Dump the Java, Brush Up On Your Python -or- You Mean Cover Girl Doesn’t Work for HDTV?

Two amusing little items in media today. The first is a definite win for python (and like, why use Java?). DVD Jon has put together a little python script which intercepts the music file before they’re encapsulated in Apple’s DRM. What’s that mean? That means you still pay for the tune, but you now have the raw file, which means you can play it elsewhere… Of course, Apple’s service agreement doesn’t let you intercept the song and bypass their device protections, so perhaps this little script is moot. But I couldn’t help thinking “Look how far python has progressed”. We use it in-house, and personally I think it’s a lot better than java. Try it today, and see what you can do with it.

The second item is straight out of Gulliver’s Travels, to wit Brobdingnag. Thanks to the miracle of HDTV, pores, sores, and pimples galore can now be your viewing pleasure. And thanks to the Internet, there are critics only too happy to show you how bad it can get. “There is no escaping the naked lens of High-Definition TV. The picture is so clear that aging signs and skin imperfections are clearly visible”. So see if your favorite actor or actress is on their top-ten list. Yes, technology brings with it both pain and delight, sometimes in living color.

More Online Video – and I’m Still Not Satisfied!

AOL can’t meet the demands of either their advertisers or customers – both want more online video and they want it now!

Advertisers want more online video to, surprise, insert ads. Michael Barrett, VP worldwide sales, AOL Media Networks says “It’s a year-round process; we’re placing assets all the time. While video represents a growing portion of our revenue, it’s nowhere near the lion’s share of our online ad revenue like any area that’s in limited supply and high demand, and we try to organize our approach to the marketplace.”

With more streaming video content loved by their customers, AOL hopes to lure marketers that are increasingly bullish on video ads. “AOL can sell demographics or psychographics depending on what makes the most sense.We already do this across a huge network and wide array of brands and vertical programming categories” (Kevin Conroy, EVP-COO, AOL Media Networks).

Stay Employed in the USA – Get a Cinema Degree and Make Your Own Movies, Sony Wants Content

It looks like a Cinema degree is the new MBA according to Elizabeth Van Ness of the New York Times. “People endowed with social power and prestige are able to use film and media images to reinforce their power – we need to look to film to grant power to those who are marginalized or currently not represented” says Rick Herbst, a student at Yale Law School who majored in film.

The earlier generation of film students, competing for very few director slots, often ended up employed for their technical – not creative – skills, very much like people who majored in Computer Science in the 1980’s. “You sort of have this illusion coming out of film school that you’ll work into this small circle of creatives, but you’re actually more pigeonholed as a technician” said Aaron Bell, a film major who languished until he got a nice job in advertising. Ah, just like very few who become Semiconductor Designers or Operating Systems Architects!

So, Haven’t Editors Always Been Cannibals?

IMedia conference was last week, and according to Mark Naples of Online Spin, it was a real whinefest – not that I blame them – because the parent print companies believe that their web properties are “cannibalizing” subscribers and robbing them of revenue. As Mark notes “Some of these traditional publishing companies have even been withholding resources from their online counterparts due to this perception, which truly fascinates me”. He’s not alone.

Intercorporate squabbling has always been a part of big congomerates, and media companies are often made up of lots of little print, media, and radio properties who fiercely compete for subscribers. So this isn’t really anything new.

But according to the Wall Street Journal a month back, major advertisers have accelerated their move from print and broadcast TV to online and cable TV advertising, and this is causing real pain. “These sites provide compelling, exclusive content. Some require a subscription. Most provide streaming video. None exploits their users with pop-ups, pop-unders, or other lesser tactics… The problem isn’t that www.yourlocalnewspaper.com is robbing your local newspaper of readers. The problem is that too many people running these traditional media outlets fail to see the opportunity presented by this change, and how the Web is leading that evolution.”

One Billion Hosts and Nothing’s On!

According to Mookie Tenembaum’s latest piece, “The real secret of achieving long “real time spent” is in providing the consumer with something MORE than just the ad message”.

What’s this mean? Content sites can’t just put an ad in front of people without some substantial content attached. It’s a fair exchange – I watch a 15 second car ad on Cnet, for example, for a two minute discussion of the latest digital camera trends by a respected reviewer. Actually, I’m not tuning in to watch the ad, but I am watching it anyway. By gum, isn’t that just like TV?

So how much can customers tolerate – the average length of streaming video is 2.5 minutes with one (or several) ad, total running time 10 seconds max.

So why are publishers complaining about bleeding ink? They’ve already got the editors, writers, and customers reading their magazines and newspapers – all they have to do is put them in short interesting videos talking about what they do!

Of course, there’s that bugbear of “short interesting videos”. Last time I talked with a publisher, I heard all about “that video guy” who never delivered, never finished on deadline, and never made anything interesting. I guess that’s why I work for ExecProducer and use MinutePitch for polished videos in minutes. Because I can’t wait around for “that video guy” – time is money.

“Just Dial, Point, Shoot, Oh Drat, I’ve Got a Message”

There is this truly hilarious article on the BBC about sending pics and flics on those fancy cellphones. Any product manager should take notes…

Some precious outtakes:
“More than 167 million handsets were sold globally between July and September 2004, a period that, according to Gartner analyst Carolina Milanesi is “seldom strong”. ..In fact, the numbers of people not taking and sending pictures, audio and video is growing.”
– The more they sell, the fewer are used. Since cellphone services underwrite the gadget, looks like they’re losing money, but making it up in volume.

Codecs, Codecs, Everywhere, and Nary a Lip to Synch…

Ever wonder what kind of codec the pros use when working with video. Well, first of all, they work with raw uncompressed video for all their production needs. Only when they’re finished do they convert, compress, and otherwise create the format required (and only then does it matter). So actually, the first thing a video pro does not think about is the codec. She thinks “what do I have to do to create a professional-looking video”. Codecs and formats are technical specifications for viewing using specific tools. They’re not the only thing or even the most important thing for an enjoyable viewing experience.

So what if a pro has to go back and fix up a problem, like a synch error in a sound effect? Well, if she needs to go back, she’ll go back to the raw video she’s carefully saved in state, and do her work rapidly and well.

But what if you’re not a video pro? Then this little sad saga of video woe from a Microsoft consultant and Cisco engineer is a good warning of what happens when you don’t do what the pros do…or pay a professional service like MinutePitch by Valux to handle it all for you.

I Guess You Can’t Believe Everything You Read in the NYTimes

The good thing about gadget reviews is that the columnist who writes about them is supposed to be “an ordinary guy” and not a technologist who knows how things should work. But the bad thing about gadget reviews is that the columnist is an ordinary guy and hence will miss the obvious flaws any technologist knows is wrong and would tell folks about. So since Dave Pogue, actually a good columnist for the NYTimes, missed this, I’ll tell you what’s wrong with his digital camera chart this week so you don’t make the mistake of buying a lousy camera…

The Power of an Automated Internet Content Delivery Mechanism

Rob Enderle of the Enderle Group (formerly Forrester) often has some very interesting stories to tell – not surprising, really, because he’s been watching the industry for quite a while. I used to read his comments on the semi and systems side when he was at Giga (and prior at Dataquest). I’ve always found his comments good food for thought (even if we don’t always agree)…

In chatting about media-ready devices, we got onto the subject of the difficulty of creating content. We both agree that building a set-top device is pretty easy given some of the new hardware coming along, but making an interesting service without having good premade content (like getting a Hollywood deal, and that’s hard to get when the studios already have their content delivery channels) is hard. He thinks education is the first target – I think journalism – but content is the key to all.

Interesting about education content. I did a paper on that topic – video serving educational content per a test run in a local school district. Short creative works by kids on California Missions, etc. Webinars for teachers per school district. All automated, secure, simple, centralized. Content trackable / licensable. Focus on project basis – not process. But education is very conservative – while it was fun, it definitely was not first mover from my perspective.

All Aboard for the Video Train

According to this indepth Cnet article “2004 is the last year when people consider video an exotic application for broadband,” (Peter Barrett, CTO Microsoft TV).

So the Baby Bells are spending billions to become TV providers. “Voice is a dying business” and the bites from cable are costly. “If we are going to build the IP (Internet Protocol) pipe, we want all the revenue streams. The great thing is that several technologies are coming together now. We’re very happy about that” (Ralph Ballart, VP Broadband, SBC Laboratories).

The key is services, since most customers already have cable or satellite and are unlikely to change unless service offerings are more compelling. And bandwidth constipation is a real issue when dealing with poorly compressed poorly produced Internet video. “Digital video technology is in flux as technology providers develop potential replacements for the current standard, known as MPEG-2, which would require substantially less bandwidth to transmit video without loss of picture quality. A new standard, known as MPEG-4, would slash bandwidth requirements by about 75 percent, giving TV providers room for additional channels and high-definition transmissions, but it is still largely a work in progress”.

It’s not a “work in progress” at ExecProducer – we’ve been producing media of the Internet, by the Internet, and for the Internet for years, and continue to innovate on end-to-end quality, bandwidth resource allocation, and TCP/IP infrastructure issues along with production issues. So I suppose it’s just a “catch-up game” for those other guys. All aboard!