Archives: September 2007

Apple Selling NBC Shows Anyway

iPhone3.jpgApple is currently selling new episodes of NBC’s Chuck and Journeyman, despite their earlier well-publicized announcement to immediately withdraw all NBC shows from the iTunes Store.

All is not quite as it appears, though. According to CNET News, the reason that Journeyman and Chuck are showing up is that “both shows are produced by companies other than NBC, and Apple is under contract to offer them.”

Meanwhile, the post reports that Heroes, which really is an NBC show (actually Universal Media Studios, NBC’s TV production group), isn’t available in the iTunes Store.

Despite Apple’s threat, iTunes sells new NBC shows [CNET News]

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Verizon Asks for a Do-Over On NARAL Fiasco

The New York Times is reporting that Verizon Wireless announced it would allow an abortion rights group to send text messages to its supporters on Verizon’s mobile network, reversing its earlier course.

“The decision to not allow text messaging on an important, though sensitive, public policy issue was incorrect,” said Jeffrey Nelson, a spokesman for Verizon, in a statement issued yesterday morning and relayed by the Times, adding that the earlier decision was an “isolated incident.”

This latest decision brings Verizon Wireless back in line with the other major carriers (AT&T, Sprint, and T-Mobile), all of whom had already allowed the messages through.

Verizon Reverses Itself on Abortion Messages [NYT]

Yahoo Dumps Podcast Service

Yahoo! will discontinue its underused service for finding and rating audio podcasts on Oct. 31, according to MediaPost.

As the article reports, Yahoo! launched the service two years ago, but it ranks at the bottom of 32 Yahoo-owned properties monitored for use by Hitwise, which reported that the number of August visitors dropped by 20% from the same time last year.

This is the downside of what happens when everyone wants to be a portal for the same content. Eventually customers will flock to a few particular places to get all their media needs. Imagine having to turn on different radios and television sets around the house in order to listen or watch everything you’re interested in. It’s not as drastic when talking about Web sites, but it’s still unnecessarily difficult–which is why when a TV network announces that they’re going to create their own portal, just for their own programs, we remain skeptical.

Yahoo To Silence Podcast Service [MediaPost]

Disney Mobile Bites the Dust

disney.jpgAnd there goes another one. Engadget reports that Disney Mobile will cease its operations as of December 31. The struggling carrier will join Amp’d Mobile and Mobile ESPN in the dustbin of small Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNO) that licensed bandwidth from the big names like Verizon Wireless and Sprint, at what proved to be too high a price.

“MVNOs have generally had a tough time navigating through the dog-eat-dog world of profitable wireless service, and Disney Mobile was dogged from the very beginning with tough competition on kid-friendly features and hardware from larger rivals and a dearth of quality handsets.”

These mobile media-focused efforts had their hearts in the right place. But we think that the (usually quite good) media packages fare better as options on mainstream carriers, rather than forcing people to sign up with specialty carriers that only use certain handsets. Plus, the ever-looming reality of harsh cancellation fees–sometimes over $200–mean that most customers interested in MVNOs won’t want to pay to get out of their current contract in order to join one anyway.

Disney Mobile’s demise leaves just Helio and Virgin Mobile as the two remaining, significant MVNOs in the U.S.

Disney Mobile, R.I.P.: 2006 – 2007 [Engadget]

AOL Aims High on Mobile

BusinessWeek just posted a story on AOL’s mobile ambitions, and they’re more relevant than you’d think.

“U.S. traffic to AOL’s mobile Web site is higher than that to Google Mobile’s and double that of MSN Mobile’s,” according to Hitwise and reported by BusinessWeek. Mobile phone users also tend to spend much more time on AOL’s sites than Yahoo’s, said David Gill, an analyst with consultancy Telephia, in the article. “Their audience is highly engaged, and advertisers like that,” he said.

Right now, cellphone users have to fire up different applications on their handsets to use multiple AOL features, such as checking AOL mail, running AIM, checking MovieFone listings, or using MapQuest to get directions. AOL wants to end all of this by developing a unified platform that works across all of their properties and products–a move that could simplify their offerings and draw more traffic from Google, Yahoo, and MSN on cellphones.

AOL’s Mobile Ambitions [BusinessWeek]

Verizon Blocks Abortion Rights Group Messages

naral.jpgVerizon Wireless has rejected a request from NARAL Pro-Choice America, the abortion rights group, to make Verizon’s mobile network available for a text-message program, according to The New York Times.

The program lets people sign up for NARAL text messages by sending a short text to a 5-digit number, known as a short code. The other leading wireless carriers have already accepted the program, according to the report. Verizon said in response to the controversy that “it had the right to block ‘controversial or unsavory’ text messages.”

Legal experts feel that Verizon had the right to block the messages since it’s a privately held company, and that the laws that govern common carriers about free speech probably don’t apply here. “This is right at the heart of the [net neutrality] problem,” said Susan Crawford, a visiting professor at the University of Michigan law school, in the article. “The fact that wireless companies can choose to discriminate is very troubling.”

Here’s the key quote from the Times story: “Messages urging political action are generally thought to be at the heart of what the First Amendment protects. But the First Amendment limits government power, not that of private companies like Verizon. In rejecting the NARAL program, Verizon appeared to be acting against its economic interests. It would have received a small fee to set up the program and additional fees for messages sent and received.”

There’s too much important material to cover here, so check out the NYT story link below for more details.

Verizon Rejects Messages of Abortion Rights Group [NYT]

DoubleClick Releases Mobile Ad Tools

ClickZ is reporting that DoubleClick just released DoubleClick Mobile, a Web software package that will provide ad trafficking and yield optimization for campaigns designed to appear on cell phones.

According to the report, the company also plans to release a mobile ad management product for advertisers sometime in 2008, said Ari Paparo, DoubleClick’s VP of rich media and emerging technologies.

“The product is oriented toward media companies that are publishing mobile,” Paparo said in the ClickZ report. “What we’ve seen over the past year is the approach of a tipping point. Most media companies are publishing mobile content and are monetizing that. It’s getting to the point where it’s common enough that they’re looking for a solution to sell that inventory themselves and make more money.”

Currently, DoubleClick estimates that typical ad impressions for major publishers ranges from 10 to 100 million per month, but like most industry observers, they expect that to grow substantially in the near future.

DoubleClick Launches Site-Side Mobile Ad Management, Advertiser Version in Development [ClickZ]

Would You Trade Free Cellphone Calls for Advertising?

It’s a reasonable question, and one that some European consumers will soon have a chance of answering. The New York Times reports that British cellphone users will get their first look Monday at a new mobile service called Blyk, which will offer subscribers some free calls and text messages in return for their agreeing to accept advertising on their phones.

“Compared with the hundreds of billions of dollars that mobile operators generate annually in fees from callers, text-message users and other network users, mobile advertising remains a tiny business,” the report said. “Analysts estimate that it will generate $1 billion to $2 billion in revenue worldwide this year”–but they also estimate it will grow to between $5 billion and $11 billion within the next five years.

The article said that everyone wants in on it now, in case mobile media advertising turns out to be a “bonanza” in profits. “There’s a battle raging between the Web world and the wireless world for control of mobile advertising revenue,” said Patrick Parodi, chief marketing officer of Amobee Media Systems, an online advertising specialist, in the article. “It’s going to be war.”

Seems like it already is.

Getting Free Cellphone Calls for Ads [NYT]

Vivendi Condemns ‘Indecent’ Apple Contract

Along with NBC, Vivendi is one of many large media companies that are trying to challenge Apple’s grip on the digital entertainment market and obtain more control over pricing, Reuters reports in a new article about the companies’ esteemed music publishing unit, Universal Music Group (UMG). The publisher said it was in talks with rival distributors.

“The split between Apple and (music) producers is indecent … Our contracts give too good a share to Apple,” Vivendi Chief Executive Jean-Bernard Levy told reporters at a gathering on Monday organized by the association of media journalists in France, Reuters said in the report.

UMG’s basic problem is that while they get 70 cents out of the 99 cents Apple charges consumers for each track, they want to be able to charge more for new music and less for older classics. We all know what that means, and it’s not 49 cents for old Aerosmith and $1.49 for new tracks. They’re going to want to charge more for just about everything, except for some token 79 cent loss leaders–at least that’s what we’re expecting to happen if UMG gets its way.

Vivendi Calls iTunes Contract ‘Indecent’ [Reuters via PCMag.com]

Amazon Undercuts Apple with New Music Store

amazon.jpgFollowing months of discussion amid their earlier announcement, Amazon.com, looking to siphon some business from Apple, jumped into the digital music download business Tuesday by offering 2.3 million songs that can play on any portable device — including the popular iPod, reports the Seattle-Post Intelligencer.

Significantly, Amazon is selling more than one million of those tracks — but not all of them — at 89 cents, or 10 cents under what Apple charges.

“We don’t spend a lot of time talking about iTunes’ pricing. Our goal at Amazon is to provide great value to our customers,” said Peter Baltaxe, director of digital music for Seattle-based Amazon, in the article. “We think our customers will appreciate the lower prices.”

Amazon is selling all of the music without DRM (digital rights management) software in MP3 format. This means you can buy tracks and play them anywhere you want — your cell phone, your car, your computer, or your iPod, Zune, or other portable MP3 player.

Amazon starts music store [Seattle Post-Intelligencer]