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August 02 2011

06:35

Peter Kafka: Why watch TV at home when you have a perfectly good iPhone to squint at?

AllThingsD :: Yet more evidence that “mobile” is relative when it comes to smartphones, iPads, and online video. Here’s another study that says lots of people are watching stuff on their gadgets when they’re just a few feet from their own TVs. This one comes from Nielsen, and was commissioned by the Cable & Telecommunications Association for Marketing trade group. The takeaway: Users are most likely to watch video via apps from the likes of YouTube, Hulu and others when they’re at home.

Continue to read Peter Kafka, allthingsd.com

July 29 2011

16:47

Mediatwits #15: Special Cord-Cutters Edition; TV Networks vs. Streaming

brian stelter twitter.jpg

Welcome to the 15th episode of "The Mediatwits," the weekly audio podcast from MediaShift. The co-hosts are MediaShift's Mark Glaser and Rafat Ali, the founder of PaidContent. This show is all about cord-cutters, people who like to watch TV without paying for cable or satellite TV (like Mark & Rafat). The big news is that Fox will not allow free streaming of its shows online for 8 days after airing unless you pay for Hulu Plus or can authenticate that you are paying for TV. Special guest Brian Stelter of the New York Times talks about the move by Fox and how ABC might make a similar move soon. Brian also talks about the streaming race between Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and others, as Netflix raises its rates and Hulu goes on the sale block.

Plus, the show covers recent moves by various app-makers who are stripping out the ability to buy books or subscribe to magazines within apps to keep from having to pay 30% to Apple. Apps for Kindle, Barnes & Noble and Kobo all have stripped out "buy" buttons and are directing people to buy outside the Apple ecosystem. Will others follow suit? Will a rush continue to develop web apps and HTML5 apps that get around Apple's big bite out of revenues?

Check it out!

mediatwits15.mp3

Subscribe to the podcast here

Subscribe to Mediatwits via iTunes

Follow @TheMediatwits on Twitter here

Intro and outro music by 3 Feet Up; mid-podcast music by Autumn Eyes via Mevio's Music Alley.

Here are some highlighted topics from the show:

Cutting the cord

0:25: 'We hate Skype' episode

1:50: Rafat uses Roku, Apple TV to stream Netflix, Amazon

5:10: Mark sometimes watches shows on iPad via Hulu Plus

6:25: Rundown of topics on the show

Fox restricts online streaming of shows

7:45: Background on Brian Stelter of the New York Times

9:45: Fox affiliates happy with this move

hulu targeted.jpg

12:20: Will people get to watch the shows they want when they want (without cable)?

14:15: The pain of authenticating pay TV to see streaming services online

17:00: Can Netflix get more content?

18:20: Competitors like Amazon now targeting Netflix

21:10: HBO Go as an example of the future of streaming

Getting around Apple app restrictions

24:00: App makers strip out "buy" button to keep from giving 30% to Apple

26:00: Magazines pull "subscribe" buttons, look at web apps instead

27:20: Amazon's Android tablet could break Apple's chokehold

More Reading

Your Guide to Cutting the Cord to Cable TV at PBS MediaShift

Fox to Limit Next-Day Streaming on Hulu to Paying Cable Customers at NY Times

Fox TV Shows Get Pay Wall at WSJ

Fox Affiliates Pleased With Network's Plan For Limited Streaming at B&C

Amazon Prime Follows CBS Deal With Movies From NBCUniversal at PaidContent

Big Cable Braces for a Lousy Quarter at AllThingsD

Netflix vs. Hulu - the screen battle at Variety

How Netflix, Hulu And Amazon Stack Up at PaidContent

Analysts: CBS Corp.-Amazon Streaming Deal Bodes Well for Sector Giants at Hollywood Reporter

Apple forces Amazon to alter Kindle app at CNET

Kobo creating HTML5 Web app to buffer Apple at CNET

Weekly Poll

Don't forget to vote in our weekly poll, this time about how you like watching TV shows:


How do you like watching TV shows?

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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July 28 2011

09:16

How and what Netflix and Hulu users are watching?

nielsen wire :: Streaming video online is on the rise in the U.S., and how consumers tune in differs greatly across services. According to a recent Nielsen survey, the majority of Netflix users report watching on a TV screen. In fact, half of all Netflix users connect via a game console (Wii, PS3 or Xbox Live).

Nielsen-netflix-hulu-viewing-type
Source: nielsen, March 2011 - Nielsen completed more than 12,000 online interviews in March 2011, focusing on usage and attitudes for over-the-top video, particularly Netflix and Hulu.

Continue to read blog.nielsen.com

July 20 2011

15:48
09:50

Bloomberg: Microsoft is said to drop out of auction for Hulu

Microsoft is dropping out of the bidding for Hulu LLC, the online video service put up for sale by its media-company owners, according to a person with knowledge of the matter. The company told Hulu executives last week it wouldn’t continue into a second round, said the person, who wasn’t authorized to talk publicly. The person didn’t rule out Microsoft re-entering later.

Continue to read Ronald Grover | Dina Bass, www.bloomberg.com

July 18 2011

05:58

ComScore: top 10 video ad properties by video ads viewed

ComScore :: Americans viewed nearly 5.3 billion video ads in June, with Hulu generating the highest number of video ad impressions at more than 1.0 billion. Tremor Media Video Network ranked second overall (and highest among video ad networks) with 753 million ad views, followed by Adap.tv (678 million) and BrightRoll Video Network (629 million).

Time spent watching videos ads totaled more than 2.2 billion minutes during the month, with Tremor Media Video Network delivering the highest duration of video ads at 429 million minutes. Video ads reached 49 percent of the total U.S. population an average of 35.6 times during the month. Hulu delivered the highest frequency of video ads to its viewers with an average of 38.8 over the course of the month.

Top U.S. Online Video Properties by Video Ads* Viewed
Ranked by Video Ads Viewed
June 2011
Total U.S. – Home/Work/University Locations
Source: comScore Video Metrix Property Video Ads (000) Total Ad Minutes (MM) Frequency (Ads per Viewer) % Reach Total U.S. Population Total Internet : Total Audience 5,286,917 2,286 35.6 49.2% Hulu 1,001,736 424 38.8 8.6% Tremor Media Video Network** 753,034 429 12.1 20.7% Adap.tv† 677,708 386 11.0 20.5% BrightRoll Video Network** 628,600 369 9.5 21.9% Specific Media** 421,722 214 6.8 20.4% Undertone** 332,597 171 13.2 8.3% SpotXchange Video Ad Network** 281,859 171 7.8 11.9% Viacom Digital 275,230 134 10.4 8.8% Microsoft Sites 226,951 125 9.2 8.2% AOL, Inc. 217,347 85 7.3 9.9%

*Video ads include streaming-video advertising only and do not include other 
types of video monetization, such as overlays, branded players, 
matching banner ads, homepage ads, etc.
**Indicates video ad network
†Indicates video ad exchange

 

Continue to read www.comscore.com

July 04 2011

05:38

Out of Beirut - Cinemoz, "Hulu" of the Middle East, will launch end of summer

The Next Web | TNW :: Cinemoz is one of the Middle East’s very first on-demand online video service. With an obvious comparison to Hulu, the service is set to officially launch by the end of summer. Founded by 27 year old Lebanese-French Karim Safieddine, Cinemoz started out as a concept jotted down on a post-it-note. The service launched having secured the necessary funding with the help of Seeqnce, a Middle Eastern start-up catalyst based in Beirut.

Continue to read thenextweb.com

June 30 2011

14:00

The newsonomics of the British invasion

Editor’s Note: Each week, Ken Doctor — author of Newsonomics and longtime watcher of the business side of digital news — writes about the economics of news for the Lab.

With the United Kingdom one of the countries suffering the economic doldrums more than the U.S., maybe it’s no surprise that we’re witnessing a British online invasion. In short order, the Guardian, Mail Online, and the BBC, among others, are targeting American eyeballs and wallets in the urgent search for growth.

With Independence Day (from you know who) upon us, and memories of the Beatles’ assault on America rapidly fading into history, let’s look at the newsonomics of this new invasion. It tells us reams about the precarious states of news companies. As they scrape for revenue in the traditional home markets, and transition from print or broadcast to digital, they’re looking for new digital revenue building blocks.

The arithmetical imperative is crystal clear: The huge audiences that the distance-defying Internet has given UK news companies has not yet, largely, been accompanied by huge, even significant, pots of revenue.

Companies like the Guardian have seen this phenomenon: A third of its traffic comes from the U.S., a third from the UK, and a third from elsewhere. I’ve heard that tale widely, from the pre-wall Times, the Telegraph, and the FT, among others. When we first spotted big numbers for UK publishers among U.S. audiences, a lot of people attributed it to George W. Bush, whose cowboy policies alienated some Americans from American media, the idea went, delivering them into the hands of the more trustworthy Brits. But the big U.S. population — a population five times greater than the UK’s — is, W or no W, is still embracing non-national news sites. Maybe the math is fairly simple: We’ve got about a third of the English-reading people in the world, so serving up a third of the audience makes some sense.

While America provides the audience, it doesn’t provide much revenue for most UK news companies. The Guardian derives all but a couple of points of digital revenue from its home market — leaving two-thirds of its audience, in the U.S. and elsewhere, effectively un-monetized. That’s largely true of the other UK-based general news dailies, with the Financial Times much more effective at driving print and digital revenue in the U.S., and the Wall Street Journal, conversely, having figured out how to drive non-U.S. revenue as well. Both, in addition to The New York Times’ long-established sales operations in Europe, are the exceptions that prove the rule about foreign market digital monetization.

As the Guardian, BBC, and Daily Mail plan new offense, each reacts to its woes back home.

The Guardian is in danger of running out of cash within three to five years, at its current trajectory, Guardian CEO Andrew Miller said plainly in mid-June. So he’s leading a top-to-bottom reappraisal of the outfit’s 190-year-old enterprise. On the examination table: a restructuring of the entire company, reducing the number of pages in the six-day-a-week print paper; rethinking (under digital innovator and Guardian editor Alan Rusbridger‘s leadership) what readers expect in print and what online; upping its re-commitment to its open platform strategy led by Matt McAlister; doubling its digital revenue (which currently stands at 17 percent of its total revenue); and getting more money out of the U.S. market.

The Guardian’s U.S. plan includes the deployment of a revitalized editorial staff under Guardian vet Janine Gibson, and a re-strategizing of ad sales in the States. The Guardian’s new plan follows on a failed one, the Guardian America plan, tried and abandoned over several years. The new idea: Don’t put an American face on the trusty Guardian; keep the British face, but offer more British perspective on and from the U.S. The thinking: The Guardian’s very Britishness is why American readers come to its site.

For the Daily Mail, it’s about finding growth in a national news business (Associated Newspapers) that struggled toward revenue break — even last year, even as its parent, the diversified, global DMGT (events, B2B publishing, and institutional investment products), produced £320M in profits.

Mail Online, of course, is the new darling of those who religiously follow Big Numbers. It has surpassed HuffPo to claim the #2 unique visitor trophy globally, behind the New York Times, and a few days ago claimed 77 million global uniques, about a third of those from the U.S. The outlet’s rocket fuel is a heady mix of tabloid gossip fodder, great SEO, aggressive mobile productization, and, now, expanded commercial and editorial staffs in New York and L.A.

The BBC, funded by household TV licenses back home, has seen significant public funding cutbacks and staff reductions, buffeted both by UK politics and by the deep recession. While in the UK, the BBC can’t sell advertising, it can do so outside its home territory. Consequently, it has placed a first big target on the U.S., where it now claims about 18 million uniques.

The BBC’s American build-up is well underway. Herb Scannell, ex of Viacom, and Ann Sarnoff, ex of Dow Jones, joined to head up BBC Worldwide America as president and COO, respectively, last year. Seven weeks ago, Nick Ascheim, ex of the AP and The New York Times, became senior vice president for digital media. Back in 2008, ad veteran Mark Gall began building out the BBC Worldwide America ad sales team, focusing on multi-platform (BBC America TV  + BBC.com) revenue.

Ascheim identifies two major initiatives, as BBC.com — the BBC’s first separate-from-the-mothership website — tries to leverage and build on its found audience. One is video — a core strength of broadcaster BBC, which dominates much of online news video in Britain with its iPlayer — and the other is feature verticals, building beyond the Travel section that BBC built out, with its Lonely Planet acquisition, last year.

Let’s take a quick look at what it will take for the new invasion to be successful, doing a little handicapping of these three entrants:

  • Ad revenue: All the newbies face hyper-competition in the world’s most competitive digital marketing marketplace, one built both on the seemingly paradoxical tricks of leveraging long-term buyer/seller relationships and satisfying the dreaded “23-year-old” media buyer, one who may never have heard much about these foreign brands. Here, give a big lead to the BBC. It’s got a couple of years’ head-start on U.S. sales, and the brand that is most recognizable — and it can sell multi-platform, TV, and digital. Mail Online has a tough effort here, with comparatively little brand recognition and the suspicion that its pageviews are less-than-premium, more TMZ than NYT. The Guardian has a good story, but a history of failed ad attempts, including a Reuters network deal that fizzled. For all three of them, breaking through the noise — and providing more actionable audience analytics — is key.

    Beyond the sales infrastructure, these companies have different experiences monetizing their UK traffic, and that informs what may happen in the U.S. Compare the digital ad revenue per unique visitor for the Guardian and the Mail Online, and we see a differential of four-to-one, in the Guardian’s favor. (The BBC doesn’t break out digital ad revenue well enough for comparison.)

    The Guardian took in £37.5 million in digital revenue in 2010. Using the December ABCe number of 39 million uniques, each unique is worth about £.96, or $1.53 at today’s exchange rates.

    For the Mail, I extrapolate about £16 million in digital revenue for last year. Using the March (aligning with its reporting period) ABCe unique number of 66 million, I figure each unique visitor is worth about £.24, or 38 American cents, to the Mail.

    That’s a 4x greater yield for the Guardian than Mail Online, relating to some combination of brand, sales packaging, and engagement beyond simple unique visitor metrics. How much would/could that differential carry across the sea?

  • Brand: It’s clear that both the BBC and the Guardian have real brand meaning among certain news followers, but it ‘s not clear how growable the brands are. Are they second or third reads, or can they break through top-of-mind? Yes, they may both believe that Americans want a Brit take on things, but just how much of one do they want? Mail? Online? Wasn’t that the one with Meg Ryan? Does having a dot.com domain make a big difference? BBC and Mail have them; the Guardian doesn’t.
  • Digital circulation: That’s a big N/A — not applicable. The Guardian has been one of the most outspoken proponents of “open,” and while that doesn’t equate with free, it’s a close cousin. As the outlet moves away from print, it faces a huge question of where it is going to get “circulation” money. In the short-term, in the U.S., look for Guardian to try app or niche vertical reader revenue streams. The BBC’s news play is high-end mass and free, while Mail Online plies the pop free market.
  • Video: Hands down, the BBC has the edge here. Ascheim talks about adding new original U.S.-produced video to the riches of what BBC produces daily. In a coming 4G world, video may be BBC.com’s major point of differentiation in the States.
  • Mobile: Consider this the wild card. As mobile, especially the tablet, reshapes what we think is true about news reading “The newsonomics of the missing link“), it re-levels the field. So newer entrants, like all three of these invaders, can establish new habits for readers. Mail Online is already attributing 15 percent of its UK uniques to its new iPhone app. Guardian’s Eyewitness iPad app has seen a half million downloads and good sponsorship money from Canon. BBC has seen more than two million downloads of its BBC.com iPad app. As new habits form for iPad news reading, listening, and watching, these new contenders all have new shots at the American audience.

It could well be we’re reaching the end of the line for a much-cited quote often attributed to Churchill: ”England and America are two countries separated by the same language.” Well, he or G.B. Shaw may have said it, but marketers believe the differences are becoming more minor. It’s not just news people who grok the revolutionary economics in re-using and redistributing the same content you’ve already paid for; both Netflix and Hulu are moving to license more Brit TV for the same reason. In strong part, the new Brit invasion is just a re-stating of the produce-once, distribute-many core digital principle. In this case, though, it’s produce-once, (profitably) distribute overseas as well.

Image by Andy Helsby used under a Creative Commons license.

January 21 2011

15:30

This Week in Review: The Comcast-NBC marriage, j-school 2.0, and questions about paywall data

Every Friday, Mark Coddington sums up the week’s top stories about the future of news.

Huge merger, big reservations: One of the biggest media deals of the past decade got its official go-ahead when the Federal Communications Commission approved the proposed merger between Comcast and NBC Universal. As Ars Technica noted, the deal’s scope is massive: In addition to being the nation’s largest cable provider, the new company will control numerous cable channels, plus the NBC television network, Universal Studios, Universal theme parks, and two professional sports teams.

The new company will also retain a stake in the online TV site Hulu (which NBC co-founded with News Corp.), though it agreed to give up its management role as one of the conditions the FCC placed on its approval. Lost Remote’s Steve Safran called the requirement a forward-thinking move by the FCC, given how far Comcast’s content outpaces Hulu’s right now. Another of the conditions also protects Bloomberg TV from being disadvantaged by Comcast in favor of its new property, CNBC.

The decision had plenty of detractors, starting with the FCC’s own Michael Copps, who wrote in his dissenting statement that the deal could lead to the “cable-ization of the Internet.” “The potential for walled gardens, toll booths, content prioritization, access fees to reach end users, and a stake in the heart of independent content production is now very real,” he said. In the current issue of The Columbia Journalism Review, John Dunbar wrote a more thorough critique of the deal, arguing that it’s old media’s last-gasp attempt to stave off the web’s disruption of television. Josh Silver and Josh Stearns of the media reform group both penned protests, too.

A few other angles: GigaOM’s Liz Shannon Miller looked at the FCC’s emphasis on online video, and All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka explained why the deal might make it more difficult to give up cable. Finally, Steve Myers of Poynter examined NBC’s agreement as part of the merger to create new partnerships between some of its local stations and nonprofit news organizations.

Rethinking j-school: The Carnival of Journalism, an old collaborative blogging project, was revived this month by Spot.Us founder (and fellow at Missouri’s Reynolds Journalism Institute) David Cohn, who directed participants to blog about the Knight Foundation’s call for j-schools to increase their role as “hubs of journalistic activity” and integrate further integrate media literacy into all levels of education.

The posts came rolling in this week, and they contained a variety of ideas about both the journalistic hubs component and the media literacy component. The latter point was expounded on most emphatically by Craig Silverman, who laid out a vision for the required course “Bullshit Detection 101,” teaching students how to consume media (especially online) with a keen, skeptical eye. “The Internet is the single greatest disseminator of bullshit ever created. The Internet is also the single greatest destroyer of bullshit,” he wrote.

CUNY j-prof C.W. Anderson pointed to a 2009 lecture in which he argued for education about the production of media (especially new media) to be spread beyond the j-school throughout universities, and Memphis j-prof Carrie Brown-Smith noted that for students to learn new media literacy, the professors have to be willing to learn it, too. Politico reporter Juana Summers made the case for K-12 media literacy education, and POLIS director Charlie Beckett talked about going beyond simplistic concepts of media literacy.

There were plenty of proposals about j-schools as journalistic hubs, as well. City University, London j-prof Paul Bradshaw wrote about the need for j-students to learn not just how to produce journalism, but how to facilitate its production by the community. Megan Taylor tossed out a few ideas, too, including opening student newspapers up to the community, and J-Lab editorial director Andrew Pergam and CUNY’s Daniel Bachhuber looked at the newsroom cafe concept and NYU’s The Local: East Village, respectively, as examples for j-schools. Cohn chimed in with suggestions on how to expand the work of journalism beyond the j-school and beyond the university, and Central Lancashire j-prof Andy Dickinson argued that j-schools should serve to fill the gaps left by traditional media.

A few more odds and ends from the Carnival of Journalism: Minnesota j-prof Seth Lewis urged j-schools to create more opportunities for students to fail, Cornell grad student Josh Braun pondered how the rise of online education might play into all this, and Rowan j-prof Mark Berkey-Gerard listed some of the challenges of student-run journalism.

A pro-paywall data point: One of the biggest proponents of paid news online lately has been Steven Brill, whose Journalism Online works with news organizations to charge for content online. This week, Brill publicized findings from his first few dozen efforts that found that with a metered model (one that allows a certain number of articles for free, then charges for access beyond that), traffic didn’t decline dramatically, as they were expected to. The New York Times — a paper that’s planning a metered paid-content modelwrote about the results, and a few folks found it encouraging.

Others were skeptical — like The Columbia Journalism Review’s Ryan Chittum, who wondered why the story didn’t include information about how many people paid up online and how much revenue the paywalls generated. Rick Edmonds of Poynter pointed out the same thing, and tied the story to a recently announced paywall at The Dallas Morning News and tweaks at Honolulu Civil Beat’s paywall.

Elsewhere in the world of paid news content, Michele McLellan of the Knight Digital Media Center talked to the editor of the Waco (Texas) Tribune-Herald about his newspaper’s paywall experiment, who had a warning about technical challenges but encouraging news about public feedback.

Cracking the iPad’s subscription code: Publishers’ initial crush on the iPad seems to be fading into ambivalence: The New York Times reported this week that magazines publishers are frustrated with Apple’s harsh terms in allowing them to offer iPad subscriptions and are beginning to look to other forthcoming tablets instead. Apple is cracking down overseas, too, reportedly telling European newspapers that they can’t offer a free iPad edition to print subscribers.

One publication is about to become one of the first to seriously test Apple’s subscription model — Rupert Murdoch’s much-anticipated The Daily. Advertising Age reported on the expectations and implications surrounding The Daily, and the Lab’s Ken Doctor took a look at The Daily’s possible financial figures. Mashable’s Lauren Indvik, meanwhile, wondered how The Daily will handle the social media portion of the operation.

In other iPad news, a survey reported on by Advertising Age found that while iPad users don’t like ads there, they might welcome them as an alternative to paid apps. The survey also suggested, interestingly enough, that the device is being used a lot like home computers, with search and email dominating the uses and usage of media apps like books and TV lagging well behind that. Business Insider also reported that AOL is working on a Flipboard-esque iPad app that tailors news around users’ preferences.

Reading roundup: Tons of other stuff going on this week. Here’s a sampling:

— Two titans of the tech industry, Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Eric Schmidt — announced this week they would be stepping down (Jobs is taking a temporary medical leave; Schmidt stepping down as CEO but staying on as executive chairman). Both were massive tech stories, and Techmeme has more links for you on both than I could ever intelligently direct you to.

— Another huge shakeup, this in the media world: Dean Singleton, co-founder of the bankrupt newspaper chain MediaNews, will step down as its CEO. Both Ken Doctor and the Lab’s Martin Langeveld saw Alden Global Capital’s fingerprints all over this and other newspaper bankruptcy shakeups, with Langeveld speculating about a possible massive consolidation in the works.

— As I noted last week, Wikipedia celebrated its 10th anniversary last Saturday, prompting several reflections late last week. A few I that missed last week’s review: Clay Shirky on Wikipedia’s “ordinary miracle,” The New York Times on Wikipedia’s history, and Jay Rosen’s comparison of Wikipedia and The Times.

— Pew published a survey on the social web, and GigaOM’s Mathew Ingram and The Atlantic’s Jared Keller both offered smart summaries of the Internet’s remarkable social capacity, with Keller tying it to Robert Putnam’s well-known thoughts on social capital.

— A few addenda to last week’s commentary about the Tucson shooting: How NPR’s errant reporting hurt the families involved, j-prof Jeremy Littau on deleting incorrect tweets, Mathew Ingram on Twitter’s accuracy in breaking news, and the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s study of the shooting’s coverage.

— Finally, a wonderful manifesto for journalists by former Guardian editor Tim Radford. This is one you’ll want to read, re-read, and then probably re-read again down the road.

December 13 2010

17:40

Why I Want a Hulu for Sports (And Why It Won't Happen Soon)

When it comes to television shows and events, we the people have been taking more and more control of what we see and on what medium. The rise of everything from DVRs to streaming Netflix to mobile TV means that we get to decide when we want to watch our favorite shows. More people have taken the plunge and cut the cord to expensive cable and satellite TV services in order to watch shows exclusively online or on services such as Roku, Boxee or Google TV.

boxee_box_by_dlink_white.jpg

But one of the big hurdles to getting people to cut the cord is sports. While you can watch many local sports teams play by accessing free digital broadcast signals (which includes the major broadcast networks), there's very limited selection online when it comes to watching major sports teams play. (Note: There are a variety of overseas gray market sites that offer streams of big games for a price, but their legality is muddy, at best.)

What sports fans need to cut the cord is a potential new service that I call "Hulu for Sports," a way for us to watch the games we want online or streamed to our TV. Hulu currently offers TV shows, movies and some sports highlight shows, with some provided advertising-supported and free, and others coming in a premium offering called Hulu Plus. Why not add in live sporting events, with the less prominent games at the free level (e.g. the Minnesota Timberwolves vs. Milwaukee Bucks) and higher interest games at the premium level (e.g. the Miami Heat vs. the Los Angeles Lakers)?

Below is a breakdown of what I'd like to have in a Hulu for Sports, and below that is the inevitable reality check from new media strategist Seth Shapiro, who explains in gory detail why my fantasy will not be realized anytime soon.

What I Want

All Sports, All the Time
I want to have access online to all the major sports from around the world, from real football (a.k.a. soccer) to cricket to basketball to extreme sports. Maybe some of the major leagues could create a joint venture, similar to Hulu, where they each would get a cut of the revenues generated. They would make sure in all future TV contracts to allow this new site to stream sporting events as well.

Freemium Model
So how would this site make money? It would use all the current online video ad formats, from overlays to pre-roll ads to surround-ads that go around the video player. The vast majority of sporting events would be shown for free. A minority of sporting events would be available in a premium offering where you pay a monthly fee. And an even smaller minority of events would be available as pay-per-view streams. So these events might be broken down like so:

> College women's volleyball game: free
> Major league baseball game in May: free

> Regular season NBA game between top teams: premium

> Super Bowl: pay-per-view

Interactive Experience
If I'm going to watch most of my sports online or on my TV through streaming, I want to have more interactive features. I want to chat with others online during the game, share feeds with friends through social media, forward along highlight clips, pick camera angles, and more. Once sporting events are shifted online, the possibilities are endless for features like instant polls, live chats with experts, and a stream of star athletes' tweets (before or after games when allowed).

Play on Demand on All Platforms
Now that I'm used to having a DVR, I want to be able to watch sporting events on my own time, fast-forward through slow parts, replay the best parts and generally decide when to watch what. That means giving me replay controls similar to TV but online. And not only do I want to be able to watch the games on the web in my browser -- I want to see them on all my devices, including smartphone, iPad or Internet-enabled TV. Hulu for Sports needs to be multi-platform and on demand.

Great Archives
Gosh, I'd really like to see a replay of the Giants/Rangers World Series. Or maybe a college football game I missed earlier this year, such as when the Missouri Tigers beat the Oklahoma Sooners? Or maybe a string of old boxing matches when Mike Tyson knocked out various opponents in the first round? The Hulu for Sports service would need to have a robust series of archives available, supported by ads or pay-per-view depending on the popularity of the event.

Why It Won't Happen

Now that I've envisioned the perfect sports-on-demand online service, I'll pull my head out of the clouds for a reality check. Not surprisingly, my bubble is easily burst in a world where massive TV sports contracts restrict leagues from offering up all these games online. In a few cases, such as CBS March Madness on Demand during the NCAA basketball tournament, the networks are able to show full games online supported by ads. But with TV contracts in leagues like the National Football League, the chance for watching games online is severely limited.

nfl game rewind.jpg

With the NFL's online offerings, you can watch NFL games in HD online with full DVR functionality, but you have to live outside the U.S. If you want to watch games inside the U.S., you can do so after the game is long over. Watching live games online isn't possible, even for a price.

Seth Shapiro, the digital media strategist at New Amsterdam Media, has worked with Comcast, DirecTV, Universal, Showtime and Disney in the past. He explained why a Hulu for Sports is highly unlikely at this time.

"The sports leagues have been the biggest defenders and exploiters of rights, period," Shapiro told me. "When looking at sports licensing fees [paid by cable providers], they really explode. Sports is really expensive to the consumer and the distributor ... And they have a pretty good deal as it is. In the case of Apple doing a [possible] subscriber service for Apple TV at a $30 price point, once you factor into account that ESPN is $4 per month per subscriber, that's a lot of money. It's hard to picture a situation where the premier stuff -- NFL, NBA and MLB -- giving their games away for free. Even as a loss-leader to build a new service."

Seth_ShapiroBB.jpg

Shapiro explains that the pricey TV contracts with leagues put them under pressure to restrict what they can offer online. Any move to cable-cutting by sports enthusiasts would hurt TV viewership and by extension those multi-billion-dollar contracts with the leagues.

"The place it comes to roost is the master affiliation deals between league and distributor," Shapiro said. "The rights over who can put things online become very contentious. The distributor can say they don't like the idea of a league offering the same content elsewhere, undercutting their exclusivity. The home games are available in market. But out-of-market rights, the argument is, 'Look we're paying you a lot for these games, so you can't sell it to anyone else.' That's where Hulu finds itself. You can put some things there, but not sports, which is the most expensive stuff and the least likely to be offered there. If there's a game on Monday Night Football, ESPN would say, 'that's our game! You're not going to give that away!'"

Fair enough. But what if the leagues got together to form a joint venture, the same way that TV networks got together to form Hulu? Couldn't their combined power force the networks to let them put games online too? Shapiro is doubtful.

"If you've got a Comcast with 26 million households or a DirecTV with 20 million households, that's direct revenue to whoever owns those rights," Shapiro said. "If you're a league it's very hard to figure out how you're going to come up with that kind of money by going direct to the consumer. If the ad market were really strong, then maybe you could do it ... You're forgoing a real and predictable revenue stream for something that might be a lot bigger but no one has really cracked yet."

And yet, I still hold out hope for my vision of Hulu for Sports. Perhaps when a big TV contract is up next time a league will consider holding some rights for online distribution and new models. And perhaps, just perhaps, the cord-cutters will have an option to watch the sports they want on their own time on the platforms they enjoy most.

*****

What do you think? Would you cut the cable TV cord if you could watch sporting events live online? How would your own Hulu for Sports work? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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June 21 2010

17:14

"Hulu Effect" Takes Hold at MSNBC.com: Longer Ads In Exchange for Uninterrupted Viewing

In the latest example of how online video advertising is becoming more precise, MNSBC.com is experimenting with a range of ad formats, ad lengths, and the time intervals to deliver them to Web consumers. That's what Mark Marvel, senior director of video at MSNBC.com told Andy last week.

MSNBC.com has worked closely with pharmaceutical advertiser Pfizer over the past 12 months to offer 60-second spots in exchange for watching six minutes of news videos commercial free, Marvel explained.

That's similar to a Hulu ad format that lets viewers opt in to watch a two-minute ad in exchange for no more ads during the rest of a 22-minute show, for instance. Web sites with premium video and TV shows, like MSNBC.com and Hulu, are testing different ad formats because of the shift to more longer-form viewing online that's been documented by research firms like comScore.

Marvel said MSNBC.com is also experimenting with the variety of ad formats it can serve up during different viewing time intervals. There could be any number of combinations, such as interactive ads, bugs under the player, or even keyword-based ads that might appear during a show, but would be delivered at reasonable "time-based intervals," he said.

Marvel will be a participant in tomorrow's Beet.TV Online Video Roundtable

Daisy Whitney, Senior Producer

March 24 2010

13:45

Fox Readying "Hulu-Like" Mobile Video Site Called Bitbot

Today, Fox is expected to announce a Hulu-like service for mobile devices that will offer a range of content from Fox, NBC Universal, and Discovery, according to a report in GigaOM

The free application comes with sneak previews, and full content will have a $10 a month subscription fee. It is expected to launch "in several weeks."

Last month in San Francisco, we caught up with Gregg Colvin, VP of Business Development for Fox Interactive to speak about syndication strategy for the network.  He said that micropayments and subscriptions around mobile content is a growing business area for the network.

Gregg was a participant in the online video summit.

Andy Plesser, Executive Producer

March 17 2010

16:19

March 06 2010

00:36

4 Minute Roundup: Viacom Yanks Shows from Hulu; FT's Pay Model

This episode of 4MR is brought to you by GoDaddy, helping you set up your own website in a snap with domain name registration, web hosting and 24/7 support. Visit GoDaddy to learn more.

Here's the latest 4MR audio report from MediaShift. In this week's edition, I look at the recent move by Viacom to pull "The Daily Show" and "Colbert Report" from Hulu, and run them on their own sites. Plus, the Financial Times said it would start charging for day passes and weekly passes to augment its metered pay system online. And I asked Just One Question to PEJ's Tom Rosenstiel about their recent report on the interactive news consumer.

Check it out:

4mrbareaudio3510.mp3

>>> Subscribe to 4MR <<<

>>> Subscribe to 4MR via iTunes <<<

Listen to my entire interview with Tom Rosenstiel:

Background music is "What the World Needs" by the The Ukelele Hipster Kings via PodSafe Music Network.

Here are some links to related sites and stories mentioned in the podcast:

Why the Daily Show Left Hulu by Andrew Baron

Viacom Will Take 'Daily Show,' 'Colbert' Off Hulu at NYT Media Decoder

Viacom's departure from Hulu comes with a bite at CNET

Hulu loses shows in pricing clash at FT

Hulu, Colbert, And The Recentralization Of Video On The Web at TechCrunch

Loss of Daily Show, Colbert puts more pressure on Hulu at Yahoo Tech blog

FT CEO says improving ad trend continues at Reuters

Financial Times Website Turns To PayPal at Fishbowl NY

FT to use PayPal for daily, weekly online access at Editors Weblog

FT Will Use PayPal For Daily, Weekly Payments at PaidContent

Understanding the Participatory News Consumer at Pew Internet

Also, be sure to vote in our poll about how you plan to experience the Oscars:




How will you experience the Oscars?answers

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

This episode of 4MR is brought to you by GoDaddy, helping you set up your own website in a snap with domain name registration, web hosting and 24/7 support. Visit GoDaddy to learn more.

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January 08 2010

17:48

Your Guide to Cutting the Cord to Cable TV

From time to time, I'll give an overview of one broad MediaShift topic, annotated with online resources and plenty of tips. The idea is to help you understand the topic, learn the jargon, and take action. I previously covered Twitter, citizen journalism, and alternative models for newspapers, among other topics. This week I look at cutting the cord to cable (or satellite) TV and watching TV content online.

Background

Anyone who gets cable TV or satellite in the U.S. has noticed a pronounced trend over the years: their monthly bill keeps going up. Sure, you can get lots of channels, plus HD channels and DVR functions, but those usually cost extra. According to research from Centris (PDF), the average digital cable bill was nearly $75 last year, and the average monthly satellite TV bill was $69.

What's causing those bills to skyrocket? A lack of competition among cable and satellite providers, and the rising costs of programming. The most recent programming dustup happened when News Corp. demanded carriage fees from Time Warner Cable, and settled before any channels were dropped. Time Warner is planning an upcoming rate hike. Like other traditional media, TV networks (both cable and broadcast) are being squeezed by lower advertising income, and think they can just keep raising the cable bills indefinitely.

Unfortunately for the cable TV industry, they've picked a bad time to raise their rates. Centris found in a separate report (PDF) that due to the economic meltdown, eight percent of U.S. households were likely to cancel their pay TV in the third quarter of '09, and nearly half of households contacted TV providers for discounts or cheaper packages.

Thanks to the rise of Netflix, Hulu and hardware like the Roku box and Apple TV, cutting the cord to cable TV doesn't mean cutting yourself off from your favorite shows and channels. While past experiments at bringing together the web and TV (such as WebTV) have failed, the recent recession has pushed people to pursue their own convergence projects that enable them to watch web content on their TV. Depending on various living room setups and viewing habits, making the changeover from cable to online TV can be complex and maddening. But you're sure to save a bundle of money.

Hardware and Services

The first thing to do when cutting the cord is list the shows you watch regularly, and your favorite TV channels. Next, do a little online research to find out whether those shows appear on the channel's streaming sites (such as NBC.com, CBS.com, etc.) or on Hulu or YouTube. Many shows on pay channels such as HBO don't appear until much later, and usually must be bought via a service such as iTunes.

In addition to what's available online, you might be surprised at the quality of over-the-air broadcast channels since the digital switch-over last year. Many newer TVs only require an antenna to get local broadcast channels, while older TVs need a converter box, which runs from $40 to $80. Plus, some of the programming includes HD content. To find out which digital channels you can get over the airwaves, input your location at the AntennaWeb site.

(Note: Broadcasters recently announced at CES that they would be offering "mobile DTV" so that people could pick up digital broadcast TV on laptops, smartphones and tablets.)

Below is a rundown of some of the more important elements to enjoying TV content via the web. You won't need to get all of them but you can mix and match those that will get you what you need. Most cable quitters find they can get about 95 percent of the TV content they used to watch on cable via the various services below.

Hardware

Roku
This is the box most cable quitters seem to like. It connects to your TV and your computer network, let's you watch Netflix streaming movies, and offers some free and pay options for additional content. It costs $79.99 for SD and $99.99 for an HD model.

AppleTV
It's basically a front-end device to iTunes, letting you download movies and music and play them through your TV. Problem: No TV tuner or DVR functionality.

Digital converter box
If you want to get the digital over-the-air stations in your area, you'll likely need an antenna for newer TVs or this box for older TVs. Cost: $40 to $80.

wdtv.jpg

WD TV
This small box connects your TV to an external hard drive, letting you play movies, TV shows, photos or music you have downloaded. The standard WD TV is about $79, while the WD TV Live that lets you watch Net content is $119.

eyeTV hybrid
It's a TV tuner for a Mac, letting you watch digital over-the-air channels on your Mac, or even on your iPhone with an extra $4.99 app. Cost: $149.95.

Game consoles
Netflix will let you play movies through your XBox 360 or PlayStation 3. There are also a wide variety of TV tuners and other devices that can turn game consoles into home entertainment systems.

Note: If you prefer simply connecting your computer directly to your TV set without any other hardware, you can do that, too. Here's a great video explaining how:

Services and Sites

Netflix
The granddaddy of the DVD-by-mail services, Netflix has also become a huge entryway for people who want to dump cable and get TV shows later when they're available on DVD. Netflix also offers unlimited streaming of some movies and TV shows, which works well with a Roku box or other Netflix-ready devices. Cost: $8.99/month for 1 DVD plus unlimited streaming, with various higher cost plans for more DVDs.

Hulu
The free U.S.-only TV show service is a joint venture between NBC Universal, Fox, and Disney. You are forced to watch commercials before and during TV shows and movies. While it has been an especially popular service for those dumping cable, there has been chatter that Hulu might charge for content at some point. Cost: Free (for now).

iTunes
Apple's poorly named digital media buying service started out selling music downloads. Then it added a podcast directory, and now sells TV shows and rents/sells movies. Downloading TV shows at $1.99 per episode can get pricey, though there are discounted "Season Passes" and some limited free TV show offers.

YouTube
The most popular video site on the web also can be accessed through various devices in order to view its content on your TV. These devices include the Nintendo Wii, PlayStation 3 and TiVo.

amazon on demand.jpg

Amazon on Demand
Trying to compete with Netflix and iTunes, Amazon offers quick downloads of various TV shows at similar prices to iTunes. They are playable on Macs or PCs, or on devices that connect your computer to your TV.

Boxee
Free software that helps you organize TV and movie content on your computer. Currently in beta, the Boxee software will soon come on a special Boxee Box from D-Link for under $200.

PlayOn
Windows software that lets you play Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, etc. from your computer on your TV via a PlayStation 3, Wii or XBox 360. Cost: $39.99 after 14-day free trial.

BitTorrent
Popular free file-sharing software for people who trade TV show and movie files. You'll need to search your own conscience to decide whether to download copyrighted material from sites that utilize the torrent system.

Sample Setups

Here are a few sample setups of people who get TV content without subscribing to cable.

Roku + Netflix and Amazon

Who: CancelCable.com bloggers

Setup: Roku box that plays Netflix and Amazon content; digital TV converter box.

Quote: "Since we need to be more proactive and select shows from Netflix or Hulu, we read a lot more reviews and tend to sit down and watch complete movies rather than just switching around hundreds of channels."

eyetv setup.JPG

eyeTV + Mac Mini

Who: Dan Milbrath, product manager, San Francisco

Setup: eyeTV hybrid to get broadcast channels on a Mac Mini; projector for movies; Netflix.

Quote: "I'm intrigued by on-demand, online TV options like those being offered by Amazon and iTunes but I think the pricing is still a bit too steep. $1.99 for a one hour episode of 'Mad Men' is about double what I think they should charge."

AppleTV + PlayStation 3

Who: Leo Prieto, founder of online community BetaZeta.com, Santiego, Chile

Setup: AppleTV with iTunes and Boxee; PlayStation 3 playing BitTorrent content, podcasts.

Quote: "I spend less than $30 a month on content, and it's all stuff I decided to watch (and not just 'what was on' or 'what I remembered to record on my DVR'). I also have Boxee on the Apple TV installed, which lets me access lots of public and free podcasts or web shows that aren't available on Apple TV (all free and legal)."

Hulu + laptop

Who: Carla King, author and tech editor, Pt. Richmond, Calif.

Setup: Laptop watching Hulu; uses projector for some movies on Netflix or iTunes.

Quote: "The availability of content of all kinds on the Internet is a terrible distraction for me from tasks at hand and health in general. Whereas before I could cancel my magazine subscriptions and choose not to buy cable TV to keep myself on task with personal and professional goals, I find that today I need to develop my willpower to the utmost."

What's Missing

For many people, the biggest barrier to canceling cable is the loss of live sports. While MLB.com has a package of games you can stream online, and CBS has offered a popular March Madness on Demand stream, many other leagues have been slow on the uptake. Plus, there are often restrictions and blackouts with some online season pass deals. For example, the NBA League Pass Broadband does not include nationally or locally televised games. So if you're living in Boston, you won't be able to see Celtics games online if they are also on TV at the same time (whether they are home or away).

Leo Prieto.jpg

The same goes for other live events, such as awards shows. "Mainly, live TV content is impossible," said Leo Prieto, who gave up cable in 2005. "And most of that live TV content isn't available to download on iTunes later. For example, the Oscars or some sports event. In that case I have to go to BitTorrent and get the show afterwards. I would love iTunes or YouTube to offer live content."

Multimedia reporter Sean Mussenden is also living the cable-free life, and says he believes TVs will eventually come with direct Internet capabilities. He had an interesting take on how his discovery of programs changed without cable.

"When you rely on cable, the easy access to thousands of shows tends to limit your willingness to explore further," he said. "But there are far more options for informative and/or entertaining content beyond cable. Not having having cable has made me more willing to explore. For example, at the moment I'm really enjoying watching talks on Ted.com and MIT's OpenCourseWare. I don't think I'd have discovered either of them if I still had cable."

In many cases, people who have canceled cable still get to see their favorite TV shows, but often much later than those with cable. If they can deal with being a bit behind, and don't mind the tech hassle of setting up a Net-to-TV connection with gear, they're often happy to save money and watch what they want.

More Reading

If you want to read more about cutting the cable TV cord, check out these sites and stories:

CancelCable.com

Cable Freedom Is a Click Away at NY Times

You Don't Need Satellite TV When Times Get Tough at News.com

Cancel Cable and Save with Free Internet TV at Digital Trends

Ways To Watch TV Without Paying An Arm And A Leg For Cable Or Satellite at Bible Money Matters

Turn On, Tune Out, Click Here at WSJ (paid subscription required)

Cancel Cable TV by Paul Kedrosky

Cable TV's Big Worry: Taming the Web at NY Times

Who Will Win the Cable Wars? Not You. at Slate

Broadcast TV Networks Want Your Money at The Atlantic

More Fees For Broadcasters Could Hurt Cable Networks' Growth at Dow Jones

Why the Roku Netflix Player Is the First Shot of the Revolution at NY Times

Netflix Agrees To Warner's New Release Delay In Exchange For More Streaming Rights at PaidContent

*****

Have I missed any important elements to cutting the cord? Have you cut the cord and if so, what's your setup? Share your thoughts in the comments below, and I'll update my story with any gear or services I missed.

Mark Glaser is executive editor of MediaShift and Idea Lab. He also writes the bi-weekly OPA Intelligence Report email newsletter for the Online Publishers Association. He lives in San Francisco with his son Julian. You can follow him on Twitter @mediatwit.

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January 06 2010

18:15

What to Expect From the 'iTunes for Magazines'

Apple appears poised to introduce a much-anticipated product: the once seemingly-mythical "iSlate" or "iTablet," its first tablet-style touch-screen computer.

Though the potential of an Apple tablet thrills many fans of the company, it's also piqued the interest of magazine publishers, who -- long before the device's rumored introduction -- foresaw its possibilities for their industry. The announcement in early December of a so-called "iTunes for magazines" digital storefront that would be well-suited to this new device, among others, seemed a bit hasty, given that the device's development hasn't even been publicly confirmed by Apple.

The coverage of the "iTunes for magazines" concept, and its connection to new tablet computers under development, has been a little confusing. Here, we'll sort through some of the highlights, and explore what it might mean for the beleaguered print magazine industry.

iTunes or Hulu for Magazines?

Most of the news stories about this new project have suggested it's modeled after iTunes, but others have invoked comparisons to Hulu, the (currently) free streaming TV and movie site.

Though it might seem like a minor difference, iTunes and Hulu have very different business models. iTunes offers small pieces of content (such as a song or a TV episode) for a small charge, and also sells season passes to TV shows, and movie downloads. Hulu, however, doesn't charge for any of its content at the moment. It's supported by ads.

In an interview with the New York Observer, John Squires, a Time Inc. executive vice president who will soon leave Time to head up this new venture, did not specify how users would pay for content. He said individual publishers involved in the venture would set their own fees for content, a statement that doesn't rule out the possibility of free and advertising-supported content.

But more than likely, some content will probably be free and paid for solely by ads, and some will be available only by paid subscription (and could still contain advertising). Publishers could also separately sell individual items, such as magazine articles or related multimedia.

Who's Involved in This Project?

Time Inc., Condé Nast, Hearst, Meredith and News Corporation are the five publishers involved in the joint venture. The first four are the four largest magazine publishers in the U.S. by revenue, according to the State of the News Media 2009 report, while News Corporation owns numerous magazines in Australia as well as many other newspapers and magazines around the world.

These publishers own some of the best-known magazines in the country, including Time, People, Sports Illustrated, Glamour, Wired, the New Yorker, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, O: The Oprah Magazine, Better Homes and Gardens, and Family Circle. In short, this digital joint venture is very likely to impact at least one magazine found in the average American home.

What Will a Tablet Magazine Look Like?

A couple of video demonstrations of tablet-formatted magazines from this joint venture are available online. The one below shows a tablet version of Sports Illustrated, which is presumably similar to what readers would buy from the new iTunes-like service. The digital version includes video, photo galleries, customizable content and -- yes -- a video swimsuit edition. (There's also a real-world demo of the same edition given to TechCrunch.)

Wired has also been reconfigured for the digital venture. The video below shows its new layout in the tablet edition. Both the Sports Illustrated and Wired demos show the tablet-based e-reading application using vertical and horizontal layout options. They also highlight interactive advertising.

How Will Publishers Make Money?

Publishers will probably make money the same way they do in print: with subscription fees and advertising. One advantage of electronic editions for publishers, however, is that they can track exactly how readers interact with advertising: for example, how long readers look at an ad, or whether they pursue more information about a product at that moment.

Publishers have long argued that magazine readers savor advertising as part of their reading experience. The Magazine Publishers of America handbook (PDF) states that 54 percent of magazine readers have a very positive or somewhat positive attitude toward magazine advertising. However, skeptical and increasingly frugal advertisers may need a bit more convincing. The data that digital magazine publishers can provide about readers' viewing and reading habits will allow advertisers to better target specific audiences, and determine cost-effective advertising methods.

What Formats Will Be Sold?

The publishers in the joint venture say that their "digital storefront" will use open standards, presumably so other publishers and other device makers can join in. Microsoft is reportedly developing Courier, a touchpad device in a booklet format rather than a tablet. HTC, a company known for its cell phones, is also said to be unveiling its own touchscreen device based on the Google Android operating system within the next few months.

The Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble Nook e-readers may not be invited to this joint venture party, however, because their current technology can't show color or video, and because their downloadable files use proprietary formats.

Is This Really So New and Different?

The real challenge for magazine publishers in this joint venture may be to find ways to truly innovate. Though the "iTunes for magazines" concept and its primary use on state-of-the-art tablet devices might seem innovative enough, the fundamental question is whether this new distribution and business model fully utilizes the advantages of the digital format in exciting, engaging and creative ways.

The video demos linked above don't really appear to add much more to the magazine experience than what readers might already access on a well-designed magazine website. On the web, a reader can already access content in any order, see supplemental multimedia, and interact with other readers and social media. And in most cases, those sites are free of charge.

So far, the tablet format and iTunes-style business model may not be fundamentally changing the nature of magazine content and reading, at least based on the video demos. As of now, it appears to be primarily a new distribution method, not a change in the essential magazine experience. The tablet editions might be shinier and prettier, but they still offer mostly the same content in a new layout. Readers will have to determine if those qualities outweigh the advantages of paper magazines in cost and convenience.

Susan Currie Sivek, Ph.D., is an assistant professor in the Mass Communication and Journalism Department at California State University, Fresno. Her research focuses on magazines and media communities. She also blogs at sivekmedia.com, and is the magazine correspondent for MediaShift.

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