All the Time is Prime Time

Like every train wreck, you can see it coming but only at the point of impact does anyone really pay attention to it.

But the more significant shift can’t be blamed on the strike. In the past television season, there has been a sharp increase in time-shifting. Some of the six million are still watching, but on their own terms, thanks to TiVos and other digital video recorders, streaming video on the Internet, and cable video on demand offerings. So while overall usage of television is steady, the linear broadcasts favored by advertisers are in decline.

[From In the Age of TiVo and Web Video, What Is Prime Time? - New York Times]

It’s probably unfair to say television execs are a bunch of lemmings who have no one to blame but themselves. All of the major networks minus CBS have expanded into cable and an increasing number have integrated their online offerings, as opposed to treating them as side projects. In the final equation I think this is less about a new technology, or in the case of DVRs an old technology, altering audience behavior and more about consumer attention spans and competitive activities.

200805121201.jpgIt’s a fact that people watch less television today than they did even just a few years ago, and when combined with the explosion of content that is available and you have a perfect storm that results in substantially greater complexity in attracting an audience.

This complexity is also why television sitcoms have become much more targeted and are allowed a much shorter period of time to develop. The days of a Seinfeld or Cheers pulling down 15 or 20 share are gone and won’t be seen again.

Another dimension to all of this is that consumption of web-based video often happens at work, which may or may not have implications for content producers. I’d have to think that through a little before commenting. But one interesting side observation is the globalizing consequence of web-based video, which of course is not limited to a specific broadcast network and a geography.

- 30 percent of daily video consumption comes from Indians outside of India, largely from the Bay area and New York.

This international aspect represents a phenomenal opportunity for content networks to rethink the way they do advertising to appeal to new audiences online that they would never have the opportunity to reach through broadcast.
In the end the big television network will prosper as new channels for delivering content create new placement opportunities for advertising.

On the production side of the business it is clear that a decade of changes in the way that television shows are developed, financed, and syndicated has resulted in a broad array of content development capabilities across every genre, meaning there is no shortage of content to pump online.

Having a broad portfolio of content and a seemingly endless opportunity to distribute content doesn’t equate to content that audiences find appealing, so if there is one thing that could be targeted as white space at this point, it would certainly be instrumentation of the player endpoints and the content itself to register user engagement and subjective qualitative aspects.

Are we headed for a nuclear winter?

Dennis puts up a good post on the intersection of web 2.0 and the enterprise. O’Reilly actually talked about this in his keynote, that the enterprise is one of the 3 big themes he is focusing on, but I have to say that this segment will be a rude awakening for the 99.9% of companies who have been dealing with individual consumer and business users. Success in the enterprise requires, as Dennis points out, a deft touch when it comes to change management and bringing about change within the power structures that exist.

When it comes to the enterprise there will be a lot of roadkill among startups who thought they had a better mousetrap, which makes it all the more essential to build around you a good team of people who understand those markets but at the same time aren’t just going to say “we need to hire more $300k a year account execs and become a Gartner client”.

And therein lies the real crunch. While onlookers may bemoan the party bills at Web 2.0 events, the real problems for enterprise spend lay elsewhere. When I look at the margins vendors like Oracle make on legacy maintenance, it’s easy to see where fat can be cut and oxygen released for the kinds of innovation that drive value. Or what about the mad dash for governance, risk and compliance consulting projects at premium rates? Then there is the whole problem of delivering value from social networking applications.

[From Are we headed for a nuclear winter? | Irregular Enterprise | ZDNet.com]

Web 2.0 Reflections

So Web 2.0 Expo is wrapping up today and after spending all of Wednesday and Thursday there, I have a couple of thoughts.

First of all, I have a love-hate with big conferences like this. On one hand there isn’t much intimacy or unscripted presentation, but on the other hand it’s very efficient because the 100 people you really want to meet up with are all in one place. Big events are a fact of life in our business and while there are fewer of them than in years past they are nicely balanced out with smaller more focused events. So in the final equation, it just is what it is.

What was web 2.0 about Web 2.0? Not much apparently. The keynotes were big, packaged, and had little, if any at all, audience participation. The panels and presentations were similarly tight and canned with a lot of “I have 5 minutes for questions”. Tim O’Reilly talks a lot about changing the world with web 2.0, how about changing the way a big conference works first?

The Crowdvine network that they put up was limited (was going to reiterate what I said on twitter, lame, but that’s probably unreasonably harsh). Crowdvine actually followed me on twitter when I had an exchange with Dion Hinchcliffe about it, suggesting that I was looking at it wrong, the point of the social network was to connect before the event and that they then want people to shift to face-to-face meetings at the event. What can you say to that… basically Dion and I were wrong to expect more out of it.

The Expo was using a pretty neat Firefox extension called RoamAbout that enabled, well to be honest I’m not sure what it enabled because it’s a firefox extension that I never got around to installing and it looked like yet-another-thing I would have to deal with. The Expo web page called this the “backchannel” but I’m not sure why, and at any rate the page highlighting the service is a great example of an anti-adoption pattern, no information and a download link.

One much needed service they could have provided would be a interactive map of all the power outlets in the conference center. It was actually quite interesting to see small pods of people develop around every power outlet and the anxious expression on someone’s face when they realized that s/he could join a pod because all the outlets were being used.

There was a twitter profile for the Expo but it’s not clear how they were using it and with Twitter in the state that it has been in this week I’m not sure it would be my first choice anyway. I would have liked to use @EventTrack but for some yet unexplained reason Twitter has been blocking the service.

I guess what I am trying to say is that the conference experience is more important than the conference content. We’ve known for years that the most interesting stuff happens in the hallways and that it is the promise of the unscalable hallway experience taken up online that gets people excited. Having said that, I don’t want to be starting from scratch with yet another social network (YASN), I want to take advantage of services I am already using AND enable a degree of data portability in the process.

The exhibit hall was quite active but featured a long list of companies that I had seen before and was dominated by big vendors like Oracle (pitching CRM no less) and Microsoft. Exhibit halls are how these conferences pay the bills but there simply has to be a better way to do them. I don’t know what else to say…

Some of the presentations were very good, I especially liked the session that RockYou did on monetization of widgets. Lot’s of data and real examples, but in the end just “5 minutes for questions”. Also, where are the session presentations online? It appears that there isn’t a slide sharing service where all of the content is available open and free.

I want to also take a second to thank the folks from Blogtropolus for putting on such a great blogger lounge, which rocked in comparison to the conference media center. They were great hosts and offered a robust wireless network as well as a lively lounge for the couple of days I was at the event. I actually met more people I wanted to see in that lounge than anywhere else at the conference.

I’d close by asking Tim O’Reilly a question: You say web 2.0 can change the way businesses interact with customers, employees, and partners, but Web 2.0 Expo is very much like other industry events that go on and as a customer I had very little engagement about what I want or how I want to get it… so the question is, do you you know your customers?

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What I Want From The Next Next Generation of the Web

I was thinking of this today was I head up to the Web 2.0 Expo in SF. Quite often we preoccupy ourselves with answering the simple question “what do I want…” in technical terms, as in more semantic web stuff, interoperable identity, and so on. What if we simply answer the what I want question in the context of the impact we would like to experience. The excerpt linked below is from a post in VentureBlog from 2004:

1. Over the last five to seven years has technology increased or decreased your personal productivity?
2. Increased or decreased your overall quality of life?
3. Strengthened or weakened your interpersonal and family relationships?

[From What I Want From The Next Generation of the Web - VentureBlog]

Answering these questions today I would say “increased, increased, strengthened” and that is indeed something to highlight. While technology is not perfect, it is working and represents an essential component in our collective and individual lives.

Having said that, there is more to do, I can’t help but observe that we have gone through yet another technology generation, web 2.0 now stretching out to the end of the usual 6-7 year tech cycle, and the great brands of the last generation of still successful but not the primary drivers of the next.

Microsoft has an impressive portfolio of services (I’m using Live Search and liking it) but they are reacting to the market, not driving it. Same with Google and Yahoo, and in the enterprise software sector the crickets are chirping. I wrote a post a few weeks ago on incrementalism that received a lot of feedback from people who were feeling much the same way. There is anticipation for something new to emerge that isn’t just a turn of the screw on something else.

So rather than hearing about what new technology and hot company I should be watching at this week’s Web 2 Expo, I want to state the question another way.

  1. I want technology that is pervasive but obscured, in other words I don’t want to have to think about it in order to use it.
  2. I want applications and services that don’t force me into Faustian bargains that require me to give up my privacy in order to benefit from them.
  3. Give me advertising and promotion that has utility for me, that does something productive while at the same time fulfilling the advertising objective.
  4. Give me use-anywhere-any-time.
  5. Most of all, stop talking about what you do and tell me what you will do for me.

What do you want from the next generation of the web?

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AWS Gets Cheaper

Technology is supposed to get cheaper over time, right? In the history of enterprise software and desktop OS when has that been true? AWS is no doubt responding to competitive pressures, which indicates the market is working as it should, and this is a welcome development because anytime your costs drop you add dollars to the bottom line.

We’ve often told you that one of our goals is to drive down costs continuously and to pass those savings on to you. We have been able to reduce our costs for data transfer, so we’re pleased to announce that we’re lowering our pricing for data transfer, effective May 1, 2008. You’ll notice below that we’ve reduced price at every existing usage tier of transfer out, as well as added an additional tier for the heaviest users.

[From Amazon Web Services Developer Connection : Lower Data Transfer Costs]

Twitter Withdrawals

And I thought it was just a slow weekend in Twitterville… interestingly, I was getting Twitter updates in Alert Thingy via FriendFeed, not sure why it worked there but not in other Twitter clients or their own web interface.

Siegler’s comments about service status updates is really customer service 101 for companies like Twitter. I can’t imagine anyone saying at this point that when there is a major service disruption that it’s no big deal not to post any updates in places where people can find them.

Having a service update channel on twitter is fine, but it’s a little hard to update twitter users about a service breakdown when the network isn’t working properly… and GetSatisfaction is nice but as has been pointed out, .00001% of the userbase knows this exists, much less actually thinks about it when their is a problem.

With Web 2.0 this week I cannot think of a worse time for the service to fail. It would be like a widespread power failure on tax day…

If this problem spills over into tomorrow – or worse, Tuesday when the huge Web 2.0 Expo starts in San Francisco, expect a world of pain for Twitter. If they would simply acknowledge and update the users it might not be so bad. Otherwise we’re going to see Bitchmeme taken to a whole new level.

[From ParisLemon: Twitter FAIL Day 3: Communications Breakdown]

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Alert Thingy Killed Facebook

Just like Thwirl and Snitter totally changed the way I interact with Twitter and drove up my usage as a result, Alert Thingy is doing that for FriendFeed.

As Dennis says, who btw I ripped off the title for this post from, the result is that I am evolving in my behaviors with social networks at a fast cycle rate. The result is that I haven’t logged into Facebook in months and find little reason to resume.

With regard to comments escaping the blogosphere, I’m finding myself engaging in more discussion threads as FriendFeed comments attached to items, something I find both very convenient and very concerning.

200804181047.jpg

Yahoo! — Putting the “Open” in OpenSocial

Great news for Yahoo and even better news for OpenSocial, possibly even eclipsing the coup that was getting Myspace in. Given the momentum that OpenSocial has right now in terms of container support, it’s hard to imagine that much will happen to slow it down this year. Competing initiatives, like Insoshi, just don’t have the geography coverage that Google does and in that absence of homegrown initiatives at any of the big container partners, it’s likely they will throw their full weight behind OpenSocial.

I ran into Kevin Marks last night at a social event and we talked a little about this. I would look for the emphasis to shift to app developers and marketers who wish to add a social aspect to their projects and are increasingly realizing that just “being there” is not enough of an answer. For app developers, there needs to be a focus on lowering the cost of porting from one platform to another, and one container to another, which is often assumed to be a freebie.

For those of my friends who’ve been wondering what I’ve been so heads-down on lately, I’m happy to finally share the news that Yahoo! has announced support for the development of OpenSocial, by working with MySpace and Google to set up an independent foundation for its long-term stewardship. I hope this will turn out to be OpenSocial’s best “container” yet.

[From Greg Cohn’s Weblog : » Yahoo! — Putting the “Open” in OpenSocial]

Is venture capital’s love affair with Web 2.0 over?

The worst thing that happened in these last couple of years is that damn versioning of what is a simply the broader continuum of the evolving web. Define web 2.0… just try it and you will see the futility.

What is coming to a close is the notion that all online services need to be free and paid for with advertising; there are too many startups that are dependent on a business model that has yet to prove itself for tech companies.

VCs will still fund these deals and Valley pundits will gleefully predict the next Twitter, but the fact remains that most startups simply die, some get acquired for nothing, and the rare few go on to great success. No different here, move on people… nothing to see.

I am waiting for venture investors to once again discover that there is money to be made in enterprise software.

Silicon Valley remains the hotbed of Web 2.0 activity, but the hipness of start-ups with goofy names is starting to cool in the face of economic reality.

Dow Jones VentureSource on Tuesday released numbers of venture capital activity in Web 2.0 companies and declared that the “investment boom may be peaking.”

[From Is venture capital's love affair with Web 2.0 over? | Tech news blog - CNET News.com]

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