RSS Adoption Rates

What’s holding RSS back, asks Rubel, the answer is simple: R S and S. Nobody outside of a minority group of self-described geeks will use an RSS client or online reader. I know our numbers and I know what Bloglines and Google Reader do in terms of daily users. It’s no more than half a million users who are on these apps with any regularity. Don’t get me wrong, this is an important half a million users because they are the tip of the spear for new media models, the innovators that have shown a path for a new interaction model with online media, but mass market they are not.

Go to Newsgator.com and you will see that we minimize RSS and focus on what people are doing and why it matters. RSS is plumbing, widgets, social computing and other applications are the things that people interact with.

Rubel points out a very important point for the future, the way content owners and publishers use their newsfeed will determine winners and losers in the future media market. Syndication of content and aggregation are massively empowered with RSS technologies and entities like the AP are the big losers here. You may never use an RSS application but you will certainly be relying on RSS infrastructure in the future even if you are oblivious to it.

This larger promise still holds and as the technologies become more invisible the newsfeed could even one day subsume RSS.

[From Micro Persuasion: RSS Adoption at 11% and it May Be Peaking, Forrester Says]

Create

I read this resignation letter that has been sent around lately with mixed feelings. On one hand I admire the accomplishment of someone who walks away with success, as quitting and quitting while ahead are different things altogether.

Recently, on the front page of Section C of the Wall Street Journal, a hedge fund manager who was also closing up shop (a $300 million fund), was quoted as saying, “What I have learned about the hedge fund business is that I hate it.” I could not agree more with that statement. I was in this game for the money. The low hanging fruit, i.e. idiots whose parents paid for prep school, Yale, and then the Harvard MBA, was there for the taking. These people who were (often) truly not worthy of the education they received (or supposedly received) rose to the top of companies such as AIG, Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers and all levels of our government. All of this behavior supporting the Aristocracy only ended up making it easier for me to find people stupid enough to take the other side of my trades. God bless America.

[From FT.com / In depth - Letter: Andrew Lahde, Lahde Capital Management]

But the downside of this is that it reflects precisely what has been wrong with the global economy these recent years, culminating in the collapse of financial markets. We stopped valuing companies on real productivity gains and investment in innovations and instead on the cheap gains that come from swindling others, whether they be other traders or customers with cheap credit.

I was reminded of the movie Wall St. which has some really choice quotes, one in particular sums up my feelings:

“Stop going for the easy buck and start producing something with your life. Create, instead of living off the buying and selling of others.”

In BusinessWeek last week there was an interesting collections of articles that highlighted something significant going on right now. Consumers are feeling a significant amount of pain, many of them for the first time in their lives, and this could end up reshaping how consumer cultures behave. Could reshape but I admit that memories are short and if the financial sector recovers and this recession is mild, well people could go back to the crack pipe of debt funded lifestyles.

More significantly from my standpoint is that we are witnessing a fundamental break in how business looks at the scoreboard. Many companies have had a similar addiction to quick fixes that has resulted in them not being well prepared for the economic environment that we are in today. Furthermore, companies that relied heavily on offshore manufacturing are finding that gains they predicted with confidence they would be enjoying are elusive and hard to measure. A casualty of this economic crisis may be globalization strategies many companies have employed, with resources shifting to investment in the U.S. as a consequence, when investments can be made again.

Whatever the fix ultimately ends up being, it’s clear that consumers and businesses alike cannot keep jumping from on bubble to another. Long term economic prosperity comes as a consequence of creating, not just trading.

Blu-ray Fights the Last War

I wrote a couple of posts about Blu-ray that emphasized the last war aspect of the technology and ignored where consumers would ultimately be getting their entertainment from, the internet. It will do okay but for Sony and the content owners banking on it, Blu-ray will be a disappointment.

Analyst Roger Kay predicts a “dramatic” drop in Blu-ray sales for the fourth quarter and beyond, pushing back adoption of the technology long enough to allow other forms of video over cable, satellite and the Internet to shut the window of opportunity for Blu-ray.

[From Blu-ray has case of the economic blues]

Video on demand will overtake physical distribution at some point over the next couple of years, just like downloadable music eclipsed physical distribution (quick, do you know where the closest music store is to you?). HD content on iTunes, Amazon’s download service, Netflix’s Roku box, and more will all conspire to make Blu-ray hardware obsolete, and with Blu-ray we are indeed witness to the last DVD standard as it’s unlikely anyone would ever invest in a new format given technology trends and consumption dynamics.

85% of American households have broadband, a generation shift in content consumption is evident, and the proliferation of download services all add up to a death sentence for Blu-ray hardware makers. Sony is not in a race with competitors but rather with itself in order to reduce the costs of manufacturing Blu-ray players to enable the proliferation of Blu-ray playback wherever a disc could be inserted. Apple’s rejection of Blu-ray is certainly motivated as much by the fact that it’s Sony behind the licensing as anything else, but clearly Apple sees the exclusion of Blu-ray as a tactical exercise that will not dampen demand.

Branded iPhone Apps From NewsGator

We have experienced a lot of success with our NetNewsWire application on the iPhone, and like all good things in business it lent itself to a series of “what if” discussions internally, the result of which was what I am writing about today.

With NewsGator’s native iPhone Apps your brand and content are just a fingertip away from over 7M iPhone users. Launched in July 2008, Apple’s new 3G iPhone and App Store have experienced tremendous success with over 1M iPhones sold and more than 10M App downloads in the first three days after launch! You can reach this large and growing audience with NewsGator iPhone Apps. Our Apps enable you to deliver a branded media experience directly to the iPhone – providing users with one touch, anytime access to your content.

[From Branded iPhone Apps - NewsGator Widgets]

We realized that we could take the very popular NetNewsWire application for the iPhone and strip off the NewsGator branding to make it a dedicated media reader app for our media clients. We also had to detune it from being a general purpose mobile RSS client to a media specific reader apps. All of this stacks up to be an exciting offering for media companies who wish to have an iPhone app that can be used to increase their audience and more fully engage them at the same time.

There are two reasons why this is an exciting development. First and foremost, media brands have an absolute requirement to extend their presence to the places where people are consuming content and mobile is just one of those places. Building a better website is by itself no longer a strategy for expanding audience and advertising revenue, moving out to mobile is a compelling option for any media site, large or small. The iPhone has dramatically reshaped the mobile marketplace and it’s because of iTunes more than any other factor, we now have a merchandising mechanism for moving apps down the pipe to end users and this is hugely important.

The second reason this is exciting is that developing iPhone apps, or any mobile app for that matter, is complex and expensive. Go out and try to hire iPhone app developers today, good ones are very difficult to find and the market is super competitive, all of which conspire to make iPhone app development a steep hill to climb for media companies. They will invariably end up going with custom development that gives them little in the way of content control and then carries with it the risk of alienating their audience with a less than compelling application that they also have to support.

Our branded iPhone application program not only overcomes the challenges that media companies face with mobile app development, but we also host it for them and that removes a big operational challenge from their equation. We host it, provide our proven content management capabilities and all for a reasonable cost of a one time setup fee and a monthly hosting fee based on the number of downloads per month. We also handle insertion into iTunes App Store and have a best practices approach that clients can follow for predictable success.

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Actual Plug-ins Needed, Not Announcements

We’ve been hearing from practically every car manufacturer that they will be releasing plug-in electric models of popular cars. Enough with the announcements, we need actual sellable cars in dealerships. Instead, we have Volt in 2010 (and it’s arguably a pretty significant development that is coming in on schedule), Toyota is dragging their feet on a plug in Prius, who the hell knows what is going on at Tesla these days, Chrysler is showing off 2 plug ins that have the magical 2010 delivery date, and now even Mini is showing a prototype.

We’ve known for a little while now that BMW would be introducing an electric version of its iconic MINI, and now we have the photo proof as Autocar has taken the wraps off the new electric car.

[From Revealed: Electric MINI E - AutoblogGreen]

In all fairness, building cars is not easy because in addition to just making it work you have to meet regulatory requirements for safety and performance, their are driver and passenger comforts that are essential, and the actual manufacturing process is a web of supplier and scheduling complexities. But many of these vehicles are existing platforms refitted with a new power and drivetrain, and energy storage system. Few of these vehicles are like the Volt, a ground up new vehicle design, yet many of them have the same delivery date. I suspect market forces are a bigger predictor of delivery schedules than actual engineering requirements, and it may well be that no one sees being first as a competitive advantage.

Every car company in the world has made some noise about plug in electrics but where are the actual production vehicles? This is not new technology, it’s the evolution of existing technologies and many of these companies have been working on this publicly from 2006 and earlier (indeed electric cars go back over 100 years to production vehicles from Porsche in 1899).

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