Is this the future of advertising?

I tuned into Rocketboom’s video-cast on Friday because they did a segment on the New York City Live Window event — in which Versu Richelieu (otherwise known as Kess Quinn) is sitting in a store window for 72 hours, building an exact replica of her surroundings in Second Life — and it struck me that this looks very much like the future of advertising (or at least a possible future).

second life

Intel sponsored Versu to sit in the window and also paid however many Linden dollars it cost for her to build what she’s been building, so they get all kinds of publicity out of it, and Linden Labs gets lots of publicity for Second Life too (although they had to take the world down during the event to block an “exploit” of some kind). Even Versu gets some publicity for her SL building skills, and so does virtual PR firm and event host Millions of Us.

Then when I watched the Rocketboom episode, I saw a different kind of ad — host Joanne Colan, who started the segment interviewing Versu as an avatar in the game Second Life, shows up dressed in a Borg costume from Star Trek and does an ad for a battery recycling company. Is this the future for video-cast advertising? It just might be.


It was kind of cheesy, and I don’t know whether it crosses some boundaries to have the host doing ads in the middle of the show, but then we’re not talking about Ted Koppel either, let’s face it — and shows like Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle in the early days of television weren’t all that different, really. Also interesting: Andrew Baron of Rocketboom, Joanne and the advertiser all show up in the comments on the episode.

The great blog payola debate continues

Back when PayPerPost first came along, it got a huge amount of negative publicity from the blogosphere, with some bloggers calling the company outright evil for paying people to write about corporate clients (and not requiring them to disclose that fact on their blogs). At the time, I wondered whether there was any such thing as bad publicity, and whether PayPerPost would suffer for the avalanche of criticism.

As is often the case, all that the criticism did was help get the company’s name in front of a bunch of prospective clients, and attract bloggers who didn’t really care about the disclosure/payola issue. In no time, PayPerPost had raised $3-million, and now there are at least two other competitors looking to do the same thing, including and (a pretty weird name for a Web 2.0 company, although I’m sure it has something to do with cream rising to the top, etc.).

As an aside, it’s interesting to see the flashes of arrogance that Mike Arrington displays in writing about these two newcomers, one of which comes from an advertiser on TechCrunch called Text Link Ads. In addition to calling blog payola a “virus,” Mike says:

Frankly, we’re not happy that one of our sponsors has launched this type of service, and we’ve notified them that we will not allow promotion of ReviewMe through TechCrunch.

That made me shake my head a little. “Will not allow” promotion of the company through TechCrunch? That’s a bit rich, especially when the parent company’s product — Text Link Ads — is just as much of a cancer on the web as PayPerPost is, albeit a more obvious one. And then Mike says this:

It’s clear that simply stating we don’t like these services isn’t going to make them go away.

I’m hoping this was a joke. How could they not close up shop after Mike and the rest of the A-list told them to stop what they were doing? The nerve of some people. Let’s face it — PayPerPost is not going away, and even if it and ReviewMe and Creamaid all go away, others will take their place. From my point of view, at least ReviewMe forces the people it hires to disclose that they are being compensated, which puts it one step closer to advertising and one step away from editorial.

There are all kinds of similar boundaries that get crossed in “traditional” journalism, from the travel section to the various “special” advertorial supplements that newspapers run, and eventually smart readers figure out whom they can trust and whom they can’t. And that’s about all we can hope for.

This does not make Mark Cuban right

Is anyone really surprised that Dick “No, we are not a sinking ship” Parsons at Time Warner is rattling the old copyright sabre at Google and YouTube? Much like Universal when it started muttering about YouTube stealing its content not too long ago — even as it was talking to the site about a deal on licensing — the media conglomerate seems to mostly be searching for negotiating leverage, as Mike Masnick at Techdirt points out, and Greg Sterling notes as well.

Notice that Parsons has not said he will sue, only that he is pursuing the copyright issue (or whatever weasely phrase he used). Universal didn’t say it would sue either — it just tried to come across as pissed off, as though it was thumbing through the Yellow Pages looking for a good copyright lawyer.

Before I get flamed by “copyright law is sacrosanct” types, I’m not saying Time Warner and Universal don’t have a point when it comes to the blatant posting of TV clips and videos. But I think their posturing says more about how they feel they need to deal with Google than about their real concerns over copyright. And just for the record, this does not make Mark Cuban right.

A look at Sharpcast’s photo software

Note: I’ve started doing weekly reviews of Web 2.0 tools and services for — last week I wrote about Writely — and this week I wrote about Sharpcast, an online photo-sharing service that offers automatic synchronization with your home PC.

If there’s one thing the Web has plenty of, it’s photo-sharing sites. There’s, of course, which was started by a couple of Canadians and then eventually bought by Yahoo, but also,,, and many others (interestingly enough, although Flickr gets most of the publicity, Photobucket is actually number one in terms of images and users, thanks in large part to the fact that millions of users of rely on Photobucket to host the images for their blogs).

So why would anyone want to hear about another photo-sharing site? Because a service called offers something a little different from the others, and that is automatic image synchronization between your computer and Sharpcast’s servers. In other words, it backs up whatever images you choose, and keeps the photos constantly backed up whenever something changes. You can also use the service as a standard image-sharing site for family and friends, but the synchronization part is the big differentiator between Sharpcast and your average run-of-the-mill photo site.

Continue reading “A look at Sharpcast’s photo software”

NowPublic wants to highlight your blog

Just got an email from Michael Tippett, one of the founders of NowPublic, the social-media site based in British Columbia. Michael was kind enough to come and be on a panel at the last mesh conference we had in Toronto in May, and had some interesting things to say about “citizen journalism” or open-source reporting or whatever we’re calling it today. NowPublic, which encourages people to upload news reports, photos and video of news events, now has 30,000 contributors in over 130 countries, which is pretty impressive.

Michael wrote to tell me about a new feature they’ve added, called Highlight. In effect, it’s a blog-posting tool very much like the Performancing plugin for Firefox, which brings up a small window at the bottom of your browser when you click on the yellow highlight icon with the letters NP inside it. All the pieces of a blog-publishing tool are there, including a headline field and an edit window and tags, which the Highlighter fills in automatically for you (although you can easily change them).

After you configure your blog — which worked flawlessly with both of my WordPress blogs — you can publish a post to your blog with a single click, and if you want to you can add a link at the bottom (you don’t have to). The tool also publishes the post automatically to NowPublic, and then gives you a link in the edit window of your browser so that you can find photos and video from NowPublic to add to your post. The site had a wide selection of photos from the recent plane crash in New York, for example — a sample is below.

One of the interesting things about NowPublic that doesn’t get mentioned a lot is the photo-sharing features that are built in. When you click on a photo, you get a larger version, and when you hover over the photo you get a menu with “ThumbPrint” sharing options (you should be able to see the same menu on the photo above). You can get a high-resolution version if the photographer allows it, and you can also get code to embed the photo in your blog. Very cool.

I think the Highlighter tool is also a great idea — it makes it easy to post things to both your blog and NowPublic at the same time, and to add photos and video. Kudos to Michael and the team.

Andrew Keen totally misses the point

I expect that a post like this is exactly what author, entrpreneur and “cultural critic” Andrew Keen is after, since he entitled his post on the Google-YouTube acquisition “Thieves unite in $1.6-billion deal.” But I felt compelled to write something anyway, if only because he clearly isn’t the only one who believes in what he calls the “essentially fraudulent nature of Google’s business model.”

Keen links admiringly to a piece in the Independent online by Jeremy Warner, who says that Google and YouTube are similar in that “neither seems to care a fig about the law of copyright.” For his part, Keen says the two are “tied together by their use of free content to establish value for their businesses and to drive revenue,” and mentions “their blatant disregard for intellectual property law.”

Warner doesn’t get too specific about whether he’s talking about Google Video or the Google book-scanning project, but Keen specifically mentions the claims from publishers that Google News is an infringement of copyright, describing his interview with Richard Landry, executive director of the Independent Press Association, who argues that the Google business model is

a form of theft. The search engine steals content from traditional content producers and then makes money by selling advertising off the back of the snippets of information that it displays on its website.

Could this get any stupider? It’s hard to imagine how. The Press Association and the World Association of Newspapers have both tried this argument, and just come out looking like morons, as does the entire country of Belgium for its recent decision to block Google News from displaying content from Belgian newspapers.

Let’s review: Google News posts snippets of text, which is permitted by fair use principles — just as it does for the Google Print project — and doesn’t display advertising on its pages. How is that “a form of theft” or “blatant disregard” for intellectual property? I would be tempted to describe Keen’s post as a troll, but unfortunately I think he actually believes what he wrote.

Bonus link:

For more unintentional hilarity, be sure to check out Keen’s magnum opus on how Web 2.0 is the new Communism.

Why we need blogs as well as newspapers

I followed the recent dustup over some comments Mike Arrington of TechCrunch made at the recent Online News Association conference in Washington, but didn’t get a chance to write about them, in part because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to say exactly. Mike made some inflammatory comments about traditional media, including the New York Times, and said that blogs were better, which raised some hackles and even drew some a critical response from Jeff Jarvis — no great friend of traditional media — and Staci from PaidContent.

Then I read something that Nick “The Prophet of Doom” Carr wrote about the event, and it got me thinking — and then I read a recent post from Huffington Post’s Eat The Press, and it got me thinking even more. I won’t recap all of Nick’s rather long-winded post (is he getting paid by the word?), but suffice it to say that he doesn’t think Mike should be throwing rocks because he didn’t disclose some conflicts involving his blog and the startup he’s involved in, called Edgeio. Then Nick says this:

Traditional journalism has its weaknesses, as any journalist will tell you, but it has many strengths as well, strengths that are hard-earned and worthy of respect. Many bloggers assume that blogging represents a step forward when, in important ways, it actually represents a step backward.

When it comes to conflicts of interest, or other questions of journalistic ethics, the proper attitude that we bloggers should take toward our counterparts in the traditional press is not arrogance but humility. In this area, as in others, blogs have far more to learn from newspapers than newspapers have to learn from blogs.

Typical Nick, right? Then I read this post from Eat The Press, which made a point of noting how many outlets — including the Washington Post — had ample evidence that Republican Congressman Mark Foley was sending inappropriate emails to young pages at the House of Representatives, but did nothing. A blogger published the emails, and then did the story. And that’s not the only case of traditional media either canning or distorting a story, of course. The New York Times has several in its closet, including the Judith Miller affair.

So yes, bloggers have some things to learn from traditional media when it comes to disclosing conflicts. But traditional media darn well has plenty to learn from bloggers as well — and I for one am glad we have both.

I think Mark Cuban is losing it

I’ve never met Mark Cuban, but I like him a lot. I love his courtside ranting and raving, I like the whole billionaire in a T-shirt thing, and I really like the fact that he lets things pretty much just hang out on his blog and says what he feels — how many billionaires or CEOs do that? And I even like his blog when I think he’s wrong, like I did with the whole “only a moron would buy YouTube” thing. But sometimes I think maybe he could use an editor — or at least a friend.

In his latest post, Mark takes another stab at the whole Google-YouTube-DRM thing, but this time he does it in a kind of stream of consciousness format that makes me wonder whether he isn’t spending some of those billions on British Columbia’s leading export. He talks about looking for music and videos, and how YouTube’s new quicklist makes it easy to find things, and programs like Total Video Converter let him convert movies so he can watch them on his iPod. And then he loses it — here’s a sample:

Wait a minute, who is the little guy hovering in front of me ? Dang, it looks like a Google lawyer ! Is he using a juet propulsion pack to fly ? No, its a floating Segway. Wow ! He is saying “No problem mark. You didnt crack any DRM, we dont use any !. You just downloaded a file from one of the most popular sites in the world and converted it to a format that works for your Ipod. We put it up there for you to take, so take it !

If copyright owners didnt want it there, they would have sent us a Take Down Notice !. I must be right because millions of people do it every day ! You wonder how I can fly with this Segway ? Its the DMCA Safe Harbor laws keeping me safe and floating. Take all the music, movies and videos you want, our users will upload more ! Enjoy , enjoy, enjoy !

Mark, buddy — time to step outside and maybe get some fresh air, dude. Or at least put down the bong for awhile. In other Cuban-related news, Deep Jive Interests has coined a new buzzword: To “Cuban.”

Can Digg-style voting make search better?

A little while ago, I got an email inviting me to go to a secret URL and try out an unreleased Web service, one that tries to apply Digg-style voting to search results. The site has now gone live, so I’m free to write about it, and I have to say it’s an interesting idea, but not one that I’m convinced will work — or at least not the way the company behind it, called Coolchaser Corp., intends it to work (Note: the site was down the last time I checked, due to what appear to be server problems).

The service from (which I think is kind of a dumb name) takes the search results from Google, MSN and Yahoo and aggregates them and then displays them on a page. When you follow one of the links, you get a small toolbar at the bottom of the window with two buttons — one with a thumbs-up icon for “good result” and one with a thumbs-down icon for “not so good” — and you get a small text box in which you can enter a comment.

The idea is that as people rate search results, those with more votes flow to the top of the aggregated page of links, and users can see how many people thought a particular page was a good result, and any comments they may have made. It’s an appealing idea, and it’s obvious from the url blog that the founders believe people are naturally good and that they want to help. But do enough of them fit that description to make the service worthwhile? I’m not sure.

Even if there aren’t enough people who want to vote, however, still makes a pretty good multi-engine search — and if it adds further value, then so much the better. One of the only downsides is that some websites run frame-blockers that remove the toolbar, and so you can’t vote on them. Coolchaser also runs a service called, which is sort of like Clipmarks and other products that let you clip, store and share data as you surf the Web.

Ballmer says to root for Microsoft

Anyone who has seen Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer in action — either in person or in one of the hilarious video clips of his Monkey Boy motivational-speaker routine — knows that it isn’t easy for him to play the underdog role. His thing is more of the “barking mad pit-bull” kind of role. But in a recent Business Week interview, he does his best to paint a scary picture of a world where Google is a media giant with no competition:

The truth is what Google is doing now is transferring the wealth out of the hands of rights holders into Google. So media companies around the world are all threatened by Google. Why? Because basically Google is telling you how much of your ad revenue you get to keep.They better get some competition. Us. Yahoo. Somebody better break through or you can short all media stocks right now.

Boy, I’m getting all choked up, Uncle Steve. Good thing we have Microsoft out there trying to help us poor folk. Feel free to tack a little more onto the purchase price of Vista and put it towards the “Microsoft Media” competition fund.