Wednesday, May 03, 2006

On Demand In Debate

Some interesting back-and-forth between Robert Young and Mark Cuban over at Between the Lines about on-demand programming. Mark's argument centers. Also see Cuban's rejoinder in the comments.

Mark's argument essentially centers around audience inertia and that, in a linear programming world, people will tend to stay tuned to the same channel. The result? Much lower marketing costs compared to a non-linear model such as, for the most part, movies.

We are so used to being blasted with promos for new shows on the networks we watch, that we take it for granted. Its called selling to the people in the church advertising. If you are already in the pews, you are predisposed to like the next sermon and you are certainly a qualified audience to promote the next sermon to. The same applies to TV shows. If you are watching FX, you have an idea of what to expect , and you are the perfect consumer to advertise to.

Robert's rejoinder is that, in a world where the "distribution" of content is no longer limited to finite slices of time on a finite number of channels, who cares? Rather than carefully selecting the projects for a limited number of slots, let a thousand flowers bloom.

But what if programmers didn't have to take such high risks and they didn't have to choose that one from a pool of a hundred or a thousand. So instead of making that one big bet, what if they took the same development dollars and spread it out amongst a number of different projects. This is precisely what Internet TV will allow them to do… something they really couldn't do effectively and efficiently on broadcast TV.

I don't totally buy Mark Cuban's argument. There's no "Must See Thursday" any longer. And while DVRs such as TiVo remain a technology used mostly by an early adopter minority, the fragmentation of audiences across the cable spectrum and the increase in other entertainment choices have already made linear programming a less effective audience-retention strategy than it once was. Studios/networks/gatekeepers may well continue to have some value, but they're going to have to deal with a less linear space one way or another.

But Robert misses an important point, . It assumes that time slots are the only scarce resource. But they're not. Money is too. And it's at least as important. As Mark notes in his follow-up comment: "go to any downloadable content site. There are thousands upon thousands of shows, movies, videos, all produced hoping they would just capture back their costs. Few do... The thing about the gatekeepers in hollywood, if they say yes, they pay you . Most if not all of your costs. then they commit to spend a lot of money promoting you."

Remix Culture and Harvard

Some interesting thoughts by Timothy Burke on remixing, plagiarism and their relationship to creativity and originality over at Easily Distracted. Read the comments too.(Andrew Orlowski, a particular skeptic of remix culture, has also written on the topic here.)

As Burke notes, there are "examples of visual media where the remixes were inspired, entertaining, and emotionally engaging." However, at the same time "remixing" so often becomes an excuse for misappropriation. An additional problem is that of giving credit where credit is due. We've had hundreds of years to figure out what's appropriate in different contexts within print—where and how credit should be given and in what form. For photos, video, music, and even code proper and legal behaviors are far less clear.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Email != Collaboration

There's an interesting post over on the CentralDesktop blog about the problems of using email as a collaboration tool. I'm not sure I agree that all the problems listed are all that problematic—at least in a well-managed IT infrastructure, but the issue of siloed data certainly is:

Think of your Email Inbox as a heavily fortified walled garden. Not mentioning the difficulties many have accessing their Email Inbox outside the corporate firewall, the Email Inbox contains a hodgepodge of business, personal and private information that most people do not want to share with others.

For many folks, the Email Inbox contains their most intimate secrets all mashed together into a single location: business correspondences, contracts, proposals, reminders, tasks, love letters, indiscreet online purchases, dirty jokes, pictures of your spouse (and kids), time-wasting games, inappropriate messages from co-workers and friends and lets not forget spam.

A number of the commenters to the post object that email is not intended as acollaboration tool, but I think that misses the point. Because email is pervasive, it tends to become the hammer for every job, no matter how ill-suited for the task. Furthermore, which vendor of email and personal productivity tools isn't calling them "collaboration tools" today.

As I've argued previously, Wikis and other lightweight Web 2.0 innovations notwithstanding, most of these so-called collaboration tools that people actually use today are far more about the individual than the group.

Different Prices are Confusing??

It may well be true that variable track pricing at the iTunes Music Store could well have ended up as a price increase by another name. The record labels certainly weren't pushing for variable pricing so that they could make less money. Therefore, holding at a 99 cent fixed price—which carries with it a sort of psychological barrier against an across-the-board increase—was probably a good thing for consumers on balance.

But that doesn't make a lot of the commentary from the Apple fan club any less silly. A 99 cent fixed-price for music downloads might be a good compromise for buyers in an imperfect world, but let's not pretend it makes economic sense—especially in a long tail world with negligible distribution and inventory costs. There is virtue in simplicity, but it's hard to credit that a single price for all the music in all the world is best sold at a single, identical price.

I any case, some of the campaigning against variable pricing as variable pricing (as opposed to against price increases) is just silly. Witness the following example from ars-technica:

In our report on variable pricing, we speculated that "polluting" the iTMS with a mishmash of prices would not only confuse potential customers, but possibly stunt the entire online music industry, something we still believe, but looks less likely to happen after today's news:

"Critics of the "mix of prices" ideology say that users will be confused and scared off by prices that are not consistent across the board and possibly end up going back to downloading illegally via P2P. While this sounds ridiculous upon first blush, I personally don't think it's all that far out of the realm of possibility."

Users confused because things they want to buy may have different prices? Somehow I think that most people have figured out how to handle that particular complication of life.

Monday, May 01, 2006

For Red Sox fan Self-Torture

Very cute even if the 1980's vintage Nintendo RBI Baseball graphics can't wholly and completely represent the horror of a ball through the first baseman's legs sort of thing. (It's a Boston thing.)

via James Robertson