Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Is it all just a little bit of history repeating?

Does anyone remember the time streaming media was really hot a decade ago? Pretty much around the dot-com bust?

There were some interesting things going on back then(EyeWonder, DestinyMedia doing player-less streaming), Microsoft's Web TV (ahem..), and streaming media was touted being the next hot spot to be in.
Of course, that didn't happen.
Infrastructure(hosting and delivery) was expensive, the market wasn't well defined, and coupled with the dot-com situation, the streaming media proposition became unattractive.

YouTube changed that. Fast forward four years from the bust, and it seemed like the whole world wanted to publish video on the Internet. In 2007, the bandwidth consumed by YouTube alone equalled the total amount of bandwidth consumed on the Internet in 2000. Apples and oranges..maybe, but significant, nonetheless.

Then the "democracy" thing happened: MyTube, YourTube, OurTube, HerTube, HisTube, WeTube, ThisTube, ThatTube, TheTube, ATube, TheirTube....everybody wanted to participate in online video. It was a large enough opportunity, and a number of worthy video sharing websites cropped up.
"Internet TV" was everywhere. White-labels got into the action, with Brightcove, Move Networks, Maven, and FeedRoom(to name a few) starting to serve content studios and corporate publishers looking to go online with their video. Internet TV needed to get turned on, and content publishers needed to turn on their Internet TV channels.

And they did. A few twists and turns aside, a noticeable percentage of media publishers are now serving their content on the Internet, in the dream of enhancing brand value, generating a new source of revenue, and most importantly- reach more people.

I daresay they have realized their dreams. Brands are even being created now because of Internet video(a la LonelyGirl15), new revenue streams are opening up(more so for niche sites like GlamMedia), and 79 million users watched videos on YouTube in Jan 2008 alone.


Good news all around, right?


Internet video is a shaky area to be in. Because the business of Internet video is unsteady. In the most simplistic of analogies, the site with the largest volume of video content on the Internet, and the highest number of eyeballs on the Internet, is unable to turn profitable.
Into its fifth year now, and charging upwards of $100K/day for an ad on its homepage, YouTube exemplifies everything that is wrong with online video: there is no business model.

The business of Internet video is not quite the same as the business of the Internet. Delivering a quality Internet video service is a lot more intensive than delivering a good web service (a la Twitter, Disqus...)
The challenges are a-plenty:
- technological barriers (transcoding, content management)
- user experience issues (keeping users engaged, encouraging social distribution)
- infrastructure (storage, content delivery)
- monetization (ads? PPV? premium? fremium? subscriptions?)
- rights management(protection, regulation, revenue distribution, visibility)

These are all critical issues that come back to haunt content owners, one way or another. The sharpest ones of the lot end up building some of these components, sourcing the others from vendors, and piecing it all together in building up their online video platforms. Others do a half-ass job, building up a business strategy around their technical limitations. Yet others push too hard on a few aspects of their platform, in order to compensate for the deficiencies.
And of course, some are still waiting to get on the Internet video bandwagon.

Is it any wonder that online video is now being classified as a not-so-opportune market, yet again? No one's created a highly profitable online video venture yet. Not YouTube in the online publishing world, not Brightcove in the enabling world(granted, they arrived only two years ago..), and certainly not Revver in the social distribution world(Revver's as dead as.....dead).

So...? Is it all just a little bit of history repeating?

Monday, May 26, 2008

I am the producer, the transaction, and the customer....

Seems like that's the mantra at Microsoft Corp. now with the announcement that they will pay users to use Live Search.

This has "yuck" written all over it.

At its best, it's an experiment in futility.
At its worst, it's a self-inflicted public embarrassment.

I wonder who authorized this...

The Bootstrappers' Guide to Strapping Up

Okay, if you're anything like us(small company, self-funded from concept to execution to first customer), then you will probably find these little tidbits useful. We found(and still find) them to work great, and they really help us simplify our life....perhaps you'll find them useful.

1) Managing your projects/tasks and collaborating effectively: We try to use free software as much as possible, but 37 Signal's BaseCamp is very worth the $24/month. They also have a free version that gets you up and running quite easy, but when things get serious $24/month is peanuts.

2) CRM system: try SugarCRM. It's an open source CRM system, and is a free download from their website. Just copy the package over to your server and run the install script. Then on, it's a powerful customer relationship management tool. Try it to believe it.

3) Web site analytics: We've trying many stats programs, but the one we love most(it's easy to set up, reliable, with excellent visibility) is Google Analytics. Do yourself a favor and get it set up.

4) Site e-mail: We like separating out our E-Mail from our web services...can't have them running on the same server. So, instead of paying for a separate e-mail hosting service, we went with Google Apps. for Enterprises. We've had it for a year now, we can sync up with our e-mail clients, access e-mail on the web and on our mobile/Blackberry devices. Like everything Google, it's simplicity personified, and once you have it, there's no turning back. (note: we run the free account and we're doing just fine...).

5) PHP: I really don't know why people bother with .NET anymore. Anything .NET/MS SQL can do, PHP/MySQL can do much better. And a lot cheaper. And doesn't matter what they tell you, LAMP(Linux-Apache-MySQL-PHP) is one of the most secure and stable environments you could ever pull off.
The alternative is Windows-IIS-ASP-MS SQL......for a company that can't even get a client OS working right, I'm not sure the server OS is too reliable. ;)

6) Speaking of MySQL, here's the best database admin. software you could ever get into place: phpMyAdmin.

7) You need to do those conference calls, without using the 3-way calling service on your phone. We just started using FreeConference.com and are kicking ourselves for not doing this before.

8) Oh...if you run blogs and other services that have RSS feeds going, then you definitely need to be on FeedBurner. Manage all your feeds from one location, and a LOT more.

That's my list so far- I'll add on if I can think of more. Until then, good luck!

Friday, May 23, 2008

I rest my case...

This was waiting to happen- you could see it all over.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Riff is on a warpath...

.. because these guys just stole the name he was going to give his first-born.

At any rate, check out RiffLet.com
It's a great service that we've been talking about for many, many years here at Marcellus.

Congratulations to the RiffLet team...wish you luck in your venture(assuming Riff doesn't sue you first).

Open Letter to Steve Ballmer

Just jacked this from Riff's blog.....an open letter to Ballmer.


Dear Steve,

I am sure I caught you at a bad time… you must be on the phone with Carl, while you are texting Bill with "WTF dude?!?! Why are you selling?" But when you can please pay close attention to what I say, because I say it with love (I was the one that bought the only copy of Bad Boy Ballmer sold) and respect (I am the guy that sent you the uRock email). I believe that you've got it all wrong. You are fighting a battle that you don't need to fight, and you are losing a war that you need to win. You've been playing a lot of golf with the President? Oh wait, the President is not golfing any more… for respect! Hmmm, maybe I need to send him a letter too. But let's focus on you and MSFT for now:

I loved it when you took over from Bill. Always thought of you as the consumer guy… always believed that you will understand the edge a lot better than Bill did. Bill was the core strategy guy, so much so that MSFT's internal org structure was hub n spokes… and we all know he was super successful doing it his way. So when Billy said he was leaving MSFT to change the world (irony: Bill Gates is doing philanthropy like he did technology… from the core… Bill the edge needs you!!)handing over the company to his best bud – I got all excited.

And MSFT did undergo a transformation under you. Splitting the company up into 7 semi autonomous divisions was a bright idea! Microsoft.com got a make-over and started offering longer trials, with a focus on problem solving and customer service. Change was coming… but no it was Vista that came. Now don't get me wrong… it is a pretty okay OS… umm well correction it is a pretty OS. I used it for a while and then upgraded to XP. And boy you guys did a good job with XP!

I know you already know that the client-server model is becoming increasingly redundant, and with that MSFT is becoming irrelevant. Google is breathing down your neck and you sure must be feeling like throwing something right about now. But relax. You and MSFT do try and solve problems… but the way you them is wrong. And that is what makes the difference between profitability and sustainability. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Open Windows up. No, no. Put that chair down and hear me out. I heard about you calling Linux communism (that comment must not have resonated quite the way you wanted in China). But that is the future dude… open platforms that networks will morph to best suit their needs and pump the value at the edge to the core. It is a different world now. It requires a different approach.

  • Move from semi-autonomous divisions to independent divisions. Make your 7 divisions completely independent of each other. The cancer that is growing in the desktop systems should not spread to the Xbox… I love the Xbox. Do it before you get "sovietized."

  • Get Umair Haque on the MSFT Board. He can be a little sensitive at times… but I am sure you understand.

  • Promote the product strategist for Sharepoint. I think Sharepoint rocks!

  • Buy Facebook before you buy Yahoo. And open Facebook up. If Mark is open to it, have him talk to the dude responsible for Sharepoint. You will find that they have a lot in common… and will learn from each other.

  • If you do end up owning Yahoo, don't assimilate them. Learn, adopt, change and become more like them. Yahoo does a lot of things right… and human resources is one of them.

  • Drop the People Ready campaign… people are ready. Knowledge workers are not a new phenomenon; they existed when Bill was drafting the first copy of Business at the Speed of Thought. How does People Enabled sound? =)

  • Silverlight is hotm but it is a little dense for people like me. You better start talking about the problem it solves, rather than the value it creates.

  • .NET – how about .NOT?!?! Please abandon.

Ok that is all for now. I should publish this before Vista conks out on me… j/k. Oh by the way – I love Office 2007!


PS: My Xbox 360 has the red ring of death? Who do I call?

Our new player

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Noisy News

So Umair went after Scoble a couple of days ago. I didn't quite get Umair's point either, but OK...whatever.

Scoble's post was interesting, in that it seemed....uh...sketchily superficial.

"I’ve been studying noise and news now for quite a while. I’ve been wondering why sites like Google News and TechMeme have no, or little, noise?....So, how come services like Twitter and FriendFeed have so much noise?"
>> Dr. Scoble, Twitter and Friendfeed are personal services, while Google News and TechMeme are aggregation services.

"The news is in the noise. Which is why Twitter is crack for newsmakers."
>> Dr. Scoble, WHAT are you smoking? Please share.


Here are some definitions.


Middle English, from Anglo-French, disturbance, noise, from Latin nausea nausea
13th century
1: loud, confused, or senseless shouting or outcry
2 a
: sound; especially : one that lacks agreeable musical quality or is noticeably unpleasant b: any sound that is undesired or interferes with one's hearing of something c: an unwanted signal or a disturbance (as static or a variation of voltage) in an electronic device or instrument (as radio or television); broadly : a disturbance interfering with the operation of a usually mechanical device or system d: electromagnetic radiation (as light or radio waves) that is composed of several frequencies and that involves random changes in frequency or amplitude e: irrelevant or meaningless data or output occurring along with desired information
: common talk : rumor; especially : slander
: something that attracts attention noise in the world — Brendan Gill>
: something spoken or uttered
6: a style of rock music that is loud, often discordant, and usually uses electronic noise (as feedback)

Middle English, from Medieval Latin signale, from Late Latin, neuter of signalis of a sign, from Latin signum
14th century
1: sign, indication
2 a: an act, event, or watchword that has been agreed on as the occasion of concerted action b: something that incites to action
: something (as a sound, gesture, or object) that conveys notice or warning
4 a
: an object used to transmit or convey information beyond the range of human voice b: the sound or image conveyed in telegraphy, telephony, radio, radar, or television c: a detectable physical quantity or impulse (as a voltage, current, or magnetic field strength) by which messages or information can be transmitted

\ˈnüz, ˈnyüz\
noun plural but singular in construction
often attributive
15th century
1 a: a report of recent events b: previously unknown information news for you> c: something having a specified influence or effect news for lawns and gardens — Garrison Keillor> news>
2 a
: material reported in a newspaper or news periodical or on a newscast b: matter that is newsworthy


So why does Google News have no noise?

Monday, May 19, 2008

It was a friendly disruption...

"Economics of the Television Industry"

Browsing through my archives, I found this reconstructed image from 2004(I reconstructed from a book).

It's an overview of the Television Industry's value chain.

I see a few things in here that simply cannot work anymore. And a few things that still hold significance.

Will try and get into this next week.....depending on how the week at marcellus goes....

BTW_ This is a touch weird...Read it when you can.

"Ok, Ok, Fine. Ask me nice like that..no problem...."

I mean, Yahoo is still a publicly traded business after all, so this is a good sign...some deal-making going on between MSFT and YHOO.
A potentially sweet deal....huge cash payment + reciprocal rev share for ad inventory and publisher network sharing. Maybe like the Google-Yahoo eyewash.

Someone overheard Yang asking the other day: " Tell me the truth, Ballmer.....are you after my body, or is it my personality that you crave at $33 per share?"

I suppose Ballmer just responded..... :)

Sunday, May 18, 2008

'because everybody's somebodys fool....

A little bit of T-history.

Did anyone notice this?

AOL is beginning to draft out a number of specialty web sites, aimed to address the fact that Internet audiences are getting increasingly fragmented.

For what it's worth, thought this was an interesting announcement.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Connecting tractors, software and film festivals

Parmesh has an excellent post up on the Mahindra Universe blog.

He briefly touches upon “soft power”, but goes on to pose (and answer) a question that I’ve always had about Mahindra….

Now, on the face of it, why does a company that so far has only been selling tractors and software in the US need to support a film festival on an east coast city, where it has no real presence?

It’s one of the nicest manifestations of globalization. And in my book, this beats YouTube.in.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Will you play with us?

We are about to announce one of the hottest plays that the social web has ever seen.

Tying in different ecosystems of the social web, we're trying to create a bridge between content, context, and community in ways that's never been done before.

We've solved most of the major hurdles. Just a few odds and ends remain, and they'll be taken care of in two shakes of a lambs tail.

Stay tuned.

Oh and by the by, this play(mate) has a name.

We're going to call her mia.

Friday, May 2, 2008

WeareIndia.TV: Enough beta-ing around the bush

We had everything we could ask for, and a lot more, from our very short 30-day beta.

I wish I could tell you the exact numbers, but I can't- so in the meanwhile, here are some indicators:

- the average time spent on the site was about 3.5 times as much as the average user spends on YouTube.
- the click-through-rate for advertisements(overlay and banners) was about 7 times the industry norm.
- almost half our traffic came from referring sites, social networks, and the like.

We are now closing out the site for a couple of weeks, to add in enhancements, make some changes, add some new content, and get it ready for a full-blown launch. If you had thoughts/ideas you didn't get a chance to voice already, please free to send us an e-mail(beta@weareindia.tv) and let us know.

To be notified of our official launch, please head on to www.weareindia.tv and subscribe to blog updates via e-mail. We promise not to spam you, and we promise to notify you the instant we're ready to rock and roll.

In the meantime, THANK YOU for a fantastic beta. We are amazed at the response, by your support, and grateful to be here.

With love,
The WeareIndia.TV Team.
(Rifaquat, Harshal, Shashank, Bobby, Monty, Manoj and Preetam)