Archive for the ‘trends’ Category

V1agra, L0se W3ight, W0rk fr0M H0me, fR33 iP0ds… zzzzz…

Thursday, March 29th, 2007

SpamNo, this isn’t a spammed post. Nor did anyone hack my blog. It’s me expressing my frustrations and angst with SPAM. Though my blog is being protected by Akismet and junk mail gets filtered from my e-mail inbox by Hotmail, I still take the time to peruse these discarded posts and messages. There is a rare occurence when a legitimate message gets filtered out. However, I may not be able to do this soon, as I am receiving over 300 spammed messages per day.

In other words, even with these counter-spam methods, time and effort must still be put forth to overcome this societal burden. I can’t imagine the cost these time-wasting messages have on our economy. I’d imagine in the hundred of millions of dollars, if not more.

Almost all the messages are focused around a few key areas that pull in huge Internet revenues. They include:

  • Erectile dysfunction drugs
  • Weight loss solutions
  • Online gambling
  • Free giveaways
  • Business opportunities
  • Porn (who would have thought?)

Not only are these messages annoying, but they are also hard to read. The cryptic combinations of letters and numbers used to try to combat anti-spam measures is perplexing to say the least. Even if I did want to start a home-based business or order some weight loss pills, I wouldn’t know which link to click…

Add phishing to the mix and we have yet another another obstacle to overcome.

Obviously, this is not a problem that is going to go away anytime soon. I guess for the time being all we can do is bite the bullet and hope that ‘our’ technology can overcome ‘their’ technology… if that makes any sense. As long as there is money to be made online and ‘gaming’ is present, spammers will make the most of the opportunity.

Note: I expect this post to get SLAMMED with spam due to the nature of the content and the specific words contained within.

Widget Fever

Tuesday, March 27th, 2007

WidgetsI love ranting about things that don’t make sense to me. Having said that, I think we (the blogosphere) need to take a serious look at widgets…

It seems that new start-ups are popping up on a day-to-day basis with what they think will be the next ‘killer widget’. Hopes for an outcome like that of MyBlogLog are slim. MyBlogLog had a simple concept, pinpoint execution, rapid adoption, and good timing (sale to Yahoo). This was definitely a special case.

Anyone and their dog can create a widget, but getting people to use it is another story. Furthermore, the value and function of the widget needs to be congruent with the purpose of a widget itself. If the fit is not there, failure is inevitable.

From an alternative point-of-view, the pro’s of a successful widget are immense. Obviously, they are a great way to drive viral adoption among other things. Please read my post entitled Widget Marketing for further in-depth information about the advantages and disadvantages of widgets. In essence though, the widget MUST be useful. It seems rather straightforward, but many are more focused on simply creating a widget rather than making it useful and relevant.

One of the biggest problem to have arisen is a focus away from the site content in favour of the widget. This is not the optimal outcome for most site owners. Moreover, these embeddable devils slow down page loading times. For this very reason, I have removed several widgets from this blog, most notably a chat widget.

Now I’m definitely not condemning widgets as I see their place in the blogosphere and the new web. What I am condemning is the misuse of a widget as a marketing strategy or business model altogether. There must be a stunning value proposition for both the reader/visitor/user, as well as the site author for the widget to be successful. If ambiguity is present and value cannot be presented in a logical manner, it is probably time to adopt a new strategy.

Is The End Near? Are We In A Bubble?

Monday, March 19th, 2007

About six months back, there was a lot of talk as to whether the ‘web 2.0 space’ was in a bubble. I didn’t believe it was. And just to set the record straight, I still don’t believe it is. However, things aren’t the same as they used to be. Is the end near? I hope not…

It just seems that the energy level around new start-ups has faded. The glory days of TechCrunch seem like a thing of the past. Recent trends I’m seeing with respect to blog posts include lack of enthusiasm, re-hashed stories, and uninspiring material. I just don’t hear the same types of conversations as I used to.

Furthermore, the Alexa rankings on a lot of the big web 2.0 blogs are dropping like flies. Perhaps this lack of enthusiasm in centered more around the blogosphere itself than the start-up world. Perhaps bloggers are getting burnt out. Is there a blog bubble?

Or maybe, just maybe… nobody else feels this way and it’s just me…

Like I say, I’m not convinced that the entrepreneurial/start-up world is engulfed in a bubble necessarily. We still have yet to see the ridiculous financings, IPO’s, and huge influxes of liquidity, as witnessed during the tech boom and bust of the late 90’s.

To top it off, most of the high-flying major players of the web 2.0 revolution have been acquired. In other words, the concept of growth and leadership has been blurred by integration and management. I’m talking about such companies as YouTube, Flickr,, and Skype to name a few. Instead of organic entities, they have morphed into building blocks which form the basis for these gigantic, bureaucratic Internet monoliths. This is also where passion and company morale begin to fade…

No, I’m not in a pissy mood. It is not that ‘time of month’. Yes, it is Monday, but that has nothing to do with this. My negativity simply stems from what I am seeing around me. The current state of the blogging landscape is not what it used to be. I’m not suggesting Armageddon is near, but I do believe that a catalyst of some sort is needed to spark new growth and enthusiasm.

Your thoughts and beliefs are much appreciated…

What’s Next for Online Video?

Wednesday, March 7th, 2007

Video Camera imageIt’s a pretty broad question but many are asking it. In order to solve it and analyze future trends, we need to look at different areas of the online video world. For this reason, I have broken this post into a series of paragraphs outlining what I think we can expect from this exploding industry.

Content: The old Internet adage is true - content is indeed King. Without good video content, the eyeballs won’t come. And it’s not just about quantity, otherwise I would proclaim all YouTube competitors as being dead in the water. It’s also about topics, themes, and categories. This is where I see opportunity for niche sites to step in capture a chunk of the pie. Pornotube, for example, bases itself around the YouTube model, but focuses on a ‘certain’ niche. Metacafe prides itself by only adding a small number of highly-viral videos to the site everyday.

This is a trend we will continue to see not only in the video category, but also throughout the web as the Internet giants face a future, fragmented onslaught.

Two more tidbits to add from a content perspective: more and more traditional industries will begin or continue to leverage online video as a tool and selling feature (i.e. real estate, tourism, artists, etc..).

Finally, new content providers will make their mark on the industry. Already, TV networks are beginning to realize that they cannot combat this trend. Online video and IPTV are here to stay. Expect them to flourish. Proof lies in the actions of the networks. Most now stream full-length TV episodes from their websites. I would wager that other content providers will follow in these footsteps. But how will movie studios react and strategize?

Advertising: This obviously seems to be the revenue model of choice for the majority of video sites. But is it sustainable? If bandwidth charges surpass advertising revenues, the likely culmination is ugly. Expect all types of new advertising ploys on video sites including interstitials, pre- and post-roll, and unconventional banner placements.

Other revenue models: Ha. Do they exist? Definitely. A previous post described numerous ways YouTube could monetize the site beyond advertising. They include subscription services, affiliate programs, content sales (i.e. the iTunes for video), branded product sales (i.e. YouTube mugs), directory services, or even licensing. Other sites will need to evaluate this situation as revenue seems to be a big deal in the expensive, high-bandwidth world of online video.

Copyright issues and DRM: Bahhh… copyright, schmopyright. This stuff bores me to tears. All I can say is that if you think the TV networks and movie studios have their knickers in a knot, you ain’t seen nothing yet. Expect the TV giants to move first, as short clips are easily visible and prominent on many websites which makes for an easy case in court. Next, the studios will make a push against P2P networks and torrent sites. I expect this to be much less successful as it is less visible, hence harder to combat.

Companies to watch (or watch out) for:

…to name a few. You can add your up-and-comers to the list…

Some of my predictions (oh boy):

  • YouTube will succumb to the same fate of Napster; no more illegal content kids.
  • Joost will get bought over by a large TV network, further adding to the wealth of Zennstrom and Friis.
  • Bandwidth will get cheaper, bittorenting will continue to grow, and more and more TV shows will be available for streaming online (these are my obvious predictions).

In this booming online industry, timing and execution will be key to a successful campaign… mixed in with a wee bit of luck.

Pandora - Revolutionary Music Discovery Tool

Tuesday, February 20th, 2007

Pandora logoI had heard a lot of hype and fuss surrounding Pandora, but I hadn’t taken the opportunity to check it out in detail. I had simply browsed the homepage a couple times and absorbed the gist of the system. But a couple weeks ago, a suggestion by a friend to delve further into the service provided me with a whole new appreciation for the system and music…

A typical scenario works like this: I like artist A, but I’ve listened to most of their music. In other words, I want to find new artists with a similar music style. This is epitome of a Pandora user.

Upon visiting the site, you are prompted to type in your favourite artist or song. The system then creates a ’station’ tailored to your music preferences and tastes. Although not perfect, it does a pretty damn good job at discovering new music that you can appreciate.

Pandora was created by the Music Genome Project. Started in early 2000, “a group of musicians and music-loving technologists came together with the idea of creating the most comprehensive analysis of music ever.”

The founders go on to say:

“Together we set out to capture the essence of music at the most fundamental level. We ended up assembling literally hundreds of musical attributes or “genes” into a very large Music Genome. Taken together these genes capture the unique and magical musical identity of a song - everything from melody, harmony and rhythm, to instrumentation, orchestration, arrangement, lyrics, and of course the rich world of singing and vocal harmony. It’s not about what a band looks like, or what genre they supposedly belong to, or about who buys their records - it’s about what each individual song sounds like.

Over the past 6 years, we’ve carefully listened to the songs of over 10,000 different artists - ranging from popular to obscure - and analyzed the musical qualities of each song one attribute at a time. This work continues each and every day as we endeavor to include all the great new stuff coming out of studios, clubs and garages around the world.”

In other words, the system gives you a taste of music, similar to the style you currently enjoy. You are able to discover new artists and further expand your listening repertoire. Powerful stuff.

In my case, I created ’stations’ for the following artist: Tiesto, ATB, BT. Note that I am a big techno/trance fan, so these DJs fit the bill nicely. Subsequently, I had created three unique listening experiences, which enabled me to discover new trance DJs and tracks with little or no effort. In addition, I went on to give most of the suggested tracks a ‘thumbs up’ or ‘thumbs down’ dependent on whether I enjoyed the tune. This paved the way for deeper system analysis and eliminated undesired tracks from being replayed on my station.

This business model is completely new to me, but very refreshing. It ressembles nothing I have seen before… which leads me to the financial model. Pandora pays royalties to all artists whose music gets played, albeit probably not a large sum though. This is for a specific reason and caveats are abound. For one, stations are assorted and random, meaning there is no order to the tracks being played (so you never know what comes next). Secondly, you cannot play a certain track or artist on demand. You can tailor a station to their music type and they will eventually show up, but specific requests are prohibited. Finally, you are only allowed to skip 6 tracks during the course of an hour. All of these nit-picky details allow the company the ability to stream the top artists’ music at a fraction of the cost without being sued.

Pandora achieves revenues by placing ads beside the player. There is a subscription service at a cost of $36/year or $12/3 months. This will eliminate the ads and support additional features. Furthermore, the company also generates revenues via affiliate music sales through Amazon and iTunes.

Check the Pandora FAQ for the answers to the myriad of questions you may still be asking (I know I did not answer them all). And as the system and model is so unique, I found myself combing the FAQ for answers as well.

Last but not least, the interface is so incredibly simple to use. All in all, the simple design masks the complexity of the system. I think that’s the best way to put it.