Saturday, May 29, 2010

MEDIAPOST: What Will Be The Real Google TV Strategy?

The real battle for “TV” is raging and we saw the first major shot over the bow this past week with the announcements around Google TV.

Last week I talked about the death of “TV” and the rise of Digital Broadcast. In that article I was referring to the distribution of video content, but this time around I’ll actually focus on the device that sits in your home called the TV. The TV, regardless of where the content comes from, is the center of your home media experience. The network programming, cable programming, DVR, movies, and all of the expanded computer-based and web content that you view through the device comprises the centerpiece of the media experience in the household. This is information to be organized, and it was inevitable that Google would start to dip its toes into this world.

Apple has its Apple TV, but it is really just a streaming media center. Google’s first foray is a natural evolution for them and it feels right; it’s software for searching, organizing and accessing content from the Television device. Logitech, Sony and DISH have all jumped on to integrate Google TV into their technology, but my gut says this is only the first step. Google TV is still a little confusing to the mainstream media consumer. The mainstream consumer understands the channel guide and may not see the value in being able to search web content as well as traditional content from their television. The apps are a “neat” addition to be able to access, but who’s really going to play Bejeweled on their TV set? No; I think the future of the platform, the most important development, will be when Google TV integrates with TiVo and becomes a cloud-based platform for searching and storing video content to be accessed from anywhere, at any time, on any device.

The “go anywhere” model for mainstream video content has been done with products like the Sling Box (among others), but they all still require a relatively savvy user to power them. The mainstream will come when Google TV’s platform, hopefully integrated with TiVo (or, unfortunately, one of the other DVR interfaces), becomes the primary interface for all of your home video access. When Comcast and Time Warner realize this is where things are headed and partner with Google to power their set-top box interfaces, then things get really interesting. Just consider the experience you’ll have when you turn on your Television and the interface is replaced with Google TV, allowing you to access your stored shows (probably a base supply for free, with additional storage for an annual price), your music files, your photos, any web content and of course the TV guide to see what’s on (either locally, nationally, or web-based). That’s the future of “TV”, if there is one.

But don’t count out that other company we already mentioned called Apple. The Apple TV may just be a media center now, but it will never stay that way. I still suspect that in the next 5 years you’ll see Apple come out with an actual flat screen Television set that integrates its own OS while the digital cable box and the web will just plug directly into the back. This will allow Apple to manage all the connections and access and organize these content sources through their own platform. The difference here, and the one that is representative of both companies, is that Google makes brilliant software while Apple makes brilliant devices as well as software. If we’re being honest, Google’s devices are smart, but too left of mainstream. They are too techy for too many people and not quite as elegant, but they work! Apple is elegance in design, so a beautiful Apple-developed Television would look far more attractive in the home than anything Google creates, but Google has the tech and the vision to power everyone else’s devices. It’s Android-esque, since it’s becoming clear that Android will eventually power all mobile devices that don’t run Blackberry or Apple OS. Why wouldn’t the same happen with TV (after all, there are far fewer players to worry about here)?

This feels like the shot that Apple took when they released the video iPod. Convergence in action! It’s a fun time to be in media, especially if you’re Google.

Friday, May 21, 2010

MEDIAPOST: The Death of TV and The Rise of Digital Broadcast

The term TV doesn’t really apply anymore.

In the “olden days” of the media business, TV referred to broadcast on network television. That expanded to include cable, and most recently it expanded even further to encompass online video when said video existed as an extension of network or cable programming with sites like Hulu. These days media buyers are looking at mobile video, digital out-of-home and numerous other aspects of video as extensions of “TV”, so how do you plan accordingly?

In the media business today there’s a movement to just call it what it is; Digital Broadcast. Digital Broadcast is simply the broadcast of video content on any consumer screen. Whether it is a 105-inch screen in your house (yes – that does now exist) to a 2.5-inch screen in your pocket. The consumer doesn’t really differentiate between screens, but advertisers could and should because the experience of these formats is different and the opportunity to message is different as well.

Of course, this shift in thinking points out a tremendous missed opportunity in our business, that no-one has stepped up to manage cross-platform video ad-serving to the web, mobile, set-top box and digital out-of-home. There are many companies looking to get into the space and even more are talking about how they’ll be there, but no-one has accomplished this fact as of yet. If I were Doubleclick or any of the traditional ad-servers, these relationships would be the focus of my attention, but alas that’s a topic for an entirely different column so let’s get back to the primary point of this session.

The opportunity for a publisher in this Digital Broadcast era is to quote a premium price for content based on elevating points of differentiation. If served through a centrally located platform, publishers could determine the quality of the content (professional, UGC, even based on ratings) and the freshness of the content along with the size of the screen. If you marry this information with the competitiveness of the location (how many ads are integrated into the broadcast), publishers could become very adept at creating limited inventory packages with significant value for advertisers that even increase revenues vs. where they are now!

The shows themselves are the most important criteria, but why not have these shows rated in real-time and pricing set in an auction model, or more in line with the Google algorithm for determining pricing based on audience and interaction? That could create a model for traditional networks and other strong content producers to be compensated for their true value, increasing as the audience increases.

The freshness of the content is important for timeliness of the message delivery. Advertisers with a very time sensitive message could be rotated in at a premium, and other advertisers would follow suit, paying a premium when time matters.

If publishers could determine the size of the screen and limit the clutter, then a premium would be in line because marketers wouldn’t be lost in the shuffle. Their messages would break through more often, they could align with the screen size to determine follow-up capabilities (mobile vs. pc vs. television-based) and they could be more actionable by the consumer.

The last 10 years we’ve all heard whispers of the renaissance that is coming in broadcast and the problems with the upfront, etc. These are all potentially true, but they still do not lend credit to the fact that “TV”, or Digital Broadcast, is still the most impactful, most important component of any marketers budgets. With a couple tweaks in the marketplace, things could get even more exciting for them!

What else do you see coming for the broadcast business?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

MEDIAPOST: A Little Advice On How To Find Balance

I was doing a conference call Sunday on a sunny, warm, happy afternoon in San Francisco from beautiful Land’s End, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. As I stood there I realized what my business partner (John Durham) says all the time; that our worlds are always connected. Of course that constant connection can be a burden and make it even harder to get things done as well!

Media connects us no matter where we are. The Internet and digital media are the focus of almost everything we do these days, connecting us to colleagues and work more of the time than ever before but along with the constant connection can come a lack of focus and feelings of distraction. When you’re always available it can become difficult to be productive because you can’t focus your attention on the one thing you need to be doing at that moment. That sense of distraction comes from an environment of immediate gratification and the service business knows this all too well. When it’s like that it can be difficult to accomplish even simple tasks, like writing an article or drafting a presentation. So in an effort to help spread some sanity, I thought I’d share some of the tools and tricks that I’ve recently learned to help get through your day!


First of all, create boundaries in email. Email is possibly the best tool for business and the worst. It never stops coming and everything in it is a priority. The only way I can get through my day is to create “time zones” for when I don’t respond to email. There’s a chunk of my day everyday where I turn off my email and I just do work. During those periods of time, I find my focus is higher and I’m more able to get things accomplished. It’s a simple little trick, but it does wonders for my head.


Another thing I do is I turn email offline for an hour while I’m responding to my inbox. By responding offline I can focus on the messages I want to be sending and I find my grammar and my words are more tightly written and clearer. It forces me not to respond to multiple emails at the same time, which I do when I’m online and trying to stay ahead of the wave of communications.


Another trick is to make sure you get up from your desk for lunch. That doesn’t mean you can’t eat at your desk, it just means you have to go get your lunch rather than sending someone to do it for you. By getting up and walking outside for just 10 minutes you get a break and a fresh perspective. That perspective will inevitably allow you to see a different solution, which is probably better than what you would have seen without the break. Sometimes you need a fresh perspective to get things done right!


One day a week, unplug 100%. Pick a Saturday or Sunday, hide your computer, turn off email on your phone, put your iPad away and just “be”. Don’t worry about the next day, and don’t worry about the next week. Go for a hike, or go for a drive. Go do what you do to be in the moment and recharge. Your brain needs to recharge in the same way that your laptop battery does. Your brain is the most important tool that you have to work with and if it gets overloaded then you can’t possibly be successful.

I read a lot about business and the people that have been successful over the years and every one of them will tell you about their drive and determination, but the most enviable are the ones that tell you about balance. Balance is our “Moby Dick”; it’s that elusive white whale we all strive for but never quite achieve. If you don’t find some balance then you’ll never be successful because with balance comes focus and with focus comes intelligence. Be sure to find some of your own tricks for creating balance and unplugging for a bit. I bet you’ll find things will run a lot smoother if you do!

If you have any good suggestions, please comment and let us know!

Monday, May 10, 2010

Digital Influentials Volume 2, Issue 6: Power To (and Because Of) The People

Week in and week out I review sites and services that I think are interesting, but what I’ve been overlooking in these emails are the people behind these companies and services. Without the people, none of these would exist and once in awhile we should all take a second, stop, and thank the people who spend their time developing these ideas for their effort.

Our business is a very tech-heavy business but it’s a people-centric business as well. The user, the developer, the marketer and the designer. These four categories of people are what drive the business ahead. They’re the fuel that feeds the fire, and we have to acknowledge their roles in the continuum and applaud them as well. When you take a peek at these sites below, pay special mind to the work that went into it and the concern these companies have for the people they’re trying to assist. The business we’re in is amazing, but it’d be nothing if not for the people that support it. If you get a moment, and the moment strikes you, send a positive note to the people behind these sites and let them know what you think. Send them congratulations! Send them a thank-you! Take a minute to recognize their hard work and pay forward a little good will. The positive karma you present may just make someone on the other end smile, and who doesn’t need to smile just a little bit!

Oh, and by the way – thank YOU for reading each issue of this column. I appreciate it very deeply!

Are you looking for money (join the club)? Well, if you’re searching for funding and you’ve got an interesting idea, check out KICKSTARTER ( KickStarter is a “newish” player in the crowd-funding category (people funding good ideas), but their spin is a little more user friendly and it seems to be working. The site features artists, entrepreneurs, technologists and even fashion designers looking to make a break! It’s worth checking out – they can help make dreams come true for lots of people!

Maybe you have the money and are looking for the ideas? Then go no farther than SPIGIT ( Spigit was submitted by Doug Chavez and it’s an interesting way to generate ideas from your social and/or professional community (the people you know and trust). Innovation comes from the strangest places, so use Spigit to help you uncover and surface the ideas you might not have otherwise found.

If you have more mundane challenges, like finding a college or determining what to wear today, check in with the fun people at SIRCLEIT ( SircleIt is a unique social media tool for getting answers to daily questions from your social network (once again - the important people in your social network who can most likely help you answer the daily questions you have). It connects with Facebook and it makes it easier for you to uncover the answers that make life tick.

What about DAYLIFE ( Day Life is a new service that allows you to organize and distribute news of the world (and news of the people around you) using an easy to develop, easy to distribute player platform. It’s a service for publishers more than anything else and the output is beautiful (nice work guys). Take a moment and see if they offer a service that your fledgling site can use!

Usually this next section is reserved for the highlights of the iPhone but since I just got my 3G iPad I decided to take a look into the world of the iPad Apps! I have to admit I just started playing with it, but so far the must-haves are the NETFLIX app for movies, the USA TODAY app for news, the NPR app for intelligent news and WIKIPANION for accessing fun information. And of course, being a geek, you have to check out the MARVEL COMICS app, which allows you to read classic and new comic books for a fee (some are free). The people who designed these apps took great care to create something new for the iPad, so be sure to give them their due

That’s it this week! Thanks and please keep sending me new sites and services at


Friday, May 7, 2010

MEDIAPOST: The Battle of The Big Three

Remember the good old days of TV, when the world was dominated by three big networks; CBS, NBC and ABC? Remember what it was like when you could spend the majority of your ad budget in just three simple meetings with three power players and those three power players could provide you as much as 75% of your target audience? Well get ready to revisit those days because we might just be getting ready to see them again.

This time the world of media is quickly becoming dominated by three “primarily” digital players; Google, Apple and Facebook. These three companies are making moves that separate them dramatically from the rest of the pack and their respective spheres of influence are no longer constrained by the parameters of the computer.

Google’s quest to organize the world’s information makes them a formidable player to deal with, but especially with their rapid growth via development of mobile platforms and desktop operating systems (see Android). The Android platform has the potential to extend even further, powering your TV, the dashboard of your car, even the organization of your kitchen and the appliances that fit inside.

Apple is known for the development of elegant, easy to use devices and their focus has shifted far beyond the desktop, becoming the dominant player in mobile (iPhone), in the music industry (iTunes), the application space (App Store) and now into publishing (the iBooks and the iPad). Of special importance are their successes in the app space, literally redefining the way the average user interfaces with programs, creating a simple, effective interface powered by stand-alone programs rather than a sophisticated, learning-curve-driven operating system.

Facebook is the latest move and shaker, creating literal waves with their development and procreation of the social internet, or as they now refer to it “the open graph”. By aggregating the wealth of data that is fast becoming available to them, they are proving a new vision for the web that may require their competition to revisit how they integrate with the world at large.

Oh – and did I mention that these three players are big?

What I find most intriguing is that each of these companies understands one simple idea; that the future is based on cross-platform capability and not a single platform. ABC, NBC and CBS had their chance but lost their footing with the growth of cable and their lack of speed online has put them at a disadvantage. They put all their eggs in one basket and they didn’t think towards the future. They used to own the eyeballs, but they hesitated and he who hesitates loses ground. Google, Apple and Facebook are not so much technology or Internet companies as they are service and experience based companies. They focus on providing users with a consistently reliable, easy-to-use set of services across a variety of platforms and they understand that if they make these services reliable then the user won’t mind some marketing mixed in. Consumers don’t hate advertising the way they pretend to hate it; they just tend to notice the ads that are untargeted and ineffective the most. They never complain about the messages that resonated and worked because, let’s face it; they may not have even realized they were being advertised to. In those cases, the advertising was so good that the consumer may’ve forgotten they were supposed to be acting cynical!

But I digress.

These three companies are expanding their influence in ways that you wouldn’t have imagined, and though there may indeed be other strong players in the marketplace (hello Microsoft), they’re all playing catch-up at this point. Microsoft does not innovate, that is simply not their strength. They identify markets that others have done well in and they try to take them over. Of course, the Microsoft alignment with Facebook makes them formidable on their very own, but still second fiddle to the innovators.

These kinds of situations excite me because they demonstrate maturity for the business that we’ve not seen before. You should be too! What do you think – let me know on the Spin Board!