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  • 6 March, 2009

    On Hulu and Boxee

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 3:31 pm permalink

    I was a huge fan of Hulu on Boxee, and as a result of Hulu pulling out, I have really stopped seeing Hulu as a viable source of content for me, since I’d much rather watch programming on my large television screen than on my computer. Instead, I’ve been using services like iTunes on my Apple TV, completely sidestepping the content providers’ ad-revenues. I prefer the lack of ads and the better quality (and yes, quality on iTunes has gotten better, to the point that I now consider BitTorrenting these shows to be more of a hassle than using iTunes, a revision on my previous position, despite the fact that the shows are still DRM-infested. If I want to send something to a friend, I’ll then go through the trouble of firing up the ol’ BT client), but it does come at a monetary price. The ads on Hulu are a smaller price to pay—it’s a fair trade—but I do take a huge exception to Hulu telling me that I can’t use my TV for watching their content—that I HAVE to watch things on their terms, only on the device they want me to use.

    As someone working in a similar industry, and facing similar problems, I understand the content providers’ hands being tied, in terms of their being dependent on the business model that things like Hulu potentially cannibalize, and I also understand that change at large corporations is not easy—it takes time and planning to turn a big ship around. But honestly, I can’t see how Hulu on Boxee hurts their bottom line: they’re still getting ad impressions, and in extreme cases like mine, where I don’t have a cable subscription at all to begin with, ad impressions via Hulu on Boxee are not cannibalizing ad impressions on the broadcast networks.

    While my case is probably the exception for now, as less tech savvy people start to realize that things like Boxee are out there, and are very easy to use, that situation will change. It’s untenable for me to pay a cable company for a slew of channels I don’t want, when the specific content I do want is individually available for me online. As the economy gets worse, and people start cutting down on their expenses, alternatives like Hulu on Boxee may very well become the norm. Content providers would be well served to work with outfits like Boxee, instead of flat-out shutting them down. The long term benefits are evident, but the network execs need to start looking beyond this financial quarter—or this season’s ratings—to be able to see the forest for the trees.

    Boxee has now implemented what amounts to a work-around to the absence of Hulu on their software, and I applaud them for it. Time will tell if the fight they’ve got coming will be one they win. I sure hope so.

  • 18 January, 2009

    BSG Round table discussion

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 3:10 pm permalink

    We’re having a great time discussing Friday night’s episode of Battlestar Galactica on Tor.com. Come join the fun, but be warned: spoilers abound! If you missed it, SciFi has posted the episode in its entirety right here.

    Battlestar Galactica Round Table: “Sometimes a Great Notion”.

  • 6 January, 2009

    “2009 is going to be a bloodbath”

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 8:31 pm permalink

    Clay Shirky on the future of media:

    The 500-year-old accident of economics occasioned by the printing press – high upfront cost and filtering happening at the source of publication – is over. But will the New York Times still exist on paper? Of course, because people will hit the print button.

    The whole article is well worth a read. It’s not too long, but it covers basics of Shirky’s predictions about how the media laandscape is going to shift (or is already shifting).

    Digital guru Clay Shirky’s media forecast and predictions for 2009 | Media | The Guardian.

    via

    boing boing

  • 26 December, 2008

    On the Publishocalypse

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 1:02 pm permalink

    Salon.com’s got a nice post-game on the Publishocalypse that went down earlier this month in Jason Boog’s “Read it and weep.”

    Who will survive publishing’s Ice Age? Undoubtedly, the companies that can command developments in the impending digital book revolution.

    Well thanks, Captain Obvious. The word “book” in the phrase “digital book revolution” is unnecessary—the so-called digital revolution is upon, above, behind, around, inside, between and [insert more prepositions here] us, and it affects everything. To think that printed books are somehow immune to the sea-change that the information economy is imposing on our society is silly and near-sighted, to say the least.

    The question isn’t so much the “what”—it’s the “how ” of the matter that really has a lot of people stumped. For what it’s worth, I don’t disagree with Boog: the real winners here will be the small, agile shops. Hopefully the indies, like McSweeny’s, and Subterranean Press in the SF/F world, but also (and I admit I’m slightly biased, because well, I’d like to keep my job for now, thanks) small spinoffs from large, corporate publishers like HarperStudio and Tor.com.

    Working in publishing, being relatively new to it, and being involved in one large publishing corporation’s efforts to make sense of this series of tubes, I have some thoughts about how things should maybe play out in order for publishers to adapt to modern times.

    On the role of the Publisher

    I think publishers (and editors) need to start thinking in slightly more media-agnostic terms, and they need to embrace the opportunities afforded by being shoved into the digital age (sometimes kicking and screaming, sometimes not), where your cost-per-unit is not dependent on bulky, expensive, and wasteful physical manufacturing processes (which, in essence, is what commercial book-printing is). While there are other costs associated with eBook production that may not be evident at first look (especially at the onset), electronic always trumps physical when it comes to the accessibility of the means of production.

    Additionally, I think fiction editors need to look beyond the novel—or even the book as we know it—as the final product of their efforts. To paraphrase a co-worker, the truly great editor is an advocate for his authors and their ideas, and I think that this advocacy needs to extend into as many realms as necessary. Upon acquisition, an editor should ask themselves not what kind of book should this piece of intellectual property become, but whether it should become a book at all! Should it instead be an information-dense website; or a live-action movie; or a serialized, episodic narrative on the internet (see how far I’ll bend over backwards to not say “TV show”?), or a video game; or a presentation (think Al Gore); or a work of graphic narrative; or an animated movie (these last two most definitely NOT being the same thing)? Once the editor and the author have decided what this piece of IP should be, media-wise, it’s then the editor’s job, with the backing of the publisher, to find the correct producers for that idea, be they printers, eBook-makers, film-makers, game designers, comics artists, etc.

    On books, specifically

    As a book lover and collector, I do think there will be a space for printed and bound books for a long time to come1. I just think that it will be a very limited market: for people who like books as objects, for art or photography books (including graphic storytelling), or beautiful collections.

    On the technological side, however, things are moving fast. People are starting to read on their iPhones and other smartphones, the ePub format is gaining some serious traction, and devices like the Kindle and the Sony Reader are also becoming more sophisticated (think about the current iteration of the Kindle and similar devices as the same as the 13-inch, black and white tube television prevalent in the fiftes ans sixties). I wouldn’t be surprised to see colour, increased resolution, and maybe even rudimentary animation on eInk technology by the end of 2009, at least in proof-of-concept form.

    This very well may be wishful thinking, but my vision for a holistic book publisher of the future is one which concerns itself with both the analogue and the digital life of a work of fiction, and works at or around three editions of a work that probably need to be published at the same time—this whole business of waiting a year to publish a mass market edition of a book is nonsense in a digital world.

    1- Premium Printed Edition—The first edition would be a physical object: a beautifully-designed Premium Printed Edition, exquisitely-printed, bound in small numbers, destined for a small market of higher-end customers and collectors—much like music and movie boxed-sets.  Accompanying this tome would be a Unabridged Digital First Edition, which would include any multimedia elements that make up a part of the book (such as embedded movies, music, maps, illustrations, etc); as well as ancillary material that is not necessarily part of the book itself (think documentaries on related subjects, interviews with the author, etc). This would sell for a premium price, let’s say $50-$602.

    2- Unabridged Digital Edition—At the same time as the Premium Printed Edition is released, you release that Unabridged Digital Edition that you included with the Premium Printed Edition as a stand-alone purchase, priced at around $10-$20 bucks. I think this price range is justifiable for a first electronic edition that is chock-full with additional elements that you don’t have in a regular, printed edition of a book. Additionally, buying this edition automatically entitles the buyer to download future, updated editions of the same book, either for free, or for a ridiculously low fee (I’m thinking like a dollar). Once you start including multimedia content with a work of fiction, and packaging it all together in an attractive way, editions become version numbers, and books truly become software in an ideological sense. This changes the work of an editor and an author: if an author so chooses, their work is never finished, and the author retains a very accessible way of adding, amending, and otherwise iterating on a previously-published work in a timely manner; likewise, an editor becomes even more of a shepherd, and the act of editing a book can become an ongoing curatorial pursuit. But I digress. Moving on…

    3- Abridged Digital Edition—Still at the same time as the Premium Printed Edition and the Unabridged Digital Edition are released (remember, staggered publishing is for suckers in the digital age—you only need to walk Canal street on a movie’s theater release date to see the DVDs on display, and the fallacy in that model), you release the Abridged Digital Edition at mass-market prices: Say, $2-6 bucks, tops. This Abridged Edition is just the plaintext of the work in question—well-designed, nicely typeset, but no multimedia, no maps, no art, no entitlement to future iterations, no nothing. Words on a screen. Hell, if it were me, I’d offer this edition as a free download.

    An aside: While incredibly nifty technology, I see Print-on-Demand as a stopgap measure between the phasing out of mass markets and trade paperbacks, and the true ubiquitousness of e-reading, so it doesn’t really fit in this model.

    As it becomes more and more obvious that digital is the way to go for publishing (not that it ever wasn’t, really, it’s just that the big boys are now actually altering course on their big boats), many ideas will hit the market, and many will die before a successful model is found. This, I think, is a scheme that could be sustainable, and embraces the best of both the digital and the analogue worlds. Would it work? Is it too simplistic an approach? Is it going too much against accepted practices in the publising industry? Does it leave too many people that now depend on the infrastructure surrounding printed books out in the cold? I don’t know. What do you think?

    1 At least until people around my age all die off—children nowadays are consuming most of their media via digital interfaces earlier and much more often than before. I would be very surprised if a thirty-year-old of 2030 has a problem with reading off a screen, like many of my contemporaries do.

    2 All dollar values are purely off-the cuff, and more meant to reflect a relative pricing scale for different editions, than reflect any real costs associated with publishing—I’m just sayin’. A formal P&L is not part of this excercise…yet.

  • 23 December, 2008

    Top 10 Most Pirated TV-Shows of 2008

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 9:22 pm permalink

    Take a look at this: popular piracy blog TorrentFreak has just published its list of the top 10 most pirated TV shows in comparison to each show’s Nielsen ratings. TorrentFreak collects its data “from several sources, including reports from all the large BitTorrent trackers.”

    There’s a really interesting number in there: Stargate Atlantis clocks in at 1,810,000 downloads and 1,700,000 (esitmated) Nielsen viewers. That’s right: the geeks are downloading their TV more often than watching it via broadcast.

    Watch out for the early adopters, TV execs. All your base, and all that…

    via Top 10 Most Pirated TV-Shows of 2008 | TorrentFreak.

  • 3 September, 2008

    If it ain’t broke. . .

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 8:47 pm permalink

    Wired reports that ‘file sharing’ is alive and well, despite so-called legal alternatives. Big surprise there. After all, the people who pirate want shows as DRM-free HD content in a standardized format, and that’s about the last thing the networks seem willing to give up.

  • 13 August, 2008

    Mark Harris Nails the State of Network TV for Wired.

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 8:55 pm permalink

    He just nails it. Below are a few gems, but do yourself a favour and read the whole piece. On content:

    Discussions at the networks about what’s depleting their viewership tend to focus on familiar culprits: YouTube. The internet. Xbox. The iPod. Too many options. (Capitalism can be so unfair!) This leads to brainstorming sessions about making TV more like the internet,
    resulting in a lot of overexcited press releases announcing how one-minute “minisodes” of your favorite shows will be exclusively available on a network website, or Twittered to you line by line as they’re being written, or beamed directly into your cerebral cortex via Bluetooth.

    Enough already. Competition from other media is real, but it’s also a convenient excuse to not focus on programming. You don’t hear American Idol‘s producers whining about how the internet is draining their audience, because they know that their audience is on the internet. Viewers go there to talk, read, kvetch, and gossip—about American Idol.

    On being douches when it comes to niche, critically acclaimed, or shows with a small but devoted fan-following:

    Broadcast networks routinely spend three months promoting a show that they then cancel after two airings. Or they get a few million viewers hooked on a serialized drama and then drop it midway through a season, leaving fans hanging. This simply never happens on cable, where if a
    series gets a 13-episode order, those 13 episodes are damn well going to air, even if it’s just because there’s nothing else to take their place. Every time the networks reshuffle their grid in a spasm of quick-fix panic, they disenchant more viewers.

  • 15 July, 2008

    Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog: Live!

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 1:50 am permalink

    And by ‘live’, I mean ‘online, for your streaming pleasure’, of course. I’d embed it here, but the idea is for you to check out their site, and prove, via the power of your mighty and unique view, that this is a viable method of delivery for entertainment. That, and it’s on Hulu. They don’t allow you to embed video elsewhere. Bastards. But it’s also on iTunes, which is a promising step (except that, even after buying the Season Pass, priced at $3.99 for all three 15 minute episodes [see? I'll pay for something I support, it's not all piracy around here] the downloads won’t start. Double bastards).

    Regardless of a few day-one hiccups (and despite the fact that it’s on Hulu, which I don’t like simply because they pulled Battlestar Galactica away from the iTunes store–yes it’s a grudge thing, so sue me), it’s funny, precious, witty, self-deprecating, and sing-along-y, just like the Whedon your mama used to make ya on the teevee. I’ll review in full once all three eps are up, probably on Tor.com (yes, we’re getting closer to that July 20 launch date…).

  • 1 July, 2008

    Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 11:30 am permalink


    Teaser from Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog on Vimeo.
    I can’t wait to see this. The fruits of extra-curricular (as in, not within the studio system) efforts from Joss Whedon during the writer’s strike, Dr. Horrible promises to be the beginning of a slew of independent productions from established old-media talent, taking their toys and playing elsewhere, away from the profit-crazed monolith that is Hollywood. The plan is to release three episodes for free streaming on July 15th, 17th, and 19th. They’ll keep them online for a short while, then take them down in order to sell downloads and an extra features-packed DVD. Sounds like a good idea to me. From the Dr. Horrible youtube site:

    The story of a low-rent super-villain, the hero who keeps beating him up, and the cute girl from the laundromat he’s too shy to talk to. Featuring Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer, Felicia Day as Penny and a cast of dozens.

    Fillion. Whedon. The intertubez. Doogie Howser. Full of win. The cast and Whedon will be on a panel at Comic Con San Diego later this month, I’m going to try to catch that, and grill ‘em with questions. In the meantime, here’s a fansite which has been keeping everyone up to date on Dr. Horrible-related happenings.

  • 2 June, 2008

    RDM gets Wired. Or Wired gets RDM’ed.

    posted by Pablo Defendini at 8:40 am permalink

    Wired has a great interview with Ron D. Moore, the showrunner for Battlestar Galactica, in which he spoils absolutely nothing, yet talks about all sorts of cool things, like his personal religious beliefs and how they relate to the show’s portrayal of religion, the way BSG differs from Star Trek (RDM was a writer/producer for Deep Space Nine), etc. Most salient in my mind, his little anecdote about what happened when NBC/Universal focus-grouped the original BSG miniseries:

    They did one of the infamous controlled tests of the miniseries just before the mini went on the air — like four weeks before we aired or something, one of those marketing testing focus group things. They watched the series. It was one of the worst rated ever.

    The company that did it sent back this cover page report that just said, nobody likes any of these characters, we see no reason this should ever become a series, there’s no identification with any of it, it’s too dark, it’s too scary. And the network, all the blood drained from their face when they heard that, because it was too late. Fortunately, it was too late. The show was done, locked, in the can.

    Yet another example of how focus groups are good for exactly one thing: wasting your money. Anyway, enjoy the interview.