by Mike Masnick
Tue, Mar 15th 2011 6:57pm
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Feb 10th 2011 9:37am
from the you-made-the-choice dept
That story is now snowballing. Dan Gilmor wrote a blog post arguing that it was the "ethical" thing to do to start paying bloggers. Douglas Ruskoff said that he'd no longer blog on the site for free. And, of course, a bunch of cranky HuffPo contributors have created a whole campaign arguing that Arianna Huffington had no right to sell the site, since it was built off of their free labor.
They're all wrong.
Of course, we've been through this before. Five years ago, Nick Carr tried to argue that all the various big Web 2.0 sites like (at the time) Digg, YouTube and MySpace were really digital sharecroppers exploiting labor. As we argued at the time, this was hogwash. People were using those sites because they provided a valuable service. The reason they provided labor was because they got something of value in return -- whether it was attention or hosting or distribution or reputation.
Three years ago, we saw an almost identical controversy after AOL bought Bebo and musician Billy Bragg demanded some of the $850 million AOL paid (in retrospect, a massively bad decision). Bragg argued that Bebo made this money based on all of the "free labor" of musicians who used the site. But that ignored the fact that those musicians got tremendous value in using the Bebo platform to connect with fans and distribute their music... all for free. The folks who got to keep the money were the ones who took the actual risk. The ones who had to cover the expenses to keep the site and the service running, even when it wasn't making enough revenue. They took the risk, they should get the reward. The people who used the site did so of their own free will knowing quite well that the benefit they got from using the service was worth it to them at the time. Along those lines, if Bebo had struggled and faced bankruptcy instead of a massive buyout, would Bragg have felt obligated to give them money to keep it going? Similarly, if HuffPo had been running out of money, and Arianna had gone back and demanded that those who used the platform pay up retroactively, how would these people have reacted?
There are more ways to "get paid" than with money.
The reason that people chose to blog for free at the Huffington Post was because it's a fantastic platform for exposure. It brings traffic like no one else out there, and if you want to present something in a way that's likely to get more attention than on your own blog that no one visits, posting at HuffPo can be quite a good way to go.
And that's the point: the people who chose -- of their own free will -- to post at the Huffington Post for free did so because they clearly got value out of doing so. Otherwise, why would they have done so in the first place? To then say that the only proper thing is to pay them is completely missing the point. It's an attempt to retroactively go back and change the terms of a deal. If you wanted to get paid directly for what you write, fine, don't write for the Huffington Post. It's that simple. Go out and pitch your stories to publishers who pay freelancers. But don't go back and complain afterwards when the folks who actually did take the risk of putting together the site, financing it, organizing it, hiring the staff, buying the servers, paying for the bandwidth, and building it up so that it was such a successful platform, then get paid for their efforts.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Jun 11th 2010 4:43pm
from the don't-play-the-open-card-too-much dept
Google recently purchased AdMob, a mobile advertising platform, and AdMob execs are upset at Apple for prohibiting the use of other ad providers for the iPhone. Basically, you're locked into Apple's own iAds platform. This is a bit ironic, given Apple's recent claims that it won't support Flash because the platform is too closed. It seems that Apple is against closed platforms... unless they're Apple's closed platforms.
But, while Google plays the open card -- and very often is quite open -- some of the claims that Google/AdMob execs are making could be pointed right back at Google as well. Take this one, for example:
This change is not in the best interests of users or developers. In the history of technology and innovation, it's clear that competition delivers the best outcome. Artificial barriers to competition hurt users and developers and, in the long run, stall technological progress.I agree with this point, wholeheartedly, but Google doesn't always act that way. Google's main product, its search engine, is still a very, very closed platform. If a developer wants to innovate off of Google's search, they currently have two options the AJAX search API and Google's Custom Search Engine (CSE) -- both of which have tremendous limitations. The AJAX API limits results to just 8, and really just keeps trying to drive users back to Google's properties. For CSE, the terms are quite limiting and only let you display Google ads on the results page -- not all that unlike Apple's limitations. At one point, Google had a SOAP API that let people develop on Google search results, but they killed that off. And, Google has never offered anything like RSS on search feeds.
If Google were truly "open" to "the best interests of users or developers" by encouraging more competition, why not let others build on top of Google's platform as well? If it were open, then Apple could innovate on top of Google's search and make money by selling its own ads, just as Google now wants to be able to run ads on iPhone/iPad apps. The reverse is true as well. If Apple were really open, then Google could innovate on top of the iPhone/iPad apps and make money off of its ads.
But the truth is neither company is that open when it comes to products it believes are core to its business. For many years, we've wondered if Google would make its search engine into more of a platform that others can build on, but to date, it remains very controlling on that side of its business, which I think is a loss for the wider internet. Now, obviously, this is Google's call to make, but to whine about Apple not opening its platform while keeping its own just as closed is a bit hypocritical.
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Mar 19th 2010 7:22am
from the letting-business-models-develop dept
Perhaps more importantly, the intervening time has been good to YouTube as a business and as a brand. In this sense, compare Grokster to YouTube. At the time of the Grokster cases, it was still very much an open question whether Grokster would ever evolve into a tool where legitimate activity dominated. While we might still have had that same question about YouTube in 2006, by 2010 YouTube has answered that question resoundingly. YouTube's business practices have matured, everyone has had positive legitimate experiences with YouTube (even behind-the-curve judges), and it's clear that major legitimate players have adopted YouTube as a platform for their legitimate activities. For example, YouTube's brief makes the point that all of the 2008 presidential candidates published YouTube videos as part of their campaign. I'm guessing no 2004 presidential candidates used Grokster for campaign purposes.Goldman goes on to point out that this may bring up some challenges heretofore unfaced in determining how the "inducement" standard works -- but, to me, it brings up an even more important issue: similar lawsuits against Napster and Grokster moved faster. Lots of people have commented on the fact that this particular lawsuit has taken three years from filing just to get to the summary judgment motions to be filed -- and during that time, Goldman is correct, YouTube has had a chance to mature, refine its business model, and do many things that we now find to be quite beneficial to society.
So as time goes on, YouTube solidifies a brand as a legitimate part of our information infrastructure. As we learn that the YouTube story has a happy ending, I suspect judges become less interested in punishing YouTube for past practices. For this reason (and others), I thought a lot of Viacom's inducement arguments ran hollow because they ran counter to my brand impressions of YouTube. I would also note that Viacom appears to be giving up its litigation over activity after May 2008, so even Viacom seems to be happy with YouTube in its current form.
The same thing likely would have happened to both Napster and Grokster, if they had been given a chance to live. Executives behind each company repeatedly laid out strategies to mature their business models and to work as partners with the industry. It's just that they never got a chance to put those into practice because these sorts of lawsuits and rulings from judges forced them (effectively) out of business. In YouTube's case, the slow pace of this particular lawsuit has allowed it to firmly establish tons of viable, useful, valuable non-infringing uses -- to the point that it's a platform used by tons of companies, politicians, individuals and more. If Napster and Grokster had been given half a chance, they likely would have been able to evolve similarly.
And this is what is so painful about watching all these attempts by the entertainment industry to kill off any new technology that disrupts an old business model. These lawsuits kill off those technologies before the natural progression and maturation is allowed -- and because of that, we all suffer.
Now, some will scoff and claims that Grokster was never going to turn into what YouTube is today, but you're saying that with the gift of hindsight. A large part of Viacom's motion tries to suggest that the two companies actually were quite similar -- but even Viacom is now admitting that YouTube's business model was able to mature and adapt. Considering that we still don't have music discovery, promotion and distribution tools as convenient as Napster was back in the day, this can be seen as a real shame. These lawsuits killed off a useful path of exploration for legitimate business models, and that's not only shameful but a waste of innovative effort. It's only through the random quirk of a slow court that YouTube may avoid suffering the same fate.
by Mike Masnick
Wed, Jul 29th 2009 1:17pm
from the playing-the-what-if-game dept
Would Microsoft have distributed Microsoft Office rivals such as SmartSuite or WordPerfect Office via its app store?And it goes on from there. Fun thought experiment if you're one of the believers that Apple's closed iPhone system is somehow "good" for innovation.
Well, maybe, in theory at least-after all, it doesn't sell Microsoft Office as part of Windows, so it couldn't use the "it duplicates functionality that's already in the product" excuse. Call me a cynic, though, but I suspect that competitive office suites would have run into trouble if Microsoft had controlled all Windows software distribution. And hey, didn't WordPerfect duplicate features in Notepad?
How about Netscape Navigator?
When Netscape first appeared in 1994, the current version of Windows (3.11) didn't have a browser. Even Windows 95 didn't have one at first--Internet Explorer was part of the extra-cost Plus Pack. Then again, Windows 95 did ship with the dreadful client for the original version of MSN, a proprietary online service which definitely did compete with the Web. That might have been reason enough for Microsoft to nix Navigator for duplicating Windows functionality. And once IE was part of Windows, Microsoft could have given Navigator the boot retroactively.
Safari? Firefox? Chrome?
They all appeared long after Windows got a browser as standard equipment. No, no, and no.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jul 20th 2009 9:18pm
from the closed-vs.-open dept
Where this gets trickier is that the open solutions are almost always substandard to the closed solutions initially. In some ways, this is by design. The closed solution is often much cleaner and slicker, and so it gets a lot of the initial use. But, overtime, the limitations of the closed solutions become increasingly clear, and as people bump up against those limits, frustrations increase, and more and more effort is put towards making the open solutions better -- even to the point that eventually they exceed the closed solution. It's a messy process, but the point where momentum shifts is often a subtle one, and the proprietors of the closed solution usually don't recognize it's a problem until way too late.
I believe that's the case with the App Store. The iPhone itself did an amazing job pushing the state of the mobile phone/portable computer market forward. There are some people who like to mock it as nothing special, but that's unfair. The device itself was a huge leap forward in demonstrating what a phone could be, and many others are just starting to grasp what this means more than two years after the original was introduced. That said, we're seeing more and more evidence concerning frustrations on the limits imposed by Apple's closed system, such as the arbitrary rejections of apps.
James points us to a worthwhile post from an iPhone developer, noting how the process is getting to the point where it's less and less worth it to develop for that platform. You have to put in a ton of work, and then you have to wait for quite a while just to get the app approved (or rejected), and the whole process is quite arbitrary. With that in mind, developers have a lot less certainty, and it shows a growing interest in other platforms.
To date, admittedly, such alternatives really haven't been very good. There are other app stores (some more open than others), but none has really been able to build up much traction yet on other devices. But there's a huge opportunity here if someone else can make this happen (or, if there were a way to standardize across some of the competitors) and start doing a better job serving both developers and consumers. The closed solution helps define the initial market -- but the open solution almost always wins in the long run.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Jun 29th 2009 8:24pm
from the can't-stop dept
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Mar 19th 2009 5:42am
from the a-reason-to-buy dept
One of the companies that's doing a good job helping some musicians make this model work is TopSpin, who we've discussed before. In fact, TopSpin has helped Reznor and Freese with their offerings (as well as the Beastie Boys, who recently launched something similar, as well). With TopSpin's platform coming out of beta this week, the company has released some data on its success so far, and it's impressive -- especially for those of you who keep insisting that fans these days just want music for free and are unwilling to pay for anything.
- Its campaigns have certainly helped bands grow their audience and improved ways to connect with fans. One of its first major projects was the release of David Byrne's latest album, and it increased his email list by 3000%. (Update: Originally we said 37%, but that was wrong. It's actually 30x, or 3000% as per Topspin).
- The various projects have shown that people are quite willing to pay if they're provided with real value and given a real (rather than artificial) reason to buy. The average transaction price is $22 -- significantly more than what people are paying for "just the music" and even more than what an average CD costs.
- Perhaps the most appealing stat: on a recent project 84% of the orders were premium offers above the lowest tier. People will pay more for being given real value, rather than just being forced to pay for the music.
It's also worth noting that the company has also announced a program with Berklee College of Music to teach courses to musicians in how to leverage TopSpin for better business models. Hopefully at least some of that class will include an explanation of how using free as a part of your business model can extend it even further.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Sep 29th 2008 6:49pm
from the uk-needs-section-230 dept
Take, for example, a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK, that says that any online publishers are responsible for the text of any ads they display -- even if those ads are automatically generated, such as by a system like Google's AdSense. That puts publishers in a really tricky position. The whole benefit of using something like AdSense is the fact that it easily fills in mostly relevant remnant ad inventory, without requiring the publisher to carefully review and sell the ad space. Making those publishers liable for the content of those ads is only going to drive them away from using such ads altogether, which doesn't benefit anyone. Yes, you can understand that the ASA doesn't want questionable ads out there, but then the liability should fall on those actually responsible: the advertiser who created the questionable ad. Not the publisher who had no control over it.
by Mike Masnick
Mon, Sep 15th 2008 2:23pm
from the pissing-off-developers dept
While some are decrying this as being an abuse of power, Apple certainly has the right to do it. It's just not a particularly good long term strategy -- and likely to backfire badly. Pissing off your developers or making them worry isn't going to get very many good apps written going forward. Also, limiting competition is actually going to hurt Apple, because it no longer has anyone driving them to be better. What if this podcasting app had certain features that were really cool and useful -- and not available in iTunes? Right now, Apple has no incentive to include that functionality, thus making its own software worse.
In the meantime, you've got to imagine that a number of iPhone developers may be eagerly awaiting the launch of Google's Android platform which won't have such arbitrary restrictions.