February 10, 2005

Surveying the new media landscape

Lauren Gelman  Scott Rafer  Katherine von Jan

The American Press Institute Media Center today finished up a three-day seminar on the topic Emerging Technology, Business and Policy for Senior Executives at the Crowne Plaza Cabaña in Palo Alto, Calif.

I spent the day there yesterday, as well as the evening gathering at Yahoo!’s headquarters in Sunnyvale. Lots of familiar faces: Bruce Koon, Steve Gillmor, Joan Connell, Bob Wyman, Frank Daniels, Jeff Clavier, Jim Kennedy, David Hornik, Susan Mernit. Finally got to meet Neil Budde in person (the Wall Street Journal Online legend who joined Yahoo four months ago).

The day was packed with useful and thoughtful presentations, including talks by (pictured top to bottom, Lauren Gelman, associate director, Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society; Scott Rafer, CEO of Feedster; Katherine von Jan, trend director, Faith Popcorn’s BrainReserveBrainr, a marketing consultancy whose clients are all in the Fortune 200; von Jan gave a talk about “directed brailling,” which involves observing behavior, understanding why it’s happening, and predicting future culture).

Some highlights:

Esme Vos of Lemon Cloud in Amsterdam gave a passionate talk about municipal wireless and implored journalists to do more than simply rewrite press releases but to dig into the conflicts of interest occurring in the rollout of wireless services in various communities.

Lauren brought the attendees up to speed on the significant public policy issues involved with copyright and spectrum and with the Grokster case before the Supreme Court next month (I believe she’s writing a brief on behalf of Grokster). Unfortunately, there wasn’t time to drill down on Grokster and educate the media execs here about the significance of the case.

As I wrote on my Darknet blog the other day, the press continues to portray this as a case about piracy, when it’s much more fundamentally about the threats posed to technological innovation.

I was extraordinarily pleased to meet Dave Samuel, founder of Grouper – perhaps the best example of a consumer-friendly darknet out there at the moment. PC World gave them 4 stars out of 5; CNET, 5 out of 5. (I’ll be creating a landing page for darknets on my Darknet blog in March.)

Grouper, based in Mill Valley, Calif., has 15 employees (10 of them engineers, natch), and $1.5 million in funding from private investors.

From Dave Samuel’s talk:

The four “golden rules” of Grouper:

– Share everything
– Play fair
– Don’t take things that are not yours
– Be aware of wonder

“One thing that always frustrated me was the [lack of] ability to share media with my friends, to share files. You can email some files — but with constraints,” Samuel said. “With peer to peer and the nature of the broadband world, people naturally share many things, including media files.”

On My Space, you can’t upload any photos bigger than 600kb. In Microsoft’s MSN Spaces, you’re limited to 10mb total. Grouper has no size limit because “we turn your computer into a file sharer” and thus the company bears no storage costs. (Incidentally, Ourmedia will have no practical upper limit on photo sizes or total photo storage.)

”Grouper is the definition of fair use,” Samuel said. (I think and hope he’s right; we’ll see if the courts and Congress eventually catch up.) On Grouper, you can share videos, images and text files – but not music files. If you want to share an mp3 file or wma file, you can stream it but not download it.

“We’re getting some backlash from our users,” he said, “but it’s also pretty cool that you can also create your own radio station among your friends.”

Grouper darknets are capped at 30 people “because of fair use,” he said, though there is no statutory or judicial affirmation of such a number. It just seemed reasonable.

Scott Rafer, CEO of Feedster, had a fascinating presentation. Hoping to find his slide show online so I can share it. Some high points:

– Startups have a competitive advantage because “we’re all using open source, and we’re all using free open source when possible.”

– We think of ourselves as Internet search more than blog search. Within a
month, Jobs.feedster.com will have more job listings than Monster.com.

– Disintermediation isn’t happening. It’s a myth that the Internet disintermediates. Instead, you have a new (often distributed) group of intermediaries.

– Feedster is 11 guys working on capital of less than a million dollars. The company sees itself as providing under-the-covers infrastructure that enables companies threatened by Google, Microsoft and Amazon to put together an array of user-friendly tools.

– What to do? Identify your offsite audience: bloggers, commentators; readers. Help that syndicated audience to save money, save time, raise their
effectiveness and productivity.

– How? By using lightweight structure (offer some part of all content as xml;
offer the mechanics for accepting same). Be the center of an ecology (content, technology). Specialize and integrate (next generation of big dotcoms are all web services; combine the best features of each for your syndicated audience). Use open source software whenever possible.

Rafer also invited Buzznet, Socialtext and Pubsub to join Feedster in putting together a 2- to 3-page whitepaper on how the Associated Press (or other entity) could offer Little League scores and highlights, culled from volunteer citizen journalist-bloggers, across their network of client papers and websites.

Jim Kennedy, who’s always one of the savviest people at these conferences (even though he works for the Associated Press), offered these interesting high-level observations:

”Content is more important than the container it’s in.” We grew up in an era
of devoting most of our attention to our destination websites. That’s not our franchise. “The balance of power has shifted to the consumers of content, and they will defy any attempts to bottle it up.”

The PC, set-top box and cell phone is what the AP will care about in the
future. Brand needs to attach to the content, not just to the container.
”We have to be Ok with the fact that people will pick apart our content and reassemble it.” In the meantime, there will be a slew of legal, ethical and business issues related to that.

The wonderfully accented Jeff Clavier, who’s vp of business development for Buzznet, showed how Buzznet’s business model differs from Flickr’s: While both do premium services, ads, sponsorships and ecommerce. Buzznet goes beyond those business opportunities, he said, by also offering event and artist promotion, branded development, licensing and white label versions of photo albums.

Seen on Flickr the other day: a photo of the book “Blogging for Teens.”

Clavier showed off the Ventura County Star’s community photo gallery – a very cool example of citizens media. He told me that it costs newspapers that want to do this “a few hundred to a few thousand dollars a month,” depending on the amount of additional support needed.

Bob Wyman from PubSub (another favorite site I check regularly): “Media companies have sat on their duffs for 10 years – thinking they owned this turf — while startups have stepped into the breech.”

Ross Mayfield, CEO of Socialtext quoted someone in offering this advice to media companies: ”Replace the word information (or content) with relationship.” Also: “You have affinities in your community that just haven’t been realized yet.”

Om Malik, a blogger, author, and reporter for Business 2.0 magazine: “Everything is about broadband, instant always-on access.” It is bringing about a new kind of revolution that we just begun to appreciate.”

One of the speakers pointed out that the social tagging site del.icio.us has 62,000 registered users and 1.5 million urls, and in past 24 hours some 7,200 members have generated 27,000 posts.

I raised the question: How do you turn newspapers from a publication into a conversation? One way is to turn your reporters into bloggers. But what else can online newspapers do to go beyond one-dimensional Reader Forums to create dynamic social spaces?

Three speakers gave excellent responses.

Ross Mayfield: Give users a chance to built upon your product. Give people the freedom to remix your content — to take it in new directions — by tagging your material with a Creative Commons license.

Bob Wyman: One roadblock is that you can’t find the conversation about your story on the media site itself. What you need is a button or listing of comments about this story, so that “you suck the entire Internet into your local paper as the environment in which to talk about the paper.
They can be blog entries, videocasts, audiocasts, so that the paper once again becomes the focal point of your community.”

Jim Kennedy: Let the readers continue the discussion begun in the story by conversing with the sources.

At night, Yahoo treated us to wine and a buffet, while Craig Forman, Neil Budde (from the news group) and Scott Gatz (senior director of Yahoo personalization) gave short talks about the company’s new media efforts.

Yahoo now has 345 million unique users a month; 165 million active registered users a month; and 2.9 billion page views a day. The definition of news has “dramatically changed,” Forman said. Instead of users receiving their news from a single voice or collection of voices, the new news is characterized by breadth, speed, personalization, accuracy, comprehensiveness and a respect for the user’s intelligence. (Not sure I agree with all of those, or whether they’re a change from the past.) Yahoo, he said, knows what it is: “We’re a media technology company.”

Budde highlighted something that I had beenonly dimly aware of: You can not only subscribe to 100 RSS feeds on Yahoo, but you can also create a customized feed. Want to create an RSS feed about the Asian tsunami or about Michael Jackson — compiling stories from multiple sources into one feed? Done. You can create a news search and turn that into a news feed. RSS click-throughs now makes up 1 percent of the traffic on Yahoo.

Gatz spoke about the 20 million My Yahoo users (who’ve personalized the site), and one of his slides highlighted this:

The bottom line: Personalization is cool.
New Media Musings, 9/28/04

Mayfield asked from the audience: When will socialization meet social networking on Yahoo? Forman gave an intriguing answer: “Watch us continue to evolve.”

Later: Neil Budde emails to clarify the way Yahoo creates customized RSS feeds. So that I don’t screw it up, I’ll quote Neil directly:

“Our news desk creates some specialized feeds as news warrants – the tsunami and Michael Jackson examples I used. When we do this, it is a form of text search, but we have at our disposal a few more tools to make it even more precise and accurate, including wire service coding and other metadata that might not be available to someone searching in normal News Search. If someone has a topic they’d like to follow other than one we’ve created, they can do a text search in News Search and then turn the results into an RSS feed.

“Just wanted you to be aware that the examples were actually of feeds we created for users based on news judgment and filtering we do.”

JD Lasica, founder of Socialmedia.biz, is now co-founder of the cruise discovery engine Cruiseable. See his About page, contact JD or follow him on Twitter or Google Plus.

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4 thoughts on “Surveying the new media landscape

  1. Surveying the new media landscape

    JD Lasica took full advantage of the collective brainpower assembled at our Emerging Technology seminar. From his excellent report on the event:

  2. From Personalization to Socialization

    Wednesday night a bunch of bloggers and media executives attended a Yahoo! briefing on Personalization. Susan Mernit noted: Yahoo’s potential to own a huge piece of the blogosphere via distribution, tool sets and content acquisition did not go unnotic…

  3. Surveying the new media landscape

    JD Lasica took full advantage of the collective brainpower assembled at our Emerging Technology seminar. From his excellent report on the event: