It’s not often we can manage to fit Myspace, Mashable, libraries, encyclopedias and printed electronics into a single piece. But that’s exactly what we’ve done this week…and so without further ado, here’s the last week’s media news in review.
If you were wondering what would become of Myspace after its $35m firesale to Specific Media, we got a glimpse of that this week, when Fox announced it was premiering a new Web series on the once-dominant social network.
The show, Let’s Big Happy, will revolve around indie music, so Fox clearly figured that Myspace, which in its prime was the place to debut and share new music, was the best place to launch it. “We are excited to further our partnership with Myspace with a show like Let’s Big Happy,” said Fox Digital Entertainment’s senior VP Matt Glotzer. “With independent music as its focus, the series could not have a better launchpad.”
Well, some would argue that it could have a better launchpad, but we’ll not delve any deeper on this today.
Elsewhere, Netflix and LoveFilm were drawn into a probe over anti-competitive movie deals in the UK, when an investigation by the UK’s Competition Commission, which originally accused BSkyB of holding too much power over the transmission of paid movies, was widened to include two other video-on-demand (VoD) services. The authority will assess whether the rise of video-streaming now provides more choice for consumers.
Robert Andrews from paidContent waded in to the debate, noting that Netflix’s CEO Reed Hastings could get BSkyB off the anti-trust charge, quoting a previous comment from him: “We could just bid against them (Sky). We are not dependent on whatever the Competition Commission does,” said Hastings.
“If Hastings was being straight, that no longer sounds like a monopolistic market,” added Andrews. “If Netflix can out-bid Sky Movies for Hollywood, the commission would be hard-pressed to find the situation anti-competitive.”
As the New York Times reported, Hulu is starting to behave just like a television network, with the online video hub linking up with a third-party distributor to sell its original shows overseas. The arrangement means that FremantleMedia will have the first pop at shopping around Hulu’s shows to sell on to international TV channels.
Back in the UK, the BBC finally announced plans to monetize its digital content this week, when BBC director general Mark Thompson confirmed that the broadcaster is working to launch a service that will let users download individual TV programs for a fee.
The idea is that Project Barcelona, as it is currently known, will offer an iTunes-esque service not just for archived BBC content, but programmes that have just been broadcast. As with any BBC announcement these days, the critics were out in force, though we did our best to explain why its download-to-own (DTO) plans make a lot of sense.
Not a week goes by without ‘social TV’ finding its way into the media and, well, this week was no different. “TV is in the early stages of an online revolution, and the MIPCube conference in Cannes, France, later this month is set to highlight the innovations taking place across the television industry,” wrote TNW’s Martin Bryant.
One of the events we’re particularly looking forward to is TV Hack Day, which will bring together creative technologists to explore the next generation of social TV-related apps by harnessing a broad range of APIs. Here’s hoping we see a lot of cool innovations emerge from this event.
Read it and weep
Oh dear, what is the world coming to? People with a healthy interest in fundamental freedoms and basic human rights may have heard about SABAM, the Belgian society for collecting music royalties. It has become somewhat of a global poster child for how out of touch with reality certain rightsholders groups really are.
Word got out this week that SABAM is spending time and resources contacting local libraries across the nation, warning them that they will start charging fees because the libraries engage volunteers to read books to kids. “Volunteers. Who – again – READ BOOKS TO KIDS,” wrote TNW’s Robin Wauters. “Don’t bother looking at the date: it’s not April Fools Day just yet.”
If that didn’t bring a tear to your eye, this one might. Encyclopaedia Britannica announced that after 244 years of doing business, it was going out of print. That’s right, the Internet and, perhaps more specifically Wikipedia, have won…though Tim Carmody from Wired argued that Wikipedia didn’t kill Britannica, Windows did. He said:
“Microsoft pitched Britannica on developing a version of Britannica for PCs in the 1980s, with Windows 1.0. After Britannica turned Microsoft down, Microsoft partnered with Funk & Wagnall’s, rebranding it Encarta and focusing on a lean, computer-specific program that could help sell personal computers beyond productivity applications like Word and Excel.
Encarta is more important to this story than Wikipedia. It’s easy to see Brittanica [SIC] going web-only as a story of “Wikipedia wins, because open beats closed,” and start making general statements about the fate of everything only if that’s the lens you use to see every story, in no small part because you have a very short memory.”
Well, there was no hard feelings on Britannica’s part, saying that change is okay. “For one thing, the encyclopedia will live on—in bigger, more numerous, and more vibrant digital forms,” it proclaimed. “And just as important, we the publishers are poised, in the digital era, to serve knowledge and learning in new ways that go way beyond reference works. In fact, we already do.”
We can’t talk about digital books without at least giving a wave to Amazon. This week, paidContent reported that Amazon has sold over two million Kindle singles since it launched the short-form e-books a little over a year go, but that didn’t stop Laura Hazard Owen from the same publication asking who should control e-book pricing, publishers or Amazon?
Spreading the news
Back in January, we reported that the Daily Mail’s website had become the world’s most visited English language news site. But its focus on churnalism over good old-fashioned journalism does wind people up the wrong way, especially when it steals stories without giving much in the way of credit.
As Poynter reports this week, The Daily Beast ran with a piece about a women who refused an arranged marriage. MailOnline ran its own version of the story, and changed it from first person to third person. After offering only “the tiniest fig leaf of attribution”, The Daily Mail finally pulled the story completely, presumably because it realised it can’t just steal a story, rewrite it and attempt to pass it off as one of its own.The link now takes you to an error page.
Meanwhile, the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper announced that it’s launching apps for iPhone and Android, as it looks to capitalize on the boom in smartphones in the UK and across the world. Maybe it realized that with newspaper ad sales slipping to a 27-year low, it has to do something to make sure it stays afloat.
Elsewhere, at The Financial Times, 250 journalists downed tools for two hours after talks over ongoing pay dispute failed to result in a deal.
Finally, Curate.me, formerly known as XYDO Brief, debuted this week after a 6-month invitation-only beta period, during which somewhere in the region of 20,000 users jumped on board. It’s a service which delivers personalized news to your inbox based on your interests and data mined from your social networks and news sources.
Blogging’s big business
News abounded this week that CNN was to follow in AOL’s footsteps by snapping up a popular technology-based blog.
Reuters reported that CNN was in talks to acquire Mashable for more than $200m, an announcement it said could happen as soon as Tuesday this week. Alas, it didn’t happen, though in this instance it seems likely that there’s no smoke without fire, and it could still happen at some point. Indeed, it does seem like quite a good fit for both companies, who are already content partners.
Perhaps the biggest news of the week, however, was that the mighty Twitter had acquired shortform blogging company Posterous. Indeed, it seems that Twitter is perhaps more interested in the people, rather than the product, which led many to worry about their Posterous-hosted content. WordPress did alright out of the deal too, as it saw a 250% increase in imports from Posterous in the hours following the acquisition.
Music to our ears
Last year, we waxed lyrical about why Turntable.fm was the most exciting social service of the year, just before it shut up shop to everyone outside the US. Any fears that the service could be a short-live fad were laid to rest this week, when it announced at SXSW that it now has licensing deals with all four major record labels, meaning that Turntable.fm will be around for some time to come.
With downloads now playing a major role in music charts the world over, it was surely only a matter of time before ‘streaming’ was included too, right? Right. Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 songs chart will now include data from streaming sites and subscription-music services such as Spotify, Rhapsody International and Rdio.
“If someone hands you a promotional flyer for a band playing a concert down the street, you may well ignore it – but what if you could ‘play’ that flyer to hear what the band sounded like?”, pondered TNW’s Martin Bryant. “That’s just one idea being floated by an agency looking into how printed electronics could ‘save the music industry.'”
A UK-based agency is exploring printed electronics, which involves printing using special inks that create electrical circuits, turning a humble piece of paper into something far more interesting. Fascinating stuff.