Sunday, December 30, 2007

Find your world

A shot from our Find your world campaign. Credits to Filippo Marsili for the amazing photo.

We are India and we are in love

Rajshri Films just announced their foray into mobile content creation.

I think we're in love with these guys. They've pioneered Indian film distribution on the web, and now they're pioneering mobile film distribution as well.

Their humility is refreshing: "I hate to use the term first. I would rather say that we are among the first to make a serious attempt at doing this."- Rajat Barjatya.

We're going to go out on a limb here and say that these are the first(and only) people in the Indian cinema space to have understood Distribution 2.0 right. They've started simple, they've started early, and they've started with an open mind.
They understand content is king, and they understand long tail economics.

But then, to call a hat a hat, their website is terrible, and they're missing the social touch they need to complete their online presence. Their site isn't user friendly at all, and seriously...who runs ASP now-a-days?!!
I could get harsher but this post is about love, so we'll keep things nice 'n easy, sunny side up.

Official word: Come talk to us, Rajshri. We will help you start a (r)evolution.

Enough with the music. Let's talk about some real issues here.

-- This just came in from a friend of (y)ours, and he writes..... --

Watching Taare Zameen Par, I was thinking to myself: why doesn't Bollywood make more movies like this? Why don't I see more movies like Kabul Express and Chakde India?
I am talking about big stars, big production houses backing them, and storylines which go beyond "woman 'n man, girl and boy", into the realm of "feel the pain, feel the joy."

The success of Lage Raho Munna Bhai and Chakde India is an indicator enough that audiences at home and abroad are ready for unconventional subjects with redeeming social values.

I have absolutely nothing against unabashed entertainment fiestas full of color and far-fetched fantasies – I really don't! I am a big fan!
All I am saying is that if cinema finds itself in the envious position of being able to hold the attention of the masses, why not tell them some real stories as well?

Cinema is a great means to communicate ideas and call attention to problems that need attention in an attention deficit world.
Indian movies have typically been mere extensions of reality, and I think our audiences are now ready(and waiting) for movies that are honest reflections of reality.

On the other hand, K.Express, Chakde, and TZP are all recent productions. So maybe Bollywood is already onto social cinema. But I hear there are 800 productions in Bollywood every year.
So three social films in 800?


So yes, I was saying that while 'Watching Taare Zameen Par, I was thinking to myself..'

Saturday, December 29, 2007

update: Thank you for the music, but for how long?

Thanks to Scott Karp of Publishing 2.0, for his vocal critique of everything that the music industry is doing wrong.

It echoes my sentiments in an earlier post: everything you know is WRONG! Get with the program, guys! The digital world is new to you, and by being so old school, you're not helping yourselves or us.


- You(labels/distributors) don't own music. it just can't work that way. Part of the fair use deal is that ownership rests with the creator(the musicians). So move away from screaming "That's MINE!", to telling us politely what we can do with it. (Hint- iTunes...Apple....)

- Your job is to distribute. your business model is to distribute. do it well. Learn the ropes of every distribution avenue(including the Internet).

- We don't *want* to own music. We don't really care. We just want to be able to listen to it anytime, wherever we are, as many times as we like, and move it around from device to device.

- Find a way to associate All my devices with All my music. (Hint: DRM 2.0 involves ubiquity, so get those damn formats to talk to each other)....I'm irritated that I can't move music from my iTunes library to my Axim.

- Please let me listen to an entire song once before I buy it. It's digital(concurrent) and not consumable(perishable) content....if I really like a track, I'll buy it. The 30 second-preview is a turn off...and it's usually useless.

- Chill. It's music we're talking about. Something that's supposed to be fun, entertaining and sometimes relaxing. Don't get all uptight and mean about it. Especially when your audiences are ahead of you in the learning curve of digital distribution. Give us some credit...or not.

- Just listen to us, goddamit.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Thank you for the music

I just heard that Warner has put up its music on Amazon, DRM-free.

Maybe I'm missing the point here but I am faced with a blatant contradiction.

First, Amazon claims, in response to its most frequently asked question('What does DRM-free mean?'), that it means you can, without control or limit, play/copy/download/share/access music that you purchase on their service.
How fun! I think I'm going to download 11 tracks and do just that! I'll copy them on to a few CDs and give those out to my friends who go on long drives...then, I'll rip the tracks to my Dell Axim, upload it to my web site(so I can share them with the viewers of this blog...for instance..., AND access them wherever I am over the Internet). And the thousands of people that'll visit this blog one day will be able to download those tracks for free. Gosh, this is amazing!

But wait a minute! I just read something else.....their Terms of Service. Now I'm no lawyer but a close look at sections 2.1 and 2.2 tells me that unless it's for my personal non-commercial entertainment, I cannot redistribute, transmit, assign, sell, broadcast, rent, share, lend, bla bla.
I think I might have to put my 11-track purchase on hold till I get this straight!

I can read this two ways:

[a]. Amazon is telling me: "You asked for no DRM. So there's no DRM. We don't really care why you asked for no DRM but whatever....There's no DRM.
But don't think twice about doing with this music what you do with your Napster collection. This is for your ears only, and if there are other ears close to you listening in, then fine...let them listen in. But don't go finding more listening ears for this music. "

In other words, we're not going to include technology to manage usage rights and fair use. But...if you click on our ToS, you will see what your usage rights are, and we expect you to comply.

[b]. Amazon could also be telling me: "If you feel personally entertained when you, non-commercially, hand out ripped music tracks(on CDs) to your dear friends, then go right ahead.
We're sure it gives you great joy to sit down, compile collections(from your own legal collections), and put together 'The best of...' CDs that your wanderlust-stricken friends can take with them when driving on Route 66.
So, have at it."

In other words, all you need is love.

My gut instinct tells me that [a] is closer to the truth.


I'm an Apple music store fan, and it's because they say I can use their music for personal, non-commercial use(not MY personal use, specifically), and that their technology lets me copy a song on to 5 devices, and use it in 7 playlists.

Where did the 5 and the 7 come from? I don't know and I don't care. It might become 7 and 10 tomorrow. Or 4 and 6.
All I know is that they let me share, and tell me how often I can do so. They tell me exactly what I can, and cannot do with their music. And they back it up with some pretty good technology that works almost all the time.

For times when I forget that I've already burned "Love me Two Times" 7 times, and that it's also on my laptop, my desktop, my iPod, my moms iPod, and my (fictional) girlfriends Powerbook, there's always DRM to serve as a gentle reminder- you have copied and burned this song as much as we could possibly let you. Feel free to download it again, and copy/burn some more.

And I invariably go: "Oh yea that's right. Well, thank you for the music."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

because we are India...

We ought to among the first to condemn the assassination of Ms. Benazir Bhutto.

It is, definitely, another assault on democracy, but very unfortunately, it is an assault carried out by the democracy itself. It is an assault that finds its roots in the democracy that Pakistan has carved out for itself since independence.

We send to the people of Pakistan our love, goodwill, and friendship.

We hope that you will find yourselves as a nation, and realize that your enemies aren't across the border, or in far-away western lands.
Your enemies reside in your midst, and they are blinding you with acts of hatred and cowardice because they have no face to show to you.

They have no agenda, but to thwart your growth. They have no peace, except that which they feel when they see you in pain. They have no joy, except to revel in your misery. They want you to fight each other, and they want you to believe that you are fundamentally different from each other.

Don't give in. Don't give up. You are a nation, and you live in an age that is meant to build the wealth of nations.

Don't go searching for a democracy. Let it find you. And find you, it will.

Good luck.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

A quarter life on YouTube

I was reading this article by Brian Stelter, in the NY Times this morning.

The title is an indication of everything that's wrong about how people view online video: "Can NBC do for 'Quarterlife' what YouTube could not?"

What YouTube(a la the online video marketplace) can do for you isn't measurable in the same time frame that NBC(a la TV markets) are measured. Remember that if the space is different, then surely there has to be some variance in the temporal context as well.

I think Quarterlife on the web is a brilliant idea. If nothing, even when the show has reached its shelf life on NBC, and is still circulating on the web, there will always be someone watching it. And maybe buying or renting the DVD of the show thereafter. And that's just my simplistic view of a potential opportunity in the Web >> TV space.

Truth is, there's plenty of room to innovate in this new world, and to be really successful, one has to shed every inch of old school in them, and approach the opportunity with a great deal of imagination.

Off the top of my head, 4 strategies for building the first quarter of shelf life for Web >> TV content:

[a]. Diversify your Internet markets- don't just bank on YouTube. Use other videos sharing sites, build your own platforms, cross promote, moblog, vlog, flog...whatever. Leave no stone unturned in reaching different audiences(markets), just like you wouldn't when promoting your exclusive TV content.

[b]. Incentive-ize creation: Don't worry about mainstream viability. If you produce top quality content, it'll be a hit right away. If you produce mediocre content, it won't be a hit, but over a little longer time line(depending on the level of mediocrity...! =) ), you will probably still make as much money as you did from the hits. (says Chris Anderson, Editor-in-chief at Wired Magazine).

So your best bet, even on the creative front, is to encourage content creation. That's one thing that'll probably never change, no matter how grand our business models get....content is king.

[c]. Understand Distribution 2.o: Anything YOU can distribute, millions of web users can distribute better.
Think of it this way- the first thing you'd do before you build your marketing and distributing strategy is to identify(and we know how much fun that can get) the best possible markets/audiences for your content.

Well, I'm a relative nobody in the Internet space, and I have about a few hundred friends on the Internet(who I also happen to know in real life...), each of whom, on average, will at least have a couple o' hundred friends each. Do the math on the orders of magnitude...what happens when I send out a video to all my friends, and some of them decide to do the same to all their friends?

And then remember that I'm a relative nobody in the Internet space. I'm just one guy. There're millions like me all over.
Reach out to us. We'll distribute for you- with no incentive at all. And at no cost to you. Beat that.

[d]. Help make connections: The more handshakes you can facilitate, the better the chances of people re-connecting a second time, over similar interests. This is probably only feasible when you're building your own distribution platform, but a lot of people don't think too hard about this. And it's totally worth some thought.

Technology makes it possible today to group people with similar tastes, preferences, viewing history, etc. It's a really cool way to stimulate virtual on-demand markets. If you help me find 50 people just like me on your network, then chances are that when I see something that's interesting to me, I'll share it with those 50 new friends I've made...first.
And the same applies to each of those 50 friends. And each of their friends. And their friends' friends.
Think about it.
And all you did was help people identify folks with similar tastes.


I could probably cook up a few more. But then, I'd have to move into consulting and leave behind our startup. And that wouldn't go over too well, of course. :)


'Kaushik Roy' vs. 'Aamir Khan'

No more than a couple of months ago, first-time director Kaushik Roy made his foray into independent cinema with "Apna Aasman"- a real-life tale of an autistic child.
It was very well received and while the film didn't have a lot of box-office success(of course it didn't..after all, who's Kaushik Roy?!), it definitely made an impact, however small.

Last night, one of our team-mates reported back to me about "Taare Zameen Par"- a similarly constructed tale...only this time, the plot centers around dyslexia.

I know of Kaushik Roy personally, and I love Aamir Khan. But I don't see why "Taare Zameen Par" pulls heartstrings, and "Apna Aasman" has to worry about being commercially responsible.
While Aamir's brand value as a director and an actor carries 'dyslexia' across, does Roy's lack of brand value necessitate the relative insignificance of 'autism'?

That Indian mass markets are drive by hits and brand value is no surprise- what IS a surprise is that Mr. Roy is shocked at the lack of backing for independent cinema and double standards in the industry.

I write this post in the fervent hope that it reaches Mr. Roy and hundreds of other independent film-makers across India who are trying to make films that sing to the masses.

I say to you:
"Please don't sing to the masses! Please make the masses sing to you. You have brilliant ideas, and you are covering issues that need to be covered.
We are here to help you monetize your work. We will show you a mass market you wouldn't ever have dreamed of.
We are India. We welcome you."

Monday, December 24, 2007

More Bollywood? And another Box?!!

I thought startups these days (especially the Internet ones) knew that boxing things up, especially for Internet services, isn't a fun thing to do any more.

The Media Center, Akimbo, Dave Networks' XPORT.....they've all failed miserably, burning through millions and millions of dollars, so I was a little frazzled to read about Tinselvision heading down the same path.

Anyway, the gentleman mentioned towards the end of the article probably sums up my perspective on "Bollywood Abroad on Demand".....I'm bored of talking about it. People have too many places to find Bollywood content and you have to be doing something really different with your service to compete with the likes of

I guess my big dilemma about Bollywood on demand is this: an average Bollywood film is about 1.5 times the length of a Hollywood film. That's a good 1.5GB per file. Compress that really well, and you could get away with a 1.2GB file. On an average download speed of 500 Kbps in the US(and I'm being very generous here), that's a 60 minute download. That's like a drive to the local video rental store and back, with groceries in between.
How is that "on demand"?

And I know CDNs are expensive, so am sure hoping Tinselvision has its profitability map worked out, because if you're serving 1600 full length downloads a day........on a CDN....whew. Lots of luck, gentlemen.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

'We are India' call for submissions


We've just announced our first call for submissions.
You'll find the release here:

And because there's room here....

"We are India.TV" calls for submissions

We are pleased to announce WeareIndia.TV: an avenue for film-makers of Indian origin to distribute their work on the Internet.

Berkeley, CA, USA, 2007-12-18 13:09:31 (

In an era where Indian cinema comes across solely in the form of Bollywood, a startup out of Berkeley, California has come forward with an innovative proposal: WeareIndia.TV

At face value, this is an Internet video service for folks interested in Indian media. Come a little closer, though, and you will experience their reason for being.

This is a service that is exclusively dedicated to popularizing non-mainstream that you wouldn't see on TV, DVDs or movie theaters. These are the film makers who win small awards all year long in distinguished non-commercial avenues across the world, but never really find their way out into the world of mainstream film for a variety of reasons. Says Preetam Mukherjee, Chief Instigator of this (Ad)venture, "Commercialization via mainstream channels often dilutes the quality of their work, since the focus shifts from producing film, to producing profitable film. We're here to provide an opportunity to these very film makers to monetize their work, without them having to modify the art form for the sake of commercial gain."

It is, indeed, an interesting proposition. Now, film-makers can publish their work on WeareIndia.TV on a completely non-exclusive basis, share monthly ad revenues from their content, and have an accessible presence on the Internet.

And that's not all this service is about. It is a comprehensive web 2.0 service platform, with a clear-cut plan for a methodical roll out of creation and distribution services. "That's the big reason we're all so excited", claims Harshal Dhir, CTO at WeareIndia. "We're talking about a lot of film here...really...a LOT. How do we make sure that everyone visiting us can find exactly the films that are of interest to them? How can we minimize the time spent in browsing and searching...and instead help our viewers watch more film in that duration? How do we make sure our publishers have the maximum possible exposure for their content? How do we make sure that it's the art that's driving the revenues, and not the other way around?"

All excellent questions, and even if a few of them are answered, we are definitely in for a treat. After a very long time, audiences across the world are faced with the prospect of being able to watch niche Indian cinema- the kind that goes into the depths of India and brings out the best(and the worst) of the largest democracy in the world. Ranging from documentaries, music videos, short films, and animations, WeareIndia.TV is now actively looking for film-makers, distributors, producers, publishers, et al. to come out and sign up to be a part of the opening night on February 14, 2008.

Once again, it's free to sign up and publish your films on WeareIndia. The site makes money by displaying advertisements next to your content, and shares those revenues with you on a monthly basis. You can remain a publisher for as long as you like, and can request removal of your content at any time.

On the web: