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Not the Only Steve with a Reality Distortion Field July 31, 2006

Posted by David Card in Media.
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I love Steve Perlman. He’s got the charm on top of his geek-cred that Rob Glaser’s never been able to pull off. Perlman’s charmed both the Times and the Journal into heavy coverage of his latest motion-capture technology play. But how is “Contour” different than the current state of the art?

    “Steve is really on to something here,” said Ed Ulbrich, vice president of Digital Domain, a Hollywood special-effects company in Venice, Calif. “The holy grail of digital effects is to be able to create a photorealistic human being…”

    “…It’s been used in stunts and big special-effects scenes,” Mr. Ulbrich said. “Now you can use it for two actors sitting at a table and talking. You have the ability to tell stories and have close-up scenes that make you laugh and cry.”

Two actors, sitting at a table. Wow.

Of course, MSM is in good company. Perlman’s resume includes General Magic, and he sold WebTV to Microsoft for over $400 million. Now, that’s charm.

Why the Sunday Times Is Not a Pop-Culture Must-Read, Part XXVII July 30, 2006

Posted by David Card in Marketing.
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Please, somebody, after you read this monstrously silly 7,000 word piece in the Times Sunday Magazine, explain to me why the story’s subjects are “brands” rather than boutiques?

    The answer he came up with is worth paying attention to because it speaks to a significant but little-noted development in contemporary culture. Young people have always found fresh ways to rebel, express individuality or form subculture communities through cultural expression: new art, new music, new literature, new films, new forms of leisure or even whole new media forms. A-Ron’s preferred form of expression, however, is none of those things. When he talks about his chosen medium, which he calls aNYthing, it sounds as if he’s talking about an artists’ collective, indie film production company, a zine or a punk band. But in fact, aNYthing is a brand. A-Ron puts his brand on T-shirts and hats and other items, which he sells in his own store, among other places. He sees it as fundamentally of a piece with the projects and creations of his anti-mainstream heroes.

A-Ron, btw, appears to be a total — I better type “jerk” rather than the obvious. And Our Reporter has it both ways, allowing A-Ron’s own cred-killing (or is it?) petard hoisting. Uhhhh, I guess that passes for irony, Beavis, but it sure makes you wonder why we were fooled into sticking with the article to the end:

    “My whole thing now is if you don’t sell out, you sell out on yourself,” he went on to announce. If he could get the money, the resources, he could go bigger, with more creative projects, reaching more people — and he wouldn’t worry about being called a sellout. He raised his eyebrows for emphasis: “I was cool before this thing happened. It didn’t make me cool.” It’s a line of thought that many cultural rebels come around to, sooner or later. “We’re here,” he told me, “to do business.”

Tales of the (Online) Tabloids July 30, 2006

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Whoulda thunk TMZ.com would break a big news story? Of course, it’s this story. TMZ is the slightly uncomfortable progeny of Time Warner’s Telepictures Television (producers of Extra, Ellen DeGeneres, and the cancelled Celebrity Justice — from which it’s spun) and AOL. Most of its coverage runs more along these lines.

Kazaa to Go Legit July 27, 2006

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Big deal. It’s not about “file-sharing,” or “peer to peer.” It’s about free music. The illegal networks have already moved offshore.

The release. The news. Colleague Mark Mulligan obsesses analyzes here. (The labels invested in Pressplay and MusicNet, too; look how well that worked out for them.)

It won’t be easy to turn a file-sharing network into a viable business. The competition is brutal and file-sharing networks’ assets really boil down to their user base (at least 14 million in the US across the various services) and their catalog. There are possibly as many as 25 million songs on those networks, as compared with the 3 million cleared digitally, and 4 to 5 million on CDs available from online retail.

Converting the free users will be tough. So will making a business out of the catalog. In theory, songs that the rights holders want to be shared for free could be made available, along with unclaimed songs labels and publishers can track down with a network’s help.

Long Tail Hype — Busted July 26, 2006

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Joining the Economist, Slate, and others, Wall Street Journal columnist Lee Gomes offers some tough criticism of Chris Anderson’s Long Tail book and hyping (Anderson’s blog attempts to refute the review). And Gomes did some real reporting to back it up. Good work, Lee.

    Ecast told me that now, with a much bigger inventory than when Mr. Anderson spoke to them two years ago, the quarterly no-play rate has risen from 2% to 12%. March data for the 1.1 million songs of Rhapsody, another streamer, shows a 22% no-play rate; another 19% got just one or two plays.

    Mr. Anderson told me in an email that he only mentioned the 98 Percent Rule to show how he first got interested in the book’s overall subject, adding, “I have no idea how broadly it applies today.”

And, continuing:

    Another theme of the book is that “hits are starting to rule less.” But when I looked online, I was surprised to see what seemed like the opposite. Ecast says 10% of its songs account for roughly 90% of its streams; monthly data from Rhapsody showed the top 10% songs getting 86% of streams.

Gomes cites similar figures for other media. He says Anderson says the point is that the role of the long tail is increasing. Okay, Chris, but your subtitle says this is the future of business. And reportedly you say something about the end of common culture.

Economists — heck, even Jupiter analysts — have been talking about long-tail markets for years. There’s no question it’s an important characteristic of digital media. From an upcoming JupiterResearch report:

    It is not enough to simply say that the limitless stocking capacity, search-ability, and relatively low-cost distribution of the Internet enables greater content availability than media restricted by limited distribution (there are only so many networks, or store shelves, or weekends for movie openings in a year). Rather, one has to prove that a) there is significant demand for non-blockbuster entertainment, b) that the long tail can change the Pareto principle (a.k.a. the 80-20 rule, another “power law distribution”), and c) that anyone can make money off the tail, without delivering the head also.

Disclaimer: I haven’t read the book yet, hence my own lack of review. I love the long tail; it just doesn’t wag the dog yet. And maybe won’t ever. I read a lot of what Anderson writes, and I’ll get around to the book shortly. But Anderson doesn’t have to worry. His book is safely at the head end, at Number 20 on Amazon this morning.

Apparently, Supermodels Aren’t Celebrities July 26, 2006

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Silly piece in the Journal:

    The pendulum’s swing back to models reflects what some fashion marketers are calling “celebrity fatigue”: A-list entertainers are so overexposed that “there is a major lack of trust,” says Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the Luxury Institute, a New York consulting firm.

Yet the story goes on to differentiate between supermodels and plain old regular models:

    Interestingly, the fashion industry has shied away from models for so long that advertisers seeking a well-known face have to go back to supermodels like Ms. Turlington (age 37) or Ms. Campbell (age 36) or Ms. Moss (32), says Sean Patterson, president of Wilhelmina Models, New York. “The industry hasn’t allowed a new set of supermodels to be created,” he says.

RIP, Teen People July 25, 2006

Posted by David Card in Media.
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This probably won’t be the last to shut down.

    Time Inc. said it will stop publishing Teen People with the September 2006 issue but operate the magazine as an online-only venture. The magazine, which was launched in 1998, had seen its circulation and advertising decline in the past few years. Ann Moore and John Huey, the chief executive and editor-in-chief of Time Inc., told employees in a memo that the company would continue to invest in Web site, “which shows promise and growth.”

Heavy magazine readers are a highly desirable audience: they’re influential and wealthy. An audience that other media — especially online — will target aggressively.

Emily and I pretty much agree. Magazines that depend on young audiences — especially general rather than targetable ones — and on timely news, and that don’t have gorgeous pictures and advertisers who like glossy print (and passalong readership), are hugely vulnerable. Especially if they’re not either very small or very large in circ or revenues.

Who needs medium-sized weekly news or entertainment or, gasp, sports mags, for instance? It’s gonna get ugly.

Ring Tones for Geezers July 24, 2006

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Err, make that “hipsters.” From the press release:

    EMI Music’s legendary jazz label Blue Note Records has begun releasing ring tunes featuring riffs from some classic recordings by legendary artists including Thelonious Monk, Herbie Hancock, Art Blakey and Chet Baker. Part of a new program called “The Best of Blue Tones”, this marks the first time these tracks have been made available for the mobile platform, and it will give jazz fans an opportunity to personalize their mobile lives with the classic jazz tracks they know and love.

That’s some 18 karat gas, dad. I know all you hepcats and kittens will check it out.

New Ads/Search Forecast; New Podcast: Connect the Dots July 23, 2006

Posted by David Card in Media.
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It’s all about the paid search, baby. Our latest forecast. We do the Google vs. Microsoft dance in a podcast, also available on iTunes, and barely address a key issue. That is, it’s pretty clear why Google wants to establish search as a consumer UI platform, but why does Microsoft need to compete as an ad network?

The numbers are one answer. Plus, Microsoft is smart enough to know that ad dollars will support a lot of its application business going forward. Not word processors, for pete’s sake, but small biz apps. So Microsoft thinks it’s got to be a playa. Why not a Yahoo partner? One wonders.

News Flash: Hollywood Plagued by Conspiracy of “Managerial Elite” July 20, 2006

Posted by David Card in Media.
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An LA Times piece on the panic gripping Hollywood over Disney’s 650 layoffs offers this priceless quote:

    “It’s as if the managerial elite has made a secret pact to adhere to certain business principles that they want to enforce on agents and artists,” said (“Da Vinci Code” producer Brian) Grazer, who sees studios as more rigid today about how far they’ll stretch to compensate even the biggest stars, directors, producers and writers on movie projects.

    “That’s never happened in the 25 years I’ve been producing.”

What??!!?? Financial discipline in Hollywood?? Companies actually run like a “business”? By “managers”? Say it isn’t so!