Reading the Tea Leaves

But making a peculiar extrapolation, IMHO: News Corp.’s China moves a worry in U.S.

Fears that Rupert Murdoch would jeopardize the editorial independence of the Wall Street Journal have been a key sticking point in the News Corp. chairman’s proposed $5-billion takeover of the newspaper’s parent, Dow Jones & Co.

Critics cite as the latest example of those dangers Murdoch’s little-noticed introduction in China of his red-hot MySpace Internet property.

[…] Little attention has been paid in the media to MySpace’s recent expansion in China. Already the fifth-most-visited website in the U.S. and a growing force abroad, the dominant social-networking site launched a Chinese version that analysts said goes out of its way to keep users from discussing topics sensitive to the government.

Before the introduction of MySpace China, which carries the slogan “Friend you, friend me,” mainland residents connected to Beverly Hills-based MySpace.com with the same freedom of expression as users anywhere else.

MySpace.cn, the address of the new local service, allows visitors to use Chinese characters but prevents them from blogging about Tibetan religious leader the Dalai Lama, Taiwanese independence and many other subjects. Such phrases and searches for those topics are blocked as “inappropriate,” said Jeremy Goldkorn, a journalist and editor of the Danwei.org blog on Chinese media.

[…] Privately, Murdoch lieutenants portrayed MySpace China’s local ownership as a blessing for News Corp., because the parent will be spared from many of the hard decisions that Google and Yahoo have faced.

In other words, MySpace China can please the government without Murdoch getting much heat from outsiders. Officially, News Corp. licenses the MySpace name and software to MySpace China, and is only a minority investor. A key partner in the project is China Broadband Capital Partners, an investment firm run by former telecom executive Edward Tian.

Gaming the Viral Marketing of a Movie

A Spurned Parody of ‘Die Hard’ Returns to YouTube, Approved

The story seems familiar to online video users: fans create a parody video using pirated studio content and post it on YouTube, and the studio’s lawyers quickly have it removed for violating copyright law. But this time the studio’s marketing team relented —and even paid the fans to repost their video.

Last August, a New York-based “comic-rock” group named Guyz Nite created an online video for their song “Die Hard,” a rather worshipful three-minute guide to 20th Century Fox’s action-movie franchise starring Bruce Willis. (The song’s refrain says, “We’re gonna die, die, die as hard as we can!”) The video used clips from the first three “Die Hard” movies, and within days Fox’s legal department requested that the video be removed from YouTube.

But in February, with a fourth “Die Hard” movie on the horizon, Fox’s marketing department contacted the band and offered to pay it to repost the video, using additional video clips to promote the new film, “Live Free or Die Hard,” which opens on Wednesday. The new version of the video has been viewed almost 90,000 times on YouTube; the reposted old version has been viewed almost 100,000 times.

Solving the © Problem With Closed Networks?

Or something more complicated? Hollywood Seeks Ways to Fit Its Content Into the Realm of the iPhone

For years, mobile phone carriers like AT&T, Verizon Wireless and Sprint have closely controlled what cellphone users watch, when they watch it, and on what kind of screen they watch it — much the way the networks did with television before new technologies loosened their grip. Many in Hollywood and Silicon Valley hope the iPhone’s multimedia features will make it easier for any mobile-crazed consumer to do the same things they do on the Web: watch their favorite television shows, download maps, send e-mail messages to friends and swap videos.

In what is the beginning of many attempts to make the cellphone more Web friendly, Apple has designed its own application so consumers can receive YouTube videos through a Wi-Fi network. Industry executives predict that as it becomes easier to get information via Wi-Fi networks, more consumers will bypass traditional wireless networks altogether. That prospect, while helpful for phone makers and media concerns, is frightening for service providers if consumers begin to regard them as irrelevant.

Second Life and TV Promotion

A Brave New World for TV? Virtually

And he is not alone. In the last year broadcast networks, cable channels and television content providers have all set up camp in virtual communities, where they hope that viewers who have forsaken television for computer screens might rediscover their programming online. Some outlets, like Showtime and Sundance, are establishing themselves in existing worlds; others, like MTV, are creating their own. Either way, if the wildest dreams of some very excited technology developers come true, virtual reality might finally be the medium that unites the passive experience of watching television with the interactive potential of the Web.

If that happens, the television industry — which has not been particularly speedy in adapting to the Internet revolution — sees an opportunity not only to recover lost ground from online competitors but also to take a lead, and in so doing create an entirely new environment in which to influence and sell to its audience.

The NYTimes Keeps Trying

Maybe this will be the breakthrough: The New York TimesReader

Introducing TimesReader
The Digital Newspaper That Reads Like The Real Thing

It synchs when you connect, but is readable offline, and it retains 7 days worth of the paper — an RSS reader idea taken to the logical conclusion. Of course, it’s the NYTimes, so the initial release is Microsoft all the way, but a Mac version is promised….

Migrating To Online Advertising

Shaken and Stirred: For Liquor Campaigns, the Web’s the Thing

“Most importantly, we think our target consumer, 25 to 35 years old, is on the Web much more than on TV or in print,” he added.

Few alcoholic beverages are forgoing the traditional media altogether. In some instances, turning up the ad volume online has proved problematic, as Anheuser-Busch discovered with bud.tv, a Web site for Budweiser and Bud Light beers that has fallen far short of expectations since its introduction in February.

And critics of the tactics that marketers use to sell liquor and beer are worried that the Internet makes it easier for consumers under the legal drinking age to be exposed to pitches for alcoholic beverages.

[…] One big advantage of advertising online, Mr. Hartunian said, is a good reading of who is seeing the spot and how they behave before and after they view it.

“You get data — traffic to the site, where the traffic is coming from, the amount of time people spend on the site, which sections of the site they go to — and you can adjust as you go along,” he added.

“Adjust” … hmmm.

The MacArthur Foundation Enters Second Life

Foundation With Real Money Ventures Into Virtual World

The goals are to gain insight into how virtual worlds are used by young people, to introduce the foundation to an audience that may have little exposure to institutional philanthropy and to take part in and stimulate discussions about the real-world issues that it seeks to address.

“This is not just some fad or something new and interesting that we’ve grabbed onto,” said Jonathan Fanton, MacArthur’s president. “Serious conversations take place there, people are deeply engaged, and that led us to think that maybe a major foundation ought to have a presence in the virtual world as well.”

A New Pathology?

Remember, homosexuality used to be classified by the the APA as a psychiatric disorder: Marathon video game sessions: Is that sick?pdf

The American Medical Assn. is scheduled to debate such a proposal in Chicago on Sunday, then vote on it early next week. Backed by the Maryland State Medical Society, the proposal advocates that the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, considered by many psychiatrists to be the final word for assessing mental illness, include video game addiction.

The proposal also would have doctors exhort parents to curb their children’s use of the Internet, television and video games to two hours a day. In addition, it would have the AMA, the influential physician organization with 250,000 members, lobby the Federal Trade Commission to improve the current system for rating video game content.

Getting the AMA to deem video game addiction a psychiatric disorder is the first step in a long process required to create a new mental health diagnosis. The ultimate arbiter is the American Psychiatric Assn., which publishes the authoritative DSM guide on mental disorders, currently in its fourth version. Getting APA approval could take years.

Executives in the $30-billion game industry are already on the defensive. They say the measures are not supported by scientific evidence.

PrerezHilton Having Copyright Problems

An indecent entertainment – watching fights among bottom feeders: Perezhilton.com shut for several hourspdf

The gossip columnist, whose real name is Mario Lavandeira, is the target of several lawsuits by paparazzi and others who claim he posts their photos and video content on his site without permission.

Celebrity photographers make hundreds of thousands of dollars selling exclusive images to magazines and Web sites each year. The agencies that have sued Lavandeira say he has refused to pay fees to license the photos, claiming he has a right as a journalist to use the images for free.

The Web site routinely posts tabloid photos of celebrities and adds scribbled commentary and rudimentary doodles. Lavandeira defends his actions, saying his commentary constitutes “fair use” and is protected by copyright law.

Writing the History of the End (updated)

The Record Industry’s Declinepdf

So who killed the record industry as we knew it? “The record companies have created this situation themselves,” says Simon Wright, CEO of Virgin Entertainment Group, which operates Virgin Megastores. While there are factors outside of the labels’ control — from the rise of the Internet to the popularity of video games and DVDs — many in the industry see the last seven years as a series of botched opportunities. And among the biggest, they say, was the labels’ failure to address online piracy at the beginning by making peace with the first file-sharing service, Napster. “They left billions and billions of dollars on the table by suing Napster — that was the moment that the labels killed themselves,” says Jeff Kwatinetz, CEO of management company the Firm. “The record business had an unbelievable opportunity there. They were all using the same service. It was as if everybody was listening to the same radio station. Then Napster shut down, and all those 30 or 40 million people went to other [file-sharing services].”

It all could have been different: Seven years ago, the music industry’s top executives gathered for secret talks with Napster CEO Hank Barry. At a July 15th, 2000, meeting, the execs — including the CEO of Universal’s parent company, Edgar Bronfman Jr.; Sony Corp. head Nobuyuki Idei; and Bertelsmann chief Thomas Middelhof — sat in a hotel in Sun Valley, Idaho, with Barry and told him that they wanted to strike licensing deals with Napster. “Mr. Idei started the meeting,” recalls Barry, now a director in the law firm Howard Rice. “He was talking about how Napster was something the customers wanted.”

The idea was to let Napster’s 38 million users keep downloading for a monthly subscription fee — roughly $10 — with revenues split between the service and the labels. But ultimately, despite a public offer of $1 billion from Napster, the companies never reached a settlement. “The record companies needed to jump off a cliff, and they couldn’t bring themselves to jump,” says Hilary Rosen, who was then CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America. “A lot of people say, ‘The labels were dinosaurs and idiots, and what was the matter with them?’ But they had retailers telling them, ‘You better not sell anything online cheaper than in a store,’ and they had artists saying, ‘Don’t screw up my Wal-Mart sales.’ ” Adds Jim Guerinot, who manages Nine Inch Nails and Gwen Stefani, “Innovation meant cannibalizing their core business.”

Later: As an indicator of how bad the industry has coped with changing circumstances, the three leading retailers of music in the US are in the business solely as a loss leader for other products they’d rather you bought: Apple now third-largest U.S. music retailer: surveypdf

Later: Rolling Stone’s list of 5 remedies: The Fall of the Record Business: What Next?pdf