January 15, 2008

Today’s Wondermark on Open Cellphones [6:43 pm]

Wondermark #371: In which the Whole Point is missed

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Revisiting the “Idol” Dream Machine [8:34 am]

While, at the outset, “American Idol” looked like the perfect combination for success — getting paid to find talent, and getting Americans to pay to express their preferences — it’s looking a little more complicated than that: Insta-success may be just an ‘Idol’ dreampdf

[T]elevision viewers, many of whom simply enjoy “Idol” as a silly midweek diversion, are not always music consumers. Even if they were, the song is king in pop music. Millions of people may have voted for both Guarini and Daughtry, but only the latter had songs that connected with a mass audience. Even prior success is no key to continued popular em brace or record-label sponsorship. Season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson’s recent third record underperformed commercially, thanks to a dearth of radio catnip like “Since U Been Gone.” Studdard saw a pattern of diminishing returns in urban soul and gospel music.

The true power of “Idol” isn’t in creating pop stars - always a complicated equation - but rather in molding reality-TV personalities who are, briefly, offered a window to capture people’s attention.

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Making “Meatspace” Shopping More Like Online Shopping [8:24 am]

Video ads put to test on grocery cartspdf

Microsoft Corp. is bringing digital advertising to the grocery cart.

The software maker spent four years working with Plano, Texas-based MediaCart Holdings Inc. on a grocery cart-mounted console that helps shoppers find products in the store, then scan and pay for their items without waiting in the checkout line. Microsoft’s acquisition of aQuantive, an online advertising company, last year for $6 billion shored up the company’s capacity to serve video ads onto these grocery cart screens.

[...] The system also uses radio-frequency identification to sense where the shopper’s cart is in the store. The RFID data can help ShopRite and food makers understand shopping patterns, and the technology can also be used to send certain ads to people at certain points - an ad for 50 cents off Oreos, for example, when a shopper enters the cookie aisle. Microsoft said it is still working on how it will present commercials and coupons.

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A Little Pushback [8:02 am]

Quiet installation of cameras in Newton schools sparks debatepdf

In the City of Newton, where civil liberties and liberal politics run deep, disclosure that two local schools installed security cameras without informing faculty, the School Committee, or the school community has touched off a debate pitting the right to privacy against protecting valuables in the schools.

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MySpace, Identity and Security [7:57 am]

Well, I guess it’s going to give MySpace some breathing room, but you have to wonder just how far they really will get with this Sisyphean task: MySpace to do more to boost safetypdf

MySpace says it can’t guarantee that the people who sign up for its social networking site aren’t underage or sex offenders. But it averted a potential legal battle Monday by agreeing to keep trying.

A group of 49 state attorneys general probing safety issues at MySpace and other online social networks signed a deal with the Beverly Hills-based unit of Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. MySpace promised to help organize an industry task force to find tools for verifying the identities and ages of people online.

Also 49 states, MySpace OK child safety pactpdf; MySpace Agrees to Lead Fight to Stop Sex Predators

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EMI Makes Some Hard Decisions [7:54 am]

And, while they may suffer in the short term, they’ve got some good ideas about reshaping the nature of the music business: EMI to cut jobs, artists’ advancespdf

In a dramatic demonstration of the economic toll of digital piracy on the music industry, EMI Group is expected to fire more than a quarter of the London-based company’s employees and radically alter the way it does business to further cut costs.

[...] EMI also will become the first major label to eliminate the large advances that customarily are paid in the industry to proven artists. For instance, British pop singer Robbie Williams reportedly got an advance worth $150 million when he signed with EMI in 2002. His future advances could be in jeopardy because of his disappointing sales.

EMI instead will pay retroactive compensation based on how well a recording sells, one of the executives said.

The approach will probably take the record company out of the running for top acts, which can negotiate bigger advances from Universal Music Group, Sony-BMG or Warner Music Group, the executives said. A severe cutback in advances means that “you’re not competitive anymore for A-list talent. You’re asking to be outbid,” the executive said.

Maybe — or maybe the other record companies will come to the realization that they no longer need (or ought) to structure their deals in such a way that they shoulder the bulk of the business risk.

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More EU Investigations of Microsoft [7:48 am]

In Europe, Microsoft Again Faces Inquiries

The two new inquiries by the commission, which has established a reputation as a tough regulator, center on issues strikingly similar to those covered by the court ruling.

This time it will examine whether bundling the Web browser Internet Explorer into Microsoft Windows unfairly excludes competitors like Opera, a small Norwegian company that produces a rival browser.

The commission will also investigate whether Microsoft withheld essential information from companies that wanted to make products compatible with its software, including Office word processing and spreadsheet programs.

Also EU starts 2 new probes of Microsoftpdf

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The Video Game Industry Grows Up [7:47 am]

Video Game Industry Seeks Political Clout

Capitalizing on its improved respectability, the video game industry intends to establish a political action committee to donate money to game-friendly politicians and candidates.

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