The absurdity of international music pricing Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The UK High Court has ordered Hong Kong based CD-Wow to pay the music industry £41m damages (£37m + interest) after having been found guilty of illegally importing CDs from Asia into Europe.
CD-Wow sells its' CDs for £6.99 v rivals £8.95, with the result that it is the third most popular music site in the UK.
The British Phonographic Industry which brought the case, argued the cheap imports undermined the huge investments made by record companies in "home grown talent".
Discriminatory pricing between markets is very common in many industries, with the UK often being singled out for the highest prices eg cars, drugs, clothes. Producers often use such practises to develop new markets for their products, which are subsidised by mature markets. However in some markets low pricing is also used to fend off competition from counterfeit products.
To operate differential pricing relies upon barriers to prevent seepage from the low price to the high price markets. When physical product has to be shipped or import barriers exist, seepage can be constrained.
Yet in a music sector increasingly reliant on music downloads for sales, attempting to apply different prices for people based on where they live around the world, but who are all downloading from the same server, seems ludicrous.
If we extend that line of reasoning, putting the same content on CD and shipping it at different prices (ex delivery & tax) seems equally odd.
That the courts support the practice of overcharging one set of consumers for a "luxury" (non-essential unlike say prescription drugs) homogeneous item may follow legal precedent, but seems to fly in the face of common sense.
Copyright Pirates of the Carribbean Friday, May 25, 2007
Having seen Antingua's gambling sector shrink by 85% because of the US ban on offshore online gambling, the Island is to disregard US copyright laws.
It's allowed to do this under WTO rules, which found the US ban was illegal under international trade rules, and which allows affected nations to retaliate by ignoring its own obligations to that country.
Other countries are reportedly planning to follow.
Antigua could therefore start distributing "bootleg" versions of US films, software & music. It will be interesting to see if this wakes the US up given their recent efforts to close down Russian music services like allmymp3.
Is that an ipod in your pocket or are you just pleased to see me? Wednesday, May 23, 2007
It's a very clever advert from Ann Summers and you can see why Apple might be upset.
The likely takeover of EMI by Terra Firma has been widely reported. At the offer price of 265p, the market is obviously anticipating contested bids based on the current (higher) trading price.
Guy Hands is far smarter than I and hence must see how to squeeze much more out of this business, something which I confess I'm struggling with. This is because I think recorded music is quickly establishing itself as having a perceived price of "zero".
Illegal downloads and music file sharing services are not to be condoned but they are having a dramatic effect on many people's perceptions of the price that they attach to music. Moreover, increasing numbers of online music services are enabling many people to consume the sorts of music they want at a very low cost (often zero).
An added factor in my view is the entry of Amazon into the music space. I recently met the Head of Corporate PR at EMI at an event. As a consequence of my "City" label, I was immediately deemed to be on the side of evil given EMI's poor showing in the City (to which I retorted it wasn't the City's fault that the company was performing poorly, nor was it responsible for the screw up over announcing results).
Anyway, she was praising their deal with Amazon (few days ahead of announcement) saying that it would help introduce greater competition into the music retail space. DUH!
As I pointed out to her, greater competition in the supply of a commodity/homogenous item will usually drive prices down, which I couldn't believe EMI wanted. Sure, it may temporarily help increase download volumes but it seemed inevitable to me that big distributors like Apple and Amazon would soon be returning to EMI to "kindly request" that EMI reduces its' wholesale prices for music downloads. It was therefore unclear to me that any increased volume would offset for lower prices. Moreover, if EMI's view was contrary to mine, it would have made sense for them to have lowered prices themselves to benefit from this tradeoff.
At the same time, what would this "transformational" entry do to their existing retail relationships both online and on the high street? You can imagine HMV jumping for joy. NOT.
If the Terra Firma deal does go through, it's going to be fascinating to see the nature of the transformation measures that will be applied. Their analysts will have been crawling over this deal for some time, so expect change.
It will also be interesting to see what impact operating under the cover of (demanding) private ownership will have versus living in the gaze of public markets.
The online personal radio service, Pandora, has had a facelift recently, with considerably more prominence given to advertising. I've not used the service for some time, preferring services like Finetune and my recent find, Spool
It looks like some of the features have been made more prominent eg sharing your stations with others.
According to Techcrunch
The company says they now have 6.9 million registered listeners who have played 4.7 billion songs and voted up or down half a billion times. This makes them, they say, the third largest Internet radio station in the world. They play 94% of their entire catalog every day.
It's not really, but I read about an excellent google maps mashup today which crawls over UK local authority websites for planning applications and then mashes the results up on a google map.
In beta at present, PlanningAlerts is an excellent idea that allows you to specify an area that you'd like to monitor and then notifies you by email as and when it discovers relevant planning applications in that area. 150 authorities are covered at time of writing (sadly my own isn't yet).
So you'd find out if a planning application was submitted to knock London Bridge down. As soon as I read about the site, I thought of MySociety, and sure enough they are hosting the site.
Google Maps Mania is an excellent source of news on interesting google maps mashups - it amazes me how many inventive applications people have come up with involving location based information.
Blogs hit share prices - who can save us? Saturday, May 19, 2007
Whilst gossip, rumour and speculation are constantly features of markets, each with the ability to directly move share prices, this week was possibly the first significant share price move attributed to a blog post. The stock in question was Apple Inc and it was temporarily hit by a report from Endgaget that the iPhone would ship late. This report was based on an email that originated from Apple's servers, but whose contents were subsequently shown to be false.
$4bn was wiped from Apple's market value and 60% of a normal day's trading volume in the stock was done in 30 minutes.
Much of the volume would have been a reaction to the share price slide and the volume going through i.e. copycat behaviour and not a result of the entire market seeing the post. However, it does raise three interesting points for me:
Blogs are now a source of breaking news. Some companies are making use of them to issue news and indeed the CEO of Sun recently proposed to the SEC that his blog should count as an official companies announcement source. In other cases, journalists and informed company observers are using blogs as their reporting media. Of course, some blogs are just trash! But it does mean that for investors, there is yet another source to monitor, but one that presents an immense challenge - unlike traditional media sources which were relatively few in number and hence easy to locate and monitor, blogs can spring up in minutes and without much fanfare. So this will play on an investor's fear that they may be missing out on relevant information which is in the public domain (as distinct from popular sources of information).
The second issue is the speed of the dissemination of such information. RSS offers the most efficient means of identifying, retrieving and collating new posts when they become available. However, RSS processing generally works on periodic background scans of nominated sources i.e. batch process, with the consequence that latency exists between publication and its discovery. In some cases, sources can "ping" to announce new information is available, reducing this latency. Yet as the Apple case shows, 30 minutes makes a considerable difference.
This presents a considerable challenge - we are now looking for technologies that can discover new sources (high performance google alerts) and instantly identify new posts. This means operates at speeds not traditionally associated with traditional RSS reader services. Firms like Alacra and Monitor 110 are making a stab at this space, are playing to the fear factors I've referred to above. Personally I feel each has some notable gaps in their offering.
This is going to be another arms race, not dissimilar to firms seeking to employ the fastest connectivity solutions to interact with execution venues i.e. the market. Yet the last factor is one of relevance and quality of content. It's fine to find the information fastest, but you still have to assess what it means, not to mention form a view as to whether it is reliable.
The Apple story will have awakened many eyes to this new frontier, most of whom will have no clue of what they are facing, let alone have any idea on how to attempt to solve it. They will all appreciate it is a money making opportunity!
Meebo Rooms rock Wednesday, May 16, 2007
Many of the blogs I read were crammed with post about the release by meebo of Meebo Rooms. At first, I simply thought "whatever", another open chat room like Gabbly.
But after opening up Meebo, and finding myself with my own Room automatically alongside the site rejig, I thought I'd take a look.
Unlike traditional chatrooms however, they've enabled you to create a room, add it to you buddylist in meebo (to receive notifications even when you're not in the room), and embed that chat room on website, blogs and social network profile pages, just like you can with meebome. Moreover, you can even embed a room widget into a blogpost and it will show up in RSS readers (or at least it did in Google Reader), which means that you could run the comments section in a chat box and people can then subscribe to that blogpost room, which will make it far more interactive.
They've also incorporated the ability to watch online videos with others in real-time. So, insert a youtube or viddler video url into the room and you can watch it with others. On meebo rooms already they've got music artist themed rooms e.g. Lily Allen with her music videos, which you can join and participate in watching the content and chatting in real-time about. This would be amazing for live streaming content, as an online audience could easily form and chat at the virtual event.
Sadly, after only a few hours of being live, its already evident that Meebo may have released an uncontrollable "beast", since access to the rooms is open and unmoderated. Consequently some of the chat posts on "brand name" rooms are offensive in nature, together with the videos and photos that have been shared. Whilst such content can be reported to meebo and immediately disappear from your own view, the policing job is going to be substantial if people are not to be immediately deterred from visiting the rooms. Not sure how they will handle this.
Still, it's definitely worth a look and I may embed some of the rooms in future posts.
Spool.fm is a completely free community oriented website whose goal is to make sharing music simple. You can start listening to music right away by searching for an artist or a song and clicking on one of the result.
If you register to Spool.fm, you can save the playlist you create, share them, and even allow anyone to listen in realtime to what you are currently listening by publishing your spool url
Now, I'm not talking obscure artists/tracks here. This is current chart stuff that I can select and listen to free and in full. Given the furore about other online radio stations and the costs of broadcasts rights, I shall be staggered if this site is not shut down by the authorities/records companies soon, as I can't believe the record companies etc have either made an exception for them or come to an accommodation with them. And I'm not the only one to query this as their own user forums are full of comments from happy but puzzled users on these lines.
In common with many music sites, they pull artist data in from last.fm and you can also configure it to auto retrieve your own last.fm data.
You can also add your own music to make your creations publicly available using the easy-to-use SpoolPack.
Enjoy it whilst it lasts.
When I read this post by Will Schroter, I almost wanted to print it out and hand it out to Open Coffee attendees.
Here are 3 things investors are not looking to write a check for:
The general rule of thumb is that investors want to invest in the growth of a business, not the expense of an idea.
Ideas - Investors aren't going to write a check to you just because you have an idea. Millions of people have ideas and most of them are bad. What makes a good idea is not it's novelty, it's the ability to actually run with it and make it successful in the marketplace.
Founder's Salary - Investors won't pay for you to get a full-time market-rich salary while testing out a new idea. You're not going to keep your $200k salary by having an investor foot the bill. Think $50k, best case, and a regular withdrawal from your home equity line of credit.
Back Debt - So you've racked up $100,000 in personal debt while you were building the business. How about getting that money back when the big investment comes? Forget about it. Investors don't want to invest in your debt. Kiss that money g'bye and hope the money you raised turns into a jackpot to pay it back.
Seth Godlin writes an excellent blog and has a great post questioning which "type" of person you should ask for advice. He identifies four types of person:-
- One group likes everything. Tell someone an idea and she'll love it. This could be because she has such esteem for you, or it could be because it's easier than being critical.
- Another group hates everything. These folks have discovered that if you are harshly critical early on in a process, it means you won't be responsible for failure of the idea later.
- A third group eggs you on. These are the people who push you to make it sharper, more remarkable and, yes, riskier.
- The last group pushes you to tone it down. To go ahead, but carefully. To round off the edges.It's so true
Venture Hacks has an article suggesting entrepreneurs should issue convertible debt instead of equity when doing seed financing.
- Why is debt a great alternative to equity in a seed round? Convenience, suitability, control, cost, and speed.
- With convertible debt, the lender and your company both expect to convert the debt into equity when you close the Series A.
Interesting article and you should check out the discussion in the comments which included the following suggestion
If lenders are concerned about giving up a security (equity) interest in the assets of the company, consider securing it with founder’s shares instead (company has relatively few assets).
I confess to being a big Zoho fan - the combined quality and range of their online offerings is probably unequalled.
Their online office applications are excellent and already offer an ability to automatically synch files with local Microsoft office documents. Hence I can work on a doc in MS Word on my laptop but have it auto syncing to an online copy as a background job via a local copy in near real-time. Thereafter I can open the document up in a browser from any PC once I have logged into my account.
So onto their latest release which is Zoho Meeting, which is a web conference facility that allows you to broadcast your screen to invitees to your online meeting as well as share control. I was kindly granted access to the private beta of service.
The application works via an add-in in Firefox but requires no install on the part of attendees to your meeting, who simply can use flash to view, albeit their is also an Active X viewer to choose from. The interface is stylish and compact, not to mention intuitive.
Today, whilst chatting to someone on Skype, I decided it would be helpful to walk them through a website application. I was able to quickly launch Zoho Meeting, ping them an email invite containing a link and within 2 minutes from initiating the entire process, my counterpart was able to view my onscreen activities without having to worry about installs on their machine.
Presently, you can't restrict what the attendees can see on your screen, so you should de-activate instant messaging service to avoid embarrassing IM messages popping up mid meeting. Likewise, close any unnecessary tabs in your browser. The application includes Zoho Chat which means you can swap messages in text with your invitees, but doesn't include VOIP or video. Consequently, you may want to run a skype call or other VOIP service alongside in order to allow you to talk (you could even run a landline teleconference!)
As I understand it, Zoho Meeting isn't presently targeted at supporting huge numbers of attendees to an online meeting. Nonetheless, most people rarely (if ever) need to link in 20+ people into their desktop screen view to do a demo or the like. Consequently, I think that this will be an invaluable addition to many workplaces, not to mention a winner with web workers.
Apologies in advance for this overly personal post.
I was privy to a conversation the other day when a professional female divorcee who has custody of her two young children was chatting to her friends about her fear that she may have something wrong with her and so wanted lots of tests. The friends, all single and childless, ribbed her for being dramatic and that she had simply had a bad cough.
Turning to her, I quietly asked was she actually worried about what would happen to her children if she died. Instantly she acknowledged it was. This worry significantly affected her actions/behaviour both consciously and sub-consciously. She was not a physical risk taker and would never put herself in physical peril knowingly because of her fears about the impact on her children.
How did I know this? Simple. As many people know, I am the parent of a profoundly disabled young daughter who will never be able to live independently and will require 24 hour care for the rest of her life. As parents, we provide this care and oversight because of our love for our daughter. But what happens when we are no longer alive.? This is what mentally separates parents of such children from what I am not embarrassed to describe as parents of "normal" kids.
The loss of parents at any time is traumatic, but once they are through childhood, most parents anticipate that 16+ year old children should be able to deal with life. Most parents of normal kids will never consider the loss of their partner in their everyday life; every parent of special needs kids does, because of the dramatic and massive care burden that would pass to the surviving partner. The thought of the time when both parents are both unable to provide care to their special needs child is terrifying, because they know that their replacement (and there will have to be somebody providing this care and it is usually the State) will not have the same bonds; yet no parent wants that huge responsibility to have to fall the siblings of special needs children because of the impact that it would have on their lives were they to assume the full-time care duties. There is no answer or satisfactory solution to this situation.
Why do I mention any of this? Well, just because its increasingly likely that you will know people in this situation and this may give you a degree of insight (thanks to medical advances, more children with special needs are able to survive that formerly wouldn't, with the result that there are many more families with such children).
Normal blog service will now resume.
Google helps maintain imperial measures Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Radio 4's Today programme is such an excellent start to the day, often setting the news agenda for the rest of the day across the media. Senior Politicians are a daily feature of the show, with occasional appearances by the Chancellor and the Prime Minister. Famously, Margaret Thatcher was reported to listen into the show each day to hear how her cabinet colleagues and ministers performed, and would call in to "correct" reports that she considered wrong/misleading.
The programme is always keen to report on Britishness issues. Yesterday it ran a story that was subsequently followed up by the rest of the media regarding the EU Commission extending the ability of the UK to display imperial measures alongside metric ones. The argument for phasing out imperial was that their presence may mislead people in comparing prices. As was pointed out, it is so long since imperial measurement was taught in schools, there is a generation that don't fully understand imperial measures. And I confess, I probably fall into that age bracket.
Nonetheless it doesn't mean that I don't use imperial in every day life eg my weight is considered in stone and pounds; I get excited when West Brom get into the 6 yard box (yes, it does happen); I drive in miles per hour and in distances of miles. Moreover, I have little understanding of the metric version of those things.
But, as ever, Google comes to the rescue to allow my laziness to persist - Google has an embedded calculator in their search box.
In the search box, try "X pounds to kilograms" where X is a number
The in and to operator is used to specify what units you want used to express the answer. Put the word in followed by the name of a unit at the end of your expression. This works well for unit conversions such as:
You can get information on the calculator function here.
The combination of firms exiting public markets via private equity deals & consolisation, with few firms of similar standing replacing them, is almost certain to drive share prices higher.
The reasoning is this:
Shareholders in exiting companies are typically receiving cash on the deals. The outlets for them to reinvest the funds is often restricted. Often this is because by various rules set by their policies or regulators eg percentage ceilings on investments in any one company and max percentages on asset classes that are not liquid public markets eg alternative investments. Hence one may have to reinvest funds back in the same but shrinking market.
(Almost peversely, asset diversification frameworks can coral funds into potentially overvalued markets eg equities)
With the same amount of money chasing after fewer companies, the effect will be to drive asset prices up. Moreover, investors are fervently betting on who the next bid target might be in a shrinking list. This is based on the view that private equity firms are awash with cash and need to invest it to maintain returns & justify fees.
The increase in prices also has the effect of increasing the value of pension funds which invest in public markets & reducing some of the pension fund shortfalls that have beset many companies. These shortfalls have, in recent times, detered buyers who were forced to consider making good the deficits eg WH Smiths. The FT reported yesterday that the aggregate pension deficit of listed UK companies has fallen sharply in recent years. This in turn makes companies more attractive bid targets.
So how will this merry go round stop? Probably when the bankers financing many of the Private Equity deals decide that the risks associated are simply getting too hot. With interest rates rising and yields on deals under pressure (because of the higher prices being paid) this day may not be far away.
They think it's all over - it isnt yet Monday, May 14, 2007
The vast sums in football have transformed the game and multiplied the stakes involved for clubs. Take the football playoffs - the playoff final in the Championship is considered to be the highest money prize match in the world, because it gets you admittance to the Premiership and £60m of revenues.
Likewise, West Ham's fine of £5.5m in the Premiership is considered to be one any club would have taken if it meant staying up. Hence, mere grumbles about West Ham fielding ineligible players are set to become a court room battle - were there no money at stake, would clubs be as determined in their bid to undertake expensive legal action? Consequently, the battle to be the best team and assure survival by accumulating sufficient points may not prevail and the final relegated team's identity may still change.
There's a famous saying in football which comes from the commentary of the 1966 World Cup Final - "They think it's all over - it is now". Well, for this relegation "game" at least, perhaps not quite yet.
So it is with Open Source. Certainly there are principles at stake that are espoused by the founders of the GNU movement, but now it is effectively big business that carry the real weight in the debate, motivated by the sums of money involved. That firms like IBM get added kudos from backing a "moral" position is simply a bonus. Likewise, have all firms that have adopted Open Source been motivated by a) moral position b) access to better software c) money (potential to save on licence fees)?
Labels: open source
We don't fund a "one man band" Sunday, May 13, 2007
Unlike a record company, investors don't ordinarily fund one man bands. There's many reasons for this, including the dislike of key man reliance i.e. if the founder gets bored and walks then your investment is screwed. However, it also raises questions about why the owner hasn't been able to persuade anyone else to join them in the endeavour - can't they persuade anyone of the merits of the idea or is the founder unable to work with others? Neither are great for an investor. It's also alleged that no one is good at everything and even if that's not true, can they really do everything simultaneously without compromising on quality?
Someone I met at last week's ContentMixer event at the Savoy in London suggested to me that entrepreneurship is a lonely affair - well, investors prefer it not to be. As they say on "Who wants to be a millionaire", would you like to phone a friend?
Microsoft claims that free open-source software, like Linux, violates 235 of its patents and is planning to act, according to a report today in Forbes.
The article makes passing reference to how music companies have sued their "users" and questions whether Microsoft might do the same to its user for patent infringement. However, there is a huge difference here in that the users in question include many major corporations around the world. Moreover, open source is actually big business too with IBM having made a big commitment to it. Hence, Microsoft will have a much bigger fight on its hand.
Having begun the fight, you have to assume that Microsoft have done some end-game analysis. Clearly this isn't going to endear it to a large portion of the tech community and you can expect a PR backlash that will test even Hugh MacLeod and his Blue Monster, let alone Steve Clayton! If Microsoft does proceed with action, it will alienate many customers but if it does step back it will have done itself some reputational harm for executing a flawed strategy. So, what other outcomes are there? Does Microsoft gift these patents to the community as a goodwill gesture? It seems unlikely too.
Hmmm. Got me a bit stumped on what Microsoft perceive this happy ending might be.
For a while I'd like the concept behind Buddyping, which enabled people to publish their location easily and hence allow their friends & acquaintances to quickly see where people were. You could update your location via an LBS query (determined where you were from your mobile phone location), via SMS update or via a web page.
Unfortunately, it was a pain to have to remember to update it and because it didn't serve any other purpose, I quickly got out of the habit of logging into the service to update my location. Moreover, the service didn't appear to report how recent the location data was and hence it was often unreliable. The addition of free SMS messages to other buddyping friends was a nice add-on, but very few people I wanted to text were members.
Consequently, I was interested in RadiusIM which combines an IM aggregation service like (meembo and ebuddy) but with a location disclosure added in. Unfortunately this location data is only available if you are logged into RadiusIM and so ordinarily most of your "IM buddies" won't see it - nor will you see their location unless they use it too. Nonetheless, it is immediately a more useful service than Buddyping, provided it IM aggregation service is as good as others.
As I've mentioned before, I've stuck with meebo's service simply because of the meebome chat widget I've been able to embed in this blog. Whilst RadiusIM integrates with all the same IM services (yahoo, AOL, gtalk and MSN), it doesn't offer the same chat widget. These chat widgets aren't unique and I found another service recently called Mabber than also did the job and had coverage of the same IM services - unfortunately I found the site hopped between English and German language, with Jabber/Gtalk also reporting error messages.
So, I think for now I'll stick with Meebo and hope RadiusIM brings out a chat widget.
Samsung plasma TV sucks Saturday, May 12, 2007
I recently bought a Samsung Plasma HDTV and planned to hook it up to my Sony Vaio. However, it took me a little while to get round to buying the monitor lead and also a wireless keyboard. But finally I did it this week and was a "boy with toys" hooking it all up.
So I imagine my frustration when no matter what I did, I couldn't get the plasma to recognise the laptop was connected (the Vaio correctly recognised the plasma).
In the end I rang up the Samsung helpline and explained the problem. So imagine my initial astonishment & then anger, when their first question was "is it a Vaio, because they don't work with our screens?" Huh! Where was this nugget available to forewarn people before buying a Samsung - "no, its not published anywhere on out website & there's no way to fix it". And how long has this little gem been known - oh, about a year!
So if you happen to have a Vaio and want to link it to a big screen, don't buy a Samsung Plasma TV.
Likewise if you have a Samsung plasma TV, you may want to rule out a Vaio.
Cross - you bet I am.
Apologies, but I forgot to publish a workaround solution to this. It's not pretty but if you happen to have fallen into the same situation then here's how I have got the Vaio to display on the Samsung plasma for inexplicable reasons.
A chance comment that a friend made to me about "tricking" the plasma prompted me to take a chance and buy a Belkin device which is designed to connect several computers to single screen which can then be alternated between. To make the whole thing work, this is what I do:
1. Connect the plasma and the vaio to this "intermediate" dumb device, the former with a monitor cable and the latter with the Belkin device cable.
2. On your vaio, activate the external monitor output (on my keyboard this is achieved with Fn+f7 buttons). At this point the Samsung plasma recognises that a PC is attempting to connect to it and activates the PC source. However, it reports on screen that you need to check the signal.
3. Disconnect both the plasma and the vaio from the Belkin device and connect the plasma directly to the vaio. Voila, your vaio screen is now visible on the Samsung plasma screen.
It seems crazy, but it works for reasons I don't care about.
The Radio Star is still going strong Friday, May 11, 2007
Despite ipods and other distractions, the stats issued by the UK radio industry body, Rajar, yesterday shows that radio is more than holding its own in terms of audiences.
The total number of listeners nationwide is 45m, an all-time record.
With over 250 stations operating in the UK, relatively few of whom make decent returns, the industry was described to me recently as almost akin to how football operates - a few giants that dominate the scene, with lots of struggling small local outfits kept aloat by generous benefactors.
These figures will add further gloom to the small local operators, with a continued yet marked switch in listener hours to national stations many of which are focussed on a particular genre eg Classic FM
One characteristic of the radio industry that has always amazed me is that the stations pay to play music. Now if an artist wants to promote their album on TV via an advert then they pay the TV company, but if the radio stations plays a song then the artist gets income for the same "advert".
Of course, the artists & record companies contend that radio stations can only earn advertising revenues because of their content which lures in listeners & hence they should receive a share.
I think it might be interesting if a station group elected not to play several artists until they got better terms, thereby chipping away at this balance of power. Perhaps one day.
I read today that 7% of the City of London (as distinct from London) is being rebuilt at the moment, including Cheapside which is undergoing huge redevelopment.
That is a staggering volume - if maintained it would equate to an average building life of 14 years.
With commercial property rise reaching heady heights as well, are we actually witnessing another property space bubble?
Lastrounds - more bars please Wednesday, May 09, 2007
In response to a blog comment, I took a look at Last Rounds, which claims to be
"a London pub review site with a difference. The aim of the Last Rounds Project is to promote safe and sensible drinking by encouraging forward planning of your time out. "
Well, that will immediately put off most pub goers these days if the papers are to be believed.
I really like the site features, especially the ability to locate pubs near tube & train stops, and the impressive implementation of the interactive map.
The founder of the site is Luke Agbaimoni, who started the site as a hobby has got it thus far without any funding, albeit with a little help from friends.
Every pub on the site has details of
• Opening & closing times of the venue
• Addresses, maps, websites & phone numbers to check before you visit
• First & last departure times for all known local bus, tube and DLR services
• Local borough taxi numbers
• And the location & opening hours of local borough public toilets
There's only one big issue - the directory of pubs was sparse. I checked a number of my tube and train haunts only to be disappointed with how few results were returned, relative to the number I was expecting. For instance, when I selected Bank tube, I only got the following two results
|Pubs & Bars||Walking Distance||Directions|
|The Hatchet||6 mins|
|Black Friar||16 mins|
Let me assure you that the City would be empty if that were the case. And the idea of walking 16 minutes to a pub from Bank!
If Luke can a) source a more complete directory b) mashup with other review sites to provide fuller coverage e.g. Trusted Places perhaps, then I think this has the making of a great site.
As to whether sites like this will be popular, I'm less sure for several reasons. Firstly, unless you travel around the City like myself, most people tend to frequent familiar places and so their need for a review site is limited. Secondly, it's often when you are mobile that you are prompted to want the information. Finally, the advent of sites like Trusted Places, which allows you to garner recommendations from friends, are likely to be our first stopping point for suggestions.
In M&A, almost anything goes - MySpace & Photobucket Tuesday, May 08, 2007
A few weeks back there was a little news rumpus over the fact that MySpace had disabled Photobucket photos from appearing on MySpace pages. There was much discussion on blogs about why this had happened and how MySpace was throwing its weight around but how Photobucket was one of the most popular embedded items on MySpace pages and thus MySpace should be ready for some pushback.
Well, it turns out that this show of "force" was simply part of a negotiation tactic by MySpace who yesterday acquired Photobucket in a competitive bidding situation.
As Techcrunch observes "Some would argue that they play dirty poker, but shutting Photobucket down at a crucial point in the acquisition negotiations was a brilliant move, and may have shaved hundreds of millions of dollars off of the purchase price." Not to mention, it will have scared off some potential buyers in the race, worried about the impact on revenues and traffic this could have if implemented permanently.
Techcrunch contends that this was much better deal that YouTube was at a price of $250m on projected revenues of $25m. Or "To look at this another way, YouTube was paid about $67 per unique visitor. Photobucket got just $13."
It's ironic that another photo sharing site, Zooomr, had been struggling to find funding. I bet they find it easier now, although there is always a huge premium for being number one in a market and one of the potential future buyers will probably now be out of the running, unless of course they bought Zooomr for its technology and founder. Likewise, Flickr will probably be kicking itself for having sold for $25m.
Naturally, minutes after posting about SlideAware I stumbled across SlideBurner which has been nominated for Startup 2.0 which is a competition of European web 2.0 sites with 15 final nominees. There is an event in Madrid on May 10, where the nominees will be officially presented and 5 finalists will be selected by a jury and the crowd.
There's no installs with Slideburner and you can password protect your slides. You can also allow people to download your original presentation with the premium version. Whilst there doesn't appear to be an option to run your slides as a live remote presentation, this offering is more palatable than SlideAware was to me.
There's a 200mb storage limit on the free version.
Read/Write web has a write up on Startup 2.0 here
Many people have described Plaxo as an annoying service. These criticisms have been levelled not because of what it's designed to do but simply because of the annoying volume of emails you can get hit with as a by-product of others using it.
Plaxo is actually a great idea. Essentially everyone maintains their own address details and then you subscribe to your friends/contacts details. This reduces everyone's address book maintenance effort and should avoid details becoming obsolete. It's definitely the case that my own address book is littered with out-dated details for people, but I simply don't know which ones are wrong until I go to try them. It would be very handy if these details were automatically updated.
Unfortunately, this means your contacts also have to buy in to the concept and use the service.
When you initially upload up your address book, Plaxo tells you which people are already subscribed to Plaxo based on the details you provided and which are not. It suggests you contact this latter category and invite them to join the service because that will make your life easier. Of course, this seems such an excellent idea that you initiate email invites via the service.
Some of your friends ignore the email for a variety of reasons including inertia but also because they see the benefit to you but not to themselves. However some others choose to sign-up and follow the same procedure.
Unfortunately, it's probable that there will be some overlap of address books with the result that some people are likely to be invited to sign-up again and again. Whilst Plaxo aren't causing this (it's your own popularity and stubborness to succumb to the invite) they are a beneficiary of the "virus".
Plaxo isn't unique in operating an "invite a friend" feature but they are rare in that you actually need your friends to join Plaxo if you are to derive benefit from it e.g. it doesn't matter if my friends don't use Last.fm but it does matter if they don't use Plaxo as it defeats the point.
Ok, so Plaxo is old news to many. Well, I mention it because Plaxo have made available an excellent widget that other web sites can use. Called "Address Book Access", it allows users of your site to do a temporary upload of their address book(s) to your site for the purposes of sending email invites to their friends.
This avoids you having to develop this functionality for your own site, whilst satisfying your desire to make the invite process incredibly easy for your site visitors/users.
So, you may ask what's it in for Plaxo to be so nice. Well, it probably won't surprise you to learn that the routine is branded as Plaxo as well as containing a small marketing message inviting people to sign-up for Plaxo. Others will disagree and possibly direct me to other open sources facilities that do the same (please do), but I think this is an excellent trade for both web sites.
I'm been a keen advocate of Slideshare since discovering it about 9 months ago. It's an incredibly easy way to share slide decks online and I've used it a number of times to publish presentations I've done such as Sex & the Investor, which has been viewed nearly 2,000 times.
My only gripes with it is that you can't password protect presentations to restrict who can view them, nor use it to run remote presentations, which is a great shame.
So, I was interested to see how SlideAware would measure up when I read that you could password protect your slides and run live remote presentations, all for free (premium service for $12pm).
However, the service fell at the first hurdle as far as I'm concerned - in order to upload presentations you need to install a toolbar within Powerpoint.
Now, there are several services I've happily done this for including Zoho's Office but they weren't mandatory, which meant I could try the service out first before deciding if I wanted to install a "permanent" feature inside my application.
It's a shame that a simple FTP upload facility isn't available which would have allowed you to go toe-dipping with the later option to install the toolbar once you learnt how great it was. I can't tell whether this is a technical restriction or a sales technique - they may think I will be a stickier user if I have the toolbar installed and that frivolous users will be deterred.
Guess I'll keep looking.
Pandora - Pssst you can still get it outside the USA Friday, May 04, 2007
Today Pandora, one of the excellent music discovery internet radio stations pulled the plug on its non-US users as a consequence of the complexities of international royalty arrangements. Techcrunch has the story here. Previously non-US residents were deterred by the barrier that the service was only open who could claim to live in a US zip code. Oddly a huge number of their users lived in Beverley Hills, which coincidentally has the zip code 90210 that also happened to be in the title of an internationally famous TV show.
The new technique to be used by Pandora is the IP address of the user which provides ordinarily identifies the country location of the user.
Annoying isn't it.
So thanks to a suggestion from Lifehacker, here's a list of proxy services that you can route via in order to continue to listen to Pandora! Don't you just love the internet.
Ending it with your partner Thursday, May 03, 2007
I'm no expert on breaking up, but I do know that sometimes you just have to face facts when it's not working and call it a day.
That's hard enough, but doing it in person - nightmare.
Thank heaven for Needmyspace which allows you to do the job remotely. Check it out here.
Committees - the real deal Wednesday, May 02, 2007
This is such a great quote
“A committee is a collection of the unable, chosen by the unwilling, to perform the unnecessary.”
Thanks to Paul Lomax for this.
There's been considerable coverage on Digg's user community taking control of the sight. Techcrunch has the story here.
Responding to a demand to remove content relating to the decryption key for HD-DVD Digg deleted the story and links. But like the Hydra, the same story reappeared added by other users. Digg responded by deleting these and suspending the offending users. At which point the "story virus" exploded out of Digg's control and the users effectively ganged up on Digg to ensure the story remained on top.
Eventually, Digg had to conceded defeat. The user community won and demonstrated who was actually in control by exercising their muscle when circumstances offended their sense of order.
This is a saluatory lesson to any social network site. Whilst any business depends on the goodwill and custom of its' users, social sites provide their users with both the means to mobilise
and the sense of ownership that translate into a belief that the sites is theirs to control. Facebook also experience the wrath of users at the turn of the year.
The paradox is that at the same time as appearing to have immense power because of an enormous customer base, social site businesses are actually beholden to the whims of their customers to a greater extent than perhaps any other. Efforts to change (or control) the "beast" once it has become popular perhaps by introducing new features (ads into Youtube video clips), some of which may be an attempt to generate some revenues, can easily backfire.
10 tips for networking at conferences Tuesday, May 01, 2007
Andrew Chen has some good tips for networking at conferences even if you don't know anyone else going. It's common sense if you've done it before, but otherwise take note as it will help.
I would add one though, which is don't hog or latch onto one person. You aren't doing either of you a favour and it isn't rude to move on.
Try it at Internet World in London this week!
I went along to see Helen Keegan of Beep Marketing in a discussion session whilst at Internet World today
Mention was made of
- 95% of text msg opened v 25% of emails
- 19% of mobile users access a shortcode to respond to ads in other media
- 15 million unique uk users access internet in Q406 on mobile
- cameras on phone
- 50% of phones have 3G
- 95% of phones in use have a camera
- majority of bbc mobile users are located in africa
FT.com who were presenting in the same session are making their 40% of their online content available free via mobile wap because they don't think mobile users will pay subs (based on a failed trial) unlike desktop users.
A presenter from Paypal described how they now have 133m customers, doing $40b of payment volume in 2006 across 103 countries in 17 currencies via 1.2m transactions per day.
Much of that volumes stems from ebay related activity, which is their parent.
The presenter suggested that
- 12% of packages from online commerce in the 10 days pre Xmas 2006 failed to arrive in time
- online shopping cart abandonment rates of 20-50% are common
- credit card & debit card remain preferred methods of payment but paypal creeping up with 35% of UK customer activity specifying it as a preferred payment method
- checkout typically takes 4-8 minutes ie paying for your goods and entering card details
Sadly, every presenter here at Internet World is finding it necessary to a) mention the Long Tail
b) explain it in their terms
I question how many of them have read Chris's book & articles given some of the explanations.
Most are picking up solely on the tail graph as a justification for buying their product/service!
I'm at the Internet World exhibition today at Earls Court in London. There are supposed to be 8500 registered attendees and 250 exhibitors.
In amongst the stands are a series of theatres hosting a series of speakers on various themes. Thankfully you can loiter on the outer edges of the theatres and easily dip out if the speaker is dull.
Its evident that the speakers have a challenge - the audience comprises people at all levels of familiarity with the internet, online services and social communities. Consequently, its hard to find an appropriate level & so most I've seen during the morning have tended to opt for "beginner". Hopefully things will pick up!
I've already seen the Walid from Trusted Places this morning but sadly the organisers haven't made any provision for people networking onsite which would have been very easy. eg
- show them your address book & advise me who else is attending I know PROVIDED you don't spam those addresses.
- open a twitter channel
- provide free wireless onsite for easy IM
- open an IRC chat channel or the like
- provide a search facility to find who is attending
If you are coming to the show during the next few days, please let me know by email, phone or by leaving a message on the meebo widget box on this blog. Happy to meet up.
Robert Loch, who is the founder of the Internet People networking event, last night launched his weekly free meetup at his London Penthouse flat in Chinatown.
It's Open Coffee but with BYO booze and hot tubs! The name is my invention rather than Robert's.
I hadn't realised that it was actually the venue of the party that feature in the Channel 4 news item on Open Coffee. Fantastic flat, right off Leicester Square, with a roof terrace.
It's invitation only, but an excellent event for sure. From a networking point of view its much less "speed dating" style than OpenCoffee and people were more focussed on socialising than doing pitches. Nonetheless, you do meet lots of interesting folks and not one laptop in sight nor suggestion of someone doing a demo.
Well done Robert.