Technology

Online publishers need an edge

Digital Publishing A key nugget from the Pew Center’s annual State of the News Media report, out today, neatly captures a critical dynamic of the online content economy that makes it so confounding to content owners.

As Pew notes, the online audience for news is enormous and still growing rapidly. The top 25 news sites in the U.S. topped 342 million average monthly unique visitors in 2011, up 17 percent over 2010. At the same time, online advertising continues to grow at a much faster pace than the general ad market. Total online ad spending hit $32 billion last year, up 23 percent, and online ads now account for 20 percent of total ad spending.

Those two trend lines ought to ad up to good news for online publishers. But as Pew also notes, publishers themselves are capturing very little of the added value created around their content by all that additional advertising revenue. Instead, five top technology providers — Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Microsoft and AOL — captured 68 percent of the online ad revenue in 2011, up from 63 percent in 2010. Read More »

What happens in Vegas

Las Vegas — The first annual International CES opens here this week and is expected to attract somewhere north of 140,000 gadget makers, press, politicos, and buyers and sellers of stripes, to say nothing of your humble correspondent. Normally this time of year, those same folks would be attending the Consumer Electronics Show here. But the organization that puts on the show, the Consumer Electronics Association, has decided to drop the reference to “consumer electronics” in the name of its signature confab. From now on, the “CES” in International CES won’t actually stand for anything. It’s just the group of three letters people have been using as a handy abbreviation for the Consumer Electronics Show since it stopped being the Radio Manufacturers Show sometime in the 1960s.

The “rebranding,” as the marketing folks say, comes as the show is in fact experiencing something of an identity crisis, underscored last month by word that Microsoft would no longer send its CEO to keynote the confab after this year and would significantly scale back its participation in the show. To longtime show-goers, Microsoft’s decision to drop out is no great loss. Neither Steve Ballmer, nor Bill Gates before him, had said anything worth hearing at Microsoft’s traditional night-before keynote in years. And much of what they did talk about often turned out to be vaporware (Spot watch, anyone?). Read More »

Box office vs. Xbox

Consumer Spending Hollywood is not having a very jolly holiday season so far. Last weekend not only was the worst weekend of the year in terms of total box-office grosses, it was the worst since September 2008. Dividing the weekend’s grosses by the average ticket price, in fact, suggests the number of Americans actually going to a movie theater over the weekend was the lowest since right after the terrorist attacks of September 11.

It isn’t just a one-week phenomenon, either. Data from the MPAA show that total theatrical admissions — butts in seats — have fallen fairly steadily since 2002, with a brief spike in 2009 due to the release Avatar, the highest grossing movie of all time.

Ticket-price inflation and the introduction of 3D, for which theaters have been able to charge a premium, have largely masked the effect, allowing gross receipts to hold steady or even grow over that period. But the overall erosion of the audience really ought to be a bigger concern for the studios than their public comments would suggest.  Read More »

Oregon senator may get rated X by Hollywood

Legislation Senator Ron Wyden probably isn’t invited to the MPAA Christmas party here in Washington this year. The Oregon Democrat single-handedly held up passage of the PROTECT-IP Act by placing a hold on bill, preventing it from coming to the floor for a vote, and is co-author, with Rep. Darrell Issa, a California Republican, of the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade (OPEN) Act, a bi-cameral bill aimed at preempting both PROTECT-IP and the House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), the MPAA’s two highest legislative priorities.

That alone would be enough to make Wyden unpopular around the Jack Valenti Building on Eye Street. But he’s also no going after one of the MPAA’s favorite anti-piracy enforcement programs: the Department of Homeland Security’s domain-name seizure program, Operation in Our Sites. Read More »

Face(book)ing the music

Cloud Facebook is rumored to be set to unveil major new media-related features at the f8 developer conference on Thursday, including partnerships with seven or eight leading music streaming services and the introduction of a music/movie/TV “ticker” to home pages that will let your friends know what you’re watching or listening to.

According to reports, a key element of the new streaming music integrations will be audio “bridging” between otherwise competing services. The idea is that, if you’re listening to Rdio, and a track goes up on your profile, a friend who uses MOG for music would be able to click on the track and listen to the same song even if they’ve never subscribed to Rdio.

It’s not clear from the reports exactly how that bridging will work, from either a technical or a rights perspective. Will competing streaming services need to have identical rights deals with the labels for a bridge to work? Will Facebook itself host and stream any music? How will conflicting DRMs and authentication systems be reconciled?  Read More »