German book association demands investigation into Amazon’s publisher negotiations


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Hachette isn’t the only big publisher that Amazon is playing hardball with — across the Atlantic, the retailer is also engaged in contract negotiations with media group Bonnier over its German business. Amazon has allegedly been delaying Bonnier book shipments in Germany, and it’s believed that the company is seeking larger discounts (for itself, not for readers) on ebooks from Bonnier publishers. On Tuesday, the German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein) announced that it filed a complaint against Amazon with the Federal Cartel Office, asking it to investigate. “Amazon is putting significant, coercion-like pressure on Bonnier to get the publisher to concede unjustified advantages during its ongoing negotiations,” the Association says in its 22-page complaint.* It pegs Amazon’s share of the print and ebook market at around 70 percent. The Association notes that so far, Amazon is limiting its shipment delays to older Bonnier titles, rather than “new releases and bestsellers,” but that Amazon may be saving that step “as increased leverage for the negotiations.” The complaint cites media reports that claim Amazon’s main demand is a larger commission on ebook sales — 40 or 50 percent of an ebook’s retail price, rather than the 30 percent it receives today. The complaint also says Amazon’s influence extends far beyond book sales, implying that if a book can’t be found on Amazon, customers may assume it doesn’t exist: “Consumers use Amazon increasingly” as a “kind of inventory catalog” to “quickly inform [them] about what books are available on specific topics. If an author or even a book by this author is not available on Amazon, the reader assumes that there are no (new) books by this author.” On Tuesday evening, Amazon denied that it’s delaying Bonnier shipments, saying that it is actually holding fewer titles in stock. It also confirmed that it’s seeking a larger commission on Bonnier ebook sales. Stateside, meanwhile, it appears that Amazon is close to settling its contract dispute with Warner Bros.: Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal both reported Monday that Amazon is making Warner Bros. DVDs available for pre-order again. *The quotations in this article were translated with the help of either Google Translate or our resident German speaker Janko.




ABC News is coming to Apple TV


This post is by from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Apple TV owners just got access to more news content, thanks to a new app from ABC News. The app, which launched Tuesday on the device, promises live hourly news updates and breaking event coverage through a total of four live streams. The app also offers local news content from ABC affiliates in select markets including Los Angeles, New York and Chicago. At launch, users will be able to access local content from a total of nine local ABC stations, and there are plans to add content from additional affiliates in the coming months. abc news apple tv app However, don’t expect complete live access to ABC Nightly News or Good Morning America. The app will only offer select video highlights of its most popular shows. The upside is that viewers won’t have to log in with their pay TV credentials, meaning that even cord cutters are welcome.




Player FM relaunches with new UI and in-app indexing


This post is by from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Podcast discovery service Player FM is in the process of launching a new version of its Android app that features a completely revamped user interface as well as something that will make Google very happy: in-app indexing, which will allow the search engine to highlight Player FM’s app within its mobile search results and further blur the lines between the web and native apps. Player FM founder Michael Mahemoff told me Monday that the launch of the new 2.0 version of the app should complete by Monday night. By that time, all upgraded users will have access to a new UI that comes with a card-like interface for podcast episodes, a full-screen mode during playback, a sleep timer and the ability to change the playback speed of a podcast, which I guess could be helpful if you’re using podcasts to learn a foreign language.
Player FMs new card-based UI.

Player FMs new card-based UI.

But one of the bigger changes is under the hood: Player FM is one of a number of Android apps that has added app indexing, which means that Google (A GOOG) is capable of crawling and indexing its in-app content as if it was a website. Google is using in-app indexing to surface app content in its user’s mobile search results. In the case of Player FM, this means that users who already have the app installed can search for a podcast title and find a link to the specific episode within the Player FM app directly within the search results. in app indexing For Google, these kinds of in-app results are a way to remain relevant in an era where online usage increasingly moves from desktops to mobile devices, and with that from the browser to dedicated apps. Google first announced in-app search at its Google I/O developer conference a year ago, and is likely going to update us on the development of the program at this year’s Google I/O conference in San Francisco later this week.




Ahead of its expansion, Netflix finds partners, foes in Europe


This post is by from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




It will likely be another three months until Netflix’s next major expansion into continental Europe, but the streaming video service is already making new friends and enemies in the targeted countries. Netflix is in the process of striking a partnership with Deutsche Telekom, according to a report by Germany’s Manager Magazin. Telekom apparently wants to carry Netflix on its IPTV platform, which is dubbed Entertain. This would mirror similar partnerships the streaming service has with other pay TV operators — with one notable difference: This could be the first time Netflix is available on a pay TV set-top box of a major operator that’s not based on TiVo’s DVR hardware. But not everyone is looking to align themselves with Netflix. Austrian public broadcaster ORF has acquired a stake in the local video service Filmmit, according to Austria’s Kurier (hat tip to Broadband TV News). ORF wants to use Filmmit, which is currently based on a transactional model, to build a platform that could be monetized through advertising and subscriptions, but there is a chance that regulators could block those plans. Netflix announced in May that it will expand to Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium and Luxembourg later this year. The company hasn’t said yet when exactly it intends to launch in those markets, but it is assumed that the launch will likely happen in early September.




This Firefox OS-powered streaming stick is Mozilla’s answer to Chromecast (exclusive video)


This post is by from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Google’s Chromecast streaming stick could soon get competition from an unexpected source: Mozilla has secretly been working with a partner on a Chromecast-like streaming stick that is powered by Firefox OS. The project was supposed to be under wraps for at least a few more weeks, but Thursday, news started to leak out when a Mozilla evangelist tweeted a photo of a prototype of the device. I’ve been tracking this project for some time. I’ve talked to sources directly involved, and actually was able to get my hands on one of the prototype devices that are currently being shared with a very small circle of developers. There are still lots of unanswered questions about this project; the device doesn’t have a name yet, it’s not exactly clear when it will go on sale, for how much, or in which markets, and I don’t know the name of the company that will eventually make or sell the hardware. What I do know is that it is an ambitious project that aims to combine Mozilla’s commitment to openness with a Chromecast-like media streaming device. And here’s the biggest surprise: The prototype I had access to not only works like Chromecast, it actually is capable of running some Chromecast apps. Check it out: Mozilla has been working for some time on adding casting and multiscreen capabilities to Firefox. Firefox developers have experimented with casting content to Roku streaming boxes, and recent developer notes hinted at the possibility that Firefox may also one day support Chromecast as well as an ominous “Netcast” device. It now looks like this Netcast device is this Firefox OS-powered streaming stick, even though Netcast is likely just another code name. The plan is apparently to add casting to Firefox as well as offer developers a casting device that is more open and hackable than Google’s Chromecast. Google opened up its Google Cast SDK earlier this year, and Google executives have said that they want to bring casting capabilities to countless of apps. However, there are some restrictions Google Cast developers are bound to. Certain types of content aren’t allowed, and the Google Cast SDK is thus far limited to Android and iOS apps as well as web apps. Mozilla’s device won’t come with these kinds of restrictions, which could enable developers to add cast capabilities to Windows Phone or Fire phone apps. Moreover, developers could also add casting to desktop apps, and may even be able to build their own cast-enabled hardware with little interference from Mozilla. It’s also possible that the hardware could be used to run other software, as it will apparently come with an open boot loader. Speaking of which: While Google closely controlled the development and manufacturing of its Chromecast adapter, it seems like Mozilla is far less involved in the actual manufacturing of this product, which mirrors the hands-off approach it has had when partnering with manufacturers for Firefox OS phones. That sentiment was echoed by  a Mozilla spokesperson, who sent me the following statement in response to an inquiry about the device:
“Firefox OS is an open platform freely available for any company to build on top of without restriction. This means companies can experiment with different form factors that run Firefox OS.”

And with that, it’s unclear when exactly we are going to see this as an actual product. But judging on the leak and the sources I have talked to, we may not have to wait that much longer. This post was updated at 1:18pm with a statement from Mozilla.




DRM is unfortunate, but it’s not the problem in Hachette vs. Amazon


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Let me start with the obligatory assurance that I’m no fan of DRM technologies. That’s why I use (illegal) tools to break it if I want to buy an ebook from another retailer and read it on my Kindle. Yet I disagree with author and BoingBoing co-editor Cory Doctorow’s argument that DRM plays a big role in the ongoing dispute between Amazon and book publisher Hachette. In a column in the Guardian Friday, Doctorow wrote that “because Hachette has been such a staunch advocate of DRM,” it hasn’t been able to take advantage of “a whole range of tactics” that would be available to it if it dropped DRM:
“Amazon’s ebook major competitors – especially Apple and Google – have lots of market clout, and their customers are already carrying around ebook readers (tablets and phones). Hachette could easily play hardball with Amazon by taking out an ad campaign whose message was, ‘Amazon won’t sell you our books – so we’re holding a 50% sale for anyone who wants to switch to buying ebooks from Apple, Google, Kobo or Nook.’”

To avoid Hachette’s fate, Doctorow wrote, it should emulate small imprints — namely Macmillan science fiction imprint Tor — that have dropped DRM: “Push out the entire catalogue without DRM, now, and arm yourself with an ‘Amazon Refugee’ app that can convert all your Kindle books to run on anyone else’s platform, ready to release the very instant Amazon tries this trick again.” But Tor’s removal of DRM in 2012 wasn’t the watershed moment that Doctorow hoped it would be – partly because Tor is a niche imprint with a devoted fan base. Hachette is a big company that consists of many imprints aimed at many different kinds of readers. That makes it very hard for it to sway readers in the way that Doctorow would like it to. Doctorow is famously against DRM, in any venue, on any type of media. But his focus on it in this instance overlooks larger issues at play. He assumes readers value direct relationships with large publishers much more than they actually do. Yes, publishers would like to have these relationships with readers, and yes, dropping DRM might help to enable those relationships by making it easier for publishers to sell ebooks directly through their own websites. But his post doesn’t take the reader’s priorities into account. Most readers will happily remain within the Kindle ecosystem — not because it does or doesn’t include DRM, but because it is freaking seamless. Kindle is the dominant e-reading platform in part because there’s a Kindle app available for pretty much every tablet and smartphone out there. That may be a “walled garden,” but it’s essentially a vast expanse that encompasses almost all devices. It’s tough to argue to convince readers that they are locked in if they don’t feel limited. They are likely to feel more limited, in fact, by switching over to apps from Amazon’s competitors that actually work on fewer devices. For Doctorow to describe Google as a “major competitor” to Amazon in ebooks is silly: Google may have digitized a lot of books, but it hasn’t put near the amount of focus or effort into the e-reading experience that Amazon has. Apple’s done better, but iBooks is available only on iOS and Macs running OS X Mavericks. Those ebook readers who care enough about DRM to have a problem with it will, like me and (presumably) like Cory Doctorow, download easy illegal tools and break it. Those who don’t care about DRM also, presumably, don’t care about their relationship with Hachette (or any given publisher) enough to download a separate, special publisher-made “Amazon Refugee” app that would almost definitely work much worse than any Kindle app because guess what: Amazon is way better at building consumer technology than general trade publishers are. Is it a problem that Hachette depends on Amazon for so much of its revenue? Clearly, yes, because Amazon knows that and is thus able to use all of the negotiating tactics it’s currently using, such as cutting off pre-orders and delaying shipments of print books for weeks. Those tactics really hurt Hachette and individual authors, but the jury is still out on how much everyday readers are noticing. Ultimately, that might be Hachette’s biggest problem: For every reader who cares, many more readers won’t. For Hachette to be on an even playing field with Amazon, it would have to be a completely different kind of company with power and influence to match Amazon’s. The problem is that it’s a book publisher instead.




YouTube confirms music service, upsetting some indie partners in the process


This post is by from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




YouTube officially confirmed Tuesday that it is going to launch a paid music subscription tier to its service. However, the service may come with some collateral damage: YouTube is going to start blocking music videos from five percent of its label partners. Affected are indie labels that haven’t agreed to YouTube’s licensing terms, according to a Financial Times report. The paper quoted YouTube content head Robert Kyncl saying that official music videos from labels that haven’t reached an agreement with YouTube will disappear from the service “in a matter of days.”  YouTube already has agreements with all the major labels and some indies in place, but could take down videos from artists like Adele and the Arctic Monkeys, according to the Times. However, it seems like these take-downs wouldn’t affect all of these artist’s videos. Vevo told Techcrunch that its Adele music videos will remain available, and the same will presumably be true for the Arctic Monkeys as well. Adding to the confusion are regional licensing disparities. A band may be on an indie label in the U.K., but distribute its music through a major label abroad, in which case U.S. users would continue to have access to these videos. Also not affected are the countless lip dubs, parodies and vacation videos that have been borrowing music from indie and major label artists alike. User-generated content will continue to be available on the site, and musicians will continue to be able to monetize these videos through ads, regardless of whether they have signed on for YouTube’s music service or not. Asked about the service and this dispute, a YouTube spokesperson sent me the following statement:
“Our goal is to continue making YouTube an amazing music experience, both as a global platform for fans and artists to connect, and as a revenue source for the music industry. We’re adding subscription-based features for music on YouTube with this in mind — to bring our music partners new revenue streams in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars YouTube already generates for them each year. We are excited that hundreds of major and independent labels are already partnering with us.”

Is YouTube evil — or just diligent?

Still, the takedowns won’t exactly help YouTube with its image, even if they only affect a small number of songs in a few countries. Which makes you wonder: why is the music service doing this? One could obviously make the case that YouTube is trying to strong-arm labels that are holding out for a better deal, threatening to cut them off from ad revenue if they don’t agree to be part of the paid service. However, there’s also a flip side to this: One could also argue that YouTube just wants to avoid becoming Hulu. The TV catch-up service offers both free, ad-supported and subscription-only content, and subscribers to its paid Hulu Plus tier regularly run into confusing situations where a TV show episode may be available for free on the web, but not through the Hulu Plus app on mobile and connected devices. The same could happen if YouTube was going to launch a paid service that coexists with free music videos with differing rights. YouTube hasn’t said yet exactly what its service is going to look like, but one of the features likely included is offline playback. Paying subscribers may run into an issue where they’re able to download one song, but not another, or bypass ads on one video, but not another. By blocking these disputed songs altogether, YouTube may be able to provide a more consistent experience for its paying users — albeit at a notable cost for everyone else.




Ebook subscription site Oyster expands to Android, Kindle Fire and Nook tablets


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Oyster android The $9.95 per month ebook subscription service Oyster, which was previously only available on iOS, expanded to Android, Kindle Fire and Nook HD tablets Tuesday — thus removing one of the differentiating factors between it and rival service Scribd. New features include “read time” for books (there is a similar feature on Kindle e-readers) and the ability to turn a book’s pages using the volume buttons on an Android device. Oyster, which is based in NYC and launched in fall 2013, now has over 500,000 titles, with two of the big-five publishers — Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins — participating.




The future of music subscription services is binge listening, not exclusives


This post is by from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Beats Music got a lot of press Monday for nabbing the exclusive rights to a track that features Jay Z. The deal was seen by some as a sign that Beats may take a cue from Netflix and battle competitors like Spotify with exclusive content deals. But the future of music subscription services isn’t about exclusive deals — it’s about binging.

What that Jay Z track is all about

First, it’s worth putting that Jay Z exclusive into perspective: Beats Electronics, which got recently acquired by Apple, started to air a new World Cup-themed ad dubbed The Game before the Game earlier this month. The ad, which features raps by Jay Z, quickly became a hit online, and has already amassed more than 10 million views on YouTube. This week, Beats Music started to stream a remix of the track used in the ad. Beats got access to that remix a week before it appears on competing music services, which led Billboard to muse that exclusives could become key to Beats Music’s strategy going forward. The Verge assumed that it would be “impossible for any other service of its size” to get these kinds of exclusives. Except it’s not impossible. Exclusive access to tracks or even entire albums a few days before the competition gets its hands on them is something that music services have been doing for a long time to differentiate themselves in a world where every service offers access to the same 30 or so million songs, for the same price, on the same devices. Rdio recently got an exclusive Snoop Dogg track. Spotify at one point had an exclusive remix of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky. Jay Z distributed his latest album Magna Carta Holy Grail exclusively through Samsung for 72 hours before it hit the stores last summer. Deezer, Google Play and everyone else is also experimenting with exclusives all the time, but thus far, none of those one-off deals have moved the needle for any of these services.

Netflix didn’t start with exclusive content, but with a large back catalog

There’s still something that music services can learn from Netflix — and Amazon may have been the first to take notice. Netflix owes a lot of its success to binge viewing, allowing its users to burn through entire seasons of TV shows at their own pace. Binge viewing has defined how Netflix releases its own exclusives, with all episodes of new seasons becoming available at once. But before Orange is the New Black and House of Cards, there were Lost, the West Wing and Battlestar Galactica — older shows that allowed people to discover things they missed on TV, re-watch their favorites and expand their pop culture horizon. What fueled Netflix’s initial growth wasn’t the latest shows that were on TV last night, but convenient access to the classics without breaking the pocket book. That’s exactly what Amazon is now offering its Prime subscribers. Amazon’s newly launched Prime Music service also doesn’t have the latest and greatest. It only has about one million titles, compared to the 30 million that Spotify is offering its customers. Of course, one million is just about as much as Pandora has, and its more than 70 million monthly active users don’t seem to mind.

There are a lot more casual listeners than hardcore music fans

I believe Amazon’s Prime subscribers will be equally forgiving. That’s because Prime Music doesn’t target the hardcore music fan with a Spotify subscription and a big iTunes library, but the millions and millions of casual listeners — people who tune into Pandora but would love to listen to entire albums every now and then as well. People in their thirties and older who haven’t significantly changed their taste in music since college. People who haven’t been buying a whole lot of music in recent years. There are a lot of those folks out there — a lot more of them, arguably, than heavy music buyers — and those casual listeners couldn’t care less whether a single new track is exclusively on one service or another. What they are interested in is rediscovering the classics, and listening to them on their own terms. In other words: binging. Of course, that’s what every subscription music service offers, but unlike others, Amazon isn’t charging $10 a month for it, or subjecting users to ads, while still offering full on-demand access. Which is why its focus on inexpensive access to archives may be a lot more successful than spending a lot of money on a handful of exclusives here and there.




Why the net neutrality debate also matters for VoIP


This post is by Alexey Aylarov, Zingaya from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




At my company, Zingaya, we work on VoIP solutions in click-to-call technology (which is one segment of a big industry, with Skype being the most well-known VoIP company). Given our position in this industry, my colleagues and I have watched the developments of the net neutrality court case and subsequent moves by ISPs very closely, with an eye on how these changes will impact innovation in the rapidly changing VoIP field. With the end of FCC enforcement of open internet rules, a few select companies will very quickly be making major decisions on how fast most users will be able to access content across the web. Video streaming, as we know, takes up a plurality of bandwidth usage (and will only increase in popularity). However, the danger isn’t just limited to video. The major ISPs in the United States — Comcast and AT&T among others — often also provide voice services that directly compete with many of the services provided by VoIP. As industry analyst Phil Edholm points out, it would be easy for ISPs to push VoIP providers to a lower level of service unless those providers pay extra to be bumped up to a better service level. Since VoIP requires a certain threshold of data speed to deliver an effective sound or picture quality to customers, reducing that quality negatively impacts customer willingness to adopt VoIP over the alternatives. What’s more, the innovative possibilities of VoIP and VoIP-related technologies, like WebRTC, will also be throttled by the lack of open internet standards. New VoIP technologies are often not just limited to voice; they incorporate video capabilities as well. VoIP services require simultaneous high quality upload and download streams, instead of just download streams as with a service like Netflix. As such, VoIP shares many of the same concerns as video streaming, and the dangers for VoIP services may be even greater. Having a level playing field for telecommunications in particular is vital, and there’s a reason why the FCC already regulates telephone service. In the absence of net neutrality, nascent VoIP services will have a harder time gaining traction. They, like up-and-coming video streaming services, will have to pay for the data quality they need. As a result, firms in the future will not compete on the true merits of their products, but will instead compete in an environment where the best quality is granted to the firms that can pay the most — a surefire way to stifle innovation. WebRTC is perhaps particularly interesting here, as it continues to increase in adoption and thus will be intertwined with net neutrality. According to the WebRTC standard, all media traffic is encrypted (via Datagram Transport Layer Security, or DTLS) and sent using Secure Real-time Transport Protocol (SRTP). This encryption may confound ISPs seeking to throttle bandwidth based on what kind of traffic is passing through their channels, because they will not be able to recognize the precise nature of it. In response, some ISPs have invested in expensive hardware (like DPI, deep packet inspection) for examining the packets running through their networks. Since WebRTC can and will be used in a variety of ways, there will certainly be questions regarding how providers detect what’s running inside the encrypted channels. But in any case, net neutrality isn’t dead. First, this ruling only applies to the United States. Second, though the FCC is not appealing the ruling, it is exploring other means of enforcing open internet standards. The oversight of particular actions will occur on a more case-by-case basis, but the FCC is still also considering reclassifying internet service if those other means are not effective. These efforts are heartening, and those of us interested in the future of VoIP should be invested in supporting these open internet standards. Alexey Aylarov is the CEO of Zingaya, which enables online calls from web pages. Aylarov is also the founder of VoxImplant, a communications cloud platform for mobile and web app developers. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock user imagedb.com.




AT&T’s hard sell on DirecTV: A new type of broadband network


This post is by Kevin Fitchard from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




If you want to sell a telecom merger to the American public, the hip to do is promise more broadband access. Sprint chairman and SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son is making such claims to justify his forthcoming bid for T-Mobile, and now AT&T is on its own broadband kick to push its proposed acquisition of DirecTV. In a regulatory filing with the Federal Communications Commission this week, AT&T promised to deliver broadband to 15 million more homes and businesses, but Ma Bell isn’t just talking about wireline technologies like DSL and U-Verse. It plans to build the bulk of this network using wireless airwaves. AT&T said it would target 13 million primarily rural locations outside of its broadband footprint with a technology called wireless local loop (WLL). Local loop is the telco term for the circuit a copper line completes going from a telephone company’s switching office to the customer’s home. But in this case of WLL, the circuit is made via wireless, not copper. ATT flagship store logo WLL has long been used around the world as a DSL replacement, including by many rural broadband carriers in the U.S., but it’s not a technology AT&T has ever made extensive use of. AT&T Mobility recently started offering a fixed wireless option on its LTE network, which connects to an external antenna rather than directly to a smartphone or mobile hotspot. But AT&T’s Wireless Home Phone and Internet Service is hardly what you would call a full-fledged broadband service. Its data caps range from 10 GB to 30 GB depending on the plan, with the cost ranging from $60 to $120 a month. If that’s all AT&T plans on offering in the U.S, then it won’t be increasing home broadband options in the U.S. It would just milk more money out of its LTE network, by asking users to pay what are basically mobile data rates for wireline access. But AT&T may have other plans than just repackaging its 4G service. Though it didn’t say specifically what technology it would use or what spectrum, its use of the term “WLL” might offer a hint. Way back before AT&T got the Bell band back together, its various companies tested wireless local loop technologies in several parts of the country (including in the brothel capital of the U.S. — Pahrump, Nevada), testing a variety of fixed wireless technologies including WiMAX. Nothing really every came out of those trials, mainly because the spectrum band AT&T was using was loaded with problems. AT&T, however, still owns those 2.3 GHz airwaves in the Wireless Communications Services (WCS) band. In fact, it recently consolidated its WCS holdings across much of the country. And through a compromise with the satellite radio industry, it managed to clear the interference issues that previously made the band useless for wireless data services. AT&T has said it will use WCS for LTE, but it’s beginning to look like it won’t build the same kind of LTE network it uses to connect phones, tablets and cars. Broadband spectrum analyst Tim Farrar believes AT&T plans to use those 2.3 GHz frequencies for its planned air-to-ground in-flight network. It may choose to use WCS for its fixed wireless network as well. Instead of transmitting to a plane in the sky, the network could link to an antenna. And that antenna could be conveniently mounted on a DirecTV satellite dish – all part of a bundled broadband and TV package.
Source: Flickr / Cantoni

Source: Flickr / Cantoni

AT&T says its WLL network could deliver speeds of 15 Mbps to 20 Mbps. That isn’t as fast as the speed we’ve come to expect from cable, but it’s certainly not bad either, especially considering the limited options in rural areas. The big question is whether it can deliver the monthly capacity to individual subscribers to make it a truly competitive offering. Average monthly broadband consumption in the U.S. is 39 GB per month, and for hard-core video streaming users that number climbs to well over 200 GB, according to Sandvine. Unless AT&T prices fixed wireless data at a tremendous discount to what it’s charging for regular mobile data, then it’s not going to create a competitive broadband option, just an expensive broadband option.




Al Jazeera just soft-launched its AJ+ online video network


This post is by from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Qatar-based Al Jazeera soft-launched its AJ+ online video network Friday with a new YouTube channel as well as a dedicated Facebook page and Twitter account. Al Jazeera also announced AJ+ with a press release that described the network as “current affairs experience for mobiles and social streams,” and promised a formal launch later this year. The AJ+ YouTube page now lists about a dozen videos, ranging from animated explainers on gun violence to short background videos on Boko Haram, Bitcon and the social impact of the World Cup. Most of the videos are between two and three minutes long, and all feature a fast-paced aesthetic that makes them look much more like the work of YouTube producers than of a traditional news organization. And that’s not a coincidence: AJ+ is Al Jazeera’s attempt to reinvent the news for a generation that doesn’t tune into cable news networks anymore, and instead gets most of its information online. AJ+ is being developed by a team that is located in the former offices of Al Gore’s now-defunct Current TV channel in San Francisco, which I got an exclusive tour of last November. Back then, Jazeera Media Network’s Executive Director of Strategy, Development and Technology Yaser Bishr told me that the goal was not to inherit the legacy of TV. AJ+ won’t recycle news bits and pieces from Al Jazeera’s existing English-language TV networks, but instead produce original content for an online audience, he explained. That’s why AJ+ won’t use any kind of programming grid, but instead produce on-demand content that will be available on multiple platforms. With the soft launch AJ+ is debuting some of its programming on YouTube, but the network is apparently also looking to launch a dedicated mobile app, according to its YouTube page and press release. Al Jazeera executives told me last year that AJ+ represents the most significant investment into digital to date, and the online network started to hire dozens of staffers earlier this year. 




Music streaming startup Earbits is shutting down


This post is by from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Los Angeles-based music streaming startup Earbits will be shutting down its website and mobile apps next Monday. The company announced the shutdown on its blog Thursday, as Earbits CEO Joey Flores wrote:
“Shutting down a company after 4.5 years is going to be painful for anybody but is particularly painful for us here at Earbits.  (…) We proved to ourselves and a substantial number of artists and listeners that our concept does work, that our vision is what the industry and larger streaming providers need to be doing in order to create more value, but that we simply needed a lot more capital to pursue such an aggressive mission properly.”

Earbits offered users a personalized radio service similar to Pandora, with one important difference: The service didn’t have any ads, and also didn’t charge users for subscription fees. Instead, it tried to connect listeners with artists and labels, effectively turning music streaming into a marketing machine. This actually worked remarkably well, according to Flores:

“By showcasing features that allowed our listeners to connect with our artists, we generated for them hundreds of thousands of new mailing list signups and Facebook fans across a relatively small audience. The revenue and other value that our partners generated from these new connections was often ten or twenty times higher than what they receive from ad-supported royalties on major services, and it provides concrete evidence that there is more streaming companies can do to provide the content community with a return for their hard work.”

There have been a lot of discussions about the money artists and labels are getting from streaming services like Beats Music and Spotify. Some of these services have started to embrace marketing and merchandise sales as additional benefits for artists; Beats for example has bought the artist commerce platform Topspin and wants to integrate it into its own service.




The FCC just launched its peering investigation with a call for data


This post is by from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




The Federal Communication Commission has finally acted on the allegations that certain ISPs are intentionally throttling traffic from providers such as Netflix as a way to charge content providers additional fees. Chairman Tom Wheeler issued a statement on Friday noting that the agency has asked for documentation about peering, and it currently has the terms of the agreements signed between Netflix and Verizon and Netflix and Comcast. This doesn’t mean that the agency will regulate the interconnection agreements between ISP networks and content provider networks, but it does mean that the consumer cry for action on this issue has been heard and the FCC is looking into it. Ideally, the data collected by the FCC will be shared in a somewhat timely manner via a public report or data dump, but that might be too much to hope for given how secretive these agreements are. However, I am glad Wheeler is taking the action he promised me back in January, when I brought the issue up with him. From a statement issued today:
“To be clear, what we are doing right now is collecting information, not regulating. We are looking under the hood. Consumers want transparency. They want answers. And so do I.

In all of the articles on this topic — which is complicated, but has real implications for consumers because it turns internet capacity into something that more closely resembles cable TV.I’ve called for the FCC to get data so we can understand if there is a problem. Are ISPs abusing their power as the sole provider of last mile connectivity and trying to charge companies like Netflix fees to get onto their networks? Given that in much of the world interconnection agreements are informal and free (and even in the U.S. many interconnection agreements between big name content providers and ISPs are formal, but unpaid) this is an issue worth scrutiny. And if the FCC finds that the lack of a competitive last-mile broadband market is enabling a few ISPs to behave badly it should act. But hopefully the threat of greater transparency will be enough to solve this problem.




Pixie wants to reinvent the TV news ticker with tweets, feeds and World Cup goals


This post is by from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




The news ticker, overused by the likes of Fox News and CNN, is about to get a refresh: New York-based smart TV startup Pixie is unveiling its take on TV’s notorious lower-third infobar this week, just in time for the World Cup. Pixie, which debuts as an app for Samsung’s 2012 and 2013 smart TVs, enables viewers to keep track of the Cup with an unintrusive horizontal card that displays the latest results without interrupting their TV program. Viewers who want to know more can always expand a sidebar and check out detailed stats on penalty cards and offsides and ball possession. Pixie CEO Kai Bond told me during an interview Thursday that the goal of the app is to bring information that people tend to look up on their phones and tablets back on the TV screen, to make sure that your eyes aren’t elsewhere when the decisive goal is shot.
And Pixie isn’t stopping at World Cup goals: The app also pulls in information from Twitter, Instagram, Reuters, ESPN and other sources to complement your TV program with current information. Viewers can customize their own personal Pixie feed, and the company wants to launch a kind of app store for additional news sources soon. Bond said that Pixie is also looking to provide contextual information to the program you’re watching through automated content recognition, and the company is working on the ability to pair your phone with the TV through a simple text message, allowing you to use your phone’s soft keyboard instead of the clunky TV remote control to look up information. Pixie already offers the ability to send content from the TV to your phone, and Bond says that his goal was to figure out the best way for these devices to complement each other. “We are not trying to be a second-screen killer,” he quipped. Pixie is part of Samsung’s New York accelerator program, which explains why the company launched on Samsung’s smart TVs first. Eventually it wants to expand to additional platforms, and strike partnerships with TV networks and others looking to expand their reach on smart TVs. Asked whether networks would be put off by Pixie’s app covering part of their screen real estate, Bond said: “To them, the second screen is way more threatening.” At least with Pixie, people would pay attention to the TV, instead of completely ignoring it while being immersed in their personal Twitter feed.




Netflix uses data for a lot more than just recommendations


This post is by Derrick Harris from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Netflix is famous for the way it uses algorithms to determine what programs or movies its members might want to watch, but data plays a much broader role inside the company’s streaming service than just informing recommendations. In a blog post on Wednesday, the company explained how it analyzes data to do everything from optimizing playback quality to identifying poorly translated subtitles. The post, written by Netflix ‎director of streaming science and algorithms Nirmal Govind, highlights several areas in which better algorithms could improve the Netflix experience, focusing largely on how to ensure the best-possible playback in any given situation — or, at least, how to ensure users are getting the playback quality they expect. It might be easy enough to find the right theoretical tradeoff between bit rate and rebuffer rates on streaming videos, or to figure out where (geographically) to place which content on the Open Connect content-delivery network, but nothing is that simple in practice. “[W]e need to determine a mapping function that can quantify and predict how changes in [quality of experience] metrics affect user behavior,” Govind wrote. He continued:
“With vast amounts of data, the mapping function discussed above can be used to further improve the experience for our members at the aggregate level, and even personalize the streaming experience based on what the function might look like based on each member’s ‘QoE preference.’ Personalization can also be based on a member’s network characteristics, device, location, etc.”

However, the most interesting use of data Govind discussed might be how Netflix is using natural-language processing and text analysis to improve the actual quality of the movies and shows it streams. Audio and video quality may be paramount, but the accuracy of closed captions and subtitles is becoming a bigger problem as Netflix expands globally. Some of these issues are identified via Netflix’s own quality checks, but others are peppered throughout scores of member comments and feedback.

The supply chain through which Netflix is trying to optimize quality. Source: Netflix
Govind highlights a couple of ways Netflix is trying to solve these problems:
“[W]e can detect viewing patterns such as sharp drop offs in viewing at certain times during the show and add in information from member feedback to identify problematic content. Machine learning models along with natural language processing (NLP) and text mining techniques can be used to build powerful models to both improve the quality of content that goes live and also use the information provided by our members to close the loop on quality and replace content that does not meet the expectations of Netflix members.”

Improving subtitles and captions, and filtering through mountains of comments to find relevant ones, sound like good candidates for the deep learning models that Netflix is experimenting with. Techniques aside, though, using data to improve the viewing experience is arguably more important to Netflix’s continued success than are accurate recommendations. Yes, the easier it is to find programs you want to watch, the easier it is to watch them. But at the end of the day, Netflix has the same issues as other seemingly invincible companies like Facebook and Google (issues that we’ll delve into in detail at our Structure conference next week): loyalty on the web can be easy come, easy go. If performance starts slipping, those users will start looking elsewhere. Feature image courtesy of Shutterstock user Twin Design.




It’s getting harder to tell what’s satire these days, and The Onion’s new site Clickhole isn’t helping


This post is by from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




It’s bad enough that people posting regular news headlines on Twitter or Facebook routinely need to mention that they aren’t from the parody site The Onion, because they seem too incredible and/or stupid to be true. On top of that, many people seem more than happy to share “viral” headlines on social media without even checking to see whether they are factual or not. Now The Onion has made our jobs as social-news consumers even harder by starting a site that specializes in making fun of this kind of viral clickbait, called Clickhole, which launched on Thursday. Although the site doesn’t mention them by name, Clickhole looks and feels like a combination of BuzzFeed and a low-rent version of ViralNova or dozens of other similar sites, which appear to exist only to get as many people to share their content as possible, so that they can monetize the clicks through Google ads. And there’s no question that these sites deserve to be satirized, as much or more than CNN. What makes the Onion’s satire even more delicious — or disturbing, depending on how you look at it — is that Clickhole appears to be monetizing itself using the exact same strategy as its targets are: The site has a number of clever banner ads for things like beef jerky, and it’s going to have native advertising as well. It’s just that the content surrounding them is (theoretically) satire. And, of course, The Onion is a media entity struggling to make its way in this new digital world just like any other, satire or not. The Onion's Clickhole The site’s introductory post makes it pretty clear that the purpose of Clickhole is to make fun of viral media, saying: “Today, the average website carelessly churns out hundreds of pieces of pandering, misleading content, most of which tragically fall short of going viral. At ClickHole, we refuse to stand for this. We strive to make sure that all of our content panders to and misleads our readers just enough to make it go viral. You see, we don’t think anything on the internet should ever have to settle for mere tens of thousands of pageviews.”

Is it satire, or just clickable content?

Some of the site’s content also seems so obviously satirical that it would be difficult to miss — such as a video clip of a woman swinging on a swing-set, entitled “You Won’t Believe How Cheap This Stock Video of a Woman Sitting on a Swing Was,” or “19 Pictures of Beyonce Where She’s Not Sinking in Quicksand.” But others aren’t quite so obvious, including quizzes like “Which Hungry Hungry Hippo Are You?” that could have come from any non-satirical digital-news outlet, except that some of the questions seem a little odd (including: “Who’s your inspiration?” with Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the nuclear bomb, as one of the choices)

  Some articles dance so close to the edge of satire that you could see them being shared by people without any realization that they are supposed to be a parody, or that they are making fun of the person sharing them — like the piece “5 Iconic Movie Scenes That Were Actually Fake,” which tries to point out (fairly subtly) that all movie scenes are fake because movies themselves are fake, so the guy playing a homicidal killer in Pulp Fiction is not actually a homicidal killer, etc. And from The Onion’s point of view, if these are shared by people who don’t realize they are parodies, that actually makes the satire even sweeter. In a similar way, The Onion as a business wins no matter what: Either its satirical pieces are so funny and on-point that they expand the company’s audience and it gets a reputation for great satirical click-bait, or the exact opposite happens and people share the site’s content without even knowing whether it’s satire or not — at which point it benefits from the same viral click-related advertising that it is supposedly making fun of. It’s pretty genius actually, when you think about it. Post and thumbnail images courtesy of All Things D

Peel gets another major investment from Alibaba, strikes alliances in China


This post is by from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Smart remote control app maker Peel just got another major cash infusion from China’s e-commerce giant Alibaba. Peel and Alibaba didn’t disclose the amount of funding, but the investment comes after Alibaba gave Peel $5 million in cash in 2013, and I hear this second round of funding is larger than that previous round. Peel made the funding announcement at the Mobile Asia Expo in Shanghai this week, where it also unveiled a new mobile device maker partnership: China’s TCL will pre-install the Peel app on some if the phones it is distributing under its Alcatel Onetouch brand. Peel already has a number of these kinds of mobile device partnerships, including with Samsung, HTC and China’s ZTE. Those partnerships have led to Peel having more than 75 million users that have activated the app, and use it to the tune of more than 4 billion remote control commands. Peel CEO Thiru Arunachalam recently told me that about a third of the company’s users reside in the U.S.. Now, it’s evidently looking to grow its user base in China as well. As part of that strategy, the company also acquired Shanghai-based multiscreen startup Mozitek, which already has existing partnerships with local hardware manufactuers like TCL and Toshiba as well as carriers like China Telecom.

Amazon launches free streaming music service just for Prime members


This post is by Laura Hazard Owen from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Amazon rolled out its rumored streaming music service for Prime members overnight Wednesday. Prime Music, included with the $99/year Prime membership, promises over a million songs from about 90,000 albums and hundreds of pre-made playlists. There’s little new music, and so far one of the three major record labels — Universal Music Group — isn’t participating. The inevitable comparison is to Spotify, which Prime Music certainly isn’t: Spotify has over 20 million songs, including most new releases. On the other hand, Prime Music is ad-free and a perk Prime members didn’t have before. It’s not available as a standalone paid service. Amazon is also touting Prime Music’s advantages over non-Spotify competitors, like Pandora: “Choose exactly what you want to listen to, skip as many songs as you want, repeat your favorite song over and over again, or download music to your phone or tablet to listen offline.” The service launches as Amazon rebrands all its music offerings under “Amazon Music,” The Verge notes, and Prime members can listen to it on the web, from the music section of the Kindle Fire HDX or HD tablet or via Android or iOS apps, after an update. Amazon is holding an event in Seattle June 18 where it’s rumored it will announce its smartphone. At the event, we might see how music and Prime are integrated into such a device.




Comcast to test its YouTube competitor by the end of the year


This post is by from paidContent


Click here to view on the original site: Original Post




Comcast is looking to test a new platform for the distribution of online videos through its new X1 cable set-top boxes by the end of the year, the company’s SVP of Video Matt Strauss confirmed during an interview at the sidelines of the TV of Tomorrow Show this week. Strauss said that the service will be evaluated through what he called “limited tests.” He said that it will have some similarities to YouTube, allowing content creators to directly upload their videos to a server. These videos will then become available via a dedicated app running on Comcast’s X1 box, which the company has been gradually rolling out across its markets. The Information first published a report about Comcast’s plans to experiment with online video in March, citing anonymous sources. Strauss declined to comment on the types of content that will be part of those first tests, but said that the focus won’t be on user-generated content, which YouTube obviously started out with. However, YouTube has put a much bigger focus on professionally-produced and serialized content in recent years, and that seems where Comcast is aiming at with this initiative as well. Strauss said that Comcast will be able to offer content producers a number of monetization options, which could include advertising as well as transactional fees, but said that the company is still evaluating its options. Comcast acquired the online video advertising specialist Freewheel for $360 million earlier this year, and online videos delivered through its set-top boxes could be an interesting way for Comcast to not only generate additional revenue, but also experiment with forms of advanced, targeted advertising that could one day personalize ads on traditional TV as well. However, Strauss said that adding online video to its set-top boxes isn’t just about making more money, but also about reducing churn. The goal was to target smaller audiences that see high value in certain types of niche content, he said, which have been underserved by the traditional cable line-up. The cable industry has been held back by the physical limitations of its QAM transmission technology, which only allows cable operators to carry a limited number of channels. With internet video, Comcast would be able to carry a virtually unlimited number of channels, and Strauss mentioned foreign-language TV channels, which could appeal to expats but aren’t widely available on traditional cable line-ups, as one of the areas his company is very interested in. Comcast already has the rights to distribute many of these imported TV channels in the U.S., Strauss explained, and could make them more widely available on a streaming basis through its X1 set-top box as well as accompanying mobile apps in 2015 or 2016.