Networks put their money on Joost

joost1.jpgIt may not be a $1.6-billion takeover, but Joost seems to be doing pretty well nevertheless, attracting $45-million in funding from a group of backers — including CBS and Viacom, two of the TV networks it has signed content deals with. Obviously, they have decided that Joost is the horse they want to put their money on when it comes to Internet television. As Om notes, among the other investors are Sequoia Partners (also a backer of YouTube) and Index Ventures, whose partner Danny Rimer made a gazillion or so dollars by investing in Skype before it was bought by eBay. So I would imagine that he probably likes Janus Friis and Niklas Zennstrom just a little bit.

Nick O’Neill of Webpreneur says that Joost is about to pull off “one of the biggest fear-driven deals in history” by playing on the networks’ fear of the Internet, and Kara Swisher says on her Boom Town blog that the networks like it because “It looks and feels like a replication of the old television broadcast model,” which is a point I have also made in the past.

The alarm:clock blog says you will watch Joost, but Adario Strange at Wired’s Epicenter blog says it’s too buggy and too much trouble. And over at NewTeeVee, Om Malik makes some excellent points about the growth of Joost and the weaknesses of the peer-to-peer model for something like video. The bottom line: It may not be as easy to do as it was for voice with Skype. Meanwhile, Heather Green has some comments from investor Danny Rimer about what makes Joost so great.

eBay and StumbleUpon rumour still alive

stumbleupon.jpgThey’re baaaack. The rumours about eBay buying StumbleUpon have resurfaced, but this time it’s the Wall Street Journal that is breathing new life into the story — a tale that was sparked first by TechCrunch back in April. At that point, the site — which was created by Garrett Camp and two university friends in Calgary — was rumoured to have talked with Google and Yahoo as well as eBay, and the price was said to be in the $45-million range. Now, according to the WSJ, it’s more like $75-million. Not bad for a site that has 2 million users.

Does it make sense for eBay? When the rumours first surfaced I wrote a post saying that I didn’t get it, and I still don’t. Muhammad Saleem at ProNet and Pete Cashmore at Mashable wrote about how they could see it working, but I still don’t buy it. Maybe eBay has some kind of grand vision that I’m not seeing — or maybe it’s just desperate for growth of any kind. Scot Wingo at eBay Strategies has some more thoughts on it, and Valleywag says the only explanation is that eBay just has way too much money on its hands from its online auction monopoly.

Are we ready for

snipshot_e4jpq70bjvm.jpgValleywag says that Natalie Portman is working on a “lifecast” of her personal and working life, a la’s 24-hour streaming EdTV experiment. Said news, apparently, was leaked via a Twitter message by someone whose firm had been approached to fund her new venture (allegedly Silicon Valley VC oufit Charles River Ventures). This wouldn’t be the only time that Silicon Valley has met Silicone Valley, of course, but it still seems a little far-fetched to me — but then, so did And Natalie has shown that she is happy to mess around with her public image from time to time, as you can see from this hilarious video clip from Saturday Night Live.

And why not stream video yourself? If you’re Brittany or Lindsay or Paris, you either spend all of your time trying to get on TV or in the newspaper, or you find yourself hounded by photographers and video-cameras trying to put you there anyway. Why not take control of the process? And if you think no one would subscribe to an all-Natalie channel, I expect that you are quite wrong. I think my friend Steve Bryant agrees with me.


Liz Gannes at NewTeeVee got a comment from Susan Wu at Charles River, who said the Twitter message was just a joke. And NewTeeVee also came up with a list of celebrities it would like to see do a lifecast.

Boston free paper prints blogs

The New York Times has a piece on Boston Now and its use of local bloggers. More info at the Boston Now blog and at CNet
clipped from

While most newspapers are trying to stake bigger claims online, one new publication is pulling material off the Internet to be printed in ink.

John Wilpers, editor in chief of BostonNow, a free weekday daily introduced last month, said he wanted to fill the paper with items that local bloggers submitted to the BostonNow Web site.

Last week, editors began culling posts and running excerpts next to articles from reporters and newswires. The blog items, which appear in gray boxes, are still relatively few, but Mr. Wilpers said he thought the feature would grow.

Studios sing chorus of “Blame Canada”


Michael Geist has a typically well-argued post on the latest Warner Brothers camcordering nonsense here.

Original post:

(cross-posted from my Globe and Mail blog)

When you go to see a movie, do you get irritated by the guys sitting in front of you with their video cameras pointed at the screen, illegally “camcordering” the film? I don’t, because I’ve never seen one, although I’ve been to my share of premieres, including (most recently) Spider-Man 3. And yet, Warner Brothers and Twentieth Century Fox and other Hollywood studios have been screaming and yelling for some time now about how Canada is a hotbed of piracy. In the latest move, Warner Bros. said on Tuesday that it will no longer hold preview screenings in Canada.

pirate1.jpgSo that means no more previews of Warner Bros. movies before the main attraction at your local multiplex? Well, no. The studio said that it is cancelling all “promotional and word-of-mouth” screenings. Those are the special showings that occur just before a big movie hits the theatres, which are usually open only to contest winners, movie reviewers, people who see an ad, and so on — in other words, a pretty unlikely place for someone to bring in a camcorder under their shirt. So if Warner’s move strikes you as mostly a symbolic gesture, that’s because it probably is — a gesture aimed primarily at keeping the pressure on Parliament to bring in new anti-piracy legislation.

There have been other gestures as well. Studios and movie distributors have been lobbying to have Canada placed on a high-priority international piracy “watchlist” along with countries like China and Russia. And Twentieth Century Fox made some vague threats earlier this year to hold back some of its top movies from Canadian release, because the risk of piracy was reportedly so high. One Fox executive said in January that Canadian cam-corder copies were “like an out-of-control epidemic,” and that the country had become “a leading source of worldwide Internet film piracy.” He said Canada accounted for close to 50 per cent of illegal camcorder copies.

As Ottawa law professor Dr. Michael Geist and others have pointed out before, however, there are a number of flaws in the movie studios’ argument — including the fact that there is no tangible evidence for that 50 per cent figure. The International Intellectual Property Alliance, which includes the Motion Picture Association of America, has previously said that Canada is only responsible for about 20 per cent of camcorder copies. And even though that number still seems high, the MPAA has said only 179 of the 1,400 movies released between 2004 and 2006 were camcorded (Warner says 70 per cent of its movies were camcorded over the last 18 months).

Dr. Geist notes that one of the most recent studies of movie piracy found the majority of illegally copied movies – over 75 per cent — come from review copies or early releases that are sent to movie industry insiders, including reviewers at newspapers and magazines. Piracy experts say that camcorder copies are really only in demand for that brief window between when a movie is released for preview screenings and when the DVD is released. Canada obviously has DVD copiers too, but no one is saying we are an international leader (at least not yet).

Is camcordering a movie and selling millions of copies wrong? Of course it is — and we already have laws that make that a crime, although movie studios and distributors say they are too difficult to enforce. But it doesn’t help when the industry uses hyperbole and inflated numbers to try and make its case.

Reminder: mesh meetup tomorrow

It’s only a few weeks until mesh 2007 — you can find more info at the site, including the full schedule of speakers and times, and there are still a few tickets left here, although they are going quickly — but there’s still time for one last mesh social event. So tomorrow night, we’re having a mesh meetup aimed at the political end of the Web 2.0 spectrum.

So if you want to hang with some other poli-bloggers and get revved up about the mesh panel with Andrew Coyne, Garth Turner, Phil de Vellis and Scott Feschuk — which will be looking at how the Web is changing politics — this is your chance. It starts at about 6 p.m. Wednesday at the Charlotte Room, which is near the intersection of King West and Spadina in Toronto. There’s more details and you can sign up at the Upcoming page.

Is the Web half full or half empty?

Lots of chat out there about the latest Pew study into how people use the Interweb. These studies are useful in part because the Pew Internet & American Life Project does such a thorough job with them — you know they weren’t cooked up by marketing types to sell more banner ads. The latest one (PDF is here) looks at how many people engage in “Web 2.0” activities such as blogging, commenting, posting photos, etc.

social.jpgGreg Sterling has a good breakdown of the results at Search Engine Land, and so does Jordan McCollum at Marketing Pilgrim. But what’s interesting about a lot of the reaction to the study is how pessimistic it is — some speculate that Web 2.0’s upside “is capped”, or point out that “nearly half say no” to Web 2.0, or gloat that geeks are “in the minority.” John Paczkowski of All Things D says that it’s clear from the study that Web 2.0 “has far fewer participants than its architects would have us believe.” But is that really clear? I don’t think so. Did I miss the part where Tim O’Reilly or the other “architects” of Web 2.0 said everyone would be blogging and posting content within a year or two? I must have.

And while most seem to be somewhat depressed by the results of the study, I was pleasantly surprised to find how *many* people engage in “Web 2.0”-type activities. The study says that when asked about things that include blogging, posting comments to a blog, uploading photos or video, creating webpages or mixing and mashing content from other sites, 37 per cent of those surveyed said they had done at least one of those things.

What’s not to like about a number like that? I was expecting the proportion to be much smaller — along the lines of the emerging 1-9-90 rule of thumb for social media, where about one per cent of people create content, 9 or 10 per cent consume it and about 90 per cent couldn’t care less about it. I find the fact that almost 40 per cent of people blog, upload photos, post comments and so on cause for considerable optimism.

Phil Lenssen interviews Aaron Swartz

Aaron Swartz is a pretty smart guy — after all, he co-authored the RSS 1.0 standard for feeds when he was just 14 years old, and while still in his teens was working with Lawrence Lessig on some of the plumbing behind the Creative Commons initiative. He has also edited thousands of Wikipedia articles, and was a co-founder of Reddit, the Digg-style social news engine that was recently bought by Conde Nast.

snipshot_e4d9i36l6kt.jpgPhil Lenssen of Google Blogoscoped has posted a lengthy interview he did with Aaron via instant messaging, in which the 21-year-old talks about working at Conde Nast (he says he was asked to leave — and has made it clear he didn’t like working there, in blog posts such as the one I wrote about here), as well as his reaction to job offers from Google, his thoughts about Wikipedia and his views on sexism in the tech community. An interesting read. Aaron isn’t too clear about what he’s doing now, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was something pretty interesting.

MySpace + Photobucket makes sense to me


Mike Arrington at TechCrunch says he has been able to confirm the deal with some “senior people” (the Valleywag rumour was apparently the work of an “overzealous employee,” according to Mike — a little professional jealousy?), and the price is $250-million. Not bad for something that had revenue of about $6-million last year. Pete Cashmore at Mashable says that he has also confirmed the deal is happening. Mike runs the numbers on the deal in an update.

Original post:

snipshot_e41l8k3r97fk.jpgGiven the source, we should probably take this with a rather large container of salt, but Valleywag says that Photobucket is about to be acquired by MySpace. Rumour or not, this makes a lot of sense to me — a whole lot more sense than Microsoft and Yahoo, last week’s favourite rumour. Yes, the two have been feuding rather publicly, but that’s because their services are so intertwined with each other. Photobucket accounts for more than 70 per cent of MySpace’s photo traffic, according to Hitwise. In other words, it has pretty much the same relationship to MySpace as PayPal had to eBay way back when.

It made sense for eBay to bring PayPal in house, and I think it would make a lot of sense for MySpace to do the same. And Photobucket has reportedly been on the auction block — the only issue now is whether MySpace will pay what the company’s backers are looking for. I would say this one has an 80-per-cent chance of actually happening.

Warren Kinsella and the Scarecrow

I have a lot of (okay, some) respect for Warren Kinsella, the political advisor/blogger/aging punk rocker who writes an op-ed column for the National Post. He speaks his mind, and sticks to his principles, and I admire the fact that his band is called Shit From Hell. But I have to say that his latest op-ed piece — about the rise of blogs versus Old Media — is kind of lame.

snipshot_e46113589q9.jpgIn his piece, Warren argues that the bid by Thomson for Reuters (along with Rupert Murdoch’s takeover offer for Dow Jones) discredits one of the latest theories about the media — namely, the theory that “the much-trumpeted New Media (to wit, the Internet and its bastard children, such as Web logs and the banned-at-Queen’s-Park Facebook) are about to supplant the Old Media.” Gather round, kids — this is what we call a “Straw Man” argument, in which a columnist creates a facile position (allegedly held by his opponents), which he then proceeds to dismantle with the greatest of ease.

Warren goes on to say that “the buzz about the New Media juggernaut has been, perhaps, a tad overdone,” and that “rumours of the traditional, mainstream media’s demise are somewhat exaggerated.” He also says that “most of the commentary that takes place online depends entirely upon the efforts of Old Media” (a phenomenon I am no doubt contributing to with this post).

We’ve heard this particular song before — bloggers just parrot or comment on what appears in the press, therefore they are parasites, etc. As Nick Carr has noted, however, not all parasites are bad. In any case, the part that bugged me about Warren’s piece was that no one I can think of (no one with a lick of sense, at any rate) has ever argued that blogs and Internet media will *replace* everything we associate with Old Media.

Enhance and extend, yes. Comment on, critique, yes (something columnists do as well, I might add). Expand, add to, help to illuminate, in some cases fact-check, certainly. But replace? Hardly. In other words, it’s easy to dismantle that particular argument, because it’s absurd.