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48 posts from August 2006

Microsoft Not Laughing Over Gervais Videos Leak

It seems the recently leaked videos Ricky Gervais made for Microsoft won’t be available for public viewing much longer. Microsoft forced YouTube to remove the videos from their website. So that means you’ll be limited to watching them on Google Video or this blog or this blog or any one of a zillion other blogs that picked them up. Honestly, does anyone think these are just going to disappear? Besides, once something is in the Google cache can it ever be fully eradicated?…

Old News via iTunes

NBC started doing it and now ABC feels they need to do it too. Everyone apparently wants to sell “archived news” segments on iTunes. I guess they refer to it as “archived news” because “old news” is a bit of an oxymoron…

It seems to me that most people are more likely to pay for downloads of items they’ll use multiple times (e.g., songs, videos, movies, etc.) as opposed to those they’re only likely to use once. One example cited in this WSJ article is the video of Richard Nixon’s resignation. Just how many times are you going to watch that? And are you really going to pay $1.99 for it when you can watch this short clip of it here on YouTube for free? (To be honest, I found this clip showing him preppinng for the speech more interesting...and also free on YouTube. I'll bet that one isn't available for $1.99 on iTunes!) As Joe Laszlo of Jupiter Research says in the same article, it is unlikely that “people in large numbers are going to use iTunes to educate themselves or reminisce about the biggest news from 10 years ago.”

I get a kick out of the corporate-speak of the NBC spokesperson cited in the article who declined to say how many programs they have sold so far, but that NBC “is pleased with the numbers.” Translation: Nobody is buying this stuff, but it was an easy way to say “we’ve got an online strategy.”

To their credit, CBS and NBC are both going to offer free webcasts of their evening news programs. My guess is these will be infinitely more popular than the 10 year-old “archived” segments since they’ll be both newer and more importantly, free!

John Blossom Nails the Newspaper Struggle

In one of his latest posts, John Blossom does a great job explaining the challenging situation most newspapers find themselves in. If there’s one resource that’s most used to find information or news on just about any topic, it’s got to be Google. Sure, you can go to your local newspaper site and search for the item, but if you want to cast the widest net, why not Google it instead? John rightly points out that meager earnings from a few AdSense click-thru’s aren’t going to get any newspaper very excited, especially as they watch their core advertising revenues disappear.

But what’s the solution? According to John,

For local news to succeed online there needs to be a combination of professional editorial resources combined with community input and the ability to help local merchants become online marketers as well as advertisers to drive new revenue streams.

Absolutely! What we’re seeing today is too much of “us vs. them”. The professionals (newspapers) look down their noses at the amateurs (bloggers and the rest of the community). To their credit, the amateurs tend to ignore it and just keep on reporting, blogging, etc. What really needs to happen is for the professionals to embrace the amateurs and work on building a model where each can feed off the other.

It can be done. It just requires one side to swallow its pride while also accepting the fact that their revenue stream has forever been negatively impacted by the “Google Effect”. It’s not terribly different than the “Wal-Mart Effect” that has forced countless retailers to either reinvent themselves or close shop.

Right Solution, Wrong Platform

I was intrigued when I read this press release talking about how MeeVee is working with The Seattle Times and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to offer what sounds like a TV Guide on steroids. My initial reaction was favorable, given how most newspapers seem to be ignoring the fundamental customer and usage shifts all around them. Then I had to ask myself this question: When was the last time I looked up a television schedule in the newspaper or on a newspaper site? I think it was at some point in 8th grade, when I was confirming the time slot for Welcome Back Kotter.

Seriously, who uses the newspaper or their paper’s site to figure out what to watch on TV? My guess is the majority of folks looking for TV listings in the newspaper probably don’t even have an Internet connection. It’s just a hunch though.

MeeVee, on the other hand, is probably aiming for the typical cable/dish customer who has a nice broadband connection. Then again, don’t most cable and dish services include pretty slick TV Guide-like channels? OK, I know MeeVee is trying to play up the rest of their service, but it’s not for me. It would seem MeeVee should really be working with the cable and dish providers, not the newspaper industry. When I’m trying to find out what will be on TV I generally use the great channel that’s already part of my cable service. Besides, that’s the quickest way to hit “Record” and get it to my DVR. Good luck doing that via some newspaper site.

Of course, with the rapid growth of YouTube, Google Video, etc., does anyone actually watch their television anymore?

Beware of Expedia…

I’ve been traveling way too much lately and I often use Expedia for my airline reservations. After my experience with them this week I’m abandoning them and switching to Orbitz. Why?…

I made reservations for one flight and subsequently had to make a change to the return flight. I knew there would be a penalty and was totally fine having to pay it. Once I made this change, Expedia showed my final total was $542.60, or $286 more than the original fare. They also made it clear that my credit card would be charged $542.60, nothing more, nothing less. Sounds right to me…then my AMEX bill shows up. Now there’s an additional $105 for the trip, with no explanation. I re-checked my itinerary on Expedia and it still shows $542.60 with no indication whatsoever of any further charges pending.

I called them about it and was told “it’s our policy to add on the $105 fee and it doesn’t show up on your receipt” Huh?! Rather than saying “oops, we forgot to put that $105 fee on your receipt, we apologize and will get it corrected today”, here’s what I got:

I will report this to our billing department and they’ll send you an e-mail with the details of the charges within 72 hours.

72 hours?! Can’t a business built around online reservations manage to send me a detailed summary e-mail that same day?

Wow. That was an eye-opener. Again, I have no problem paying whatever fees are involved in the switch, but it’s sloppy bookkeeping and receipt generation on Expedia’s part to hide this sort of thing till the credit card statement arrives.

Orbitz, here I come!