Boxee as The (anti-TiVO) Solution

It looks to me like Boxee aims to be THE media consumption solution on whatever box you use — computer, set-top box, Apple TV, etc. Steve Rosenbaum, CEO of video aggregator Magnify.net, on Monday wrote a provocative piece saying Boxee could “be the new operating system for the open content web.”

But he also implores Boxee to take the initiative on the business front, make money and avoid the TiVO fate he lamented: taking investment money from a big TV network that he feels made TiVO change its model and soften its mission the disruptor of standard TV.

We’ve gotten great questions for Avner Ronen and Betsy Morgan, from Steve and others, and will use them to inform our discussion at noon ET today with Boxee CEO Avner Ronen and HuffPost’s former CEO Betsy Morgan.

Media Consumer’s Bill of Rights

After Rich Antoniello, CEO of Complex Media, and designer Roger Black appeared on Naked Media, today, I told them I’d half-jokingly drafted a “Media Consumer’s Bill of Rights.” They asked me to share it. I did. And here it is for you. Comments and additions appreciated.

The one-demand version of the show — Rich and Roger talked about making magazines work on the Web, as well as new projects they’re working on — will be available soon at Naked Media.

Naked Media’s ‘Shallow Thoughts’ – Comcast’s “TV Everywhere”

Register now to attend today’s live video webcast on Magazines That Work on the Web with renowned designer Roger Black and Complex Media CEO and Publisher Rich Antoniello to talk about the state of media and magazines.

Here’s the script for today’s Shallow Thoughts, airing on Naked Media at noon ET, then later on demand.

Our guests are designer Roger Black and Complex Media CEO Rich Antoniello. More details are here, where you can sign in to watch and ask questions.

And here, from Peter Kafka is a more serious take on what Comcast is doing and the possible implications for TV networks and consumers.

The script:

OK, SO NEXT MONTH COMCAST IS GOING TO START A NEW SERVICE TO LET THEIR PAYING CUSTOMERS GET CABLE TV PROGRAMMING ONLINE.
It’S PART OF WHAT THEY’RE CALLING “COMCAST ON DEMAND ONLNE” OR, SOMETIMES, “TV EVERYWHERE”
OTHERS ARE CALLING IT THE “ANTI-HULU.”

BUT WAIT, DIDN’T COMCAST LAUNCH A SITE CALLED “FANCAST” THAT HAD A LOT OF FREE PROGRAMMING FROM HULU, ALREADY?
AND CAN’T I ALREADY GET A LOT OF CABLE PROGRAMMING ON HULU FOR FREE?

AND DON’T THE TV NETWORKS THAT PROVIDE HULU’S PROGRAMMING ALSO PROVIDE A LOT OF PROGRAMMING ON COMCAST?
AND DIDN’T THEY SAY THAT TIME WARNER IS IN AN ALLIANCE WITH COMCAST TO TEST THIS NEW SERVICE?

AND DIDN’T COMCAST SAY THEY’RE GOING TO USE FANCAST TO LAUNCH THE NEW SERVICE FOR 5,000 OF THEIR PAYING CUSTOMERS?

SO LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT: COMCAST AND TIME WARNER ARE GOING TO LAUNCH A SERVICE TO COMPETE WITH HULU USING THE PLATFORM COMCAST USES TO PLAY PROGRAMMING FOR FREE THEY GET FROM HULU.

GOT THAT?

The Battle Over Media Measurement

Tune in to Naked Media, Tuesday, May 19, Noon ET. Register now to ask questions and get a reminder.

Measuring media has never more crucial. Marketers want to justify every penny spent and make sure they’re hitting just the right audience. But even vaunted media brands are struggling to justify their claims. Along comes TiVo, promising to measure audience as never before. Nielsen says it measures better than anyone. Naked Media host Dorian Benkoil will ask our guests, executives Jon Gibs from Nielsen and Todd Juenger from TiVo, to explain what they’re doing, how they’re challenging each other, and how anyone can make sense of the myriad ways to try to measure media today — time spent, composition, engagement, and dozens of other “metrics”.

We’ll also discuss other leaders in the space. And, as always, we’ll make sure there are “aha” moments where we give you, our users and participants, the tools to use what’s being discussed. Plus, we’ll throw in “Shallow Thoughts” commentary and other treats.

Register now to ask questions and get in on the discussion right away. You will also receive a reminder email to tune in for the live show the day before.

The Battle Over Media Measurement

Tune in to Naked Media, Tuesday, May 19, Noon ET. Register now to ask questions and get a reminder.

Tune in to Naked Media, Tuesday, May 19, Noon ET. Register now to ask questions and get a reminder.

Measuring media has never more crucial. Marketers want to justify every penny spent and make sure they’re hitting just the right audience. But even vaunted media brands are struggling to justify their claims. Along comes TiVo, promising to measure audience as never before. Nielsen says it measures better than anyone. Naked Media host Dorian Benkoil will ask our guests, executives Jon Gibs from Nielsen and Todd Juenger from TiVo, to explain what they’re doing, how they’re challenging each other, and how anyone can make sense of the myriad ways to try to measure media today — time spent, composition, engagement, and dozens of other “metrics”.

We’ll also discuss other leaders in the space. And, as always, we’ll make sure there are “aha” moments where we give you, our users and participants, the tools to use what’s being discussed. Plus, we’ll throw in “Shallow Thoughts” commentary and other treats.

Register now to ask questions and get in on the discussion right away. You will also receive a reminder email to tune in for the live show the day before.

Larry Kramer’s Next Venture?

Noted entrepreneur and award-winning journalist Larry Kramer came by Naked Media and hinted (about three-quarters through) that he might be getting into a new financial news venture.
He also goes over:

  • How to save journalism
  • Why remarks Rupert Murdoch and the publisher of the Wall Street journal made about Google devaluing all it touches were “a little unfair.”
  • How Jib Jab, a humor and greeting card company he advises, is a business (it’s not just their $19 yearly subscriptions), using social media tools for sponsors.
  • The very difficult emotions he felt selling Marketwatch to Dow Jones for $500 million. it wasn’t as simple as accepting “life-changing check” for millions of dollars, and what he misses about working there. And how he was in some ways forced into doing the deal.
  • How he landed at a venture capital firm, with tips for how entrepreneurs can make a go of it and raise money, using Web tools and other means.
  • How new media companies don’t have all the answers — and what old media can teach them.

You can see the rest of the video, including host Dorian Benkoil’s “Shallow Thoughts” jokes about the direction of advertising, and previous shows at the Naked Media site.

Crovitz, Brill in New For-Pay Journalism Project

Steve Outing today pointed me to Journalism Online, a new attempt to charge for journalistic content. The press release makes it seem they’ll be offering readers a way to pay one price and pick from among paid content they want, and publishers a chance to make their efforts available at a price point they choose. Users will be able to pick stories a la carte, or via subscription. The release frequently mentions newspapers, but also says there are talks with magazines.

The release says ads, alone, can’t and never have paid for quality journalism. Maybe not. And we’ll find out if J.O. is right that Americans will pay for journalism because they understand it needs to be supported. I’m not so sure. They will pay for convenience, ease of use, utility and access they wouldn’t otherwise have.

What will make this work, I think, is from the reader side:

  1. if they can get what they want with ease
  2. if the price point is low enough that convenience outweighs the desire to go hunting for the info elsewhere (think iTunes)
  3. If there are enough publications available
  4. if the content is not commoditized or the kinds of stuff available so many other places that it’s easy to find. (I doubt breaking news or big stories available all over the place will make much money.)

… and for publishers:

  1. the ability to make additional incremental revenue from content they couldn’t get on their own.
    strong Incentives to cooperate in the project rather than go it alone, as they’re so used to doing
    ease of installation and use
  2. flexible pricing — Journalism Online is promising to let publishers charge their own prices and adjust them.
  3. data, which J.O. is also promising, to allow quick changes in pricing, story mix, etc. (“Journalism Online will provide reports to member publishers on which strategies and tactics are achieving the best results in building circulation revenue while maintaining the traffic necessary to support advertising revenue.”)
  4. assurance their content won’t be pilfered, will be in an environment they can trust in every sense
  5. enough revenue and revenue share that they’ll feel it’s a fair shake, that J.O. isn’t taking too much of a cut.

I can imagine some arduous negotiations with publishers, many of whom will take the position that their content is invaluable, deserves a higher percentage, and so on. J.O. will have to hold the line and figure out incentives, as well as, perhaps, cut some special deals for must-have publications. I also can’t help but wonder what scale Journalism Online needs to break even. It would seem to be a perfect model from their standpoint — they are a platform, with relatively low cost, paying nothing to create content, and can scale at little incremental cost. If the application they provide goes on the publisher site, even easier for J.O. The only stipulation for publishers is that they charge for at least some of their content, meaning they can still make much of it free, and, presumably, get the benefits of linking, SEO and the like.

It will be a delicate and difficult balance among all the participants, and finding terms they all can live with. There will have to be adjustments over time. Other experiments along these lines — including Congoo, in which I was a minor participant — have not been overwhelming successes. Still, with Gordon Crovitz participating, it could work. He’s the former Wall Street Journal publisher who’s been lionized for helping build the WSJ.com brand to, maybe $100 million per year in subscriptions, a figure Larry Kramer mentioned on Naked Media yesterday (we’re promised the on demand version will be ready this week; check NakedMedia.org).

What media consumer isn’t enticed by the idea of paying one reasonable price and then getting whatever you want from, say, a swathe of subscription newspapers and magazines? This was an attraction of AOL in earlier days (they offered Time Inc. magazines through the service), and got them some added subscriptions. What if we could also add publications from Conde Nast, Meredith, Hearst and others? What if it were also the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal? (But can J.O. really herd all these cats together?) J.O. will have to be significantly less expensive than existing aggregators like Factiva, as well. And, Crovitz had the WSJ to work with — that’s was a preeminent must-have brand for a well-heeled, info-hungry mobile audience.

The other founders are Court TV and American Lawyer founder Stephen Brill, and former cable exec Leo Hindery.

Should I Apologize to Jeff Jarvis?

In the original introduction of this Naked Media episode, I poked fun at part of Jeff Jarvis’ “What Would Google Do?” by using clips from the book’s marketing video.

In the book, Jeff runs down how a number of institutions and industries could remake themselves in a Googly way. A lot of it is valid, and fun to imagine — if a stretch. I joke that if a car company were to follow the Google model, we’d get “beta” versions of cars that sometimes lock up for a couple hours (as has happened with Google’s mail product), or veer in one direction.

When I told Jeff about the video he strongly objected (without having watched), that I shouldn’t hide behind humor and said I should apologize. But I think the joke is a valid one for a number of reasons I’ll get into. First, though, let me say that I respect Jeff and think he gets it right more often than wrong. His visions of how companies can and should behave are usually valid, even if his visionary pronouncements don’t necessarily include tangible methods or practical road maps to achieve what he says can be done, nor a real cost-benefit analysis.

He’s right that companies should listen better to customers. American car companies like GM could have stayed a lot stronger had they done so and produced cars people really wanted. Japanese car companies did so well before the days of the World Wide Web, and they are reaping the benefits today. (They also didn’t turn themselves into finance companies and saddle themselves with tons of debt, but those are separate topics).

It would also be great if we could customize cars, get personalized models with our own paint jobs or features well beyond what’s offered today. Jeff imagines such scenarios in the book, and they are possible. In fact, the after market car parts industry is a multi-billion dollar market. Still, for car companies to allow the kinds of customizing Jeff espouses would take years and a lot of expense to retool manufacturing processes, let alone corporate culture. Because of the kinds of capital investment and lead time involved, there’d have to be strong evidence that the investment would pay off — that people being able to individually paint or customize a car model would justify the investment to let them do so, wouldn’t violate government regulations, would allow for appropriate safety, etc, etc. Still, if people could participate more in creating their own vehicles, they might be more passionate about them, and car companies might do better for having brought them into the process.

So, why did I poke fun?

Well, for one thing, I was being opportunistic. It seemed that every time I turned on the radio or clicked a podcast or a link or looked at the feed of Jeff’s blog in my reader, I would get Jeff touting the book. The impression one took away was that Google was a shining light, an example of all that is or can be good in business. Never mind that in reading the book, I saw Google being portrayed as a proxy for a new kind of company that also includes Amazon and Facebook and others that do much more and much differently than Google.

Never mind, too, that some of those companies, like Facebook, may or may not ultimately have a profitable business model (I think they probably will, but it’s far from proven). Further, while Google does a lot of things right and has, as Jeff notes, grown faster than any company in history, it’s also a company with, essentially, one revenue stream, search ads, that by some accounts it discovered almost by accident (see Planet Google, Randal Stross’ September 2008 book, for a look into Google’s history). They have not managed, yet, to make money from their $1.6 billion purchase of YouTube, from social networking schemes they’ve tried, from some other advertising methods like video Ad Sense and Google Base, and a number of other products. One can even argue that a significant portion of what they and their ilk facilitate is not to the good of mankind.*

Still, Google does look like an unstoppable behemoth, just like Microsoft did a couple decades ago, and the zeitgeist Jeff describes probably is a shift in the ways companies need to think and act. Companies like Dell and Starbucks and JetBlue are, as Jeff notes, doing better because of their use of social media and their abilities to listen to and communicate with customers. But it may be a stretch to say that we can extend the model — which isn’t really a Google model, but more of a 21st century media mindset — to manufacturing techniques and expect to make a profit any time soon. Ford is taking some steps with its attempts to get into digital media; their new media guru Scott Monty (@scottmonty) jokingly Tweeted me a picture of the Homer Simpson vehicle I used in my send-up.

Could my video have been better? Sure. In my delivery, I accidentally left off a couple of bits that I’d scripted that would have added more nuance. Was it completely fair? Probably not. Humor and commentary often aren’t. Was I hiding behind humor? No. I was making a joke that taps into some serious assertions — that Google, while a great company, is not necessarily a panacea and that we can’t say it can serve as a model for all others. When I asked CEO Eric Schmidt how Google, in trying not to do evil, could even know what evil was in some instances — when Google Base, for example, helps individual sell goods, but potentially helps kill local newspapers that depend on classified ads for survival — he gave a thoughtful, considered response, saying that Google was working to help local news organizations in other ways. I don’t think newspapers can blame Google for their misbegotten plight.

I would be happy to try again to discuss this with Jeff. I offered when we spoke to do it on camera, so he could have at me on the record, raise objections in his own words rather than have me paraphrase it for him. I don’t especially like being shouted at, but I’m happy to talk — and, in the spirit of this medium — let the readers, viewers and listeners decide.

If nothing else, I’ve bought the book, read it, written and spoken about it, given some play to the marketing video, shown the cover and given it a bit more exposure. As Jeff, himself, writes in the book about someone putting up a clip of “The Daily Show” on their own site: “Even if I criticize the show, I’m saying there’s something here worth seeing and discussing.”

Exactly. I’m not really sure what I should apologize for. Except, perhaps, going on at this length about it all.

= = = =

* Some of the ways in which Google and other Internet companies may not be good for the world at large:

– Jeff writes that the Internet “explodes … points of control. It abhors centralization. It loves sea level and tears down barriers to entry. It despises secrecy and rewards openness.” Perhaps. But talk to some SEO experts. Because Google also can reward hidden manipulation done skillfully. Google always tries to punish the manipulators. But those manipulators can often game the system and get rewards not for the good they do, but for the game they play.

– The crowd is important, a tremendous boon. Google has done wonders to help us find and organize information and useful tools using the power of all of us. But if we leave selection or even overwhelming influence to the crowd we can unintentionally exclude sensibility a sole currator or free thinker or artist or engineer can provide. Google’s reliance on data above all else can tend to move us away from the creative beacon, the dissonant voice that may not, now, be popular, but which adds real value.

– There can be horrible breaches of privacy. We are trusting companies like Google, Amazon and Facebook to not share the most intimate details of our searches, communications, purchasing habits and browsing interests.

– Google is being called “just an amoral menace” that “produces nothing but seems bent on controlling everything.” I don’t agree. But it’s being said. “Despite its diversification, Google is in the final analysis a parasite that creates nothing, merely offering little aggregation, lists and the ordering of information generated by people who have invested their capital, skill and time. On the back of the labour of others it makes vast advertising revenues.” It’s also being said that “Google Should be Stopped .”

NOTE: I firmly believe that digital media, the spread of voices, and the kinds of social change being wrought by digital and Internet companies and their influence in Silicon Valley, New York and beyond are much more of a force for good than bad. But, like any tool, the Internet and all that goes with it can be used as a force for good or for more nefarious purposes — even if that is not the intent of those using it.