Zune: this pretty much sums it up

Standard

I hope and trust that this will be my last Zune post for quite some time, but as I’ve just run across the perfect summary of the Zune launch I had to share. It comes from a USA Today article with the charitable title “While not a splash, Zune makes positive debut.” From the article:

“For a new brand that received limited to mixed reviews, and which is incompatible with the leading music store (Apple’s iTunes,) as well as other music stores, it was a good launch,” says Ross Rubin, an NPD analyst.

Um, right — you couldn’t fit a couple more qualifiers in there? You’ve been hanging out with Andrew Ross Sorkin, haven’t you, Mr. Rubin?

The Internet called: it wants its pageviews back

Standard

Over the last couple of days, PaidContent has noted that both MTV and Yahoo have announced oddly similar-sounding projects. MTV plans to release at least 20 “hyper-programmed experiences” (that’s small, themed, targeted Web sites to you and me), and Yahoo will be building about 100 “brand universes” around specific products or properties (that’s small, themed, targeted Web sites to you and me).

In the Yahoo post Rafat Ali made the insightful observation that “small, themed, targeted Web sites” could also be read as “new inventory for targeted ad serving.”

It’s an interesting point. At least some definitions of Web 2.0 include a lot of elements that are steadily grinding away at our old familiar pageviews = revenue equation: the rise of RSS as a distribution mechanism, explicitly social software as a mechanism for aggregation and discovery of content out of its original context…even ajax does its little part to chip away at on-site page views.

How do you compete when people are spending less time navigating through your site structure (mmmm…ad impressions) to find the information they want, because they have ever better tools to let them know exactly where to find what’s interesting to them?

It sounds to me like some of the big guys are taking a very interesting approach and trying out mayfly content: it’s small, it’s of the moment, it’s out there quickly, and it’s expected to die soon. This certainly won’t replace building out their core Web properties based on longer-term stragegies, but it’s a reasonable approach to taking advantage of the increasingly volatile nature of traffic on the internet: gather ye pageviews while ye may.

Zune: welcome to the gamble

Standard

Or, build it and they will…uh

Later: Slapped together thezunebox.com one night, after coming across a graphic that was absolutely perfect for the topic. Largely says what’s said here, but perhaps worth a look.

Because there hasn’t been enough written about the Zune over the last couple of weeks, I’ll do my part with a quick thought on the campaign that — for better or worse — is defining the Zune: welcome to the social. That tagline probably makes the campaign focus clear enough, but if you’re a little slow you can also check out the twelve video ads that are up on zune.net.

Putting aside the classic Vance Packard-esque “why, yes, Zune users are this young, hip, Xtreme, and/or ethnically diverse” coating that’s been liberally applied to the campaign, it’s all about the social, baby. The heavily-inked turntablists, MCs, and indie rockers in these commercials are clearly making good use of the Zune to share their latest underground creations.

Real pity, then, that Microsoft kneecapped the Zune’s sharing capabilities in order to appease Big Content.1 As a side note, it’s also a pity that the zune.net copywriter apparently didn’t get the branding guidelines, and gave zune.net a voice that clashes painfully with the hipsteriffic look of the campaign. Take this snippet where zune.net explains how sharing is actually supposed to be used:

Another friend gets the hilarious podcast your kid brother made at school, plus that song you just downloaded from the Zune Marketplace and can’t get out of your head. And hey, lookee here2 , your friend wants to send you something that you might like and buy, too.

Ouch. On the plus side, since I’m certain that there was alternate copy written for the site in response to someone’s request to “give it an urban edge…make it clear to consumers that the Zune is all about keeping it real,” we certainly ended up with the lesser of two evils.

But back to the point: the big gamble that I see is that the campaign is built around a “feature” that’s totally outside of Microsoft’s control. Even if Microsoft hadn’t decided to go with a painfully RIAA-friendly definition of “sharing your music,” the campaign isn’t about the Zune’s wifi capability as such, it’s about the Zune Community…whatever that may turn out to be.

As the creators of countless social bookmarking sites, wikis, and online communities will tell you, it’s a lot harder than you might think to create a community, and the Zune has an even tougher row to hoe because it’s depending on users to find one another without any central guidance. Zunesters must spontaneously create micro-communities that blossom and then crumble into nothing in a matter of minutes or hours, leaving nothing to mark their passing.

It may be that Microsoft is hoping that pre-existing communities will adopt the Zune in order to take advantage of the social, but that’s a pretty big gamble, too: the phrase “don’t worry about it, dude, just burn me a copy and bring it with you tomorrow night” could pretty easily rip apart the fabric of the social.

I’m really surprised that Microsoft didn’t do more to prime the pump on this. Give Zunes away to every street-level music fiend they could find. Pay people to take Zunes to public places and share their little hearts out. Build a “Zunebox” (think jukebox) that allows Zune users to pull down songs and then install one in every Starbucks, Borders Music, and Best Buy in key markets.

Anything at all, really, to give Zunesters as many opportunities as possible to think “damn this is cool” while they grab a new track out of the ether…anything to minimize the number of times that people look for the social only to get: No nearby Zune devices found, or nearby devices have wireless turned off.

welcome to the notes
All shared music — even, say, that demo track that your band just recorded and is trying to pass around — “expires” after three plays or three days, and songs received via sharing can’t be passed along to anyone else.

Could someone under 35 please drop me a note to confirm that lookee here is, in fact, what you kids today are saying? I’d hate to sound like a goober if I start casually dropping it into conversation.

A day late and a dollar short…

Standard

Back in October I heard about SlideShare — noted on Many-to-Many as “the YouTube of PowerPoint” — and decided that I was going to pitch my next Web2.0 idea as the Flickr of org charts.

Today I learn via Steve Rubel that somebody has already beaten me to the punch. Damn it. So let me introduce you to CogMap, the organization chart wiki. Now I’ll admit that their implementation is pretty 2.0, but there’s more to be done: come on, guys, we at least need RSS feeds to monitor changes to the org charts. Oh, and I expect an equity position for that idea, okay?

Update: In a related note, there’s some serious one-upsmanship going on in the world of Hollywood-style elevator pitches. Apparently MyFabrik is the YouTube and Flickr of online storage.

Blogfodder Dump: 20061117

Standard

This business model is probably patented, anyway: Peter Zura proves himself a Renaissance man (patent and copyright) with the post Patent Troll, Meet Sample Troll.

It’s a small world, after all: the Online Press Gazette’s list of the “new establishment” of online journalism in Britain. Interesting read: note that the top ten can be summarized as “an Australian/naturalized American, another American, and pretty much anybody who works at the BBC or the Guardian. And oh yeah, the Daily Telegraph used to be pretty cool, too.”

It’s an interesting jumping off point for Friday musings: GigaOM’s Robert Young noting that Social Media is not Mass Media.

Identity, Privacy, and Taxonomy: Doc Searls continues to push “Vendor Relationship Management,” and suggests that all interested parties head to the December 4-6 Internet Identity Workshop. Unfortunately there’s no way I’m getting out to Mountain View two weeks from now — can somebody who goes drop me an overview?

Disillusionment of 10 O’clock: while Jason Calcanis’ departure from AOL is getting most of the blogtwitter, Global Nerdy also notes that Aaron Swartz apparently isn’t all that excited about being part of Wired.

Start swapping in words other than “search” and the real fun starts: Bill Burnham noting that Search + State + Metadata = A Search Application. Just sit and think about that equation for a while before you read the post, please. It’s worth the extra time out of your day.

Because that SCO thing worked out so well for everybody: Ballmer floats the idea that Linux uses [Microsoft’s] intellectual property. [Slashdotted, only intermittently available.]

I don’t really care about Etsy but this was really funny: Charley O’Donnell imagines various sites’ user response to two days of scheduled downtime.

Extra! Extra! Come back tomorrow and read all about it!

Standard

Upon reading Peter Scheer’s What if online portals had nothing but ‘digital fish wrap’? from this Sunday’s SF Chronicle, I had to check my calendar: I’ve been a little busy lately, but I was almost certain that it wasn’t April Fools day again already.

Sadly, the piece was published on November 12th and I can only assume that Mr. Scheer actually believes that his proposal for saving print newspapers is viable:

What to do? Here’s my proposal: Newspapers and wire services need to figure out a way, without running afoul of antitrust laws, to agree to embargo their news content from the free Internet for a brief period — say, 24 hours — after it is made available to paying customers. The point is not to remove content from the Internet, but to delay its free release in that venue.

A temporary embargo, by depriving the Internet of free, trustworthy news in real-time, would, I believe, quickly establish the true value of that information. Imagine the major Web portals — Yahoo, Google, AOL and MSN — with nothing to offer in the category of news except out of date articles from “mainstream” media and blogosphere musings on yesterday’s news. Digital fish wrap. And the portals know from unhappy experience (most recently in the case of Yahoo) just how difficult it is to create original and timely news content themselves.

Go read the piece if you don’t believe me: that is, word for word, Scheer’s proposal.

So…we’re assuming that the denizens of the blogosphere, being creatures of the internet, will be limited to commenting on the out of date articles that the “mainstream” press deigns to put online. Is that because these blogger types do not, say, read newspapers or watch television, or because the blogosphere’s feelings for this media cabal will be so overwhelmingly positive they will choose to honor the news embargo?

As long as we’re on the subject of the cabal, what exactly is the argument that you’ll present to broadcasters who have little to no interest in the viability of newsprint? GE, Time Warner, Disney, CBS, and Viacom, with their total lack of newspaper holdings, care why? And you’re planning on bringing in all the major non-US news organizations, too, right? As I understand it, the rest of the world uses the same Internet that we do.

But just for fun let’s say that we actually do get this cabal going and the Internet slips 24 hours into the past. As Scheer notes, the major Web portals have found it difficult to create original and timely news content. That sounds like an incomplete sentence to me, though, so I might continue it like this: the major Web portals have found it difficult to create original and timely news content when they have to compete with organizations such as the AP, the New York Times, and others that already have large and well established news gathering, reporting, and analysis groups.

To continue on with this gedankenexperiment: with our cabal in place — gleefully rubbing their hands together in Grinch-like fashion — that giant sucking sound that we hear at 12:00:01 on Embargo Day is all of the above mentioned major Web portals, an uncounted number of well-funded startups, and Mark Cuban, all rushing to fill the news vacuum that Scheer’s “mainstream” media has thoughtfully created online.

I strongly believe that newsprint will continue to have a meaningful role as a news distribution medium for quite some time to come, and that the big traditional newspaper companies will continue to play a large role in online news. Ideas like Scheer’s, however, make me question those beliefs. If newspapers are delusional enough to believe that they are the gatekeepers for news, capable of holding the Internet hostage until sufficient tribute is brought to their broadsheet-sized gates, then the future looks much less bright for these guys.

Zune’s CNN Train Wreck

Standard

Oh. My. Fucking. God.

Andrew Ross Sorkin presents the Zune on CNN, and so much Zune trashing and iPod boosterism ensues that it’s hard to decide what’s most painful for Microsoft:

  • That the new iPod Shuffle got more screen time in this segment than the Zune did?
  • That the most enthusiasm Andrew Sorkin displayed for the Zune was a halfhearted “so, ah, that’s sorta cool” about the much touted wifi song sharing feature?
  • That the tepid, ten second endorsement mentioned above was followed by a full minute of discussion about the Zune’s various limitations and weaknesses?
  • Miles O’Brien’s “why don’t they get some decent design people?” as the segment grinds to a halt?

Seriously — this couldn’t have been any better for the iPod if Apple had sent a script and a basket of hundred dollar bills to CNN. Watch and cringe.