Most New TV Shows Require Too Much Effort!

Post ImageI don’t watch a lot of television, save for hockey, news, and Smallville. I guess I am “an Internet child” and that’s definitely where most of my time is spent. I think there’s more to it than that, however. Almost all of the new TV shows being produced require a lot of effort from the viewer. More effort than I am willing to put in.

Take 24, for example. People are crazy about this show. I mean seriously off the reservation, like this guy:

If Jack Bauer has to catch a shark with his bare hands and speed-dry the fin so he can make a soup to restore the President’s sexual potency, I’ll be watching. If Jack Bauer is caught in the path of a fiercely-lit green energy beam made of fuckton particles in a suspended gobbledygook matrix and inadvertently is wearing a shark’s tooth necklace and become half-human, half tiger shark – I’ll be watching.

I’ve never seen an entire episode of 24, so I don’t know what the fuss is all about. I just don’t get it. And therein lies the problem. There’s no way I am going to start watching 24 now – it’s too far along. I’d be an outsider, a poser almost. I would have to go back to the very beginning and watch every episode just to catch up. And that’s just too much work.

And existing fans of the show? They can’t miss an episode, no sir. They have to record it for later if they absolutely cannot be sitting down when the new episode airs. Heaven forbid they miss one. They’d be behind, lost. Can’t have that – so they put in the effort.

There’s some old shows that are guilty, like 24, but it’s the new ones that are the worst. Just look at some of the newest shows – most pretty much require that you started watching from the beginning to really understand what’s going on. Heroes? Yup. Prison Break? Yup. Friday Night Lights? Yup. Studio 60? Yup. Ugly Betty? Yup. Jericho? Yup.

I am not sure if this trend is good or bad for television. On the one hand, networks might be limiting a show’s audience by setting the barrier of entry so high. On the other hand, these kinds of shows probably sell a lot better on DVD.

Either way, I kinda miss the old shows. The shows that didn’t require a lot of effort, nor an introduction. You could just start watching any episode and you just got it. There are notable exceptions in the current most popular shows, like CSI or Law & Order or American Idol, but for the most part, I think the new shows require too much effort.

In a way, I look forward to the day these shows are cancelled so I can just get all the DVDs.

Northern Voice 2007

Post ImageI finally registered for Northern Voice 2007 today. The annual conference has become a tradition for me, and this year the timing is perfect as it falls on the tail end of reading week. The organizers posted the schedule yesterday, and even though it is still a work in progress, it looks good. I don’t see a keynote however – perhaps it will fill the time gap from 9:30 to 10:15?

If you’d like to attend Northern Voice, you can register here.

Read: Northern Voice

Thirsty for Podcasting News in 2006

Post ImageGoogle released their annual zeitgeist for 2006 recently, and the top searches proved to be quite different than those found on Yahoo’s annual listing. Google’s top ten terms are mostly technology-related, while Yahoo’s are entertainment-related.

Also different were the news searches. Coming in at number four on the top searches for Google News is podcasting! Who knew so many people were interested in learning about what is happening in the podcasting industry!

Here are my favorite podcasting news sites:

I also subscribe to a bunch of search feeds, and news feeds from individual companies too. And every now and then you get some news from more general sites like TechCrunch or Digg. I thought this list would have been longer though. Perhaps there is room in the news space for podcasting?

Read: Google Zeitgeist

Podcasting Metrics: Complete Downloads & More

Post ImagePodcasting consultant Jason Van Orden has been writing an interesting series of blog posts on podcasting metrics. In part 4 of the series, Jason tackles the issue of measuring complete downloads, and says that he doesn’t think measuring complete downloads is “absolutely necessary” and that something “more sophisticated and qualitative” is needed in addition to download numbers.

From part 4b of the series:

Scott Bourne and Tim Bourquin provided interesting and relevant responses. They both emphasize that podcasters have a responsibility not to let advertisers hold podcasting to a higher standard than other media (i.e. magazines and newspaper) that can’t measure complete content/ad consumption.

I have to respectfully disagree.

The way that magazines, television, radio, and other media sell advertising is flawed. Everything is based on assumptions (circulation numbers in the case of magazines, random sampling in the case of TV and radio). Don’t think for a second that advertisers are happy about this system – I’m sure they’d love to know exactly how many people watched or heard or read their advertisement. Why do you think everyone loves AdSense? Cold, hard numbers. The problem with magazines, TV, and radio is that the technology to accomplish this is prohibitively complex and expensive.

Podcasting doesn’t suffer from this problem. Measuring exactly how many people have downloaded an episode is relatively straightforward and inexpensive, and while not 100% accurate, it is fairly close. I think the strategy that Scott and Tim suggest would be bad for podcasting. As the saying goes – you’re only as strong as your weakest link. Podcasting needs to be stronger than other media.

A Better Strategy

I think podcasters who wish to generate advertising revenue should provide as much data as possible, even beyond complete downloads if such data is available (more on this in a second). There are a number of reasons for doing so:

  • There would be less waste, as advertisers could spend money only on podcasts that generate views or listens of their ad.
  • More data could also allow advertisers to more appropriately target their ad, making it more effective, enjoyable, and useful.
  • In the long run, advertisers would move more dollars away from media that uses flawed assumptions to media that provides useful data. That is, podcasting’s piece of the advertising pie will grow.
  • The valuation of a particular podcast will be much more realistic.

I am sure some podcasters are bristling at my suggestion. They think that if they have to provide actual numbers, they can’t make as much as if they sold ads based on assumptions like the other media do. This idea is wrong too. Providing more data will allow advertisers to spend targeted dollars. Unlike general advertisements, an advertiser will pay much more for the ability to target an ad. The podcaster may actually end up making more money!

Podcasting’s enemy (if we need to have one) is not the advertisers as Scott and Tim suggest, it’s the other media. Give the advertisers what they want, and podcasting will prevail.

Beyond Complete Downloads

I think complete downloads are quite important. We are putting the finishing touches on a big update to Podcast Spot, and one of the new features we have added is complete downloads. We parse the request logs for you automatically, so you’ll see the number of complete downloads for each episode, usually within two hours of the download. Right now these numbers are best effort, meaning that we aren’t yet at 100% accuracy. We’ll continue to work on it though.

As I mentioned above, podcasters should strive to provide as much data as possible to advertisers. There are the obvious things like complete downloads, page views, geolocation stats, demographics, etc. There are also the less obvious things. What if you could determine if someone actually listened to or watched your entire episode, or if they skipped parts of the episode? That kind of information would be extremely valuable.

These are the types of metrics that podcasters should strive to measure. Podcasters don’t have a responsibility to hold podcasting to the low standards of other media, they have a responsibility to set the bar higher and higher.

How could Zune's software suck so badly?

Post ImagePerhaps you’ve heard on the news recently that Microsoft’s new digital media player, the Zune, is hardly flying off the shelves. I guess that’s not too surprising given the early reviews the device has received. Now I know Microsoft is pretty good at hardware (Xbox, mice and keyboards, etc.) but they are still a software company. How is it then, that they could have screwed up the software side of the Zune so badly?

Now I haven’t seen or tested a Zune, so I can’t say I have had similar experiences. And granted, not all of the reviews are so negative (indeed there are quite a few positive ones), but still. A software company should have gotten the software part absolutely right, don’t you think?

Xbox 360 to offer movies and television via Live

Post ImageMicrosoft has announced that starting November 22nd, which just happens to be the one year anniversary of the Xbox 360, users will be able to download standard and high definition TV shows and movies. This is a big deal, make no mistake about it. Engadget has some more details on the service, dubbed Xbox Live Video. Pricing has not yet been announced, but we do know payment will be made in Microsoft points.

Here are some choice quotes from around the web. From Microsoft Monitor:

Rental is something Microsoft offers that Apple doesn’t. And Microsoft will offer HD content, too, which is really smart. It’s not just differentiating from iTunes or other services, but preserving the user experience. Xbox 360 is very much about the HD experience.

From Don Dodge:

Stay tuned for more Live services. It is going to be tough to keep up with all the announcements coming from Microsoft over the next few months. It just gets better every day.

And not as positive, from GigaOM:

With just 20 gigs in the consoles standard hard drive set-up, youre talking about 10 high definition TV episodes or five HD movies. Most gamers can churn through that content in days.

I would not be surprised if Microsoft announced a larger hard drive in the near future.

All of a sudden, owning an Xbox 360 is about more than being a gamer. It’s great news for people like me, a fairly casual gamer. I knew the 360 would be big on media when I bought it, but I had no idea this was coming. I can’t wait to see what they launch next!

Read: Xbox.com

Windows Media Player 11: Not Impressive

Post ImageOn Monday, Microsoft released the latest update to Windows Media Player, affectionately known as version 11. Apparently the release was supposed to happen a week earlier, but was delayed due to concerns about the quality.

They should have delayed the release even longer.

I wrote about Beta 1 and Beta 2, and in general, the final release hasn’t changed my opinion about the software. Here’s what I like about it:

  • The interface is clean and looks modern and attractive.
  • Searching is excellent, and really becomes the main way you interact with your media library.
  • Synchronization with portable devices is superb.

And pretty much everything else falls into the “indifferent” or “don’t like it at all” categories. They have tried to make the app easier to use, but as a result, they have taken out some of the functionality that advanced users such as myself want. The best example here is adding media to the library. I want to have explicit, tight control over what goes into my library and what stays out, so forcing me to monitor folders or play a file completely sucks. Give me multiple different ways to manage this kind of thing!

What else: lots of visualizations are missing, there aren’t any Canadian stores supported, sometimes it appears to freeze, and a bunch of other minor things.

The biggest problem of all? Windows Media Player 11 is not an “oh my god you must get the latest version” kind of update to previous versions. As far as I am concerned, WMP11 is the first such release of Windows Media Player. I think WMP9 was an excellent improvement, and WMP10 was better still. It sucks that I can’t say the same about WMP11. I was really hoping for something better.

I guess I’ll have to wait for version 12.

Read: WMP11

Teenagers listening to less radio? I'm shocked!

Post ImageIn case you missed it, that was sarcasm in the title. A sort of recent study by Edison Media Research shows that people aged 12 to 24 are listening to far less radio than they used to. I found this study via Podcasting News, but I hate the fact that they do not link to their sources, so I am not linking to them. Instead you can read about the study right from Edison Media Research (because they deserve the traffic):

A new study by Edison Media Research shows sharp declines in Time Spent Listening (TSL), Persons Using Radio (PUR) and most importantly attitudes about radio among the 12-to-24-age group, the listeners who represent both terrestrial radio’s future and its greatest challenge.

Perhaps of most concern, tracking of questions on attitudes about radio among this crucial group trend down as well. Fewer young people expect radio to be an important part of their future lives.

Almost every teenager I know owns an iPod or some other sort of portable media device. I don’t find it surprising at all that time spent listening for this age group is down. Teenagers today make their own radio station every day by creating playlists.

Read: Edison Media Research

Google buys YouTube for $1.65 billion

Post ImageThe ramifications of this deal will be felt for quite some time. CNET News.com is reporting that Google has purchased video sharing site YouTube for $1.65 billion in stock. The deal has been rumored for some time, but I didn’t think it would actually go through:

“This is one of many investments that Google will be making to put video at the heart of a user’s online experience,” said Google CEO Eric Schmidt on a conference call after the deal was announced. “When we looked at the marketplace and saw what was going on, we saw a clear winner in the social networking side of video, and that’s what drove us to start the conversations with YouTube.”

You can listen to an audio interview with Eric Schmidt and YouTube CEO Chad Hurley here.

Also today, YouTube announced some major distribution deals with the big record labels. All of a sudden, the threat of a lawsuit looks much less likely, doesn’t it? I wonder what the MySpace people will think of this deal. I’m sure they are a little scared now that YouTube has Google’s backing.

So the deal is done, Google is now king of video. Still, I can’t help but wonder if a simple, exclusive ad-deal with YouTube would have been a better investment for Google? I guess time will tell.

Read: CNET News.com

Has TechCrunch lost its edge?

Post ImageI’ve been subscribed TechCrunch for quite a long time, and I rather enjoy reading about the various companies and technologies they profile. Lately though, I’ve noticed that TechCrunch seems to be reporting on “big company” or “big media” things far more than the little stuff. A good example of this is what happened today. I opened up my aggregator for the first time today, and there were five posts in the TechCrunch feed:

  • Live.com and Yahoo! bulk up for local search brawl
  • Zune Unveiling Tomorrow
  • NBC to put new primetime shows online for free
  • Major Google/Intuit Partnership
  • Skype Video For Macs Launches Today

See what I mean? These look like headlines from CNET News.com, not TechCrunch! Now don’t get me wrong, these are all very interesting posts, and TechCrunch always has some inside information or extra analysis which is worthwhile, but they didn’t get to 113,000 subscribers by covering the big guys. They got there by finding and sharing the smaller companies and products that no one else could find.

Which begs the question – is TechCrunch becoming more like a mainstream business news site? Can we expect more of the “big company” type posts? Has TechCrunch lost its edge?