eyeballs are screen agnostic (monetizing p2p television).

I'm consistently baffled about why pirating TV online is an issue.  Let's look at this logically:

  1. TV is paid for (in part) with advertising sales.
  2. Advertising is a matter of eyeballs, and metrics.  The number of people watching, and other demographic info, determines the price of advertising time, with past results dictating future pricing.
  3. Piracy is fast, wide distribution, usually at no cost to the uploader of content.
  4. The simplest option, with the minimum intrusiveness, usually wins.
If those four things are true (and I believe they are), I will never understand why television programs aren't distributed online, at time of broadcast, from the networks that broadcast them traditionally.

Eyeballs are eyeballs regardless of what screen they are focused on.  Whether I'm watching a show on a TV, a monitor, or an iPod, I'm still watching.  When I watch a program on my iPod, it normally doesn't have commercials; but only because I'm either paying for it, or it has been uploaded without commercials.  

If the first place to get a TV show I wanted to watch was from the broadcasting network, with commercials, I would get it there.  No questions asked.  Because the time saved in downloading something at 8pm from NBC rather than at 11pm from EZTV is worth a few minutes of commercials to me.  I would wager it would be the same way for others, provided the download was in an open format, with no copy protection.  This would be a product that competes with piracy, using the tools the content owners actually have: initial release date (usually), and best quality (almost always).

The interesting thing, is that there is a potential for a wider market of advertisers.  If google analytics can tell me which country my readers are coming from, it can probably tell CBS which country a visitor is trying to download How I Met Your Mother from.  Why can't there be dozens of versions of each show, each with localized commercials in the same break period?  Why can't online distribution mean that the same ad space can be sold to different companies in Canada, the US, and Uruguay?  It happens when signals are rebroadcast over TV, why not do the same online.

Instead of complaining about the internet stealing eyeballs, why not sell access to those eyeballs too?  Why not do the whole thing via bittorrent, at next to no cost?  Why not use the torrent download information from each localized version, and use that to justify ad prices?

The short version of why is because you're leaving money on the table, and because you won't stop piracy unless you give customers a better product than piracy does.  If you want to keep selling high quality versions without commercials, there will still be customers.  People will always be willing to pay for a premium version, or for a physical copy (DVD).  Monetizing content online can't be based on the idea that you can change behaviour, only that you can create a system that isolates value in that behaviour.  So get on it, despite the complications of clearing content in different countries.

Because the shortest version of 'Why?' is a desperate need to stay relevant.

[To point out: 1) Yes, I am aware that people can skip past ads in downloaded content.  They can also leave the room to get a drink, and often do.  No one uses this as an excuse to stop advertising on TV.  2) People could just burn DVD copies of the torrented shows.  People already do.  Buying a DVD is usually about convenience, quality, love of the content and special features.  3) There are probably technological issues with this.  I understand that, and this is why there are people smarter than me to make it work regardless.]


popularity and perceived quality.

I've listened to the new Kanye West album, 808's and Heartbreaks, a couple of times now, and I actually enjoy it.  But it's a massive departure, and not one that will easily be accepted by existing fans.  That said, I think it will be interesting to watch how the album sells.

808's is for Kanye the equivalent of Common's Electric Circus: a huge step away from what he has done before, and a huge step away from what anyone who is considered a contemporary is doing.  But, there's something interesting to point out here; that the album preceeding Kanye's big departure (Graduation) has sold three times as many copies in a little over one year than Common's pre departure record (Like Water for Chocolate) did in it's first five.

The question is, how big will the effect of popularity be?  It's impossible to measure, because you can't compare quality, and the music industry is a far different beast now than it was then, but it's still sticking in the back of my mind.  Is Kanye popular enough that he can still sell an admittedly odd record to a notable portion of his massive audience?  Will people be more willing to give the record the multiple listens it may need?

Either way, the more popular someone is, generally the kinder the perception of their work.  It will be interesting to see how far one of the most popular artists currently making music can push the envelope before it all falls apart.


on social media specialists.

I saw this gapingvoid cartoon today, and immediately came to a gut reaction.

The concept of a social media specialist is one of those transitional holdovers that will seem almost embarrassingly quaint in the not-too-distant future.

Most 'social media experts' have about the same level of skill with social media as the average western teenager, but usually lack the same fluency, the same level of intimacy.  The difference is, they see it as a new frontier, and interesting realm of communication to study and hopefully leverage effectively.  But social media isn't an interesting quirk of how young people talk - it's an essential part of communication for the internet generation, and it's only going to get more integral as it shifts to mobile.

Having a social media expert will very quickly be like having a telephone expert: essential only when your company is staffed with people who clearly do not understand that the world has changed.

We are heading quickly to the point where everyone has to be a social media expert.  We are already at the point where anyone who gets labelled as part of a company's younger generation should already be one, and should know that bragging about it is like claiming proficiency with email.


you can't copy innovation.

I read an article, not too long ago, about the creation of a Chevrolet plug-in hybrid, and how the major goal was to actually create innovation.  I can't remember where I read it, but the major thing I took away (other than the project probably being doomed) was Toyota announcing a similar product later on, with a more restricted schedule and numbers, and a GM exec feeling accomplishment and delight, even awe, in the fact that this fearsome, dominant competitor was being a 'follower'

The BlackBerry Storm, the first touchscreen phone from RIM, is available in the next few days (I believe starting Nov 21st).

Just saying.

i don't do press, i do narratives.

I've loved narrative for as long as I can remember.  I used to drive my mother crazy because I would read rather than do anything else.  Until I was 22 or so, my only career aspiration was novelist.

Narratives are the most important thing in getting attention, interest, audiences and markets.

I was never the kind of writer who planned everything out.  I developed my characters, a situation, some undefined ideas, and went to it.  Writing was a process of discovery.  I can't do that anymore.

PR isn't just about arranging press coverage.  It's about developing a narrative, and exploring and expanding it through the media.  This is a hell of a lot more complicated, because you need to plan around the unexpected actions of others, the trends that dominate the marketplace, upcoming changes in those trends, the personalities of your stakeholders, the tangents that drive away from the actual narrative, and, of course, the truth (which is essential, immutable and unavoidable).

I'm spending a lot of time crafting, developing, and planning the narratives I manage and create now.  It's very rewarding, in a very similar way to how writing fiction was.  If anything, it feels like a particularly complex version of the same, but rooted in truth and the real world.

Because your brand, your narrative, is no longer up to you in the post-internet world.  All you can do is create the set of concepts, framing, ideas and narrative that best defines your product and goals, while planning around the nearly limitless number of things the newly infinite citizen media can do with it.

It would be terrifying if it wasn't so much fun.


different types of instant.

Everything on the internet happens fast.  Blogging is a demonstration of the power of instant publishing, RSS is speedy content distribution, News online makes the idea of a daily update seem quaint, and so on.  But when everything is fast on a technological level, the playing field changes, and speed on a human behaviour, or an interaction level.

The best example I can use is the mixture of Twitter, Facebook and Google Reader.

I inevitably find out about things through Twitter first, mostly because it encourages many small updates, and many visits to find out what people are up to.  As the content isn't identical, I usually have my favourite bloggers on Twitter as well, expanding the data shadow.

I end up clicking the Twitter links for that lead me to blog posts.  That I see later in the day in Google reader.  And that pop up again later on in Facebook, having been shared by other friends who have the same interests.

Repetition is unavoidable in social media, but the difference in speed is what interests me.  Twitter is absurdly fast, faster than email, or SMS, or blogging, faster than nearly any major way I communicate with others.  And it's not a technology issue - it's based entirely on the behaviour the service inspires.

Instant is relative.  Plan accordingly.


thoughts on prop 8 and equality.

The question everyone has been asking, the questions I've been asking, after the passing of Proposition 8 in California, and the further attack on the concept of equality, has been the obvious one: How is it that in the same day, a nation made such a clear step towards moving beyond racial bias, and intentionally decided to re-institute bias on the basis of sexual orientation.  How did one of the most liberal areas in America decide that they were okay with a black man running the nation, but terrified by loving gay couples getting married.

The core issue is that inclusive messaging across aligned groups leads to a united front with mroe influence, where exclusive messaging leads to self-directed, but less influential, groups.  To expand:

There are a lot of 'reasons' society is uncomfortable with gay rights issues; the relatively short amount of time people have been openly homosexual, the willingness to pretend this issue has anything to do with religion, etc etc etc.

The short truth is that arguing against gay marriage is like arguing against inter-racial marriage.  It taps into bullshit generational ideas about what is for who, equality, who counts as a person, and who gets to make decisions about the lives of others.

It wasn't thought of as this, due to a failing in most fights for equality.  I owe everything I have to the civil rights movement, but it was clearly cast as a matter of black people getting equal treatment under the law.  This was inevitably an equality issue, but it was presented as, and approached as, the rights of one group versus the majority.

The women's rights movement is the same thing.  A clear issue of equality, but approached as the rights of women, and a struggle specifically against male oppression.

None of this is wrong.  But it's not as right as it could be.  Very soon, most western nations will have more 'minorities' than straight, christian whites.  May countries already do.  If we insist on arguing each fight for equality step by step, everyone has to suffer through the same long struggle.

If the message was 'everyone deserves equal rights and treatment', rather than 'MY group deserves equal rights and treatment', we'd have a stronger united front, serve long term universal interests, and hopefully make the world a better place.

We're just going to keep letting each other down until it stops being about equality for blacks, equality for gays, equality for latinos, etc, and just starts being about equality for all of us, without exception.

leveraging boredom.

I bought an app on my iPhone yesterday specifically because I was bored.  This does not bode well.

The app is excellent, a lot of fun, and worth the $4.99.  I love tower defence games, so Fieldrunners was a logical choice.  But I wouldn't have purchased it from store shelves, or bought it online from my Mac at home.

I bought it specifically because if the mobile app store, because my credit card information is already stored there, and because I didn't have anything specific to do at that time.

Apple has created a system where spending 5 bucks because I'm bored has nearly no barriers.

This is both powerful, and dangerous.

mobile social media and missing links.

The INQ Social Mobile phone is not something that appeals to current, 24 year old me as a consumer.  But I look at it and immediately appreciate how attractive it could be to a massive number of people, with it's reasonably priced social mobile experience.  This isn't the future of the mobile future, but I'm fairly convinced that similar devices are going to be the link that brings that future to us.

Reasonably priced, simple phones with elements like Facebook, Skype, Google, Last.fm and IM integration are essential because they are the key to hitting a mobile internet critical mass.  20 and 30 something techie types don't create worldwide change by themselves, the key is creating a common usage of something, letting it become part of the standard social landscape.

When enough 14 year olds are on Facebook from their cellphones, it's just a matter of time until it's no longer an option, but a demanded basic element of cellular service.

The interesting thing, in my mind, is the potential impact such devices will have in the developing world.  As cost drops, places where the mobile phone is the major point of communication and connectivity will begin having readily available points of entry into social networks.  And frankly, the idea of self-generating, hyperconnected groups in the developing world is something that excites me to no end.

I'm dreaming of flashmobs coming together via Facebook events to expand crumbling infrastructure, or self-organizing small business and aid groups.  I don't see it yet,  not necessarily from this INQ product, but I see the potential.

Steps like this remind me of how the future is built.

[I discovered this via Rachel Bremer on Twitter.]


magazine design quirks.

One of my least favourite common elements of magazine design is the quote (usually edited in an odd manner) repeated somewhere on the page, as a visual element.

I guess I just don't get it.  If the point is to emphasize the quote, wouldn't it make more sense to do so completely, and in context?  Or to have some kind of visual link between the large image / quote and it's original place in the text?

I'm not saying this space should always be used for images, or that pages should be pure text.  I'm just arguing that this 'text as a visual element' think could be better used to add information, rather than just repeat it out of context.  Imagine using this space for footnotes with images, or for background information on the article subject, or further information on an abandoned tangent in the interview.

As it stands, I still think of this as something done purely for a visual boost, without being optimized.  And, frankly, the magazine industry isn't doing so well that they can afford to regularly put out a product with examples of waste by design on every other page.

Then again, I seriously doubt anyone gets as irked by this as I do.


the same plan.

I've been thinking that Microsoft and Apple have more or less the same plan, when you stop and think about it.

With Microsoft, I see the future in the XBox.  A powerful, versatile box that snuck Microsoft into the living rooms of millions, and has expanded from a gaming platform to a communications hub, a direct link to the cloud, a place to buy content, rent movies, and interact with your social network.  The XBox took what Microsoft did best, complex systems run with massive scale and compatability, and sold it initially as an entertainment product.  Buying an XBox is buying into the framework Microsoft is building, and the relative ease of use that comes with having that in place, and purchasing other Microsoft products.  

If this interoperability is pushed further, Microsoft will be inseparable from the entertainment practices of countless people.

With Apple, the future is clearly the iPhone.  You could argue that the iPod was about getting Apple into the lives of potential users, showing them the way Apple software worked.  The iPhone took that unprecedented brand loyalty, and snaked it into other aspects of your life.  A shocking amount of my communication comes through my iPhone, as does a notable portion of my entertainment.  It's my gaming, video, audio, telephone, email, facebook, etc etc etc.  Apple dropped the 'Computer' from it's name not that long ago, which I considered a clear, telegraphing move.

The plan is more or less the same: stake out a segment of people's lives, and put the computer there.  Make your product, your company, the point of contact for that location.  Take the computer out of the bedroom, or basement, or living room.  Take the computer out of the computer.

Microsoft is taking the living room, with the XBox, and potentially with the Surface table.  Apple is taking your pocket, and your personal telecommunications.

It's the same plan.  And the only question is, which one is more important in your day to day life, and your connections with others.  The living room, or the cell phone?


looking to the future.

As a Black person, as a person of mixed race, as someone who believes that we as humanity can do better, it makes me happy, proud, and hopeful to say that Barack Obama is the next President of the United States.

We all know that this campaign was unprecedented in terms of social media application, use of newer communications media to organize and bolster support, and clean design and pitch perfect marketing.

I'm calling it now - every other president in recent memory has gone on the lecture circuit talking about leadership, or entered the military industrial complex, or oil business, as a high powered executive taking advantage of his connections - Barack Obama will leave office (hopefully in 8 years) and be reached out to for his ability to craft a compelling message, build his own tribe out of a disparate people, and market himself, his product better than anyone in living memory.

For his next trick, living up to the hype.  Best of luck, President-Elect Obama.