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30 posts from October 2006

The Big Bad Book Blog

If you’re interested in the book publishing industry here’s a great blog that you’ll want to keep up on: The Big Bad Book Blog. A couple of the more interesting posts include this one with loads of industry stats and this one that answers the question, “Can you buy your way onto the front table at Barnes & Noble?”

It’s a great blog and I just subscribed to their e-mail newsletter, but where the heck is their RSS feed?! If you find it, can you tell me where it is so I can subscribe?

Streaming Video vs. TV Broadcasts

As you can see from this Newsweek article, the television networks are getting bolder with their streaming video experiments. I think Jeff Gaspin of NBC has it right when he says, “streaming our shows online absolutely promotes back to the original series and increases viewership.”

But who wants to hop around from to, etc., looking for the latest new show postings? This seems like an opportunity for a programmer in a garage somewhere to create an application that acts as a front-end consolidator for all these feeds. Let’s call it simply serves as a TV Guide-like service, listing all the latest and greatest video streams available on all the major networks. It also lets you specify your preferences and keeps an eye on your viewing patterns, suggesting related shows you might be interested in. It comes with an applet that docs in your browser, letting you know when your new feeds are available. It also tells you when they’re due to expire, as some of the networks are only posting shows for a limited time.

Does something like this already exist and I missed it?

The Indianapolis Star on Congressional Races

Here’s an example of local opinion and commentary done right. This article in today’s Indianapolis Star summarizes the candidates and makes recommendations for the upcoming House races. The paper’s Editorial Board interviewed the candidates for this piece, noted strengths and weaknesses and even talked about one incumbent who “frequently rambled and was disjointed in her responses to questions.”

This is exactly the sort of local coverage that newspapers are uniquely qualified for. Further, although the article is freely available on the Star’s website, the print version fits nicely on one page and features a map of the state with each district clearly identified; I’m not sure why the map is left off the online version. While it’s possible to post reader comments about the story on the Star’s site, I don’t think the paper goes far enough to encourage this level of community involvement.

Why not use the paper itself to stimulate more community input and debate on these candidates?  They should have put a sidebar or some other element in the paper saying something like “Give us your feedback and help other voters learn more about the issues and the candidates at” Instead, the article in print provides no information about the ability to provide feedback and comments online. I generally don’t believe URLs in print cause many people to go online, but an invitation like this is more meaningful than most. Another nice touch would have been to videotape the Editorial Board interviews and post them alongside each district summary online; again, this could have been played up in print, driving more people to the Star’s website.

Clayton Christensen on the Future of Newspapers

Here’s a good, short article by Clayton Christensen talking about opportunities for the newspaper industry. I like the steps the Richmond Times-Dispatch took to investigate their options: They interviewed more than 40 businesses that don’t advertise in the paper. Interesting. After all, if you were to look at a pie chart with to wedges, those who are your customers and those who aren’t, the latter slice would be enormous compared to the former. Rather than forever listening to the echo chamber of your existing customers, why not explore those who have never used your product/service?

Unfortunately I don’t totally share Christensen’s optimism when it comes to growth opportunities. As I’ve said before, this industry has gotten quite fat and happy with enormous margins thanks in large part to a monopoly in many markets. Craigslist, Google and others are putting an end to that. Plenty will survive, but it’s unlikely that any will be as profitable as they once were.

When Did Microsoft Lose Its Marketing Mojo?

There are so many ways to pick apart this Steve Ballmer interview in BusinessWeek. Robert Scoble takes exception with Ballmer’s buy vs. build philosophy and how Microsoft doesn’t understand the true value of some of these Web 2.0 brands. I, on the other hand, can’t stop thinking about this upcoming orphan of a product called Zune.

Ballmer notes that he “would have been hell-bent and determined six years ago to call Xbox the Windows Game Machine.” I agree that would have been a bad decision. But now that they’ve invested so much in the Xbox name, why wouldn’t they play off that for their Zune product?! He notes that “we’re really building consumer marketing muscle.” Huh? No Steve, what you’re doing is missing an opportunity to build upon the Xbox branding theme that you’ve already invested zillions of dollars in.

iPod, iTunes, iMac. Need I say more? Anytime someone mentions an iWhatever product, they know right away it’s from Apple. It’s Branding 101 and Microsoft used to be pretty darned good at it. When did they lose their way?