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January 2008, Week 2 Marketing Archives

Friday, January 11, 2008

Comcast: Evil or Benevolent Empire?

The battle to dominate content delivery is being methodically won by Comcast. I've always thought that Comcast had the inside track on being the entity most able to merge Internet content with TV, and they have all but accomplished that.

Comcast's new super-fast downloading of HD movies could all but kill movie download services and will be a huge incentive for consumers to leave competing services. Comcast's video on demand service, which will store thousands of shows on regional servers to speed delivery competes with DVRs that it also offers, but it could be challenged in court as previous lawsuits have targeted the idea of a "network DVR."

The ability to program your DVR online finally brings Comcast on par with TiVo, and since Comcast is already working with TiVo it should integrate the ability to store RSS video feeds on the DVR.

So once Comcast has a clearly superior offering that combines the best in high speed access, web content and video on demand, will it stabilize consumer rates? I left for satellite TV because it seemed that they raised the subscription fee every two months. It will be incredibly convenient to get everything you need from one company. But the DOJ had better pay attention to make sure that Comcast rules the digital universe without slipping into a Microsoft-like behaviors. 

Comcast: Evil or Benevolent Empire? By John Gartner at 09:28 AM
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Writer's Winning Marketing War With Studios

So far the writer's strike appears to be a marketing win for the Writer's Guild, though the TV networks are financially doing fine.

One of the main sticking points is the lack of sharing revenues from online content with the writers. The studios are making deals left and right to expand their online revenue, so they need to put pressure on the writers by publicly offering a percentage of the gross revenue.

NBC says it is on target to make $1 billion in digital revenue in 2009, so claiming there is no money to be made is ridiculous. Sony is cutting up old shows into small pieces and distributing them via YouTube, giving new life to Al Bundy. 

CBS says it is surviving the strike just fine while the writers are in financial straights. But that's because the strike has yet to halt a majority of the scripted series. Wait a month until the only thing left is reality TV and the audience will stop turning on to channel surf because they know they won't have anything worthwhile to watch.

The late night hosts who are uncomfortable to be working sans writers have expressed their sympathies, leading to a PR mess. Railing against your corporate bosses to millions of viewers can't be good for the corporate culture. Jon Stewart et al are conflicted because they don't want to make the shows too good to make the writers look bad, yet they are professionals who don't care to bore audiences.

If the studios picked some number to split the revenue with the writers, they could swing momentum back in their direction. They can't say there is no money to be made, so let's get the dialog going.

Writer's Winning Marketing War With Studios By John Gartner at 08:43 AM
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Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Minefield of Social Data Sharing

It could be great for users, publishers, and advertisers that Google, Plaxo and Facebook are agreeing to make their data interoperable, as detailed by Techcrunch. Moving addresses and IDs across services is a great idea so that we don't have to manually recreate lists of our friends for multiple environments. We don't want a repeat of the IM wars that has resulted in me using 4 chat clients to reach all of my friends.

Advertisers will be happy because they can learn more about individuals by seeing what they do on multiple sites.

However, protecting consumer privacy will be more complicated as social nets decide what to share and how to prevent it from being hacked. What will be the user controls for sharing friend lists, photos, RSS feeds, favorite sites, etc? Maybe you don't want some of your friends to see your Flickr photos or know that you've emailed that ex-girlfriend. Or, you may not want the world to know what DVDs you rented or what book you bought on Amazon.

Also, if the ID on one site gets compromised, will it provide a pathway to all of your data/friends? In an age of fear of Big Brother, consumers are largely going in the opposite direction, exposing all of the lives to the world. If marketers make the most of that information, consumers shouldn't be surprised.

Hopefully all of the social environments (Flickr, MySpace, and LinkedIn) will join the effort to securely share data so that we can have true interoperability.

The Minefield of Social Data Sharing By John Gartner at 01:33 PM
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Start Spreading the (Video) News

News organizations of all forms -- even those that are supposedly print such as the websites of magazines and newspapers -- see big $$$$ in spreading their content to publishers national and local. Every major news organization is adding user-generated video, vlogs, and professional content as a way to build an audience.

This year the big push is to spread that news to local publishers so that even the smallest site can be video rich. The Associate Press has created video widgets so that local publishers can monetize their streams, and they share the ad revenue. Likewise Belo, which owns local TV affiliates across the country is partnering with Yahoo to provide news to its local channels, such as here in Portland .

ClipSyndicate, which gets content from local TV stations, Bloomberg, Fox, and the AP, has opened up its Flash video player so that publishers can add video news to their sites.

Traffic to video sharing sites doubled compared to last year, and that is likely to happen again. Video will be to 2008 what social networking was last year -- a way to become a sticky site and retain readers.

Start Spreading the (Video) News By John Gartner at 09:27 AM
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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Real Estate Fertile Ground for Search

Finding a home to buy is one of the most stressful experiences in life (as my frequent moves can attest). A new turnkey platform/search technology from Trulia enables any publisher to get into the real estate search business.

Trulia hosts the sites and sells a portion of the ads, but the publisher sells most of the ads and keeps that revenue. While do a strict revenue split is the more popular model, I've seen a few companies try the apportioning of ads space.

Local publishers such as news, city guides, or service directories are likely candidates to incoporate Trulia, which has already signed up Seattle Weekly and business site Kiplinger.

Another useful real estate site is Zillow, which recently launched 7,000 "neighborhood" pages that gives useful information about demographics. A real estate search is as much about the schools, income and crime rates as it is about the individual property. Integrating that information into a home search is extremely useful in eliminating time considering great houses in areas that may not be best for you.


Real Estate Fertile Ground for Search By John Gartner at 10:18 AM
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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Update on Zango "Secret Crush" on Facebook

Yesterday I quoted a MediaPost article that described how a "Secret Crush widget on Facebook was installing adware featuring ads for Zango among others.

Zango has since claimed that the widget was not theirs, and that they were in no way affiliate with it though some of the pop-up ads it inflicted on users came from Zango.

Per a Zango e-mail to me today:

"Contrary to Fortinet’s advisory posted late last week that falsely claimed that Zango software was being surreptitiously installed by the “Secret Crush” Facebook widget, at no point while adding the Secret Crush application to a Facebook profile did the widget attempt to install Zango software. Neither does the application install any third-party software."

I asked attorney/professor/adware expert Ben Edelman, who has tracked Zango's past actions, to weigh in on the situation.

Ben's e-mail to reads in part:

It seems everyone agrees that what happened was as follows: A deceptive Facebook widget spread quickly based on dubious claims about friends who "might have a crush on you." The widget's effects included showing users a variety of ads -- some of them legitimate, others dubious at best. One of these ads promoted Zango. Zango claims users only received its software if they clicked through a consent procedure. That may be true, as far as it goes. But the installation procedure, taken as a whole, is deceptive. In particular, the installation procedure is predicated on dubious or false statements (friends that "have a crush" even when the app has no reason to think they do), and the installation occurs in a context likely to trick, confuse, or deceive users about the true nature, purpose, and effects of the software at issue. All in all, it's nothing to celebrate.

I commend Facebook's response. Facebook rightly refused to allow such deceptive ads to appear in its system. It seems that future Zango ads will probably also be unwelcome at Facebook -- whether placed directly or placed through intermediaries like this widget...

"... In more recent testing, I have found explicit Zango ads shown to users who showed no interest in sexually-explicit materials, and I have found Zango ads served up by spyware installed without consent. Zango needs to be more careful where and how its ads are shown -- not through misleading Facebook widgets, not through spyware, and not in other ways that reflect badly on Zango."

Update on Zango "Secret Crush" on Facebook By John Gartner at 11:36 PM
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Monday, January 07, 2008

NAI Joins Chorus for Behavioral Standards

Behavioral advertising will continue to be under the microscope throughout the year. Now the Network Advertising Initiative has decided to update its seven year-old code of conduct to encompass behavioral activities.

The NAI's suggestion are extremely outdated considering the leaps in technology since 2000. Being able to link actions from around the web wasn't possible outside of basic cookies.

The NAI is hoping that self-regulation will be good enough for privacy experts who are trying to get the federal government and Congress' ear.  Hopefully advertisers and publishers will realize that they can't mashing up people's web exploits without consent, so opt-in should be the default.

Someone will try to bold go beyond what Facebook has done with Beacon, and they will be pushed back. Hopefully the industry will find a reasoned center that benefits advertisers and consumers.


NAI Joins Chorus for Behavioral Standards By John Gartner at 11:36 PM
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Blockbuster Online Offline

Blockbuster's website has been down for more than 13 hours and counting on Monday into the late evening. This is a significant failure for a leading media company that is increasingly web dependent. The outage from a "system problem" that hasn't been made public.

The website crash couldn't have occurred at a worse time. With everyone at CES talking about web-to-TV content and sharing movie services, Blockbuster is making as much noise as a Charlie Chaplin movie.

Blockbuster is in trouble financially as NetFlix has pressured the company to lower prices which sharply cut revenue, but now BB is raising prices for its online rental program.

The company was also taken to task for working with Facebook to automatically share information about movie rentals with the list of friends.

Could this be a harbinger of worse things to come at Blockbuster?

Update 1/8/08, 6 am PST. Blockbuster is back online as of this morning. No explanation as to why it took so long to return the site to service, and at first blush there does not seem to have been a major redesign or obvious new features. The company is giving an investor meeting tomorrow, making this a bad time to frustrate customers.

Blockbuster Online Offline By John Gartner at 11:23 PM
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Gadgets Complete Web and TV Integration

Content is content is content -- that's the word out of CES as gadget makers unveil products that make Web video and TV content available anywhere in the home.

Taking on Apple TV and Microsoft in this space are TiVo, Sling Media, Cisco and Archos. Once the technology evolves the next opportunity is creating the interactive ads that will pay for all of these services. Web surfing from sofa will be one of the biggest shifts of the next 2 years, and marketers had better be prepared.

I've been waiting for 18 months for DVRs to integrate RSS feeds so that web content could be easily saved and watched on a TiVo, and the company has finally done it. To quote Stephen Colbert, I CALLED IT!

TiVo has updated its software so that RSS feeds can be instantly added to the Now Playinglist. The webs has officially arrived on TV, and several others are right in line with TiVo.

The ARCHOS TV+ is a "WiFi DVR that lets you surf the Web; stream music, photos and more from a computer to your TV using a home network; download movies wirelessly from the Internet; and record up to 700 hours of TV programming."

The $250 box ($350 for the 700 hour version) includes plug-ins so that you can watch Flash video (so YouTube is a go), DVD movies saved on a PC, CinemaNow downloaded movies and video podcasts. There device includes a program guide and keyboard.

Cisco has 3 new set-top boxes that similarly share content between TVs and PCs. The 8500HDC DVR, which will be available through cable companies, will allow user generated video and TV content to be shared with TVs and PCs and portable devices. It also includes recording High Definition content and instant messaging from the TV, a technology that has been toyed with but not mastered for years.

Sling Media has upgraded its Sling Catcher with new software for sharing TV and PC content wirelesslythroughout the house. The EchoStar company is also offering an external hard drive for $40, which will greatly expand the storage capacity and flexibility of its DVR system.

One of these products will be at the top of my Christmas list this year.

Gadgets Complete Web and TV Integration By John Gartner at 10:13 AM
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Facebook Bans Adware from Zango

One million downloads too late, Facebook has banned a widget that distributes Zango's infamous adware. Unfortunately Facebook's rise along with the proliferation of widget made in inevitable that someone would create sneaky software.

After its software is installed, Zango tracks user movements around the web and interjects pop-up ads. Zango has paid fines to the FTC for its bad behavior, but apparently those were not a severe enough penalty to discourage further misdeeds.

Zango created the "Secret Crush" Facebook widget that included adware as part of the installation process, but it took a report from security firm Fortinet to point out the software's lack of transparency.

Applications that promise free things for nothing (such as ringtones) should always be suspect, so caveat emptor. Facebook and MySpace will become fertile ground for more companies to attempt to turn a profit from their popularity through dubious methods. These companies will have to step up and closely police the widgets and pages that are part of their universes.

Facebook Bans Adware from Zango By John Gartner at 09:33 AM
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« January 2008 Week 1 January 2008 Week 3 »

  • Week 1 (6 entries) January 1-5
  • Week 2 (10 entries) January 6-12
  • Week 3 (10 entries) January 13-19
  • Week 4 (10 entries) January 20-26
  • Week 5 (5 entries) January 27-31

Update on Zango "Secret Crush" on Facebook
For some badly needed perspective, see my blog pos...
by Ken Smith
Gadgets Complete Web and TV Integration
I've never seen the sling catcher before, I t...
by Robert Lloyd

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