Archive for December, 2006

YouTube Competition? Don’t Make Me Laugh

Thursday, December 21st, 2006

YouTube logoIn a last ditch attempt to salvage some lost revenues pride, the major TV networks are banding together to take on Internet video juggernaut YouTube. News Corp., NBC, CBS, and Viacom are on the verge of signing a deal and an official announcement could come at any point.

Several of the networks were naive in dismissing the YouTube phenomenon as a short-term fad. Now that it has solidified itself in social culture, the stubborn networks have no other choice but to bite the bullet and unite in an all-out offensive.

Site content will obviously be provided in large part by the networks, but also by users. Revenue will be generated via advertising.

The deal may be in jeopardy, however, due to a conflict of interest between MySpace parent News Corp. and CBS, as the former has an advertising agreement with Google.

No formal company statements were provided as of yet.

So… what to make of all of this?

Well, for one, it proves that the new web has opened up the playing field for small players. With relatively low financial resources and manpower, a start-up has the potential to tackle an old, stagnant industry - and succeed in a short period of time. YouTube has proven this. Skype is another good example. Both took on different industries, but prevailed in the ‘telecom’ arena - one in TV, the other in telephone.

What’s next for online video and TV?

I have no idea, really. But I know how to find out. Visit The Venice Project. This extremely stealth start-up is the brainchild of KaZaa and Skype founder Niklas Zennstrom. With two previous super successes, I am hedging my bets that Zennstrom has something revolutionary cooking up his sleeve and I can’t wait to find out. PR is absolutely buzzing around this story and will only flourish as more details become available.

On the website, The Venice Project promises the following:

“We’re working on a project that combines the best things about television with the social power of the internet - a project that gives viewers, advertisers and content owners more choice, control and creativity than ever before.”

That sounds exciting to me. I can’t wait to see what these guys are scheming up. I expect it will be nothing short of exceptional.

Umbria - Bulk Blog List Buying

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Umbria logoYesterday, buzz monitoring firm Umbria annnounced the launch of a new service, Umbria Connect, that provides blog lists to companies looking to connect with individual bloggers. The lists are tailored for specific niche topics and areas of interest. This facilitates conversation and discussions between the client company and bloggers.

Umbria gathers publicly available data, information, and input to locate individual bloggers who may be of interest to a given client. Subsequently, Umbria sells these blog URLs in blocks of 25 on a subscription basis. Lists are updated on a monthly or quarterly basis to provide the most accurate picture of the current blog landscape.

According to Umbria, the monthly list of bloggers are created based on the client’s selection of age and gender. In other words, Umbria is not only targeting by niche topic, but also based on more narrow demographic information.

These bloggers may become a client’s:

  • evangelist
  • product test market
  • PR team

I am a big advocate of blog marketing  and targeting specific niche groups, therefore I see huge value with such a service. The elimination of time and hassle cannot be overstated. If indeed the lists are accurate and highly targeted (which I do not know), then the advantages of this service are obvious. However, an automated system cannot be trusted without major scrutiny, as the blogosphere is extremely dynamic and perpetually-changing. If upon further analysis the Umbria Connect tool is able to connect clients with the appropriate blogs, then this may be a big hit.

Otherwise, simply type your ‘niche topic’ into Technorati and start researching.

Jaxtr - Beware the Dark Side

Wednesday, December 20th, 2006

Jaxtr logoMuch hype has surfaced around a new Valley start-up named Jaxtr. The buzz began after LinkedIn co-founder Konstantin Guericke jumped shipped to become CEO of Jaxtr. Why all the hype? Why all the fuss? Well, if Jaxtr were a cake, then we’d need to mix a little bit of VOIP with a little bit of widget to achieve this delicate offering. Think of it as Jajah meets embedding.

Jaxtr allows you to receive incoming phone calls by embedding a widget within your profile on a given social network (MySpace, hi5, Friendster, and so on). The process works as follows:

  1. Joe visits your profile.
  2. He enters his phone number.
  3. He then receives a call.
  4. After Joe picks up, you receive a call.
  5. You pick up.
  6. You chat with Joe about your love for poetry and gardening for hours.

It does sound strikingly similar to Jajah, doesn’t it?

A couple of points to note:

  • Jaxtr provides the ability to receive voicemail if you are not present for a call.
  • You are able to block unwanted callers and/or provide the ability for only certain friends to call.
  • Caller phone numbers are never revealed.
  • A link in an e-mail signature can be used in place of the widget.

Revenues will be generated via enhanced features and advertising.

I definitely think that this company has a good thing going. However, I often enjoy stepping over the fence and playing devil’s advocate. In this case, I think that a lot of bloggers and PR juggernauts have overlooked a crucial element. Let me present my case, your Honour…

A Jaxtr call is essentially an anonymous call from anyone viewing a social network profile to the profiled user. Now, if I’m not mistaken, a majority of social networks are tailored around the teenage demographic. Do you see where I’m going with this?

Now all of a sudden, you get a small percentage of sick, perverted individuals calling up 15 year old girls with ill intentions. Albeit this is definitely a minority crowd, the predicament is still present at all times. The only prevailing force is parental intervention (this is assuming that prevention was absent in the first place; hence the teenager roaming the social network). However, if the teenager is home alone, who knows where this simple, innocent conversation may lead and what kind of details the caller may be able to extract.

This level of voice communication is really the first of its kind to expand the social networking horizon. If parents thought they had problems with their children posting personal information and contact details before, Jaxtr is going to provide a whole new world of challenges.

I’m not trying to bash this offering, but simply provide an analysis from an alternative point-of-view. I will be the first to praise the company if it is able to implement preventative measures to overcome this hurdle, although I’m not convinced it can be done without hampering the user experience. I’m afraid that for some, Jaxtr will equal jail.

All it takes is one malevolent call for this to turn into a PR nightmare.

I nervously await the public launch…

The Million Dollar Blog Post

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

What happens when you combine web 2.0 with social giving? Answer: The Million Dollar Blog Post.

This feel-good project sprung from the minds of some ambitious, Eastern Canadian entrepreneurs. The idea is this:

  1. Post a wish for the world (comment) on the Million Dollar Blog Post.
  2. A ‘wish’ sponsor will then donate $1 to a chosen charity for every wish posted.

Anyone is able to sponsor a wish or series of wishes, so please be sure to do so. If your financial situation is unfavourable, please post a wish at the very least - it is free. It is the time of year when making a small contribution and supporting a charitable cause can go a long, long way.

Readers may also help by blogging about the cause or providing a back-link. If you would like to Digg this initiative and provide much needed exposure, visit the Digg submission.

What did I wish for? Something that is dear to me:

“My wish is that everyone cherishes every waking moment of every day. The beauty of life is a privilege and may you never take anything or anyone for granted - ever.”

May we use the Internet and technology to provide hope for the less fortunate and make the world a better place for all.

Jeff Pulver Really Blew It

Tuesday, December 19th, 2006

An interesting story has emerged from the vlog community. An informed source has brought to my attention the recent uncustomary antics of well-known VOIP pioneer Jeff Pulver. Apparently he really shit the bed this time.

Though I am not a vlog enthusiast, I felt that such a story deserved a second look. Upon further in-depth analysis and scrutiny of blog conversations and forum discussions, it became apparent that Pulver had committed three fatal sins. These rookie mistakes should never have been committed by a seasoned veteran. Forgiveness should not be granted.

So what exactly did he do to deserve this tongue-lashing?

  1. His new venture, Network2, pulls vlogger RSS feeds without publisher consent. In other words, Pulver is assuming an ‘opt out’ basis (stealing) as opposed to the standard, industry-accepted ‘opt in’ basis (promoting). Need I really say more?
  2. Pulver started the ‘5 Things You Didn’t Know About Me’ meme as a self-promotional tool to garner publicity for himself and his company. Starting what seemed like a fun, interesting meme, but with self-fulfilling intentions, is just plain selfish and narrow-minded. To cap it off, he even added this meme to his Wikipedia page in a self-glorified series of events. Nevertheless, the Jeff Pulver Wikipedia entry has now been deleted by moderators (Pulver may have done it himself in a weak attempt to preserve some level of credibility).
  3. His crew has spammed forums and message boards in a blatant attempt to gain exposure and drive traffic.

Now, I know these sins are committed on a daily basis and are seemingly widespread on the net. But I wouldn’t expect these sleazy marketing tactics from such an authority figure. It never ceases to amaze me the level people sink in order to achieve fame and seek financial prosperity. Selling out is a weak move for the cowardly.

I think Pulver needs to go back to the drawing board.

UPDATE: There may be a happy ending to this debauchery. My source tells me that today Network2 has switched from an ‘opt out’ basis to an ‘opt in’ model. This is definitely a step in the right direction. Nonetheless, his antics of forum spam and self-indulgent memes cannot be forsaken.

Excerpts and information for this article have been pulled from various sources including the Yahoo videblogging group, Jeff Pulver’s blog, and TheGayExpat’s blog.