A Timeframe for TV’s Future?

Printed today in The Guardian: “The TV industry has as little as two years to create viable digital businesses or face a version of the "iTunes moment” that saw the music business cede the online future to Apple, according to Ashley Highfield.“

With regards to the various threat levels to traditional media, the TV and Film businesses are converging and it’s much more complex to transition online. More than two years will almost for sure be needed. Rocketboom has been around almost five years now and there is almost no difference in terms of non-technicalogical support.

Consider the evolution from print media. News will continue to be created and articles will continue to be consumed but the questions still remain about the business of the industry. The New York Times is literally scrambling and the bloggers are literally clamoring because no one has a viable solution, a hot topic even today in 2009.

From Lofquist, 1994: "Growing competition from the electronic media and a squeeze on leisure time are forcing U.S. printers and publishers to reappraise their traditional markets. Printed products originally issued as books, directories, newsletters, and reference materials increasingly appear in the form of audio books, laser disks, compact disks, software, facsimile, and on-line information”

That was fifteen years ago, WTF has everyone been doing since then?!…you might ask. It takes time for big systems to change. A lot of time. Granted, WTF, it shouldn’t have taken that much time; the heedless leaders over the last fifteen years have clearly run it into the ground, caught in a Catch-22 for relying on advertising as their only business model.

The music industry is changing at a faster clip, more on par with a technological pace because the industry is very different – there were just five record label companies that controlled the entire music industry. Literally only five.

Steve Jobs’ second greatest feat, aside from turning the computer into a tool for people, was usurping the entire music industry into just one company. Apple now single handedly sets the prices for all music. Because people were already used to paying for individual copies of music, this was not a difficult problem to solve for consumers. Apple simply made it easier and more economical to continue on.

TV has its similarities to music, but is often by comparison much more complex. TV is quickly losing it’s secular identity, along with Film and all kinds of additional screen based content to become the business of video in general. TV was once the business of only three companies, the adoption of cable drastically saturated share and today, video is spread out all over the place through a multitude of middle companies that all have various amounts of power and influence over the same primary asset, which is ultimately just the content itself. There is also a very complex array of revenue sources including theater tickets, merchandise, dvd sales, rentals, hardware sales, advertising and monthly cable subscription fees.

In particular, people are used to paying for all this stuff, but they are not used to paying for individual TV shows. And because TV is heavily ad-supported, just like the Newspapers, questions on how the rest of the non-fee based, non-cable TV industry will survive remain to be seen.

Setting aside the considerations above, there is still a very plain and simple reason why the industry probably can not transition in the next two years. Most of the new works that are currently being scoped or are in production, will release in the next three years. The industry that will support these productions is for a large part already in place awaiting. Distribution contracts, promotion contracts and talent contracts with writers, actors and producers are in many cases already set for years. With regards to movies, there are currently over 7200 films officially in-production, many for 2012 and 2013. And the greatest TV show hits of the season will likely not pass up the lucrative renewal contracts to instead go out on their own to find a non-industry and no revenue. It’s a ferocious Catch-22 that could cause the entire industry old and new alike to become stuck for even a decade. It’s hard to tell.

The writers strike of yesteryear gave a lot of the traditional executives and talent a quick chance to do some pondering. Remember the new Hollywood Digerati that was going to stick it to the man? They are all back at work now and again, missing from the conversation. It’s a shame because however the future pans out, the talent will eventually end up with the most power for being the centerpiece and beachhead of any business’ portfolio.

It’s fair to say that the TV and Film industry is doing some pondering and whether it needs to or not, separate or together, it’s very unlikely that it will become overall viable online inside the next two years.


Select Magma Tweets

alecorreo: I am really digging Mag.ma http://ow.ly/lugQ
19 minutes ago from TweetDeck · Reply · View Tweet

BuildIntel: Just wanted to let everyone know that I love #Magma. Check it – http://mag.ma/
about 3 hours ago from TweetDeck · Reply · View Tweet

nickdemartino: RT @jonarcher: Impressed by new video aggregator Magma http://mag.ma/
about 6 hours ago from TweetDeck · Reply · View Tweet

barryroodt: Very very cool – Magma, the current top videos right now: http://mag.ma/
about 7 hours ago from Tweetie · Reply · View Tweet


teachtech: Really cool, but not for those with ADD. www.mag.ma – compilation of top vids from so many sites it’s silly
about 8 hours ago from TweetDeck · Reply · View Tweet

NatashaKhan: The best thing to happen to online video since myspace video launched back in the day, Mag.ma http://mag.ma/
about 8 hours ago from TweetDeck · Reply · View Tweet

techintrovert: Mag.ma is an amazingly cool video aggregator- http://mag.ma/
about 9 hours ago from sobees · Reply · View Tweet

anyabelle: Wow. Just wow. http://mag.ma/ did not disappoint. Heck, it even had my CollegeHumor in here too.
about 9 hours ago from Tweetie · Reply · View Tweet

TheRobRose: Every time I see the vid svc…Mag.Ma in print.. I think of Dr. Evil saying “we’re surrounded by liquid hot Magma”… http://ow.ly/lmgV
about 10 hours ago from HootSuite · Reply · View Tweet


kimo79: Finally a way to browse videos! Love Magma… it makes you find interesting videos to watch… http://watwet.com/u/cdf6c1 about 12 hours ago from Watwet.com · Reply · View Tweet


stealingsand: looking over mag.ma – video aggregator. this could get good. http://bit.ly/XJGh5 (expand)
about 12 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

lloyd_xmas: and thank you @andrewbaron and @jamiew for creating the very beautiful mag.ma, a brilliant video sharing/tracking/exploring/saving site.
about 22 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

hoverbird: @jamiew really liking mag.ma so far… I’ve been waiting for something like this!
about 23 hours ago from Tweetie · Reply · View Tweet · Show Conversation

ryestar: @ambermac Caught net@night on mag.ma, great discussion of progressive thoughts on collaboration in software development. Fascinating stuff.
about 23 hours ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

EliciaBG: Looks amazing greg!!! RT @gleuch its out… Magma is officially open to everyone. http://mag.ma
1 day ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

DeliciousHot: Magma http://is.gd/2yLUC (expand)
about 23 hours ago from API · Reply · View Tweet

lkandr: Just Loves http://mag.ma/
1 day ago from Twittics3 · Reply · View Tweet

jonarcher: Impressed by new video aggregator Magma http://mag.ma/
1 day ago from TwitterGadget · Reply · View Tweet

theNEONblog: Mag.ma just officially launched. One of the coolest sites I have ever seen. No lie http://mag.ma/
1 day ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

ravivasavan: http://mag.ma/ just beautiful, beautiful!
about 17 hours ago from EventBox · Reply · View Tweet

rachaeljoyTV: thank god for this. RT @andrewbaron: RT @mashable Magma: A Billboard Hot 100 for Online Video http://bit.ly/nceyJ (expand)
1 day ago from TweetDeck · Reply · View Tweet

globalhero: Really likes http://mag.ma/ Content Aggregation at its best! #magma #ilke
1 day ago from TweetDeck · Reply · View Tweet

mashable: Magma: A Billboard Hot 100 for Online Video – http://bit.ly/lNVZF (expand)
1 day ago from bit.ly · Reply · View Tweet

TechCrunch: Mag.ma Unleashes Its Directory Of Hot Video Content To The Masses http://bit.ly/4n54RY (expand) by @jasonkincaid
1 day ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

deepsea33: Magma launches, tracking online video www.mag.ma Mo bettah than youtube suggestions. Cool URL
1 day ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

ejacobsen: http://mag.ma/ very well done video site. on my short list of sites to check at least once-a-day.
1 day ago from Tweetie · Reply · View Tweet

elisinger: Congrats @AndrewBaron & team on Magma launch http://Mag.ma my new fav site! I’m stoked to have them present at #CaseCamp http://CaseCamp.org

RomanSF: Lovin’ http://mag.ma so far. #magma seems like the #popurls of video on first take. pretty cool.
1 day ago from Seesmic · Reply · View Tweet

davidleeking: @mattsingley yep – mag.ma IS cool.
1 day ago from Tweetie · Reply · View Tweet

whileseated2: @tedr why did it take someone so long to develop a curated site like that? great link: http://mag.ma
1 day ago from Tweetie · Reply · View Tweet

markuswamser: Online Videosammlung einfach organisieren: http://mag.ma/
1 day ago from TwitterFox · Reply · View Tweet

LibEvo: Magma gaat public http://magma.ma
1 day ago from API · Reply · View Tweet

mee_z: Video Meme- und Statistik-Plattform http://mag.ma/ jetzt online. Viel Erfolg dem Team um @andrewbaron #magma
1 day ago from HootSuite · Reply · View Tweet

stefanronge: Gillar Magma skarpt! RT @Birming http://mag.ma är nu öppet för alla.
1 day ago from web · Reply · View Tweet

MissPirata: @jamiew felicidades por ese magma esta increíble :)!
about 21 hours ago from TweetDeck · Reply · View Tweet

TorstenBeeck: Die begehrtesten Videos im Netz, hübsch sortiert nach Relevanz und Plattform bei http://www.mag.ma/ (vom Rocketboom-Gründer Andrew Baron).
1 day ago from TweetDeck · Reply · View Tweet

romsfou: Link: Magma : Les Videos qu’il faut voir sur le net – Nouveau site qui recense les meilleures videos du net… http://tumblr.com/xnp2u4wfe
1 day ago from Tumblr · Reply · View Tweet


Know Your Meme Makes TIME Top 50

rocketboom:jamiew: “Know Your Meme was selected as one of TIME Magazine’s 50 Best Websites of 2009! 50/50 🙂 We wrote our first scientismic episodes in Dec 2007 and launched the ‘Meme Database’ website in Dec 2008. It’s seen amazing growth — we’re now at more than 500 meme entries, 10k images, and will serve over 4.5 million pageviews this month!”


Building Big Dreams With Just a Little

As we gear up for the public launch of Magma, I’m starting to feel as if we are heading out into the unknown. I’m worried and excited for the same reasons: We are going at it with no investment, no PR company, no advertising or sponsorship deals in place, no anything really, just a website and a few computers.

From my experience with Rocketboom, I know this is not going to be easy. Rocketboom is a simple idea, and could be simple to sustain if there was already an established marketplace for video content online. In that case, we would just focus on making the show better. As a new online content studio expanding into our own studio network we must regularly engage with new technologies, new legal issues around copyrights and licensing, new forms of distribution, new ways of interacting with our audience and completely new business models including new ways of doing advertising in new international marketplaces, none of which existed to support video online when Rocketboom started.

Magma is even more complex in being a platform *for* video, in general. In terms of it’s product offerings, it’s a video aggregator, a social network for video, a place to collect video, statistical charts, a tv guide, a short URL service, a video search engine – it sounds like a crazy undertaking which is why I’m even more excited and amazed that we were able to build it so quickly and cheaply. And so too, the scare: the business model is also complex and no easy job to pull off well: It involves market research, statistics, video advertising, API licensing and branded partnerships.

Having never raised money before, but having read my share of Techmeme articles, I knew it would be a challenge to justify all of this and I found myself out pitching the idea of Magma, based on my own “self-proclaimed” foresight, instead of pitching something that already existed that someone could see and experience. It didn’t feel right. If I was proposing to launch a Moon lander (something I would also like to do one day), I would have no choice but to raise investment first. For Magma, the fact of the matter is, while it could be helpful, we didn’t *need* any outside investment to get the site built and launched.

Recent years have seen a boon in internet companies in a similar position of being able to take off with minimal resources. As I’ve mentioned, Rocketboom is one example and plenty of people have done much more with much less. It’s extra hard work, but its also extra fulfilling when it works out. With regards to Magma, I’m probably most excited because I believe we identified a massive hole in the marketplace and I think Magma has the potential to be not just any entry point into online video, but all together, THE entry point.

Despite all the uncertainties, high bars and high hopes, it’s the same kind of excitement I had after dreaming up Rocketboom. What worked then was identifying what would likely happen in the world, racing to be amongst the first to execute and focusing on making the offering as good as possible. Beyond that, staying plugged in and a step ahead of technology, remaining transparent, growing spending based on growth in revenue, and building out a team of only the best. With both Rocketboom and Magma we have a long way to go to realize our full potential, but in terms of living the life, its happening.


Where is Molly?

People have been asking about Molly. Molly is in the UK and we are waiting to be sure that our governments approve Molly’s work visa before we are finally allowed to work together. We are hoping it will happen this upcoming week in which case Molly will be begin hosting Rocketboom daily asap, thanks for keeping a look out! In the meantime, the rest of the Rocketboom crew is rocking it out with fresh daily content: http://www.rocketboom.com


Know Your Meme on the Up & Up

While programming Magma, and keeping up with the Rocketboom back-end, our three person dev team, Jamie, Greg & Todd whipped up the Know Your Meme websIte from scratch. When I say whipped up from scratch, I mean to say we are not using a pre-existing CMS, we built our own to suit the project. Philosophically, it was hard to determine how to strike a balance between allowing anyone and everyone to create and then determine the validity of each entry. WIth just the right balance, it’s turned into a really fun and growing community of people who care passionately about internet culture. Nothing like mixing the rigor of academia with the lulz.


Know Your Meme Featured in Time

Your Guide to the Weird, Wild Web – TIME


Friendfeed: Yesterday & Today

Originally Posted May 24th, 2008 and reposted here today. This is the “good side” of the internet. But as Dave Winer points out today, there is also a bad side.

The first time I heard about friendfeed was in mid 2007 but I just passed it over and didn’t think much about it. In the fall of 2007, Jason Shellen stopped by my office in NYC and was talking about it. That day I had an epiphany that Friendfeed would be the next big thing.

I later outlined this in Austin during SXSW this year. People saw the conference as Twitter’s major launch, but in fact, Twitter had launched out of SXSW a whole year earlier (nothing had changed with Twitter over that year other than an effort to remain stable). This year, people simply used it because they already knew what to do with it. Unbeknownst to most, it was actually Friendfeed that launched out of SXSW this year because the earliest adopters were already on to it. Like a meme, or a hit song, Friendfeed has the intrinsic qualities needed to formulaically make it.

Friendfeed essentially renders Twitter obsolete. Steve Gillmor is wrong. The only need for Twitter is for legacy purposes. The same audience that made Twitter is slowly migrating over to Friendfeed because Friendfeed has what Twitter has, but its better and there is a lot more.

So “Why Friendfeed and why Friendfeed when it feels so raw?”, you might ask. Friendfeed is following the same formulaic model that made Twitter popular, but its doing it better and quicker.

I have a couple of insights to offer about this evolution and Freindfeed in particular that I have not seen articulated yet, surpisingly.

Ever wonder why you have to go to Tweetscan or Summize to search in Twitter? Or why so many people use Twhirl to do Twitter locally? And why Twitter never developed the search, the conversation, or even any of these 100’s of twitter applications and businesses?

Twitter was smart to allow all of these companies to tweet away with their plugin products and not pull an Apple-like infringement case against them. The fact that there is a Twhirl means that there are people and business interests that are out there for Twitter. They are hyping it, trying to raise money for their projects, actively thinking and developing ideas around growing their Twitter-related assets. They are out talking about it. Just by allowing it to happen, Twitter currently has factories upon factories of people all over the world working for them.

It’s a miracle that Twitter made it this far. I believe the reason why is because of the good will and brilliant nature of the people involved initially, and then the good will and excitement of the first adopters. Twitter had two big competitors up until now, Pownce and Jiaku and both had a lot of resources to reckon with. Even with Google involved, these two classic rivals are now flat. Interestingly enough in context of the following paragraph, these other systems were not working because they were not simple enough.

Time has passed now and everyone that gets Twitter and has become addicted to it, needs more. But its way too spread out now. Over 80% of all of Twitter’s traffic comes from API usage meaning it’s happening without people ever even going to twitter.com, because they need to be somewhere else. I dont even know where some of my tweets live anymore. Tweetscan will show me a Twitter that someone already deleted because it keeps cache. My email alerts refuse to tell me what the message is so I have to login to Twitter from my phone to see. It drives me crazy that I cant @someone without also quoting them, and linking to them. Even the tinyurl is a pain because I have to go over there to get it or Twitter may or may not do it for me, depending on how much space I have left. There are no pictures or videos or anything else.

Enter Friendfeed, well positioned and taking up Twitter’s evolution. It’s got the good will of the people involved in the company, the same first adopters that Twitter had, and I mean *the same actual people*, it has the features that we want, and on top of all that, it actually works and is reliable. True, it has not seen scale, but Twitter has always been down even when it was small.

FFapps.com shows a short list of applications that have spawned up around Friendfeed from just a few developers. Ill tell you what, now is the time to jump in with an application to leverage the audience if you are into this feeder fish application phenomenon. Think Facebook apps. Twitter apps. Friendfeed apps.

It’s almost as if Friendfeed is intentionally raw, waiting for some young interface designer chap to present the data in a more compelling way. All you need to do is do it right, do it best and do it now and and you will likely win over the hearts and minds of the authoritative and savvy first adopters. FF created an API so anyone could do with FF what they could do with Twitter. Friendfeed will be smart to allow 3rd party applications to help build up the hype, but they will need to do what Twitter has not yet done and that is continue to innovate themselves. Else, the young chap who is following in FF footsteps, even if just by design, will overtake FF too. The problem that Twitter has now is that FF is in fact a good interface and that becomes apparent the more you use it. The look-and-feel? Not so much. And not so much of a problem to fix.

Time is of the essence. Twitter has a chance to step up to the plate but they must first satisfy everyone’s basic needs of providing a stable application. Friend Feed is not only ahead in that department, they are way ahead.

To everyone who is not a developer but simply wants to get in on the social, this is the number one best time to jump in with an account and become an active participant. The first adopters of a new platform tend to have the greatest advantages when the system becomes larger and even more important. [my friendfeed account is here]


Short URLs for a Short-Lived World

Short URL services have more negatives than they do positives, but the positives are not unique.

The primary argument in favor of short URLs is the business of statistics. But why do we need short URLs to get statistics? I get much more comprehensive stats from my Apache logs and you dont need to be a programming wiz to set up a deep stats system. It’s nice and easy that Short URL services have taken the time to create special stats, but we dont need stat services that hijack web links for someone else’s consequential business.

The argument in favor of short URLs is more of a new justification that helps to satisfy people who subsequently became addicted to using short URLs as a new way of life, due to Twitter’s 140 character length limit. Granted, there is good cause to shorten URLs in this environment, right now.

This is a trend that will fade.

In the meantime, while we work our way through the transition out of short URLs, for any service in business over the next year or two, create your new service with short urls in mind or add a short url option for your preexisting site.

This will also help to solve the the most urgent problem we have with short URLs: No one knows where short URLs will lead them. The following link, for example, is very important to the identity of today’s internet culture but I warn you against clicking on it, because you dont know where it goes – go ahead, I dare you to click on it: http://bit.ly/1628nB

Magma, our new twitter-friendly website, is http://mag.ma and every video gets a short hash for it’s permalink. Thus, when you see a mag.ma link, it will be no surprise; this means a it’s a link to a video and you know where you are going when you click – to the Magma site itself.

For services that already exist consider adding a short URL option as a “share this on Twitter” feature. For example, do to the extent people have been twittering links to our Know Your Meme database, we recently purchased http://meme.ly to give people who tweet a short, meaningful option, one that will make sense for their audience, and one that will lead to the same destination site, every time.