiative isn’t brain dead:

– DRTV spending (that’s infomercials, folks) is in the $3-4 billion a year range
– Conversion rates for direct-mail marketing videotapes are famously high
– Look who’s involved: that’s a nice list of big media buyers and the biggest US cable MSO. (Yes, my usual rule of “partnership” importance analysis applies: must have two of three — money changes hands, product ships, exclusivity. Unclear on all counts.)
– What do you think Food Network is, anyway? And the Travel Channel? Branded entertainment? Infomercialtainment? Whatever.

I’m not sold on active keyword search on the big screen for a while. Not without a keyboard. Voice recognition? Nah, it’ll have to be links in the guide, a la tune-to’s, with suggestions. And if I were a studio, I wouldn’t pay by the click to show a trailer. Geez, not everything has to mimic paid search advertising.

Meanwhile, our surveys say nearly 40% of DVR users skip commercials “most of the time” while 12% say they “don’t watch any commercials anymore.” Definitely time to start thinking creatively.

FCC to Recommend Unbundling Cable Nets? November 29, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Count me among those who cynically expect this will more likely lead to a net decline in the number of available networks as very marginal nets get squeezed out by a lack of critical-mass demand — and further ownership consolidation at the big players, if that’s even possible — rather than more consumer choice. At least in the near term.

Don’t worry, Disney owns ESPN and the Disney Channel. They’ll figure something out. Our best hope for more TV choice is, gasp, Rupert Murdoch. It sure isn’t VOOM.

One postitive note: there might end up being some new porn networks!

    Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin is expected to announce today at a Senate forum on indecency that the FCC will soon reissue its review of cable industry “ la carte” pricing with a wholly different conclusion. While the original report concluded that consumers would pay more for individual channels, the new one concludes they could pay less.

    …Mr. Martin’s testimony today will likely find a receptive audience on Capitol Hill, where lawmakers have expressed interest in expanding indecency regulations to cover the cable and satellite industries.

Passing Fancies? November 28, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Fortune has a pair of 3,000-word stories on geek-trendy topics: anime/manga and MMOG (massively multiplayer online game) economies. Does that mean they’re done? Wait, Fortune wrote about game economies back in 1999, and that didn’t jinx ’em.

Katie, Tell Us You Didn’t Know… November 28, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Personally, I think Katie Couric would be great as the CBS evening anchor. At the very least, she’s worth an experiment. She’s worth every penny of her reported $15 million salary for an AM show — it remains to be seen if nighttime news could ever be worth the investment. But this blow by blow of her lack of same during the Macy’s parade balloon accident where two sisters were injured might cause a few newsies to balk.

    At 11:47 a.m., about 7 minutes after the accident, the screen image faded from live coverage of a high school marching band from Kennesaw, Ga., to last year’s tape of the M&M balloon. Ms. Couric, advising the audience that it was now looking at old tape, riffed on the balloon’s concept of M&M’s in distress.

    “Now, because of today’s windy conditions,” Ms. Couric told viewers, “these characters are on video, and if we told you they were not in a panic, we’d be full of hot air.”

    (Matt) Lauer, Ms. Couric’s co-anchor on the “Today” show, chimed in: “You may be thinking ‘color us clueless’ as they flirt with trouble, with Yellow hanging on by a thread and Red struggling to keep his best buddy from flying off into the blue.”

The Times story says it’s not clear how much the paradecasters knew, and when.

Who You Calling Putty, Pal? November 27, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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My colleague Joe Wilcox, an ex-reporter, as I am, reminds me that I sign NDAs, even while I am criticizing journalists at dailies for doing so.

Joe, I sign NDAs so I can work closely with companies. I don’t need to talk to analysts, or to competitors, or to users, in real-time, for the “full story” to do my job. Silly me, I thought that was what journalists did. Last I checked, their job is quite a bit different than ours.

Beta This, Buddy November 27, 2005

Posted by David Card in Digital Home & Personal Tech.
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The Journal complains that back in the mainframe days, companies didn’t release software products in beta. Heck, back in the mainframe days, the Journal didn’t allow its reporters to honor non-disclosures. Both never-ending public betas — Google News is in its third year for pete’s sake — and real, live journalists succombing to NDAs are heinous examples of how consumers are putty in the hands of tech marketers. At least with betas, you know what you’re getting into. Sort of.

Newspaper, Deconstruct Thyself November 27, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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The Washington Post is embracing a concept colleague Barry Parr calls Website deconstruction.

    Welcome to washingtonpost.com’s Post Remix site, affectionately known as mashingtonpost.com.

    This site has two goals:

    – To spotlight the work of outside Web developers who’ve made cool and interesting projects (“mashups”) using Post content.
    – To provide information about washingtonpost.com’s various data offerings (APIs and RSS feeds).

    Why are we doing this? Because we want to foster innovation, and because we want to see your ideas about new ways of displaying news and information on the Web.

The Post links to the results of these mashups. Excellent use of the medium; let’s see if it increases reach or site usage. The Post retains the rights to its content, of course, as well as the right to steal any good ideas. Smart!

What the Web Is Good For November 22, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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No, not porn or gambling. (Not this time.) A cool, addictive little app that you couldn’t do in any other medium, courtesy iVillage. Consumer-friendly interactive visual display of data. (Got the tip from my Earthlink newsletter.) And it’s a book promotion, too.

How Murdoch Will Kill Google? November 22, 2005

Posted by David Card in Media.
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courtesy of Slate’s Jack Shafer. Not particularly inspired, but thoughtful and provocative. I agree with the cross-media network angle, and the potential for Google to compete on too many fronts, and the potential for it to alienate those that should be partners. But yet another commentator forgets that Yellow Pages are probably a necessary part of the Classifieds/local ads equation. And, what, no mention of human editors vs. robots?