David Jones from Fleishman-Hillard, who blogs at PR Works, has an interesting post up about the “Bridezilla” video clip, the one that popped up on YouTube and became a viral hit, leading to stories in major newspapers across North America, appearances by the actresses involved on talk shows, and so on. As it turned out, of course, the video wasn’t put together by some struggling actors as a lark, or a resume-enhancer — it was created by Sunsilk, a hair-care subsidiary of consumer products giant Unilever.
Great PR, right? Everyone’s talking about it, Unilever gets its name in the paper and on TV, everybody goes home happy. Except that I kind of feel a little like David seems to (in addition to his post, he commented on a post at Capital C’s blog, since the Toronto shop was involved in creating the ad). Not taken advantage of necessarily — nothing quite so dramatic. This is no Edelman/Wal-Mart situation, at least not as far as I’m concerned. But I still feel that the whole thing was kind of sneaky. In fact, I would have been much happier with the video, oddly enough, if it had come right out at the end and said it was sponsored by Sunsilk, or by Unilever.
At least that would have been authentic, in an inauthentic kind of way (if you follow me). Instead, I was sucked in by the video, then watched as actresses took credit for it — and thought “way to go, that’s the spirit” — until all of a sudden Unilever turned up in stories, and then Sunsilk, and then the real story finally dribbled out. It sounds like there was some confusion as to who was going to claim credit for it, Sunsilk may or may not have tried to distance itself from the video. In any case, by that time I was kind of sick of the whole thing.
Is that a great “word of mouth” or viral marketing experience? I wouldn’t say so. What do you think? Comments are open.
Came across a post from Alec Saunders about Monday night’s DemoCamp (number 12), and it reminded me that I meant to write about it too. It was at No Regrets in Liberty Village, just down the street from Tucows — where I went to DemoCamp #3 (I think it was) about a year ago on another frigid February night. The place was packed to the rafters, and despite a balky sound system and some cranky Wi-Fi it was a great show.
Alec calls it slam poetry for geeks, and he has a point. He juggled his five BlackBerrys or whatever it was to demo Iotum’s TalkNow, and did a fine job (as befits one of last year’s DEMO gods), and Albert Lai told everyone a bit about how Bubbleshare.com got to where it was and why it decided to be acquired by Toronto’s Kaboose network (and then dropped his laptop on the floor). Will Pate did a demo of Flock, and remained cool as a cucumber even when David Crow’s Mac froze and had to be rebooted, and even when someone asked why Flock didn’t just make Firefox extensions instead of creating a whole new browser.
Dave Humphrey talked about how his students have been helping develop the Mozilla open-source browser code, and we had some updates too — from Scott Brooks and his partner at Conceptshare.com, who risked their lives to drive down from Sudbury, and from my pal Mike McDerment’s Freshbooks.com (which is hiring), as well as from Brent Ashley, who said that he more or less gave up on his Ajax blog-chat app because he realized that “no one really gives a shit about being able to chat on a blog.”
Sacha wandered around taking pictures of everybody so that they could be collected for a DemoCamp index (and because Sacha is terrible with names and faces), Jay told everyone to introduce themselves to someone new, Joey made some bad jokes about David’s heart attack last year and handed out dried mango slices all the way from the Phillipines, and a great time was had by all.
Commentary about Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ clarion call for non-DRM’ed music already fills more than two pages of Techmeme, but naturally that’s not going to stop me from chiming in (it never has before :-)). And there’s no question that Jobs’ statement is a landmark event. I’ll leave it to others to decide how much of it is a heartfelt statement of belief and how much is marketing spin (Tony Hung has some thoughts on that over at Deep Jive Interests), but it’s clear that Steve-O is trying very hard to lay the blame for DRM at the foot of the music labels.
But will this Martin Luther-style nailing of principles to Apple’s digital front door have any effect on the record labels’ love of digital rights management? I’m not holding my breath. There’s no question that Jobs is right when he says that
“If the music companies are selling over 90 percent of their music DRM-free, what benefits do they get from selling the remaining small percentage of their music encumbered with a DRM system? There appear to be none.”
But that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop. If acting rationally and in their long-term best interests had any bearing on what the RIAA actually does, it wouldn’t have spent so much time and money suing some of its most devoted customers, creating what has to be the worst public relations environment for an industry since the Catholic Church burned people at the stake.
I think (as my friend Rob and Nick Carr do) that the real point of Steve’s letter comes near the end, when he mentions that Europe should step in and lean on the record labels, since two and a half of them are based in Europe (Vivendi owns Universal, EMI is British and Sony BMG is half German). Apple has been coming under fire for restricting iTunes to a proprietary song format, and Steve is clearly trying to shift the blame to the record companies.
Is he right? Absolutely. That’s what makes it vintage Jobs — as Webomatica notes, he comes out smelling like a rose no matter how you look at it.
Responses have been coming in from the major labels, and — surprise, surprise — they aren’t crazy about the idea. Edgar Bronfman Jr. at Warner Music basically suggested that Jobs was insane if he thought the labels would roll back DRM just because CDs don’t have it. But EMI is reportedly thinking about doing so, according to several reports. And the Economist has a nice piece about the whole subject here.
After reading the long piece in the New York Times Sunday magazine about Budweiser’s creation of BudTV, followed by Steve Safran’s two-thumbs-down review of said service at the Lost Remote blog, I had to check it out for myself — and I have to say Steve is right on the money. BudTV sucks big time. It’s not just cringe-inducing in the usual way that Bud commercials are, either. It’s bad through and through — as in not funny.
Apparently, Anheuser-Busch is spending $30-million in this thing, and all kinds of comic and movie celebrities like Chris Parnell (ex of Saturday Night Live) and Kevin Spacey are involved — which just makes it even more obvious that money doesn’t buy humour. Not even close. Chris Parnell’s Future Show, with Chris Farley’s brother, is right off the lame-o-meter, and another show called Arrogant Fake British Rich Guy is just stupid. Not even groan funny — just stupid. So is Billy Lama. I think I chuckled once, but only once. By that standard, the typical Bud Light commercial is Monty Python squared.
Lost Remote and PaidContent also point out that for BudTV, “sharing” consists of cutting and pasting a URL into an email to a friend. Wow. How 1996. And the registration process is onerous and confusing (not to mention likely useless as far as age verification is concerned). NewTeeVee didn’t think much of it either. This is the future of TV? I hope not.
In what shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who has been watching the video download race heat up, retailing behemoth Wal-Mart is announcing a download service today that will feature both movies and TV shows from all six major studios: Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, Paramount, Sony, 20th Century Fox and Universal. Movies will be $10 to $20 and TV shows will be $2.
Obviously, having all six studios taking part will help Wal-Mart by broadening the amount of content it can offer (theoretically at least). One of the biggest issues with other ventures such as the virtual ghost towns known as CinemaNow and MovieLink — which were put together by the studios themselves — is a lack of compelling content, much like the Video On Demand channels that cable providers like Rogers have in Canada, where you get the dregs from the theatres.
As Mike Arrington at TechCrunch points out, there are plenty of players in this particular game, including the aforementioned MovieLink and CinemaNow, as well as Amazon’s Unbox.com (A note to Canadians: none of these are available to Canucks, just as we are banned from watching the TV shows that NBC and other networks are streaming from their websites, and just as we can’t get movies and TV shows on iTunes for that matter — don’t get me started).
Rafat Ali at PaidContent and others have noted that Wal-Mart’s foray into movie rentals a la Netflix was kiboshed after a brief run, and an analyst says in the the New York Times story that the results of this latest venture will likely never be more than “a freckle” on the giant company’s earnings. He’s undoubtedly right about that — Wal-Mart’s revenue last year was $340-billion, and it made a profit of almost $12-billion.
In case you’re wondering, that makes Wal-Mart about 10 times the size of Walt Disney Co. in terms of sales, and about four times as large in terms of profit. In fact, it’s probably larger than all of the six movie studios put together. Which makes me wonder: why doesn’t Wal-Mart offer movies for free? Time-limit the downloads so you only get them for a day, and use them as a loss leader. Of course, the studios would never go for that kind of deal.
Although the Web and Web 2.0 gets a lot of attention — and rightly so, in my opinion — one of the other important trends has to do with mobility, and specifically cellphones and PDA-type devices. And while there is lots of evidence of that occurring in North America, it becomes abundantly obvious as soon as you look outside the continent, particularly to developing countries such as China and India. As Don Dodge says, it is the “first screen.”
In those countries, a mobile phone may be the closest that someone ever gets to a computer or the Internet, apart from using one at school, or in a library or town hall — a distinction that North American companies likely have a difficult time remembering. The New York Times has a fascinating story about a company called TenCent that is taking full advantage of the central place that mobiles appear to have in the lives of Chinese youth.
From the sounds of it, TenCent started with a simple instant-messaging tool for phones called QQ, and has evolved into a full-fledged micro-entertainment service with games, social apps, avatars and so on. If you want a picture of what it involves, think of something like HabboHotel.com (with tiny avatars and games) mixed with MySpace and MSN, all powered by a World of Warcraft-style virtual currency called Q coins. The Chinese government even warned recently that Q-coins were becoming a real-life currency, with people trading virtual game points for real-world services.
One QQ user in the NYT story — a 21-year-old university student — says that he is using some QQ service or other for three to five hours a day. That is mind-boggling. According to some estimates, QQ has more than 150 million users, 9 million of whom are online at any one time. And TenCent continues to roll out new features and services. I think Om Malik is right when he says that social networking is a feature that is showing up in many different places.
The intrepid Ionut Alex. Chitu of the blog Google Operating System has apparently stumbled across a new Google app — a PowerPoint-style presentation service called Presently (it’s unclear whether that’s an internal code name or a real product name). As my friend Paul Kedrosky notes, this would effectively complete the Google “anti-Office,” the office-style suite that CEO Eric Schmidt has repeatedly denied building.
Like Paul and others — including my fellow mesh organizer Mark Evans — I find myself using Google’s Docs more and more in order to have documents available to me wherever I am, without having to worry about which version I have, or carrying them around on a thumb drive. And the mesh group got huge mileage out of what used to be called Writely thanks to the online collaboration tools. Speaking of which, could we please go back to the name Writely instead of Google Docs and Spreadsheets?
On a related note, I suppose this means the founders of Thumbstacks.com and other online presentation services should either be looking at adding features to differentiate themselves (online collaboration a la Vyew perhaps). Or they could always sell themselves on eBay like online calendar app Kiko did awhile back, eventually being bought by Toronto-based Tucows.
The Viacom takedown notice — in which the entertainment conglomerate told YouTube to take down more than 100,000 video clips that infringe on the company’s copyrights — has sparked a back-and-forth between the forces of good and evil, or freedom and restraint, or lawlessness and justice, or (fill in your favourite diametrically opposed positions here).
In one corner we have Cory Doctorow, former director with the Electronic Freedom Foundation, who writes on BoingBoing about Viacom terrorizing YouTube by abusing the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, sending letters about any content that has a keyword in common with a piece of Viacom content. And in the other corner is Mark Cuban, billionaire sports team owner, media mogul and blogosphere gadfly, who says that YouTube is deliberately withholding filtering methods it could be using to block copyrighted content.
Mark, of course, has a history as far as YouTube and its, er… liberal definition of copyright infringement is concerned. A few days before Google acquired YouTube, Mark said that “only a moron” would buy it because of copyright concerns. Then YouTube announced agreements with CBS (which used to be part of Viacom), Universal, Sony BMG and others that saw the company agree to pay content owners and put in place copyright filters.
So who is right? Cory, with his complaint that Viacom is using legal means to beat up on YouTube, or Mark, with his argument that YouTube is playing dumb? I would argue both are right (Don Dodge has an answer for Cory’s argument about false positives here). Viacom is hitting YouTube with DMCA notices because it wants a better deal, and as a content owner it has that right. And YouTube is taking advantage of the leeway it has under the law.
Copyright law is a trade-off, as it should be, between the rights of a content creator and/or owner, and the broader interests of society in being able to make use of that content. Just as Napster was before it, YouTube is caught at the intersection of those two opposing forces.
Well, Scoble has gone and done it again, it seems. He agreed to accept a speaking engagement from none other than PayPerPost, everyone’s favourite blogosphere whipping boy. At first, the deal was that they would pay him for appearing, as well as paying for his flight and accommodations, but John Furrier and PodTech apparently decided that wasn’t such a great idea — poor “optics,” as the political types like to say — and so he turned it down.
Duncan Riley says that Scoble “has balls” for doing the speech, but also that he has become “a paid shill” for the company, and that he has every right to “whore his presence.” I think we’re back to where we were just the other day when the latest PayPerPost brouhaha erupted (which I wrote about here). Everyone is being held up against an impossible standard, just because PayPerPost is seen as the blogosphere’s version of a “sidewalk hooker,” — as Scoble’s friend and co-author Shel Israel says in his disapproving comment.
So Scoble was going to get a fee for speaking at a blogging conference. Big deal. Speakers at conferences get paid all the time, and even if they don’t get an honorarium, they usually get free plane flights and hotel rooms and food. That’s how it works. Is this conference somehow different because PayPerPost is sponsoring it? Like Jason at Webomatica, I think more disclosure is definitely good, but I don’t see why he should be subjected to a public flogging. He’s not speaking at the Aryan Party’s annual meeting, for pete’s sake. Mike says he’s making a mistake.
PayPerPost may not be the model that I would like to see bloggers adopt, but it is one of the alternative for people who don’t get enough traffic to make their blog pay, and it has definitely gotten better since it launched. According to an email I got from CEO Ted Murphy, the company will soon be launching a new feature that would place a disclosure button (with a rollover ad included) at the bottom of any post sponsored by an advertiser, although it will be up to the advertiser to decide whether to use that feature.
Tony Hung has a long and thoughtful post on the subject of the “impossible standard” bloggers are being held to. And both Duncan Riley at 901am and Jim Kukral of Blogkits (which I use, in the interests of full disclosure) think that Ted Murphy of PayPerPost is a marketing genius.
If YouTube thought that it was out of the woods when it signed those content deals with CBS, Sony BMG and other content owners — on the eve of its acquisition by Google — it looks like it was wrong. Viacom slapped the video-sharing site with a takedown notice on Friday, saying YouTube hosts more than 100,000 videos of copyrighted content, including clips from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and other Comedy Central favourites.
According to a statement from Viacom:
“After months of ongoing discussions with YouTube and Google, it has become clear that YouTube is unwilling to come to a fair market agreement that would make Viacom content available to YouTube users.”
The company said that the recent addition of YouTube videos to the video search function on Google “compounds this issue.”
But wait — haven’t we seen this movie before? Indeed we have. Viacom sent a nastygram to YouTube back in October telling it to do the same thing, and many Jon Stewart clips vanished overnight from the massive video site (although in most cases it was only full-length shows rather than clips). But then it seemed as though the TV networks were starting to see the benefit of exposing their content to millions of fans — CBS said that viewing shows on the web increases viewership, and NBC put dozens of clips from its show Saturday Night Live up on the site.
What seems to have happened is that Viacom has either gotten tired of waiting for YouTube to install the copyright management system it described when it signed the deals with CBS and others, or it wants more money to allow its content to remain on the site. The company’s statement said:
“Filtering tools promised repeatedly by YouTube and Google have not been put in place, and they continue to host and stream vast amounts of unauthorized video. YouTube and Google retain all of the revenue generated from this practice, without extending fair compensation to the people who have expended all of the effort and cost to create it.”
In other words, pay up or take it down.