Archive for the ‘Media’ Category

RIAA’s new plan to kill Webcasters

March 5, 2007

According to RAIN, RIAA’s per play rate proposal has been adopted by the The Copyright Royalty Board (CRB). This is other terms means that Webcasters will be charged for the performance of each song that is streamed to an individual user. If the proposal is finally published in the Federal Register it would result in a Webcasters’ royalty obligation be equal to over 125% of their total income. As per the progressive rate structure Webcasters will have to give $.0008 per performance in 2006, $.0011 per performance in 2007, $.0014 per performance 2008, $.0018 per performance 2009, and 2010 $.0019 per performance. Not a big increase from the first look, but does add up to very high numbers when you account for the total performances. “Performance” in this case is the streaming of one song to one listener. Besides these fees, a minimum fee of $500 will be charged per channel per year. Again no clear definition of the word Channel has been given. Channel in Webcasting terms(playlists) means a lot different than for an ordinary radio station or TV. RAIN did some quick calculations on the royalty obligation for AOL Radio Network, which approximately played 2.1 billion songs in November 2006. Going by the new rate structure AOL will have to pay $1.65 million for November which comes to about $20 million for 2006. Such high royalty rates ultimately means death of Pandora and likes.

Again, this a developing story with no such updates available on RIAA and CRB sites. I will watch for updates.

RAIN: Webcast Royalty Rate Decision
Save Internet Radio


Cellblock remote media refresh takes on both worlds – Desktop+Web

February 28, 2007

Widget based media sharing service Cellblock has been around for a while all along building cool new features. Today Cellblock added another significant feature to the service that extends the scope of the widget to the desktop space and in process adds disruptive real-time collaborative capabilities to the widget space. With just a few clicks, you can download a cellblock to your desktop that requires the recent version of JRE to work. Just as with the Flickr upload tool, you can upload content by simply dragging and dropping into the widget. Big difference is that you can upload photos and as well as videos onto the desktop widget. After this is when the real magic happens. As soon as you upload, the content updates instantly everywhere – on every desktop and on every website it’s embedded on. I think this is a pretty significant feature release ’cause it blurs the line between desktop and web widgets while making it easier to send content updates remotely, an important feature that was ignored in number of cases notably Youtube video widget. So now you can find yourself attaching a Cellblock Desktop Widget to a email that takes up almost no space but still displays an unlimited amount of photo and video content, streamed in real-time.

Few companies have already been working on enabling this feature set including Google, Splashcast, Preclick with each of them targeting a different market with a unique implementation. As expected Google is focused on pushing Adsense video ads through such a widget, while Splashcast has taken the traditional show->channel->player approach, and Preclick is using the Instant Messaging way to remotely refresh media content. However I am impressed by the Cellblock implementation that gets things done without requiring end users to install a new application.

Cellblock – Local news aggregator gets funded

February 27, 2007

Union Square Ventures has invested in a 6 month old startup,, a localized media content aggregation startup. received $900K as part of the investment. Other investors who participated in the funding round includes Marc Andreessen, John Seely Brown, Esther Dyson, Village Ventures(firm of Tripod founder Bo Peabody), Milestone Venture Partners, and angel investors George Crowley, John Borthwick, and Richard Smith. Pretty long list, huh? As for the founding team of, it includes Steven Berlin Johnson, co-creator online magazine FEED and the Webby-Award-winning community site,, and John Geraci who previously worked on Neighbornode, Pheeder and Foundcity.

Idea of is to aggregate blogosphere and other media content around your neighborhoods. As an initial push in this direction, launched their service today in 63 cities, and 3217 neighborhoods in the U.S. As a user you can bring in stories to and associate them with a area. Or as a blog publisher, you can use the FeedBurner “geotag this post” flare to easily get the post tagged, which will than show the number of posts tagged for that location. From a reader perspective you can enter your city, neighborhood, or zip code to start exploring your local community

Craigslist and Topix Forums are some of the sites which has done exceedingly well in fostering localized discussions. But automation of this task to get content from blogosphere is a great idea. Issues can still arise from the incorrect geo-content associations, spam blogs rolling up geo-tagged pharma ads into, and more of such types. Would be interesting to watch how deals with the challenges of dynamic and expanding world of blogs.


Newsgator looks toward branded communities

February 22, 2007

Newsgator is finally planning to enter the market of branded communities and conversational advertising. I had for long expected Newsgator moving into this area given its core strength in syndication and delivery of content. Newsgator’s new plan feels vaguely similar to RSS based brandable communities from Eluma. With the new product, brand managers will be able to create and host  “branded Hosted Conversation” around select themes and topics. Content for each of  these conversations will be extracted by the host from news media, blogs and other content sources. Users will have the ability to participate in the conversation through commenting on existing articles or publishing their own articles. Newsgator will try to keep the RSS term usage in the background to make onboarding easier for ordinary users. As you might expect, widget based deliver of ads will provide the perfect icing.

Each implementation and rollout of a brandable community will take around 2 weeks with clients working together with Newsgator and Edelman teams. From the end-product look and feel perspective, it might have similarities with Skinkers event alert tool, with additional interaction options built-in.

However I think Newsgator is entering a new world of brand marketing which requires different kind of management experience to push the product forward. Product strategy aside, selling the product to consumer facing companies, and there by getting it picked up by the end users will hold key to the success of the new venture.

On the whole, list of companies and startups, besides Newsgator, looking at building brandable communities or already doing so now include Eluma, Skinkers, ViTrue, LiveJournal, and Yahoo.

Newsgator Hosted Conversations

BBC on Youtube; SimulScribe Voice-to-SMS; Sportsvite new look

February 21, 2007

BBC talks with Google: While talks with CBS and Viacom have fallen apart in the last couple of days, Youtube teams continues with the deal making process. According to news reports, BBC is talking with Google to make available its content on Youtube. No details have emerged in regards which content will be made available.

SimulScribe: I don’t think converting voicemail to text market is big enough to support another startup. Nevertheless SimulScribe is planning to take on reQall, Jott, and Spinvox, with its new service that converts voicemail to text and sends it out as SMS your mobile. SimulScribe is pretty much decided about its monetization plans. The service comes free for 7 days, and thereafter costs $9.99/month for 40 messages. Feels pricey to me. 

Sportsvite: The sports social networking startup, which had raised $2 million last week, has gone live with major upgrades to the site. Changes seem to be related more to the UI brush-up side of things, and less on adding new core features. I am unimpressed.

Scouta launches personalized media; Mumspace – yet another socialnet…….

February 21, 2007

Another mommy oriented social network that launched last week. Seems to be using WordPress to drive its backend. Offers ability to choose from alternative themes, adding people to your network,  creating photo albums, and more of the expected  features from a socialnet. I see tough road for the startup ahead since number of players have already entered this space last year including MomJunction, CafeMom, Maya’s Mom, Famster, and MothersClick. 

The Australia based startup launched its recommendation system yesterday that generates personally relevant suggestions of online audio and video, like podcasts, videocasts, online TV, video, etc. Users bookmark favorite online audio and video and Scouta aggregates these to make personalized recommendations. Basically a for everything to anything. CozmoTV is working in similar direction on the video side. Scouta will also be releasing an iTunes plugin that will automatically bookmarks content consumed on a member’s computer, iPod, or Apple TV, and their API to extend the platform to other applications and devices. Sounds like a plan to me, but lot of work is required in terms of UI, user experience, and building a dynamic community.


coRank- Digg alternative in making

February 21, 2007

Former employee of NetScape and eBay, Rogelio Andreo, is building a Digg alternative at coRank. I know we have enough of them, maybe coming at the rate of 1 each day, but this is a bit different. Besides the emphasis on pushing hot news items to front page, Rogelio wants to enable users to promote new news items to their front page via “votes of the people this user has previously selected”. From what I can infer from the statement is that you will be able to add friends anonymously to your network without they knowing that they are part of your network. Any votes from these people will push your article higher up on your front page. How about users openly disclosing who is part of their network to get higher votes or even kicking out people who vote -ive? I know Rogelio would definitely have plans for these issues to start with. Nevertheless makes coRank an interesting startup to watch for where users will be motivated to promote their page and not just the news stories.


Microsoft opens up Soapbox

February 14, 2007

Microsoft’s video sharing site Soapbox, which has been under private beta for past few months, is finally open for users to signup and start sharing videos. The news is good for Microsoft, but I think they are a bit late to the party. Google/Youtube, Dailymotion, Revver, Brightcove, and MySpace have been busy signing legal content sharing deals with media companies, and also working hard on developing new syndication, distribution, and revenue sharing options for the past year. When compared to them, Microsoft is at least more than a year behind schedule. Also Soapbox is currently using Macromedia Flash to deliver videos, which can cause some turbulence if and when Microsoft moves over to its own Flash killer platform – Windows Presentation Foundation.

Unyte and Soapbox IM add-ons


Mixpo: Another day, another media mashup launch

February 13, 2007

Seattle based Mixpo, which had started off as PiXPO, today announced that it has officially launched its Mixcard service. Simply put, you can add your video, photos and audio to create a Mixcard, which can than be embedded into your blog or MySplace et al profiles. Once created and uploaded, all your Mixcards are available online from where they can be easily updated.

One very big issue with Mixpo is that you need to download the Mixpo client to create your Mixcards, which is similar to the way Smilebox operates. I ain’t  big fan of downloading and installing apps, so had to skip this part.

Looking at the feature set, one thing the Mixpo offers better is the ability to annotate videos. This is not possible in Splashcast with whom Mixpo directly competes with in terms of the target market. However this feature is not that difficult to get done with and has already been implemented by number of other startups including Viddler. Mixpo has time and money to fine tune its offering and possibly move over to a web version, which I feel is the right direction. Mixpo had received $6.5M Series A round of funding in May 2006 led by Seattle-based Madrona Venture Group, and including Canadian investors Working Opportunity Fund (managed by GrowthWorks Capital Ltd.), Yaletown Venture Partners, Springbank TechVentures and private investors.


Smilebox launches- Personalized greetings with videos

February 12, 2007

Since multi-format media mashup is the buzzword, we should see more number of startups graduating to that than doing just photos. Last month, Splashcast had launched its syndication player that gets audio, video, photo, and text all in one place. Today Smilebox launched a similar product that making media sharing easier through personalized greetings. With $5 million in venture funding from Frazier Technology Ventures and angel investors, Smilebox wants to run things from your PC. Unlike Splashcast, you need to download and install Smilebox PC software. Advantage of desktop app is that you get to zoom, pan, rotate, and upload your clips at a much faster speed. Smilebox provides number of professionally designed slideshows, over which users can drag and drop videos, photos, add music, and text. It took less than couple of minutes for me to create a very professional looking greeting, upload photos, and send it out. Any greeting you email can be accessed from your Smilebox account online. As for pricing, basic version is free which comes with Google ad-blocks, and premium version comes for a one-time fee of $1.99(no-ads+can print+full-screen view mode). You can also subscribe to Smilebox for $4.99 a month or $39.99 a year to unlimited use of all premium designs. OutStory is another startup enabling video embedding, while another similar product Picaboo is still sticking with photos since their end product is a printed photo book.