Yahoo says search is over — it hopes

My friend Tony Hung from Deep Jive Interests — who was a one-man live-blogging machine at our recent mesh conference, as well as being on a panel (about the future of journalism, coincidentally enough) — has a great post about Yahoo’s sudden realization that search isn’t all that important any more. If those comments sound like sour grapes to you, you’re not the only one.

Tony’s point is that Yahoo is talking about how “personalization” is the future, rather than pure search, and to him (and me) that sounds a lot like what social networks such as Facebook do. So does Yahoo wish they had coughed up the $1-billion or whatever it was to buy Facebook when they had the chance? I expect they do. Imagine how thrilled they will be when Google does a deal to drive the search inside Facebook (not that I know anything, but I could see it happening at some point).

Go read Tony’s whole post. Thought-provoking.

Anand’s BumpTop demo at TED

I’ve seen a demo of BumpTop — the three-dimensional desktop/file interface developed by Anand Agarawala of Toronto as part of his master’s thesis at the University of Toronto — but watching him demo it at the TED conference adds a certain something. I’m trying to picture this somehow being merged with Jeff Han’s touch interface, or Microsoft’s “Surface” interface. Very cool. In case you’re interested, Anand also apparently does nerd-core rapping.

MSNBC’s iPredict adds voting to news events

ipredict.jpgRex Sorgatz, who works for MSNBC and also writes an eclectic and insightful blog at, has launched something at the news site that I think is a great effort at harnessing Digg-style voting power in the context of a news event — and in a much more interesting way than the typical user poll or survey. It’s called iPredict (I’m going to forgive Rex the use of the now-ubiquitous “i” prefix), and it creates a real-time graph of user votes on a particular outcome, such as whether Harry Potter dies in the final book. You can see how many people voted and the history of earlier votes. Very cool. Rex has an overview of the thinking behind iPredict (and a great Marshall McLuhan quote) on his blog.

Lala follows where tried and failed

Online music service — which until recently was aimed at trading music CDs — has remade itself in a rather dramatic way by launching a free music-streaming service that automatically syncs with your iPod, and by signing a licensing deal with Warner Brothers Records. As Gizmodo describes it, Lala scans all the music you own — whether it’s from ripped CDs or downloaded music in iTunes — and then lets you listen to it anywhere (streaming through your Web browser) for free. In other words, it assumes that you own it. Lala founder Bill Nguyen has a string of startups on his resume, including, which he sold in 2000 for $850-million.

snipshot_e41go5nj2pnd.jpgIn addition to the free streaming service, Lala has a pay-for-download store, which (at least to begin with) will be selling only albums — for between $6.50 and $13.50 each — rather than individual songs. Lala is clearly hoping that the appeal of free streaming will convince users to adopt the service and then they will be more likely to buy music there as well. As an added feature, Lala has also developed a way of letting you “sideload” music into your iPod through your browser, without having to download it and then import it into iTunes. The service apparently only works with iPods.

It will be interesting to see whether Lala’s streaming service gets slammed by the major record labels (apart from Warner, of course, which seems to be willing to take a leap of faith that it will lead to more downloads). Michael Robertson, the serial entrepreneur behind services such as The Gizmo Project and Linspire — a Linux-based alternative to Windows — tried something similar several years ago with and was effectively shut down by legal threats from the music industry.

His service allowed you to put a CD in your computer, have it scanned and then immediately listen to the music from it without having to rip and upload it all to the company’s servers ( ripped CDs and created a library of songs). Lala’s service is slightly different in that someone has to upload the songs — but each song only has to be uploaded once. Fred von Lohmann, a lawyer with the Electronic Freedom Foundation, says this may help protect the service from legal attacks.

“This is different from what was up to with BeamIt (and for which they were sued) because the *initial* copy is uploaded by the users. made the initial copies themselves.

Why does this matter? Because of the DMCA safe harbor that applies to hosting material on behalf of users. Pretty clever lawyering — wish I’d thought of that back in 1999.”

A more recent service Robertson launched called AnywhereCD lets you buy a CD and immediately download the tracks as non-DRM-protected mp3 files (the CD is delivered by regular mail). Although the service had a licensing arrangement with Warner Brothers, the record label forced AnywhereCD to remove its music by filing a lawsuit against the company (AnywhereCD has counter-sued). AnywhereCD also allows you to “sideload” songs into your iTunes, into a locker at another Robertson-owned music service called or onto a mobile device.

Lala’s bet is definitely a risky one — and an expensive one: the company, which has raised $14-million from several venture capital groups including Bain Capital, says it expects to pay more than $140-million to the record industry over the next couple of years, and admits it will likely lose about $40-million in the period. Sounds like a great business model, doesn’t it?

In the end, Lala faces the same challenges as any other music service (apart from the dumb name, of course): will it be able to offer enough variety and selection to appeal to enough users to make it worthwhile? To me, one of the big issues is the album-only part — I think people have gotten a little too used to buying individual songs for that to fly (I know I have). It also remains to be seen whether Apple will get upset that the sideloading feature effectively bypasses its iTunes software (Susan Kevorkian of IDC says Apple may be just fine with it).

Would free streaming and the sideloading feature make you likely to try Lala? Jupiter Research analyst David Card has some thoughts here, and Liz Gannes at GigaOm says Lala should be congratulated for taking a risk.

Yahoo and Google can save newspapers

In contrast to the usual whining and moaning about how Google News and other similar aggregators are killing journalism and ruining the newspaper business, the World Association of Newspapers heard from someone who believes that Google and Yahoo can help to save newspapers, and perhaps even get teenagers to start reading them:

“After a five-minute delay Mike Smith, executive director of the Media Management Centre, part of America’s Northwestern University, took to the stage with some good news.

And it was radical news. Rather than website news aggregation services such as Yahoo News killing newspapers, they can actually save newspapers’ networks of foreign bureaux. Not only that, they can actually achieve the near impossible and prompt teens to start reading newspapers.”

Smith went on to talk about how the joint venture between Yahoo and a dozen large newspaper companies, including McClatchy (which now owns Knight Ridder) has helped papers cut costs and has saved more than a few foreign bureaus.

Kawasaki: How I wasted $12,107 on Truemors

I don’t want to be mean, but I just can’t help myself. I know Guy Kawasaki is a legend for his marketing work with Apple, and a lot of people find his blog to be very useful — despite what appears to be an addiction to the age-old cliche of the “Top 10 Reasons Why…” style of blog post. Whatever. It takes all kinds. But his latest post about the creation of his Digg-style rumour site Truemors just stuck in my craw for a whole bunch of reasons.

moneyburn.jpgIt’s not just the sort of self-satisfied tone of the whole post, as though Guy had somehow invented the wheel, or cured cancer. And it’s not just the rampant over-use of Web jargon like “Long Tail” and “Social Media.” Those are bad enough, mind you. But what really bugs me is that I’m not sure Guy has created anything at all — at least not anything of value — and therefore the entire thrust of his post is completely undermined. What he should really be saying is “How I Wasted $12,107 On a Site That Serves No Purpose.” Seriously — Truemors makes Digg look like a collaborative effort to reproduce the works of Shakespeare.

Setting up a site like Truemors is hardly rocket science. I built one based on the open-source Digg clone Pligg, and it took me about four hours to configure on my server — and it definitely cost me a lot less than $12,107. Did it have any value? No. The only thing that could possibly give Guy’s site some value is if it spontaneously developed a thriving community the way Digg and Slashdot and Metafilter have.

Is Guy’s name and a couple of nasty blog posts at TechCrunch enough to do that? I doubt it. If he had paid me $12,000 in consulting fees, I could have told him that. The only upside is that pre-Web 2.0, Guy would have blown at least $30-million or so building a crap website that no one would ever go to.

YouTube does local — but will anyone watch?

As the Wall Street Journal and others reported on the weekend, YouTube has struck a deal with a regional U.S. TV network to run the network’s local content on YouTube and share any advertising revenue with the company — although the exact terms of the arrangement aren’t clear.


While not a huge deal either for the TV industry or for YouTube — which is probably more concerned about the $1-billion lawsuit it is facing from Viacom for hosting unlicensed material — the arrangement with Hearst-Argyle Television is interesting because it is the first revenue-sharing deal with a local TV network.

YouTube will carry news, weather and entertainment video content from five of the company’s TV stations. Hearst-Argyle has 29 stations, including outlets in Boston, New Hampshire, Sacramento, Pittsburgh and Baltimore. They are affiliates of ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. Hearst has about an 18 per cent share of the U.S. market, according to the company.

The big question — or one of the big questions — is whether anyone other than local audiences will choose to watch Hearst’s local content (the other big question is whether anyone will advertise on it when it is posted to YouTube). The network said that it expects some viewers might see the appeal — for example, parents of college-age students in another city might watch the local weather or news from their son or daughter’s city.

Daisy Whitney makes a good point on her TVWeek blog: how would someone — who didn’t already know the network content was there — find the Hearst content? It’s one thing to put it up on YouTube, but how do you make sure that your intended audience finds out about it?

Marc Andreesen on the non-bubble

My friend Paul Kedrosky — who unfortunately wasn’t able to make it to mesh last week, and therefore wasn’t able to share any of his wisdom in person — is right to point us towards a great post from Marc Andreesen about the non-bubblishness of the current tech bubble.

blowing-bubbles1.jpgThe Netscape co-founder has a long and very worthwhile analysis of why we so often see bubbles. which are actually extremely rare (this NYT story has some thoughts on that as well), and also notes several things about the current tech “bubble” that make it different from the first one — and he is ideally placed to have some perspective on that. Among other things, he notes that there are far fewer tech IPOs now (and therefore less hype and potential for financial disaster) and also that:

— It is far cheaper to start an Internet business today than it was in the late 90’s.

— The market for Internet businesses today is much larger than it was in the late 90’s.

— Business models for Internet businesses today are much more solid than they were in the late 90’s.

This is a logical consequence of time passing, technology getting more broadly adopted, and the Internet going mainstream as a consumer phenomenon.

Andreesen says that he believes it is “about 10 times cheaper to start an Internet business today than it was in the late 90’s, due to commodity hardware, open source software, modern programming technologies, cheap bandwidth, the rise of third-party ad networks, and other infrastructure factors. And the market size for a new Internet business is about 10 times bigger than it was in the late 90’s.”

Ryan Sholin hits the mark 10 times

Great post by Ryan Sholin — whose blog Invisible Inkling has become one of the top media-related blogs I surf through every day — giving a top 10 list of things you should know about newspapers and the Internet, many of which are phrased in such a way as to be a response to popular misconceptions, such as the idea that the industry’s problems are all Google’s fault, or craigslist’s fault, and so on.

As a journalist, I particularly like number 10. Go read the whole post.