Content and services

Digital magazine subscriptions: going up or going down?

Here is a report that tablet devices like the iPad are not delivering the predicted online magazine subscriptions. I have been saying for some time that these new devices have the potential to save the ailing magazine and newspaper industries. But I think it is too soon to say that data from essentially just one or two publishers is a trend.

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iPad killing and saving the newspaper

Two stories in one: The iPad is cutting into traditional newspaper and magazine subscriptions while simultaneously increasing readership for the online versions of newspapers and magazines. The challenge for publishers of newspapers and magazines is to set the online subscription prices at the right price point. If they are greedy and try to keep the online price high, they will never achieve the economies of scale possible when distribution costs are nearly equal to zero.

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Skype busy destroying the phone company, melting down cable networks

Skype has announced a new record of 25 million concurrent users, meaning 25 million voice and video calls simultaneously. It also means that all those Skype users are NOT using their cellphones or land lines to make voice calls. Skype video works extremely well if you have a good Web camera (good means you ought to spend at least $50-$75) and a decent Internet connection; if you have tried Skype video and found it fuzzy or blurry, it's probably your camera.

The beginning of the end for cable TV

Comcast and Level 3 are having a public fight. Level 3 is a long haul network provider; the company owns thousands of miles of inter-city fiber and hauls all kinds of data traffic, including Internet traffic, for a wide variety of customers. But Comcast is groaning under the weight of Netflix and other video traffic, and the cable company wants Level 3 to pay more to drop traffic onto the Comcast network for delivery.

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Netflix raises prices, adds more streaming content

Netflix has announced an increase in the price of monthly subscriptions, which is no surprise, given the popularity of the firm's video on demand service. With Netflix subscribers using 20% of the nation's bandwidth every evening, Netflix needs some way to pay for all that bandwidth. The company has also added a $7.99/month streaming only subscriptions--you can't get any DVDs.

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I'm in the living room reading the newspad

If you have not yet heard about "The Daily," you will shortly. The new digital "newspaper" is a collaboration between Apple and News Corp., and it is designed expressly for tablet devices like the iPad. There will be no Web or paper edition. Hence, we need a new term for this, and I think "newspad" is just right, as it is derived directly from its predecessor, the "newspaper."

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Hulu: Watch all the TV you want for $8/month

In what has to scare the heck out of the cable companies, Hulu has released an upgraded version of its premium subscription service and software while dropping the monthly cost from $9.99 to $7.99. Hulu Plus gives subscribers access to many of the most popular current season "TV" shows. I am going to start putting "TV" in quotes because broadband services like Hulu and Netflix are not the old analog TV, but they sure deliver the same content.

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Facebook takes aim at Gmail

Facebook has announced a "modern" messaging system that will integrate email, text messaging, and Facebook messaging. Google's dominance, all of a sudden, is being challenged simultaneously on multiple fronts. And behind the scenes, it is often Microsoft that is leading the charge. Facebook's email service will draw some users away from Gmail, and Facebook has already announced a partnership with Microsoft to use Microsoft's Bing search engine for social search. And Yahoo!

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Appitalism combines social media and shopping

Appitalism.com is an interesting new site that combines elements of the iTunes store, Amazon customer reviews, and tight links with social media. This might actually turn out to be a winner, as many of the "shopping" sites tend to lack enough traffic to produce reliable reviews, and in my experience, many listed products on those sites have no reviews. Finally, a lot of those shopping sites are basically just link farms for advertisers.

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Facebook security problems

The Wall Street Journal has an article about issues with the way third party Facebook apps (e.g. FarmVille, HoldEm Poker, others) are grabbing personal information even though they are not supposed to be doing so. Facebook officials said they are clamping down to ensure that the 500 million Facebook users are protected.

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New York Times available on the iPad

The New York Times can now be read on the iPad via an upgraded NY Times app. The full edition of the paper is available for free until sometime next year, when a subscription fee will be charged. If I was the owner of a struggling newspaper with declining circulation, I'd be not only going the app route for distribution, I'd put together some kind of deal to bundle in an iPad with something like a twelve month easy payment plan for the iPad.

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Facebook: The Movie

Every programmer knows it: the dreaded infinite loop. You have a little piece of code that gets the wrong input and starts repeating, over and over again. Computers being kind of fast, an innocuous few lines of code can execute millions of times an hour, sending the system of the network into "conniptions," which is the technical term used by all good programmers.

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Blockbuster, Netflix, and Apple

I still remember a conversation I had about a year ago when I told an business acquaintance that Blockbuster was toast, and that it was only going to be a year or two before the company would be gone.

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Crooks using location information to rob homes

All these location-aware devices we have now with GPS capabilities are turning out to be a boon for crooks. Here is how it works: people go on vacation, take pictures with their location-aware iPhone or Android phone, and upload the picture to Facebook with the exact location conveniently added in. Crooks browse Facebook pages, find someone on vacation a long way from home, and then head over to your house for a leisurely romp through your belongings.

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The death of TV: Part XXIII

Apple has announced a new version of Apple TV. Apple has cut both the price and size of the device; it's now tiny compared to the old version, and costs only $99. The old version of the product was able to store movies and TV shows, but the new version only streams movies and TV, either from online sources or from content stored on a nearby Mac computer.

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It's always about the bandwidth (or lack of it)

In this article that speculates about an Apple TV upgrade, there is an interesting tidbit that validates what I and others have been saying for a long time: HD content chews up bandwidth:

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Why Bing is winning

Bing has grabbed almost 13% of the search engine market share in the past year, and the Microsoft search engine appears to steadily getting more users. There are two or three reasons, I think. In my own experience, Bing returns fewer and better results, with less link farm clutter. The interface is better, and Bing is willing to send you other search engines, which suggests a certain confidence in their own results and/or a focus on helping you complete your search rather than stick as many ads as possible in your face.

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Link farming: The perniciousness of Web ads

I just spent a few minutes clicking around trying to find the Web site of a particular business. After four or five attempts to click through on links that I *thought* would go to the actual Web site of the business, I gave up. Every link took me to another link farm or worse, actually just clicked back through to the same page I left. Of course, each time I clicked, another list of Web ads got loaded into the page I landed on, and that's what much of the Web has become--just a snarled mess of link farms.

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It had to happen: Facebook newbie phase is over

Like all popular Internet services, Facebook has enjoyed rapid growth over the past three or four years, as the service added many hundreds of thousands of users a week (or more--millions in some past months). But that growth has finally stalled out, as everyone who wants to be on Facebook already is. Geometric growth is a wonderful thing, but there was always a finite limit to that growth. Even more telling, the amount of activity by registered users has also dropped.

Death of TV, Part XXII: Hulu Plus

Hulu has announced a new subscription and ad-based service called Hulu Plus for $9.99 per month that will provide access to the full season of many "TV" shows. That's a heck of a lot less than the Apple iTunes Store, which sells shows for one or two dollars. Think of Hulu Plus as an alternative to paying for a cable or satellite subscription.

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