Thursday, May 17, 2007

Warhol, Twitter and Universal Broadcast

Andy Warhol didn’t have a clue about how right he was. Did he look into a crystal ball? Or did he have secret conversations over space and time with Marshall McLuhan? Whatever it was, he would have been happy to stroll through the blogosphere, arm in arm with Mr. McLuhan.

Warhol suggested that everybody wants their 15 mins of fame. McLuhan suggested that the world was shrinking to a “global village” where people would know each other anyway. The blogosphere marries these 2 precepts. 15 minutes is now 15 seconds. The village is now a courtyard. We’re infinitely connected, but our attention span is microscopic and shrinking.

Made me stop and think. Last time I counted (I actually listed) all the people I know – personally, not professionally – I totted up a list close to 500. Is it scary or cool that I can communicate with the majority of them in an instant? Is it worrying that I don’t speak with most of them from one end of the year to the other? Should I stop meeting more people? Am I losing a friend every few days?

My friend Jasmine keeps asking me this question about blogs – but why the %$£& would anybody want to read what you have to write? Or what anybody else wants to write? I don’t have a great answer yet, because right now I’ve not made up my mind whether our need to tell is greater or lesser than our need to listen.

Whatever it is, Twitter takes us a step closer to the infinitesimally attention span in the eternally connected space. Microblogging as it is called, allows you to post barely a thought, and let your friends pick it up. The really interesting thing here, is that personal communications are fast approaching broadcasting. Look at Rawflow – they let you broadcast onto the web at no cost. Whether you blog, podcast, vlog, broadcast or IM, whether you skype or text, the communications model is increasingly one-to-many. And this is probably the only way we’ll get to stay connected with the hundreds of friends we want to accumulate in a lifetime.

What we need is better listening devices. A single, simple application which allows me to collate all kinds of messages – broadcast, peer to peer, feeds, pods, bytes and broadsides. Without having to manage multiple interfaces. Microsoft has plans for a universal messaging application – the great grandson of Outlook, and Pageflakes & NetVibes are starting down that road. But we’re a long way from the simplicity of sticking in an antennae and sitting back to watch all those broadcasts streaming in!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Transparent, Naked and Worth £ 8.7 billion.

Especially liked this piece from Tom Glocer in the FT. In a time when takeovers are shrouded in mystery and the most eloquent soundbyte you can get from the management team is "no comment" - this is a bit of a beacon - especially, given that it's in the public domain. I'm of course talking of the £ 8.7 billion acquisition of Reuters by Thomson.

Read it here. (May require FT Subscription)

They call it the Naked Corporation . "They" among others, include Don Tapscott and David Ticoll - who wrote a book by that name. The age of transparency, they argue, is upon us. And as somebody wrote in the Wired Magazine if I remember correctly, "if you're going to be naked, you'd better be buff"

I believe that increased information, made richer by convergence, and more ubiquitious, will make us all more transparent. As I've argued before, we are less susceptable to persuation - by brands, by governments, by authorities - simply because we can find out the truth. Even religion, in due course, may not be beyond the reaches of Google.

Nonetheless, the first step is for corporations to be transparent and Glocer makes a great case for transparency. May his tribe flourish.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Convergence In India - underlined by Innovation

There is compelling evidence to suggest that the convergence phenomenon will sweep through India as well, but equally, there's plenty of proof that it will have a unique shape, meter and velocity.

I would expect, for starters that India will see a huge amount of innovation. The early signs are there already. In the IPTV segment, rather than build monolithic yet stratified organisations (which is how you might describe most Telcos rushing to do content on IPTV), MTNL has contracted 3rd parties such as Aksh Optifibre to run the IPTV content service on it's pipes. The technology infrastructure - including middleware and DRM is entirely provided by UTStarcom. This approach makes small investments possible for these local players. When I met with Aksh they explained their numbers were quite modest, but it seems to me that IPTV can be profitable at those numbers.

The real killer app in this case may well be the residential VOIP service being rolled out - which will allow users to call US (for example) for a very nominal Rupee rate. Watch this space.

While IPTV may be shackled by the extremely poor broadband penetration - the mobile uptake in India obviously has no such problems. Yet another innovation (and an example of how the Indian public will at least try anything thats new) is the live via animation genre. An example of this is the Intvo application that provides "live" cricket on mobile phones.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

How Far Does £ 20 million of Content Get You In India?

Over the past couple of years I've noticed the Indian media market is contrariwise, with respect to global trends. Print is still booming and new newspapers are being launched. Television is exploding. Broadband access is abysmally low and mobile phones and rates are getting even cheaper.

This article in the Economic times continues that theme - it suggests people are paying a lot of money for content. Content has been losing its sheen the world over - unless it's fresh, live and exclusive, ideally sports content. There really isn't a big price tag on decades old catalogue. Or is there? GV are paying Rs 175 crore (in excess of £ 20 million) for a catalog of 8000 titles, mostly from the 40s to the 70s. According to the article the notable titles include: Sherlock Holmes And The Secret Weapon (1943), Attack Of The Monster (1969), Murder On Flight 502 (1975), Clashes Of The Ninja (1986), Ghost (1963) and Murder With Music (1941). Now simple arithmatic will tell you that on average, these titles will need to earn in the range of £ 2500 (approx Rs 2.2 lakhs) to break even. The average view will earn (on a webcast, which is the primary purpose apparently) in the range of Rs. 25-30 - given the age of the content and the fact that you can hire a DVD for 3-5 times that much. This means we're talking about each title being viewed 7500 times to break even. Given the paucity of bandwidth in India, thats a heck of a call.

Of course, I know nothing about film distribution and GV have built a successful business doing just that. But this deal, funded by money raised for the purpose has me a wee bit skeptical.