Archive for October, 2006

The Long Arm of the Cell Phone

October 31, 2006

Cell phones are becoming increasingly sophisticated tracking devices popular in social networking circles. Business Week reports.” By now, anyone with a Net connection is familiar with social networking sites such as MySpace.com The only name that may score higher on the buzz-o-meter is presidential hopeful Barack Obama.But the momentum has really just begun. Site operators are linking their services to cell phones, enabling users to stay in constant touch without booting up a PC. Social networking has “become so incredibly viral,” says MySpace CEO Chris DeWolfe, “it makes all the sense in the world to port this to a mobile device.Now more cell services are incorporating location-based satellite technology and maps, making all kinds of social applications possible.”

textually.org: The Long Arm of the Cell Phone

Video Tagging Gets Cool

October 30, 2006

We’ve all tagged photos on Flickr. Next up, we’ll be increasingly tagging videos in new and innovative ways. I’ve seen two interesting announcements on this recently. On Sept. 14, ComVu, which hosts people’s mobile video blogs, unveiled its automated geotagging software that automatically records the location a cell phone video was taken at. The feature will allow for dynamic mapping: Say, you want to see what’s been happening at Times Square lately. You might go to a video sharing site and, using tags, do just that.

The other cool video tagging announcement comes from Motionbox, a personal video sharing site that appears to be similar to YouTube. The outfit just introduced its deep video tagging feature, allowing users to tag favorite parts of a video so that they and others can jump directly to those parts. This feature is going to become increasingly valuable as personal videos, taken by camcorders and cell phones, get longer.

As digital video takes the market by storm, it’s these kinds of capabilities that will change the face of video search. Today’s video search tends to be cumbersome and ineffective. Users of most video sites, like YouTube and Google Video, end up simply checking out the videos other users liked: the top-10 list. Tagging could change that and allow for better contextual searches.

http://www.businessweek.com/the_thread/techbeat/archives/2006/09/video_tagging_g.html?campaign_id=rss_blog_techbeat

VSocial Pitches White Label Video Solutions

October 27, 2006

If you had stopped by video sharing site VSocial before today you may not have thought much of the service, its sparse UI made it look like just one more also-ran. This week the site relaunched and is making a serious play to monetize customized white label video players. With $1.5 million in funding from Ron Conway and Consor Capital, VSocial is aiming for a mid market price point on short form video.

It may well be able to monetize on the growing demand for video networking sites, but I don’t know how happy to be about that. Early showcase examples of the company’s products don’t look terribly stable, well designed or appealing to me. Perhaps with recent funding the offerings will be improved but the company has been around since 2002. The service looks to me like it was just waiting for something like GooTube to yield a mass of companies feeling left behind and wanting a quick and dirty video networking component.

That’s just my judgment, though. You can click through to the product showcase examples below and decide for yourself.

The company offers three different products. The first is called VConnect MyBrand. This level of service allows publishers to add their logo to the player, watermark over the video and “call to action” link back to their own site. The MyBrand player costs $75 per month for business use. VSocial’s advertising partner can run preroll, post roll or text ads with a 50/50 revenue split between VSocial and the video publisher. Here’s VSocial’s showcase customer for this product, amateurgolf.com. The player looks good.

The second product is called VConnect ProPublisher. The company calls this level of service a turnkey solution for video enabled microsites. This service costs $500 per month plus a 30% ad revenue cut. The showcase example of this that VSocial has to offer is a Chevy page on gas consumption reduction. None of the videos ever loaded when I went to the site, it’s on a VSocial domain and if it’s a turnkey microsite some one designed it very poorly.

The top tier of service is called VConnect for Enterprise Communities. It’s a preconstructed social networking service with video at the center of the strategy. Every part of site functionality at Latino video network Voytv.com is provided by VSocial. There are quite a few features and no shortage of ads. The service costs between $5 and $20 thousand per month plus 15 to 20% of ad revenue. This might be worthwhile for companies seeking an easy video/social networking solution but you’d have to give it a long, hard look before deciding this this is solid software.

I think there is a clear demand for products like these. I also think that there are other people who are doing it better. Check out KickApps (our coverage) and watch here for coverage of a better looking video network solution in the very near future. When copyrighted video detection technology becomes commoditized and is a standard component of these kinds of white label video networks – then we’ll know they have really arrived.

VSocial Pitches White Label Video Solutions

iLike Brings Free Indy Music to iTunes Recommendations

October 25, 2006

ILike is a new iTunes plug-in that will launch tomorrow and leverages free music from independent musicians at GarageBand.com to supplement its otherwise typical recommendations. ITunes plug-ins are becoming increasingly common but music recommendations are particularly frustrating if you have to either pay full price for a song or launch another application to get it.

Integration of free, independent recommended music is the primary point of differentiation between iLike and competitors like Last.fm, MyStrands (disclosure: TC 8 party sponsor) and Qloud. ILike is available for Windows and Mac, it has some social networking features, a MySpace widget and it makes purchasing songs easy.

The ability to drag and drop manual recommendations to friends, the display of friends’ online or offline presence and the public/private options for user data are all very nice in iLike. The URL is certainly a good one.

The company has some heavyweight backing, having taken $2.5 million in funding from Vinod Khosla and Bob Pittman.

In our tests recommendations appeared tied to artists, not songs and that is not ideal. There’s probably not a shortage of iTunes recommendations plug-ins in the world and it’s going to be increasingly difficult to stand above the crowd. The company says it wants to move beyond affiliate revenue from song sales and into event notification and affiliate concert ticket sales. I’m sure everyone wants to get into that.

I’m not sure that free music from indendent musicians is a viable mass market value proposition. While user generated video can draw a crowd, I think that’s because consuming video is a short term relationship. People listen to the same music over and over again, and while many of us may be interested in discovering new music similar to our existing tastes – the lower production quality and lack of familiarty with independent music makes it less popular for more reasons than just limited distribution. Most “independent music” is not very good. Videos that are not very good are much more tollerable than music that is not very good. GarageBand.com is online right now, in case you’re open to evaluating the music there.

In short, iLike has a good URL, good backing, a nice interface and good usability but insufficient differentiation from other options to be a clear winner.

iLike Brings Free Indy Music to iTunes Recommendations

American E-Idol: Online talent contests hit the big time

October 24, 2006

Amid the clips of Christmas song kara-oke, martial arts moves, and Star Wars-inspired
dance steps, true talent lurks online. The trick for media giants has
been finding a way to sift through the weird and wacky and find
potential stars. Now, Epic Records, Universal Music Group, and EMI are
taking a stab at that, teaming with startup media Web site Music Nation
to turn online music contests into serious business.
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Think of it as American Idol
for the digital set. But this time around, millions of people will be
able to take a shot at fame, rather than the tens of thousands who line
up outside convention halls to audition for a TV show. In mid-November,
wannabe rock, urban, and pop stars will be able to start uploading
videos to Music Nation. Clear Channel Communications (CCU
), meantime, will promote the contest online and on the air.

In January the 15-week contests in each of the three genres will kick
off. Weekly online votes by judges and the audience will determine
which singers move on to the next round and eventually win a record
deal with Epic. Universal and EMI plan to sponsor contests in Europe
and Asia next year. The clips will also be used to create an online
broadband channel on the Venice Project, a video startup.

Music Nation won’t be alone for long as a talent showcase. Fox
Interactive Media is thinking along the same lines. News Corp.’s (NWS
) digital unit, which bought karaoke contest site kSolo.com in May, is
considering how to integrate the service into MySpace so that it can
rev up the online contests and feature talent as it does with American Idol.
And Bix, a two-month-old site where individuals can set up their own
comedy, beauty, or karaoke contests, says it is hearing from labels and
studios eager for prospects.

“HIGHLY PROFITABLE” 

The number of Web contests, whether sponsored by big brands or put
together by just folks, has ballooned recently. So far, though, they
have been strictly for marketing and entertainment. This fall, Survivor producer Mark Burnett launched Gold Rush, an online scavenger hunt that promises $1 million in gold to the winner who unearths clues on AOL (TWX
) and CBS. And companies such as Mentos and MasterCard have run contests for consumer-created videos.

Music Nation is now tapping into this enthusiasm to help uncover talent
and, of course, create a hot Web destination. It will use people power
to sift through the huge mass of performances that appear on videos,
MP3s, and blogs and help labels adapt to the new digital world. Says
Charlie Walk, president of Epic, which provided an advance of under $1
million to be part of the contest: “At the end of the day, if people
love this, it’s highly scalable and profitable for us.”

Or Music Nation could flop. Web users can be more opinionated than
their off-line counterparts: They may decide a contest that ends in a
label deal is uncool. That’s a chance the music industry, desperate to
find growth, is willing to take.

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/06_44/b4007053.htm?campaign_id=rss_daily

Video Product Reviews: An Idea Worth Five Stars?

October 24, 2006

Love Epinions.com and Amazon.com’s reviews? Check out video product reviews on YouTube.com or ExpoTV.com, which lets people record and post video product reviews. Soon, the site will start compensating posters for their submissions, too.

Video Product Reviews: An Idea Worth Five Stars?

Crayon Claims To Be First SecondLife Company

October 23, 2006

Virtual reality service SecondLife must be loving all of the positive press it’s receiving lately. After raising another $11 million in funding earlier this year (bringing their total to $19 million), they celebrated their third birthday and recently announced their 1,000,000th user registration. Putting the recent database hack aside, SecondLife is clearly hitting its stride.

A robust virtual economy has blossomed on SecondLife as well. At least three thousand users make at least $20,000 per year on SecondLife, selling everything from clothes to body parts to real estate. The economy of SecondLife has been estimated to be $64 million per year. Real world businesses are sniffing around the service as well. Wells Fargo, for example, has created its own branded island in Second Life.

SecondLife puts current statistics right up on the home page (stats as on 1:30 pm on Sunday October 22 are to left). Nearly half a million users have logged on in the last 60 days, and $441,948 has been spent in the last 24 hours.

With all of this real money floating around the SecondLife economy, look for more businesses to set up shop. And look for other companies to be selling advice to these new businesses. Crayon is launching later this week, claiming to be the first company to be launched in SecondLife. They will be a virtual consulting firm, facilitating “conversation and transformation above communication. Our value proposition is designed to activate passions, enthusiasm, organic dialogue and no-strings-attached referrals and recommendations.” If Crayon can turn that marketing-speak into understandable advice and guidance to companies looking to leverage SecondLife as a marketing or sales channel, they may find being one of the first to set up shop is a big advantage.

More on this as details emerge. Crayon says they’ll launch this Thursday, October 26.

Crunch Network: CrunchGear drool over the sexiest new gadgets and hardware.

Crayon Claims To Be First SecondLife Company

New Mashups: War Games and Halloween

October 22, 2006

Time for a review of some of the more interesting new mashup arrivals. Over 25 new mashups have been added in the past week alone. Subject matter includes games, sports, news, music, shopping, pets and others. Click here for the full list by date.

  • Endgame : World War: Claims to be the first massively multiplayer online (MMO) strategy game on Google Maps. Take over the world in this real time Risk-like game.
  • War Game

  • Cycling in California: Nice Google Maps mashup showing a list of road bike events in CA. Map popups show ride profile graph and current weather.
  • HalloweenMashup.com: Mashup of Local Halloween Events. Google Maps, Yahoo News, Yahoo Local, Flickr, and Upcoming. Uses the HostIP API to auto-recognize where you’re visiting from.
  • I Love Music Video: Music video viewer for Last.fm users. The music video can be seen from the chart of Last.fm very easily. Videos from YouTube.
  • War Game

One other note, over the past 14 days, 12 percent of new mashups here are using the YouTube API. That’s 42 YouTube mashups.

Google Goes Gadget Crazy

October 22, 2006

Google_gadgets_1

Call them gadgets or widgets, Google is now offering little bits of software that anyone can put in a sidebar on their blog or Webpage.  Formerly, these gadgets were available only on people’s personalized Google homepage or Google Desktop software.  Now anyone can use them to create mashups all over the Web.  They include Google Maps like this one:

There are also stock charts, news feeds, the weather, a Bitty Browser, video games like Pac-Man, Google videos, or space pics from Nasa. It’s the blunderbuss approach—spray your Web apps far and wide.

MySpace is Over the Hill

October 22, 2006


  …time passes by… 
  Originally uploaded by angelferd.

A new report by comScore puts more than half of MySpace users at over 35. 

Those teenagers are so out of there.