Friday, December 26, 2008

ESPN Launches New IPTV Functionality

I have preached about this for the last several years and some of the networks are working towards a complete interactive television model ever so steadily. Here is the latest on ESPN's interactive television offerings...

Straight from ClickZ late last week...
Sports cable channel ESPN is readying a new slew of interactive and on-demand features for cable customers of Insight Communications with the help of interactive television middleware maker Liberate Technologies .

The new offerings include a package called "ESPN Today Plus VOD," which features interactive sports information and advertisements. Viewers will be able to click through data feeds during sports broadcasts and link to commerce and advertising pitches.

Still no mention of the advertising opportunities. I am pretty certain thought that they are working through the initial model first, and then will test and roll out potential ad models at a later date.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Detroit Free Press Kicks the Snowball Off the Mountaintop

The Detroit Free Press and sister paper the Detroit News announced this week that they are significantly scaling back their print product and vamping up their online properties. The only real news here is that a newspaper is actually looking at their audience shift and adjusting operations accordingly - they are not only admitting the audience shift is happening they are taking MEANINGFUL steps to adjust to take advantage of this opportunity. My hats off to the Detroit Free Press, finally a newspaper that sees the present and is taking steps to secure their future. Now if they could just get that pesky online ad revenue thing figured out...stay tuned.

Some links to the story...
Detroit Free Press announcement through the eyes of ClickZ

From the Detroit Free Press

Merry Christmas - a Present for You

Three successful guys sitting around on American Express's dime talking about a bunch of web 2.0 type topics as they relate to brands, marketing etc.

Seth Godin, Jimmy Wales and Sean Parker shooting the breeze. Lots of video clips. Enjoy. Use THIS LINK.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tribune, NBC, and more - Big Day in Media News

Some interesting tidbits of news trickling in today regarding some behemoths restructuring and even pondering bankruptcy.

Check out the news below...

Tough Times at Tribune
From the WSJ with link to full story...
Tribune Co. is preparing for a possible filing for bankruptcy-court protection as soon as this week, according to people familiar with the matter, in a sign of worsening trouble for the newspaper industry.

In recent days, as Chicago-based Tribune continued talks with lenders to restructure its debt, the newspaper-and-television concern hired investment bank Lazard Ltd. as its financial adviser and law firm Sidley Austin to advise the company on a possible trip through Chapter 11 bankruptcy, people familiar with the matter say.

NBC Sends Execs Packing

Link to full Variety story here...
NBC has become -- to paraphrase one of the network’s recent flops -- its own worst enemy.

The Peacock has been in a perpetual state of crisis for several years now -- blowing up its executive teams and repositioning its programming strategy, all while struggling to pull out of fourth place.

The latest chapter of this NBC saga was a doozy: The conglom ousted both Universal Media Studios topper Katherine Pope and NBC Entertainment exec VP Teri Weinberg on Friday in a pre-weekend Peacock bloodbath. Alternative topper Craig Plestis, who’s been negotiating his exit for weeks, will also be out by the end of the year.

Media Tightening Its Belt for Multiple Reasons...
Execs Blame Recession as They Wield the Ax, but This Is About Reinvention, too
Link to full story...

Citing the effects of a recession that's prompting marketers to trim budgets and the number of media outlets they work with, media companies are shedding jobs at a furious rate. But the deep cuts they're making are as much about these conglomerates shedding their old media models as they are about the economy.

Viacom and NBC Universal swung the ax last week, eliminating 850 and 500 jobs, or 7% and 3% of their work forces, respectively. Add that to 600 job cuts at Time Inc., 1,500 at Yahoo, 1,800 at Gannett, hundreds at CBS's radio and local TV divisions, and incremental cuts just about everywhere else, and big media is getting a whole lot smaller.

How small? The media industries have shed more than 30,000 jobs in 2008, according to an Ad Age analysis of Department of Labor employment statistics and news reports. That's about 3.5% of the total media work force of 858,000. Since the bubble-inflated high-water mark in 2000, media has lost more than 200,000 jobs.

Friday, December 5, 2008

NBC's Brian Williams Once Again Exposes Small Mind/Big Ego

Well well, the face of the NBC nightly news is popping off again about digital media. In a room full of old-school, old-media stalwarts he is a riot. Sometimes laughing is all you can do to temporarily forget the pain. After all, didn't Nero fiddle while Rome burned?

This is not the first time I have commented on Brian's obvious disdain for the digital side of the media business. Check out this closet classic to see how Brian made his contempt for the digital world/Web 2.0 known in TIME magazine.

Here is the clip of Brian, feel free to watch it, then check out my commentary. Hit the link Below to watch the funny guy.

Brian Williams Video HERE

Before I get into this, I must be fair and say that I was not privy to the rest of his speech, therefore I am only commenting on what I saw and what was touted by Ad Age.

The first point and seemingly the only point Brian makes in this clip is that a lot of the "hype" surrounding digital advancements in media are just that, and nothing more. In fact, much of this advancement is based largely in "techie" exuberance, which in turn exposes a child like ignorance, or even short sightedness about "legitimate media sources" such as libraries and radio. I believe the only one showing ignorance and a head-in-the-sand mentality here is Brian Williams.

Brian makes his point initially about a producer at NBC, who I am sure is very happy about getting made to look the fool by Brian and his supreme wit and intelligence, that is telling Brian about some new service that is described as "the Netflix for books." Brian seems very proud of himself at his rapid response equating this new model to already existing libraries. Laughter ensues. Well, the ones laughing right now are the folks at Apple, Amazon, Netflix and some others getting rich while the traditional publishers lay people off, record stores close, and Blockbuster scrambles to keep up. We have record stores, so why do we need iTunes?? We have book stores so why do we need Amazon or the countless other web-based sellers and distributors of print material. We have libraries so why do we need "the Netflix of books?"

You have got to be kidding me. This is a 1997 conversation. Either Brian does not understand the value that a service like iTunes, Amazon or even the "Netflix of books" offers, or he refuses to accept it. Considering he reads a teleprompter for a living, take your pick. For those reading this I understand you probably don't need this quick and obvious explanation, for those who think Brian's comments are really hilarious, you might, so I will provide it in simple terms.

The advantages and value for the digital transaction, whether it is books, music, housewares or any other small ticket item, and some large ticket items - convenience, quick and effortless research, availability of what you seek, on your time, on your terms, easily shared with family and friends and for all you environmentalists at NBC/GE, without having to get into your car, burn gas and schlep yourself to the nearest branch only to be let down when they don't have the book you want in for another three weeks.

So smart guy, yeah we have libraries, but as we, as a society, have progressed, and the audience has an ever increasing level of control to get what we want, when we want and share quickly with whomever we want without interruption, that is THE value proposition. Maybe that is what gets Brian's goat, he and his handlers are losing control, thus losing more of their share of the revenue. Correction - have lost control.

Point two. Brian cracks on a value proposition of "eBooks." Turning pages with the click of a button. On this he is spot on. I agree and his comments are extremely valid. The marketing genius who decided to market digital books with the "ease of a button" page turn should be canned. That being said, if you really wanted to attract a market for digital books, maybe you could have said something like - eBooks, saving millions of trees daily, while you enjoy as many books as you can read in a lifetime. And eBooks if you use that I will expect a check from you in the near future. Isn't GE, the owner of NBC big on the environment?? If so, I wonder if they think Brian is hilarious as he rips on a concept that could be much friendlier to the environment than the large, gas guzzling sedan that certainly ushered him to that event.

Last point. Brian rips on a guy that makes a comment to him in the elevator about his new iPod touch. Yeah, it is annoying when a stranger says something like, "Too bad you bought that widget, it will be replaced in a week." I agree, kind of annoying because that type of comment doesn't offer any value and is not helpful. However, Brian's barb does not address the stranger's seeming enjoyment with Brian's perceived unfortunate predicament having purchased something that, by some, may be considered obsolete. He decides to crack on the technology as being the same thing as radio. Once again, Brian misses the mark and exposes ignorance about the value of offerings like lastFM or Pandora. Whose audiences are growing at an alarming rate, while traditional radio's audience is holding steady, yet their revenue is dropping faster than an anvil from Wile E.'s hands. So, once again, if streaming audio is the same as radio, why in the world would this massive shift be taking place?? Could hype really be the sole perpetrator?? Or could a tired play list, corporate controlled environment, often times small, relatively weak music selection, over abundance of advertisement interruptions, bad reception, no social component, no way to experiment with a wide selection of music, small choice of talk and non-music programming, and just an overall outdated and poor listener experience be the culprit?? Pull your eyes away from the teleprompter Brian and research what you are commenting about before put yourself out there making these ignorant statements. Aren't journalists supposed to be inquisitive researchers first and commentators second? Do journalists even investigate anymore? Brian, the facts embarrass you, not "techie" enthusiasts and/or hype masters.

Hey, maybe you are feeling pretty good coming off a successful year, based on the election giving you some air. Your candidate got elected, your ratings and ad dollars saw a slight spike, yet you still got it handed to you by the cable news networks, and who was measuring online engagement as it related to the election??

Oh yeah, your candidate was. Obama raised record numbers of campaign cash through...the Internet. But wait why did he need people to donate online, we still have the post office??

Keep fiddling Brian, keep fiddling.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Anthem Bureaucracy

My previous post explained a very frustrating and frankly scary situation my wife experienced with our health insurance carrier, Anthem. I composed an email and promptly sent it off to the CEO of Anthem and their investor relations contacts listed on their corporate web site.

Well, Anthem tried...I guess. Monday morning I received a call from some assistant to the CEO of Anthem. She had a very concerned tone and seemed to want to help rectify the situation. She asked me some questions about the situation and then told me she was looking into the situation further and she would get back with me.

From there it just gets worse. I received another call later that morning from what was obviously some customer service rep who had no more authority than to read from a script and try to explain to me that what happened is policy. What a joke. I re-explained to this lady, who obviously had no real knowledge of what had happened to my wife, what happened and why what she was telling me put my wife in a potentially dangerous situation and the down side of all of this to Anthem. Basically I told her that her answers were bogus and Anthem should be ashamed of themselves.

She then changed her potential solution and said that the prescription the doctor gave my wife required another authorization from the doctor, and if she could get the doctor to fill out another form then I might get my money back and Anthem would cover the script. I asked her why the doctor's script was not enough "authorization" for the medicine to be covered. She offered no answer other than that was their policy for that medicine ans she then blamed our doctor for not filling out this form promptly close to a week after the fact.
Question: Why is it the responsibility of the doctor to fill out form after form because Anthem is too cheap to fulfill the commitment set forth by the insurance policy that we pay for week after week??
Answer: They are heavy on bureaucracy and light on customer service - if you even want to call it that - really they are light on ethical practices and are flirting with disaster by undermining qualified medical professionals and how their care is administered to patients.

I won't waste any more of my time writing to Anthem or about Anthem. They had their chance to make it right and turn a critic into a fan but they failed. Hats off to their bureaucracy and another lost family of customers. As I said in my last post - at our first chance we will drop them as our health care provider and take our business and weekly premiums elsewhere.

Way to go Anthem/Wellpoint!!