July 25, 2006

An Odd Connection: Getting Europeans To Embrace HDTV [5:56 pm]

This is a weird article — When Will HDTV Take Root in Europe? - pdf.  It starts with this blockbuster assertion:

Despite years of marketing efforts, only about 800,000 European households now receive HD programming, and only about 2 million homes own HD-ready TVs, compared with 11 million in Japan and 19 million in the U.S., according to German researcher GfK.

Now, backers of the state-of-the-art TV technology are shifting their hopes for a European HDTV breakthrough to Christmas, 2006. This time it may not be wishful thinking. The reason: In October, the first high-def DVD recorders will hit the market in Europe—and for many consumers, the crystal-clear picture quality will provide their first real demonstration of HD’s advantage.

But then it becomes a story about content (and overcoming the lack thereof), without any further discussion of the idea that it’s recording technology that has been holding the consumer market back.

Weird.

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More In-Game Advertising [5:39 pm]

In-Game Billboards Go Interactive - pdf

Last week, Funcom and Massive announced a new sort of billboard ad in Anarchy Online. Called “interactive advertisement technology” this new feature will allow players to do more than just passively look at an ad. Instead, players can interact with the ad and see a more detailed model of the Toyota Yaris, for example.

Massive Incorporated CEO Mitch Davis commented at the time that this was “a tremendous step forward in terms of giving advertisers what they want- the ability to target the elusive male 18-34 range and allowing them to interact with the products for a more memorable experience,” and added, “This is just the beginning of interactive ads in games.”

But what does it mean for advertisers? And how will players react? We sat down with Terri Perkins, Product Manager for Funcom, and Nicholas Longano, President of New Media at Massive, to find out.

Posted earlier

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The Risks of Profit Participation: “Crash” [8:34 am]

‘Crash’ Principals Still Await Payments for Their Work

When a movie costs $7.5 million to make and takes in $180 million around the world, it seems logical to think that the people who created the film would have become very rich.

With “Crash,” this year’s Oscar winner for best picture and last year’s sleeper hit at the box office, that has not been the case.

The movie’s co-writer and director, Paul Haggis, has so far made less than $300,000 on the film, a pittance by Hollywood standards. The eight principal actors in “Crash,” including Sandra Bullock, Matt Dillon and Don Cheadle, have been expecting large checks for months, after deferring their usual fees in exchange for a percentage of the film’s profits. Recently, their representatives say, they each received checks for $19,000.

The wheels of Hollywood’s money machine always turn too slowly for profit participants, players who agree to take a slice of a film’s revenues in lieu of large salaries up front.

But the pace of payments on “Crash” has especially disappointed those who deferred and reduced their salaries in 2004 to get the movie made.

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A Look At Current Pop Trends [8:22 am]

Why women rule the pop charts

Things will really heat up over the next several weeks with the release of long-awaited albums by Janet Jackson, Beyoncé, Christina Aguilera, Jessica Simpson, and a couple of the second-tier stars, including the R&B singer Kelis. It’s a veritable perfect storm of pop—never before has the public faced so concentrated an assault of melisma and décolletage—and it’s bound to be bloody: In a market this glutted, someone’s record is going to flop. But based on the slew of new songs already in heavy rotation on radio and MTV, we’re in for some awfully good music, and all kinds of clever stratagems for besting the competition.

[...] In the 21st century, the superstar pop singer—that heroic mantle once held by Sinatra and Elvis and Michael Jackson—has become almost exclusively women’s work.

And for good reason. These days, the emotional range of a male performer is radically circumscribed: Rappers are slick trash-talkers and brutes, emo rockers are sensitive and aggrieved, R&B singers are lotharios. But pop’s female superstars recognize no limits, playing all these roles and a dozen others, often in the course of a single torrid love song, all the while executing tricky dance steps with bared midriffs glistening beneath whirling strobe lights. [...] In the current season, the ladies may steal some more thunder with the arrival of a figure whose malevolence rivals the most fearsome gangsta rapper’s. She might not be able to sing or dance, but Paris Hilton offers diva-pop one thing it’s lacked: an anti-hero.

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Testing The Long Tail @ Slate [8:14 am]

Slate’s long tail

When Wired editor-in-chief Chris Anderson published an article called “The Long Tail” two years ago, he was hailed for explaining how the Internet changed the way culture purveyors do business. When he published a book with the same name this month, Tim Wu took him to task for overreaching—unleashing his nifty theory on everything from eBay to al-Qaida, whether it applies or not. But there’s at least one indispensable American brand that has thus far escaped the long arm of the Long Tail: Slate. Can Anderson’s theory shed light on the economics of an online magazine?

[...] At Slate, our inventory is our articles. We publish 20 or so stories every weekday, but we also have a backlog of about 33,000 pieces in our archives. Because those stories are freely available to our readers, a chunk of our traffic each day comes not from our “hits”—current pieces that are promoted on our home page, which typically draw tens of thousands of readers—but from older pieces with narrower appeal. The economist’s question is: How big is that chunk? And the editor’s question is: Which of our hoary old chestnuts are you reading?

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Conduct of Federal Study on Collegiate File Sharing [8:08 am]

Too Much Sharing About File Sharing

A House of Representatives subcommittee [the House Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property] has requested a survey of colleges’ policies and practices on networks that allow students and others to illegally share copyrighted video and audio files. But unlike most studies by the GAO, Congressional aides have insisted that the agency in this instance report not just on the file sharing landscape in the aggregate, but on how individual colleges responded to the survey.

Declining to promise confidentiality to the respondents, college officials predict, is likely to limit the number of participants and render the survey ineffective.

Like many a GAO survey, this one came to pass after higher education leaders fought off an attempt to impose legislative requirements. [...]

You can find a copy of the GAO survey here

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A Lesson for Media Innovators? Or A Transitory Blip? [7:58 am]

AM still sends out a strong signal to rivals - pdf

In a tech-driven world jammed with listening options, an AM radio station breaking out as a ratings powerhouse runs counter to commonly held perceptions about the medium. Rather than leading the pack, AM should be buried underneath a pile of iPods, TiVo machines, computer games and instant messages.

But it is not. In fact, in Los Angeles, KFI-AM (640) did something last week no other AM station in Southern California has done in two decades: finish first in the overall ratings.

[...] “Think of the AM band as Route 1. For decades it was the most heavily trafficked main road,” said Tom Taylor, editor of trade publication Inside Radio. “Then along came I-5 and the other big roads. But lots of people still travel Route 1, often to find specialty stores. And there are certainly still very large and successful stores along the way.”

AM remains a major radio player because, after being pushed out of the music-playing business in most major national markets more than a decade ago, instead of dying it adapted. During the mid-1980s and early 1990s, AM gradually ejected the Top 40 tunes and inserted in its place a medium-saving mixture of local news, talk radio, sports or other niche programming.

So in a time when much of the media coverage about radio focuses on the battle between XM and Sirius satellite, last week’s quarterly Arbitron ratings served as a reminder of the realities back on planet Earth.

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A Net Neutrality Argument [7:35 am]

Today’s cell phone system argues for retaining network neutrality

With such wildly divergent ideas about the effects of a simple policy, wouldn’t it be nice if history provided some guidance from which to evaluate these claims?

It turns out that we have a privately owned and controlled network all around us, one that closely mirrors the technical functionality of the Internet, but where there has never been a requirement for net neutrality: the US cellular phone network.

Almost all cell phones sold in the developed world have the ability to send and receive SMS (short message service) text messages. SMS is gaining popularity in the US, but only as a way to send quick messages to friends. So why aren’t there a wealth of amazing and interactive services available for mobile devices? Why is there no MySpace, Craigslist, Amazon, Flikr, or eBay accessible through this network? Why are cell phone payment systems and email systems nearly nonexistent? Why haven’t charities raised money or awareness of their causes through this system?

It’s simple. Because the cell phone carriers control what services are allowed to use their networks. There is no net neutrality on the cell phone network.

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