Friday, February 20, 2015

Google Artist Hub

With Google Music is open for business, the search giant looks increasingly like Apple.  What I like most about what they’re doing, however, is the Artist Hub.

Here’s Google describing what artists can do:
Whether you’re on a label or the do-it-yourself variety, artists are at the heart of Google Music. With the Google Music artist hub, any artist who has all the necessary rights can distribute his or her own music on our platform, and use the artist hub interface to build an artist page, upload original tracks, set prices and sell content directly to fans - essentially becoming the manager of their own far-reaching music store. This goes for new artists as well as established independent artists, like Tiesto, who debuts a new single on Google Music today.
 Now, here are those artists speaking up for themselves:

At one point, all famous musicians had a start. Maybe they had the fortune of instant success. Most likely, they struggled in anonymity for years and scrambled just to make ends meet. Perhaps driving their own van and getting food from a soup kitchen defined life for many more of them than we know. Very likely, too, there are many, many of such musicians now aspiring to make it and living day-to-day with their basic needs.

Well, going with Google should hold them in very good stead, then. From a purely market reach standpoint, Google is obviously dominant. We can never know for sure how these up-and-coming talent will do, but I’m happy they have a superb platform from which to realize that talent. 

Note: I wrote this article on November 17th 2011 for an old Media & Tech blog.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Google Expands Global Presence

Tech City in London

I don’t know about you, but I find this report from Search Engine Watch to be exciting: Google Expands Global Presence in Asia, London and Dublin.  I love to see a company like Google, well known to be very smart and successful, do its strategy thing and ply its internet operations.

Here is what I’m thinking:

Google eats up a lot of energy to run its business(es). So it makes sense, in many different ways, that it seeks energy efficiency, because it’s critical to maintaining its strong economics. Buying up sources of power is something Google has cash for. Of course going green (i.e., environmentally conserving) is cool.

Expanding its operations overseas means more jobs. But how much will this actually help unemployment in the US?  They can send expats, but I wonder how many Americans are willing to live and work abroad.  There has to be a merging, too, in the workforce in these countries, that is, expats and locals. For someone who’s lived and worked in different countries, I know that this can be an awesome experience. Also that it can be a problem, at best, and maybe a failure, at worst, if the expats and their families aren’t prepared well and if that tenuous mix of nationalities ends up being bad soup.

Finally, the concept of a Tech City in the UK is fab. Google, like its fellow media and technology giants, need oodles and oodles of talent and these are in relatively short supply, given the competition for them. If they haven’t already, they need to promote and support a career in this broad, revolutionary field among young people.

Note: I wrote this article on October 3rd 2011 for an old Media & Tech blog.

Monday, February 16, 2015

The Social of Google+

Bradley Horowitz

Even the best of us fail, and fail often. But success is emblazoned in our DNA, when we get up time and time again, recover well, and press forward. That, in essence, is where Google has been and is now. With Google+, it has learned its lessons and it’s back in the social sphere in a big way.

Here is a Wired Magazine interview of Bradley Horowitz, VP of Products at Google: Inside Google Plus. There is a lot of really good insight to tease out from this conversation, and this article covers the aspects of what we members experience on the site (i.e., social). 

Noisy stream

One of my friends on Google+ posts some stunning, clever photography. Sometimes it’s thought-provoking or make-me-smile messages. Regardless, she’s clearly capturing attention, and prompting friends to comment and engage in dialogue. The problem? Her stuff dominates my Newsfeed. For a handful of weeks, hers were the only things I would see or else I would have to scroll down pretty far to find other posts. I loved her stuff, but grew really annoyed with it. She’s like the vivacious lady at the party who spins great tales and people are enraptured by her. Except that two or three hours later, she hasn’t stopped talking or veered from being the center of attention.

Apparently I’m not the only one with this problem, as Horowitz and his team are addressing this:
The biggest challenge they face is what we call the noisy-stream problem, in which a few active people overwhelm the conversation. We need some tools to either suppress that noise or present the information in a way that it doesn’t dominate.
I wish there was something like the vertical glass panel in The Matrix and The Minority Report, where the operator can move sections here and there with a touch and thereby control different systems and machines. I did something of the sort by shifting her to a different circle. I would normally delete such a friend, but I didn’t want to lose her cool stuff. She just needed to see the downside of too much activity and engagement, and dial it down.

Private stream

Horowitz points out:
We’ve found there is actually twice as much private sharing as there is sharing that’s visible to everyone on the Internet. That’s why sometimes it looks like people sign up and then don’t come back. In fact, they’re sharing with small groups of people that they trust and love. It’s just not publicly visible. So there’s this sort of dark matter that the public can’t see.
In our in-person world, there are friends or colleagues we share certain things with, and things we share only with certain others. Google+ aims to mimic this world with its mechanism of circles. I know Facebook and Twitter allow for this sort of choice and privacy, through the use of lists, but Google+ makes it so easy and quick. Deciding which circle a connection belongs to is a matter of click-drag-drop. With Twitter, on the other hand, I’d have to open two or three windows, and the content on these don’t load very quickly.

In any case, what Horowitz says is a point well taken. Just as we can select which friends we share with and which ones we don’t, they themselves can select or deselect us in their sharing circles. So when a friend seemingly disappears, and stops posting, it may not be that they’ve become comatose in their cyber flats. Instead, it may be that we’ve been kept off their private circle.

Sharing stream

We have so many ways now of communicating that it’s positively dizzying. One time, a friend and I were chatting on BlackBerry Messenger (mobile), on Windows Live Messenger (mobile and PC), and also on Facebook (PC). At the same time. It was a lot of fun just to span across different media and technology. So back-and-forth like this isn’t an issue.

I think this is the kind of sharing that Google+ would like us to be able to do as well, not just back-and-forth but truly together.
Google+ introduces a new means of sharing, and one of the things that people love to share is media. People are already sharing fun media on the service, like animated GIFs. We’re not ready to announce anything now, but I think you can extrapolate and say Google+ is a good way to share mass media as well. That could take the form of people listening or watching something together in Hangouts.
Again, we have mechanisms that allow for this kind of sharing, but for various reasons they’re less than satisfying. For example, Go To webinars are live seminars on the web that people can join together. But I have not been able to attend these. Why? There’s an audio problem, which after talking to friends and trying to fix it several times, is probably an ISP interference issue. I’m able to have a business call on Launch (Microsoft Office Live Meeting), but reviewing documents or slides together is very slow streaming and it results in choppy images. It’s a little better sharing screens on Skype, but again that’s subject to ISP interference where I live. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and you simply can’t do business that way.

I understand that Google+ has special features or ‘apps’ for business people, like myself, but it’s not ready yet. I’ll wait for it. But if Hangouts is even just a notch more satisfying than any of the above, then I’ll be on Google+ more often and my friends and colleagues, too, because I’ll be bringing them on board the ‘gravy train!’

Note: I wrote this article on October 1st 2011 for an old Media & Tech blog.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Authors Guild vs Amazon

(image credit)
The Authors Guild recently sent a sharply worded message to Amazon about the online retailer’s lending program: Contracts on Fire: Amazon's Lending Library Mess. It’s a complex question of economics and content, in light of the ongoing (r)evolution of online retailing and digital publishing. But I hope I can add a bit of clarity here.

If in fact there has been a breach of contract, as the Authors Guild contends, then obviously Amazon has to be held accountable. Beyond this, however, I wouldn’t advise taking an adversarial approach. The battle over content is sometimes waged as creators vs. aggregators vs. distributors (and sometimes vs. consumers, too). Because they all need each other, and are therefore intricately linked, defeating one constituency in this battle sends negative ripples across the whole pond.

So, how to go forward?

Well, the concern by major publishers over Amazon’s lending program is the impact on sales, as the Wall Street Journal reports in Amazon, Now a Book Lender. But such concern ought not result in categorical refusal to participate. Rather, it ought to prompt continued efforts at finding alternative options, workable strategies, and better economics. Perhaps the preferred option by one party isn’t realistic in this scenario, but I am certain there are more outcomes that are reasonable and agreeable.

To this end, consider the following:

Despite concerns among major publishers about the potential impact on sales of the program, some see it as a positive. Arthur Klebanoff, chief executive of RosettaBooks LLC, an e-book publisher that is making Mr. Covey’s title available under a flat-fee arrangement, said he did so because he believes it will spur sales of Mr. Covey’s other works.

“I’m attracted to the incremental promotion/visibility for participating titles,” he said. “All site promotion, especially of backlist titles, drives sales in the Kindle Store.” Mr. Klebanoff said that he’s providing about 200 titles in all.
Whether the Authors Guild likes it or not, Amazon has amazing reach to those coveted content consumers. By playing hardball like this, it positions itself to win the (contractual) battle but risks losing the (market) war. Again, because they fundamentally need each other, effective collaborations at least offers them the opportunities that Klebanoff is eyeing!

Note: I wrote this article on November 16th 2011 for an old Media & Tech blog.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Hooray, Chelsea Clinton!

Chelsea Clinton

Apparently the hiring of a certain first daughter as correspondent has ruffled feathers among professional journalists, as the Los Angeles Times reports in Chelsea Clinton on NBC: When media hire from political families.  Was she hired on merit or as gimmick? Perhaps both. She’s got the tools that the profession looks for: smart, articulate and educated. Then why not take advantage of her household name and face? If she in fact can parlay her talent into genuine, on-the-spot performance, then congratulations to NBC for a bold move and hooray for Clinton!

Moreover, consider this from the Times:
Judy Muller, a one-time ABC correspondent who now teaches at USC‘s Annenberg School for Communication, said it is hard not to see the Clinton hiring as a “gimmick.” She said it would be hard to explain to her students that it sometimes takes more than hard work and persistence to make it to national television.
The US of course was built on the democratic ideals of fairness, justice and equality. Yes, its systems, processes and culture do their level best to realize these ideals. But in actual practice, our day to day life is not always fair or just. In fact, we’re not even all that equal when it comes to talent and opportunities. So, largely by accident and somewhat by design, Clinton happened to be born into and live a life within a famous household. Then she could maximize all that she had at her disposal to nail down a plum job.

Yes, Judy Muller, I imagine it would be hard to explain this to your students. But I think the more important lesson that you can teach them isn’t necessarily to rationalize, positively or negatively, Clinton’s hiring. Rather, it is to help them reconcile the tensions between the ideals and the realities of democratic life.

Note: I wrote this article on November 15th 2011 for an old Media & Tech blog.