June 7, 2007

Playing, Marketing — It’s All The Same Online [4:02 pm]

Doll Web Sites Drive Girls to Stay Home and Play

Millions of children and adolescents are spending hours on these sites, which offer virtual versions of traditional play activities and cute animated worlds that encourage self-expression and safe communication. They are, in effect, like Facebook or MySpace with training wheels, aimed at an audience that may be getting its first exposure to the Web.

While some of the sites charge subscription fees, others are supported by advertising. As is the case with children’s television, some critics wonder about the broader social cost of exposing children to marketing messages, and the amount of time spent on the sites makes some child advocates nervous.

[...] In recent months, with the traffic for these sites growing into the tens of millions of visitors, the entrepreneurs behind them have started to refine their business models.

Cartoon Doll Emporium, which draws three million visitors a month, is free for many activities but now charges $8 a month for access to more dolls to dress up and other premium services. WeeWorld, a site aimed at letting 13- to-25-year-olds dress up and chat through animated characters, recently signed a deal to permit the online characters to carry bags of Skittles candy, and it is considering other advertisers.

On Stardoll, which has some advertising, users can augment the wardrobe they use to dress up their virtual dolls by buying credits over their cellphones. At Club Penguin, a virtual world with more than four million visitors a month, a $5.95-a-month subscription lets users adopt more pets for their penguin avatars (animated representations of users), which can roam, chat and play games like ice fishing and team hockey.

“The propensity to truck, barter and exchange one thing for another is common to all men, and to be found in no other race of animals” — but it doesn’t hurt to do some training, either!

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CIC Partners With Google BookSearch [11:24 am]

CIC: Partnership Announced BEtween CIC Libraries and Google (See also Big Ten joins Google book projectpdf)

The initiative is not entirely without controversy – no great undertaking ever is. But our universities believe strongly in the power of information to change the world, and in preserving, protecting and extending access to information. We have carefully weighed and considered the intellectual property issues and believe that our effort is firmly within the guidelines of current copyright law, while providing some flexibility as those laws are tested in the new digital environment in the coming years.

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Evolution of the Business Model [8:22 am]

A Small Strategy for Selling Concerts

The music industry may seem like a broken record of bad news these days, with plunging album sales and confusion over the digital future. But in the concert business at least one corner is booming: clubs.

[...] “What we’re seeing is a refocusing in the concert business to midsize venues,” said Gary Bongiovanni, editor of Pollstar, the touring industry trade magazine. “Looking forward, the conventional wisdom is that there will be fewer arena-level, large-amphitheater acts.”

And with the record industry in turmoil, the burden of artist development has fallen more heavily on the touring business.

“We have less of a safety net than in the bad old days,” said Bruce Moran, Mr. Glancy’s replacement as president of Live Nation’s New York division. “We can’t expect a label to buy hundreds of tickets for a developing artist. We can’t expect them to buy a full-page ad to support a show.”

There is no industry consensus about how the rapid club growth will affect concertgoers. In the short term it provides an abundance of new concert sites, feeding a market that has been hungry for more midsize rooms for years. But with increased competition among promoters comes expensive bidding wars for talent, which could lead to higher ticket prices.

See also As music labels struggle, bands thrive in gamespdf

It is a dark time for record labels and mainstream radio, but the people who pick music for video games say there has never been a better time to be an aspiring rock star.

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Baby Steps on Patents [8:19 am]

Administration Seeks Overhaul of Patent System

The goal, said Jon W. Dudas, director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, is to improve the quality of patents and in the process curb the rising wave of patent disputes and lawsuits. The legal wrangling is often over broad descriptions of ideas or activities, so-called business methods, or software that contains only incremental changes over previous work.

“There ought to be a shared responsibility for patent quality among the patent office, the applicants and the public,” Mr. Dudas said in an interview yesterday. “If everything is done right at the front end, we’ll have to worry a lot less about litigation later.”

Some steps to improve patent quality will require changes in the law, said Mr. Dudas, who testified at a meeting of the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. Patent overhaul legislation has been introduced this year in both the Senate and the House, amid concern that the current overburdened, litigation-choked system is hampering innovation rather than encouraging it.

[...] Josh Lerner, a professor at Harvard Business School, said that the patent office had made an effort to improve patent quality in the last few years. But he asked whether Mr. Dudas’s proposals amounted to relying too much on getting better information from applicants.

Professor Lerner said that inventors are instinctive optimists who tend to believe that what they are doing is unique. Yet even discounting any self-serving bias, he said, the growing complexity of technology makes it more difficult for a single person — applicant or examiner — to assess the innovative merit of a patent claim.

“That’s why I think really opening the examination process to public peer review is so important,” Professor Lerner said. “While the patent office has shown a willingness to experiment with openness, I would put that at the center.”

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Who Gets To Play? [8:11 am]

‘omg my mom joined facebook!!’

Feeling as if I had achieved a minor victory in the name of parents of teenagers everywhere, I phoned Michael Wesch, an assistant professor of cultural anthropology at Kansas State University whose research focuses on social networks, to offer him some real-life data to work with.

But although he didn’t go so far as to say he disapproved of my parenting skills, Professor Wesch reminded me that what Facebook’s younger users really are doing is exploring their identities, which they may not want to parade in front of their parents.

“Can’t I explore my identity, too?” I asked. “Why does everything fun have to be for them?”

[...] “There is a really good social network for older people, too,” Professor Wesch said. “It caters to the older generation with an automatic feed of news that relates to older generations and a number of features tailored to the way people in that generation would interact.”

“What’s it called?” I asked.

“I can’t remember the name of it,” he said.

“Exactly,” I said. “I’m staying where it’s fun.”

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Part of My Future: Converter Box [8:06 am]

As one of those who still only gets my TV signals “over the air,” I have plenty of hardware that will benefit from this subsidized retrofit after 2009 Feb 16: Converters Signal a New Era for TVs

At midnight on Feb. 17, 2009, the rabbit ears and the rooftop antennas that still guide television signals into nearly 1 of every 5 American homes will be rendered useless — unless they are tethered to a new device, including two versions unveiled yesterday, that the government will spend as much as $80 a household to help families buy.

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Online Governance: Game Worlds [8:02 am]

In a Virtual Universe, the Politics Turn Real

The kingdom is in crisis. After pledging to treat its citizens equally, the government stands accused of unfairly favoring one powerful, well-connected political faction. Many citizens have taken to open dissent, even revolt, and some are threatening to emigrate permanently.

his specter of corruption has emerged most recently not in some post-colonial trouble spot but in the virtual nation of an Internet game called Eve Online (population 200,000) where aspiring star pilots fight over thousands of solar systems in a vast science-fiction universe every day.

So now, in a sociological twist, the company that makes Eve, CCP, based in Iceland (population 300,000), says it will tackle the problem the way a democracy would. In what appears to be a first, the company plans to hold elections so that players can select members of an oversight committee.

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Social Networks, Data Mining and Crime Investigation [8:00 am]

From Database to Crime Scene: Network Is Potent Police Weapon

At its core, the network, housed in a windowless eighth-floor room at One Police Plaza, is a search engine, not unlike Google or Yahoo, that can quickly relay information to officers in the field. Teams of detectives inside the room, which the Police Department calls the Real Time Crime Center, peer into computer screens and plot cases on a 15-foot-high video screen that can display maps, diagrams, satellite images and surveillance camera photos. Some of the data they provide is routine police investigative material, like criminal complaints, a suspect’s criminal history and past home addresses.

But the center also stitches together the kind of information that has traditionally been buried in precinct file cabinets or detectives’ notebooks: the names of people who have visited a convict in city jails and New York State prisons, aliases, recordings of all 911 calls made from any address in the city over the last 10 years and lists of tattoos, scars and nicknames of known felons.

[...] But the very potential of the crime center’s data-gathering effort worries some civil libertarians, who question whether it might lead the police to invade the privacy of innocent citizens.

Donna Lieberman, executive director of the New York Civil Liberties Union, cautioned that any time a name is entered into a police database, even when the person is innocent of a crime, he or she can unknowingly become a target.

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The Escalating War: Digital Watermarking [7:46 am]

Firing a digital broadside at Chinese media piratespdf

Ronald Stein’s shiny silver discs don’t look revolutionary, but if he and his crew are successful, the technology embedded in them will become a powerful weapon in China’s battle against piracy.

Stein’s family-owned media company, Crest Digital, has linked up with Philips, the European electronics giant, to develop traceable authentic content technology, which they call TRAC. Hollywood-based Crest Digital also has teamed with the leading film company in China to bring the system there, the world’s largest producer of both legitimate and pirated CDs and DVDs.

Is TRAC foolproof? Hardly, Stein said, given bootleggers’ commitment and cunning.

“Not to say they won’t try” to break the code, he said. “But we’ve made it difficult for them.”

Hey, why not sell them some lucky rabbit’s feet while you’re at it!

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