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Probably Science Fiction? May 30, 2008

Posted by David Card in Media.
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From Michael Crichton conversation with Slate’s Jack Shafer:

“I want a news service that tells me what no one knows but is true nonetheless,” he says.

15 years ago, Crichton predicted the death of mass media, to be replaced by some kind of fee-based infobot or something. Shafer thinks he’s half-right. The full email is worth a read.

No Way to Build an Operating System May 29, 2008

Posted by David Card in Media.
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This is no way to build an operating system. Microsoft Watch opines, based on the D6 conference stage show:

    Windows 7 will ship in 2009, almost certainly in time for holiday PCs. Microsoft disclosed today that there would be no major architectural changes from Vista, which would greatly reduce development complications.

Check out this comment, in another of Joe Wilcox’s blogs, that appends some internal e-mails released during the dark days of DoJ.

    MSFT has worked on WinFS for more than a decade without success in making it fast, reliable, and easy-to-use enough for release. The Longhorn “reset” in 2004 was in large part the realization that WinFS was still not ready for primetime.

    At the June 2004 WWDC, Jobs blew away the MSFT engineers in attendance by demonstrating lightning fast Spotlight searches on Tiger (OSX 10.4). The court-released MSFT emails show how flabbergasted they were, and the imperative of getting the Tiger preview DVDs back to Redmond for reverse engineering. Comments by MSFT’s Jim Allchin and Lenn Pryor were priceless.

    Here’s Pryor:

    ” You will have to take Vic’s disk…I am not giving mine up. 😉 Tonight I got on corpnet, hooked up Mail.app to my Exchange server and then downloaded all of my mail into the local file store. I did system wide queries against docs, contacts, apps, photos, music, and my Microsoft email on a Mac. It was f*cking amazing. It is like I just got a free pass to Longhorn land today.”

    Here’s Allchin:

    “Yes. I know. It is hard to take. I don’t believe we will have search this fast.”

So, apparently, the 2009-2010 version of Windows will still not have the next-gen file system I was writing about more than 10 years ago — when “Cairo” was the lead codename — let alone a microkernel with modules for OS “personalities” and compatibility.

You’re gonna fend off Google and cloud computing with a touch screen?? Good luck. I do hope there’s a skunkworks Plan B in the labs. No wonder buying Yahoo “isn’t strategic.”

No Way to Build a Media Brand May 29, 2008

Posted by David Card in Media.
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This is no way to build a media brand. The CW has farmed out its Sunday night to Media Rights Capital, and this is the line-up. I’m sympathetic with the challenges of programming a second-tier broadcast net against Sunday night football, whatever HBO’s top gun is in any given season, and Desperate Housewives. But the CW has been making some progress — if not a lot of Nielsen ratings points — towards establishing itself as a network for young females that is very open to branded entertainment opportunities. (Yes, I mean product placement and sponsorship. Folks, that’s a good thing.) But this:

    The series all target a slightly older adults 18-49 aud than the rest of CW’s sked — in response to a request made by Tribune, which owns the CW’s major market affils and is looking for better late-news lead-ins. And because it’s going up against “Sunday Night Football” in the fall, the shows all come with a slight female bent.

…sounds weak, old-fashioned (late night news lead-in???) and, worse, off-brand.

Ignore the garish green and occasionally slipshod execution (the store, for instance), and focus on how the CW’s Web site builds strong ties across the music and apparel on its shows.

Google Hearts Mobile Marketing May 28, 2008

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Der chief Google lurves der mobile. More than video or social media, apparently. I’m not so sure about this:

    FAZ: What about video and display advertising?

    Eric Schmidt: A lot of opportunities are in video and display. But there are things where you can do ads on, but some things you can’t. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. Mobile works all the time.

    FAZ: Can mobile business be larger than the PC-Web?

    Eric Schmidt: Yes, mobile will be a larger business than the PC-Web. But it will take a few years.

I totally agree with this, however:

    Eric Schmidt: It is obvious that people spend a lot of time in social networks. I believe there will be some new advertising products, that will work, but I don’t think they are invented yet. We and others are working on social advertising products.

Dubious Data Point for Predicting Box Office Performance May 25, 2008

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Yesterday, in line for an Indiana Jones showing in ten minutes, there were more people in front of me pre-buying for next week’s Sex in the City debut, which was selling out, than for Indy. And they were a little embarrassed about it. This is probably a downtown Manhattan thing, and not indicative of general trends.

Some More Thoughts on Microsoft’s Cashback Search May 21, 2008

Posted by David Card in Media.
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…courtesy Jupiter search lead analyst Evan Andrews:

– Cluttered results pages are generally unsuccessful, and the user experience fairly involved, requiring substantial cashback discounts to entice
– Microsoft risks alienating the affiliate marketing crowd not to mention it will require many marketers to manage an entirely new channel, and the question remains: is the traffic to be gained worth the headache?
– This service requires marketers to not only align brand and shopping experiences but also share consumer data or require consumers to trust their data to Microsoft as well as to the merchant. And how much data do the marketers get back from Microsoft?
– There may be marketer confusion over who manages the program and what budget it taps: paid listings, SEO, or affiliate marketing

Earlier, I talked a bit about what the program might mean for marketers.

Live Search Cashback: It’s Not Just About Rebates for Searchers May 21, 2008

Posted by David Card in Media.
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A lot of the coverage based on leaks focused on the user angle of Microsoft’s new Live Search Cashback program, so I’ll point out a few things from the marketer’s perspective, as my NDA has lifted.

Microsoft’s pitch to paid listings marketers is that they can move from a cash per click metric to a more precise conversion model. They don’t have to pay (via rebate) until after an actual sale. This is an attractive concept, for sure, although loaded with nuance, esp. in comparing ROI across engines and campaigns.

Microsoft is also offering to take a risk on behalf of participating merchants. Though it wouldn’t tell us how much it was going to “spend,” Microsoft will essentially buy CPC listings for merchants, hoping to cash in by taking a piece of actual sale. It’s not clear to me how, for instance, Best Buy might react if Microsoft is doing this for Circuit City. That will have some impact on the keyword pricing for Best Buy, though Microsoft says it won’t be aiming for top spot. And what will Best Buy think of Microsoft the engine acting so much like an affiliate or an agency?

These kinds of things will be worked out as the marketplace gains liquidity. And it’s a strong sign of innovation from Microsoft in search. (I won’t give them “disruptive” yet). As a completely unfair comparison, I had previously asked Yahoo how much it was willing to engage various kinds of arbitrage while its marketplaces build, and it seemed totally unwilling to do so.

And of course, if this actually works, Google’s already more efficient marketplace would make it that much easier for Google to offer something similar.

Inquiring Jupiter clients should set up a chat with colleague and lead search analyst Evan Andrews for his take.

How Many Sr. Time Warner Execs Does It Take To… May 21, 2008

Posted by David Card in Media.
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Quoting the Journal, spinning off Time Warner Cable will:

Not only will it make Time Warner more content-focused, it will free up management to find a long-term solution for the company’s AOL Internet unit.

Seriously, I doubt this is the case. I think they’ve had a few folks working on that one for a while now.

Yahoo Microsoft Speculation: Stop the Madness May 20, 2008

Posted by David Card in Media.
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The speculation-o-meter’s absurdity dial is on 11. According to SmartMoney columnist James Stewart, who should know better (Den of Thieves – good book, DisneyWar – not so much), writing in the Wall Street Journal:

    If Microsoft essentially buys all of Yahoo’s ad business, both search and display, then it gets nearly all the benefits of a merger. Yahoo would become a pure content company, basically outsourcing its ad business to Microsoft.

    There’s a deal that starts to make sense.

Yeah, that’s it. Buy Yahoo’s ad business but not its content business. Then it’d be a content company, not a media company.

Good lord, what does he think a media company is?!? Content is a way to get an audience you sell ads against, sir. One is very rarely in only one of those businesses, when one is in the Big Leagues. Only also-rans and niche players can completely outsource ad sales. Only market-dominating ad networks (see Google) are great businesses. Studios — content companies that license their content to ad sellers and others — are best served by multiple distributors, or by way-overpriced exclusives. Yahoo is not a studio.

Yahoo, Microsoft, and Google all aspire to Big League greatness. As well they should.

C’mon, Steve, What Do You Really Want? May 19, 2008

Posted by David Card in Media.
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The speculation-o-meter just reached “absurd.” Here’s what Microsoft needs:

– Critical-mass marketplace of ad buyers
– Possibility to combine search marketplace, display marketplace, and direct premium ad sales, because Google can’t do that
– Many, many eyeballs to put its search technology and marketplace in front of
– Potential critical-mass communications and, possibly, social media user base to put its platform technology in front of
– Cloud-computing enterprise software platforms and/or user bases (less important than the consumer stuff, where MSFT lags badly)

If you see a way Redmond gets more than one of those via some of these silly speculations, then perhaps they’re not silly. I don’t.

Steve, buy Yahoo. Buy Facebook. But this talk of bogus joint ventures doesn’t dent the Google armor, as far as I can see.