Connecting Fans: Music Industry No Longer Just About Recorded Music

  • Music industry experts are skeptical of startups in light of the “prohibitively expensive” costs of licensing music from record labels, writes GigaOM contributor Matthew Hawn. But “they’ve forgotten that the music industry isn’t — and never has been — just about recorded music,” Hawn writes, noting that many companies have promising opportunities in other parts of the music world.
  • Rather that “whining about the high cost of licensing music,” some companies have switched their focus to live music, offering fans intimate access to artists.
  • “And fans are willing to pay for these experiences, in stark contrast to the smaller segment who are willing to [pay] for downloads or subscription music services,” Hawn writes, noting that these offerings are also hard to pirate.
  • Another open door is music discovery, promoting musicians that are otherwise lost in obscurity. “The old channels of videos and radio are still there, but the Internet exploded everything and diffused attention. In many ways it’s harder than ever for artists and fans to connect,” the post states.
  • Some startups aim to connect listeners and musicians financially, allowing fans to pay their favorite bands directly. Others are looking to create a simpler music ecosystem or leverage mobile’s capabilities.
  • “The opportunities to expand [mobile technology] to other music-centric features like with ticketing, new music discovery, fan/artist interactions are all fantastic,” suggests Hawn. “Location and hyper-local services around music are also untapped.”
  • “Startups create the most value when they carve out new business models and transform the way we used to do things. They are less valuable (and thus less viable) when [they’re] just wringing the last drop of money out of old models. The truly great ones transform industries and build new opportunities, growing the market for everyone.”

Data Analytics and Hollywood Marketing: Social Sentiment Impacting Film

  • Analytics tools that translate social media chatter into data have become more accurate and are quickly spreading through Hollywood marketing.
  • At “The Power of Crowds: Social Sentiment and the Future of Film” panel hosted by USC Annenberg and IBM, industry experts highlighted the necessity of understanding data analytics, but said making movies won’t just become a product of research.
  • According to David Barnes, director of emerging technologies at IBM software group, “the analytics explosion will soon see marketing execs spending more on information technology than most chief information officers,” Variety writes.
  • Although data literacy will become increasingly important, it shouldn’t require specialized knowledge. “If you need a scientist to look at your data for you, your tools suck,” says Barnes.
  • A study from IBM found that only two-thirds of chief marketing officers are engaged in their departments’ social campaigns, even though reaching fans through social media channels has become a strong focus.
  • The panel mostly discussed analytics’ use in evaluating box office performance, but also noted the predictive potential.
  • “Still on the fringes of data analytics are story-development tools, such as algorithms that read scripts in search of positives and negatives for both marketability and box office potential,” explains the article. “But the panel was unanimous… that no matter how sophisticated the data gets, filmmakers needn’t worry that their projects will be subject to groupthink.”
  • “You will never see us make a movie based on a series of questions posed in a research environment — never, ever, ever,” says Rob Friedman, Lionsgate Motion Picture Group co-chair.

Industrial Internet: Is Our Online Future All About Intelligent Machines?

  • While opportunities created by the Internet are boundless, the move to take advantage of them has been slow. Although the online world has dramatically changed how we access information or purchase products, “the real opportunity of change is still ahead of us,” and it’s all about machines, GigaOM writes.
  • “There are now many millions of machines across the world, ranging from simple electric motors to highly advanced MRI machines,” the article states. The Industrial Internet aims to connect these machines with people, big data and analytics — and the benefits of doing so could be significant.
  • “The Industrial Internet leverages the power of the cloud to connect machines embedded with sensors and sophisticated software to other machines (and to us) so we can extract data, make sense of it and find meaning where it did not exist before,” the post explains.
  • In the airline industry, “just a one percent improvement in aircraft engine maintenance efficiency can reduce related costs by $250 million annually. A similar one percent fuel savings in power generation could add more than $4 billion annually to the global economy.”
  • Other industries — health in particular — have similar opportunities to increase efficiency to cut operating costs. “Assuming growth similar to what prevailed during the Internet boom, the Industrial Internet revolution will add about $15 trillion to global GDP by 2030. That’s the equivalent of adding another U.S. economy to the world,” reports GigaOM.
  • “This Industrial Internet is not about a world run by robots, it is about combining the world’s best technologies to solve our biggest challenges,” the article continues. “It’s about economically and environmentally sustainable energy, curing the incurable diseases, and preparing our infrastructure and cities for the next 100 years.”

Editorial: Can Legal Torrent Sites Serve as Innovators for Media Discovery?

  • In 2001, Bram Cohen authored the BitTorrent spec as a way to speed up peer-to-peer sharing by downloading large files, like full-length movies, in multiple packets from various sources. Since then, BitTorrent has become strongly associated with The Pirate Bay and illegal practices.
  • “But legit players in the file-sharing biz quietly use BitTorrent for its network efficiency, while introducing new distribution and revenue opportunities for creators, and offering new media discovery sites for consumers,” writes Engadget.
  • Cohen made BitTorrent a legitimate, copyright-filtering service in 2005. Now the site is trying out a revenue model, which “hint[s] at an emerging media distribution and discovery future for the file-sharing protocol,” explains the post.
  • In the music industry, BitTorrent could become the fourth consumption tool, following a la carte, music subscriptions and streaming services.
  • “When basic access to galactic music libraries is free, and recommendations come from peers rather than from institutional power brokers, the door is wide open for peer-to-peer platforms to take an important role in marketing, distributing and delivering music,” the post suggests. “Same goes for film, as the pro-am moving picture landscape is re-drawn by Roku, Vimeo and many other disruptors.”
  • By some estimates, the BitTorrent platform transmits as much as half of all Internet traffic.
  • Even with continued pirating, BitTorrent’s “neutral malleability can be a great competitive advantage to the most resourceful creators, and a delight for the most inquisitive consumers. Both sides should advance the legal torrent movement by adopting the platform for distribution and discovery.”

Verizon FiOS Announces Live TV Streaming App for LG Smart TVs

The Xbox 360 has it. Apple’s iPad and Samsung’s connected TVs have it. And now LG Smart TVs are also getting the Verizon FiOS TV app, bringing access to 75 channels and Flex View video on-demand.

“The expansive selection of channels from FiOS TV and on-demand content from Verizon’s Flex View library further strengthens LG’s Smart TV platform, giving consumers of all ages a virtually limitless amount of entertainment on TVs, Blu-ray players, PCs, even tablets and phones,” says Samuel Chang, VP of Smart TV and Innovation for LG Electronics.

According to the press release, FiOS TV’s Flex View “offers more than 25,000 on-demand movies and show titles for purchase or rent on any Internet-connected device, whether home on a TV or PC, or on-the-go on a mobile device.”

“As promised back at CES — when they said it would launch in the ‘first half of 2012’ — the app is of course customized for LG’s Magic Remote gesture control feature, and is available on all 2012 Smart TVs, plus the BP620 Blu-ray player via the Smart TV smart World app store,” reports Engadget.

“The good news is you can make use of it in a room with no cable box needed, however the lineup is still missing a few key channels (ESPN) that may be tough to do without,” notes the post.
Verizon also recently announced a partnership with NBCUniversal to expand its TV Everywhere offerings. “If [Verizon] can add a few more, the set-top box-less future may be within reach,” Engadget suggests.

Reinventing the Town Square: Twitter Real-Time Conversations and TV

  • Before Internet, TV, radio and newspapers, citizens would gather in the town square to share news, creating a multi-directional, real-time dialogue. Centuries later, Twitter is recreating this conversation across various media, with particular emphasis on real-time television events.
  • In a speech at his alma mater, the University of Michigan, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo discussed the tendency for new forms of media to disrupt established outlets. Although he acknowledges this “town square” reinvention creates problems such as rumor proliferation, he says Twitter is actually complementary, not harmful, to traditional media sources.
  • “We once start to see multiple perspectives on a particular news story or event that’s happening,” Costolo says. “We once again start to have a shared experience across the globe about what’s happening and what we’re viewing right now. We once get an unfiltered perspective on what’s happening.”
  • “But at the same time,” he adds, “it complements all these traditional forms of broadcast media, and all sorts of fascinating in ways that we would have never predicted.”
  • While the town square approach had benefits, there were also disadvantages involving mistakes, rumors and the amount of time required to distribute information.
  • “But while the invention of newspapers and radio and television solved the distribution problem and much of the accuracy problem, it dramatically increased the costs of distributing news or information, and it lost the multi-directional and unfiltered aspect that the town square used to provide,” notes GigaOM. “And it also made the news very ‘outside-in,’ with observers providing the details instead of participants.”
  • The CEO sees Twitter as “a way of injecting the real-time, multi-directional and unfiltered nature of the town square back into the media,” explains the post. And rather than being disruptive, Twitter is complementary to TV and serves as a “second screen” experience for real-time events such as the Olympics and Hurricane Sandy.
  • Costolo calls Twitter the “pulse of the planet” and sees it as a powerful media player that could drive viewership of live television events.

Study of Movie Audiences: IBM and USC Analyze Emotions Behind Tweets

  • In the 11 days leading up to Thanksgiving and through the weekend, “Twilight: Breaking Dawn – Part 2” generated millions of tweets, but unlike many of the other movies playing over the holiday, a fair share of the social chatter was negative.
  • A deeper analysis of the tweets found that the disappointment had more to do with the series ending, showing how engagement measurements have become more accurate.
  • IBM researchers partnered with the USC Annenberg Innovation Lab to analyze more than 5 million move-related tweets, finding “Twilight” accounted for 4.25 million. “Skyfall” came in second with only 700,000. However, the Bond film’s social sentiment was 90 percent positive, while “Twilight” dropped from 90 to 75 percent by Saturday.
  • “The mystery why a hit film like ‘Twilight’ might generate such a reception on Twitter could foreshadow the next advance in computer science,” notes The Hollywood Reporter. IBM used the artificial intelligence computer Watson, famous for beating humans on “Jeopardy!,” to determine the emotional content of tweets.
  • Steve Canepa, general manager for IBM’s Media & Entertainment Group, explains that “studios once had the luxury of slowly releasing a film, building audience momentum over time and adjusting marketing campaigns based on what was or wasn’t working,” THR reports.
  • “But now that social media audiences are rendering their snap viral judgments, Canepa believes it’s more important than ever that studios adapt likewise by getting their marketing correct at a film’s launch. And that means understanding more quickly than ever how audiences are reacting.”
  • “Canepa adds that predictive analytics driven by social sentiment also might help researchers appreciate which film and TV storylines work best in particular genres to precise demographics. Or which Hollywood stars match up best with each other,” the article explains.

French Startup Develops Wireless Internet Network Intended for Appliances

  • French startup SigFox plans to roll out a wireless network covering the whole of France with just 1,000 antennas. But unlike cellular connections for phones that demand 5,000 microwatts, SigFox’s connections will use only 100 and will connect devices, not humans.
  • “SigFox is focused on connecting cheap sensors and ‘dumb’ home appliances to the Internet,” reports Technology Review. “The goal is to make all kinds of appliances and infrastructure, from power grids to microwave ovens, smarter by letting them share data.”
  • Thomas Nicholls, chief of business development at SigFox, explains that the technology used for human networks is not suitable for appliances. The company developed its own radio technology called ultra narrow band that “allows devices connecting to the network to consume very little energy, says Nicholls, and it allows for very long-range connections,” notes the article.
  • “Further cost savings come from operating the technology on parts of the radio spectrum that are free to use,” not the expensive licensed spectrum that cellular networks operate on. “Nicholls says it should be possible for SigFox to offer its service to a connected device for as little as $1 a year.”
  • “The features that make SigFox’s network cheap to install and maintain have the downside of limiting the network’s speed. At best, it can currently transfer information at the rate of 100 bits per second; 3G mobile networks move data at least 1,000 times faster. That rules out some visions for the Internet of Things, such as distributing cheap video cameras or microphones across the world. But Nicholls says that his company’s focus is on making it cheap to install Internet-connected sensors.”
  • SigFox connections could replace Wi-Fi as the standard for medical devices and gadgets because they maintain constant connection.

GM Says Some 2013 Vehicles to Be Compatible with Virtual Assistant Siri

  • When driving, it’s helpful to have a competent navigator and DJ so you can focus on the road. And who’s better suited for the task than the pithy female assistant you already carry around in your pocket?
  • “General Motors says a number of its 2013 models will be compatible with Apple’s wise-cracking, know-it-all virtual assistant, Siri,” Technology Review writes. “In the Chevrolet Spark or the Sonic LTZ or RS, you’ll be able to connect to an iPhone and then use Siri’s Eyes Free mode without ever glancing away from the road. Siri will find directions, look up information online, send e-mails, and the rest.”
  • Already, voice control has become fairly popular in newer vehicles, but many of the proprietary systems are faulty or limited.
  • “Siri could perhaps offer drivers a more sophisticated, and less annoying, kind of voice control,” the article suggests. GM is only one of many car manufacturers that have announced plans to integrate Siri in their cars.
  • The post includes a video of the iPhone Siri functionality in the Chevrolet Spark.
  • “Will in-car voice control really be less distracting when virtual navigator can do so much more: everything from checking your calendar to sending out snarky tweets about fellow drivers?” Technology Review asks. “Siri might answer that, too, in time.”

Elastic Compute Cloud: How Amazon Unleashed the Power of Computing

  • Amazon made a name for itself selling books and DVDs and has since become the world’s largest online retailer. But the company has also become a top player in the computing business, running as much as 1 percent of the Internet on its Amazon Web Services (AWS). The secret to Amazon’s success: offer services that customers will want to use.
  • Amazon created the Elastic Compute Cloud (EC2), which started as an experiment and evolved into “an Internet service that has completely changed the face of computing since it debuted a little over six years ago,” reports Wired. EC2 provides consumers instant access to unlimited computing power.
  • “With EC2, you can use all that computing power to run just about any software application you like,” the article explains. “Rather than loading your software on physical computer servers you’ve set up in a closet or a data center, you can load it onto virtual servers you’ve set up in your Web browser. And whenever you need more virtual servers, you can have them.”
  • “Part of the genius of EC2 is that it gave software developers virtual machines that behaved a lot like the physical machines they were familiar with,” the article continues. “They could run the same sort of software they had always used. Amazon didn’t try to tell the customer what he wanted.”
  • Google and Microsoft were quick to come up with competitors: the Google App Engine and Windows Azure. “The learning curve was steeper, and the public never really embraced them in the same way,” Wired says of the other services.
  • “Amazon is now well positioned to fend off the competition. [AWS CEO Andy] Jassy says that Amazon didn’t necessarily plan it this way, but EC2 and the other Amazon Web Services are businesses of low margins and high volume — the kind of businesses that Amazon knows better than anyone else trying to play the cloud game.”

Spectrum Crunch: Will New Technologies Sustain Wireless Data Demand?

  • By 2016, mobile data traffic will grow by a factor of 18, according to Cisco, or by a factor of 25, if Bell Labs estimates are accurate.
  • The Federal Communications Commission and cellular providers have both warned of a “spectrum crunch,” which would mean diminished service and higher costs for consumers. But as Technology Review reports, the big crunch might not be for quite a few years.
  • “We don’t have a spectrum crunch so much as we have a spectrum policy crunch,” says David Tennenhouse, vice president of technology policy at Microsoft. “The so-called ‘spectrum crunch’ really reflects artificial spectrum scarcity.”
  • “Part of the problem is simply hoarding: some companies have rights to more than they need, at times because business models didn’t pan out,” Technology Review suggests. “There’s a great deal of idle government-controlled spectrum, too.”
  • “The FCC is designing auctions so that the TV industry can release some of its spectrum next year,” the article continues.
  • Despite the concern about scarcity, much of the crunch actually arises from how the spectrum is leveraged. “Capacity depends on how efficiently spectrum is actually used in different places and at different times,” notes the article. “And when wireless networks are overloaded, the real culprit may be inefficient use of existing spectrum rather than a fundamental shortage.”
  • Improved technology could alleviate much of the strain. Wi-Fi towers offload data from cellular networks. Cheap shorter-range small cells — transmitters and receivers handling frequencies used by 3G and 4G networks — can help. Also, data can be encoded more efficiently so more information can be translated.
  • “Right now, we have a 15- to 20-year backlog of new technologies and architectures, including sharing and small cells, which can take us a long way into the future,” says Tennenhouse.

YouTube Expands its Original Content Channels into Europe and Japan

  • Following the early success of original content on its “channels,” YouTube has ramped up funding to produce more video. The Google-owned service is also expanding the channels overseas in the UK, Germany, France and now Japan.
  • “Google’s video guys aren’t talking about it openly yet,” AllThingsD reports, “but they’ll be replicating the same idea — YouTube advances programmers production money in exchange for exclusive content — with a handful of partners in Asia.”
  • One of the initial partners will be Vice Media, a video producer and ad agency that currently has three funded YouTube channels in the U.S.
  • Based in Brooklyn, the company “specializes in an edgy-but-not-too-edgy mix of youth- and sponsor-friendly content” and has recently attracted attention — positive and negative. Vice is expected to make $200 million this year.
  • In a related article, AllThingsD notes: “People familiar with the deals say that Google is likely handing out smaller advances to European programmers, because the video ad market pays out less than in America.”
  • The deals vary depending on market and content maker, but in general, Google offers interest-free advances for exclusive rights to the content. Once the company earns back the advance from ad revenue, the creators get a share of the ad profit.

Louis C.K. at it Again: Pledges to Offer HBO Special Without DRM for $5

  • Emmy Award-winning comedian Louis C.K. has an upcoming special that will debut on HBO. He recently announced via Twitter that he will later be selling the standup globally for $5 without DRM restrictions.
  • According to the tweet, the special will be available on a few months after the HBO premiere.
  • “It’s not unusual for HBO to sell such comedy specials via traditional physical media, but it’s very much unprecedented to see the company relinquish control of that content and allow it to be offered digitally with few viewing restrictions,” reports The Verge.
  • Louis C.K. has been cutting out DRM for more than a year now, first selling his standup recording “Live at the Beacon Theater” directly to fans and then doing the same with ticket sales. Both experiments have proven successful.
  • “Yet arranging such a consumer-friendly deal with HBO could be seen as Louis C.K.’s biggest triumph yet,” the post suggests. “One man has convinced a huge corporation to play ball, guaranteeing that his fans come out the winners.”

Cisco Strategy for Taking on Patent Trolls: Turn the Tables with Litigation

  • Patent trolls conducted by non-practicing entities, who buy up patents to make money from licensing and lawsuits, have become increasingly common.
  • “The proportion of patent lawsuits filed by NPEs has grown to 40 percent in 2011 from 22 percent in 2007, according to Lex Machina, an intellectual-property litigation, data and analytics company,” reports the Wall Street Journal.
  • Now, networking-equipment maker Cisco is fighting back with its own litigation.
  • “Cisco’s suit against Chicago-based Innovatio IP Ventures LLC targets a tactic that some NPEs have employed in recent years,” explains the article. “Rather than allege that a big technology company has infringed one or more of their patents, Innovatio and other NPEs have gone after the tech company’s customers,” like coffee chains or hotels which don’t have the resources to fight costly lawsuits.
  • “Innovatio’s tactics, Cisco argues in its lawsuit, are ‘misleading, fraudulent and unlawful.’ It says they effectively amount to an extortion scheme, and therefore violate federal antiracketeering laws,” WSJ reports.
  • “A win by Cisco isn’t necessarily going to stop the NPE industry in its tracks,” says defense lawyer Ann Fort. “But it could halt some of the tactics used by NPEs, like going after companies’ customers.”
  • In a related case, Cisco is claiming Mosaid Technologies paid witnesses for testimony in infringement claims it filed against Cisco last year.
  • “Sometimes, lawsuits are about how much damage you can threaten in order to change behavior,” says Robin Feldman, a law professor. “At the very least, Cisco might get that. Or it could get a sympathetic judge or jury that takes Cisco’s case and runs with it.”

Betable API Raises the Stakes on the Global Future of Online Gambling

  • A San Francisco-based startup aims to add an element of gambling to both traditional and non-traditional games of chance, taking anything from poker to “Farmville” and raising the stakes.
  • Betable manages gambling transactions, allowing developers to focus on their game and simply configure rules on Betable’s API. Doing so enables these companies to bypass gambling licenses because all the gambling aspects are controlled by Betable.
  • Developers anywhere can build off the platform, but because online gambling is illegal in the U.S., the consumer opportunity is limited to other countries. Betable’s CEO Chris Griffin says there’s still an enormous opportunity for the technology in Europe, Asia, Canada, Australia and elsewhere.
  • “In terms of number of players, I think it’s an order of magnitude bigger than the existing online gambling market,” he says. “We’re going after an audience that’s already playing social games and mobile games,” which is much larger than the existing gambling market.
  • Betable is funded by Silicon Valley venture capitalists and currently has 18 employees.
  • “The company has survived a grueling licensing process for the UK and other markets, and has begun to sign up online video game companies interested in adding a gambling component to their games,” Forbes writes.

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