UK on the Forefront of Online TV, DVR Use [NewTeeVee]

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mostmissedmediaOne in three Internet users in the UK is watching TV online, according to a new study by the British media regulation authority Ofcom. This trend seems to be largely driven by the BBC’s iPlayer, which is used by 27 percent of the country’s online population. However, traditional TV viewing still plays a huge role, and time-shifting through DVRs is growing quickly.

Compare those data points to other countries in Europe, and you’ll get a significantly different picture. Online TV platforms are far less developed in Germany, for example, a country that just like the UK has a strong online population. DVRs are also much more popular in the UK than elsewhere. Still, there’s one thing we all seem to agree on, no matter where we are: We do love our TV.

We’re the first ones to admit that NewTeeVee can be a little U.S.-centric in its coverage of the online video world. That’s why we’re happy when institutions like Ofcom crank out studies like the UK Adults’ Media Literacy 2009 Interim Report, which can be downloaded in full from Ofcom’s web site (PDF). The report is based on survey data from this spring, and Ofcom is currently in the process of getting additional data for a complete 2009 report to be published early next year.

The data currently available is already pretty revealing: 29 percent of all online Brits watch TV on the Internet, and almost all of those (27 percent, to be precise) use the BBC’s iPlayer. Around 9 percent watch TV shows or download movies from other web sites. More than 40 percent of users between the ages of 16 and 34 watch TV or movies online.

Compare those numbers with a country that doesn’t have the iPlayer, and you’ll see the real impact the BBC’s online programming is having: TV networks in Germany have only recently begun to publish full-length shows on the web, and there isn’t any single popular platform comparable to either Hulu in the U.S. or the iPlayer in the UK. Around 62 percent of all German Internet users are watching online video, but only around 4 percent regularly, while some 17 percent occasionally frequent the media sites set up by TV networks, according to a study published by the German public broadcasters ARD and ZDF (Full disclosure: I occasionally contribute to programming aired by ZDF.) earlier this year. Most users instead go to video portals like YouTube or Germany’s Sevenload, presumably to watch short clips of their favorite shows that were uploaded by other users.

The gap between the UK and continental Europe seems to be even bigger when it comes to DVR use. Ofcom’s report reveals that 34 percent of UK households now own a TiVo-like device. Two years ago, roughly 23 percent of all Brits were able to time-shift TV content. In Germany, less than 4 percent of all households owned a DVR in 2008, according to a study published late last year.

There is, however, one thing that unites Brits and Krauts: TV is still the most popular medium, despite heavy Internet usage in both countries. German Internet users spend 70 minutes every day online, but 228 minutes in front of the TV. And 51 percent of all Brits say they would miss TV the most if it was taken away from them; only 15 percent would miss the Internet more than any other medium. Interestingly enough, TV got even more popular over recent years: In 2005, it was only mentioned by 44 percent of all UK respondents as the medium to be missed the most.

Scamville: The Social Gaming Ecosystem Of Hell

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Last weekend I wrote about how the big social gaming companies are making hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue on Facebook and MySpace through games like Farmville and Mobsters. Major media can’t stop applauding the companies long enough to understand what’s really going on with these games. The real story isn’t the business success of these startups. It’s the completely unethical way that they are going about achieving that success.

In short, these games try to get people to pay cash for in game currency so they can level up faster and have a better overall experience. Which is fine. But for users who won’t pay cash, a wide variety of “offers” are available where they can get in-game currency in exchange for lead gen-type offers. Most of these offers are bad for consumers because it confusingly gets them to pay far more for in-game currency than if they just paid cash (there are notable exceptions, but the scammy stuff tends to crowd out the legitimate offers). And it’s also bad for legitimate advertisers.

The reason why I call this an ecosystem is that it’s a self-reinforcing downward cycle. Users are tricked into these lead gen scams. The games get paid, and they plow that money back into Facebook and MySpace in advertising, getting more users. Who are then monetized via lead gen scams. That money is then plowed back into Facebook and MySpace in advertising to get more users…

Here’s the really insidious part: game developers who monetize the best (and that’s Zynga) make the most money and can spend the most on advertising. Those that won’t touch this stuff (Slide and others) fall further and further behind. Other game developers have to either get in on the monetization or fall behind as well. Companies like Playdom and Playfish seem to be struggling with their conscience and are constantly shifting their policies on lead gen.

The games that scam the most, win.

And some users aren’t dumb, either. For every user who gets tricked into some fake mobile subscription, there’s another who can beat the system. That’s where the legitimate advertisers, like Netflix and Blockbuster, get hit. Users sign up for a free trial with a credit card, get their game currency, then cancel the membership and start over. Netflix has a policy of only paying for a user once. But game developers use a complex set of partner chains to launder these leads and try to get them through for payment. Netflix sees an overall lowering of quality and pays less for leads. Game developers, desperate to monetize, then search for ever more questionable offers to make up the difference. In the end, the decent advertisers are out, and only the worst of the worst remain.

Left alone, the system really will slide into a full blown disaster. The platforms (Facebook and MySpace) are in a position to regulate this, and even have rules prohibiting some scams. But those rules are routinely ignored by developers, and are rarely enforced by Facebook and MySpace.

There can be only one reason Facebook and MySpace turn a blind eye to user protection – they’re getting such a huge cut of revenue back from these developers in advertising. If they turn off the spigot, they hurt themselves.

Zynga may be spending $50 million a year on Facebook advertising alone, fueled partially by lead gen scams. Wonder how Facebook got to profitability way ahead of schedule? It was a surge in this kind of advertising. The money looks clean – it’s from Zynga, Playfish, Playdom and others. But a large portion of it is coming from users who’ve been tricked into one scam or another.

And recent moves by Facebook to shut down application spam only make the problem worse in some way – game developers have to spend more money on advertisers to get users now that the viral channels are shut down. That means the games have to monetize even better. Which means more scams.

It’s time for this to stop. Facebook and MySpace need to create and enforce rules against it so that game developers aren’t tempted to get a competitive edge by scamming users. And if Facebook/MySpace won’t protect users, then the government will have to step in.

There’s an easy way to determine if something is a scam or not. For any particular offer, ask yourself if anyone would buy the product or service if the terms were clearly spelled out for them, and they weren’t being bribed with in-game currency. The answer for many of these is a resounding “no.” A few examples are below.

Examples Of Scams:

A typical scam: users are offered in game currency in exchange for filling out an IQ survey. Four simple questions are asked. The answers are irrelevant. When the user gets to the last question they are told their results will be text messaged to them. They are asked to enter in their mobile phone number, and are texted a pin code to enter on the quiz. Once they’ve done that, they’ve just subscribed to a $9.99/month subscription. Tatto Media is the company at the very end of the line on most mobile scams, and they flow it up through Offerpal, SuperRewards and others to the game developers.

As you can see in the image below, nothing in the offer says that the user will be billed $10/month forever for a useless service.

Another scam: Video Professor. Users are offered in game currency if they sign up to receive a free learning CD from Video Professor. The user is told they pay nothing except a $10 shipping charge. But the fine print, on a different page from checkout, tells them they are really getting a whole set of CDs and will be billed $189.95 unless they return them. Most users never return them because they don’t know about the extra charge. Woot. Again, sites like Offerpal and SuperRewards flow these offers through to game developers. See here for more on the Video Professor scam.

Of course, there’s no mention of any of these payments in the offer itself:

An Industry In Denial

Yesterday I attended the Virtual Goods Summit in San Francisco. In the Q&A session of one panel I asked Offerpal CEO Anu Shukla to explain the ethics of her business, and outlined my ecosystem of hell argument above. Shukla went on a tirade, calling my points “shit, doubleshit, and bullshit” (yes, really), but never really addressed the points. A video of the exchange is below.

Offerpal now has a blog post up on the exchange, but they still don’t address the issues. They offer misdirection, denials and a shield of rules that are never actually enforced.

Sadly, most of the audience of game developers was on Offerpal’s side. Many of these developers see quick dollars with lead gen scams and they don’t really care about how users are affected.

In one session earlier in the day, IGG Cofounder Kevin Xu recommended that game developers “get users in the door to play free, then monetize the hell out of them once they’re hooked.” Sadly, it’s simply human nature to push the rules until they break. It’s time for Facebook and MySpace to protect their users from this stuff and make sure it stops.

p.s. – An interesting development. Offerpal defended their mobile survey scams on stage and in the blog post referenced above, saying there was no scam involved. But today those offers have quietly been pulled down from all the games I’ve checked. If there’s no scam, why remove them? At least some good is coming from my ongoing rants.

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Video of Arrington-Shukla fight highlights controversy of special offers

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offerpal 1TechCrunch editor Michael Arrington and Offerpal Media chief executive Anu Shukla got into a brouhaha over special offers, which are used to monetize social apps on social networks, at the close of the Virtual Goods Summit on Friday.

At the close of a panel where Shukla spoke, Arrington asked how Shukla could defend her business of making offers that were leading the social game industry “into hell.” Shukla responded with a long answer about why Arrington’s commentary was “shit, double shit and bullshit.” You can see Alexa Lee’s video on the whole 10-minute exchange below. I also interviewed Shukla about the issue before the panel.

offerpal 2The debate revolves around whether specials offers are unethical and a bad experience for both users and advertisers. Shukla defended the practice of monetizing games and other social apps through offers, which let users pay with their time, participation and attention, rather than actual money.

Users can play games from the likes of Zynga and Playdom for free. But when they want to buy something in the games, such as a better plow to farm the land in Zynga’s FarmVille game, they have to pay. As an alternative to shelling out cash, they can accept an offer from Offerpal, which gets the user to do something like fill out a survey or subscribe to Netflix.

Arrington alleged these offers are so much trash. The offers are “slimy” and users scam the advertisers by making up answers in surveys or signing up for services they plan to cancel. Arrington said that this means that advertisers like Netflix aren’t getting their money’s worth from the ads, but Facebook and others involved aren’t putting a stop to the practice because they all make money from it.

Shukla contended that those objections are “shit” because most of the offers are high-quality and are filtered. She said, as we wrote earlier, that more than 160 million consumers have participated in Offerpal’s offers over the past two years. The total reach of the whole offer industry is still small, with only 5 percent to 30 percent of all gamers participating in offers.

The vast majority of offers are working out well, because the advertisers keep coming back. Most of the business is on Facebook, though it moved to Open Social-based networks for a time and has now returned to Facebook, thanks to that network’s rapid growth to more than 300 million users.

“We see more users turning to offers as a way to pay,” Shukla said in our interview.

Shukla acknowledged there were some offers in the general industry that were “spoiling the experience.” That’s why Facebook issued new policies in July that put restrictions on the offer business, particularly on offers that had to do with the mobile phone business. Shukla said Offerpal spent a lot of time cleaning out marginal offers and had to take a revenue hit as well. All of the social app companies are taking a hit as a result. Shukla said that was good for the industry, since some offer companies were letting bad offers creep in to gain market share.

“Unfortunately, some of the offers that were considered poor quality actually perform well,” she said. “If we took them out, and our competitors didn’t, they would perform better than us. So I love the fact that Facebook forced everyone to take them out.”

Even so, Shukla struck back hard at Arrington, who promised to expose bad practices. Video and pictures by Alexa Lee.

NSFW: Halloween in San Francisco and the gathering clouds of a location-based privacy storm

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horrorIt’s Halloween,  and nowhere more obviously so than in San Francisco.

This is my first 31st October as a resident of the United States and I have to say, the effort you yanks go to in celebrating the ancient Celts’ holy evening is truly astounding. Every corner store, diner, dry cleaners, police station, library and undertakers has embraced the – uh – spirit, adorning their windows with spray-on cobwebs and pumpkins and sparkly witches hats and coffins. (Although, to be fair to the undertakers, the coffins are sort of a year-round thing.)

We celebrate All Hallows’ Eve in the UK too of course, and like most things on our side of the Atlantic it’s just as commercial, albeit with more irony and a better accent. But the real difference back home is that Halloween is an evening – just one evening, not a whole fucking month – aimed squarely at  kids. Here, by contrast, it seems to be something far more grown-up. Something far more – well – creepy.

For the past two nights, the streets around my hotel have been swarming with drunken adults dressed as hookers. Witchy hookers, ghosty hookers, piratey hookers (Captain Hookers?) and even – I’m pretty sure – hookery hookers. And that’s just the men. My hotel is just a rock’s throw from the Tenderloin and for once it’s the actual working girls who are tutting with disapproval wondering what has happened to the neighbourhood. (I can just imagine the adult revellers leaving home and being given a stern lecture from their kids, reminding mom and dad not to take candy from anyone dressed as a slutty Care Bear, lest they wake up the next morning, hungover and bleeding in the back of a van decorated to look like the Mystery Machine.)

But – hell – when in the bacchanalia, right? For the past couple of weeks my Facebook inbox has been filling up with invitations to some of the four billion Halloween parties taking place in the Bay Area tonight, and it would be churlish of me to boycott them just because they’ll be full of beautiful American women dressed – literally and figuratively – to kill. Like most sensible people, though, I’ve waited until the last minute before deciding which to attend. Really, thanks to tools like Foursquare, Twitter and Facebook, there’s no need to plan ahead at all – I can just wait to see where the heat is, and head there.

Indeed, the party scene in San Francisco, probably more so than in any city on earth – except maybe Tokyo and Circuit City – runs on technology. For people like me who love everything about social media, this is definitely a good thing. But it’s also the reason why I’m genuinely worried that when the dark side of our blithe attitude towards sharing physical location finally reveals itself, it will probably happen here.

And what better night for dark things to reveal themselves, than Halloween?

Social media parties turning bad are old news. Every few months the media gleefully reports on parents who leave their children home alone for the weekend, only to return to a major crime scene when their off-spring’s unsanctioned house-party ends up going viral on Facebook and being crashed by thousands. There are even organised groups – with bizarre names like the ‘Facebook Republican Party‘ – who scour scocial networks for party information in the hope of showing up and causing merry hell.

But when something like that happens, the cause is usually the same – the idiot teenagers who organised the party didn’t think twice before posting their address online; much like they don’t think of the consequences when they create a Facebook group to share their new cellphone number. It’s just a question of educating these ‘digital natives’ on what’s appropriate to share, and what isn’t – as previous generations had to be warned about creepy old men bearing puppies. The innocence and idiocy of youth isn’t what worries me – they’ll grow out of it soon enough.

What worries me is the growing idiocy of otherwise mature adults, particularly when it comes to location.

In the past month or so, I’ve had conversations with two friends who have organised private parties at their homes for small groups of friends. In both cases the hosts created online invitations but sensibly ensured that any date and location information was only visible to invited guests. Yet within minutes of the first guests arriving, they were alarmed to discover that all of their privacy efforts were for nought. Their guests – their friends – had used Foursquare to check in at the party, thus instantly adding their address to the service’s growing database of highly specific locations.

From that point on, a simple search on the Foursquare site for the hosts’ name provides their full home address, along with a handy map for anyone who feels like breaking in and murdering them in their sleep. To make matters even worse, as more partygoesrs checked in – all caught up in the game element of this thing, and hoping to become mayor of someone else’s living room – the information was repeatedly pushed out via Twitter. If Foursquare had a ‘Breathtakingly Irresponsible’ badge, there would have been a whole lot of recipients at those parties.

And if there’s one night when you don’t want your address pushed out to the world, it’s Halloween. I remember one year – when I was maybe fourteen – a rumour went around my school that someone had found our much-hated maths teacher’s address in the local phone book. A plan was hatched to show up there on the pretense of trick or treating, but really just to throw eggs at their house, car and – hopefully – head. Of course the plan came to nothing; teachers are rightfully careful about putting their address in the phonebook. Tonight, if I were a teacher who has ever invited a tech-savvy friend to my home, I’d be shitting myself. They might have taken every logical step to stay safe but – like the rest of us – they’re still at the mercy of the most idiotic common denominator amongst their friends.

Over the next few hours, particularly in San Francisco, thousands of people will be checking in at hundreds of house parties. It’s not a huge leap to assume that  a decent number of hosts are going to wake up in the morning to discover that their their home addresses have been gleefully, and probably innocently, shared online by their friends.

So what can be done? Obviously a constitutional right to privacy – and statutory equivalent in other countries – would be nice, but it might be a struggle to get the necessary votes before midnight. Also, good luck in enforcing it in any meaningful way when most of the people sharing the information do so innocently, and the damage can be done so quickly.

A more practical solution would be for all sites and services that accept location-based data to copy Facebook’s lead by toughening up privacy options. Location-based sites owe a particular duty of care to their users – and yet currently the only option available to those who find their home address on Foursquare is to flag the venue as ‘closed’ – which deletes it from search results, but keeps it in the database, still visible to users who know where to look.

It would be almost zero work for the company to add a second flag – perhaps titled “this is my freaking HOUSE”  – which immediately deletes an address and prevents it from being re-added without proper verification. Also, given that the problem is usually one of carelessness rather than malice, it wouldn’t hurt to display a warning to those logging in at new venues, reminding them not to list private homes. The fact that Foursquare hasn’t already implemented these basic measures is irresponsible, bordering on shameful.

Really, though, the real answer to retaking control of our own privacy won’t be found in statutory law or in terms of service. In fact, it already exists – tucked away in the small print of the social contract.

Just because you’re addicted to Foursquare, or Twitter, or any other location-driven service, doesn’t mean you have the right to impose your addiction on others. If the party is in a bar, check in to your hearts content – hell, win yourself a badge – but if it’s in someone’s home, put your fucking phone away. You just look like a dork anyway.  If we all started thinking a bit more like friends, and a bit less like attention whores, the privacy problem would be solved at a stroke.

Judging by the gang of Harry Potter-themed hookers who just walked past my window, my attempts to convince America that Halloween is a night for children is too little, too late. But let’s at least leave the boneheaded social oversharing to those who aren’t old enough to know better.

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ReadWriteWeb Events Guide, 31 October 2009

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Time for this week’s events guide. You can download the entire event calendar in iCal format or import it into your Google Calendar. You can also import individual events using the link beside each entry. This events guide is a weekly feature here on ReadWriteWeb. We publish it every weekend, as good a time as any to review your conference plans.

Know of an event taking place that should appear here? Let us know in the comments below or contact us.


2 – 5 November 2009: San Francisco

Enterprise 2.0 Conference

The Enterprise 2.0 Conference is the largest gathering for people ready to connect teams and harness collective intelligence with social tools and 2.0 technologies. Enterprise 2.0 includes visionary keynotes, informative sessions, case studies and an Expo Pavilion featuring the latest technologies. Register today and save 20% (code: CNGXES07) or get a free Pavilion Pass (code: CNGXES01).

4 – 5 November 2009: Raleigh, North Carolina

Internet Summit 2009

Internet Summit ’09 will feature over 75 speakers, including representatives of major Internet brands such as Twitter, Pandora, Google,, Digg, Technorati, CBS Interactive, Huffington Post, Blogger,, and many more.

Topics will include social media, blogging, real time, mobile, video, search, online advertising, e-commerce, analytics, the cloud, and more.

Join over 1200 entrepreneurs, senior marketers, and executives in the conversation about the future of the industry and how to capitalize on the shifting dynamics of the Internet and tap into its unlimited business potential.

5 – 6 November 2009: Sydney

Media140 Sydney: Future of Journalism in the Social Media age

News broadcasting is evolving. Citizen journalists are coming to the fore, saving lives by tracking brush fires and changing the course of history at elections.

Media140 Sydney addresses the changing face of journalism. Partnered by ABC, we bring together Australia’s leading lights in journalism, broadcasting, blogging and citizen journalism. Are Twitter and the real-time Web truly shaking up traditional media?

Tickets from $165. Register at using promo code “readwrite” for a 20% discount.

6 November 2009: New York City

TEDxEAST – Developing World Ideas

TEDxEast is the first TEDx conference in New York City. New York has long embodied the motivated, independent spirit of TED- and now we’re harnessing that spirit in a unique TEDx event. The inaugural TEDxEast event will bring together remarkable people and ideas from the NY metropolitan area and beyond. Our “Developing World Ideas” theme is an exploration of the people and processes that drive “world ideas” – as told through stories that resonate on a global stage.

The invite-only, half-day program will inspire and educate with a roster of today’s thought leaders and tomorrow’s innovators. Speakers include Dr. William Duggan, Wendy Kopp, Suzy Welch, Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa and John Wood (for bios click here). The program will also include music & dance, short talks and TEDTalks video screenings. The day is designed with breaks within the program for those attending to talk and connect surrounding these ideas. This event is being held on November 6, 2009 from 1:00 to 6:00 pm in New York City. Refreshments will be served during the event with a hosted wine-tasting afterward. Details surrounding location and logistics will be sent once the guest list is finalized.

To apply for this TEDxEast event, please click here.

6 – 8 November 2009: Savannah, Georgia

Geekend 2009

Geekend 2009 is an interactive conference that brings together geeks from all walks of life for three days of cutting edge speakers, expert panels, afterparties, networking and mash-up opportunities. Speaker highlights include Major Nelson of Xbox Live, renowned designer David Carson, Eric Snowden of Atlantic Records, Joey Hasty of Disney, and Matias Corea of Behance, among many others. Get your geek on and enter “RWW” for $30 off the full price weekend badge.

9 – 10 November 2009: Santa Clara, California

Social Networking World Forum — California

This event taking place at the Santa Clara Convention Center actually consists of three conferences: two days dedicated to social networking, one day dedicated to enterprise social media, and one day dedicated to social TV. Key speakers include social networking publishers, advertising agencies, industry analysts, software developers and equipment manufacturers, pay-TV and network service providers, mobile operators, and more.

  • Joint exhibition combining social networking and enterprise social media formats
  • Pre-show online meeting planner for delegates
  • Discount for early booking (expires September 25th)
  • Free pass for exhibition only

10 – 13 November 2009: Las Vegas

PubCon Vegas

PubCon Las Vegas is a multi-track educational conference hosted by SearchEngineWorld & WebmasterWorld. PubCon events are for thought leaders and professionals in search engine and Internet marketing to gather and to share best practices in the design, development, promotion and marketing of their Internet businesses and brands. PubCon London 2009 is a social networking event.

11 – 12 November 2009: Denver, Colorado

Defrag 2009 Conference

As online data is growing and fragmenting at an exponential pace, individuals, groups and organizations are struggling to discover, assemble, organize, act on and gather feedback from that data. In the largest sense, we’re all looking to augment the pace at which we achieve insights on raw data — to accelerate the “A-ha” moment.

Defrag explores the intersection of topics like:

  • Business intelligence
  • Business process management
  • Social computing and analytics
  • Next-level discovery
  • Enterprise 2.0
  • Next-gen email
  • The semantic Web

18 – 19 November 2009: San Francisco

GreenBeat 2009

VentureBeat, the leading innovation-focused business blog, will host the seminal conference on The Smart Grid, November 18-19 in San Francisco. GreenBeat 2009 brings together the nation’s 500 leading entrepreneurs, investors, utility and technology executives, policymakers and press to affect accelerated development of a leaner, more efficient electrical grid. With participation by Al Gore, former Vice President and Nobel Prize Winner; John Doerr of Kleiner Perkins; and industry leaders, including from Cisco, Tendril, PG&E, expect lively discussion and power networking. The program will highlight new technologies and explore the opportunities afforded by the stimulus package. For more, visit

ReadWriteWeb readers, save 20% on regular price tickets with discount code GREENRWW09 here.

19 November 2009: Mountain View, California

Under the Radar

Featuring the most cutting-edge mobile startups from around the globe, Under the Radar will get you dialed in to what the 2010 mobile innovation marketplace will look like. It’s a must-attend event for dealmakers from global carriers, brands, media companies, and handset manufacturers responsible for helping their companies leverage new mobile technology and innovation in the fast-evolving digital landscape.

Save $200: book by 2 October 2009, and get the early-bird rate.

30 November 2009

New Way to Work

Do you have a great story about your work environment? Job marketplace Elance and have partnered to host the “New Way to Work” competition, with a grand prize of $10,000 in cash or health insurance for the most compelling story. You can tell your story on, the premier platform for entrepreneurs to broadcast their voice, by uploading a video, posting an update, linking to a blog entry, or sharing a photo. Hurry, the competition ends on 30 November 2009.

1 – 3 December 2009: London, England

Online Information & IMS 2009

Online Information and IMS together create the largest event dedicated to the information industry. Consisting of an exhibition delivering over 9,000 visitors from 70 countries, a conference and a show-floor seminar program, the event provides an annual meeting place for the global information industry.

Online Information is once again set to play host to thousands of information professionals, information end-users and publishers from around the globe, meeting suppliers of online content, e-publishing, and library management solutions. IMS provides a forum for IT, business, and information management professionals to find unlimited, relevant advice, educational content and compare solutions under one roof. Attend IMS and meet suppliers of content management, search solutions, and Web 2.0 technologies.

1 – 3 December 2009: Boston, Massachusetts

Gilbane Conference Boston

Join us at the sixth annual “Gilbane Conference Boston: Content, Collaboration and Customers.”

Your content is your business, and you need to make your Web content part of an integrated platform for
customers. You need to know solutions and technologies that are ready to be implemented today. Gilbane Conference Boston is built around the four major areas of how enterprises use Web and content technologies:

  • Web business and engagement;
  • Managing collaboration and social media: internal and external;
  • Enterprise content: searching, integrating and publishing;
  • Content infrastructure.

Visit for conference details. ReadWriteWeb readers, use the discount code “GILBANE” to save an additional $200. Register today!

1 – 3 December 2009: San Francisco


The Supernova Conference is the thought-leadership forum for the network age. It brings together over 500 business, government and technology influencers to understand how decentralization and pervasive connectivity are changing our world. It’s the only conference to focus on how networks have become the main instruments of change from both business and social perspectives.

An ever-evolving network itself, the conference has become the place for highly interactive and spirited debates, making significant business connections and revelations on new innovation.

ReadWriteWeb readers get a discount of $700 off the regular price when registering by 16 October 2009. Use code “RRW09”. After October 16th, the discount changes to $200 off the regular price. Register here.

7 December 2009: San Francisco

SF MusicTech Summit

The SF MusicTech Summit brings together 600+ visionaries in the music/technology space, along with the best and brightest developers, entrepreneurs, investors, service providers, journalists, musicians and organizations who work with them at the convergence of culture and commerce. We meet to discuss the evolving music/business/technology eco-system in a proactive environment, highly conducive to deal making. Register with a great ReadWriteWeb 15% discount.

7 – 11 December 2009: Chicago, Illinois

Search Engine Strategies 2009

From social media to local search to video SEO, Search Engine Strategies Chicago puts you in front of the experts who will help you sort which technologies and channel will take you to the next level and which are just hype.

Search Engine Strategies is the pioneer of educational conference series in search engine marketing. It’s the venue where the industry visionaries and thought leaders gather each year to discuss the newest trends, share insights and present the strategic action plans you need to grow your business. Sessions include:

  • SEO Through Blogs and Feeds
  • Duplicate Content and Multiple Site Issues
  • What’s the Link Between Search and Social?
  • Online PR: Where to Next?
  • Search Analytics

See more at ReadWriteWeb readers receive a 15% discount when registering here using RWW15 code.

11 December 2009: Mountain View, California


Add-on-Con is a single-day conference focused on the future of the browser and its emergence as a platform.

Developer sessions will cover best practices, cross-browser development and mash-ups. Marketing sessions will focus on monetization opportunities, distribution strategies and stats. Join 200+ individuals involved in add-on development to help define an emerging new market in the Web’s eco-system.

ReadWriteWeb readers save $50 by using the discount code “addoncon09RRW.”

27 – 28 January 2010: Amsterdam, The Netherlands

Enterprise Social 2.0: Rip or ROI?

This senior executive event will bring together decision makers from the Top Fortune companies to discuss innovative strategies on how to maximise business performance through social media engagement. The event will include keynote speeches, best-practice presentations as well as interactive discussion sessions.

The summit will provide excellent opportunities for you to hear international experts discuss best practices on how to drive business performance using Web 2.0 and social media. Key issues to be discussed include:

  • How to integrate social media programs successfully into business strategies?
  • Building business momentum, visibility and market growth through social media
  • Measuring success and influence using metrics and analytics: what are the tools and techniques
  • Integrating viral marketing and social media into traditional marketing mix
  • Developing and activating audiences using social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs

15 – 16 March 2010: London, England

2nd Annual Social Networking World Forum — London

The 2nd Annual Social Networking World Forum takes place at the Olympia Conference Centre in London. The two-day event features four dedicated conference streams:

  1. Social Networking World Forum
  2. Enterprise social media
  3. Social TV World Forum
  4. Mobile Social Networking Forum

The event features key speakers from global brands, organizations, social networking publishers and developers, pioneering social media leaders, top agencies, content producers, and more.

  • Full workshop program within exhibition area
  • Evening networking reception
  • Pre-show online meeting planner for delegates
  • Free pass for exhibition only

Download this entire events calendar in iCal format.


We Want To Do More Meetups In Europe But We Need Your Help

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We interrupt normal programming to bring you an issue that’s affecting our ability to create a better tech ecosystem in Europe. At TechCrunch Europe we’ve been trying to help really energize the startup tech community across Europe – which suffers from the difficulty of being disparate and spread out – with a series of organised meetups featuring speakers, pitches and live video streaming on to

Now, we’ve done this so far in plenty of places, such as Helsinki, Paris, Stockholm, Barcelona and more recently Berlin and Munich. Wherever we’ve been we’ve attracted 200 or more attendees – that’s practically a full conference. So we’d like to do more. But – and here’s the point of this post – we are fighting against Europe’s high venue costs. So we’re on the hunt for venue partners – maybe startups with really large spaces, or maybe universities – that can help us. Please contact our events team.

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Don’t Have A Halloween Party To Go To Tonight? Watch Heidi Klum’s Live.

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Screen shot 2009-10-31 at 6.34.56 PMIn case you didn’t yet realize it, tonight is Halloween. And if you didn’t yet realize it, maybe you don’t have plans yet. If not, as usual, the Internet comes to your rescue. If you’re stuck at home tonight for whatever reason, you’ll be able to load up Facebook and watch Heidi Klum’s Halloween party, streaming live.

Sure, it’s not as good as being there, but it beats doing nothing. And it’s being done with the help of Modelinia, a site devoted to capturing the lives of super models. Enticed yet?

You can find the live stream on Modelinia’s Facebook page starting at 9 PM PT tonight. The streaming itself is being handled by Livestream, who will run it through 11:30 PM, we’re told. Klum’s Facebook fan page along with Modelinia’s page have nearly 700,000 fans, so if you do watch this, you definitely won’t be alone. And there’s a chat widget running next to the stream to talk with others watching it.

Modelinia’s goal with this wasn’t solely to stream beautiful people at parties, they also ran a costume contest with Klum to allow the best costume designers to win tickets to the actual event. Modelinia’s founder and CEO is Desiree Gruber, a producer to the Emmy-winning show Project Runway.

I’ll go ahead and embed the live stream of Klum’s party here as well. Don’t say we never give you anything.

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October 2009’s Most Popular Posts [[this Is Good]]

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October, you were one happening month. You brought us Windows 7, some serious Google Wave insights, and tasty media center upgrades. Here’s a quick look back at the most popular posts of October, 2009.

  • Top 10 Windows 7 Booster Apps
    Windows 7 is a big improvement over Vista, and a pretty convenient OS in general-but it’s by no means perfect. These 10 downloads improve Windows 7’s looks, functions, and make it easier, safer, and more convenient to upgrade to.
  • Lifehacker’s Complete Guide to Windows 7
    Windows 7 officially launches today, but we’ve been testing, tweaking, customizing, fixing, and writing about this OS for a year now. We present here a guide to everything we’ve learned about the OS, from first install to final settings change.
  • Install Snow Leopard on Your Hackintosh PC, No Hacking Required
    Two weeks ago I detailed how to build a Hackintosh with Snow Leopard, start to finish, with a little Terminal work. If you’re not comfortable with command-line hacking, you can now install Snow Leopard on your Hackintosh with just a few point-and-clicks.
  • Google Wave First Look
    If you’re not one of the 100,000 lucky users who gets an invitation to Google Wave today, don’t fret. You can check out Google Wave right here.But first, ground rules.
  • Wallpaper Roundup: Color Splashes and Cooler Days
    Fall is a colorful time of year and the vibrant hues of fall foliage and holidays lend well to livening up your desktop. Take a stroll through our collection of fall-themed wallpaper to find a new look for your workstation.
  • Google Wave’s Best Use Cases
    Last week we asked a simple question: How will you use Google Wave? Over 600 responses later, we’re sending Wave nominations to the people who had the best use cases.
  • The Master List of New Windows 7 Shortcuts
    Windows 7 adds loads of great shortcuts for switching between apps, moving windows around your screen, moving them to another monitor altogether, and much more.
  • First Look at Ubuntu 9.10 Karmic Koala Beta
    The beta release of Karmic Koala, the next version of Ubuntu Linux, just arrived on the net. Wondering what’s new inside the open-source operating system?
  • Build a Silent, Standalone XBMC Media Center On the Cheap
    You won’t find a better media center than the open-source XBMC, but most people don’t have the space or desire to plug a noisy PC into their TV. Instead, I converted a cheap nettop into a standalone XBMC set-top box. Here’s how.

Meta: Bing Jingle Guy Writes Song For Students Who Sang Bing Jingle

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Screen shot 2009-10-31 at 5.16.58 PMOur favorite jingle guy is at it again. Jonathan Mann, who TechCrunch readers will best know as the guy behind the awful Bing jingle, has released another new video (as he does every day), this time to serenade the children of Keith Valley Middle School who recently performed his Bing jingle. “It’s kind of creepy,” Mann admitted at the time, but he was happy to see his work live on, so he came up with this gem.

But this latest video almost had a very different tone. “I thought about writing them an anti-corporate anthem, something they could raise their tiny, furious fists to, but ultimately decided on this,” Mann tells us. Too bad, because that would be been awesome. It could have been “Another Brick In The Wall [Part 2]” for the 21st Century.

Representatives for Bing also wrote us after our “torture” post to point out the backstory about the students singing the Bing jingle. Apparently, they decided to do it on their own — or rather, their teachers decided to make them do it. Still, it’s very creepy. And as a number of readers pointed out, a little bit too much like Jesus Camp (trailer below Mann’s new video and the students singing his song).

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The Rebirth Of The Sample Sale

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Sample sales are an amazing resource for marked down goods for both mainstream and luxury brands. Online private sample sales are picking up serious speed. Here is how they work: big designers, such as Marc Jacobs or Versace, place excess inventory on a sale site at 50 to 70 percent discounts over a several day period. The sales are private, available only to members, with upcoming sales from brands announced via emails. Products include clothing for men, women and children as well as jewelry, handbags and home accessories. You can get invites from other members or request invites via the site.

Startups in the online sample sales space like Gilt Groupe, Ideeli and Hautelook are all raising huge amounts of money, growing their user base at a rapid pace and turning a strong profit. The concept has even attracted retail giants like Saks and Nieman Marcus, which are now jumping on the bandwagon to offer their own private sales. Even GSI Commerce, which previously wasn’t directly involved with selling luxury goods, is getting into the private sale business with the recent acquisition of sale site RueLaLa.

It’s worth noting how sample sales have evolved in the past decade. I attended my first sample sale in 1997 in a convention center in Baltimore, where women (and a few men) were scouring for deals on clothing from J.Crew. The items were placed in huge cardboard boxes in no particular order or size breakdown. It was utter chaos, but the deals were great.

Flash forward four years to my shopping life in New York city, where sample sales are a bit of a religion. At Kate Spade, I fought intense lines (waited in an hour long line in the middle of December, nearly got frostbite in my toes), pushed my way into packed fitting rooms, and found myself intimidated by the catiness of aggressive deal-seekers. At Gucci, I was asked to sign up for an hour-long “window” of shopping time. Only all the convenient times were already taken, and I was left with times in the middle of a workday. And yet I walked away from both sales with steeply-discounted designer stuff that I wouldn’t ordinary be able to afford.

You get the point. Sample sales offer great deals, but highly uncomfortable situations. Gilt and other online private sales are simplifying the sample sale market. The online sample sale was originally brought to market in Europe by Vente-Privee in 2001. US companies like Gilt, Hautelook, Ideeli and BillionDollarBabes emerged a few years later with a similar online model, offering users radical discounts on overstock goods from designers.

Sample sales are also proving to be a compelling market opportunity. Vente-Privee itself is on target to achieve €650 million in turnover globally this year. The price (in a possible sale) for Vente-Privee is estimated at $1.5 billion, with some sources even putting the figure at between $2 billion and $4 billion. The New York Times reports that Gilt Groupe, co-founded in late 2007 by a former eBay executive and, was able to bring in $25 million in it’s first year of operation. Gilt currently has 1.6 million members. And the startup recently raised an estimated $40 million in funding in July, which valued the company at $400 million. Ideeli, which was founded in November of 2007 and now has over one million members, is set to do $50 million in revenue this year, and the company’s CEO, Paul Hurley, expects to do $175 million in revenue next year.

So why is this model successful? Well, in addition to the fact that women and men can now avoid the chaos of the in-person sample sales, the sales are now brought to the masses. So it’s no longer shoppers in New York City who can solely benefit from the steep discounts, but consumers all over the world now have access to these goods. And because the sale only takes place in short amount of time, with limited stock available, shoppers feel the urgency to actually buy the product, because it may not be available within a few hours.

Most brands are also on board with the model. Since the sample sale site presents the brand in a luxurious, desirable way, via a “private” sale, designers don’t feel that these online sales are distorting the value of their brand in any way. So Gilt can get a premier designers like Marc Jacobs to sell his coveted handbags on its site for half the price. Plus, adds Hurley, the time frame of the sale ensures designers that their clothing or accessories aren’t just sitting in a bin somewhere. Hautelook even gives designers a real-time metrics dashboard that allows them to see what items are being bought, what parts of country where specific items are selling best and more.

As I noted earlier, the success of this model has now led to a number of retail shops and other technology companies sniffing around to either acquire or build private shopping sales of their own. Yesterday, DailyCandy released the news of their private shopping club and even designers themselves, like Tory Burch, are holding few-day private sales online. And as we reported earlier in the month, we hear that Gilt, Amazon and eBay are all actively looking at acquisitions in the European private shopping club space.

Online sample sites are drawing massive audiences, and monetizing them in a meaningful way. Of course, it’s a competitive space with every site duking it out for supply (the designer inventory) and demand (the buyers). And yet, even in recessionary times, the sample sales market seems large enough to sustain a market of startups, and keeps me looking like TechCrunch pays me a decent salary (joke!).

Photo credit: Flickr/Ed Yourdon

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Readability 2 Makes Web Pages Even More Minimalist [Bookmarklet]

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If you loved Readability, the previously reviewed bookmarklet that cuts the extras out of sites for easy reading, but wanted an even more minimalist experience, you’ll definitely want to try out Readability2.

Readability2 is based on Readability, but goes even further in the stream lining process, removing absolutely everything—logos, print buttons, etc.—and leaving only the actual images from the article you’re reading, plus the text, of course. One of the nifty features is that Readability2 keeps all the markup code in the body of the article, which makes for easy cutting and pasting.

Check out Readability2 by visiting the link below and dragging the Readability2 button at the top of the page to your toolbar. Activate it on any webpage you want to strip away the extras and focus exclusively on the article you’re reading. Readability2 is a bookmarklet and should work on any modern browser.

Scan Your Business Cards On The Go With Business Card Reader

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Startups like Bump Technologies, which recently got some funding, and My Name is E are trying to kill the paper business card, but even in 2009, many of us, including myself, still use business cards. The biggest hassle with business cards is getting the contact information into your address book as fast as possible — that’s where Business Card Reader [iTunes link] for the iPhone comes in.

Business Card Reader scans and “reads” the picture using ABBYY’s text recognition technology and enters the data into the iPhone or iPod touch address book. Basically, you open the application, and choose either to take a new picture of a business card, or if you’ve already taken a picture, you can upload that as well. After you take a picture, or upload a picture, the application scans the business card, and after about 15 seconds, you get the address book field to edit the scanned information if there are errors. Once that’s all done, it adds the new contact into your address book. It’s really that easy.

After playing around with the application for a few days and testing out different types of business cards, the accuracy, in my opinion, is about 85%. The only errors I got where if the companies name was in a logo format, and their logo had a weird font, but other then that, the app worked pretty well. If your a mobile networker, this is an app you’ll definitely like.

Business Card Reader is $5.99 from the App Store, where you can buy it today.

Crunch Network: MobileCrunch Mobile Gadgets and Applications, Delivered Daily. Makes Searching for Stock Images Simple [Image Search]

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If you’re looking for a better way to quickly find royalty-free stock images, makes searching multiple photo sites a breeze. let’s you search a large number of stock photo sites in a single swoop. You can search Flickr, Shutterstock, BigStockPhoto, Fotolia, stock.xchng, Cutcaster,, and stockvault at one time.

In addition to simply helping you find photos across a multitude of sites, you can also sign up for a free account with and save images from your search results to your account for future review. An account also enables tagging and thumbnail printing.

Have a favorite way to find good stock photos in the vastness of the web? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

Week in review: A pop quiz for startups, Google’s free GPS navigation

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Here’s our rundown of the week’s tech and business news. First, the most popular stories VentureBeat published in the last seven days:

Start-up studies: A pop quiz — “There’s a classroom exercise that’s a part of the Stanford technology venture program hits its students with each year: If you had five dollars and two hours, what would you do to make as much money as possible?”

xeroxXerox develops a silver ink for wearable or throwaway electronics — “Xerox researchers have invented a kind of ink that can conduct electricity and be used to put electronic circuits on top of plastics, film, and textiles.”

MySpace and Facebook are officially talking. But it probably doesn’t look like this — “So they’re talking, but the conversation between the one-time rivals probably looks nothing like this version between Zuck, MySpace co-founder Tom Anderson and good old Rupert Murdoch.”

Zynga’s Mark Pincus: I got kicked out of some of the best companies in America — “It was really a disaster. The CEO had a breakdown. He was doing weird stuff I won’t even talk about.”

Mark Zuckerberg on how to build hacker culture inside a company — “It’s just better to just launch and have something cool that you can fix over time.”

And here are five more stories we thought were important, thought-provoking, or fun:

LayersGoogle announces turn-by-turn GPS navigation, for free — “There’s a good chance you’ve driven with someone who’s bought a fancy GPS navigation system for their car that gives them voice directions for each turn as they drive. Now Google says it’s releasing a version of Google Maps that does the same thing, and you won’t have to pay anything for it.”

China’s growing addiction: online farming games — “A new agrarian revolution has occurred in China, but only in the virtual worlds of social games.”

Copenhagen may be a bust, and it’s all the U.S. and E.U.’s fault — “The much-hyped climate talks scheduled for Copenhagen in December may be a failure before they’ve even started, according to United Nations climate change guru, Janos Pasztor.” crowdsources its opinion database — “Arianna Huffington feels the Internet has had a positive effect on journalism. How do I know? Because I looked it up at”’s Marc Benioff: ‘Many CEOs are afraid to get too personal’ — “Our mission has always been to change the way the software industry works, so of course we would want to have an impact on the industry’s largest player. Maybe some people don’t take us seriously, but we have a history of attacking much larger competitors.”

Aperto takes $537K for WiMax networks

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WiMax equipment provider Aperto Networks has brought in $537,000 in equity, according to a filing with the SEC. Based in Milpitas, Calif., the company is backed by Alliance Ventures, Canaan Partners, GunnAllen Venture Partners, Innovacom, Jafco Ventures, JK&B Capital, Quicksilver Ventures and Tyco Ventures.

Build a Massive HDTV Antenna for Long Distance Gains [HDTV]

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One of the great things about digital television is also one of the not-so-great things. When you get the signal, it’s crystal clear. When you’ve a weak connection, you’re out of luck. Boost your reception with this monster homemade antenna.

If you live far from urban centers but you’d still like to pick up some over-the-air digital stations, you’re going to need a pretty sizable antenna. Earlier this year we shared a great antenna design with you, based on the Gray-Hoverman model.

The model you see here is what results when a little Gray-Hoverman antenna visits the beach, gets washed into a deep trench outside of Tokyo filled with radioactive waste, and emerges again, ready to reach havoc on the world. Well, all except for that last part. This massive build, based on the Gray-Hoverman model, can pick up signals from around 60 miles away, making it suitable for either boosting your local reception of picking up signals from areas you’ve never called home.

If you’re put off by the size of it, it is possible to put this style of antenna inside an attic. You’ll lose a bit of reception, but you’ll avoid your neighbors whispering about the mutant antenna on your roof. Check out the full build guide at the link below.

Use Ubiquitous Capture to Save Money [Saving Money]

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We’re huge fans of ubiquitous capture—recording everything that comes to mind when it comes to mind—as a method of getting organized and keeping things from slipping through the cracks. Turns out it’s also great for saving money.

Photo by koalazymonkey.

At The Simple Dollar finance blog, a reader wrote to ask how having a pocket notebook at all times might save them money. The answer includes an ambitious list of ways, including using your notebook to record prices for future comparison—is the sale in front of you really a sale or just money off an inflated price? Along with comparison shopping and making a simple price book, one of the often overlooked uses for ubiquitous capture—but one I use all the time—is using your notebook to capture gift ideas.

Record great gift ideas. When I’m interacting with a friend or a family member, they’ll often drop a hint of some kind indicating a Christmas or birthday gift they’d like to receive. If I note that idea immediately, I can often give myself plenty of time to bargain-hunt for that specific item, enabling me to get that person a gift they’d really like for the lowest possible price for me.

A perfect example of this in action: I was having dinner with a friend some months ago. When the wine was decanted, the particular funnel that the sommelier used caught my friend’s eye—it was quite an interesting one. When we were leaving the restaurant I quickly scribbled a few notes about the style of the funnel. A little Google-fu later and I found that it wasn’t a particularly pricey item, but it would be much appreciated by my friend and show that I notice things that matter to him.

Check out the full article at The Simple Dollar for more ways you can save using your capture tool of choice, and if you’ve got a great example of how ubiquitous capture has saved you money we want to hear about it in the comments.

Get Spray Paint Off Your Car [Automobiles]

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Let’s hope you never have to get spray paint off your car, but on the off chance that you do—perhaps after somebody had a little too much fun on Devil’s Night—this guide will help.

Photo by Rick.

If you find your car covered in spray paint, it’s not a particularly envious position to be in. If you discover it early in the morning when the dew is still on the car and the paint is damp, you might just have a chance at getting it off without having to take the car into an auto body shop.

Over at the ever-handy guide site wikiHow, they start the removal instructions with the easy fixes and move into the big guns. The most obvious and easy to apply technique is lots and lots of hot soapy water—as mentioned above, if the paint is still damp from the dew, you’re in luck. If soapy water doesn’t do the trick? You can move up to using Mequiar’s Clay, a clay used by body shops and car detailers to pull things off the paint of a car while leaving the paint behind. Worst case scenario, you’ll need to start trying out solvents like acetone.

Before you find yourself out on the street swearing and huffing solvents, however, check your insurance. If you have full coverage, you should be reimbursed in the event of vandalism. Check out the full guide for tips, tricks, and additional methods. Have a story or two about saving your car from the midnight antics of local street scum? Let’s hear about it in the comments.

For The Future Of The Media Industry, Look In The App Store

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Guest author Edo Segal (@edosegal) has launched and sold several companies. In 2000 he founded eNow, which he sold to AOL in 2006 (after it was renamed Relegence). Today, he runs his Incubator/Investment vehicle Futurity Ventures, which recently launched a new search engine for wisdom.

Media scarcity is dead. In the future my son will have a flash drive that he will pay $29 for that will have the capacity to hold all movies and music ever released by a major label, studio or tv/cable network. It will take 30 seconds to clone the data over the network to a friend who will pay $14.99 for a device with double capacity a year later. How does the media industry survive such a coming disruption?

For many of us that have been in this game for a while, the word “convergence” harbors some shameful vibes. It conjures up many false hopes, dashed dreams and misfires. Nevertheless, I would contend that convergence is upon us and it has arrived from an unexpected delivery man: Steve Jobs. Apple has created a media consumption experience that has reduced friction to such a point that soon the consumer will not know if he is buying music, a movie or a game. The notion of App is changing. The lines between these different forms of media are quickly blurring and soon will be completely artificial. Already these distinctions are merely fossilized conventions that stem from consumers’ discovery habits. As those evolve, like learning that it is easier to go to Amazon and search to find a product than going to aisle 9 at the store. The coming confusion of the consumption experience where a user won’t care or know if what they are buying is a movie, a game or a music track presents vast opportunity.

The prospects for the old media industry appear bleak, as the rest of the media industry follows the music industry into decline. Indeed in my discussions it is apparent that the smart money in Hollywood already sees the writing on the wall. While the trend will take longer, it is clear which direction the wind is blowing. The main lesson to learn is that the market will punish you if you don’t deliver the goods.

But the entertainment industry has a vested interest in the success of this new type of convergence, as within it lies the secret to its continuing prosperity. The only way to block the incredible ease of pirating any content a media company can generate is to couple said experiences with extensions that live in the cloud and enhance that experience for consumers. Not just for some fancy DRM but for real value creation. They must begin to create a product that is not simply a static digital file that can be easily copied and distributed, but rather view media as a dynamic “application” with extensions via the web. This howl is the future evolution of the media industry. It has arrived from a company that is delivering the goods. Apple has made it painless for consumers to spend money and get the media they want where they want it, proving that consumers are happy to pay for media if delivered in ways that make it easy and blissful to consume. For all the criticism Apple draws on the walled garden nature of its business, it has even come around to stripping DRM and allowing users to download mp3 files.

Even today if you look in the iTunes App Store you will see a myriad range of “Apps” that are just evolved ways to package media. While the traditional part of iTunes still mirrors the product taxonomy of a Tower Records, the App Store is creating a folksonomy of media products. It is where new ideas evolve, thrive and go instinctively based on market power. The App Store is where the action is. This is where evolution is unfolding as direct consumer spending spurs media development.

In preparing this post, Erick asked me, “Is Apple is a media company?” I thought about that and the answer is really that Apple is what media companies are missing. The missing part of the puzzle is what made media conglomerates such juggernauts in the past. Namely, distribution. The internet is stripping them of their control over the how their products are distributed. Media companies used to be able to create scarcity merely by delaying the distribution of their products across different channels—theaters, pay-per-view, DVD, cable channels, network TV, and so on. The internet disrupts this ability to create media scarcity. It is such a huge disruption, in fact, that it threatens the fundamental profit engine of the media business.

Both during my time interacting with senior management at Time Warner (where I worked at AOL after it acquired the company I founded, Relegence) and with some of my current portfolio companies that are working with the film and music industries, it is clear to me that many of the smart people running these media companies understand which way the wind is blowing. The music industry, as the one that has suffered most of the carnage, is ripest for change. Executives there are receptive to new ideas and move forward quickly, leaving me somewhat optimistic. It is also clear to me that it is hard for the industries which have not endured their level of pain to flee the golden cage of media’s past. But for those firms which rise to the occasion, there will be vast rewards. People’s hunger for good content will not subside. It will continue to grow, but so shall the unbearable ease of pirating it. The premise of extending the media experience to the cloud is a core necessity for the survival and growth of the media industry. It is the only way to for media companies to weather the coming tsunami of increased bandwidth and the ever open web. Hybrid media packaging with both files and an application layer in the cloud is core to a lucrative future.

For a great example of how change is happening see what Britney did today at @BritneySpears. It was, I believe, the first time a major artist premiered a music video on Twitter. This drives people to Amazon or iTunes to buy the track but in the not too distant future it could be the start of much more than that. A complete experience will unfold that will be interactive and convert to new revenue streams. Not just a purchase of a track but of an app that pulls consumers into an experience and further promotes user engagement and virality. Media becomes a platform with a funnel of traffic and conversions to alternative revenue streams. All boosted by the frictionless billing that Apple has created in the App Store. Media executives will have realtime metrics for their success as it maps to revenue and in turn this will accelerate innovation and help redefine media.

If you are a media exec and you look at your product and at the end of the day it’s a digital file that can be copied, then you have a serious problem with your format. Think of your product like a pie chart of the value you are giving the consumer. If 100% of the value is in that file, it is not a sound approach for defending the future of your business. However, if a portion of the experience is derived thorough an integration with a Web component that will yield additional value in functionality or social elements, then it will be more sustainable. There are many such examples emerging in the app store (I am T-Pain, TapTap and many more). Applications that let consumers interact with the media. Create things and share them with their friends. These will not only make the consumer the one who markets your product, but also create an unprecedented level of engagement. That level of engagement will directly map to reduction in piracy as consumers will pay for this experience and wont be able to copy it. Sell access and experiences, not media files.

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Apple Scuttles ZFS: Community Picks it Up [OStatic]

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In like a lion, out like a Snow Leopard? Apple changed its spots on Sun’s ZFS fairly quickly. This week the company shutterd the ZFS Project on Mac OS Forge, and there’s no hide or hair of ZFS to be found in Snow Leopard. It’s a pretty quick turnabout from a few years ago, when Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz was touting Apple’s inclusion of ZFS in Leopard.

A quick recap for folks who don’t live and breathe fileystems: ZFS is Sun’s “next generation” fileystem that adds all kinds of support for advanced features that make the filesytem more than just a place to dump data.

Apple, as is usual for the folks in Cupertino, hasn’t issued a comment about its reasoning for dumping ZFS. The speculation is that it has something to do with Oracle’s pending acquision of Sun. Licensing issues have also been cited. Whatever the reason, Apple’s not going to be supplying ZFS to the Mac faithful past Leopard.

But as with all things open source, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. forks have already appeared on GitHub, and there are attempts to support ZFS with MacFUSE. So if you’re a die-hard ZFS fan on Mac OS X, there may be some hope for you yet.

This is, after all, one of the primary reasons for releasing and supporting code under open source licenses: The ability to resurrect a project when a company decides to go in a different direction. Obviously, it won’t be as convenient or easy for Mac fans to support ZFS on their own, but the option is there.

Dustin Sallings, the developer who’s taking initiative on GitHub to keep the project active, has created an installer and put up a Google Code page for the project as well. The mailing list looks reasonably active for a new project, so ZFS might carry on just fine on Mac OS X even though Apple has thrown in the towel.

Joe ‘Zonker’ Brockmeier is a longtime FOSS advocate, and currently works for Novell as the community manager for openSUSE. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist covering the open source beat for a number of publications, including Linux Magazine, Linux Weekly News,,, IBM developerWorks, and many others.

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