Dennis Haarsager's rolling environmental scan for electronic media. "Somebody has to do something, and it's just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us." --Jerry Garcia "Wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then." --Bob Seger
... The free video Web site Hulu, a joint venture of NBC
Universal and the News
Corporation, counted 35 million unique viewers in February — only a fraction
of the hundreds of millions who watch TV every month, but a 42 percent jump from
January, according to comScore.
The ratings for some programs, like “Lost” on ABC, would rise as much as 25
percent if online views were included, according to the ratings service
Nielsen. ¶ Nevertheless, television executives are developing a different model in which
only subscribers to traditional cable and satellite services would be able to
access the full breadth of shows online. ...
My friend Mike Homer died today at his Silicon Valley home at age 50 after a more than two-year battle with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a rare, devastating and incurable neurological disorder. Long-time public radio colleagues may remember that the same disease claimed Pat Joy, former manager of Oregon Public Broadcasting's radio unit, several years back.
I first met Mike when a small group of us (I recall it being technology journalist Steve Gillmor, Stephen Hill of Hearts of Space, Tim Olson from KQED) met with Mike early in 2005, We were part of a group working on a CDN for public broadcasting, a need Mike had also forseen and, not only that, was already building one. That began a nearly two-year partnership in which we worked with Mike's team on both design and business plan aspects of what Mike called Open Media Network. Although we weren't successful in Mike's ultimate dream of giving this to a national public broadcasting organization, I'm convinced that we will eventually (and, I hope not too late) come to see Mike's vision as important part of public media's future.
Mike was a former executive at Apple, Netscape and AOL, was founder of Kontiki, and more recently an angel investor in a number of ventures and philanthropist.
Kara Swisher has a very nice Farewell to Mike Homer in her BoomTown blog today. I know that those of us who worked almost daily with Mike for that extended period all salute Mike's memory and his vision.
Update 4 February 2009: This will be the last update on Mike, an obituary written by his friend and fellow angel investor, Ron Conway:
Michael (Mike) J. Homer: February 24, 1958 –February 1,
Mike Homer, high-technology executive, passed away on February
1, 2009 at his home in Atherton. He suffered from the rare neurodegenerative
disorder Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, known as CJD. Mike, 50, is survived by his
wife of ten years Kristina and their three children, James, Jack and Lucy, as
well as his mother Irene and sister Sue. In addition to family, he leaves a
legion of friends, colleagues and business associates, including his best
friend, Bill Campbell. Everyone who knew Mike will miss his extraordinary
intellect, tenacity, fierce loyalty and of course, his hearty sense of humor.
Mike was born and raised in San
Francisco, attended St. Ignatius College Prep, and treasured the many lifelong
friendships developed during those years. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree
from the University of California at Berkeley. A Silicon Valley presence for
more than twenty years, Mike launched his career at Apple, excelling as both a
technical innovator and savvy marketer. He held executive positions at GO and
EO, before making an indelible mark on the success of Internet pioneer Netscape.
Mike was an active board member at Opsware and Palm, and an investor and advisor
to Tellme Networks, Tivo and Google. He started Kontiki and Open Media Network
and served on the board of Cinequest. His appreciation for film led to the role
of executive producer for an award-winning documentary, “Speed and Angels.”
All who have enjoyed the privilege of
knowing Mike would agree that his love of family defined his success even more
than his professional accomplishments. Mike enjoyed every opportunity to share
his free time with family and close friends, gathering for backyard BBQs or
Tahoe getaways that always included plenty of boat rides. An avid baseball fan,
Mike could often be found cheering for the San Francisco Giants at the stadium
or at The Old Pro in Palo Alto surrounded by a table filled with friends. He
inherited his love of baseball from his father Jim, passed it onto his own
children, and jumped at the chance to coach both of his son’s little league
Often sought after for his sage advice, Mike was always
generous with his time and friendship. Mentoring was a way of life for him and
he took great pleasure in sharing his expertise with others. His larger than
life personality and genuine warmth will be profoundly missed by all whose lives
he touched, and his legacy reflected in part by their accomplishments.
Mike was also a philanthropist. He and Kristina started The Homer
Family Foundation to fund education and programs for the underprivileged. He was
a major donor to the Ronald McDonald House at Stanford, The Haas Center for
Responsible Business at Berkeley, The Computer History Museum and The California
Institute for Quantitative Biosciences at UCSF. This past fall, Sacred Heart
High School in Atherton unveiled the Michael J. Homer Science and Student Life
A rosary will be recited at 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, February 4
at the Church of the Nativity, 210 Oak Grove Avenue in Menlo Park. On Thursday,
February 5 at 10:30 a.m., a service will be held to honor Mike’s extraordinary
life at Saint Raymond Catholic Church, 1100 Santa Cruz Avenue in Menlo Park. In
lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Creuzfeldt-Jakob Disease Foundation at
www.cjdfoundation.org <http://www.cjdfoundation.org/> .
Andrew Odlyzko of the University of Minnesota makes a withering analysis of the arguments of network service providers concerning why (real-time streaming capabilities) they oppose net neutrality. Odlyzko's analyses frequently challenge flabby assumptions with hard data and this one is particularly valuable.
Two of Om Malik's blogs today provide an overview of this important paper. In Streams Won't Pay for Themselves, Chris Albrecht writes:
... Video can be delivered more efficiently and less expensively using downloads over streaming, says Oldzyko, and these downloads can be more accommodating to the viewing habits of online audiences and just as secure as streams. ¶ Oldzyko thinks the belief that we need real-time streaming is a holdover from
broadcast and phone networks. ...
Then, in Hulu Bad For the Net, Video Still Not Clogging It, Stacey Higginbotham writes:
... the largest part of the paper is devoted to data that supports his
conclusions that content, such as Internet radio and video, is worth less than
connectivity such as voice or Twitter. People don’t pay for content, they pay
for connectivity, says Odlyzko. ...
Here's the abstract of and link to Odlyzko's paper:
Abstract. Service providers argue that if net neutrality is not enforced, they will have sufficient incentives to build special high-quality channels that will take the Internet to the next level of its evolution. But what if they do get their wish, net neutrality is consigned to the dustbin, and they do build their new services, but nobody uses them? If the networks that are built are the ones that are publicly discussed, that is a likely prospect.
What service providers publicly promise to do, if they are given complete control of their networks, is to build special facilities for streaming movies. But there are two fatal defects to that promise. One is that movies are unlikely to oer all that much revenue. The other is that delivering movies in real-time streaming mode is the wrong solution, expensive and unnecessary.
If service providers are to derive significant revenues and profits by exploiting freedom from net neutrality limitations, they will need to engage in much more intrusive control of traffic than just provision of special channels for streaming movies.
Steve Gillmor interviewed NPR digital media directors Zach Brand, Daniel Jacobson and me July 17th on NPR's release of its Application Programming Interface for his GillmorGang podcast. Although it's a little technical, it should give you a good overview of what it's doing. It's now been posted. Link: GillmorGang.
Blog posts here have been scarce of late since my interim CEO job at NPR, that began in March, has been so consuming. However, as a long-time bit-head, I'm very proud of the work Daniel Jacobson, Zach Brand and others [see below] have done in the very progressive step of opening up NPR's API to wide usage. To see what it can do, scroll down the left side of this page below the Files section to access NPR stories in three categories that I've chosen as relevant to the topic of this blog. There are dozens of other categories. Quoted below is Daniel's description on the NPR.org weblog:
... we launched our new API today. To find the API, you can either go directly to http://www.npr.org/api/ or you can follow the new link called "Tools / API" on the NPR.org left nav under the Services section.
In order to use the API, you will need to register using our new registration engine that Zach mentioned in a previous post. Once registered, you will need to generate an apiKey by clicking the Generate Key button on the API tab of your account profile. The apiKey is used to authenticate all requests to the API. After you get your apiKey, you can read our documentation or just go straight to the Query Generator, which is a comprehensive tool that allows you to easily create your API requests and see what your results would look like.
There were quite a few questions that we addressed when developing the API, but one thing that was not really in question was the need to open as much of our content as possible. As a result, almost everything that you can find on NPR.org that we have the rights to redistribute is available through the API. This includes audio, images, full text, etc. That said, there are elements, series and programs that we could not offer due to rights restrictions.
There were a ton of contributors to this new API with the primary technical architect being Harold Neal. Other major contributors include Joanne Garlow, Jason Grosman, Tony Yan, Ivan Lazarte, Stephanie Oura, Ben Hands, Shain Miley, Lindsay Mangum, Sugirtha Solai, Todd Welstein and Vida Logan, and others.
Finally, we would really like to get as much feedback from the community on the API, particularly on what you think you will use and what is missing from the offering. We will continue to post here with more thoughts and questions.
P.S.: Zach, Daniel and I want you to know the following:
Key contributors included members from [NPR] News, Strategy & Partnerships, Legal, and Business Development. Technical work was done by Harold Neal, Joanne Garlow, Jason Grosman, Tony Yan, Ivan Lazarte, Stephanie Oura, Ben Hands, Shain Miley, Lindsay Mangum, Todd Welstein and Vida Logan and a host of others.
The March 24th issue of Time has a feature, "10 Ideas That Are Changing The World," one of which is "The End of Customer Service" by Barbara Kiviat. This is presented as an inexorable and vaguely positive thing, but I don't know.
A trip (two, actually) to a Maryland Ikea store this past week to buy some furniture for my new apartment sure brought this home. Ikea has features nice design, inexpensive prices, and great Swedish meatballs with lingonberries for $5. Well, maybe I should reverse the order of those attributes. They make it easy for a decorating doofus to match things.
I swear that every time I go to an Ikea store, which is only about annually, I see fewer employees. The ones that are left are always very helpful, but sometimes you have to look a bit to find one. This time, all the check-out lines were self-service. A single employee worked all the lanes to assist people like me who couldn't find the barcodes and to keep us from scanning both Box 1 and Box 2 when they're part of the same item or you'll pay twice.
I wouldn't be surprised if a few years from now, you'll walk into Ikea and see only customers. There will be a couple of guards on the way out, Costco style, to check your receipts against your cart, and maybe some people behind the scenes converting dollars into kronor. Go to the cafeteria and hold your plate under an opening and your dozen meatballs will drop out. Rotate the plate quickly and you'll get a splat of lingonberries and a blob of mashed potatoes (or is it the other way around?). Can't find something? Go to a kiosk and talk with a helpful operator named Bruce or Christine from Bangladesh (unless you're in an Ikea in Germany, in which case they're named Helmut and Helga). I'd rather they automate their self-service furniture pick up so I don't have to go for the Advil when I get home.
Bringing this back to media a minute... It's probably not too far off the mark to say that self-service is one of the defining characteristics of new media vs. old media. The legacy media are full service media. We think about what programs you want and when you want them so you won't have to. Just turn on your radio and television and sit back. New media are self-service. Search for this podcast or that video or that streaming link. Decide both what you want to consume and whether it's MP3 or Real or Windows Media or QuickTime. Which of the several players I have do I want to use? Want to use one of the new IP radios? Then sometimes be prepared to manually enter the URL of your favorite audio service. You get the picture.
So we who want to succeed with distributing programming over emerging platform choices need to design those services to make them simulate the full-service environment as much as possible. --Dennis
Of CBS's 29 O&O TV stations, Will Richmond writes:
... CBS TV Stations drove 89 million video views from their own sites in '07, an average of around 8 million video views/mo from their own sites, a 71% increase over '06. It's gaining an additional 10 million video views/mo through syndication partners. The primary current contributor to syndication is Yahoo, with whom CBS TV Stations partnered in Oct '06. To put this in context, today's WSJ carried the adjacent graphic of select broadcasters' video views. Putting aside CBS TV Stations' 10 million monthly syndication streams, its '07 monthly average traffic would appear to rank it in the top 5, right around Discovery.com. ¶ In addition, video clips are a big part of CBS TV Stations' success, as it is posting around 520/day and now offers a searchable library of 350K clips. ¶ Meanwhile the Yahoo deal has been so successful that CBS TV Stations has clearly gotten syndication religion, with several significant announcements planned for the coming weeks. Leess explained how these syndication deals drive unprecedented consumption from out-of-market viewers while also creating valuable ad inventory. For pre-rolls, CBS is getting between $28-75 CPM, with banners fetching $8-18 CPM. Importantly, CBS TV Stations are aggressively bundling on-air/online/broadband packages, having sworn off broadband as a pure "value-add" some time ago.
It wasn't too long ago when web commentators were criticizing the BBC iPlayer, which uses the same distribution engine as Open Media Network, developed by former Kontiki chairman Mike Homer and recently gifted to U.S. public broadcasting. Now it seems that iPlayer is so successful that it's causing ISPs some traffic problems. According to informitv.com:
... In January, more than 2.2 million people used the BBC iPlayer,
streaming or downloading around 11 million programmes, reaching up to
half a million shows in a single day. In addition, there were nearly 16
million radio downloads in the same month. ¶ That represents a significant increase in the 5.6 million hours of
audio and video that was streamed by the BBC in the whole of 2006-2007. ...
Kudos to the Beeb. With a different production structure and internecine rivalries, it's hard to see how American public media will ever collaborate enough to duplicate the UK's success for national programming, but I'm optimistic about its success at the local station level if we're willing to develop content partnerships with community non-profits, schools and universities, government agencies, etc. --Dennis
T-Mobile and Orange will today announce a partnership to run a
commercial trial in west London of a new mobile TV technology which
could allow handset users to tune in to up to 100 channels. ¶ The
technology, TDTV, has been developed by US-based NextWave Wireless at
its British unit in Chippenham, Wiltshire, and could provide a cheaper
and more efficient way to get broadcast TV on to mobile phones. The
trial, due to start in late summer, will see several thousand Londoners
given either a new handset - made by a far eastern manufacturer
rumoured to be LG - or a wireless receiver, no bigger than a matchbox,
which will transfer the channels to their mobile phones. ...
... One recent study, conducted and reported by a respected music industry
publication, The Lefsetz Letter, compared the overall music sales — both
physical and digital — of the calendar year 2000 (the peak sales year to date
for the industry) with sales in 2007, and found that the 2007 figures were down
about a third (–36%) from the 2000 sales. ¶ Then Lefsetz compared the
individual sales of each of the top 10 selling records for those two
years with one other (i.e., sales of the #1 record of 2000 compared to the #1
record of 2007, #2 with #2, and so on), which you would expect to approximately
reflect the same one-third drop — but they did not. ¶ Instead, the records
that occupied each of the top 10 slots for 2007 were off from over 50 percent to
nearly 70 percent compared to the sales for the records in those same positions
for 2000. ¶ This substantially
disproportionate drop for the bestsellers of 2007 indicates that music sales are
clearly trending toward greater diversity and choice. ...
... Consumption patterns are shifting, and these may significantly affect radio
formatics, particularly for music. ¶ Here are the high-level bullet points
that influence any course corrections that terrestrial radio might consider:
As blockbuster sales decline and niches grow in importance, music promotion
will move away from traditional radio formats and seek more specialized
As big names sell fewer records but continue to receive most terrestrial
radio airplay, music labels will seek increased compensation to make up for
sales losses through new royalty payments from broadcasters.
Metadata matters, particularly for less well-known artists.
One-to-many is giving way to many-to-many, and unilateral purveyors of taste
(e.g., radio programming gurus) are giving way to “communities.” These virtual
communities are defined along multiple axes, one of which is geographical.
Terrestrial radio’s limited coverage can be turned to a strength for such
A potentially controversial point, but worth considering (at least
academically): In terms of maximizing competitive agility, terrestrial radio
ownership limits may be inverted. ...
Link: Radio World. Thanks to Kerry Swanson for the tip. --Dennis