Thursday, March 29, 2007

Time Out (for a good laugh)

(Okay, it may be a bit out of context for a tech/media/business 'blog, but this was just too good not to share, and easily linkable to boot.)
From, "America's ad-free cartoon and humor newspaper," where they unfortunately don't give any further info on the artist; but the name looks like "horacek."

...but this is the Internet, isn't it?, and sure enough a quick search reveals that indeed the artist's name is Judy Horacek, she's Australian, and here's her own site.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Web apps: Are manageable expectations possible?

The people over at Virtual Ubiquity, an early-stage startup hard at work on a Web word processor, are demonstrating their baby at the Web Innovators Group event tonight, and I found their new blog while browsing the various presenters’ sites.

They say they’re “building the first real word processor for the web,” and as a longtime, fulltime user, trainer and envelope-pusher with such software, I had to leave them a comment on it. Never one to pass up a chance to “repurpose” some “content,” I thought I’d just quickly copy my comment here.

What got me going was this, from their blog (the product’s named Buzzword) --

“The development of a real word-processor - whether on the web or on a desktop - is obviously a much bigger task than just deploying a simple rich text editor. Buzzword goes beyond the basic rich formatting available in HTML or AJAX word-processors - we’re doing real-time pagination and layout, so that you will always know what your document will look like when printed. The result is what we think this is the first WYSIWYG word-processor on the web.
So I offered --
Good luck, and remember to deal sternly with Creeping Featureitis. Given that word processing has been widely used for 20 years means there are multimillions of what the clothing store Syms never fails to call “educated consumers.”

And each one of them (I’ll be as guilty as anybody, I’m sure,) will expect all their particular favorite functions to be there, and with the same keyboard shortcuts, too! When you consider how many hundreds of commands have been out there in WP, you’ve got your work cut out for you. Obviously, the biggest job will be deciding what Not to put in.

Although this is wicked-late notice, considering that it starts in four hours, the Web Innovators Group get-together is always quite the hot ticket; hosted by David Beisel of Masthead Venture Partners, it's even free. It's at the Royal Sonesta in Cambridge at 6:30 (dir's).

I wouldn't even bring it up now if it wasn't for the fact that David generally puts one on every other month, so look for the next around May.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

'The Internet Can't Handle Full-blown TV'

(Ed. Note: This is old "news" -- now backdated over a month! -- but it's stuck in the back of the mind as being one of the issues of larger import heard in the intervening time.)

The top man for TV technology with Google, which acquired YouTube last year, told a European cable group that the Internet was not designed for TV. Companies working on putting broadcast quality TV shows and movies through the Internet were told to rethink their plans.

"'The Web infrastructure, and even Google's (infrastructure) doesn't scale. It's not going to offer the quality of service that consumers expect,' Vincent Dureau, Google's head of TV technology, said at the Cable Europe Congress."
Because (to put it in a few nutshells that I gathered from the article):
"The data involved in one hour of video can equal the total in one year's worth of emails. ISPs are already investing heavily every year just to keep up. YouTube et al may bring the global network to its knees."

("One cable boss in Belgium said it was 'the best news of the day' to hear that Google could not scale for video.")
So, it's looking like we should expect the no-longer "coming" but very much happening TV-Internet convergence to ride on the rails of cable television for the near future, not on just the Internet as is. It'll be a blend, certainly, but with cable companies carrying a lot more of the load than you usually hear. Until the telcos invest heavily enough in fiber optic, that is, at which point all bets are again off.

And, of course, cable's particular capability for this job won't become apparent until worsening response time on the Net starts scoring prominently on the society wide Pain-In-The-Neck Register. Because it does seem, unfortunately, the little ever happens without things first going wrong in dramatic ways.

Google and cable firms warn of risks from Web TV
By Lucas van Grinsven, Reuters, Wed. Feb 7, 2007

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Starbucks Hears the Music

Naturally, there’s no shortage of opinions that Starbucks has waded in over its head in the wrong pond by starting a record label.

From the AP story (3/13):
“Now, rather than basically lending the Starbucks brand to an album, the Los Angeles-based Hear Music label will sign its own artists and sell records through Starbucks stores and other retailers.”
Makes perfect sense to me: not only has sophisticated music been an essential ingredient in their presentation from the start, but they’ve been pushing individual artists and recordings in their stores for years, and, it’s always seemed, very successfully. (They're quoted as claiming music to be only 1% of their business.)

Of course it’s in character for them: the first part of their name, the leadoff sound, has always been "Star." And success in the music biz has always been about stars and hits – the money’s made with them, which supports the rest of the bets you place in constant search for winners.

Hear Music says they won’t build in any advantage over other retailers in distribution or prices. Music stores had better start serving top-drawer coffee, though: the coffeeshops put their product in front of 44 million customers per week. This should certainly expand their role as another Oprah.

(Thank goodness they seemed to have leveled off from the frenzy of store openings of years past – one of the funniest bits I ever saw in the Onion was about a Starbucks that opened in the restroom of an existing Starbucks. And it is true that a drive down Harvard Ave in Boston, for example, will make you feel like Bill Murray’s Groundhogged newsman. Sure smells good, though.)

Starbucks Launches Record Label
Related, here:
Brick and mortar e-music & bookstores (2/12/07)

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Payola settlement with Big Radio to boost indie artists

Ironically, on the same day as the bad news for smalltime music webcasters, the news that the FCC is going to force the four major radio broadcasters to play more indie labels and local artists, plus fine the broadcasting co.'s a few mil each.

Well, aah'll be! Never thought I'd see the day. It's not quite the Berlin Wall being torn down, but a bit similar in spirit.

The broadcasting companies involved are CBS Radio, Clear Channel, Entercom, and Citadel.

FCC Settles Payola Case with Giant Radio Firms
broadcast on NPR's All Things Considered, March 5, 2007, by Neda Ulaby
This being National Public Radio, you can also listen to the story, which I heard on my "terrestrial radio" (on WNYE) while driving to Kingston, NY, to meet with a couple companies.

The New York Times' article (by Jeff Leeds) makes the point that it was New York now-Governer Eliot Spitzer who got the ball rolling when he was Attorney General, which, along with his other taking on of the Bigs, got him his new job. The confessed Payolists are now paying "to resolve claims that they accepted cash and other incentives in exchange for playing songs," that they were "auctioning off the airwaves."

(See? They still are called "the airwaves.")

Monday, March 05, 2007

U.S. Copyright Royalty Board deep-6's music Webcasts?

from Wired yesterday, Sunday 3/4. Extracted, tinkered-with quotes (because it's more fun to take the extra step,) of the article in their Listening Post blogcolumn:

The U.S. Copyright Royalty Board (the who?) announced new royalty rates for webcasts, effective from 2006 to 2010. The board apparently simply endorsed the RIAA's proposal, which would force webcasters to pay for each song streamed to each user, estimated at over a penny an hour for each pair of receiving ears.

The Radio and Internet Newsletter (RAIN)'s math indicates the rate would render Internet radio unsustainable, or at the very least, more ad-laden than terrestrial radio(!) -- and that's before the songwriters' licenses are figured in. Even tiny sites would owe the minimum of $500 per channel per year...

Webcasters have a 15-day period to ask the CRB to rehear arguments.
Here, hear! Easy prediction: besides pulling the plug on smalltime and amateur webcasters, ciao to Web streams of so-called "terrestrial radio" (again, quite a misnomer since you don't stick a radio antenna in the ground; they transmit through what used to be called "the airwaves"). There was a period some years back when some similarly bone-headed ruling made many radio stations decide to take down their Web streams, which then went back up when whoever changed their mind.

"...more ad-laden than terrestrial radio"? Is that even possible? I can't listen to much commercial radio for its oversaturation of ads, a disproportional amount being loud rude ones.

But what'll happen to all those neat stations in iTunes?

Wired's article even has a picture of said Board being sworn in; starting today they'll be sworn at.

Update on the Webcast royalty decision

RAIN (the Radio And Internet Newsletter) quoted in the Wired article says the most successful medium-sized webcaster, Radio Paradise, would owe over 125% of total income. They and the littler guys are toast.

They figure AOL radio would owe $20 million for 2006 -- not only is it retroactive, but increases in each of the five years the ruling will cover.

But -- big surprise -- Clear Channel and the other bigs get off the hook with manageable dues, due to a wrinkle in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act, the infamous DMCA. (Folklore has it that there were some politics involved).

from the RAIN newsletter
(...Because here in America-As-Texas, we like everything BIG. And only big.)

The Radio Paradise people started a very passionate Save Internet Radio site, apparently over the weekend.