The frightening future of the entertainment industry

In light of last week’s posts  about the entertainment industry’s effort to enact the legislation called SOPA (here and here), I saw a couple of items early this morning that reminded me that much of the reason that industry wants to out-legislate what it can’t out-innovate is the frightening future they face. And I’m not referring to the intellectual property they own being pirated. I’m talking about the way in which the talent that creates that intellectual property is, more and more, going to jump ship (to continue the pirate metaphor) from companies that attempt to hold on to business models created in the age of I Love Lucy.

Here are the items: First, an article in this week’s New Yorker about YouTube developing new “channel” relationships with content companies — a strategy that is laying the groundwork for original programming from artists, online news organizations and others who can provide a  steady stream of content appealing to a niche audience. According to the author of the article, when the studios and others wouldn’t work with YouTube for existing content (ala Netflix), YouTube developed a strategy to provide creators of programming access to unlimited airtime, rather than the scarce airtime provided them by traditional network and cable channels.

“But what’s the big deal?” you might ask. People are still going to want to watch programming on their big HD TVs and for that, you need cable and networks and the quality they can provide — not YouTube (he said, rhetorically).

Well, according to a worldwide study by Accenture released today, the number of consumers who watch broadcast or cable television in a typical week plunged to 48% in 2011 from 71% in 2009. Accenture says TV is losing ground to other devices – mobile phones, laptops and tablets. (And besides, you can stream video onto those HD TVs in dozens of ways, whenever you want the big-screen experience.)

Bottomline: When it comes to what video programming and distribution will become in the next decade and beyond, we’re about where network TV was when I Love Lucy debuted.

It’s a scary time for the entertainment industry. No wonder they’d like to put off the future as long as they can.

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You failed. It sucks. Now learn from it.

Honda is distributing a series of mini-documentaries via a special website and simultaneously, YouTube. I strongly recommend watching the video embedded below, an 8-minute video Honda describes as “an inside look at the mishaps of Honda racers, designers and engineers to learn how they draw upon failure to motivate them to succeed.”

Honda is showing how to succeed using “content marketing” with this effort.




[via: Amex Open.]

Changing the time-code parameters on when news becomes news

election2008.jpg

[Note: I now (see comments) realize that the feature being reported today is not the two-week old one I thought it was, but a new, very similar feature that allows you to point to an exact timestamp on a YouTube video.]

When I saw on my RSS newsreader this morning that TechMeme was pointing to a story on TechCrunch about YouTube enabling users to change the “time code” parameter on embedded videos*, I thought the feed was messed up. Granted, I’ve started focusing most of my tech-blog watching to the weekends, but I swear that news sounds familiar.

Oh, wait, now I remember: Two weeks ago the feature was reported by the Google Operating System blog and spent several hours on Techmeme. However, I assume that on that day it got lost in all the stories about Web 2.0 companies laying off employees. (Not that RexBlog is where you should be getting your breaking tech news, but even I mentioned (and used) the time-stamp parameter setting feature on a post about Pacman Jones a couple of weeks ago.

Deja vu or not, it’s a nice feature.

By the way, here is a list of several ways you can adjust the parameters when you embed a YouTube video.

*Translation for the non-geekish: In other words, if you’d like to embed a video on your website or blog, but have the clip begin at a specific spot in the video rather than at the beginning, you can simply change a tiny bit of code to that “copy and past” stuff you use to embed it. If you’ve followed me this far, here’s the code you change: “#t=2m15s” [‘m’ and ‘s’ mean seconds and minutes, so just change the numbers to the spot where you want the clip to begin]. Also, a work-around hack has been available for a long time using splicd.com.

Some lessons l learned about ‘citizen journalism’ ten years ago today

Lost photos: I shot this photo from
my office window last April.
Unfortunately, I can’t locate the photos shot
from the same location on April 16, 1998.

My first ever accidental online “citizen journalism” (before the term existed) experience occurred ten years ago, today. Unfortunately, because of the ephemeral nature of the web and certain “wish we knew then what we know now” practices, there is no place for me to point to what I did on that day.

Today, posting “weather photos” is one of those participatory “user-generated-content” activities that even the most up-tight control-freak media company encourages. In the past week or so, I’ve been emailed by at least two big brand online services requesting that I join their network of weather watchers due to my practice of posting photos of weather outside my office window on the 7th floor of a building near Vanderbilt University in Nashville.

Ten years ago today, Will Weaver (then an employee at Hammock, now the big-guy — literally and figuratively — at the e-mail marketing company, emma) and I did a rather remarkably dumb thing. We had an early digital camera and decided to take photos of a tornado that was heading straight towards our building.

All the smart employees (everyone but the two of us) headed to the core of our office building, but we were thinking how great it would be to take some photos and post them on the Hammock.com website. That was a rather out-of-the-box idea as the site was your basic brochure site at the time. Not like today where not only do we have several work-related blogs on the site, but every employee also has a “people page” where they can post information they’d like to share.

Back then, Will and I shot a series of photos (actually, I think Will was “shooting” and I was “photo directing”) of what turned out to be the tornado passing by our office as it touched down in Centennial Park on its way to hitting downtown (including the stadium, then under construction) before doing major widespread damage in East Nashville. (Today, the Nashville Tennessean has a retrospective of the days events.)

After the tornado passed our office building, Will and I and a few other Hammock employees jumped in a car and (I don’t recommend this to anyone — indeed, do not ever do this) drove out to survey the damage in the area immediately surrounding our office. A few blocks from our office, we came-upon what turned out to be one of the most tragic events related to that day. As we watched, a large team of Nashville emergency service and fire department personnel were attempting to save a Vanderbilt student who was pinned beneath a tree in Centennial Park. Unfortunately, the student died later.

When we returned to the office, Will posted the photos at the URL (which no longer works) hammock.com/tornado. Within an hour, CNN.com and other news services were pointing to the photos and the site, which perhaps on a good day got 100 visitors, was (thanks to a robust server) getting tens of thousands of viewers. Sometime during the night, a radio talk show host I had never heard of until then, Art Bell, linked to the photos and started talking about them on his show. (Later I learned that visiting aliens and bad weather were a staple of his show.) The link from Art Bell ended up crashing our servers, as I recall.

Several years ago, we discovered that we had “lost” those photos and any archive of what the site was like on that day. I haven’t actually given up on them turning up somewhere, but searches of the WayBackMachine and other services have not turned up any mirror sites that captured the photos.

One of the reasons I now am obsessed with backing up and organizing digital media — and displaying it on multiple platforms — is my disappointment in having lost that April 16, 1998 moment in time — as experienced by a few of us.

Today, Hammock Inc. would have the photos uploaded to Flickr.com/hammock and YouTube.com/hammockinc instantly and the photos would be backed up on three different servers in our offices and off-site. And, oh yeah, they’d also be posted on that “Out My Office Window” Flickr set. Additionally, we would grant rights to anyone wanting to display the photos for news-coverage purposes.

We’ve come a long way in the past ten years. Today, the city of Nashville has a network of siren alarms that warn people of weather emergencies. Vanderbilt students can be contacted immediately via text message during any type of emergency. And today, the notion of individual witnesses of an event providing personal coverage directly to an audience, and not mediated by a professional news operation, is accepted as a norm — and even “covered” by traditional media.

Later: Laura Creekmore, who then and now lived in East Nashville, recalls the day’s event (she was one of the smart people who went to our building’s basement). I spoke today also with Will Weaver whose recollection is similar to mine. If Lewis Pennock or others are reading this, please comment to fill-in-the-blanks of any details from that day.

Video on Flickr? Works for me

I’m sure there will be lots of chatter suggesting Flickr is way late to the video party. Of course, the reality is that those who live far out on the leading edge often lose sight of the fact that the vast majority of people still don’t even share photos via e-mail. The majority of people still don’t have digital cameras, much less some easy-to-download means of capturing video. And what Flickr is doing — starting out by allowing only 90 second videos — makes it clear that they’re not trying to be another YouTube — this is something different.

But, then, I confess. I love Flickr. I love just about everything about it. While there’s a “free” version, it’s one of the few online services I gladly pay an annual fee for a “Pro” version due to its incredible array of services and features. It’s one of the few services I use that I believe is just about perfect.

I shoot video and photography using the same camera (well, most of the time) and I upload them both to the same desktop software (iPhoto), so why wouldn’t I want to save and share them on the web using the same service? It just makes sense to me.

I’ll still use YouTube, just not the same way I’ll use Flickr.

Later: Some folks are already harping on the ’90 second’ limitation. While I think Flickr will probably expand this time limit later, the time-collar is actually an opportunity for thinking about video in a new way — in my opinion. One of the challenges with video is the editing process — it’s a new skill for most of us. However, sharing video doesn’t have to be limited to the linear narrative piece we’ve come to expect after years of watching TV. In reality, those linear pieces are typically a series of clips. What if, using a Flickr set, you can present those clips in a way in which the viewer can understand why they are being grouped together, but watch them in a new non-linear way? For example, people can already present non-linear video stories on a map, for example — posting small clips of video on maps using the MyMaps feature of Google Maps (example, how-to). Flickr’s new feature will enable this type of video story-telling as well. Here is a great insta-tutorial from Andrew Baron (of Rocketbook) about using Flickr sets to present a series of videos in a way that could be very helpful to viewers. (Andrew’s post via Twitter from Dave Winer)

I’ll be experimenting in the morning and will update this post with quick review then.

In the meantime, here is an embed of the video Flickr used to launch the service: