Google passed on MySpace

Post ImageThe July issue of Wired includes a feature on News Corp.’s Rupert Murdoch, and what might be his current crown jewel, MySpace. The main value that MySpace provides the company is “the power to make hits.” Ever hear of Dane Cook? He’s a really popular comedian probably because of his MySpace page. The Arctic Monkey’s are becoming popular in North America with help from their MySpace page. Lots of celebs have them now. MySpace is huge, and shows no signs of slowing down.

Of particular interest to me, Murdoch claims that Google passed on the opportunity to purchase MySpace, for about half the price News Corp. paid (which was still a steal). Murdoch says:

I like those guys, but theres a bit of arrogance. They could have bought MySpace three months before we did for half the price. They thought, “Its nothing special. We can do that.”

This, dear readers, is what happens when you’re a media company that thinks you’re a technology company. I’m not sure it’s arrogance, so much as it is this incredible desire to be a technology company that blinds them from making any rational decisions. Google’s big three (Larry, Sergei, and Eric) all have technology backgrounds, yet Google is very clearly a media company. Almost all of their revenue is derived from advertising, and they increase that revenue with more eyeballs, not necessarily great technology.

As Om Malik points out, Google really, really, should have bought MySpace when they had the chance:

As widely reported, MySpace is now the largest source of search traffic for Google, accounting for over 8% of their inbound traffic as of early May. That essentially means that MySpace is responsible for about $400 million of Google’s annual revenues. Knowing this, MySpace is trying to capitalize by holding an auction for its search business. If Google wins, it will end up sharing a significant percentage of that $400 million with MySpace… John Battelle thinks the split to MySpace will be close to 90%. And Google would need to pay it every year. Needless to say, had Google acquired MySpace, no such payments would have to be made.

Om also points out that Google+MySpace=Largest-Site-on-the-Web. Or at least, that’s what could have been. More eyeballs than anywhere else. A media company thinking like a media company would have purchased MySpace, no question.

News Corp. doesn’t have any such delusions. They’re a media company. They purchased MySpace.

[In case you’re wondering, my very plain, very boring MySpace page is here.]

Read: Wired

Commercial Free CBC?

Post ImageVia iloveradio.org, I came across a post on the Canadian Journalist blog which explains that a recent senate report on Canadian media is recommending an ad-free CBC:

A Senate report on Canadian media recommends that CBC-TV become a commercial-free broadcaster. The report also recommends measures to prevent private media conglomerates from dominating newspaper, radio and television audiences in a single market.

The CBC proposal would mean the federal government would have to boost the corporation’s almost $1-billion annual budget to make up for the loss of advertising revenue.

First of all, have these people not heard of the Internet? There’s your solution to one media conglomerate dominating a single market. And then more importantly – more money for the CBC?! I don’t think so.

The post also mentions that the senate committee spent more than three years travelling the country, hearing from witnesses. I find it hard to believe these people gave them the idea that CBC needs more money. Maybe more money to produce something worth watching, but certainly not to have more of the crap we currently find on CBC. Seriously, there’s sports, crappy CBC shows, and decent BBC shows.

Here’s my recommendation: keep the radio and Internet properties, and get rid of CBC television. I’ve been thinking about this for a while actually, especially since CBC lost the contract for curling (there, even a cbc.ca link!). Here is my reasoning:

  • I don’t think a publicly-funded organization should be allowed to compete with private companies for contracts such as curling or the NHL broadcast rights.
  • I don’t agree with a publicly-funded organization running a for-profit entity, like Country Canada.
  • There is no compelling reason for CBC Television to exist. CTV, Global, City, and the other stations are all quite capable, and often cover news and events far better than CBC does anyway.
  • We could probably do far more with the budget currently spent on CBC.
  • We could get rid of Don Cherry and those other idiots, and Ron MacLean could move to TSN!

Okay that last one isn’t really a serious reason, but it would be awesome! The only time I ever watch CBC is for the hockey, and I don’t think I’m alone.

My only other suggestion would be to make CBC Television an entirely, 100%, Canadian-content channel that is not allowed to bid on sporting broadcast rights, play Hollywood movies, etc. No budget increases either. Then we could relax the requirement that Canadian broadcasters make sure at least 30% of their content is Canadian-created, and we might actually have some competition for American networks.

However, with our media becoming increasingly global, I wonder if we need television stations like CBC. I’m of the opinion that private enterprise will do a far better job of providing local and national content in the long run anyway.

Read: Canadian Journalist

Edmonton Oilers Fan Content

Post ImageUnfortunately there are lots of negative stories in the media about Oiler fans, but we’re not all bad. There are so many amazing fans in Edmonton, I am just continually amazed at the things they create! If you’re looking to get pumped up, there’s lots of fan created media online.

Bruce Thiessen aka Dr. BLT sent me a link to a song he wrote for the Oilers, called “Oilers on Ice“. Bruce describes himself as a “Canadian-born and raised prairie boy” and he does the Oilers proud with his song.

Still on the topic of music, 91.7 The Bounce has seven different Oiler songs for you to enjoy, including one with Georges Laraque! Not to be outdone, The Bear created a song for Fernando Pisani using the music from Abba’s “Fernando” track. Unfortunately it doesn’t appear to be online yet, but I’m sure it will be eventually.

What about the vehicles? If you live in Edmonton, you’ve no doubt seen the trucks driving around with oil derricks on the bed, and other vehicles similarly decked out in copper and blue. Even our public transit system, ETS, is showing their Oiler pride. There’s lots more pictures on Flickr too.

Want to see the antics of crazy fans? Look no further than YouTube. As of the time of this post, there are 276 videos that show up in a search for the Edmonton Oilers. Unfortunately there are quite a few videos of Don Cherry too 😉

Here’s a small list of some of the other stuff out there:

There’s lots more great stuff, just do some searching! Go Oilers Go!

The Media Delayed Windows Vista

Post ImageI’ve been reading a lot lately about why people think Windows Vista has been delayed so many times. There tends to be a set of consistent theories that always appear in a discussion, which I’ll summarize here:

  • The software is too complex, with too many interdependencies that are confusing or not understood very well.
  • There is too much bureaucracy and too many levels of management which slows down the development process.
  • Microsoft started sharing information about Vista far too early which led to unreasonable expectations for the end product.

I think there is definitely some truth to all of these different theories, but I have another one. I think another significant reason Windows Vista has been “delayed” is the media. With all of the media coverage everytime there’s a change in the Vista release schedule, one can’t help but think that something must be horribly wrong for the operating system to have been delayed. I mean it makes CNN for crying out loud! Consider the following two things:

  • The average user still doesn’t really have a clue what Windows Vista is. They are pretty happy using whatever operating system they are currently using. I see this all the time when I help people with their computers and start talking up a feature of Vista. (And no, this doesn’t mean that we don’t need a new version, for the same reason that Ford still manufactures a new version of the F-150 every year.)
  • Despite all of the fanboys, the other operating systems haven’t done anything particularly special since Windows XP was released. The various Linux distros are still emulating Windows. Mac OS X has some excellent eye candy, but doesn’t stand out in any other way. Of course those last two statements are just my personal opinion, but proof is in the numbers – neither Linux nor Mac OS X have taken market share away from Windows (at least in the consumer space). People are not breaking down the doors of Best Buy to purchase a Mac.

Which means what? Basically, I would argue that if the media didn’t report on every single schedule change, most people could care less if Windows Vista was released in 2006 or 2008. With no pressure from rival operating systems, and the only loud customer request being security (which was the reason XP SP2 was such a big deal) there really isn’t a huge reason for Vista to be delivered right away, and thus no reason for anyone to be up in arms about it being delayed.

Keep in mind that this theory about the media being a reason that Vista has been delayed is largely focused on the consumer/business side of things. Developers, hardware manufacturers, and of course Microsoft’s shareholders all have good reasons for wanting the OS to come faster. I think I have a valid point though.

REVIEW: Windows Media Player 11 Beta

Post ImageAs I mentioned a few days ago, I recently downloaded and installed the new Windows Media Player 11 beta to test it out. I use WMP almost all day, every day, so it’s an important application for me, and I’d say I am somewhat qualified to offer a review.

Let’s start with the bad shall we? Importing the 20,000 or so items from my WMP10 library took a very long time, so installation wasn’t incredibly quick. The installer also offered to setup a music store, so I chose Urge, the brand new MTV-sponsored service. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work outside of the United States (when will companies launch things for Canada and the US simultaneously, I mean seriously!). Missing from this beta are the visualizations that would not support full screen controls, thus my favorite (“Plenoptic Vox”) is nowhere to be found. Also missing is the ability to browse for a single file and add it to the library – the only ways to do this now are by monitoring folders, or playing a file and setting the player to automatically add played items. All of the auto-playlists I had in WMP 10 are gone, except the ones I had created manually, and they are now combined with normal playlists in the tree. Album art is everywhere in WMP11, but it seems to be quite slow at downloading it.

Some of those things are really annoying (such as not being able to add a single file) but they aren’t deal-breakers as far as I am concerned. And fortunately, the good is well, really good. I would upgrade to WMP11 for the new search capability alone – it is light years beyond previous versions! As soon as you start typing, WMP11 finds matching artists, songs, and albums (in the Music tab anyway) and displays them instantly. In WMP10, any search would take at least a minute to complete, it was brutal. Aside from the search, the new UI is absolutely beautiful. I love the layout, the colors, the graphics, all of it! The look of the player is a huge improvement over previous versions. The organization is better too – there is a really defined distinction between Music, Video, Pictures, Recorded TV, and Other. The most beautiful part of all: icons for albums, artists and songs, meaning you can display items in a details list, or with tiles. It looks great! I like the black mini-player on the taskbar too.

Here are some other things to note:

  • Synchronization with my Zen Touch worked flawlessly, and no settings were lost from WMP10. I really like the new Sync UI too, much more clear.
  • Using the player effectively really means using the search functionality. I find myself going to the tree on the left to find an artist, only to realize they aren’t listed there anymore! Once I get used to typing in the search box, I’ll probably find I navigate much more quickly than with the tree anyway.
  • I haven’t tested ripping or burning in the new version, but I would expect them to work very similarly to previous versions.
  • The visualizations seem really buggy on my three display setup. Sometimes they work fine full-screen, other times they jump to a different monitor, it’s very strange.
  • The player has crashed on me maybe three or four times so far. Sometimes it seems to slow up for a second or two, but it’s fairly solid for the most part.
  • I am not sure if WMP11 updated Windows Media Connect or not, because the service uses an insane amount of memory. Maybe I just didn’t notice it from before? WMP11 itself only uses about 25 MB when I have music playing with the window open, and even less when minimized.

Some people, notably Todd Cochrane, are upset that WMP11 does not contain any podcasting features. I don’t think it makes a big difference – podcasting is going to grow with or without Microsoft baking support into WMP. And I would argue that Todd would end up using something else anyway, as any podcasting support in WMP11 would probably be incredibly basic.

My verdict: wait for the final release. There’s still too many bugs in this beta for most people to use it, but I think WMP11 is going to be awesome. I’ve been using the beta nonstop for a few days now, and overall I am quite impressed. I’d love to see it on Windows Vista too, but that will have to wait for another day.

Read: WMP11 Beta

Maybe an Overdose?

Post ImageAs Dickson mentioned earlier, CanWest MediaWorks has decided to stop publishing the print edition of Dose, and focus instead on the online properties. The decision certainly comes as a surprise to me, and probably to most people, considering CanWest said just two months ago that Dose readership was growing:

Dose’s total readership among 12-to-64 year olds in late January was up eight per cent from three months earlier, the survey found, and now sits at 270,423. Daily readership of those aged 12 and over was 292,000.

“These results show that Dose is really resonating with its audience,” said Noah Godfrey, publisher of Dose. “We’re really pleased with the continued growth of our readership base and Dose’s strong brand awareness.”

Evidently not pleased enough! Though I don’t think the decision was Mr. Godfrey’s. Maybe the higher ups needed to run this little experiment called Dose to realize that their target audience spends far more time online than with a paper. And actually, anyone who has looked at an issue of Dose will know that it was simply an onramp to the Dose websites anyway. Urls and “more online” were scattered throughout the publication.

CanWest said it was ending the publication of Dose, but would continue publishing content to its online service, dose.ca, as well as on cellphones.

The company said 50 people would lose their jobs.

Oh well. I kind of liked the Sex Advice (so funny), and sometimes they had some great articles on blogging or some other tech topic, but for the most part, I didn’t read that regularly. I hope they do some work to make the website better now that they are focusing on the online product.

The last issue was published today.

Read: CBC News

Unmesh

Post ImageNow that Mesh is over, I’ll need to begin reviewing the things I heard discussed, the things I learned, and the different perspectives on things I already knew. Conferences like this one always give me so much to consider – I never leave empty handed or bored.

As I mentioned previously, the conference wasn’t quite what I was expecting. It was far less geeky than I had anticipated. Even the two “15 Minutes of Fame” sessions were not demos, but rather introductions or high level overviews. Things like Ajax or Javascript or Ruby on Rails were rarely mentioned, and even then only in passing. More people had paper notepads and pens than laptops for taking notes (there were still a lot of laptops, don’t get me wrong). All in all, the audience seemed much more “business-like”.

I think this conference was good for me. I got some interesting perspective on “Web 2.0”, and I met some very intriguing people. I also think the conference is good for Canada, we need events like Mesh to remind us of the talent and opportunity that we have – we don’t need to go to Silicon Valley. At the same time, Mesh reminds us of the areas that we could and should be doing much better.

Thanks to Stuart, Mark, and the entire organizing and planning team for putting on a superb conference! I look forward to next year’s Mesh (and yes I think there can be one, even if we no longer talk about “Web 2.0”, because the discussions held over the last two days are still relevant).

Is Web 2.0 Changing the Software Industry?

Post ImageThe last session of the day that I am attending is with Mike McDerment, Chris Messina, Matt Mullenweg, and Stowe Boyd, who will be discussing whether or not they thing Web 2.0 is changing the software industry. Here are my notes (my comments in italics):

  • Matt describes a web service as a web page meant for a computer.
  • Mike is confusing web services and web applications maybe? What Mike means is a service like Basecamp, where users pay a monthly fee to use the service.
  • Stowe likes the term/phrase, “the freemium model”, where base capabilites are free and you turn on a for fee model after some limit is hit. I like the phrase too, and the business model. It’s a natural way that people get hooked and then like a service so much they’ll pay.
  • Matt points out that a nice thing about these services is that you don’t have to worry about security, or upgrades, or any of that sort of thing.
  • The significance of consuming apps online instead of in a shrinkwrapped way, is huge, according to Stowe. Products will get much better, much more quickly. It’s like the difference between American Airlines and JetBlue.
  • Matt thinks the unsexy name for freemium is shareware, and it’s been around for a while. The difference now is that we have broadband.
  • Chris thinks wifi is also a huge change, and that we have laptops everywhere.
  • In three years, Stowe thinks the software landscape will look increasingly web-based. People will have connectivity all the time, on increasingly more capable mobile devices.
  • What Chris wants to see is interfaces and interactions with software that translates into something real.
  • People are the center of the universe, not data, not information. Stowe thinks the buddy list is the most important metaphor for the future. He says RSS aggregators follow the wrong model, we don’t need bits of information coming through a pipe, but instead we want to know what Chris has written lately, for example.
  • Good question from the audience about innovation exhaustion, what happens after the 38th signal? How do these web apps become useful for real people?
  • Stowe: another trend, small companies.
  • If you can make things intuitive, you wont have as many people bug you, says Matt.
  • Chis says microformats is an area he’s been doing a lot of work right now.
  • Matt says at the end of the day, formats and standards don’t matter. He says they should arise afterward as codifications of market trends. All of the great standards were not written first, but followed an existing market trend.
  • Stowe says we don’t need a replacement for Office on the web.
  • Stowe thinks apps with the social stuff built in will be the most successful Web 2.0 apps.
  • The “social architecture approach”, look at the social stuff during design.

Very interesting session, lots to think about after this one.

Creating a Viable Web Business

Post ImageThis should be an interesting session, all about creating a viable web business. On hand is Malgosia Green, Michael McDerment, Albert Lai and Leila Boujnane. Here are my notes (my comments in italics):

  • Leila says it’s not trivial to get someone to pay, its hard to get out of the “free” hell.
  • Michael, from FreshBooks, says that they had to change their name (they used to be 2ndSite or something) because the old name had many shortcomings. The name was not memorable, did not describe the business or industry, etc.
  • Albert says to make sure you do a trademark search, and trademark your name.
  • Albert says to ship early, and ship often. He also thinks that you shouldn’t build desktop software unless you have to.
  • Malgosia says not to get attached to your code. Sometimes rewriting is vital. Alex agrees, you can’t be afraid of shifting gears.
  • Don’t be afraid to reach out to the community, bloggers will talk about you if they like what they see.
  • Enable people to help each other.
  • Michael says the support department is the sales department, they don’t really have a separate group for sales.
  • Support, development, and marketing are like the holy trinity of online web apps.
  • If the application is for something leisure-related, upgrading from a free account to a paid account is’nt as common as something more focused on business.
  • Malgosia says to be humble.
  • Michael thinks that just as important as knowing what you know, is knowing what you don’t know.

There seems to be one session per conference that I don’t pay an incredible amount of attention to, and this one turned out to be the one. Some interesting ideas, but everything is really applicable only on a per-business basis. What works for one of these panelists isn’t going to work for everyone. That, and there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Does Web 2.0 need VCs?

Post ImageI got to this session slightly late, but that’s okay. Jason Fried and Rick Segal are tackling the question of whether or not Web 2.0 companies need venture capital. Jason is, of course, from 37signals, a Web 2.0 company that didn’t take VC. Here are my notes (my comments in italics):

  • Jason says everything they do is profitable.
  • Rick agrees with Jason, if you don’t need the venture capital, don’t take it. Institutional money changes the dynamics of what you’re doing.
  • On the whole, Rick thinks that 37signals is an anomoly. The norm is folks come up with an idea, and then need some cash to get going.
  • If you don’t lose your limited partners’ money, they will love you. There’s a myth that you need to make millions and millions, and its probably not true.
  • Jason says the answer to “how do you monetize this” is “you charge for it.” If you build tools that people want and like, you can charge for them.
  • If you pay for something and you use it, you’ll see the value. There is a disconnect between buyer and user in the enterprise.
  • Rick says in general, free sucks. The problem is that we’ve trained people to do free, and getting people to pay for something is a non-trivial task. Rick says generating revenue quickly is important.
  • Jason says “we like to emulate drug dealers”, you give people a little bit for free and get them hooked. Most of 37signals’ business is from upgrades.
  • Jason says know what you want to do, and build something that you can manage without requiring the headcount to swell. You need to have people on board who share that vision.
  • Rick says there are definite opportunities in Canada. However, there is not enough chest pounding that this is a great place to start a company. This company has a wealth of talent, and there is capital.
  • Rick’s standard offer to any entrepreneur is 30 minutes, no harm, no foul. Rick thinks that every entrepreneur who wants to take a shot should get to take that shot.
  • Jason says to hire the best talent you can, no matter where they are. He says you don’t need to go to San Francisco.
  • The main way to keep costs down is headcount, according to Jason. Also, don’t go buy the server farm before you have any customers. Jason says you should be able to build any product with three people, max. If you need ten people or even five, its too complex, so keep the team small.
  • The way to build an audience is by teaching, according to Jason. Either you outspend your competition, or you outteach them.
  • Finding like-minded people is more difficult. 37signals has done it through the open source community.
  • Rick says that in Canada, there’s lots of opportunities for the “put me in coach” deal, and those people will often work twice as hard. And these people become like-minded, because they are looking to you for guidance.
  • Jason thinks resumes are a waste of time. He doesn’t care where you went to school or if you finished school, as long as you do great work. It’s about fucking time someone important said this, thank you Jason, I couldn’t agree more. The school system is largely a waste of time (with regards to tech) as far as I am concerned.
  • Rick believes very strongly that the Canadian VC market is not taking enough risk, doesn’t fail enough, and doesn’t take enough flyers. The problem is that the community is very small.
  • At the high school and post secondary level, we need to allow people to try things in entrepreneurship, says Rick. If anyone gets a startup camp going, Rick wants to know about it, and he’d be happy to get people and money there.
  • There’s lots of potential downsides to taking money. You might get pushed out, you might be forced to go public, etc.
  • Rick says when he does a valuation on the company, he does two things. How much capital is going to be required to create that success? How can he stage those dollars into the company? Rick doesn’t do participating, preferred, double dip shares or anything. The best deal possible is common shares. The worst thing you can do is make someone feel like they didn’t win. At the end of the day, Rick wants the entrepreneur to feel like he/she has a partner.
  • There has to be a liquidity event for a VC, so after you take money, Rick says there is a meter running to get to that event, so the entrepreneur has to want to sell, or go public.
  • Web 2.0 boils down to service, according to Rick. They are successful with passionate customers.
  • Jason says that founders shares look good for entrepreneurs nowadays.