While most radio stations are looking for ways to expand their online presence, CBS Interactive Music Group is doing the opposite with social music site Last.fm. by giving the brand an all new station to be broadcast on the company’s HD multicast stations. Last.fm will effectively take over CBS (NYSE: CBS) HD broadcast stations starting in four markets: New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco. The broadcasts kick off on Monday, October 5. The broadcast—it will be the same in all markets—will feature a mix of music aggregated and influenced by the service’s user-generated weekly charts. It’ll also broadcast live performances and interviews from the Last.fm studios in New York, David Goodman, president of the recently formed CBSi Music Group said during a a press conference Thursday evening. Goodman also told paidContent that CBS will devote more resources toward promoting HD radio in general, something that could give Microsoft’s upcoming Zune HD devices a boost as well. (And vice versa, since it could make HD radio more affordable and more portable for some who have yet to take the leap.)
Listeners will be able to access the station through the Last.fm site as well as CBS Radio and Yahoo Music radio sites. Naturally, it will also be available on the related mobile apps for the iPhone, iPod Touch and certain BlackBerrys. You can’t get HD radio on a regular player; only HD radio receivers in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and San Francisco will also be able to access the station, which will use the spectrum space occupied by CBS RADIO’s WWFS-FM (102.7 HD2), KCBS-FM (93.1 HD2), WXRT-FM (93.1 HD3) and KITS-FM (105.3 HD3), respectively. “It is the flip side of what usually happens—in most cases, a media property becomes a website last—but in this case, it’s a site that becomes an over-the-air property,” Goodman told paidContent. “This will give us greater ability to generate more awareness of Last.fm in the U.S. and we’re going to be promoting HD radio heavily.”
I also caught up with CBS Interactive CEO Quincy Smith, who conceded that Last.fm has not been as serious about branding in the U.S. as it should be. Smith: “Its peers have been more aggressive and HD radio is a good platform to help get that started. It plays really well to something that would otherwise be a linear feed, ironically. But radio is the first media platform that’s all about interactivity. It makes sense for Last.fm to reverse the circle.”
How do you craft a video conversation among four out of 10 extremely opinionated women, all of whom live in different area codes? That’s the challenge Rob Morhaim faces every week as the executive producer of DECA’s Momversation, which distills the mommy blogger phenomenon into a weekly, 5-minute-long series.
But after more than 100 episodes, Morhaim has it down to a science. First off is the topic, which might come from any number of sources: Morhaim will brainstorm on his own, drawing from current events as well as the blogs of the Momversation moms (including Heather Armstrong of Dooce and Dana Loesch of Mamalogues, but often the bloggers will come to him with ideas. For example, one episode featured a discussion about keeping guns in the house because one of the bloggers did and was interested to hear what the other women thought about that.
Then Morhaim determines which four of the 10 on-staff bloggers will appear in the episode, casting based on the potential for discussion within the topic. One will take the lead-off spot, recording a video introducing themselves and laying out the topic and its context. They then post that video to a private Blip.tv account, to which the other moms have access.
The other women will then watch that first video and respond to it. While the first person to respond is doing so just to the starter, the other women down the line can see and respond to all the videos that come before them. Each woman can do upwards of two videos per person, and receive a talent fee for their efforts.
Then comes the editing, which Morhaim and an editor do together. This week’s episode, The Warning Signs of Moms Who Drink Too Much, is a pretty frank discussion of the subject, with one mother flatly admitting to having a problem while others defend their choice to drink as their “treat.” The package is tightly edited, allowing for fun moments with each blogger as well as real discussion of their thoughts on the topic. My only major complaint is that the background music (at least on this episode) is too close to something you’d hear at a too-cool-for-school gallery opening — there’s a disconnect between it and the content that’s a bit jarring.
While DECA distributes the episodes itself through an official site, all the participating bloggers can also post the videos on their own blogs. And the format is so successful for DECA that it’s replicated it for other genres of blogging, most recently the food series Good Bite.
But the way in which Morhaim (who is a parent himself) considers it to be a major success is how it’s become a showcase for the women featured. “We try to give it much of the look of a real conversation as possible,” Morhaim said. “But it’s much better than live conversation, because things women will say to a camera on their own, in their homes — we wouldn’t get anything like this otherwise. The intimacies we get are amazing. These women don’t play to the camera at all; they’re just talking.”
Google (NSDQ: GOOG) has now agreed to let any book retailer resell access to the out-of-print books it is putting online via its Google Books search engine. But the offer does not seem to have appeased the company’s critics, who contend that Google will still wield too much control over the book industry—and particularly over so-called orphan books—if its $125 million settlement with the publishing industry gets approved.
At a House Judiciary hearing, Google chief legal officer David Drummond defended the settlement, saying that it only covers the relatively small number of in-copyright, out-of-print books and will greatly expand access to those texts. He also specifically noted that Google’s concession meant that the company’s competitors, including Amazon.com (NSDQ: AMZN), would now be able to sell access to the digital copies of out-of-print books. They would get the majority of revenue after rightsholders are compensated.
But Amazon promptly rejected the offer, saying “The Internet has never been about intermediation. We’re happy to work with rights holders without anybody else’s help.” (via CNET).
The U.S. Copyright Office also lined up against the settlement at the hearing, with Register of Copyrights Marybeth Peters saying that Google would be distributing out-of-print books without the approval of their authors. “To allow a commercial entity to sell such works without consent is an end-run around copyright law as we know it,” she said, according to Dow Jones.
Google has made other concessions lately. The company said earlier this week that books from European publishers would only be displayed in the U.S. if those publishers granted the company permission. A U.S. District Court needs to approve the settlement; a hearing is scheduled Oct. 7.
Talk about incentive plans: according to an SEC filing, Discovery Communications (NSDQ: DISCA) CEO David Zaslav could earn more than $55 million if he sticks around through 2014 and hits all his goals. That’s on top of base compensation and annual bonuses. (Details below.) The payments are included in a contract extension announced today by Discovery, complete with glowing comments from Liberty Media’s Dr. John Malone. Zaslav’s contract had more than two years to run but, pleased with his progress on every front since joining Discovery from NBC Universal in early 2007 (and hoping to keep him from being headhunted), the board moved to lock him in through the beginning of 2015.
His new compensation package:
— includes a 50 percent raise to $3 million base salary, effective Jan. 1, 2011;
—switches a guaranteed bonus that started at $3 million annually and was scheduled to move down to $1 million a year, to an target annual incentive amount that increases to $4 million for 2009 and moves up $500,000 a year to $6.5 million in 2014.
—includes an incentive payment for service; if he is still at the company on Dec. 31, 2014, he would be “entitled to receive, upon his separation from service (including upon a voluntary resignation), an amount equal to the sum of (a) two times the average of the preceding two year’s base salary plus (b) the average of the preceding two year’s annual bonus.” That would be $12.25 million if he hits the full bonuses in that last two years.
—Three tranches of performance-based Restricted Stock Units to be issued in 2010, 2011, 2012; the RSUs for each performance metric can be earned only if the metric is “fully achieved.” No percentages. If he met every goal 100 percent, Zaslav could make up to $44 million in RSUs.
Zaslav’s already taken the company public, cut costs, overhauled programming, increased ratings, pushed sales up, and started a JV with Oprah Winfrey. How that JV to rebrand Discovery Health into OWN turns out—it’s already been pu8shed back to next year—will have a lot to say about whether he gets all that pay.