On second thought, Why Apple won’t sue Universal

The other day, I speculated-out-loud that Apple may have grounds to sue Universal for factors related to “restraint of trade” in not allowing DRM-free music to be sold via the iTunes store while opening up such an option to nearly all other online retailers of any heft. (I admitted — and still do — I have absolutely no knowledge of the law surrounding such an issue, but I do recall “restraint-of-trade” being a central-focus of legal and regulatory battles in the book-retailing industry whenever one channel of distribution appears to gain preferential treatment from publishers or wholesalers.)

However, after thinking about it some more and reading articles like this one in the LA Times that re-hash the conventional wisdom that Universal is using this as some type of warning-shot against Apple, I have thought about it some more and come to this conclusion: Why should Apple give a rip about how people purchase DRM-free music? They should be encouraging Universal to do this and hoping that Walmart, Best Buy and anyone else who can sell DRM-free music will be as successful as possible.

Why?

In reality, Apple doesn’t make that much money from selling music. I once wrote about 10,000 words pointing out how Apple’s podcasting strategy, in which they support the RSS-distributed delivery of what is, for the most part, free music and programming, is a winner for them because, duh, Apple is in the business of selling hardware that organizes and plays music — the “content” part of iTunes is not their business. I won’t repeat the economics of this, as I’ve covered it before, but believe me, the margin Apple earns on selling music is a microscopic fraction of the margin they earn on selling an iPod or iPhone.

In reality, Apple wants you to purchase DRM-free music any way you can. They are begging Universal to the throw them into the briar patch if they doth protest too much (to mix literary metaphors) Universal’s selling of DRM-free music through every other channel possible. Steve Jobs & Co. know that on iTunes, there is this little menu item called “Consolidate Your Library” that will automagically suck into iTunes all of that DRM-free music you purchase via other sources.

Steve Jobs & Co. know that in a few months, Universal will let them sell DRM-free music. Even I, who am observing this from so far away I have to squint, can see it is inevitable that Universal will cave-in on this after all of their “testing” is done.

Is it okay to have a ghost blogger?

Apparently, there has been a debate going on for some time about whether or not “ghost-blogging” is okay. Shel Holtz recaps it here and then weighs in on the issue. Read it. Shel is not a fan of the notion of ghost-blogging: “Blogs aren’t just another business communication channel. In fact, blogs were created and popularized by people who were fed up with traditional business communication channels.”

I agree with Shel on this one, which may sound funny for someone who has ghost-written more words for others than I’ve written for myself. And while I have no doubt I could ghost-blog for someone else (I could get into their head and master their writing-style), I think my ghost-bloggee and his/her communication people would be missing the point — the opportunity — of this conversational media platform.

Shel makes an excellent suggestion for senior executives who are considering outsourcing their blog posts: “An executive uncomfortable with writing can opt for a podcast; talking may come more naturally. He can participate in real-time chats.”

That suggestion jogged my memory of a long-ago post I made on the day I first heard the term “podcasting,” in which I suggested that CEO-types might find “talking” more natural than “writing.”

Flashback:

“Stick a microphone in front of a CEO and say, ‘What would you like to tell your employees today?’ and you’ll get a much quicker buy-in than sitting a keyboard in front of them and saying, ‘blog a message for the world to read.’ A word of warning to corporate communicator-types: Don’t script it for the CEO…with ‘podcasting,’ voice is not a metaphor for writing in a conversational, believable fashion. Voice is actually voice.”

(via: Josh Hallett)

Podcasting, meet audiobooks

The New York Times has a story about Mignon Fogarty’s success at selling an audiobook version on iTunes of a book that will be released in print next year. The audiobook was put together in a few days using the equipment Fogarty uses for her podcast, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips to Clean Up Your Writing, because she was scheduled to appear on Oprah.

Quote:

“On March 26, the day the show was broadcast, iTunes’ home page highlighted “Grammar Girl’s Quick & Dirty Tips to Clean Up Your Writing,” an hourlong audiobook that could be downloaded for $4.95. By the end of that week, Ms. Fogarty’s presentation had bumped “The Secret,” the advice book that espouses positive thinking which also had been promoted by Ms. Winfrey, from the top spot.”

While no specifics are shared in the article, the one-hour book has sold in “the thousands.”

While isolated, this is quite similar to publishing deals that have grown out of blogging — books which have been published that either leverage the popularity and expertise of the blogger, or aggregate some of the “best of.” As audiobooks — and the sales channel of iTunes — are clearly in the mainstream of e-commerce, it takes little imagination to envision a new marketplace of podcast-marketed audiobooks that need no manufacturing.

Flashback: Back in 2005, when Apple announced it would be supporting podcasting, I wrote a series of posts (the most extensive one-topic effort ever on this blog) regarding what I thought the long-term impact would be. One of those predictions was this: “If you want to, it will be easy (one day) to sell your podcast through iTunes.”

The New York Times’ bookend stories on Odeo

February 25, 2005: “Compared with the other various approaches so far, Odeo (pronounced OH-dee-oh) means to be podcast central – an all-in-one system that makes it possible for someone with no more equipment than a telephone to produce podcasts and also makes it possible for users to assemble custom playlists of audio files and copy them directly onto MP3 audio players. The company plans to make money by selling audio content and advertising and, eventually, software for producing and editing podcasts.”

November 24, 2006: “The company was born last year amid much hype. It landed substantial financing — $4 million from Charles River Ventures and $1 million from a star-studded cast of angel investors. Yet little more than a year later, Odeo was going nowhere. Traffic had stalled and it was not clear how the company would ever make money.”

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