Cooperation is wealth? (Shot Feb 2005)
I think this is an amazing idea...
CK12, a non-profit organization launched in 2006, aims to reduce the
cost of textbook materials for the K-12 market both in the US and
worldwide. Using an open-source, collaborative, and web-based
compilation model that can be manifested as an adaptive textbook -
termed the "FlexBook", CK12 intends to pioneer the generation and
distribution of high quality educational web texts. The content
generated by CK12 will serve as both source material for a student's
learning and also, provide an adaptive environment that scaffolds the
learner's journey as he or she masters a standards-based body of
More info here and here
Click here to see her interview with Discover about how social networks democratize influence and the role of The Internet and new technology in our society.
From Business Week
Copyright Business Week
Generation MySpace is getting fed up
By Spencer E. Ante and Catherine Holahan for Business Week
Published 7 February 2008
Check out Spencer's blog at Creative Capital
If you want to socialize with Chris Heritage, you won't find him on Facebook. The 27-year-old Port St. Lucie (Fla.) business analyst joined the social network last year after his buddies bugged him to get an account. But he soon became fed up with the avalanche of ads, especially those detailing what his friends were buying, and he quit the site in November. Now, Heritage expresses himself through a blog, happy to pay $6 a month to publish on a promo-free Web site. "It's worth it to not have to look at the ads," he says.
Uh-oh. Social networking was supposed to be the Next Big Thing on the Internet. MySpace, Facebook, and other sites have been attracting millions of new users, building sprawling sites that companies are banking on to trigger an online advertising boom. Trouble is, the boom isn't booming anymore. Like Heritage, many people are spending less time on social networking sites or signing off altogether.
he MySpace generation may be getting annoyed with ads and a bit bored with profile pages. The average amount of time each user spends on social networking sites has fallen by 14% over the last four months, according to market researcher ComScore. MySpace, the largest social network, has slipped from a peak of 72 million users in October to 68.9 million in December, ComScore says. The total number of people on such sites is still increasing at an 11.5% rate, but that's down sharply from past growth rates. "What you have with social networks is the most overhyped scenario in online advertising," says Tim Vanderhook, CEO of Specific Media, which places ads for customers on a variety of Web sites.
Advertising on social networking sites is growing fast. Last year global ad spending on these sites shot up 155%, to $1.2 billion, says researcher eMarketer. This year, eMarketer expects it to jump 75%, to $2.1 billion. During its Nov. 4 earnings call, News Corp. (NWS) gave an upbeat forecast for Fox Interactive Media, which includes MySpace.
But the forecasts for torrid growth may prove unrealistic. Besides the slowing user growth and declining time spent on these sites, users appear to be growing less responsive to ads, according to several advertisers and online placement firms. If advertisers can't figure out how to reverse these trends, social networking could end up as a niche market in the online ad world, smashing hopes and valuations across Silicon Valley.
The current strength in advertising on social networks may be exaggerated by guaranteed ad deals and hopeful experimentation. Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT), in hot competition with each other, promised a number of sites a minimum amount of advertising revenue in exchange for the exclusive right to place ads on those sites.
But the early results from those deals are mixed. On Jan. 31, Google said it didn't generate as much revenue from social networking ads as expected. Google, which has a $900 million guaranteed deal with MySpace for placing ads alongside search results, says existing ad approaches aren't working well on social networks so far. "I don't think we have the killer, best way to advertise and monetize social networks yet," said Google co-founder Sergey Brin.
When News Corp. reported its earnings, it said revenues for Fox Interactive Media surged 87%, to $233 million. But $62 million of that came from Google's guaranteed deal with MySpace. It's unclear whether Google, which ad experts believe is losing money on the deal, will sign similar agreements in the future.
Another big slug of ad revenue is coming from companies experimenting with social networks because they are such a popular new medium. But for some, the results have not been encouraging. Many of the people who hang out on MySpace, Facebook, and other sites pay little to no attention to the ads because they're more interested in kibitzing with their friends.
Social networks have some of the lowest response rates on the Web, advertisers and ad placement firms say. Marketers say as few as 4 in 10,000 people who see their ads on social networking sites click on them, compared with 20 in 10,000 across the Web. Mark Seremet, president of video game publisher Green Screen, stopped advertising on MySpace last spring because of a 13-in-10,000 response rate. "It's really hard to make money on that anemic click-through rate," says Seremet.
MySpace and Facebook recognize the issue but say increased targeting and other innovations will spur users to pay more attention. Last fall, both rolled out programs allowing marketers to pitch products to people in hundreds of categories of interest, such as fashion and sports. News Corp. President Peter Chernin said on Feb. 4 that response rates on MySpace improved as much as 300%. Owen Van Natta, chief operating officer at Facebook, says there will be more experimentation in the future. "There's so much innovation that needs to happen," he says.
But there's a catch-22: More aggressive ad programs can lead to more frustrated users. Ryan Lake, 34, just left MySpace because of the ads. "There are so many, and they are getting more and more obtrusive," he says.
Facebook, the second-largest social networking site, which continues to grow rapidly, introduced an ad program in November, called Beacon, that alerted users to the purchases of friends in hopes of spurring sales. More than 75,000 Facebook members signed an online petition against the effort. Carol Kruse, Coca-Cola's (KO) vice-president for global interactive marketing, says that while she thinks social networks present a big opportunity, Coke is avoiding Beacon for now.
MySpace has had complaints, too. Nina Pagani, a 20-year-old New York student, grew furious last year when MySpace began automatically posting on users' home pages notifications of friends' favorite products. "Your personal MySpace page became an advertisement," she says. Pagani, a five-year MySpace member, deleted her account in December. "It caused too much drama in my life," she says.
''A new home decor website from the UK lets shoppers experiment with room planning and buy directly from a wide range of retailers. mydeco, founded by lastminute.com's Brent Hoberman and Martha Lane Fox, aggregates products from over 500 retailers and combines this wide selection with 3D planning tools that let users view and share the rooms they create.''
Better than free
By Kevin Kelly
The internet is a copy machine. At its most foundational level, it copies every action, every character, every thought we make while we ride upon it. In order to send a message from one corner of the internet to another, the protocols of communication demand that the whole message be copied along the way several times. IT companies make a lot of money selling equipment that facilitates this ceaseless copying. Every bit of data ever produced on any computer is copied somewhere. The digital economy is thus run on a river of copies. Unlike the mass-produced reproductions of the machine age, these copies are not just cheap, they are free.
Our digital communication network has been engineered so that copies flow with as little friction as possible. Indeed, copies flow so freely we could think of the internet as a super-distribution system, where once a copy is introduced it will continue to flow through the network forever, much like electricity in a superconductive wire. We see evidence of this in real life. Once anything that can be copied is brought into contact with internet, it will be copied, and those copies never leave. Even a dog knows you can't erase something once its flowed on the internet.
This super-distribution system has become the foundation of our economy and wealth. The instant reduplication of data, ideas, and media underpins all the major economic sectors in our economy, particularly those involved with exports -- that is, those industries where the US has a competitive advantage. Our wealth sits upon a very large device that copies promiscuously and constantly.
Yet the previous round of wealth in this economy was built on selling precious copies, so the free flow of free copies tends to undermine the established order. If reproductions of our best efforts are free, how can we keep going? To put it simply, how does one make money selling free copies?
I have an answer. The simplest way I can put it is thus:
When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.
When copies are super abundant, stuff which can't be copied becomes scarce and valuable.
When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied.
Well, what can't be copied?
Immediacy -- Sooner or later you can find a free copy of whatever you want, but getting a copy delivered to your inbox the moment it is released -- or even better, produced -- by its creators is a generative asset. Many people go to movie theaters to see films on the opening night, where they will pay a hefty price to see a film that later will be available for free, or almost free, via rental or download. Hardcover books command a premium for their immediacy, disguised as a harder cover. First in line often commands an extra price for the same good. As a sellable quality, immediacy has many levels, including access to beta versions. Fans are brought into the generative process itself. Beta versions are often de-valued because they are incomplete, but they also possess generative qualities that can be sold. Immediacy is a relative term, which is why it is generative. It has to fit with the product and the audience. A blog has a different sense of time than a movie, or a car. But immediacy can be found in any media.
Personalization -- A generic version of a concert recording may be free, but if you want a copy that has been tweaked to sound perfect in your particular living room -- as if it were preformed in your room -- you may be willing to pay a lot. The free copy of a book can be custom edited by the publishers to reflect your own previous reading background. A free movie you buy may be cut to reflect the rating you desire (no violence, dirty language okay). Aspirin is free, but aspirin tailored to your DNA is very expensive. As many have noted, personalization requires an ongoing conversation between the creator and consumer, artist and fan, producer and user. It is deeply generative because it is iterative and time consuming. You can't copy the personalization that a relationship represents. Marketers call that "stickiness" because it means both sides of the relationship are stuck (invested) in this generative asset, and will be reluctant to switch and start over.
Interpretation -- As the old joke goes: software, free. The manual, $10,000. But it's no joke. A couple of high profile companies, like Red Hat, Apache, and others make their living doing exactly that. They provide paid support for free software. The copy of code, being mere bits, is free -- and becomes valuable to you only through the support and guidance. I suspect a lot of genetic information will go this route. Right now getting your copy of your DNA is very expensive, but soon it won't be. In fact, soon pharmaceutical companies will PAY you to get your genes sequence. So the copy of your sequence will be free, but the interpretation of what it means, what you can do about it, and how to use it -- the manual for your genes so to speak -- will be expensive.
Authenticity -- You might be able to grab a key software application for free, but even if you don't need a manual, you might like to be sure it is bug free, reliable, and warranted. You'll pay for authenticity. There are nearly an infinite number of variations of the Grateful Dead jams around; buying an authentic version from the band itself will ensure you get the one you wanted. Or that it was indeed actually performed by the Dead. Artists have dealt with this problem for a long time. Graphic reproductions such as photographs and lithographs often come with the artist's stamp of authenticity -- a signature -- to raise the price of the copy. Digital watermarks and other signature technology will not work as copy-protection schemes (copies are super-conducting liquids, remember?) but they can serve up the generative quality of authenticity for those who care.
Accessibility -- Ownership often sucks. You have to keep your things tidy, up-to-date, and in the case of digital material, backed up. And in this mobile world, you have to carry it along with you. Many people, me included, will be happy to have others tend our "possessions" by subscribing to them. We'll pay Acme Digital Warehouse to serve us any musical tune in the world, when and where we want it, as well as any movie, photo (ours or other photographers). Ditto for books and blogs. Acme backs everything up, pays the creators, and delivers us our desires. We can sip it from our phones, PDAs, laptops, big screens from where-ever. The fact that most of this material will be available free, if we want to tend it, back it up, keep adding to it, and organize it, will be less and less appealing as time goes on.
Embodiment -- At its core the digital copy is without a body. You can take a free copy of a work and throw it on a screen. But perhaps you'd like to see it in hi-res on a huge screen? Maybe in 3D? PDFs are fine, but sometimes it is delicious to have the same words printed on bright white cottony paper, bound in leather. Feels so good. What about dwelling in your favorite (free) game with 35 others in the same room? There is no end to greater embodiment. Sure, the hi-res of today -- which may draw ticket holders to a big theater -- may migrate to your home theater tomorrow, but there will always be new insanely great display technology that consumers won't have. Laser projection, holographic display, the holodeck itself! And nothing gets embodied as much as music in a live performance, with real bodies. The music is free; the bodily performance expensive. This formula is quickly becoming a common one for not only musicians, but even authors. The book is free; the bodily talk is expensive.
Patronage -- It is my belief that audiences WANT to pay creators. Fans like to reward artists, musicians, authors and the like with the tokens of their appreciation, because it allows them to connect. But they will only pay if it is very easy to do, a reasonable amount, and they feel certain the money will directly benefit the creators. Radiohead's recent high-profile experiment in letting fans pay them whatever they wished for a free copy is an excellent illustration of the power of patronage. The elusive, intangible connection that flows between appreciative fans and the artist is worth something. In Radiohead's case it was about $5 per download. There are many other examples of the audience paying simply because it feels good.
Findability -- Where as the previous generative qualities reside within creative digital works, findability is an asset that occurs at a higher level in the aggregate of many works. A zero price does not help direct attention to a work, and in fact may sometimes hinder it. But no matter what its price, a work has no value unless it is seen; unfound masterpieces are worthless. When there are millions of books, millions of songs, millions of films, millions of applications, millions of everything requesting our attention -- and most of it free -- being found is valuable.
The giant aggregators such as Amazon and Netflix make their living in part by helping the audience find works they love. They bring out the good news of the "long tail" phenomenon, which we all know, connects niche audiences with niche productions. But sadly, the long tail is only good news for the giant aggregators, and larger mid-level aggregators such as publishers, studios, and labels. The "long tail" is only lukewarm news to creators themselves. But since findability can really only happen at the systems level, creators need aggregators. This is why publishers, studios, and labels (PSL)will never disappear. They are not needed for distribution of the copies (the internet machine does that). Rather the PSL are needed for the distribution of the users' attention back to the works. From an ocean of possibilities the PSL find, nurture and refine the work of creators that they believe fans will connect with. Other intermediates such as critics and reviewers also channel attention. Fans rely on this multi-level apparatus of findability to discover the works of worth out of the zillions produced. There is money to be made (indirectly for the creatives) by finding talent. For many years the paper publication TV Guide made more money than all of the 3 major TV networks it "guided" combined. The magazine guided and pointed viewers to the good stuff on the tube that week. Stuff, it is worth noting, that was free to the viewers. There is little doubt that besides the mega-aggregators, in the world of the free many PDLs will make money selling findability -- in addition to the other generative qualities.
''All over the world, people are producing and organizing information. Blogs, online photo albums, social bookmarking sites like del.icio.us - all provide an infinite variety of data feeds. No Place is a strategy for creating paradise on earth by exploiting these feeds as the raw material for living utopias. As the feeds produce data, they cause the architecture to grow autonomously, eventually cross-fertilizing to create a shared vision of paradise.''
''Noplace is an interactive installation and website that aggregates utopias into a shared vision of paradise. We are developing software that collects live data, images, and texts via the web and uses these feeds to create virtual architectural structures. These structures expand as utopias are added to the project. In the final installation, projections on the gallery walls display this evolving architecture.''
Noplace was part of the Video Vortex exhibition at the Netherlands Media Art Institute.
Below are some of the images prepared for the China International New Media Arts Exhibition 2008
at the National Art Museum of China, Beijing, China.
Board of Directors
701 First Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA 94089
Attention: Roy Bostock, Chairman
Attention: Jerry Yang, Chief Executive Officer
Dear Members of the Board:
I am writing on behalf of the Board of Directors of Microsoft to make a proposal for a business combination of Microsoft and Yahoo!. Under our proposal, Microsoft would acquire all of the outstanding shares of Yahoo! common stock for per share consideration of $31 based on Microsoft’s closing share price on January 31, 2008, payable in the form of $31 in cash or 0.9509 of a share of Microsoft common stock. Microsoft would provide each Yahoo! shareholder with the ability to choose whether to receive the consideration in cash or Microsoft common stock, subject to pro-ration so that in the aggregate one-half of the Yahoo! common shares will be exchanged for shares of Microsoft common stock and one-half of the Yahoo! common shares will be converted into the right to receive cash. Our proposal is not subject to any financing condition.
Our proposal represents a 62% premium above the closing price of Yahoo! common stock of $19.18 on January 31, 2008. The implied premium for the operating assets of the company clearly is considerably greater when adjusted for the minority, non-controlled assets and cash. By whatever financial measure you use - EBITDA, free cash flow, operating cash flow, net income, or analyst target prices - this proposal represents a compelling value realization event for your shareholders.
We believe that Microsoft common stock represents a very attractive investment opportunity for Yahoo!’s shareholders. Microsoft has generated revenue growth of 15%, earnings growth of 26%, and a return on equity of 35% on average for the last three years. Microsoft’s share price has generated shareholder returns of 8% during the last one year period and 28% during the last three year period, significantly outperforming the S&P 500. It is our view that Microsoft has significant potential upside given the continued solid growth in our core businesses, the recent launch of Windows Vista, and other strategic initiatives.
Microsoft’s consistent belief has been that the combination of Microsoft and Yahoo! clearly represents the best way to deliver maximum value to our respective shareholders, as well as create a more efficient and competitive company that would provide greater value and service to our customers. In late 2006 and early 2007, we jointly explored a broad range of ways in which our two companies might work together. These discussions were based on a vision that the online businesses of Microsoft and Yahoo! should be aligned in some way to create a more effective competitor in the online marketplace. We discussed a number of alternatives ranging from commercial partnerships to a merger proposal, which you rejected. While a commercial partnership may have made sense at one time, Microsoft believes that the only alternative now is the combination of Microsoft and Yahoo! that we are proposing.
In February 2007, I received a letter from your Chairman indicating the view of the Yahoo! Board that “now is not the right time from the perspective of our shareholders to enter into discussions regarding an acquisition transaction.” According to that letter, the principal reason for this view was the Yahoo! Board’s confidence in the “potential upside” if management successfully executed on a reformulated strategy based on certain operational initiatives, such as Project Panama, and a significant organizational realignment. A year has gone by, and the competitive situation has not improved.
While online advertising growth continues, there are significant benefits of scale in advertising platform economics, in capital costs for search index build-out, and in research and development, making this a time of industry consolidation and convergence. Today, the market is increasingly dominated by one player who is consolidating its dominance through acquisition. Together, Microsoft and Yahoo! can offer a credible alternative for consumers, advertisers, and publishers. Synergies of this combination fall into four areas:
Scale economics: This combination enables synergies related to scale economics of the advertising platform where today there is only one competitor at scale. This includes synergies across both search and non-search related advertising that will strengthen the value proposition to both advertisers and publishers. Additionally, the combination allows us to consolidate capital spending.
Expanded R&D capacity: The combined talent of our engineering resources can be focused on R&D priorities such as a single search index and single advertising platform. Together we can unleash new levels of innovation, delivering enhanced user experiences, breakthroughs in search, and new advertising platform capabilities. Many of these breakthroughs are a function of an engineering scale that today neither of our companies has on its own.
Operational efficiencies: Eliminating redundant infrastructure and duplicative operating costs will improve the financial performance of the combined entity.
Emerging user experiences: Our combined ability to focus engineering resources that drive innovation in emerging scenarios such as video, mobile services, online commerce, social media, and social platforms is greatly enhanced.
We would value the opportunity to further discuss with you how to optimize the integration of our respective businesses to create a leading global technology company with exceptional display and search advertising capabilities. You should also be aware that we intend to offer significant retention packages to your engineers, key leaders and employees across all disciplines.
We have dedicated considerable time and resources to an analysis of a potential transaction and are confident that the combination will receive all necessary regulatory approvals. We look forward to discussing this with you, and both our internal legal team and outside counsel are available to meet with your counsel at their earliest convenience.
Our proposal is subject to the negotiation of a definitive merger agreement and our having the opportunity to conduct certain limited and confirmatory due diligence. In addition, because a portion of the aggregate merger consideration would consist of Microsoft common stock, we would provide Yahoo! the opportunity to conduct appropriate limited due diligence with respect to Microsoft. We are prepared to deliver a draft merger agreement to you and begin discussions immediately.
In light of the significance of this proposal to your shareholders and ours, as well as the potential for selective disclosures, our intention is to publicly release the text of this letter tomorrow morning.
Due to the importance of these discussions and the value represented by our proposal, we expect the Yahoo! Board to engage in a full review of our proposal. My leadership team and I would be happy to make ourselves available to meet with you and your Board at your earliest convenience. Depending on the nature of your response, Microsoft reserves the right to pursue all necessary steps to ensure that Yahoo!’s shareholders are provided with the opportunity to realize the value inherent in our proposal.
We believe this proposal represents a unique opportunity to create significant value for Yahoo!’s shareholders and employees, and the combined company will be better positioned to provide an enhanced value proposition to users and advertisers. We hope that you and your Board share our enthusiasm, and we look forward to a prompt and favorable reply.
Steven A. Ballmer
Chief Executive Officer
Malwarez is a series of visualization of worms, viruses, trojans and spyware code. For each piece of disassembled code, API calls, memory addresses and subroutines are tracked and analyzed. Their frequency, density and grouping are mapped to the inputs of an algorithm that grows a virtual 3D entity. Therefore the patterns and rhythms found in the data drive the configuration of the artificial organism.
By Romanian artist Alex Dragulescu
As columnist (which is fancy for "journalist in jammies"), I ought to personify the conventional wisdom that distance is dead: All I need to get my work done is a place to perch and a Wi-Fi signal. But if that's true, why do I still live in London, the second-most expensive city in the world?
If distance really didn't matter, rents in places like London, New York, Bangalore, and Shanghai would be converging with those in Hitchcock County, Nebraska (population 2,926 and falling). Yet, as far as we can tell through the noise of the real estate bust, they aren't. Wharton real estate professor Joseph Gyourko talks instead of "superstar cities," which have become the equivalent of luxury goods — highly coveted and ultra-expensive. If geography has died, nobody bothered to tell Hitchcock County.
Maybe it's because society hasn't wholeheartedly accepted the idea of working remotely. Or perhaps communications technology just isn't all it's hyped up to be. After all, the journalists and consultants who tell us that location is insignificant are biased. Like me, they're the people whose lives have been most transformed by the Internet and cell phones.
But I think the truth is more profound than either of those glib explanations: Technology makes it more fun and more profitable to live and work close to the people who matter most to your life and work. Harvard economist Ed Glaeser, an expert on city economies, argues that communications technology and face-to-face interactions are complements like salt and pepper, rather than substitutes like butter and margarine. Paradoxically, your cell phone, email, and Facebook networks are making it more attractive to meet people in the flesh.
The most obvious example is online dating. With sites like BBW (Big Beautiful Women) Datefinder and Senior People Meet, it's a lot easier to find like-minded flames. But that's not much use unless you live within driving range of your 98 percent-compatible love connection. The kind of contact that follows online winking is far from virtual.
It follows that matchmaking is most effective in densely populated areas, where there are plenty of fish but an awfully big sea. If you live in Los Angeles, online dating is the killer app. If you live in a small town, you've likely already met all your potential mates at church or a bar.
Of course, the rest of life isn't like courting. Or is it? In big cities, our communication tools are especially helpful because they keep us from getting lost in the crowd (which is not something you worry about in a one-street town). There are even services that tell you where your friends are by locating their cell signals.
New technologies can strengthen ties within your business, too. A 2007 study by economists Neil Gandal, Charles King, and Marshall Van Alstyne looked at the networks formed by 125,000 email messages from the staff of an executive-recruiting firm. It found that email's real value isn't in communicating with Kuala Lumpur but with Betsy in the next cubicle. The most productive workers have the densest intracompany email web.
This shouldn't surprise us. Email makes it quicker and easier to reach your colleagues — you don't have to interrupt them, and messages are easy to process. But email doesn't stop you from wanting facetime, too. Just the opposite: By enabling us to maintain productive business relationships with more people, it encourages more face-to-face contact. Have you noticed business travel dying out? Neither have I. Air travel is at record highs.
One day, perhaps, virtual communication will become so good we'll no longer feel the need to shake hands with a new collaborator or brainstorm in the same room. But for now, the world seems to be changing in a way that actually demands more meetings. Business is more innovative, and its processes more complex. That demands tacit knowledge, collaboration, and trust — all things that seem to follow best from person-to-person meetings. "Ideas are more important than ever," Glaeser says, "and the most important ideas are communicated face-to-face."
Which explains why the highest-tech industries are the most dependent on geography. In a study published in the American Economic Review, researchers examined 4,000 US-based commercial innovations and found that more than half came from just three areas: California, New York/New Jersey, and Massachusetts. Almost half of all US pharmaceutical innovations were invented in New Jersey, a state with less than 3 percent of the nation's population.
In theory, technology should allow new-economy firms to prosper as easily in Nebraska as in Silicon Valley. But far from killing distance, it has made proximity matter more than ever.
As for me, I've been finishing off this essay between a coffee date with my wife and some essential chitchat with my publishers at a central London restaurant. This old city isn't cheap, and it isn't easy. But with my cell phone and laptop to back me up, I can't afford to live anywhere else.
Tim Harford (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the author of The Logic of Life: The Rational Economics of an Irrational World.
Via Boing Boing
Yochai Benkler writes in with word of a collaboration between Wikipedia and Kaltura to make open, peer-production video: "Kaltura in general is an interesting effort to create an open platform for peer production of video and rich media. Very different, and from the perspective of collaboration more interesting, than the aggregated distribution platform of materials created by solo creators or off-site collaborations, which YouTube represents, or the emphasis of some other of the newer video sites on how to achieve monetization. Offers a collaboration platform for video editing instead, with creative commons licensing (BY-SA) of contributed elements and outputs built in. Software itself is already, or on its way to being, free (still depends on Flash, but working to get GNASH to the point where it'll be good enough to replace it)." Link to Wikimedia announcement, Link to Kaltura (Thanks, Yochai!)
Interesting article from Seth Godin on the pricing of digital movie rentals...
The movie studios are starting to get excited about renting movies digitally (via Apple and others). The pricing seems to be modeled on Blockbuster (+). Figure $3 a rental, another buck or so for HD. That seems 'fair', because it's in the same range as we're used to.
Blockbuster buys DVDs for $15 or $20 (probably a lot less in volume, but I have no clue what the real number is). The studios have to pay for duplication and warehousing and marketing and they take a risk with every pressing that they'll have to shred the leftovers.
Blockbuster then rents them out 30 or 40 or more times each, meaning each rental costs Blockbuster fifty cents. Not to mention rent, surly clerks, cost of capital, advertising, etc. Or, in the case of Netflix, stamps.
In the case of online rentals, all of these intermediate costs immediately disappear. Gone.
So, why try to mimic the current model when it comes to pricing if the costs are mostly gone?
The same thing goes for online music and for PDF versions of books. Kevin Kelly figured this out with his book on films. He makes $1.50 a copy regardless of whether you buy the beautiful color edition or the cheapest edition he sells. Why should he care which version you choose?
The current phone novel craze in Japan is even more evidence for why this makes sense. 2,000,000 people download the phone novel you wrote (it costs you nothing) and then, when it becomes a hit, you make millions on the sales of the paper book and the movie...
No, I don't think Free is always the answer, but I do think the studios are about to make a mistake of RIAA proportions. I'd charge fifty cents for an online rental. It would immediately hammer the rental stores (which is fine with Hollywood) and DVD replicators (also fine with Hollywood) but would instantly teach people a new habit. Then, once the new habit is set and you've earned permission, sure, charge more for new movies and for blockbusters. 300 million movie theatres, all selling tickets every single night--you don't need to charge $10 a seat when you have access to everyone.
It's important to charge something, because the act of paying fundamentally changes the dynamics of the relationship. The question is this: at the start, is your goal to maximize profit or to build a platform that scales? The fact is that the market is too small right now for the price to matter. What matters is whether you can build an audience that is in the habit of paying you, an audience that wants to hear from you, an audience that you can build a business on.
At fifty cents a rental, all desire for piracy goes out the window, replaced by convenience, ease of use and a clear conscience. More important, entire new services show up, habits are built and the studios end up with a direct relationship with consumers who want to hear from them. If they don't get greedy at the start.
GWEI is an artistic project that uses Google Adsense revenues to buy Google shares. They currently own 523 Google shares.
From the GWEI website:
We generate money by serving Google text advertisments on a network of hidden Websites. With this money we automatically buy Google shares. We buy Google via their own advertisment! Google eats itself - but in the end "we" own it!
establishing this autocannibalistic model we deconstruct the new global
advertisment mechanisms by rendering them into a surreal click-based
After this process we hand over the common ownership of "our" Google Shares to the GTTP Ltd. [Google To The People Public Company] which distributes them back to the users (clickers) / public.''
Click on image to enlarge (taken from GWEI's website)