ViVu Plugs Into Skype, Takes Video Chat to the Next Level

Have you ever wanted to host a video chat over Skype with more than two participants? How about sharing documents or presentations while chatting in real time? Well video conferencing startup ViVu has got you covered, with a new plugin that will allow enterprises to host multi-user video chats and share documents through Skype.

ViVu, which came out of stealth mode last October with a $3 million Series A financing round, offers a SaaS video webcast and collaboration service that it hopes will rival Citrix’s GoToMeeting and Cisco’s WebEx. The startup launched with a browser-based platform for video conferencing that can support hundreds of users and allows participants to interact with each other while viewing presentations or other materials.

Now the company is stepping outside the browser with a Skype plugin, called VuRoom, that extends its multi-user video chat and collaboration capabilities to the voice and video conferencing application. Looking to continue to offer low-priced alternatives to GoToMeeting and WebEx, ViVu has priced VuRoom at just $9.95 a month for users that will act as conference hosts — and the plugin is free to download for conference participants. ViVu is also making the plugin available for free to customers that use its browser-based conferencing service.

Once installed, a host can select users from his Skype buddy list to join a video chat and share documents or his desktop with users in the conference. But the plugin isn’t necessary to join a conference; hosts can also have Skype buddies join by clicking a URL, which will take them to a browser-based user interface.

Being able to connect without having the plugin installed is a plus, since the installation process isn’t as easy as one might hope, in my experience. It’s a job that is probably best left to IT staff — or at least done with the help of someone that is familiar with setting it up. As a result, it’s not clear how many participants will end up installing the plugin on their own. However, once installed, the app works as advertised and delivers an easy-to-use interface for chatting with multiple participants and sharing documents, based on my test with ViVu CEO Sudha Valluru.

ViVu currently has about 50 enterprise customers for its browser-based conferencing but hopes to grow that number by extending to other platforms. According to Valluru, the Skype plugin is just the first step for VuRoom, which ViVu plans to extend to other instant messaging platforms in the near future.

Related GigaOM Pro Research:

Is Facebook Video Chat the Future of Social Media?

The New York Times Officially Starts Construction on Its Pay Wall: “Metered Model” Coming 2011

great walljpgAfter much consideration, the New York Times has finally decided to start charging readers for access to its Web site. But not for a while: The Times says it will introduce a “metered model”–which offers a certain number of free visits to NYT.com before requiring a payment–in 2011.

The publisher hasn’t said how much it will charge readers and isn’t offering many other details for now. But subscribers to the print edition will be able to access the site for free.

By adopting the “metered model,” the New York Times (NYT) is emulating the Financial Times, which lets readers peruse up to 10 stories a month before forcing them to buy a subscription to the online paper.

That model isn’t all that different from the subscription strategy employed by News Corp.’s (NWS) Wall Street Journal: While much of the Journal is theoretically behind a pay wall, it’s a fairly permeable one designed to give both casual readers and search engines access to the content. (News Corp.’s Dow Jones owns both the WSJ and this Web site).

Both are have-cake/eat-cake strategies: Generate as big an audience as possible to sell to advertisers while extracting a second revenue stream from hard-core readers. The Times, which is reportedly generating $100 million a year from Web display ads, wants to do the same thing.

The paper has tried a pay wall before. In 2005, it rolled out “Times Select” whereby it cordoned off access to op-ed columnists like Thomas Friedman and to archived stories and other features. That strategy generated around $10 million a year. But it was considered a failed experiment, and the Times dropped the wall in September 2007.

Now, of course, $10 million a year sounds like a nice boost for a paper that lost more than $35 million in its most recent quarter and saw print ad revenue plummet throughout the year.

A New York Magazine story published on Sunday predicted the timing of the announcement, even though New York Times executive editor Bill Keller told me the piece was “long on speculation.”

The New York Times Announces Plans for a Metered Model for NYTimes.com in 2011NEW YORK, Jan 20, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) — The New York Times announced today that it will be introducing a paid model for NYTimes.com at the beginning of 2011.
The new approach, referred to as the metered model, will offer users free access to a set number of articles per month and then charge users once they exceed that number. This will enable NYTimes.com to create a second revenue stream and preserve its robust advertising business. It will also provide the necessary flexibility to keep an appropriate ratio between free and paid content and stay connected to a search-driven Web.
Through 2010, NYTimes.com will be building a new online infrastructure designed to provide consumers with a frictionless experience across multiple platforms. Once the metered model is implemented, New York Times home delivery print subscribers will continue to have free access to NYTimes.com.
“Our new business model is designed to provide additional support for The New York Times’ extraordinary, professional journalism,” said Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., chairman of The New York Times Company and publisher of The New York Times. “Our audiences are very loyal and we believe that our readers will pay for our award-winning digital content and services.”
“This process of rethinking our business model has also been driven by our desire to achieve additional revenue diversity that will make us less susceptible to the inevitable economic cycles,” said Janet L. Robinson, president and CEO, The New York Times Company. “We were also guided by the fact that our news and information are being featured in an increasingly broad range of end-user devices and services, and our pricing plans and policies must reflect this vision.”
More details regarding the metered model will be available in the coming months.

[Image credit: etoile]

It’s Official: NYT To Start Charging For Content In 2011

It has finally happened. After twelve months (or more) of rumors and speculation the New York Times has announced that it will start charging for content in 2011. Here’s the money quote from the press release:

The new approach, referred to as the metered model, will offer users free access to a set number of articles per month and then charge users once they exceed that number. This will enable NYTimes.com to create a second revenue stream and preserve its robust advertising business. It will also provide the necessary flexibility to keep an appropriate ratio between free and paid content and stay connected to a search-driven Web.

Also worth noting is that the Times says will spend the next year creating and building their own “new online infrastructure,” which is good news in the sense that the NYT.com has continually been a leader in what a news organization should look like online. Hopefully they will apply the same ingenuity to whatever pay model they create. That said, the metered system is viewed by many as a way of ‘punishing’ the most loyal readers; people who use the site most have to pay the most, which in most other industries would make perfect sense, but in this one may prove a challenge.

Meanwhile, before everyone gets too riled up, according to Times media reporter Richard Perez-Pena the details are still super foggy:

But executives of The New York Times Company said they could not yet answer fundamental questions about the plan, like how much it would cost or what the limit would be on free reading. They stressed that the amount of free access could change with time, in response to economic conditions and reader demand.

In a memo to staff ‘Arthur and Janet’ [Sulzberger and Robinson] explain why the change now:

We are doing so because we believe that a second revenue stream will be an important part of our future…Fundamentally, this is an important step in our effort to support The New York Times’s high-quality, professional journalism….We also selected the metered model because it offers a number of important virtues from a financial and growth perspective. It allows NYTimes.com to remain a vibrant part of the search-driven Web, which has proven to be an integral reason for why we have become an industry leader in display advertising.

Also, rest assured print subscribers, according to the same memo you will not have to pay an additional fee for online access.

Full press release after the jump. Full memo at Romenesko.


U.S. X Factor: Digital Features Highly, But Won’t Be Online-Only

Simon Cowell

Sir Philip Green may have declared his hope for a big online element to the planned U.S. X Factor show - but don’t expect that show to be online-only.

The Arcadia retail chairman told GQ last month, prior to becoming a shareholder in a new Simon Cowell company that will jointly own his Syco label with Sony (NYSE: SNE) Music Entertainment: “The plan is to take it to Vegas ... We’ll have a store. And it’ll all be online. You have 20, 30, 40 million people tuning in twice a week... You bring two or three hundred million viewers to a venue. It’s turning it up a peg.”

A Syco/SME spokesperson tells paidContent:UK: “Digital is a big part of what we do. It figures highly in what we’re doing. At the moment, I can’t see an online-only show happening. That’s speculation gone too far.”

X Factor’s journey to America, on Fox from 2011, coincides with an ownership restructure at Syco, Idol creator Simon Fuller exiting the 19 company that controls that format, and Cowell’s exit as an American Idol judge.

Syco is not revealing details of how it plans to harness the internet in its attack on the U.S. but Green’s all-online idea would be a fair bit more than what its rival show American Idol does now. In the next season, Fuller says Idol will add online auditions to the format, and will promote this through MySpace. The show currently has no full-length online stream of its programme on its official site, showing only highlights.

Like others in the music business, Cowell has had a love-hate relationship with the internet. It undoubtedly did wonders for Susan Boyle, now signed to his label, when a clip of her appearances on Syco’s Britain’s Got Talent went galactically viral on YouTube. But a Facebook campaign derailed his hopes for a Christmas number-one in place of a track from Rage Against the Machine. His label Syco also had to call in the police to try to track down the “networks” that hacked into the labels’ systems to get tracks from Leona Lewis and Alexandra Burke.

Neither Cowell nor Fuller will want to repeat the lost opportunity of the SuBo phenomenon, when ITV (LSE: ITV) and Fremantle reportedly missed out anywhere between £200,000 and £1.5 million by not monetising YouTube clips.

And Green is keen to improve Syco’s digital track record, too - further highlights from the GQ interview…

—Green: “Look at Guitar Hero. It’s a billion-dollar business. Now: [Simon’s] got more viewers, more hits, more everything - and he hasn’t even got a website! This is a man with 100 million votes on the biggest show in America, and he hasn’t got a website?”

—Cowell: “We should have had 20 games. If you’ve got a game that’s worth more than our shows, and we’re in 100 countries, something is a bit out of control. X Factor should have been the initial vehicle to have had [Guitar Hero publishers] Activision (NSDQ: ATVI) come to us and say, ‘You’ve got all the traffic, can you help launch Guitar Hero?’”

Related


New York Times ‘Metered Model’: Paywall Announcement Confirms Report

The New York Times Wednesday confirmed reports that it would introduce a "metered model" to its website, formally announcing plans to introduce "a paid model for NYTimes.com at the beginning of 2011."

Under the metered model, the newspaper's website "will offer users free access to a set number of articles per month and then charge users once they exceed that number."

"This will enable NYTimes.com to create a second revenue stream and preserve its robust advertising business," the announcement said. "It will also provide the necessary flexibility to keep an appropriate ratio between free and paid content and stay connected to a search-driven Web."

"Our new business model is designed to provide additional support for The New York Times's extraordinary, professional journalism," New York Times chairman and publisher Arthur Sulzberger, Jr. said in the announcement "Our audiences are very loyal and we believe that our readers will pay for our award-winning digital content and services."

"This process of rethinking our business model has also been driven by our desire to achieve additional revenue diversity that will make us less susceptible to the inevitable economic cycles," New York Times Company CEO Janet Robinson said in the announcement. "We were also guided by the fact that our news and information are being featured in an increasingly broad range of end-user devices and services, and our pricing plans and policies must reflect this vision."

New York Magazine's Gabriel Sherman reported that the Times planned the metered model over the weekend.

UPDATE In interviews with the NYT's Richard Perez-Pena, Sulzberger and Robinson expanded on their rationale for instituting the metered model.

"This announcement allows us to begin the thought process that's going to answer so many of the questions that we all care about," Sulzberger said. "We can't get this halfway right or three-quarters of the way right. We have to get this really, really right....This is a bet, to a certain degree, on where we think the Web is going."

Robinson said, "There's no prize for getting it quick. There's more of a prize for getting it right."


Washington Post ‘A Newspaper In Disarray’: New Republic Goes ‘Inside The Messy Collapse Of A Great Newspaper’

Over the past few months, I have talked to about 50 current and former reporters, editors, Web staffers, and business employees. From these conversations, a picture has emerged of a paper suffering an identity crisis....the Post seems to be paralyzed-and trapped. It can't go completely local because the local news in Washington is, in many respects, national; and its status as the paper of record for national politics is under assault from numerous competitors--competitors it isn't clear the Post can defeat. Meanwhile, the tense, even hostile, relationship between the print and online divisions hasn't made the paper's search for a coherent identity any easier. And so, in a new era for journalism, The Washington Post has yet to figure out what it wants to be. The result has been a lot of lurching--some of it (like salongate) embarrassing, much of it merely ineffective, but almost all of it suggesting a newspaper in disarray.


Amazon Unveils New Kindle Royalty Option; Incentive To Keep E-Book Prices Down

Kindle DX

As word spreads of book publishers talking to Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) about a possible deal for its anticipated tablet device, Amazon (NSDQ: AMZN) is taking a preemptive strike by offering a plan that gives content owners a greater share of the royalties for e-books sold through the Kindle. The new option completely reverses Amazon’s standard 70 percent take of the revenue split from Kindle e-books. This new pricing plan will become available at the end of June. Amazon is clear that this new pricing plan will be in addition to the standard revenue deal the company offers to authors and publishers and is not a replacement for it. The e-tailer also points out that e-book publishers who choose the new option will receive 70 percent of list price, net of delivery costs. In order to take advantage of the special revenue plan, authors and publishers will have to adhere to a strict set of requirements on pricing and features.

First of all, the new option covers only those books that are priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Also, the e-book’s list price must be at least 20 percent below the lowest physical list price for the physical book. Titles in this plan have to be available for sale in all geographies where the author or publisher has rights. Most importantly, Amazon will not allow books that are sold for less in other stores—both physical and electronic—to participate in the new plan.

Despite these restrictions, the additional royalty option is meant to soften some of the complaints from publishers who have felt that Amazon’s existing revenue share model is tilted to far in favor of the e-tailer.

In its announcement,  Amazon points out that authors often receive royalties in the range of 7- to 15 percent of the list price that publishers set for their physical books, or 25 percent of the net that publishers receive from retailers for their digital books. It’s hard to say what impact Amazon’s plan will have on existing challenges from Sony (NYSE: SNE) and Barnes & Noble (NYSE: BKS). But it does show that whatever potential threat is coming from Apple, Amazon is already putting its defense in place. Release

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