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Posted on Techdirt - 2 October 2009 @ 05:57pm

Did Showtime Benefit By Giving Away Free Content?

Here is yet another example of how “free” can co-exist with paid content, even when the content is basically identical.

Recently, Showtime made the season premiers of their hit shows DEXTER and CALIFORNICATION on YouTube for anyone to watch for free.  So, did this gut their numbers when the shows aired on their subscription-only, kind of expensive if you ask me, premium cable network?

Both Dexter and Californication scored some huge opening numbers last Sunday with Dexter setting a new opening record for the cable network. More than 1.5 million sets of eyeballs tuned to the season four opener for Dexter and 821,000 stayed to watch the opener for Californication. That’s 3 million single eyeballs for Dexter and more than 1.6 million for Californication.

Guess not.

Crossposted from MyMediaMusings

Posted on Techdirt - 29 July 2009 @ 06:38pm

Japan's Smile Scanners A Classic Misuse Of Technology

As pointed out on the Freakonomics Blog:

Japan’s Keihin Express Railway Co. has set up “smile scanners” at 15 of its stations, where railway employees have their smiles assessed by software in the hopes of perfecting a customer-friendly look.

This is such a classic misuse of technology by a corporation. The goal of the company is to provide more positive and friendly customer service but its technique of using a “smile scanner” is going to have the opposite effect. Nobody likes to be forced into happiness, and the employees will end up resenting the scanners, their bosses for making them use the scanners and the customers for expecting them to smile.

Instead, a smart company would try to figure out how to make its employees genuinely happy so that they smile because they want to smile. This would create endless positive outcomes for the company, the employees and the customers.

Sometimes technology can look like it provides a quick fix when, in fact, it is just an illusion.

Cross-posted from MyMediaMusings.com

Posted on Techdirt - 20 July 2009 @ 01:55pm

Can Print Be The Next Vinyl?

One of the more interesting trends in the music world is the “return” of the vinyl LP. While sales of CD’s continue to fall in the face of digital downloads, vinyl LP sales continue to rise:

Consumers purchased 1.88 million new vinyl LPs in 2008, an 89 percent increase over 2007 and the highest sales volume recorded in the 17-year history of Nielsen SoundScan. Further, in good news for some physical retailers, two out of three vinyls LPs were purchased at independent record stores.

There are a number of reasons for this, but the most obvious is that the LP is a tangible object that can’t be easily reproduced and can only be shared through a physical, real-world exchange. For true fans, the LP is a sort of badge of fandom, proof of just how much you love the band. Compared to a digital download or a CD, the LP is a crafted thing, complete with large-scale artwork and often other inserts.

While it isn’t likely that LP sales will eclipse digital downloads anytime soon, it is also highly unlikely that the LP market will be undercut by piracy.

Could these same factors be a forecaster for the future of printed books and newspapers? It is hard to imagine that these items, so easily digitized, will be able to maintain their current position on top of the mountain and we are already seeing the rapid decline of the newspaper business.

In the cases of both newspapers and books, it might be that their only hope in surviving over the long-term is to invest in elements that can truly not be pirated. As Dave Eggers points out in a recent Salon interview:

I think newspapers shouldn’t try to compete directly with the Web, and should do what they can do better, which may be long-form journalism and using photos and art, and making connections with large-form graphics and really enhancing the tactile experience of paper. You know, including a full-color comic section, for example, which of course was standard in newspapers years ago, when you’d have a full broadsheet Winsor McCay comic. So we’ll have a big, full-color comic section, and we’re also trying to emphasize what younger readers are looking for, what directly appeals to them.

Now, I am not saying that comics section will save newspapers, but the point is to make the object something desirable to possess in physical form.

For the moment, we are going to see traditional publishers fight futilely to maintain the status quo but the ground is quickly falling away beneath them and it is going to take some innovative thinking about the value of printed matter to keep them in the game.

Crossposted from My Media Musings

Posted on Techdirt - 2 July 2009 @ 02:37pm

Oh Look, Citizen Journalists Can Do Real Investigative Reporting

The newspaper people will tell you that if they are obliterated by the evil internets one of the big loses will be investigative journalism. If it hadn’t been for those gritty investigative journalists the newspaper hires there’d be no Watergate, no Whitewater Gate, no ‘Gates of any kind.

Of course, that’s just plain silly. Newspapers didn’t invent investigative journalism any more than they invented news or reporting news.

In fact, in this digital age where anyone willing to do the work can spill the beans to a massive audience, there is more reason than ever for independent investigators to step up to the plate. The folks at QuarryGirl, a blog dedicated to animal rights, have done just that.

Having been given a great deal of anecdotal proof that some food at Vegan restaurants around LA contained animal by-products, they decided to see if they could prove it. One might assume, as a bunch of bloggers with, potentially, no J-school experience whatsoever, they might make a hash of things. Instead, they made a plan:

Here’s an outline of the plan:

  • Locate a facility that has no traces of egg, casein or shellfish in which to perform the advanced tests
  • Purchase anti-contamination equipment including industrial sterilization supplies, lab coats, uncontaminated bags, swabs, razor blades, gloves and floor coverings
  • Obtain highly restricted industrial food testing “kits” only available to the food manufacturing industry
  • Develop a regimented process to test each food item with the highest standards of inter-test cleanliness, ensuring that absolutely no food particles from one food item contaminate another
  • Select a diverse set of menu items from 100% vegan-only restaurants throughout LA (with one exception, see later)
  • Order the food for carry-out, and seal it in an airtight bag in its original packaging either inside, or very close to the point of purchase
  • Transport the food items to the testing facility intact and sealed, and perform the tests within 48 hours of purchase, keeping them refrigerated until immediately before the test
  • Develop a strict bracketing control, with a thorough analysis of the testing facility and equipment before testing: A negative control to ensure no pre-existing contamination, and a positive control test on a known-positive food product (containing all three target non-vegan items) to ensure that the tests do indicate positive results
  • Conduct the test in absolute secrecy to ensure that no restaurant would know they were providing samples, and pose as regular customers ordering take-out food in a normal way, with no disclosure that the items would be used for a test.

So, we divided up the work between us, and dedicated a Friday evening, Saturday and Sunday as well as over $1,000 of our collective money to pulling off the most extensive scientific test that we know of to find out, once and for all, if samples of restaurant food are vegan or not.

Not sure about you, but that sounds like a pretty sound plan. Find out what happened here.

This is just one example of how the inevitable death of newspapers will simply not be the information apocalypse they’d like you to think it will be.

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