Wednesday, November 26, 2008

IN THIS ISSUE:

MOBILE DIGITAL TAKES A STEP FORWARD (HAPPY THANKSGIVING, BROADCASTERS)
ANOTHER KILLER MOBILE APP BEATS LOCALS TO THE PHONE
NEW STREAMING HD APPLICATION LETS YOU BE THE DIRECTOR
BE THE PLACE FOR JOB NETWORKING
THANKSGIVING IN A TIME OF FEAR AND UNCERTAINTY

MOBILE DIGITAL TAKES A STEP FORWARD (HAPPY THANKSGIVING, BROADCASTERS) (Terry)
TV on your cellphoneThe Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC) in conjunction with the Advanced Television Standards Committee yesterday approved the standard for mobile digital television, meaning the ATSC mobile DTV standard will be the accepted way to deliver mobile broadcast television. Watch for consumer devices in early in 2010, although testing will be taking place next year.

This is huge for broadcasters, because it gives local media companies a play in a world currently dominated by only one player, Qualcomm’s MediaFLO technology. MediaFLO offers live television via portable devices that go through the carriers, who charge $15 a month for the service. It hasn’t really blossomed for that reason, but the broadcasters model will be free, over-the-air, and I think it’s a game-changer for local television.

If ESPN, for example, wants to reach people in your market on a mobile device, they can currently use the Web and MediaFLO. Verizon’s V‑Cast is a ton of fun to watch a game anywhere, but who needs that $15 monthly charge? If ESPN wants access to the local market via mobile DTV, they’ll need somebody with a local transmitter to deliver the game. Who will that be? Which broadcaster? And how will the pricing be structured? Who gets the ads and how many? These are the questions that will be resolved over the next couple of years, for programming a digital channel for mobile is potentially a whole lot different than programming a digital channel for cable.

Will the ABC affiliate get mobile Disney channels, including ESPN? Will the NBC affiliate get Bravo’s best, USA’s best, Sci-Fi’s best? Who will carry some of CNN’s programming? Will Bill O’Reilly be on one of the Fox affiliate’s digital channels?

Mobile DTV puts broadcasters in a new and unique position within the market, for all of the sudden, broadcasters become the doorway for programming with roots in cable. What a concept? Turnabout’s fair play.

But the fun doesn’t stop there. Writing for Giga-Om, Stacey Higginbotham notes that LG and Samsung are already planning portable devices.

As for the issue of whether or not consumers even want mobile television on tiny screens, Schelle (Anne Schelle, executive director of the OMVC) is optimistic. She envisions interactive services and points out that the standard is flexible enough to offer a digital video recorder for time- and place-shifting, if so desired. That level of control would be compelling to broadcasters who see ISPs and even cell phone carriers as standing between them and their viewers. Schelle points out that broadcast television still controls the content people most want to watch, and by delivering that directly to mobile devices broadcasters can satisfy consumers — and by extension, have a better shot at controlling their own destinies.

“I do think there will be a day five years from now where you will be in a restaurant and everyone will pull out their mobile devices and be able to watch a live broadcast of whatever that seminal event of the day is,” Schelle said.

So broadcasters will be provided the highest quality video money can buy through high definition, and also small digital pictures for portable devices with a variety of programming. What I don’t understand is how investors can ignore this reality when examining media company stocks for the long haul. Maybe that’s because nobody’s talking about it the way it needs to be talked about.   Link>

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ANOTHER KILLER MOBILE APP BEATS LOCALS TO THE PHONE (Steve)
Weather Channel logoThe Weather Channel has come out with its iApp for the iPhone and it’s fantastic. Local weather, right there on my phone top. (Or whatever you call this mini-desktop.) Radar on top of a Google Maps mashup, severe weather warnings, and — get this — a local video forecast on demand.

And it’s free.

iPhone Weather Channel displayHere again, we see those long-treasured franchises of ours — news, sports and weather, getting co-opted by new technology. And here again, local news sits and waits as “the other guys” develop new products for a new platform. I’ve written about this before, but the Weather Channel app means it’s time to revisit this urgent topic. You need to have mobile applications — period. These are not free, (they aren’t that expensive, either) but they are essential. And I’d rather get my local news, weather, blogs and sports from my favorite local station — for now.

The Weather Channel iApp is wonderful and easy to use, and kicks the pants off previous weather apps. Over on the sports side, there are a bunch of sports applications — I use Sportacular, which is good, but not a real killer. Still — it gets me local sports in real time. MLB.com has a paid model with video highlights, and I may go with that come baseball season.

As for local news? It’s still dry out there. I’ve found the AP’s Mobile News Network to be lacking in depth, and I don’t see how any affiliate is going to make any real money off it. (I realize this will invite an email, as it always does, from the AP. Please- I understand and respect your POV. Ours is that aggregation does well for the aggregators but underserves those contributing to the model.) You want to be in charge of your own destiny and advertising, and you don’t just want to sit around and hope a rev-share check pops up in the mailbox.

OpenTable has just launched an iApp version of its fantastic restaurant review and reservation service. So there goes the newspaper lock on the restaurant section.

There are a few RSS readers available for mobile, so your stuff’s out there, and you’re not capitalizing on it. Isn’t that something? Someone else is doing the work of distributing your content — why isn’t it you? And why isn’t your ad on it?

Times are tough. Money’s tight. But there’s a reason dozens of new applications are added to the Mobile Web every week — this is a real market. Local news cannot miss out on this. One advertiser — one — would be enough to cover your costs. Two, and you’re in business.

Get mobile.   Link>

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NEW STREAMING HD APPLICATION LETS YOU BE THE DIRECTOR (Terry)
This ought to get the attention of TV stations everywhere. A new Burlington, California company, BitGravity, has come up with a sensational new application for streaming HD that allows users to interact with the stream by switching camera views. Below is a screen grab of “Multiview” from an episode of the online geek program Diggnation with hosts Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht. Notice the five options beneath the main screen. Clicking on each opens that view in the main player. It’s truly a remarkable and fun piece of technology.

Diggnation Multiview by BitGravity

The potential uses for this boggle the mind, and this is another illustration of how Silicon Valley (and others) are innovating in areas that undercut the world of the traditional broadcast mindset.

“Internet users have these amazing computers and high speed Internet connections,” said Barrett Lyon, CTO and co-founder of BitGravity, in a press release this week. “There’s no reason we have to replicate what we see on TV over the Internet—we have the opportunity to change the experience, play with new ideas, and allow available technology to take us to the next step. We’re here to enable innovation and change the way people get their entertainment—it’s pretty amazing what can be done by simply having fun with our API.”

Diggnation is what’s called a “social video program” that features some of the top content voted on by the Digg community. Jim Louderback, CEO of Diggnation parent company Revision3, said this new application is simply another aspect of being social. “we’re taking that to the next logical level,” he said, “letting viewers control camera angles and other elements of the viewing experience. It’s a brand new and revolutionary way to give our viewers even more control, and more ownership, of the programs they love.”

BitGravity, Inc., was founded in 2006 by Barrett Lyon and Perry Wu who built the first content delivery network (CDN) optimized to instantaneously deliver HD-quality video on demand, live and via interactive applications to massive audiences on the Internet.

These are the kinds of minds that are advancing the demolition of the broadcast model. While we’ve been busy switching to digital over-the-air and HD over-the-air, the number of people watching over-the-air has long since gone south. Viewing with a wire is the thing now, and the wire that is the Web allows interactivity, the “new” in new media. When you’re at a podium, interactivity’s irrelevant, but it’s an absolute necessity in a social setting or a conversation.

We do well to remember the words of Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, who said long ago: “The Web is more a social creation than a technical one.”   Link>

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BE THE PLACE FOR JOB NETWORKING (Steve)
Lots of local sites make the mistake of trying to get into the “help wanted” business by trying to become the local Monster.com. This is usually a bad idea. There are some limited success stories, but for the most part, Monster is still — well — the monster in the room. On the other hand, you can offer what Monster doesn’t offer — a chance for great local networking, blogs and advice.

Right now, what employment-seekers need is to network. Yes — they’re looking for job leads. In October, the time spent on job search sites jumped 13% from the same month a year ago, “while the total number of job-site pages viewed rose 20% in the same period, according to comScore Inc,” writes the Wall Street Journal.

But these sites don’t know your town and city. What you can offer is talk and networking about the jobs special to your city. You can launch verticals in your market that are specific to your market. Find local employment gurus and give them free space to give advice. Outplacement firms would be a great advertising target for a site like this. Hold a meetup to launch the site. Get people talking with each other!

Have forums for discussion and lots of FREE job postings. The point isn’t the postings, mind you — it’s the discussion about the market and the advice each person can give to their fellow job-seeker.

You can’t out-Monster Monster. But you can Meta-Monster. That is — you can be the local site where people talk about jobs. And because it’s local, you can own the discussion. All the more reason for local advertisers to be with you. As Terry says, our first mission is to enable local commerce. Local commerce starts with local employees.   Link>

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THANKSGIVING IN A TIME OF FEAR AND UNCERTAINTY (Terry)
The first ThanksgivingTomorrow is Turkey Day and the beginning of the “most wonderful time of the year.” But this year, the economy’s in the tank; media company stocks (and company valuations) are bumping the bottom; and layoffs, buy-outs, and early retirements are everywhere. Uncertainty is the word of the day, which is actually a four-syllable word for fear.

The day after the holiday, many believe, will be telling. We’ll “learn” how consumers really feel based on what they spend. That news will propel us forward or cause us to slide deeper into the funk of 2008. That’s the way we are, or so the experts say. This is the “group think” of modernity. Study it. Categorize it. Label it. Shift it. Drive it. Manipulate it. And so it goes. Logic and reason can do no better, for they live within the world of the known. “If it exists, it can be measured,” is the first rule of science.

The brilliant mind of Kevin Kelly wrote about the origins of science a few weeks ago (The Origins of Progress, Anachronistic Science). If you want to expand your mind, read Kevin Kelly, for his is one of the most significant voices of contemporary culture. But Kelly uses science to try and answer a question about science that perplexes him: Why was science “discovered” in Western Civilization and not before? It’s a fascinating question, and one that is terribly important for us today, because we’re at the beginning of the post-modern, post-colonial era in the West.

I’ve been studying and writing about postmodernism for over ten years, and I see the conflicts of a culture in change everywhere. I actually prefer the term “postcolonial,” because, from a practical perspective, it fits better. Colonialism is a top-down, “teach a man to fish” philosophy ideally suited to the application of logic, reason and science. Where it runs into problems is when the top wants to maintain its position on top, but I digress.

The thing that Kelly refuses to acknowledge — as do most people of science — is the role of faith in the origins of science, and that brings me back to Thanksgiving 2008.

We’re in the midst of a second Gutenberg moment, in which knowledge (The Jewel of the Elites) is spreading throughout the globe like a giant mushroom cloud, and I would argue that this significantly will alter any future projections, just as the first Gutenberg moment did centuries ago.

As to why science came from Europe rather than China, I think it’s fair to point again to that first Gutenberg moment. Movable type was invented in both cultures at about the same time, but the difference is in what the printing press was used to create. The fundamentals of logic and science demand a degree of faith and a willingness to sacrifice for the greater good, and that came from the source of Western knowledge of the time: the Bible.

The only downside to science, is its tragic dismissal of that book and its place in history, for I believe it contains the source code for Western Civilization. When Wycliffe completed his common English language translation, he made this remarkable statement: “This book shall make possible government of the people, by the people and for the people.” (Aside: Lincoln lifted that from Wycliffe, so the American Civics Literacy quiz got it wrong.) Wycliffe’s claim is as true today as it was back then, for democracy requires an internal governor, which the faith of the people provided. It may seem like it’s missing in our culture today, but I don’t believe it.

Finally, man wants to be God, and it’s always been that way. This quest is what fuels all progress. We want immortality. We want to overcome time and distance. We want omniscience and power. Nothing wrong with any of that, but I would love to see science actually acknowledge it some day.

So as we stare uncertainty in the face this Thanksgiving holiday, let’s ask ourselves this: Is our faith in ourselves, our government and our institutions to figure all this out, or do we believe, as our forefathers did, in something bigger moving us forward? For me, Life is in charge, and while I certainly believe our gifts and talents play a big cultural role, I’m most thankful that something bigger than me influences everything else.

Besides, gas is now $1.69 a gallon here in Dallas. That alone ought to give each of us pause, for who could’ve imagined it just six months ago?    Link>

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QUOTE OF THE WEEK
In the 21st century, what’s far more radical, potent, and disruptive is corporations who can use market power to create an authentic advantage for buyers, suppliers, customers, consumers, and society, not against them — one where everyone is made durably better off. That’s a sea change in the nature of advantage: from advantage against all, to advantage for all. Umair Haque, Detroit’s Six Mistakes, and How Not To Make Them.