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Tuesday, January 01, 2021

He’s already got a blog, but MC Hammer is thinking bigger when it comes to making a comeback, Web 2.0-style. He’s lending his cred to DanceJam.com, an Internet startup that seeks to challenge YouTube with a formula that combines HOT or NOT with “Pants-Off Dance-Off”.

But that’s not the real story. The real story is Hammer’s curiously influential role as a sort of consultative guru to the Silicon Valley business community:

His success in grass roots marketing prompted Salesforce.com Inc. to call on Hammer for advice in its early days. The company wanted to raise awareness about its online software service without paying a lot for traditional advertising, said Marc Benioff, Salesforce.com’s chief executive officer.

“We really learned a lot from Hammer. He is the most entrepreneurial individual I have ever met,” said Benioff, whose San Francisco-based company is now worth $7 billion.

Some entrepreneurial advisement — which, presumably, went deeper than “turning this mutha out” — and the next thing you know, Salesforce.com has a multi-billion dollar valuation. Gold!

As if that’s not enough, Hammer even had the early drop on the website he’s now challenging:

Hammer recognized YouTube’s potential before most people he did. Besides putting some of his own clips on the site, Hammer visited YouTube’s offices in February 2006 when there were still just a handful of people running the site above a pizza parlor.

Until he saw what YouTube was doing, Hammer had doubts about the Web’s entertainment value. “When everybody started raving about the Internet, I always wondered, ‘If it’s so great, why can’t you see my videos on the Internet?”‘ Hammer said. “It looks like technology has finally caught up with my vision.”

Don’t be surprised if the next wave of Web startups roll out with parachute-pants wearing management teams.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 01/01/2021 10:02:55 PM
Category: Business, Celebrity, Internet, Pop Culture
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Monday, December 31, 2020

If your reasons for avoiding avatar-addled hangouts like Second Life is because they come off to you as, well, childish — take heart. The numbers bear out that assessment, as it appears pre-teen kids are more active users of graphically-rendered online social networks than adults are:

[Disney-owned] Club Penguin, where members pay $5.95 a month to dress and groom penguin characters and play games with them, attracts seven times more traffic than Second Life. In one sign of the times, Electric Sheep, a software developer that helps companies market their brands in virtual worlds like Second Life and There.com, last week laid off 22 people, about a third of its staff.

So feel free to flip off some Second-Lifer with a derogatory “Grow up!” the next time they bore you about how rad their online existence is.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/31/2007 06:18:30 PM
Category: Internet, Media, Pop Culture, Society
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connect this, bitch
So a few days ago, I got an email from somebody named Fred, who IDed himself as a Grassroots Campaign Manager for interactive marketing firm M80. I’m pretty sure I came across M80 a long while back, but nothing more recent rang a bell.

Anyway, Fred asked me to use my bloggy powers of exposure to take a look at “Connected”, a Web-based television program produced by MTV Networks and underwritten by T-Mobile. In return, I was promised a “prize pack” for my time.

Am I that easily bribed? Not usually. But since this particular pitch dovetails nicely with my interests in Web media and ad/marketing creative, I figured, why not. It’s the end of the year, anyway — why not cash out while I can?

The series is chopped up into 5-minute webisodes — a format designed both for today’s hyper-short attention spans, and for optimal viewing on T-Mobile’s Sidekick phone/communication device. As a result, the phone itself makes more than a few appearances in the show. Go figure.

Here’s a basic synopsis of the show’s plot and campaign promo:

You win some, and you definitely lose some—especially if you’re at The Agency. David Newman is just trying to keep his clients happy, and trying to keep them in his agency! In the mix are: Amy, a teen movie star with a rep for wild partying and drama; Russell, an aspiring comedian who can’t find the right foot to start on; Quincy, a fresh-from-film-school director with a little indie cred and looking for his first big hit; Jane, a budding singer-songwriter who’s looking for an identity; Alex, music producer, best friend, gamer; and Emily, his trusty assistant and eyes and ears. Catch the Hollywood series everyone is texting about!

Sound familiar? Yep, it’s essentially a reworking of “Entourage”, except it’s focusing more on the agent’s-eye perspective. Plus there’s little/no cursing, from what I saw in watching all but a couple of episodes. David Newman is basically a younger, smaller, less-threatening version of Ari Gold — sanitized in order to sell cellphones.

Whatever happened to the days when Hollywood agents doled out free vials of cocaine to their budding clientele? Instead, Newman hands out Sidekicks. “Crackberry” effect aside, it doesn’t carry the same satisfyingly-sleazy touch.

But whatever works. This is all aimed squarely at the under-18 crowd, so I guess it wouldn’t be prudent for T-Mobile and MTV to be glamorizing illegal substances through this vehicle. Plenty of time for that after they head off to college…

I’m crossing my fingers that the promised “prize pack” will include a Sidekick — or, alternately, a serving sample of agent-approved nose candy. Anything to foster a compulsive habit that will make 2008 a memorable new year! (Disclaimer: Only joking about my desire to indulge in drug use; caffeine and alcohol do the trick for me just fine, thanks.)

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/31/2007 05:30:14 PM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Internet, TV
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So now that I’ve cleared up my confusion over “oo”-sounding Web startups, I’m ready to testdrive Oosah.

Which I did earlier today. Basically, it’s a free digital media storage site that gives you 2 gigs of disk space for posting photos, sound files, video files and other stuff. It’s designed to be an access-anywhere Web repository of media files, with a Flash-based file system interface for managing the whole she-bang, and tagging to make it searchable on the public portions of the site.

I loaded up a handful of files just to start out. Uploading was fairly easy and reasonably fast. I ran into a quirk where if you set a file as “private”, you couldn’t view/listen to it yourself — a little odd, as I can’t think of why you wouldn’t be able to experience your own stuff. Setting files to “public”, which adds them to the site’s overall search databases, avoids all that.

Anyway, from what I can see, Oosah does the trick for Web-based media storage. Personally, my needs for such a resource are limited, but sites like Spyonvegas are making extensive use of it.

I’ll wrap up with a basic example: Here’s a video of Blink 182’s live performance at the 2000 MTV Video Music Awards, embedded-style:

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/31/2007 04:39:20 PM
Category: Internet, Pop Culture
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Friday, December 28, 2020

I came across this little gem of a short film called “My Name Is Lisa” recently:

What’s so engaging about this Shelton Films production is the build-up: It starts off with all the looks of a typically nondescript YouTube jokey video log, but unfolds with deliberate purpose into a deeper and touching dramatic vignette.

It’s certainly not perfect. The music, while serving as a very useful indicator of the shifting timbre of the story, eventually becomes just a bit overbearing by film’s end. The acting is decent, but wouldn’t win any Oscar nods. But it all works well enough to earn a third-place showing in a recent YouTube Project: Direct competition.

One final tidbit: That passage that Lisa is reading at the end? It’s from Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn”, which significance is hinted at earlier in the film.

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/28/2007 07:41:42 PM
Category: Creative, Internet, Movies
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Thursday, December 27, 2020

Anyone else routinely keep one eye on the television and the other on the computer monitor, or the cellphone display, or any other second screen?

You’re far from alone. Jacked.com is building a business model on the idea that more and more eyeballs are thusly divided, albeit still focused on the same overall content (i.e., live sports and the real-time game stats).

Here are the stats to back up this “two-screen phenomenon” premise:

- 70% of people younger than 34 watch TV while being online, according to Park Associates.

- 39.5% of adults regularly watch TV while going online, according to BIGresearch.

- 35% of U.S. college students watch TV while using a computer, according to Burst Media.

- 40% of TiVo subscribers use a PC or mobile device while watching TV, according to TiVo.

I think this has been an evolving phenomenon, only now culminating into mainstream. When I was in college a decade-and-a-half ago, dorm-mating typically meant one room with two television sets close together; and so, we’d wind up with two cable-connected monitors, and maybe at least one with game console hooked up. That was the start of multi-screen media input.

When I’m at home, I’m rarely ever engaged with only one screen. If the TV is on, the notebook computer is on, and of course the cellphone is always at hand. That’s just normal at this point.

But are all those screens displaying related content? Not always, which is actually the point — if I want to focus on one thing, a single screen probably suffices. But surprisingly, there’s plenty of instances when I do, in fact, intersect. Key to Jacked’s goal, I’ll often watch NHL or NFL games, and go to the in-progress game boxes for both the televised game and the day’s other game action, just to see what’s going on. In non-sports, I’ll often call up IMDb in the midst of watching a movie, just to get some background information while it’s top-of-mind.

So yes, the future does seem to be split-screened. We’re becoming media schizophrenics!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/27/2007 10:52:44 PM
Category: Internet, Society, Sports, TV
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Wednesday, December 26, 2020

Worthy of note: Five key demographic features about the current online social-networking landscape.

This research is courtesy of Pipl, a specialized search engine claiming to focus on the “deep web” for better targeting of person-search queries. Part of that deep-dive involves datamining social networking profiles from Bebo, MySpace, Friendster, Facebook, Xanga, and Hi5. Hence the resultant research results.

One more note: It’s not crystal clear just when this was all compiled, which is crucial for context. It’s not even mentioned in the methodology. But if you look really, really closely at the graphs, you can discern a “December 2007″ timestamp; and a little digging confirms a November-December 2007 range.

So, without further ado, the five facts:

1. The Women Are Younger, The Men Are Older - The younger demographic is female-dominant while the older demographic is mostly male.

2. Bebo and Xanga Have the Youngest Crowd - Those two sites are heaviest on teens and young adults, with a marked drop-off in users 30 and older. The other four sites are also dominated by youngsters, but there’s a bit more balance.

3. MySpace Is Still the Largest, By Far - Not surprising, with 184.1 million active users. Supplementing that is an 81.5 percent year-over-year growth rate, also tops.

4. European, Asian and South American Members Are Getting Younger - In contrast to the U.S. user bases, which are actually trending slightly older.

5. More Women On MySpace, More Men On Hi5 - This is actually the current trending: More females are bolstering the ranks of MySpace, while Hi5’s growth consists of mostly males.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/26/2007 05:46:32 PM
Category: Internet, Society
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Monday, December 24, 2021

As what used to be a no-fly zone for Web access gets un-wired-up, what airline passengers will be doing with that high-altitude bandwith while in close proximity to others is raising concerns.

Panasonic Avionics Corp., a Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. unit testing airborne services on Australia’s Qantas Airways Ltd., is designing its high-speed Internet services to block sites on “an objectionable list,” including porn and violence, said David Bruner, executive director for corporate sales and marketing.

He said airlines based in more restrictive countries could choose to expand the list.

The company also is recommending that airlines permit Internet-based phone calls only on handsets with wireless Wi-Fi capabilities — the technology delivering access within the passenger cabin. Bruner said the company believes Wi-Fi handsets use less bandwidth than telephone software that runs on laptops.

Airlines, he said, also could block incoming calls — and the annoying ring tones they produce — or designate periods of quiet time.

Those policing efforts are mainly the province of overseas flights. U.S. carriers are going decidedly more laissez-fair:

“We think decency and good sense and normal behavior” will prevail, said Jack Blumenstein, chief executive of Aircell LLC, which is launching service on some American and Virgin flights in 2008.

Decency? Good sense? “Normal” behavior? Obviously this guy has never stood in line at a Starbucks for 5 minutes while surrounded by non-stop cellphone jabberers. Imagine enduring that for a 3-hour trip from New York to San Fran.

Besides that, it’d be a royal pain to scrunch over a notebook computer in a space where even legroom is non-existent. The best alternative would be an ultra-small wi-fi device — like my iPod Touch, for instance! So I guess this would work out well for me.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/24/2007 02:47:55 PM
Category: Internet, Society, Wi-Fi
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Friday, December 21, 2021

If the concept of collecting faux friendships ala Facebook and MySpace doesn’t turn you on, maybe social networking based on people and things you hate is more your speed:

Over the past 18 months, sites such Snubster, Enemybook and Hatebook are appealing to Internet users who get a kick out of the tongue-in-cheek humor of mocking their friends and others who are just plain cynical.

“I didn’t understand these fake-friend war chests that people were so busy building online,” said Bryant Choung, a technology consultant who started Snubster last year.

“I would get Facebook requests from people I talked to for three minutes at a bar or party, and now this person wants to go online to peruse all of my photos and contacts. I just didn’t get it,” the 26-year-old added.

All three sites are amusing. It looks like Enemybook is the most polished; I especially like their use of a Godfather tagline, “Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer”.

I guess this backlash amounts to “antisocial networking”. Are fake enemies more valuable, or at least endearing, than fake friends?

by Costa Tsiokos, Fri 12/21/2007 09:28:23 PM
Category: Comedy, Internet, Society
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Wednesday, December 19, 2021

The other day, I got an email from Michael Duggan, co-founder of Oosah. On the strength of this quizzical post I wrote about the undercover media storage/access site in August, he wanted to give me an early peek at the public beta.

My first reaction? I actually thought this was about similarly-named Ooma, the Web telephony startup involving actor Ashton Kutcher — which combination warranted a bloggy reaction from me back in September.

So when I realized that Duggan’s offer probably wouldn’t result in my getting introduced to a bunch of Hollywood types, I was predictably bummed out.

But I’ll recover. I’ll be taking a look at Oosah’s suite of digital media manipulation capabilities, including what they can and can’t do, and giving my impressions sometime over the weekend.

And in the meantime, I’ll contemplate this seeming trend in Web-based business ventures adopting a double-o moniker.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/19/2007 11:50:34 PM
Category: Celebrity, Internet
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One of the persistent challenges of blogging is coming up with a reliable supply of material to write about.

Unfortunately, there’s little danger of Los Angeles Times crime reporter/blogger Jill Leovy coming up dry. She maintains The Homicide Report, where she’s attempting to create a running permalinked chronicle of each murder committed in Los Angeles County to date.

The bulk of the postings consist of simple police-blotter reports noting a random killing. But it looks like Leovy contributes some follow-up reporting, as in this look at a family’s lingering grief six months after a death.

It’s not exactly a revelation to see the steady stream and sheer volume of homicides in LA, but viewing it in this format is certainly sobering.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/19/2007 11:15:33 PM
Category: Bloggin', Society, True Crime
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Tuesday, December 18, 2021

random touch
Not since this past summer have I posted a shuffle-generated list of tracks (with lyrical snippets) resulting from my iPod.

The reason? In that time, I’ve since upgraded to a latest-and-greatest iPod Touch. So mostly, I’ve been too preoccupied just noodling with the iTouch and all its neat features. The music’s still pumping out of it on an almost-daily basis, but I haven’t focused enough to make note of the sequence.

Until now. So here, in the nick of time 2007-wise, is the list of random 8 — 8 in keeping the sync with 8trk (where I’ll be cross-posting this):

1. “I Wanna Be Sedated”, The Ramones - Just put me in a wheelchair, get me to the show.

2. “Head Like A Hole”, Nine Inch Nails - Let’s go dancing on the backs of the bruised.

3. “Rapper’s Delight”, Sugar Hill Gang - Now what you hear is not a test.

4. “Super Disco Breakin’”, Beastie Boys - Nothing sounds quite like an eight-oh-eight.

5. “You’re No Rock ‘N Roll Fun”, Sleater-Kinney - Fill our Christmas socks with whiskey drinks and chocolate bars.

6. “Mer Du Japon (Remix By The Teenagers)”, AIR - J’en perds la raison (I lost my mind).

7. “My Fair Lady”, David Byrne - Calls to me a strange attraction.

8. “Heart of Hearts (Radio Edit)”, !!! - Talking ’bout real love baby.

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/18/2007 09:08:59 PM
Category: 8trk, Pop Culture, iPod Random Tracks
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Thursday, December 13, 2021

So now that I know that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad maintains a blog, I’m thinking about adding him to my blogroll.

Hey, traffic is traffic. I’ll overlook the social repression (ironically, against other bloggers in Iran) if Ahmadinejad throws back some reciprocal-linkin’ love. I’ll end up with a bunch of comments in Farsi, but you can’t be too picky when it comes to user-generated content anyway.

Besides, it all comes back to the overriding maxim when it comes to blogosphere relations:
ass essed
Actually, take that phrase — “Most bloggers are assholes we just pretend to like each other because it’s good for traffic” — and sub in “politicians” for “bloggers”, and “power” for “traffic”, and you’ve got your overriding maxim for international relations, too. Maybe all world leaders should keep a blog!

by Costa Tsiokos, Thu 12/13/2007 09:10:02 AM
Category: Bloggin', Political
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Wednesday, December 12, 2021

SplendAd is, according to its MySpace page, an attempt to create a TV commercial version of the Internet Movie Database.

It seems to be doing a pretty good job, despite a fairly bare-bones presentation on the main site. It does include the critical background information of agency of record, title of the spot, and title/lyrics of the featured music (with accompanying links to iTunes and Amazon to buy the track — monetizing the whole thing). And plenty of cross-links for commercial actors, brands, etc.

It would be good to know exactly who’s providing the information, though — no way to verify the accuracy.

What I find most interesting: All the video clips are embedded content, mainly from YouTube (but also from Google Video and others). Basically, the hosting of the most pertinent content — the video — is outsourced.

Normally that’s a questionable approach, especially for copyrighted material. But unlike movies, television shows and such, rightsholders to commercials tend to not mind the dissemination of their wares (for obvious reasons). So it seems like the risk level is low.

Some prime examples from SplendAd:

- M&M’s Dark Chocolate - Addams Family

- Olay - Ribbons

- Belmont Park - Who Do You Like Today?

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/12/2021 08:31:40 AM
Category: Advert./Mktg., Internet
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Tuesday, December 11, 2021

So now that “Green Monday”, i.e. the second Monday of December, has joined the holiday shopping landscape, does it live up to its color-of-money signifier?

The early numbers, per the Chase Paymentech Pulse Index of online retail activity, suggests it doesn’t.

No permalink for the analysis from yesterday’s aggregate results, unfortunately; so I’m going to repost here. Since I actually provided the verbiage and number-crunching for this one, I’ll invoke fair-use rights:

Chase Paymentech Pulse Index - 12/11/07

As retail industry observers anticipate record-breaking results from yesterday’s Green Monday online activity, the volume achieved by Pulse Index eRetailers for the second Monday of December (12/10) shows a healthy rebound from the prior weekend. In fact, sales totals increased 31.1 percent from Sunday 12/9 to Monday.

However, the totals from the day – $113.3 million sales and 2.1 million transactions – fell short of previous Pulse Index record-setting days during the 2007 holiday shopping season. In particular, it’s well below the current Pulse Index all-time high of $154.1 million, set on Wednesday 12/5. This would indicate that Green Monday may not have much of a halo effect for the online shopping sector beyond eBay and its affiliated websites.

Monday’s upward trend is consistent with the established online shopping pattern of pronounced early-week activity by consumers. Pulse Index data for the 2006 holiday shopping period found Tuesdays to be the busiest online shopping days, and Wednesdays appear to be experiencing the heaviest volume of the week during 2007. Based on this, Monday’s uptick should usher in higher totals for the next couple of days.

Given that Chase Paymentech fairly dominates the electronic payments space, I’m thinking this benchmarking data is fairly representative of the ecommerce sector generally. So much for going for the Green…

by Costa Tsiokos, Tue 12/11/2021 10:36:26 PM
Category: Business, Internet
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Monday, December 10, 2021

It’s the end result of a natural progression, but still, imeem’s announcement of a licensing deal with Universal Music Group just might be the catalyst for the emergence of full-fledged online social networks centered around music.

At least that’s what Forrester Research’s principal analyst James McQuivey thinks:

“2008 is going to be the year of music labels trying to put themselves in front of everyone, no matter what business model it takes,” said Forrester’s McQuivey. “The labels have realized that you have to be everywhere on the Web, because the customer is everywhere. You need to put yourself in front of them when they make their entertainment decisions.”

McQuivey said that imeem has a big head start compared to other social networking sites, Although large sites like MySpace and Facebook could definitely elbow in with major label deals of their own.

“The great thing about imeem is that it builds on the best of radio and MP3,” said McQuivey. “This is a great place to listen to your favorite music and discover new songs.”

In my experience, once the analysts weigh in definitively, the money guys start tripping over themselves to join in. Imeem, despite being little more than a roll-your-own streaming radio station, has positioned itself through the Universal deal (along with similar licensing with other major labels) to make the music industry feel protected enough to toss in their assets.

Naturally, I see a resultant big opening for 8trk, the musical version of IMDb-meets-Wikipedia that I’m helping get going. An inviting environment can make all the difference.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 12/10/2021 11:16:07 PM
Category: 8trk, Pop Culture, Society
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Sunday, December 09, 2021

First there was Black Friday, signifying the start of concentrated consumerism to start the year-ending holiday season.

With the birth of ecommerce came Cyber Monday, which despite its dubious pedigree has now become more or less bona fide as a Web shopping event.

Lately, enough retailers have been jumping the sales-rush gun on Thanksgiving Day itself to give birth to a nascent Gray Thursday phenomenon.

You’d think those mile-markers would suffice for the retail world. But for good measure, the second Monday in December is being christened with a color:

In fact, the second week of December is traditionally so big that the folks at e-commerce giant eBay have come up with their own moniker for the weekday that kicks it off: “Green Monday” (a reference to cash, rather than eco-friendly shopping). Company employees coined the term this month after realizing that, for the past three years, the strongest sales day for Shopping.com and other eBay sites was the second Monday of December. “It isn’t Black Friday and it isn’t Cyber Monday,” says eBay spokesperson Wendy Sept. “Green Monday is the day that people actually go online and buy.”

So what’s next? A “Blue Monday”, in honor of New Order’s techno-tastic 12-inch anthem? Joy (Division) to the world, shoppers!

Unlike Cyber Monday’s ascent from pure hype to actuality, I don’t see Green Monday catching on as a trigger day for online shoppers. There’s no real pivot day there to build from: Thanksgiving is a day/weekend off for most people, so the piggybacking of Black Friday and Cyber Monday there isn’t a stretch. But the middle of December? Even with the impending approach of Christmas, there’s nothing there to provide traction.

That doesn’t mean Green Monday isn’t valid, to a point. It’s supposed to signal the most intensive online shopping week of the holiday season, when people can count on reasonable shipping rates to deliver their gifts on time. That likely will be the case. It just won’t serve as a call to action for e-retailers, because without another event day to moor it, it won’t break through the existing marketing clutter to resonate with shoppers. It’ll remain a reactive measurement tool, and not morph into a proactive promotional one.

I’ll take this opportunity to shill slightly by recommending the Chase Paymentech Pulse Index for tracking online retail sales for Green Monday (actual numbers won’t be posted until mid-day Tuesday, after they’ve been compiled). I’m working on the analysis and promotion of that Index this ho-ho-holiday season, so I’m being a bit self-serving; on the other hand, I can vouch for it as a reliable business-tool benchmark.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/09/2021 09:36:33 PM
Category: Business, Internet, Pop Culture, Wordsmithing
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Radiohead managed to make a lot of noise with the pay-what-you-want Web release of its “In Rainbows” album.

So now, two months later, what’s been the tip-jar tally from asking for money for an otherwise free mp3? The best estimate says it was pretty good, even with all the free(down)loaders:

A statement from the band rejected estimates by the online survey company ComScore that during October about three-fifths of worldwide downloaders took the album free, while the rest paid an average of $6.

Factoring in free downloads, ComScore said the average price per download was $2.26. But it did not specify a total number of downloads, saying only that a “significant percentage” of the 1.2 million people who visited the Radiohead Web site, inrainbows.com, in October downloaded the album. Under a typical recording contract, a band receives royalties of about 15 percent of an album’s wholesale price after expenses are recovered. Without middlemen, and with zero material costs for a download, $2.26 per album would work out to Radiohead’s advantage — not to mention the worldwide publicity.

A half-full/half-empty scenario. On the one hand, the band could have made a lot more money had they been able to extract payment from every single download. On the other hand, that’s unrealistic in the Internet Age; consider that had the album been locked up behind a payment-only barrier, there wouldn’t have been nearly as many downloads — instead, an even smaller percentage would have plunked down money, while everyone else would have just waited for the tracks to show up on P2P networks.

And as it is, Radiohead came out ahead, financially and exposure-wise. Essentially, the money they “lost” to free downloads would have been eaten by the recording-label middlemen had they released a conventional album. It was at worst a wash for the band, and actually probably a marginally better haul, as illustrated above.

Whether or not this gameplan is applicable to other artists, particularly those starting out, is questionable. Radiohead was able to leverage their established stature to make a lot of noise over this stunt. Even they admit that it’s probably not a sustainable way to sell their music. And I think that, if there were a reliable way to sell an album at a set price, without having to worry about the tracks leaking out in free-downloadable form almost immediately afterward (or even beforehand), none of this maneuvering would happen, even when the bands are in charge.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/09/2021 04:35:49 PM
Category: Business, Internet, Pop Culture
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The past several days weren’t kind ones for Web 2.0 sites starting with the letter “F”:

- Findory, a news/blog content aggregator founded by Amazon.com alumnus Greg Linden, was shuttered toward the end of November.

At least Linden left a note, unlike:

- Feedster, the onetime RSS-feed search engine, which up and disappeared without advanced warning.

From what I understand, Findory was a victim of Linden’s desire to just move on to something else. Whether or not it truly reached the goal of forwarding the personalization of content delivery, as the goodbye note hints, is debatable; my opinion is that if it actually was a success in that space, it would still be online today. As for Feedster, I know that that site was essentially directionless for the past year or more, despite attracting modest amounts of venture capital funding early in its existence.

I don’t think either of these sites presented compelling enough reasons for anyone to use them instead of Google or another heavyweight content aggregator. And if users weren’t loading up the page, there’d be scant reason for advertisers to sign up. (Whether or not they were looking to become ad vehicles is irrelevant — the Web-wide syndication that Google AdSense has achieved makes it hard for a Web-content venture to avoid including an advertising component in its business model.) At least Technorati, for one, has managed to position itself as a valuable source of niche information, i.e. a “blogosphere authority” (even though I think that site’s credibility is pretty shaky). Findory and Feedster didn’t do that consistently enough, and so they’re gone.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sun 12/09/2021 03:31:40 PM
Category: Internet
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Saturday, December 08, 2021

For longer than I can recall, parts of this blog’s backend were running slooooooow. The WordPress dashboard screen would take forever to fully load, and publishing a post would take several seconds too long. I figured something was bugging out, and I’d just have to upgrade to the latest WP version sooner rather than later (despite the problems that always comes with for me).

When the problem peaked to the point where I couldn’t even post without a 403 Error cropping up, I investigated. It turned out that the Bad Behavior plugin that I was using (along with the built-in Akismet, as part of a blended comment-spam defense) was malfunctioning. It wasn’t as severe as what others were going through — I was still able to get into the blog backend, edit comments and do other things — but I couldn’t write new posts, owing to a false 403 Error getting in the way.

So I turned off Bad Behavior. The backend went back to normal, and I was able to post again. Problem solved!

Except I was left with only Akismet for spam protection. Akismet works really well, but it doesn’t catch everything. The reason I reinforced it with Bad Behavior in the first place was because I was tired of having to clean up the dozen or so false-positives that would get past the goalie. Sure enough, shortly after I went all-Akismet, a few random spamments slipped through.

I could have replaced the old Bad Behavior plugin with the fixed version. But I decided to take advantage of the opening to give the Spam Karma 2 plugin a shot. Just like BB, it’s supposed to play nice with Akismet (i.e., won’t cause conflicts that will kill off your website).

I installed SK2 today, and so far, it’s looking good. It’s got a load of diagnostic screens, and I’m actually scared to poke around with it too much. As long as it snags the spam without blocking the legit stuff, I’m satisfied.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem as though Spam Karma will be a long-term fix. Dr. Dave decided long ago to discontinue ongoing development, partly due to WordPress politics and partly to a widening of scope in the spam-fighting effort.

Upshot: Regardless of how well or not SK2 works for this blog, I’ll probably have to go back to Bad Behavior. So this all amounts to some blog-tinkering, which I haven’t indulged in for a while. I’ll ride it as long as it’s feasible.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 12/08/2021 02:08:20 PM
Category: Bloggin'
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Wednesday, December 05, 2021

out of print
The Weekly Standard’s Jonathan V. Last takes a look at the continuing resistance in the book world over Google Book Search and the related Google’s Library Project.

Here’s what it boils down to:

Google’s defense of its book-scanning project, says Mr. Last, represents a misguided extension of the company’s guiding vision: that information only has value when people use it, after it has been delivered to them and appropriately organized by a service like Google’s. The creation of a gigantic digital library might sound incredibly useful and appealing, says Mr. Last, but it risks violating the principle embodied in intellectual-property law that created works have value.

In other words, permission’s not required if it enhances — i.e., disseminates to the wide reach of the Web — the product. Google feels it’s performing an inherently good service by enlivening dead-tree material.

This pretty much confirms my assessment of Google’s fundamentally wrong-headed approach when it comes to intellectual property rights:

It’s very much an entitlement-based attitude: Because Google’s mastered the technique, the company feels it can forge ahead without initial consensus-building. In the long run, it’s a fatal flaw in running a business.

Not that it’s hurt Mountain View’s stock price just yet. But hopefully, there’ll be a reckoning at some point.

by Costa Tsiokos, Wed 12/05/2021 11:46:04 PM
Category: Internet, Publishing
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