Content and services

Truveo video search engine

I still get massive skepticism when I tell people traditional TV is dead. But every day, there is more and more activity in the IP TV world. Everything that is wrong with traditional TV (lack of variety, repetition, lack of viewpoints, mediocrity) will be offset (but not eliminated) in the emerging IP TV universe, where anyone can be in the television business, and many already are.

Here are some interesting projects and links:

Too much information

As access to content, data, and information becomes ubiquitous, we are beginning to see some uncomfortable anomalies.

The landing of the Jet Blue plane with the crippled nose landing gear is a disquieting example. Jet Blue has always provided satellite TV access on its flights. While the crippled plane flew in circles for three hours, there was plenty of time for the news networks to provide live coverage (People may die a horrible death! Stay tuned!) of the event.

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Google tramples on authors

Google is coming under increasing fire for its controversial book scanning project. The company is scanning hundreds of thousands of books from several major university libraries, with the intention of making the searchable and viewable on the Web. Each viewed page will, of course, have Google ads.

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Knowledge Democracy:

Music industry struggles with the Internet

The music industry continues to anger both customers and bands. The RIAA inexplicably continues to sue users for downloading music. Even though there is little evidence that downloading copyrighted music has contributed to the decline in sales, the industry takes a baffling approach to the lawsuits by apparently picking names out of a hat. The suits seem to lack even basic information or investigations that would support wrongdoing, and the defendants seem to be picked mostly on the basis of whether or not they have the resources to fight back.

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Music players make you deaf

Wired follows up on an AP report that more and more young people (an estimated 25%) have already sustained hearing loss that is not normally seen until decades later in life.

According to the article, too many people are listening to portable music players at ear-damaging volume levels. Particularly bad are the "ear buds" that are inserted directly into the ear canal, rather than external headphones that cover some or all of the outer ear.

Google searches blogs

Google has released a beta version of a new blog search tool.

Just a little playing around with it suggests they got it right: it is fast, and was able to find a lot of good stuff quickly. The advanced search is particularly useful, as you can search by author, by topic, by date, and by a bunch of other criteria unique to blogs.

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Google World Domination, Part 3

Internet discussion forums and techie news sites are filled with talk about Google's latest attempt to take over the world. The search company has launched an instant messenger service (Google Talk) that is interoperable with other common IM systems like Apple's iChat, and AOL's system.

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TV is dead, part 3

USA Today has an interesting article about telco giant SBC and the company's plans to deploy IP TV to 18 million households.

In the article, SBC COO Randall Stephenson shrugs off the $4 billion cost of the effort as "not much money for us to burn." That statement ought to make FCC officials sit up and take notice, since recent FCC decisions, we are told, have been designed to help the telcos fight off competition.

If SBC can blithely shrug off a $4 billion gamble, I would say the company does not have enough competition, rather than too much.

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More thinking different

While the music industry plays the fiddle as their 20th century distribution model burns down, some bands are not waiting around. A band called Sexohol from Los Angeles has come up with some pretty interesting ideas.

If you go to their Web site, you can buy an Apple iPod Shuffle for just $10 more than what Apple charges. It comes pre-loaded with an album of songs from the band that you can load right into iTunes (Mac and Windows) or into other digital music systems.

Want to hear what the band sounds like before buying? You can download a free Dashboard widget for Macs that streams one of the band songs right onto your computer. This is especially clever because the widget (just a small piece of software) allows the band to distribute a "click to play" version of their song without actually distributing the song itself (because it is streamed from a server).

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Knowledge Democracy:

Franchise-free Internet TV

While the 20th century telecom dinosaurs are fighting it out in places like Texas for 20th century legal rights to 20th century content distribution, the 'net is quietly solving the problem.

An Open Source effort (FOSS is becoming the accepted acronym--Free and Open Source Software) is building the 21st century video distribution system, called DTV. Participatory Culture is putting together a seamless, easy to use, end to end video distribution and viewing system that is completely free, requires no franchise fees, and can deliver any quality of video, up to and including HD TV. The software is currently in beta release, but the interface for the Mac version is excellent and easy to use. It supports downloading for later viewing, so you don't have to watch at any particular time. In other words, it is a personal Tivo-style system, but with a much wider range of material from many more sources.

Knowledge Democracy:

SBC, Verizon, win in Texas

Unlike a lot of other folks, I'm not greatly worried that SBC and Verizon spent millions to influence some new laws in Texas. The Texas legislature, after a lengthy fight, has agreed to give the phone companies a statewide franchise to offer television content in Texas. This saves them the trouble of going to every community in Texas and negotiating individual franchises.

But let me also be perfectly clear--I don't like this, but--but--I'm not greatly worried by it. Two different things.

Here's why I don't like it.

First, it takes authority away from local communities and gives it to the state. This actually has nothing to do with telecom per se; I am always troubled when communities lose decisionmaking power.

Community news and projects:

The death of TV, Part 2

Yahoo! reports on a study that shows broadband users are watching less old-fashioned TV. The data is welcome, but this has been a trend since the early days of the Internet, more than ten years ago.

It's not hard to figure out why: you get to choose what you look at, instead of being forced into the ancient "channel" system where you have to watch something at a certain time (and Tivo, successful as it is, has a limited lifespan, since it just props up old-style TV). You also don't have to sit through 12 minutes of commercials to watch 18 minutes of tepid cable programming.

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Blogs--the best is yet to come

There is much conversation in the blogger world about the latest Technorati announcement that the blog-tracking service monitors 14 million blogs, or about double the number tracked at the beginning of the year.

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Knowledge Democracy:

TV is dead, part 2

Further proof that the old, channel-based, analog TV is crumbling before our eyes: the typically staid BBC is webcasting new shows before airing them on the old medium.

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Podcasts go mainstream

Podcasts (audio files you download and play on your computer or MP3 player) have become mainstream, and it is, once again, Apple Computer that has led the way.

Although most people have not yet downloaded and listened to a podcast, the new medium has been growing rapidly, with thousands of podcasters and listeners estimated in the millions. Just as Apple, using the iPod and its iTunes software, singlehandly rewrote the rules of music publishing, Apple has once again, using the same combo of the iPod and iTunes to rewrite radio.

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The Day TV Died

The AP reports that the just completed worldwide Live Aid concert broke all records for live streaming. An arrangement with AOL allowed the concert organizers to stream all ten concert venues live over the Internet. It smashed every existing streaming broadcast record, and AOL reported that they have more than 150,000 simultanteos viewers.

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Afgahnistan beats the US in TV

Afghanistan has converted successfuly to a new countrywide all digital television system, while the FCC dithers in the U.S. with a myriad of mostly irrelevant and/or conflicting regulations on the U.S. television industry.

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Community news and projects:

Newspapers and the Internet

Newspapers have been having a hard time with the Internet. Readership of the ink on dead trees editions decline year by year, and instead of taking any responsibility for the lack of appeal, they blame it solely on the Internet itself, although I see a few signs of change.

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How to cook a hog, Internet TV style

This article about grass roots television programming illustrates the perfect storm developing that has the potential to wreck the Hollywood-based entertainment corporations. Since the days of Milton Berle's live broadcasts, television content has been generated largely by Hollywood. It's been a tight knit cartel of writers, directors, producers, and production companies that have kept video content locked up pretty tightly, in large part because of the cozy relationship with the broadcast networks. Cable has been chipping away at that, but innovation in cable has meant largely following the same old model, but just doing everything as cheaply as possible.

The limitation has always been the same, whether you were delivering a television program over the air, by cable, or by satellite--you have only twenty-four hours per day per channel, so everything is a trade-off of demand versus air time.

Like nearly everything else it touches, the Internet just plain breaks that apart. On the Internet, content is not bound by the delivery mechanism, so we are seeing the end of CDs, the end of DVDs, the end of radio "channels," and the end of TV "channels." Channels were a construct based on the scarcity of bandwidth, and there is no scarcity on the Internet.

So for $1.99, you can download and watch a 45 minute video on how to barbecue a whole pig. But that's not even the interesting part. DaveTV, which is offering the video service, has a BBQ "channel" with more than 1000 video segments, just on barbecuing. Try doing that using the traditional television programming system. You can't. But the Internet makes it simple.

So here's the thing--Hollywood no longer has an edge--none at all. What about your region? Do you have some of the pieces in place to start some Internet TV video production companies? Is your town on a major fiber backbone that could be used to pump video to the rest of the country? Do you have some program assets that could be the basis of a channel like the BBQ channel?

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Apple quietly gets into the video business

Apple quietly edged closer to a full-fledged video download strategy yesterday with a free upgrade to the company's iTunes software, which works on both Windows and the Mac. EnGadget and other sites are discussing the upgrade, which now allows users to store videos in the iTunes library along with music.

Apple is not saying much about the new feature, which means they aren't ready to lay all their cards on the table. But selling movies is the next logical step after the hugely successful iTunes music business.

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