Peter Cohen: ‘Home Sharing Is iPod Touch’s Killer App for Families’

It’s been the case all along that iPhone apps have the same sharing policy as DRM-protected music and video from the iTunes Store: you can share them between up to five computers registered with the same iTunes account credentials. What’s new now is that iTunes 9 makes it easy and obvious how to do so, right within iTunes itself.

Update: Fireballed at the moment, and I can’t find a cached version, alas.

Karthika Muthukumaraswamy: Why Press 5 for Customer Service When You Can Twitter?

A few weeks ago, while having issues with my cable service, Comcast became my rightful target for a string of disapproving tweets. They didn't go unnoticed. "@ComcastBill" responded to my complaints, and asked if there was any way he could help. I did not seek his advice or counsel, but a survey around the blogosphere vouches for his legitimacy. ComcastBill's offer of help came on the heels of another from one of my Facebook acquaintances, also an employee of Comcast.

Social media portals are changing the ways in which companies are doing business, thanks to one-on-one interactions between consumers and employees, either within or outside the professional sphere. There is no denying that big corporations, including the telecommunications giant, are successfully using Twitter to respond to customer concerns and grievances. Gone are the days of merely using Internet monitoring and public surveys to find out what consumers want. Today, all retailers have to do is "listen" to conversations on social networks.

That social media are catching on in the business world is clear from Business Week's recent list of 50 CEOs on Twitter, from Virgin Atlantic's garrulous Richard Branson to the very influential Kevin Rose, founder of Digg.

It is not merely about having a presence on social media, however. Some companies use Twitter to simply send out a deluge of messages about products and services. Launching a Twitter page and letting the technology fend for itself is not what social media is about. Companies have to invest time, resources and personnel in order to do social networking right.

As Soren Gordhamer writes in this post on Mashable, businesses would do well to start embracing Twitter to increase accessibility and add a personal touch to their consumer interactions. And it works both ways. Customers can spread the word about both their good and bad experiences to hundreds of followers in an instant. This further emphasizes the need for corporations to address issues in real time.

Little wonder, then, that some CEOs are surveying the Twittersphere, and directly responding to people's tweets about their company's products. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, which was recently acquired by Amazon, is a great example of this, known as he is to personally respond to tweets from his over 1 million followers. This is also a great way for smaller companies to establish their brands. That's how Loic Le Meur, CEO of software startup Seesmic, reinforces his commitment to consumer interaction.

The important thing about Twitter use by these CEOs is that it is clear they are not just tweeting to push their products or applaud their companies. Their tweets about consumer goods come interspersed with those about the wines they like and the television shows they watch. Why do I care if Tony Hsieh plans to run 12 miles today? Quite simply, personal touch. This merely shows the human face behind the company, and increases trust and authenticity. It would be appropriate here to make a distinction between "prosumer tweeters," such as Hsieh, who tweet as individuals on behalf of a company, and brand tweeters, such as Comcast, whose employees predominantly use Twitter as a channel to serve customers.

Regardless of the purpose, interactivity is paramount. While Dell is best known to have promoted its sales on Twitter and amassed $3 million in revenue in the process, its Twitter page is mostly filled with @replies to customer questions. It also seeks suggestions and ideas for new products.

Another important aspect is content. Content in a 140-character tweet, you ask? Some of the most successful businesses on social media post tweets linking to material (preferably on their own Web sites) that their follower base would find interesting. A classic example is Whole Foods, which links to informative articles about healthy eating and organic lifestyles through its Twitter page.

Twitter is also a great channel to transmit real-time information that might affect customers, especially in the case of companies that provide services. For instance, Comcast used Twitter to communicate news of a power outage that had caused loss of transmission during a Stanley Cup playoff game in April.

While many businesses allocate specific PR personnel to manage their Twitter pages, the most successful tweeting companies, notably Zappos, have a freewheeling approach to social networking. Employees are allowed to tweet under the company's umbrella, and there are no set guidelines, which really is in keeping with the general philosophy of social media.

This distributed nature of online communication also means that bad news about a company is going to circulate as quickly as good news, as Starbucks found recently, when its Twitter ad campaign was seized by film director Robert Greenwald to spread word about the company's own anti-labor practices.

However, as with everything else Web 2.0, transparency and authenticity win out in the end. Organizations that are opening up their businesses to social networks are doing better and better with customers. This is more important now than it has been in the past, as people place higher priorities on customer service when purse strings are tighter.

Social media portals allow endless channels of communication. As long as businesses can find creative ways to use them, the possibilities, too, are endless.


Chris Kelly: Liz Cheney Recycles

Liz Cheney is related by blood -- or whatever the Cheneys drink -- to a real live-ish former vice president of the United States. And they're close, too. Just ask her, or today's New York Times.

By all accounts, the Cheneys are a tight-knit and at times insular unit steeped in the family business. The extended brood all live within about 15 minutes of one another in northern Virginia. They gather for Sunday night dinners, usually at Liz's house, and travel to family homes in Jackson Hole, Wyo., and the Eastern Shore of Maryland.


Ms. Cheney began her Nashville speech by saying that she had asked her father for advice on what she should say. "That's a really important room full of people," she said he told her. "So don't screw it up." Laughter ensued.

Liz Cheney was speaking to a meeting of the prestigious Smart Girl Politics™ (Established July, 2008) Smart Girls Summit. So you could see why it would have dominated Sunday dinner conversation, six days before. And why Dick Cheney would send his little girl out there with his asshole clenched like an imploding star, hoping they'd be impressed.

"This is the Smart Girl Nation, kid. The Big Time. Make me proud. And if you get nervous, just imagine them naked, and being tortured."

Don't screw it up.

The Times weren't the only people struck by this rare insight into table talk in the Cheney keep. The Smart Girls were deeply touched.

From their website:

After the morning's speakers and panels... Liz Cheney spoke to us about the importance of national security. Before she got into the topic at hand, she told us that she had asked her dad (former Vice President Dick Cheney) for some advice on speaking to us grass root activists. He told her, "They are the future of our country. Don't screw it up." What a difference in thinking from some other politicians! This man actually understands the significance of the conservative brush fire sweeping through our country.

They probably meant to say "prairie fire." A prairie fire is something good, in political clichés. A brush fire? Not so good. At least they didn't say "trash fire."

Still, awfully nice for the Smart Girls, to know they're on Dick's mind. And what a revealing, off-the-cuff nugget for the Times, too.

Here's the thing, though. The "don't screw up" story? Liz Cheney says it every time she gives a speech. She just changes the name of the audience.

Here she is, for instance, at the Redstate Gathering, in Atlanta, last August:

I want to bring greetings to you from the whole Cheney family. When I told my dad I was coming today I asked him for some advice, and he said to me, in a nice, kind fatherly way, "Liz, this is a really important group. So don't screw it up."

And that's okay, too. Politicians have been known to say the same thing more than once. There's a cliché about faking sincerity and it's brushing the country like a conservative on fire.

But a reporter should know the difference between a line from a stump speech and spontaneous sharing. Not being able to tell one from the other is kind of bush.

And the Smart Girls might want to find a new adjective.


Gang Land Entrepreneur

In a feature story in yesterday's Washington Post, Jerry Capeci's subscription-only "Gang Land" Web site is held up as a possible template for newspapers trying to figure out how to charge for content on the Web. Capeci's column on all things Mafia began in the New York Daily News in 1989, running until 1995. He took the column...

How the YouTube-Warner Music Deal Got Done: Meet Vevo Jr.

green_day_Warner Music and YouTube, co-owners of the one of the Web’s nastiest spats, are about to patch things up. How’d they do it? By cutting a deal that looks a lot like the one YouTube has already made with Universal Music Group.

Last December, talks between Warner and YouTube to renew a licensing deal broke down, and Warner’s videos disappeared from the world’s largest video site. Now, as Advertising Age has reported, an agreement is in the works that will bring Green Day, Madonna and their label-mates back to the site.

What hasn’t been reported, so far: The deal terms themselves. Neither company is talking, but sources familiar with the negotiations tell me the new pact will be similar to the one Google’s (GOOG) video unit struck earlier this year with Universal Music Group.

That deal created Vevo, a sort of “Hulu for music videos,” owned by Universal and Sony (SNE). So think of Warner’s deal as a “son of Vevo.”

The big idea is the same: Try to create more value for videos by limiting their distribution and creating a more ad-friendly atmosphere around them, and share ad revenue between YouTube and the videos’ owner. The big points:

  • Unlike Vevo, Warner and YouTube won’t be creating a separate site for Warner videos, and Warner won’t be creating a separate company dedicated to its videos. Instead, YouTube will help Warner create a “premium advertising platform” for its videos within YouTube.
  • Warner will take primary responsibility for selling its videos, and YouTube will receive a cut of the revenue.
  • Warner will no longer receive a licensing fee each time one of its videos is played.

I gather that a lot of this is still being hashed out, and some of this will evolve even after the deal is inked. For instance, Warner needs to figure out how it’s going to sell advertising for its clips, since it doesn’t have its own sales force. Timing is also up in the air: Even after the two sides formally announce the pact, users shouldn’t expect to see Warner videos instantly reappearing on YouTube; it may be that they only get rolled out as the new ad platform is built.

Then there’s the ad platform itself: I haven’t been able to get a concrete definition of what this is supposed to look like, but for now, I’m imagining something like the “channels” YouTube has made for partners like ESPN, except they’d be made on an artist-by-artist basis.

All in all, this sounds like a fair deal. Warner loses a guaranteed revenue stream, but if its contention about the value of its videos is correct, it will make even more than it did under the old arrangement. Meanwhile, YouTube gets to hang onto “premium” inventory without being locked into the kind of  pay-per-play arrangement that helped drive the site’s expenses sky-high.

The potential downside for YouTube: If this works–or if the Vevo deal works–it will have to create similar packages/portals/platforms to retain or attract other “premium” content suppliers, like, say Hollywood studios. But given that the site has had limited success getting those guys on board so far, that’s not the worst fate in the world.

In the meantime, even though Green Day is Warner act, you can still find plenty of its clips on YouTube–it’s just that most of them are odds and ends like this grainy concert video:

AP Stylebook Now Available As An iPhone App—For $28.99

The Associated Press Stylebook is pretty much a required fixture on journalists’ desks, but with today’s release of the reference work as an app for the iPhone and iPod touch, it just got a lot easier to carry around. However, the $28.99 price tag for the app is a lot heavier than the current $18.95 non-AP members have to fork over (AP members and college students can get the spiral bound edition for $11.75). It’s also slightly more than the $25 annual online subscription to the Stylebook. At a time when many reporters have found themselves laid off or seen a cut in the wages, the price might seem a bit steep. But the app will be updated annually with each new addition, so it could save reporters and editors from having to go out and buy a new one every few years.

That said, the AP said it won’t charge for the upgrades now, but of course that could change. The creation of the Stylebook app comes as the AP has been looking more to digital for its revenues, including the selling licensed AP photos and other archival material online. So far, the AP Mobile app, which includes a mix of breaking news and photos, remains free. Release

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paidContent Quick Hits: 9.28.09

»  Can Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) or Google (NSDQ: GOOG) win the $7.25-million contract to replace Los Angeles’s outdated e-mail system? [LA Times]

»  Disney (NYSE: DIS) goes shopping to revive its content. [NY Post]

»  Google’s Fast Flip could hurt the media industry more than help it. [SF Gate]

»  Technical limitations will prevent the Kindle from becoming the iPhone of e-readers. [Local Mobile Search]

»  Playboy TV is looking at the “TV Everywhere model” to bring its content online. [MultiChannel News]

»  Twitter is saving all your tweets but dumping the location tagging after two weeks. [ReadWriteWeb]

»  Is Google Places just a way for Google to link to itself and control the flow of traffic? [Beyond Search]