About this Author
Ernest Miller Ernest Miller pursues research and writing on cyberlaw, intellectual property, and First Amendment issues. Mr. Miller attended the U.S. Naval Academy before attending Yale Law School, where he was president and co-founder of the Law and Technology Society, and founded the technology law and policy news site LawMeme. He is a fellow of the Information Society Project at Yale Law School. Ernest Miller's blog postings can also be found @

Listen to the weekly audio edition on IT Conversations:
The Importance Of ... Law and IT.

Feel free to contact me about articles, websites and etc. you think I may find of interest. I'm also available for consulting work and speaking engagements. Email: ernest.miller 8T

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« Broadcast Flag | Broadcatching/Podcasting | Civil Liberties »

July 13, 2005

PBS's Web-Only Nerd TV to Launch in September Under Creative Commons License

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Lost Remote, among many others, reports that PBS will be making one its shows available solely on the internet under a Creative Commons license (PBS Launches 'a Whole New Kind of Television'). The show, to be hosted by Robert X. Cringely, will be called Nerd TV (Pioneering Another Technology First, PBS Launches NerdTV, the First Downloadable Web-Exclusive Series From a Major Broadcaster).

This is very good news. If PBS doesn't make an RSS broadcatch available, it is likely that someone else will, hopefully, breaking the show down into individual segments.

This is still niche content for an undeveloped market, however, so I doubt the audience will be particularly large. When will we see the hardware that will make subscribing to these sorts of shows easy for the average consumer?

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Copyright | Creative Commons

July 08, 2005

Netflix in Another Indie Film Distribution Deal - Where is Netflix for the Internet?

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Posted by Ernest Miller

IndieWIRE reports that Netflix has made another deal to distribute an independent film (Hal Hartley Takes Latest Film to Netflix for DVD Release). Hal Hartley's The Girl from Monday is the film being distributed this time. This is a very cool way to slide on down the Long Tail. via Cinema Minima.

You know, the funny thing is, Netflix is sort of like internet distribution, only through the post office. When will we get the equivalent of Netflix for the 'net? Seriously. Just port the damn thing. Customers could just buy a "Netflix Box" and attach it to a broadband connection and their TV. How hard could it be? When you want a new film, you tell it to erase one of your current selections first and it immediately goes to fetch the next film on your list. It'd download faster than the post office can deliver. You'd never have to wait for low availability films.

And, once you have this, the possibilities for other sorts of distribution are ridiculous.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

July 06, 2005

Podcasting for the XBox 360?

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Posted by Ernest Miller

So, the next generation XBox360 is going to have all sorts of cool multimedia abilities and its connectivity through XBox Live is being heavily touted (XBox360 Fact Sheet).

So, will Microsoft dare permit podcasting to the XBox? If they do, which artists will they allow to try to reach this market? How might podcasting be integrated with games? I think of the faux-radio stations in Grand Theft Auto, as a very basic example.

Dare we imagine the possibities for broadcatching video content, say for example, machinima? Doesn't it make sense to deliver machinima film festivals to gamers who would subscribe?

How forward thinking is Microsoft?


What better way to deliver short video reviews of upcoming XBox titles? Of course, Microsoft could simply use it as some sort of advertising channel, but why not let known, responsible outlets have access to provide podcasts/broadcatch for their independent reviews?

Imagine a Penny Arcade feed - why not?

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Games | Machinima

July 03, 2005

July 02, 2005

June 28, 2005

June 24, 2005

June 23, 2005

June 22, 2005

Listening to Radio On Your Cellphone

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Posted by Ernest Miller

BusinessWeek has an an interesting article about radio for your cellphone (Dial R for Radio on Your Cell).

Chances are radio services will be a hit with the 2 billion wireless subscribers worldwide. "Mobile phones are always with you," explains Nancy Beaton, a general manager at telco Sprint (FON), which became the first carrier with a commercial cell-phone radio service in December. "Because customers are familiar with how the phone works, adding radio can be very intuitive," says Beaton.

And many users want that addition. According to surveys conducted by America Online, a unit of Time Warner (TWX), more than half the respondents say they would listen to the radio on their phones. AOL is in talks with wireless service providers to offer its online radio stations on mobile phones within months.

Radio on phones is a good idea. I could see that it would be very useful. However, a couple of questions ... many related to my rant yesterday (Die Cellphone. Die! Die! Die!).

First, why the heck does AOL (or any other cellphone radio service) need to be in talks with wireless service providers? Why couldn't they simply be in talks with, you know, customers? The closed networks of the cellphone providers are really limiting competition and innovation (not to mention increasing the price).

Second, despite Miss Beaton's claim about ease of use, why the heck do we have to get the radio via a cellphone? Why not get the radio via an MP3 player? Why not let the MP3 player have basic connectivity for this purpose? A cellphone is great in some circumstances, but not necessarily all.

Radio service also could spark sales of other wireless content. "Since radio is how people discover new music, I'd look at radio as the trigger that would create follow-through sales of [popular content like] ringtones, ringbacks, and music downloads," says Lewis Ward, an analyst at IDC. If users hear a song they like on their cell-phone radio, they'll be able to immediately buy a related ringtone via their cell. That should accelerate the growth of the $500 million ringtone market, as well as sales of ringbacks and music downloads.
Of course, one reason the cellphone service providers like their closed networks is so that they can make more money via associated services. I still can't believe that people pay as much for ringtones as they do. Open up the network, let people buy ringtones without paying the cellphone service provider tax.
Most cell-phone radiocasters, though, plan to use existing wireless networks, but to varying extents. Motorola's iRadio, expected to cost $5 a month, will let customers download hours of radio programming via a PC. New radio-ready Motorola phones are expected to be unveiled this fall. Motorola plans to insert snippets of breaking news into these broadcasts as they're downloaded over its wireless network.
Downloading hours of radio programming via your PC already has a name. It's called "podcasting". Still, perhaps Motorola will share some of their technology, or help work on an open standard, for mixing breaking news with less time-volatile content. Would be useful.

via Mobile Content News

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Telecomm | Tools

June 21, 2005

June 19, 2005

June 18, 2005

June 17, 2005

Speeding Up and Scanning Podcasts

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Posted by Ernest Miller

One of the difficulties that podcasts face is simple lack of attention bandwidth. I can read (or scan) far many more blog postings than I can podcasts. This will always be the case, but there are quite a number of improvements in the technology that can be made to improve access. For example, many of the longer podcasts should be broken up into segments that can be easily skipped, one segment of a show to the next. Another idea: have meta-information about the podcast included in the audio itself at the beginning (topics, time, etc.).

Ed Bott has another suggestion (Tip of the Day: Listen to a Podcast at Warp Speed).

Windows Media Player has a well-hidden advanced playback control that allows you to vary the speed at which a media clip is played back. This feature, it turns out, is ideal for listening to broadcasts that emphasize the spoken word, such as podcasts and vlogs. This feature does much more than simply rewind or fast-forward a media clip; it performs time compression and expansion, speeding up or slowing down the pace of playback but maintaining audio and video fidelity—keeping a narrator or host's voice from sounding like a cartoon character when the audio or video clip is played at faster than normal speed.

Use this feature to “speed read” an instructional video or a podcast, for example, viewing or listening to the full program in a fraction of its normal running time while still being able to understand the audio.

I've actually experienced similar technology in the past (audio tech for the vision impaired) and it works pretty well. With practice and experience you can scan audio pretty darn quickly.

Of course, such technology can't be some hidden trick, but must be readily accessed and adjustable, such as through a scroll wheel or some such.

Are the podcasting gods listening?

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

June 15, 2005

June 14, 2005

Podcasting and Profanity

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Last Sunday, on Corante's Podcasting Jeff De Cagna asked, what the role of profanity in podcasting was (Profanity in Podcasting: What is its Role?).

But there is an even more fundamental inquiry I'd like to pose here: what is the role of profanity in podcasting? Do we need to curse to demonstrate our fidelity to free speech? What is the point at which our defiant acts against the FCC will cease to be purposeful, and we will just become garbage mouths in the eyes (and ears) of our listeners? I know I'm probably messing with the bull here, so I'll be prepared! [emphasis in original]
The answer is simple, really. It plays whatever role the speaker desires. If that role doesn't mesh with the role the audience cares for, the audience will stop listening.

Use profanity, don't use profanity. It's a judgement call.

The real question is whether some censorship regime is necessary.

Last week on the Yahoo podcasters group, there was an extremely passionate discussion (complete with name calling) of profanity in podcasting and how it can be screened by listeners who prefer to avoid it themselves or want to keep it away from their kids. At the moment, of course, there isn't a way to screen for profanity short of listening to the podcasts. Some group members advocated a voluntary ratings system, while others recoiled at the suggestion. A key question is who gets to decide what is or isn't profane and by what cultural standard, an extremely relevant matter given podcasting's global reach. [link in original]
But really, is this necessary? The internet has a number of rating schemes, they're mostly useless. I've never noticed any blogs that are rated, why should podcasts? Depending on the audience, most blogs simply exercise a judgement call. Some refuse to publish vulgarities, others do. Sometimes the sites warn their readers, sometimes they don't. Seems to work just fine.

Of course, I'm sure the topic will come up again and again and again ...

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Freedom of Expression | Rating and Filtering

June 13, 2005

June 09, 2005

Die Network. Die! Die! Die!

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Last week I wrote a story about the death of the channel (Die Channel. Die! Die! Die!). Of course, if the channel dies, the whole concept of the network begins to make a lot less sense. They'll certainly have to change.

Well, it turns out that back in April, Deloitte published a report predicting the death of the broadcast network (Television Networks in the 21st Century).

Read the press release: Television Networks Threatened with Extinction: Change or Die, Says Deloitte Report
Read the 16-page report: Television Networks in the 21st Century [PDF]

As markets fragment, control shifts from suppliers to buyers - or in this case, from broadcast networks to viewers or consumers. That shift raises serious questions about the continued viability of the broadcast network business model.

Today, major television networks (public and private) and their affiliates still cling to a premium as the only media outlets with true mass-market reach. But as fragmentation continues, even the most optimistic advertisers have come to realize that no single channel can truly reach the masses. The mass-market is being re-defined.

Good read, though I don't think their recommendations are quite radical enough.

More recently, like yesterday, Broadcasting and Cable reported on a recent panel discussion about the future of television in which several senior executives participated and predicted the death of one or more networks in the next five years (NBC, Touchstone Chiefs: Some Broadcast Nets Won't Survive). On the other hand, "'Frankly, network television is here to stay,' said Magna Global Worldwide Chairman and CEO Bill Cella." TV Squad responded (Networks Better Get Ready for a Change):

If it’s true, as Bill Cella says in this article, that network television as a business model is here to stay, it’s only because those with vested interests in it’s survival will call in as many favors as they have to in order to guarantee it. I think that yes, in five years the network landscape will look much as it does now minus perhaps one major player. But after that it’s anyone’s guess.
That's about right, I think.

via Smart Mobs

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Open Access

June 08, 2005

June 07, 2005

Broadcasters Face Uphill Struggle

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The Hollywood Reporter reports on the struggles television content providers are and will be facing (Broadcast TV Facing Broadband Realities).

Broadcast television networks and stations are destined to become glorified program suppliers whose participation in interactive advertising and content will be dependent on cable, satellite, Internet and other gatekeepers.
Translation: broadcast television networks will no longer be the gatekeepers themselves. Cry me a river.

Maybe they ought to consider working hard to weaken potential alternative gatekeepers. Nah...they're hoping to make a cozy deal with the new gatekeepers instead.

Ask television broadcasters about the future, and they most likely will say they are waiting to be rescued by regulators enforcing digital must-carry, increased sale of digital television sets and a digital critical mass penetration that includes not only homes but also individual TV sets. TV broadcasters say they will resist spending much money on digital content until there is a big enough market (more than the current 10 million digital homes to assure a payback -- mirroring their approach to high-definition television.
If you're smart, you'll realize that the mass market isn't the only market going anymore and will attempt to understand and reach much smaller markets in the digital world. If you're stupid, well, you'll do exactly what they are doing, continuing to focus solely on the mass market.
Once they begin dabbling, broadcasters will begin to capitalize on the fact that consumers respond to and seek particular content -- not networks or stations -- a phenomenon that will be more starkly evident as cable operators convert to all-digital and a la carte content selection and pricing are routine.
"Once they begin dabbling..." Once...

via lost remote

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

June 06, 2005

June 04, 2005

June 03, 2005

Die Channel. Die! Die! Die!

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Posted by Ernest Miller

MediaPost (reg. req.) runs an essay on how we seem to be reaching the saturation point for the number of cable channels, and it is falling far short of the mythical 500 channels we were promised (We May Have Reached the End of the 500-Channel Universe, 395 Channels Short). But why?

Noting that the average American cable TV viewer now has 105 channels available, Merrill Lynch research analyst Jessica Reif Cohen notes they actually watch only "16 to 18" of them. That suggests, she says, that "we may have reached a point of saturation with regard to start-up cable networks."
Imagine that, we only watch about 16 to 18 channels.

What that tells me is that the whole "channel" concept is an incredibly inefficient content delivery mechanism. The search costs are far too high, for one thing. It is too much trouble to search beyond a relatively small number of channels. People stick with the few channels they know are likely to have something that interests them and not spend too much time looking through the many other options.

It sort of reminds me of "bookmarks," which was a primitive means for navigating the World Wide Web back in the day. One would bookmark favorite webpages, then check them periodically to see if there were something new and interesting. Of course, doing so was quite time-consuming and often frustrating as one couldn't be sure when there would be an update. Consequently, most would only check about 16 - 18 channels webpages regularly. Thank goodness we now have RSS, which has vastly increased the number of webpages one can check on a daily basis.

Furthermore, having to structure activity around specific broadcast times is rather inconvenient. Indeed, I imagine in the future that people will think it absurd that there were schedules for the transmission of pre-recorded entertainment and people had to conform to these broadcast schedules, instead of the other way around. Yet, because we currently have to, we are further limited in our choices to what is available during a rather limited segment of time. Yes, I know there is TiVo, but that still ties us to certain broadcast times, which unfortunately often conflict with the broadcast of other shows one might be interested in.

This whole scheduling thing has also resulted in some artificial time slots for content. Everything comes in 30-min or 1-hour packages. This doesn't really make any organic sense, but was well-suited to reducing some of the content delivery problems of the "channel" concept. What this means is that these shows are most likely wasting people's time. There might be 30 minutes of good content, but most likely there is a lesser amount of good content and the rest is just filler to meet the alloted and artificial time constraints (30-Minute Television Shows to be a Thing of the Past).


And what the heck is up with organizing things simply because there is one company selling the advertising? What the heck does Fear Factor have in common with Law & Order, other than the fact that NBC sells the national advertising for both?

Clearly, the "channel" concept as delivery mechanism is a failure. There is only one solution: The Channel Must Die!

Comments (5) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Open Access

June 02, 2005

Rush Limbaugh to Launch Podcast on June 3rd - No Music Though

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Rush Limbaugh starts his podcast tomorrow, Friday, June 3rd (El Rushbo Answers Your Podcast Questions). The shows will be available approximately 2 hours after the broadcast ends. In order to get the RSS feed, however, you'll need to be a subscriber to the website which costs ~$60. [Correction: A commentor says the cost is $34.95] Perhaps he might want to consider a teaser 5-10 minute daily show excerpt that is free.

Interestingly, Rush explains to his listeners that he can't include any music in the show due to licensing issues:

Now, a number of people -- and you people know who you are -- you are writing me caustic and vicious notes about the fact there will be no music on these MP3s. We will not be able to download with you the theme song, the opening theme. No parodies will be downloadable. We might be able to get away with the bumper music because it's only ten to 15 seconds; it would qualify under fair use, but many of you are saying, "Well, I don't think you know what you're talking about." Right. I don't know what I'm talking about. I run the show and I don't know what I'm talking about. "You don't what you're talking about. Other shows, other shows have MP3s, download, music on them. You can do it." Ladies and gentlemen, (ahem) there's a little bit of a difference between this show and some others -- and that difference is size. Let me tell you why we can't. Really a lot of people are writing me, "Why can't we get the music? I don't understand! The parodies are some of the greatest…" The reason is the music industry is forbidding, unless an exorbitant fee is paid, you cannot essentially copy music for nothing, and that's what would be happening here. If we put the music like the theme song and we put these parodies which are based on existing copyrights that we don't own... You know, we can parody them here on the radio, but that's a one-time usage, but if we then distribute that and allow virtually our MP3 files for all that to be copied we are essentially giving away somebody's product. And it would be one day, and the music industry would be all over us for doing it and we would have to stop it or fight them or whatever, and we couldn't win. We looked into it.

You know, we pay a rights fee every year for the opening theme song, but it does not include the privilege of copying it hundreds of thousands of times for free so that people can have it on their computers. We don't have that license. The same thing goes with the parodies. Now, if other shows are doing it, it means they're either ignorant of the law or they're small enough they don't think they'll get caught or they're small enough that they don't think it will be a big deal if the music industry notices. I don't have that luxury -- and besides, folks, I'm not going to break the law anyway. There's no point in it. Now, at some point I expect this to change. I don't know when, but there will be a way to make this happen at some point. But for now, starting out tomorrow, the legalities are clear -- and if you understand that it's nothing more than copying songs and distributing them for free. You can't do that yourself for your own computer. You can't do it with movies legally. You can't do it with any video legally, but as an individual if you do it, if you get caught, you've seen the FBI warnings on the front of these DVDs that you go out and rent or buy. You get caught, I'm not they're going to come after you. The music industry is dead serious. Hollywood is dead serious about piracy and unauthorized duplication, and that's essentially what we would be doing. So the short answer is our mammoth size makes it impossible for us to do this on a stealth basis like some of these others are apparently able to do because they've been doing it along or either nobody knows or nobody cares. I don't have that luxury.

I wonder if Rush would be interested in using music that has the appropriate Creative Commons license?

In any case, if this is successful I can imagine quite a few other radio personalities will jump on it. It could also open up the market for others. We shall see.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Copyright | File Sharing

Podcasts for Congress: Good Idea or Premature?

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Posted by Ernest Miller

There have been a number of responses to my call for Congressional podcasts (Questions for Congress). Many have been positive, such as Jeff Jarvis, who thinks we should have podcasts from all levels of government (Podcast Open the Doors).

I'll take it down a few levels and suggest that every town board and school board should be podcast....We should all storm our town halls and demand podcasts (and then politely explain what podcasts and iPods and the internet are).
Be sure to read the comments as well.

Amy Gahran thinks there is a lot of possibility here and that the podcasts might be surprisingly popular among certain audiences (Podcasting, Government, and Cable TV: A Happy Medium?). She also thinks that the content should be available via a variety of delivery methods. Absolutely. The government stuff is in the public domain, anyone can do anything they want with it. Blawg is also supportive, arguing that the government needs a whole heck of a lot more RSS feeds; I agree (Hey Congress, Start Blawging...and Podcasting...).

There are those who think this is premature, such as Heather Green on one of BusinessWeek's relatively new blogs, Blogspotting, which has also sparked some excellent comments (Podcasting Congress?).

But Miller's request, seconded by Jarvis at Buzzmachine, that in Congress "every single darn committee, subcommittee, whatever, have a podcast (in the future, broadcatch) of its hearings" seems silly. Ok, if not silly, a little premature.

Faster access to digital transcripts, yes. RSS feeds for those transcripts,sure. But podcasts? When less than 4% of [US households] will be listening to podcasts by 2008, according to Forrester Research?

I'm not arguing against transcripts and RSS feeds. I'm with Blawg on that one, the government needs a whole heck of a lot more RSS. And transcripts are great, but sometimes audio is better. Would it really be that much more of a burden to provide the audio?

It certainly would be faster. Would the audience be large? Probably not, for most things, but the opportunity should be there. The audience for the transcripts would also be limited. I don't have the time to read every darn transcript, I'm going to have to rely on editors and filters. However, it would be really nice to have access to the transcript in order to check on my editors and filters or to get more information if I so choose.

Indeed, RSS-delivered audio files would be of use not only to the very limited number who will listen to hours of some of the most boring things in the world, but those who are interested in editing it for others. Recently I listened to two mind-numbingly dull hours of testimony on international copyright infringement. Few would so willingly abuse themselves this way. Having listened, I reported on the hearings, including elements that weren't part of the written testimony (Senate Judiciary IP Subcommitee Hearing On Int'l Copyright Infringement). Hundreds read my summary. Similarly, it would have been great to have the MP3 for editing purposes, to quote from for my own podcasts. Citizen journalism would certainly benefit from this availability.

The archival and future search abilities would be tremendous. Undoubtedly, Google, or one of its rivals, will soon be able to create a pretty good transcript on the fly and provide the ability to search through this audio much quicker than the government would. Furthermore, many of the subscriptions for these RSS feeds would be libraries, who would store this audio where it would be readily and easily available for future research.

Premature? Perhaps a bit, but not by much. Considering how long it takes government to actually do anything we should get people talking about and thinking about the possibility now.

Richard Bennett says that this is already happening and points to C-SPAN (Public Affairs Programming on C-SPAN Radio via This is nice, but it isn't what I'm talking about. C-SPAN is broadcasting selected hearings, not everything. Moreover, it is radio, not downloadable podcasts. If I can't listen to the hearing when it is being broadcast, I'm out of luck. Nor is there an archive of what C-SPAN has carried. However, if it can be put on radio, how much more difficult would it be to podcast it?

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

Podcasts Open the Door for More Audio Content

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Rex Hammock continues his series on "How Apple will change everything about Podcasting" with a third post on the type of podcasts he would like to see (A Long Tail of Podcasts on iTunes Will Make Us Stop Thinking of "Podcasts" as Just Wayne's World Programming or Radio-like Genres). He lists a number of different things he'd like to see, from museum audio guides, to seminar sessions and business news/music mashups. Good ideas all, and he's barely scratched the surface methinks, but not all of them are really about the RSS delivery. Many of the ideas are better suited to good ol' download.

The point I would make is that the advent of podcasts may open the door for a whole raft of audio content (not just music) for download. People who have become comfortable recording daily news podcasts, will likely be willing to download similar audio content that isn't necessarily tied to an RSS feed. In fact, I would think there is the potential for some serious cross promotion.


Rex Hammock responds in the comments.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

June 01, 2005

May 31, 2005

May 30, 2005

Let Howard Stern Pick Your Music

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Rex Hammock continues his series on "How Apple will change everything about Podcasting" with post #2 (How Much Could Howard Stern Make Podcasting via iTunes vs. Broadcasting via Sirius?). In this post he bashes micropayments and looks at business models in which podcasters act as buying agents for their listeners, providing them with music and getting a kickback (ahem, commission) from the fees the listeners pay. A very interesting model, whose basic idea I like. However, the current economics of paying for downloaded music ($0.99/track) make this most likely a non-starter.

At that price, how many tracks will I buy a month? Not many, perhaps a dozen or so. How will I allocate my buying agents, knowing that every bad choice they make essentially costs me a dollar? Not sure I'd be too experimental in such a case.

However, drop the price substantially and this starts to look much better. Might this not work with a voluntary alternative compensation scheme as well? Lower prices for higher volume?

Things to consider.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing

May 29, 2005

Questions for Congress

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Why doesn't every single darn committee, subcommittee, whatever, have a podcast (in the future, broadcatch) of its hearings?

Why isn't there a floor podcast?

How long will it take Congress to get a clue?

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

Darknet Interviews Andy Wolfe, Fomer CTO of ReplayTV

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Over on Darknet, JD Lasica interviews Andy Wolfe, formerly CTO of ReplayTV (Interview: Andy Wolfe, former CTO, ReplayTV). The interview is incredibly good. Highly recommended: Read the whole thing. A small sample:

That’s why we were amazed there was such rigamarole around this. We sold 60,000 of these things. ATI sells a million cards a year that lets you record shows and attach it to your email. They still do. Sony sued us, but they let you record stuff on your Vaio and burn it to DVD and email it to anyone. AOL lets you attach a show to Instant Messaging. It’s amazingly hypocritical, with these companies and their software that are out there and can do all this stuff on the PC, they took it for granted, but when we came up with this device that ordinary people could use, they panicked. [emphasis in original]
Alright, I can't resist, another sample:
We did a marketing study and found that two things were in high demand: porn, and Bollywood, because Indian films are not widely distributed in the U.S.

That’s part of why this whole thing got a little threatening. We think that if there was a real service, that independent content would become an important part of that service. We didn’t think people would sign up for a service if it only had independent content. They’ll sign up for Harry Potter or Terminator 3. It’s the blockbusters that get people’s attention.

We got a call from churches who wanted to distribute their sermons on Sunday mornings by sending videos around. There are also surveillance applications. We found lots of people who were interested in building new things on top of this. We felt these other things would follow, but the entertainment had to drive it. [emphasis in original]

For all you atheists and non-church-goers out there, if you're not familiar with how churches are using this technology, I suggest you go check it out. Many of them are really quite savvy.

Did I mention you should read the whole thing?

PS: The interview was conducted in June, 2003.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing | Tools

May 27, 2005

Audio Museum Annotation

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The NY Times writes about a couple of groups that are creating downloadable audio tours for museums, Art Mobs and Wooster Collective (With Irreverence and an iPod, Recreating the Museum Tour).

The creators of this guide, David Gilbert, a professor of communication at Marymount Manhattan College, and a group of his students, describe it on their Web site as a way to "hack the gallery experience" or "remix MoMa," which they do with a distinctly collegiate blend of irony, pop music and heavy breathing. It is one of the newest adaptations in the world of podcasting - downloading radio shows, music and kitchen-sink audio to an MP3 player.
Very cool, but also a bit premature, I think. First, why is it a podcast? That's nice and all, but if you want to provide museum audio tours, probably the best primary way to distribute them would be through downloads, not podcasts. Hey, I'm obviously a fan of podcasts, but they're not the solution for everything. But it sure sounds hip, doesn't it?

Second, there is a most definite need for better interfaces for these sorts of projects. One real nice thing about existing museum audio tours is that they include some sort of numbering system so that it is easy to listen to different audio in a non-sequential order. That doesn't seem particularly likely for iPods, but perhaps some sort of metadata convention could be considered, perhaps one that museums can sign onto (although it would cut down into their audio tour revenues, it would increase their educational mission accomplishment).

Third ... it is pretty darn cool. Think I'll start my own.

Fourth, check out this earlier post of mine: GPS-Guided Audio Tours Launched in Montgomery, AL

via Scripting News

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Culture

The Opening of the Frontier

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Ben Compaine, author of Who Owns the Media?, analogizes citizens media to the frontier, as in Frederick Jackson Turner's The Frontier In American History (Peercasting as the New Western Frontier).

[I]n 1893 [Turner] presented his view that the key component to the unique American character of democracy was the settlement of the American West. That is, the availability of vast stretches of free land away from the initial settlements of the East Coast provided a safety value for those who were dissatisfied with their circumstances. The seemingly endless western frontier offered anyone an opportunity to acquire a farm and become an independent member of society. Free land thus tended to relieve poverty in the Eastern cities while on the frontier it fostered greater economic equality.

What does this have to do with the media? Here’s what: Though it may be a tad premature, in the equally unlimited expanses of information available through the Internet and its related ecosystem I see the makings of a similar safety value for expression and communication. Today it is Blogs, Live365 streaming radio and Podcasts. Tomorrow it is likely to be the video version of streaming radio and Vodcasting [PDF]. Better than a soapbox at Hyde Park Corner, reaching further than leaflets handed out in Times Square, more user-controlled than letters to the editor, “peercasting” may be for the Information Age what free land was for the late Agricultural/early Industrial Age....

Most Americans did not head West, though all knew that they could. The free land of the American West enabled those who were most motivated and most dissatisfied with the opportunities where they were to have hope. They did not see themselves as being stuck. Not every city slicker who headed West prospered. But it was the opportunity that helped shape them and the spirit of this country for over two centuries. And today’s dissatified or motivated knew that, for the first time, they too will be heard.

Blogging and podding and vodding or whatever else these formats might be called should not be viewed as a veneer or a Potemkin Village of phantom access to the world stage. The move to the Western frontier was real. Similarly this digital outlet that gives voice to the leafleteer, corner orator or anyone with a point of view or a story to be told is real and meaningful. We saw in Howard Dean’s meteoric rise the power of the Internet is getting the word out and in raising money. It happened for the most part under the radar of the mainstream media.

In the next decades peercasting will be become the norm to one degree or another. It will not replace mass media but will add a significant dimension to what and how the media is viewed. And, I believe, peercasting will have an overall positive effect on the American -- and no reason why not the rest of the world’s – experience with the expanded boundaries of this new frontier. I think that’s how Frederick Jackson Turner would describe it.


I've copied a significant chunk of Compaine's posting (go read the rest!) because I think he has really hit on something important. There is really a lot going on here, just as there was in Turner's original frontier thesis.

We've often heard the internet analogized to the Wild West, but I've never really liked the metaphor of place. In many ways, I think it is misleading. Here, I believe, is the better metaphor: frontier. A frontier isn't a place, it is a process. Ever-changing, ever-growing, never tamed, the frontier is always just at the edge of "civilization". You can't pin down the frontier because as soon as you do, it has moved on.

The American frontier shaped people and institutions; it formulated a unique American character. I think citizens media may do something similar, though this time it won't be as restricted geographically. What changes, if any, might this new frontier have on the American character? How might the concept of "frontier" impact other nations?

If the internet is a frontier, it is an incredibly fast moving one. Where parts of the American frontier took years to settle, internet frontiers are settled much quicker. What effect does this have on the frontier thesis?

By the time Turner wrote his famous thesis, the frontier had officially closed. Will an electronic frontier close? How might we seek to prevent it?

Does the open source movement also play a role in this frontier? I would think so, yes.

Lots of questions, I know, but I now have a lot to think about and chew over. I leave this post with a passage Turner quoted from Peck's New Guide to the West:

Generally, in all the western settlements, three classes, like the waves of the ocean, have rolled one after the other. First comes the pioneer, who depends for the subsistence of his family chiefly upon the natural growth of vegetation, called the "range," and the proceeds of hunting. His implements of agriculture are rude, chiefly of his own make, and his efforts directed mainly to a crop of corn and a "truck patch." The last is a rude garden for growing cabbage, beans, corn for roasting ears, cucumbers, and potatoes. A log cabin, and, occasionally, a stable and corn-crib, and a field of a dozen acres, the timber girdled or "deadened," and fenced, are enough for his occupancy. It is quite immaterial whether he ever becomes the owner of the soil. He is the occupant for the time being, pays no rent, and feels as independent as the " lord of the manor." With a horse, cow, and one or two breeders of swine, he strikes into the woods with his family, and becomes the founder of a new county, or perhaps state. He builds his cabin, gathers around him a few other families of similar tastes and habits, and occupies till the range is somewhat subdued, and hunting a little precarious, or, which is more frequently the case, till the neighbors crowd around, roads, bridges, and fields annoy him, and he lacks elbow room. The preëmption law enables him to dispose of his cabin and cornfield to the next class of emigrants; and, to employ his own figures, he "breaks for the high timber," "clears out for the New Purchase," or migrates to Arkansas or Texas, to work the same process over.

The next class of emigrants purchase the lands, add field to field, clear out the roads, throw rough bridges over the streams, put up hewn log houses with glass windows and brick or stone chimneys, occasionally plant orchards, build mills, school-houses, court-houses, etc., and exhibit the picture and forms of plain, frugal, civilized life.

Another wave rolls on. The men of capital and enterprise come. The settler is ready to sell out and take the advantage of the rise in property, push farther into the interior and become, himself, a man of capital and enterprise in turn. The small village rises to a spacious town or city; substantial edifices of brick, extensive fields, orchards, gardens, colleges, and churches are seen. Broad-cloths, silks, leghorns, crepes, and all the refinements, luxuries, elegancies, frivolities, and fashions are in vogue. Thus wave after wave is rolling westward; the real Eldorado is still farther on.

A portion of the two first classes remain stationary amidst the general movement, improve their habits and condition, and rise in the scale of society.


Comments (10) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism | Broadcatching/Podcasting | Culture | Freedom of Expression | Internet | Journalism | Network Law

May 26, 2005

May 25, 2005

May 24, 2005

ABC News to Start Podcast this Week

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Broadcasting & Cable reports that ABC will be "the first major-media news organization to embrace one of the industry’s biggest trends: podcasting" (Media Giants’ Big Broadband Push). via lost remote


The ABC News podcasts are available here: ABC News: PODCASTING.

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May 23, 2005

Forrester on Podcasting

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Chad Dickerson notes a Forrester Research study on podcasting (Forrester Numbers on Podcasting). The report only briefly mentions podcasting but claims that in 2005 there will be 300,000 US households using podcasts, rising to 12.3 million US households by 2010. I take these numbers with a grain of salt. There will be many factors that will have a significant effect on adoption. After all, MP3 blogs have been around for quite a while, yet never really took off. There were several relatively minor technological developments that have spurred podcasting, and I think we can look forward to more relatively minor changes that will boost podcasting (or potentially inhibit it). For example, if they figure out a way to deliver podcasts to the car stereo, I think we will see many, many more podcast users. On the other hand, TiVo is simply amazing, yet penetration is lower than many have expected.


I should have had this in my original post, but one should note that one way podcasting will take off is when Apple provides native podcasting support for the eponymous iPod, which has been announced by Steve Jobs, according to Dan Gillmor (Apple's iTunes to Carry Podcasts).

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May 21, 2005

Why Not Podcast DVS Television Audio?

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Independent New York Radio station WFMU's blog, Beware of the Blog, points out that a number of television shows have alternative soundtracks in Descriptive Video Service format, which is basically closed captioning for the blind (The Simpsons as Described by WGBH). You hear the normal soundtrack, but during the pauses inbetween a narrator rapidly narrates many of the visual images and jokes. As WFMU notes, it essentially turns a television show into a radio show. They've posted an example from The Simpsons. Download the 21.5MB MP3: Simpson's DVS Version [MP3]

Narrator: Homer mopes past the Android's Dungeon

Comic Book Guy: Hey Nostra-dumbass. Did the Rapture come? I can't recall. Oh, in fact I can recall and it didn't and you suck.

Jimbo Jones: Hey fatwad, here's another thing you didn't predict.

Narrator: The bullies punch him.

[Sounds of Punching]

Homer: Ow ... Ow ... Ow ... Ow. Oh, let's go to Moe's, we'll walk and punch.

Narrator: Further along, Homer stops at a sign for Tokyo Rose's Sushi Bar.

Homer: Huh?

Narrator: Under paper lanterns Moe wears a white headband behind a glass paneled counter.

It is actually quite easy to follow the show and even picture the well-known characters and locations in your head.

Beware of the Blog notes that a couple of the site gags are passed over:

But as with any subtitled movie, there's a lot of editorializing that goes on. In this episode, Homer pretends to smoke a joint at one point and the DVS description of his action only says "Homer pretends to smoke." In another scene, Marge and Homer start to go at it under the sheets, and the DVS description dares not to describe their sexual cartoon antics.
Still, pretty darn good.

Interestingly, the MP3 also includes a commercial break (Wendy's Salads, Mach3 Comfort Gel, Kicking and Screaming, Old Navy, Family Guy) with the full audio, but without the narration.

Which brings us to Metafilter (It's Like Closed Captioning In Reverse):

Are podcasts of TV show audio tracks next? Will we be listening to Family Guy and the Daily Show during our commutes?
Absolutely. Why not? It isn't as if this will really compete with the visual version. Commercials are included. How can broadcasters lose?

Shows using DVS:

  • ABC:  Blind Justice, some movies
  • CBS:  CSI, JAG, Blues Clues, Dora the Explorer, Rugrats, some movies
  • NBC:  Endurance, Scout's Safari, Kenny the Shark, Tutenstein, Trading Places, Strange Days at Blake Holsey High, Saturday Movie of the Week, some mid-week movies
  • FOX:  The Bernie Mac Show, Malcolm in the Middle*, The Simpsons*, That 70s Show, Magic School Bus, some movies
  • PBS:  There are so many shows described on PBS, with more added all the time, that we choose not to attempt to list them all here!
  • Lifetime (LIF):  about one movie a day is described
  • Nickelodeon (NIK):  Blues Clues, Dora the Explorer, Jimmy Neutron and Rugrats
  • TBS:  No information available at this time, but some movies used to be described
  • Turner Classic Movies (TCM):  many old movies
  • TNT:  Law and Order reruns, some movies
  • USA:  some movies

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

May 18, 2005

Internet TV as Collaborative Environment

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Brightcove is a company working in the internet television space. I don't know much about them, really, but they sure are talking my language on their blog, The Latest from Brightcove (Open, Collaborative Media):

Beyond looking at Internet TV as an ideal platform for marketing and distribution, it is interesting to think about how the Internet facilitates a distributed and collaborative environment for media production. It won't surprise me to see new "media collectives" modeled after open source projects that form together to put forth a particular view point - be it for entertainment or informational programs. Note the work at TheWeblogProject.
Who will host the "sourceforge" of documentaries? Is this a missing piece to create a platform for citizen's media? How will content creators, directors and producers, with common vision, work together to put forth a story that is important to them?  What tools are required to help manage these create endeavors? Is there a varient of BaseCamp designed specifically for collaborative video projects?
They're certainly asking the right questions.

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May 17, 2005

TV Guide Launches Four Short Form Internet Video Series

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Online Media Daily reports that TV Guide is launching a series of broadband video shorts on their webpage (TV Guide Launches Broadband Shorts). TV Guide actually seems to have a clue (except for the fact that you seem to need Internet Explorer to view the video). There are four different series that TV Guide is producing:

  • Watch This! looks at new programs in the week ahead including special episodes, premieres, television events, and hidden picks from editors at TV Guide Spot just for the on-demand audience.
  • Catch Up is a series of updates on television's leading water-cooler shows for viewers who've fallen behind a show's story threads.
  • Big Movie Guide spotlights cable's current on-demand movies with celebrity interviews, movie clips, behind-the-scenes stories, and red carpet events.
  • MVids brings new music performances to viewers, while guiding them to special appearances of the bands on Good Morning America and Today to Jay, David, and Conan.
We'll have to see how good the shows end up being, but I think that Catch Up and Watch This! have real potential (TV Guide should be working on an open playlist format that would work with Watch This!).

What is really interesting, however, is that these short form video spots will not only be available on the website, but will also be sent to:

over 14 million Comcast and Time Warner digital subscribers, and to one million TiVo subscribers with stand-alone set-top boxes.
Good stuff. But TV Guide really could do more. Herewith a few suggestions:
  • The spots will be advertising supported with a 15-second advertisement at the beginning. Work with your advertisers. These spots should be entertaining themselves, hopefully in some sort of serial format so people will want to keep watching them to see where they go. Ultimately, perhaps, release the whole series of commercials as a full set.
  • Speaking of the commercials, let people fast-forward through them. Otherwise, you'll just be driving many of them away.
  • Let people share the darn things. So what if they don't go to to get the video ... it'll still be TV Guide's brand and a lot more people will see them.
  • If you're going to share them, why not license them through Creative Commons? Use whichever license you think appropriate, as long as people can share the files.
  • Broadcatch/Podcast. Put the darn things up on an RSS feed. I don't want to go and visit periodically, I want you to let me know when the videos are ready. I also don't want to wait for a download, so if you just send them to me when my RSS reader queries in the middle of the night ... excellent.
You have real opportunity here TV Guide, don't blow it.

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May 16, 2005

Traditional Broadcast Radio Whistling in the Dark

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The Chicago Tribune has a report on the challenges to traditional broadcast radio (Traditional Radio Fighting Wave of Competition from Digital Rivals). The article is a basic discussion of some of the challenges to traditional broadcast, nothing particularly new, and they don't mention podcasting. However, what I found amusing was the apparent blindness of the defenders of traditional broadcast radio who were quoted:

"How do you sort through millions of pieces of music? Radio is a wonderful filter for what's popular. Even people with their iPods listen to the radio to find out what they need to download," said John Gehron, regional vice president for San Antonio-based Clear Channel Radio, which owns seven radio stations in the Chicago market.
Hint: It's called XSPF.
"If you have a local radio station, that's the first place you turn to for news about floods, fires, local political discussions. The audience needs the station for essential information, up-to-the-minute information. You can't get that from a newspaper or from satellite radio," said Barry D. Umanksy, a telecommunications professor at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind.
I'm sure glad I'm not taking that professor's class. Most of this stuff doesn't need to be up-to-the-minute. Providing podcasts of local political discussions is perfectly viable. Newspapers often provide even better news coverage, and they're not ignoring podcasts (WSJ: Newspapers Turning to Podcasts). Fires, floods, traffic. Yes, traditional radio will have a lead in those for a bit longer, but not much longer.

via I Want Media

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Advertisers Should Be Pushing Broadcatch

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Posted by Ernest Miller

BusinessWeek writes about advertising agencies and their clients exploring the world of online video advertising, such as the clips you can download from websites (Mad Ave Is Starry-Eyed Over Net Video). Losers.

The article goes into how small the current market is, but how major advertisers are excited about moving beyond the traditional 30-second spot.

Activity is frenetic. Lincoln Mercury has ginned up online videos that have the quirky look and feel of an episode of Twin Peaks. American Express Co. (AXP) ran spots directed by Barry Levinson of Rain Man fame. And Converse Inc. (NKE) is drawing viewers to its site with a series of quirky amateur videos hawking its sneakers. Meantime, companies are searching for ways to grab Web surfers' attention with short bursts of video, whether it's an invitation to click on a David Ortiz home run or a banner ad featuring a striptease. Add it all together, and video ads are outpacing the torrid growth in Internet advertising, including search, which according to researcher eMarketer Inc., will expand 33.7% this year, to $12.9 billion.
Ok, so far so good. But then we discover why they are losers.
The biggest obstacle to growth? Not enough Web sites are configured to run video ads, so that marketers often have to book their slots months in advance.

It's a lot of fuss for fuzzy pictures and iffy sound. Click on that Ortiz round-tripper, and the clip looks downright primitive by today's TV standards. So what's special about the Net? Three things: If your finger is aching to click on the home run -- packaged with an ad -- this means the advertiser has targeted and found you. That's vital. Second, in many cases, Web surfers knowingly click on ads. The ads promise entertainment. It is this model -- tracking consumers and enticing them -- that gives Internet video much of its allure. Moreover, online video ads also can be cheap to produce -- often only a fraction of $300,000 to make a standard 30-second TV spot. Even better, popular video ads are e-mailed by the thousands, giving advertisers a free boost, whereas on TV they pay a fat fee for each airing.

Why the heck do you want people to watch television commercials on an internet web page? Idiocy. I mean, that's fine as a secondary distribution mechanism, but you want people watching television commercials on a freakin' television. After all, if we had broadcatching, then all the things listed as "special" for the internet would be available on a television screen: targeted ads, knowingly clicking and viral distribution. Plus, bonus, it isn't freakin' crummy internet video, it's on a television screen!

Advertisers seem to, sort of, understand some of these differences already.

In this new ad world, it's often better to whisper the brand than to shout it. Why? The key is to create buzz and to spread from friend to friend across the Net. Take Mercury's offbeat soap opera, Meet the Lucky Ones. It was launched online last November to draw a younger audience to its Mariner SUV. Using ads on Yahoo! and more youth-oriented Web sites such as, Mercury managed to attract 500,000 viewers to the Lucky Ones site in six months. More than half of the site's visitors were under 45, compared with Mercury's typical 60-year-old customer, says Linda Perry-Lube, Lincoln-Mercury manager for e-business and consumer relationships. While the SUV was barely featured in the ads, two-thirds of the visitors went on to view pages devoted to the Mariner. Mercury attributes some 500 Mariner sales directly to the Lucky Ones site.
Cool. However, wouldn't it be even more cool if people could share commercials television to television? If I found a commerical that was entertaining or otherwise interesting, why shouldn't I be able to tap a button on my TiVo and add it to my video RSS feed for others to see, or zap it to my brother's TiVo? Why not click on an internet add and have the content added to my broadcatch download que, for later watching when I kick back with the telly? The potential is enormous.

Oh, that's right, Hollywood doesn't like that sort of capability. But, who is actually paying Hollywood? That would be the advertisers, right?

Advertisers should be the ones driving and pushing for internet distribution of video to the television screen. They should be beating down TiVo's doors to get them to add that sort of capability to their systems.

Instead, advertisers are thinking small. Real small. As in crappy, small video via browsers. Losers.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

May 15, 2005

May 13, 2005

May 12, 2005

May 10, 2005

Networks Creating Broadcatch Friendly Content - But Cellphones Only, Please

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Last week, the LA Times (reg. req.) did an interesting little story on the production of broadcast news for distribution to cellphones ('I Can't Talk, I'm Watching My Cellphone').

A mobile division of NBC produces as many as 20 news broadcasts a day for phone viewing, tailored for a 2-inch screen with anchor close-ups and oversized graphics. ABC is expanding a 24-hour digital news channel available on mobile phones, among other platforms. 20th Century Fox Television has launched several series of "mobisodes" — television programs whittled into one-minute episodes.
Geez. What will it take to get these guys to make these short episodes available on a podcast, or as part of a broadcatch? Do you think more people want to watch television on cellphones or an actual television? Send this stuff via IP and let people choose which news stories they want to and don't want to watch, as well as when and how. Put them out there as soon as they are done (no need to wait until 6:30pm) and update them as necessary.

Of course, the cellphone is a closed and relatively easy-to-monetize platform, which is probably the reason they're aggressively pursuing content on cellphones. But that oligopoly won't last forever.

via lost remote

See also, this post from the POMO Blog: MEMO to local television.

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If the Content is Free, Why Use Cable?

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Posted by Ernest Miller

MediaDailyNews has an interesting article explaining why video-on-demand services aren't thriving (Users Don't Want VOD To Be C.O.D., Want It Free):

THE LACK OF FREE CONTENT appears to be supressing demand for video-on-demand (VOD) television services, suggests new research from Forrester Research. VOD is now available to nearly 19 million homes--or about 75 percent of the U.S. digital cable universe, Forrester's Josh Bernoff notes in his report on the various ad models for VOD. While movie buys and usage of subscription content such as HBO On-Demand are increasing, the model is languishing to some degree, largely because of the reluctance of cable operators to pay for quality programming. [emphasis in original]
Here's a question. Why the heck would cable be the platform of choice for distributing free video content anyway? Does such centralization of distribution (and the attendant gatekeeping function) really make sense? Why not skip the cable company and deliver the VOD content via IP?

One interesting fact from the article is that VOD use is greatest among households with TiVos, since they are already used to the idea of timeshifting television viewing. So where is my internet enabled TiVo that will let me download programming and not worry about this cable-controlled VOD business?

via PaidContent

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Network Law

April 05, 2005

PBS - The Non-Public Gatekeeping Service

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The Washington Post reports that Comcast and PBS will be rolling out a new, free video-on-demand service for some children shows (Comcast, PBS Plan New Service)

Called "PBS Kids Sprout," the service's shows will feature public broadcasting kid-favorites Bob the Builder, the Teletubbies, Elmo and so on, for no extra charge on Comcast digital-cable systems with video-on-demand (VOD) service.

Comcast subscribers can watch those programs in any order and at any time by selecting them from an on-screen menu with their cable box's remote control. Comcast will also offer "Sprout" as a conventional channel in the fall.

Oh, joy, PBS is going to encourage the growth of cable company as gatekeeper. When it comes to telecommunication policy, the so-called Public Broadcasting Service has long ago lost any semblance of public purpose.

This version of video-on-demand is essentially TiVo, except that the cable company completely controls it. This is "public"?

Why not broadcatch the darn shows instead, PBS?

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New York Times on Growing Interest in Satellite Radio

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The New York Times has an important article on how the growing success of satellite radio is changing traditional broadcast radio (As Satellite Radio Takes Off, It Is Altering the Airwaves). The article even mentions podcasting near the end. However, one wonders if the people pushing these expanded formats realise that people are going to expect even more.

Both companies offer stations devoted to the most popular songs, but it is their national reach and dual revenue streams - subscriptions and advertising sales on nonmusic channels - that allow them to offer niche programming. Genres that receive little exposure on commercial radio, like bluegrass, reggae or talk devoted to African-American affairs, get their own channels on satellite services. Individual ratings matter little; listener satisfaction counts for much more, because it determines how long subscribers will keep paying $12.95 a month.
But even satellite radio is limited in the amount of niches it can offer. Radio is also limited by its format. Live is useful for some things, but being able to archive and store content is better in many others.

More importantly, as currently structured, satellite radio remains a gatekeeper. A more expansive gatekeeper than broadcast, but a gatekeeper nonetheless. Why have any gatekeeper? Why not develop some form of open access?

One thing that satellite radio does show, however, is the potential for people to pay subscriptions for access to large amounts of content, particularly content that suits their varied interests. Now what business is it that could benefit from some sort of blanket licensing fee to allow people unlimited access at very low dollar amounts?

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March 31, 2005

Tina Brown Bemoans Death of Quality Broadcast Television News

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Posted by Ernest Miller

In the Washington Post, Tina Brown decries the death of quality TV news without a trace of irony (America's Endless News Loop). Apparently, she thinks that broadcast television news is important, or something. Its dead, its dying, who cares? Broadcast television news is shrinking into what broadcast television has always been: mass media aimed at the lowest common denominator. Of course broadcast television news is going to suck. What did you expect?

Here is the future Miss Brown forsees:

Perhaps in the near future what used to be thought of as news will be not only produced but exclusively consumed by an ever-shrinking elite who feel vaguely guilty about being well-informed. Information junkies prospect on the Web for what they want to know. Everyone else will just be transfixed by the passing reality show that comes disguised as news. The only trouble is when something really big is happening out there, we are blindsided by its impact -- as when the rise of Islamic fundamentalism somehow passed us by in the '90s. Ignorance suddenly got awkward on 9/11.
I'd say she is acting pretty gosh darn elite already. It isn't just information junkies who'll get their news from the Web, but everyone with half a clue (which seems to exclude Miss Brown herself). Furthermore, we'll get the news on our television ... it just won't be broadcast. Instead, it will be broadcatched. Sick of the Schiavo case, and interested in indepth coverage of other news? It will be available, and only as far away as a decent videonews RSS feed. Maybe not as slick, but it will be far more information rich than broadcast television news. Not everyone will watch, but that's sort of the point of a democracy isn't it?

We're looking at a news renaissance, not the death of news.

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January 18, 2005

Television Networks as Empire

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Posted by Ernest Miller

This is something that has been going on for some time, and this is an article from last November, but I still think it noteworthy. USA Today reports on the increasing number of television broadcasts that extend past the regular hour and half-hour mark so that they interfere with DVRs of the broadcast (Shows start and end just off the half-hour).

What is interesting to me, however, is not that networks are doing it, but that they do so knowing full well it is against the interests of their viewers:

The padding also discourages viewers from clicking their remotes, under the theory they'll be less likely to switch channels if they've already missed the start of a competing program.

ABC is unapologetic. "It's not my job to make it easy for people to leave our network," says ABC scheduling chief Jeff Bader. "Our whole goal is to get people to stay with us from 8 to 11."

This, of course, reminds me of the famous quote from the original Star Wars:
The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems slip through your fingers. - Princess Leia to Grand Moff Tarkin
Brilliant long-term thinking by the networks! Make the alternatives even more attractive! Raise consumer awareness of the problems of existing broadcast regulation!

Perhaps Mr. Bader doesn't recall the early TiVo commercials in which scheduling executives were defenestrated.

via BoingBoing

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January 17, 2005

Freedom of the Press Belongs to Those Who Own Servers

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Over on PressThink, Jay Rosen tries to put another nail in the coffin of the ever-absurd debate of "bloggers vs. journalism" (Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over). Read the whole thing.

I do want to point out one of the most interesting comments, however. Scott Rosenberg notes (Fine Summary ...):

Fine summary of the moment, Jay. One small issue I'd raise re your first principle: "Freedom of the press belongs to those who own one, and blogging means anyone can own one." Really it was the Web itself that made it possible for anyone to own one; that's been the case for ten years now. I. like a whole lot of other people, started a Web site for pennies in Jan. 1995 (my god, it's a decade-iversary!). But you don't really *own* a press if you're posting a blog for free using someone else's server (press).

What blogging software has done, with huge impact, is make it possible for anyone -- even without much technical skill or experience -- to *operate* a press. These distinctions are perhaps small, but they sure start to matter once legal issues start to kick in, and that is happening all around us.

Rosenberg is precisely correct. Now that the cost of owning a press has fallen, useability and other costs associated with operating a press have become far more important. Distribution is cheap, but filtering is still expensive (relatively). The old "freedom of the press belongs to those who own one" line will have to be modified as other bottlenecks and gatekeeping issues arise.

However, "owning" a press is still a gatekeeper. I like to talk about the "server in the closet" as the centerpiece of the home information network of the future. I think it is important that it is a "server" and not merely a network. True freedom of the press will not happen until everyone will be able to easily own their own servers. We need to be able to upload as well as download. Only then will the true capabilities of the net be within our ability. Otherwise, we will still rely too much on various gatekeepers and controls.

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November 09, 2004

Announcing the Future of Digital Media Series

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Posted by Ernest Miller

I am happy to announce the launching of a series of interviews I am conducting for Corante called the Future of Digital Media:

The Future of Digital Media is a two-month series, sponsored by Orb, that explores how the empowerment of the consumer over his or her media experience, coupled with the technological innovation that's broadly democratizing media creation, is leading to a revolution in the way people access, consume, share and remake content.

Through interviews with leading commentators and cutting edge practioners, the Future of Digital Media examines the social, legal and economic impacts of this disruptive and revolutionary change.

The first interview, with Jeff Jarvis, is here: The Future of Digital Media: Jeff Jarvis.

Need I say ... read the whole thing.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing | News

November 08, 2004

Will the Networks Promote TiVo "Permalinks"?

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Ernie the Attorney notes that TiVo has adopted a new capability that they should have adopted long ago (TIVO now has permalinks):

So now TIVO lets bloggers create links to so that people who use the web programming feature can quickly program their TIVOs.  Here's the concept.  Let's say I want to recommend that you watch Meet the Press tomorrow (which is what Rick Klau is doing).  I can post a reference to the show and the time, but now I can also create a hyperlink that allows TIVO owners to click on the link and immediately be brought to a screen where they can program their TIVO (via the Internet) to record that show.  Apparently, TIVO adopted this idea at the urging of blogger George Hotelling. [links in original]
When will there be playlist capability? How about a one-click network schedule (for the Ernie Miller channel)?

Of course now that TiVo has provided the capability, will the networks be smart enough to promote it? Perhaps the networks realize that if you start encouraging people to share their viewing habits and recommend things to friends, pretty soon they will want to actually share video with their friends and we can't have that now, can we?

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November 06, 2004

Podcasts in Videogames

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Okay, so I'm in the Podcasting session at Bloggercon and a fellow named Kieran made a very cool suggestion as a possible market for podcasts: videogames.

Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, like previous games in the series, includes the most realistic radio simulations of any game. There is even a roundtable discussion of violence on a faux-talk show. So why not download podcasts that you can select in GTA's radio?

Sounds cool to me. What other games could benefit from podcasts?

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Games

Attention Scarcity and Podcasting/Broadcatching

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Posted by Ernest Miller

As excited as I am about podcasting (and broadcatching) (and, heck, I podcast myself and will be doing even more in the near future), I think it is important to note one of the significant limitations of the medium.

I can read dozens, if not more, blogs every morning (thank you, aggregator!). Depending on their length, I can only listen to a handful of audio shows everyday. This means that my attention is much more scarce with regard to podcasts than blogging. This, I believe, is going to have important effects with regard to the audience and producers of podcasting.

This attention scarcity is particularly true for the talk shows (such as IT Conversations), as opposed to music shows. The reason is that talk shows really demand attention. It is very difficult to read or perform work while listening to a talk show, whereas music goes really well in the background.

What are some of the likely effects of this? Here are some of my initial speculations, there are probably more differences and I will most likely be quite wrong on some of them:

  • Powerlaw: For those who are concerned about such things, less attention will probably mean that the distribution of attention for the most popular shows will be quite steep. Of course, if you think about simply talking to the right audience, as opposed to the biggest audience, that makes a difference.
  • Information Richness: Not to harsh on cat bloggers and many others who add voice to their blog with personal anecdotes and what not (including yours truly), but because I don't have as much attention to spend on audio, I don't want too many digressions. Of course, if I want digressions, I will choose fewer people that I want them from. Perhaps, of course, there is a technical fix that will make it easier for me to skip or fast forward through parts of shows I don't want. Nevertheless, I think we will see the most popular podcasts be relatively information rich, with a few exceptions for those with compelling, charismatic personalities.
  • Formatting. Blogs have posts. Generally short, with the occasional longer post. Currently, podcasting is linear - relatively long format shows that are not easily broken up. There are technical issues, of course, but I think that we will see a shift in the way podcasting occurs. Rather than stream-of-consciousness, we will see people be a little more structured in their podcasting. Social conventions for podcast "posts" will be developed.
Don't get me wrong. Podcast/broadcatch are much more democratic multimedia creation/distribution than anything that has come before. However, I do think that they ultimately will look somewhat different than current blogging paradigms.

Comments, thoughts, etc. Greatly appreciated.

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September 28, 2004

Doc Searls on the iPod Platform

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Posted by Ernest Miller

I've written about the iPod platform before (Broadcatching on the iPod Platform). Indeed, I started an audio program to take advantage of it: The Importance of ... Law and IT.

The idea is clearly catching on quickly.

Doc Searls has some interesting things to say about the concept (DIY radio with PODcasting):

Since the Net and the Web came along in the early and mid-90s, I've had a growing impatience with waiting around for stuff on the radio I might care about. Another way to look at it: All radio, commercial and noncommercial, including what we call the "content", was turning into the same kind of stuff-to-endure as the advertising and promotional announcements that paid for it.

But now most of my radio listening is to what Adam Curry and others are starting to call podcasts. That last link currently brings up 24 results on Google. A year from now, it will pull up hundreds of thousands, or perhaps even millions.

Good stuff.


Dan Gillmor jumps on the bandwagon (iPodding, and Why it Matters):

I've been increasingly blown away by the potential of what Adam Curry, Dave Winer and others are thinking about -- and now doing -- with Web audio. The word for this is "podcasting," delivering audio to MP3 players like the iPod. I'm working on a column about the genre, but if you're interested you should read this explainer by Doc Searls. This is going to be a big deal, sooner than you think.

As Searls notes, there are going to be legal challenges to the companies that begin to put this all together because it will challenge traditional broadcasting. Too bad the legal challenges are already squelching the television equivalent.

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September 09, 2004

TiVo plus Netflix =! Broadcatching

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Posted by Ernest Miller

These past few days there has been a great deal of excitement about a report in Newsweek that TiVo and Netflix would be joining together to deliver downloadable movies (I Want a Movie! Now!). See also, C|Net News' more nuanced take: Picture imperfect for Netflix, TiVo.

My response? Yawn.

Wake me up when TiVo provides an open interface for downloading video content via the internet (preferably via RSS w/ BitTorrent Enclosures).

There are no details as both companies are being quite reticent and, apparently, the "done" deal is really only nearly done, and nearly done is not quite the same as actually done. Still, what this sounds like is a closed system. You can get the content that TiVo and Netflix choose (or are permitted) to license for you. It will be a wonderful selection (maybe) but that isn't going to really revolutionize things too much. Really, how much different is this service than TiVo combined with pay-per-view?

The internet doesn't offer exciting possibilities because it is a closed network where only the major content providers are allowed to offer information. Where would the internet be if you could only get information from the usual list of suspects? You wouldn't be reading this blog, for one.

So, TiVo plus Netflix would be nice. But so would Movielink, CinemaNow, Starz and all the other internet movie download services. TiVo adds easy connection to the television, but others will soon offer that too.

What will be exciting is connecting the television to any video content on the internet - broadcatching is when things get interesting.

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Hatch's Hit List #44 - Broadcatching

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Posted by Ernest Miller

What is Hatch's Hit List? Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) has introduced the Inducing Infringement of Copyrights Act (IICA, née INDUCE Act) in the Senate. The bill would make it illegal to "intentionally induce" copyright infringement, but is worded so broadly that it would have all sorts of unintended consequences, one of which is to severely limit, cripple or kill innovation in many different fields. Hatch's Hit List is a daily exploration of some of the technologies and fields that the bill would likely affect. See also, Introducing Hatch's Hit List and the Hatch's Hit List Archives. Send list suggestions to ernest.miller 8T

Today on Hatch's Hit List: Broadcatching

Combine RSS (w/enclosures) with BitTorrent and you get what I call "broadcatching." It is, in my view, a revolutionary method for multimedia publishing and distribution without gatekeepers.

Problem is, like email and http and ftp and p2p, anyone can post any sort of content in the enclosures and easily distribute it. In fact, undoubtedly, broadcatching will be used by many for infringement. People will share their favorite (and copyrighted) television programs and movies with others. And, if the RSS is private (aka a "darknet"), how will the RIAA or MPAA be able to find and punish the infringers?

The tools for using broadcatching will undoubtedly encourage people to use them for illicit purposes, such as with instructions that "any large file could be put into an enclosure" or something similar.

Clearly, the whole broadcatching thing is going to have to be strictly regulated. Perhaps we can require that all RSS feeds be registered, so that they can be monitored? Broadcatching software will definitely need dialog boxes that ask if the user is sure they want to add content to an enclosure, as it might be copyrighted. Newsreaders will need dialog boxes that ask subscribers whether they want to download the enclosures (they might be copyrighted).

Because broadcatching is a direct and immediate threat to the business models of Hollywood, it will certainly be a prime target for any lawsuits Hollywood can throw against it.

Want to know more about the INDUCE Act?
Please see LawMeme's well-organized index to everything I've written on the topic, including Hatch's Hit List: The LawMeme Reader's Guide to Ernie Miller's Guide to the INDUCE Act.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Hatch's Hit List | INDUCE Act

September 08, 2004

Viewing Commercials on TiVo

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Fascinating study on TiVo use by consumers from Forrester Research (Forrester Research Conducts In-Depth Survey of DVR Users to Uncover Key Trends Impacting the Television and Advertising Industries). Some of the key findings are quite interesting:

DVRs have a significant impact on consumers' TV viewing habits.

-- While real-time viewing drops by 60 percent for consumers who use DVRs, programs like the evening news and sporting events are among the programs that retain significant real-time viewing.

-- Forrester's survey respondents report watching only 8 percent of commercials in recorded programming. Three out of 10 viewers say they watch no commercials at all.

-- Although the numbers paint a gloomy picture for advertisers, viewers do not treat all ads equally. Three out of four DVR users watch some ads at least occasionally. Movie ads and promos for upcoming programming fare best. Conversely, consumers watch less than one in 10 ads about credit cards, long-distance carriers, car dealers, and banks.

So, some types of commercials are popular, others are not. How about that? I guess car dealers are going to have to get more creative.

Other findings include the fact that delayed viewing for time-sensitive programming (such as sports and news) doesn't drop nearly as much as other programming. Well, duh. Still, sometimes the obvious needs to be stated.


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August 31, 2004

Broadcatching Roundup - TV Stations Now Unnecessary and Other News

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Lost Remote makes a bold claim and is nearly right (TheKnot and Comcast's marriage):

Your life changed last week. If you work in TV or on the web, your work life changed immeasurably. If you're a TV or web user, it changed nearly as much. Why? TV stations are now unneccessary.

Comcast and wedding website have announced a new V.O.D.-only channel that will feature programming from The Knot on Comcast's digital cable.

So what?

So with one move, a website becomes a TV channel - without the messy (and expensive) need for a television station or churning out 24 hours-a-day of fresh programming. No more "feeding the beast" of all-day, all-night cable. They can put up what they have, and swap out the shows people aren't watching. [emphasis in original]

Absolutely, and there is much more insightful analysis, but the problem I see with this is that it still leaves the cable company as a gatekeeper. True broadcatching bypasses such gatekeepers. I also don't really see cable companies opening up their services to all comers, as it would likely undermine their existing subscription models and relationships with major content producers. See, also, 500 Channels with Nothing On? Nah - No Channels At All.

Still, this is an important article to read and an important experiment to keep an eye on. Check out the comments too.

Read on for many other links and etc...

...continue reading.

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August 30, 2004

Broadcatching Roundup: iPodder Opportunities, the Death of Radio, and an Enclosure Debate

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Lots from Adam Curry today. First, he points to a couple of new domain registrations that would be of interest (RSS Progress?):

Neither has content right now and it is sort of hard to figure out who is behind them, exactly, but worth keeping track of probably. I definitely think that porn has a lot of potential as content for broadcatching - it might just be broadcatching's first killer app (RSS, BitTorrent, Broadcatching, Porn, Business Models, and Banned Music).

Curry also sees a lot of potential for broadcatching for people with disabilities (iPodder Opportunity):

It wouldn't surprise me if there were some grants waiting to be tapped for technological improvements for media distribution for peopel with disabilities. Nice that everyone can benefit from these improvements. [emphasis in original]
I completely agree that there is a great deal of potential here. Curry also points to Assistive Media, a group that could really take advantage of broadcatching, I think.
The mission of Assistive Media is to heighten the educational, cultural, and quality-of-living standard for people with disabilities and help achieve independence and become better integrated within the mainstream of society and community life in general. Assistive Media accomplishes this by providing free-of-charge, copyright-approved, high caliber audio literary works to the world-wide disability community via the Internet effectively, inexpensively, and efficiently.

Finally, Curry points to an article in The Inquirer concerning iPodder (Ipodder good fodder for MP3 heads)

This is a creative synthesis of three different technology pieces. MP3, the oldest piece, can be used to record just about any audio source, from music files to radio programs and other audio content. RSS, a "lightweight XML format," has been kicking around for a while as a way to syndicate/distribute headlines and other web content (i.e. like MP3s) between sites, as well as between web sites and end-users. Finally, the iPod is the hip little device that Apple is selling like mad.

Basically, people now have a new way to get things to listen to on their iPods, and more importantly have those things automatically delivered to their desktop computers on a regular basis through RSS. To date, when people want to get new songs or other audio files for their iPod, they have to go hunting for them. The iPodder program allows you regular subscriptions to favorite programming. For example, Mr. Curry is distributing "The Source Code," his daily 15 to 25 minute pontifications on desktop technology in MP3 format via RSS. Anyone with a favorite "voice" or radio show distributed on a regular basis that is packed into MP3 and distributed into RSS can now get those "shows" loaded.

The author is pessimistic, however, believing that Curry is an unfortunate number of years ahead of the curve. I agree he is ahead of the curve, but that is a good thing. Sure, the major media doesn't really understand what is going on, but that will keep them from screwing it up from the beginning. Remember "Active Channels" (RSS + BitTorrent Roundup - Broadcatching Isn't MS Active Channels)?

Over on Darknet, JD Lasica points out a Barron's article that points out some of the more glaring weaknesses of traditional radio and glimmers of the future (The death of radio):

Across the country, listeners are changing how they choose to receive music and news and talk radio. They are turning to portable music players like Apple Computer's iPod, streaming audio over the Internet and the emerging field of satellite radio to hear what they want, when they want to hear it.
Of course, as broadcatching develops there will be numerous debates about many of the details, and Lucas Gonze gets into one of those debates (RSS Enclosures and Playlists):
On my point "It causes users to download big files that they will never listen to or watch, creating pointless overload on web hosts," Dave says: "This is not a criticism of enclosures per se but of using aggregating enclosures on a feed where you don't want all the files. I'm aggregating 8 feeds now with get_enclosures, and all of them are ones with a high probability that I want to listen to everything."

But you, the subscriber, have no control over whether there are enclosures. If some third party puts an enclosure in their feed it
makes no difference to you, and a reasonably popular third party can easily DoS a host. RSS is a blunt instrument. Once people subscribe to a feed they let the bot do the work -- if there are enclosures involved, it doesn't make subscribers more attentive.

I blogged a proposal that auto-download via enclosures should require an opt-in from the provider site on 8/18. The other solution that I know of is swarming a la BitTorrent, but that requires the rights holder to have allowed redistribution, which is fairly rare. On a large scale, the answer is up to the rights holder: either they don't care about the cost of hosting or they allow redistribution in order to cover the cost. Take your pick, there are no other options. [link in original]

If you're interested in some of the details of future broadcatching implementation, be sure to read the whole thing.

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August 26, 2004

Broadcatching on the iPod Platform

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Posted by Ernest Miller

For months now I have been touting the possibilities of RSS and BitTorrent, aka broadcatching, especially in regard to the distribution of video. However, audio is also an important distribution medium and there is plenty of opportunity to replace radio with broadcatching as well as television.

Adam Curry has been leading the way in broadcatching audio, providing a daily 15-20 minute audio program, Source Code, on what he (borrowing the term from Steve Gillmor) calls the iPod Platform.

Making MP3s available is easy. What is hard right now is getting those MP3s effortlessly onto other platforms, such as the iPod. Imagine being able to plug your iPod into its cradle at night and pick it up in the morning full of all sorts of audio goodness, or finding the latest news already downloaded into your car for the commute to work. That is part of the idea behind Curry's iPodder.

One of the companies that is taking advantage of the RSS method of distribution for audio is IT Conversations and recently they hosted an interview with famed innovator Dan Bricklin (Dan Bricklin - Memory Lane). Over on his blog, Bricklin talks about his interview and the great potential of this new media form (Interview by Halley on ITConversations and thoughts on online stored audio):

With this form of content there is no time slot to fill or miss as there is with traditional radio/TV broadcast. Word of mouth, blogs, and search engines can help build up an "audience" for a particular "episode" after the fact without needing to worry about how many people are tuned in at a particular time. A narrow-interest piece (in hindsight) only costs the production expenses and not wasted distribution since storage is cheap and bandwidth is mainly spent on popular pieces. Something less popular doesn't preclude something else that may be more popular in the same "time slot". A "hit" can last a long time. Digital music players (especially those with large storage capacities) make it easy to carry and save content for whenever you have time to listen, even days or weeks later. Being stored, you can pause the playback, repeat, listen in small chunks of time, etc. Because it can be done when mobile, listening to content that isn't really worth devoting scarce, sit-down, quality time (such as my interview) can be mixed with other activities compatible with listening, such as traveling, exercising, or doing household chores. Being available online, you can recommend a particular piece to others after listening.
Excellent thoughts - read the whole thing.

In any case, I should note that I've become so enamored of this new media format that I've decided to start my own show, generously hosted by IT Conversations. More on the first episode in another post.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Audio Edition | Broadcatching/Podcasting

August 13, 2004

Broadcatching Roundup - Friday the 13th Edition

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Once again, I've been remiss in keeping up with all the information out there, but here are some of the more recent and interesting links.

Salon (subscription or watch an ad) has a story that explains the benefits of broadcatching quite well (Must-download TV). An excellent introduction to the subject. PVR Blog has some interesting comments on the article (BitTorrent and RSS):

Media demand is global but the content providers have yet to develop a business model to effectively provide that media to a global audience, and thus the lovers of the content have to "break laws" to watch their favorite shows. It is, as the hackneyed phrase goes, "a lose-lose" (in the sense that the content providers perceive that demand as theft and the content viewers often cannot get what they want when they want it legally.)
I agree. This should be win-win.

KTYP has produced an RSS feed for broadcast television (Bootleg RSS: TV Edition). Due to popular demand the feeds are not currently available, but should be back soon. This is a no-brainer for television broadcasters who have a clue.

The New York Times has an article on several of the movie download website (An Online Supplier for Your Desktop Cineplex). The article fails to note concepts like RSS support, P2P downloading or being able to shift from PC to television. In other words, the article is clueless.

Marc Canter has a couple of links to stories about TiVo and Strangeberry, a startup TiVo acquired earlier this year (TiVO and Strangeberry). Details aren't exactly clear, but there Strangeberry might include some broadcatching functionality. I would definitely be interested in learning more. has a tantalizing reference to a recent study on the potential for video-via-internet, what the study calls "Internet Bypass" (The Changing Economics of Internet Video). via Technology360

Telepocalypse has a very interesting meditation on the future of TiVo that provides some insight into the future of broadcatching as well (Internet didn't kill the video star). Well worth reading.

The Internet Archive now has more than 300 feature films available (Internet Archive: Feature Films). Who will be the first to combine these with an RSS/Broadcatch feed for MythTV?

As usual Lucas Gonze has a number of interesting posts that concern broadcatching (vBlog Central to www: go away):

Over on the nascent vBlog Central video blog hosting service, a vogger can have anything they might dream of except to be watched, because entries don't have URLs. The HTML has a URL, but the video URL is not only obscured, it's a one-use ID designed to prevent direct linking.

This makes it impossible to use vBlog videos in playlists, to make mashups, to point into them using start and stop times (and thus make them accessible to search engines), and to take advantage of the lazy web. It seems perfectly reasonable for any one video blogger to embrace those restrictions, but to do it for many or most of them will damage video blogging as a whole.

Gonze also notes that CBS News has adopted playlists for their news pieces (CBS News implements playlists). Imagine if they used an opensystem that anyone could create playlists with and could include other news sources.

One other post from Gonze, but you really should subscribe to his RSS feed (TiVo-like system for aggregated web-based compressed audio data).

Finally, JD Lasica touches on some broadcatching issues in the Industry Standard (Ready for the visual Web?).

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July 28, 2004

Broadcatching Roundup - 28 July 2004

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Posted by Ernest Miller

I haven't been posting all that much about broadcatching (aka RSS + BitTorrent) lately, not because there isn't anything going on, but because there has been so much going on. I also like my posts to be comprehensive and make additional connections, so I just haven't jumped back into the fray. Nevertheless, here is just a small sampling of relevant articles from the past few days.

The New York Times reports on increasing experiments with non-traditional commercial formats (Breaking the 30-Second Barrier). What is particularly interesting is the growing phenomena of "short films" aka "long commercials" aka "micro movies." These are commercials that stretch anywhere from 30+ seconds to several minutes. These are commercials, to be sure, but they are also creative and interesting enough to be content as well. People will watch them (once, generally) because they are interesting, not because they are trying to sell a product. This sort of commercial doesn't really fit into the traditional broadcast format. There are experiments, of course, but really distributing such content effectively will require broadcatching. So, I'm excited to see this development.

PlaNetwork Journal carries an article by Drazen Pantic of on the development and advent of broadcatching (Anybody Can Be TV: How P2P Home Video will Challenge The Network News). The article is nice introduction to the basic ideas, a short history, potential (and difficulties). A good way to get started on the debate.

The Mercury News runs a piece on the a la carte cable debate and argues that internet distribution is the only real way to create real competition (Forget a la carte cable idea; the future is in Internet TV). Ultimately, yes. However, until then, I believe that we should deny content providers from forcing bundling on the cable companies (and not force the cable companies to give up bundling). See, FCC Requests Comments on a la Carte Cable Subscriptions.

Broadcasting & Cable reports that the WB's Jack & Bobby series ("An eccentric single mother raises two teen boys, one of whom is destined to be president of the United States") will premiere as a commercial-free broadband download before being broadcast (You’ve Got TV). This promotion is taking place in partnership with AOL, but I don't see why other television series don't give this sort of promotion a try via broadcatching.

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July 14, 2004

Prosumer Camcorder Will Help Lead Content Revolution

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Canon has just announced their brand new prosumer digital camcorder, the XL2. Read the press release: Canon's Hotly Anticipated XL2 Three CCD Mini-DV Camcorder Sizzles this Summer. Why is this important? Why am I blogging about it? Very simply, this is yet more evidence of the democratization of content creation. The XL2 would have been a professional rig just a few years ago. Now it is at the top end of the consumer market and the capabilities will inevitably trickle down. Of course, the quality content will need some way to be distributed *cough*broadcatching*cough*.

This is what Gizmodo has to say about the capabilities of the new camcorder (Canon Announces the XL2):

With both 16:9 and 4:3 aspect ratios (film-like and TV-like, respectively), variable frame rates (again, to more closely emulate film or TV), interchangeable lens (the same as the XL1S had, including a new 20x optical zoom lens), and more, all wrapped around a 3 CCD system for maximum image, you know, fantasticness. [emphasis in original]
And all for an expected market price of about $5,000. High production values content creation is becoming cheap, rapidly.
There's just so much to this camera, though, it's sort of hard to explain. Things like the ability to sync up the settings on two different cameras so that the film quality will remain identical make the XL2 the next logical choice for not only budding film-makers and home users who want the best, but increasingly, well, anyone. [emphasis added]

See also, Engadget: Canon’s new XL2 Mini-DV camcorder.

I would be remiss if I didn't point you to HD for Indies, a blog dedicated to "High Definition Video for Independent Filmmakers: A How To Guide for indies on the cheap." For example, check (no permalink available currently) the July 01 posting on "Tight Budget 720p Uncompressed HD Editing System Recommendation." You too can edit 720p uncompressed for $3368.

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July 13, 2004

The Living Room Candidate - Not a Creative Commons

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The American Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, New York is an incredible museum and resource. It "is the only institution in the United States dedicated exclusively to the study of film, television, and digital media, and to examining their impact on American culture and society." In addition to the permanent collection of over 100,000 moving image artifacts, it has some fantastic temporary exhibits currently, such as a collection of Tim Burton's drawings from 12 of his movies. There is also an ongoing exhibit on videogames. In fact, admission to the museum provides you three tokens to play classic games including: Asteroids (1979), Frogger (1981), Ms. Pac-Man (1982), Space Invaders (1979), and Tron (1982). Additionally, the online exhibit Computer Space lets you download an emulator and the actual ROM for many of the games so that you can play them on your PC at home. You can download the original games! How cool is that?

Answer: very. Unfortunately, downloading the content from AMMI's latest exhibit is prohibited. Which is really a shame, because while the exhibit is excellent (really, really excellent), making the content freely downloadable could be very useful for our democracy. It's that important. Read on...

...continue reading.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Copyright | Freedom of Expression

July 11, 2004

Guerrilla Documentary Copyfighting

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Robert Greenwald, an honored (and innovative) director and producer of films, has a new documentary coming out that critiqes Fox News, called OutFOXed. The New York Times Magazine has a lengthy article on many of the issues facing the making of this documentary, most prominently the copyright clearance issues (which are particularly difficult for films) (How to Make a Guerrilla Documentary).

Obviously, the documentary will feature many clips from Fox News, often showing them in a less than flattering light. Fox News famously sued over the title of Al Franken's book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. The case was laughed out of court, but it shows how litigous Fox News is willing to be. So, Greenwald is rightfully afraid that he will be sued, despite the merits of his case. Fortunately, it seems that perhaps Fox News has learned its lesson (their lawsuit helped publicize Franken's book better than anything). According to the Washington Post (annoying reg. req.) Fox News may ignore this documentary (though the statement certainly isn't a promise not to sue) (Too Late to Comment?):

"People steal our footage all the time," says Dianne Brandi, Fox News's vice president for legal affairs. "We generally sort of look the other way."

Nevertheless, there have already been other significant copyright problems, according to the NY Times Magazine article:

Then there was the fact that several major news organizations were unexpectedly refusing to license their clips. (Such licensing is ordinarily pro forma.) CBS wouldn't sell Greenwald the clip of Richard Clarke's appearance on ''60 Minutes,'' explaining that it didn't want to be associated with a controversial documentary about Murdoch. WGBH, the Boston PBS station, wouldn't let Greenwald use excerpts from ''Frontline'' for fear of looking too ''political,'' it said.

An aside: Of course, why use copyright law if there are other means to prevent the making of these sorts of films. Take, for example, the process Greenwald used to make the film:

''Outfoxed'' was made in an unusually collaborative fashion. In January, Greenwald rigged up a dozen DVD recorders and programmed them to record Fox News 24 hours a day, seven days a week, for about six months.
Fortunately, Greenwald didn't have to deal with the broadcast flag, which would make using such clips significantly more difficult (and expensive).

Another critical aspect to note about Greenwald's film is the innovative distribution methods he uses, bypassing traditional gatekeepers:

Last year, Greenwald followed up that effort with ''Uncovered,'' his critique of the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq, which featured interviews with former intelligence analysts, weapons inspectors and Foreign Service officers. Once the film wrapped, Greenwald turned the traditional distribution model on its head. Rather than taking the time-consuming route of entering film festivals or courting theater distributors, he sold the DVD of ''Uncovered'' through the Web sites of various left-liberal organizations: MoveOn, The Nation magazine, the Center for American Progress and the alternative-news Web sites AlterNet and BuzzFlash.
Through such means he has sold tens of thousands of DVDs. This is no mean feat and it shows the power of alternative distribution. After all, what conventional distributor would be willing to publish such an obvious lawsuit target?

Another aside: The people behind the film recognize the potential for even more innovative distribution.

Jim Gilliam, a 26-year-old former dot-com executive and a producer of ''Outfoxed,'' is enthusiastic about the way Greenwald's projects meld grass-roots politics with the culture of the Internet. He predicts a future -- augured by events like MoveOn's competition for the best 30-second anti-Bush advertisement -- in which young political filmmakers will be as likely to wield a camera phone as a digital camera. ''It won't be long before people will be shooting and editing short documentaries that they'll stream from their blogs,'' he says.
Yep. Sounds like broadcatching.

Luckily, given all the major legal issues involved, Greenwald has Ubercyberlaw Prof Larry Lessig and others working with him on the copyright issues (outfoxed). Says Lessig,

As the Times article describes, Greenwald’s style for distributing documentaries may be the beginning of something new — political criticism, using interviews and clips, making a strong political point, distributed through DVDs and political action groups. (See some other examples here). On what theory does he, and others, have the right to use such material without permission? On the free culture theory we call the First Amendment: Copyright law must, the Court told us in Eldred, embed “fair use”; “fair use” is informed by First Amendment values; the values of the First Amendment most relevant here are those expressed in New York Times v. Sullivan. As with news-gathering, critical political filmmaking needs a buffer zone of protection against the overreaching of the law. And if the potential of this medium — now liberated by digital technology — is to be realized, we need clear precedents that establish that critics have the freedom to criticize without having to hire a lawyer first. [links in original]
Indeed. Lessig's right:
Watch the movie. Celebrate the freedom it represents. It is a particularly American freedom that we should celebrate and practice more often.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcast Flag | Broadcatching/Podcasting | Copyright

July 07, 2004

TiVo vs. Media Center Edition vs. INDUCE Act (IICA) vs. Broadcast Flag

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Posted by Ernest Miller

A couple of weeks ago Eric Harrison wrote a head-to-head comparison of Windows Media Center Edition and TiVo. (TiVo versus Media Center Edition PC's - finally!). TiVo won, partly because the original Windows machine had all sorts of defects, but mostly because TiVo is a more solid performer. Paul Robichaux's comparison goes into more depth about the MCE (Media Center Eye for the TiVo Guy).

Jupiter Research analyst Michael Gartenberg looks at Harrison's comparison and adds some thoughts of his own, as JR is working on a report on standalone DVRs (Tivo comparison to Windows Media Center):

First, the PC is more flexible. If I want to store and view my pictures, music and other video content, burn to DVD, copy to a portable media player and stream that content to other devices in my home, I can do that with the PC and not with the TiVo. The MCE EPG is also more flexible. Try and record the West Wing on TiVO, just the 7pm episodes shown on channel 44, not the other boradcasts. You can't do it. It's a snap on MCE. (why would you want to? to record a series according to airdates so you can watch the episodes in order). On the other hand, my TiVO never crashed, locked up, missed a scheduled record or any other annoying issue. Clearly the dedicated funcitonality makes for a more stable platform. Part of the MCE experience issue is that it's still a PC. You still need to exit to the shell to get some things done. You need to re-boot from time to time. If MCE is going to make inroads in the next year it needs to be able to shed the PC experience and live 24/7 as a consume electronics device.
Here are my thoughts. I already have a TiVo. I already have a PC. Most of the people who are considering buying a TiVo already have a PC as well. If the TiVo could simply talk to the PC, then they (and I) could get the benefits of consumer electronics reliability and the flexibility of a PC without having to buy a whole new, rather expensive PC.

So why don't DVRs offer this flexibility? They get sued into oblivion: EFF Archives: Newmark v. Turner Broadcasting System. Need I mention that the IICA (née INDUCE Act) will make bringing such company-resource-draining lawsuits easier? Or that, in a little less than a year, the government will burden such capability with mandatory DRM: Digital Television Liberation Front?

Comments (4) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcast Flag | Broadcatching/Podcasting | Copyright | Digital Rights Management | INDUCE Act

July 02, 2004

500 Channels with Nothing On? Nah - No Channels At All

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Yesterday, MediaPost reported that for the first time since it has been tracked, the number of receivable television channels per household has stopped increasing and even decreased a bit (Universe Collapses: Well, TV's, Anyway):

Average Number Of TV Channels Receivable
1985     18.8
1990     33.2
1995     41.1
2000     74.6
2001     89.2
2002    102.1
2003    100.4
TV executives are, of course, worried about this development and want Nielsen to look into reasons for the decline.

I think the reasons should turn out to be pretty obvious. The "channel" concept as currently used on television has enormous search and mental transaction costs. Think about it. Imagine if the internet had to be accessed through "channels." Couldn't be done. Heck, one of the main reasons RSS is taking off is because it provides much better access to numerous sources of information. I'd never be able to keep track of as many blogs as I do if I had to do click through each like a channel.

The article notes that:

Still others think we've already reached a "channel-less" era of television, brought on by digital video recorders, where viewers essentially record and watch programming from their hard drives detached of the channels that originally televised them.
See, here's the thing. DVRs haven't had enough market penetration to make that big a difference in the numbers. These numbers have very little to do with DVRs, I think. What they do point out are the limits of the current television interface known as "channels." Even if there were no DVRs, I think channel reception would naturally peak out simply because people would find very little utility in dealing with the search costs of so many "channels."

More importantly, what this quote fails to capture (and television executives can't see) is that DVRs should ultimately lead to an increase in the number of programs available, as smaller markets can easily be served through broadcast at times when TiVo can capture the broadcast, but no one is physically watching at 3 in the morning. DVRs = more programs, fewer channels. The channel concept does go away, but that doesn't mean less content. It means more content more easily found.

Ultimately, of course, this all leads to the channel-less future I call "broadcatching."

via The Future of Television

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

June 09, 2004

Broadcatching as Political Reform

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Prof. Michael Froomkin had a neat little post last week about the use of highly-partisan movies to skirt campaign finance laws (Movies as a Campaign Finance Law End-Run). The basic idea is to make a partisan movie, such as Michael Moore's virulently anti-Bush film Farenheit 9/11, and then advertise the heck out of it prior to an election. The 30-sec trailers for the movie could be as effective as campaign commercials as anything the candidates and the campaigns "officially" run. As Froomkin notes, this will be a "loophole it will be next to impossible to close."

It is funny, you know. The advent of campaign finance laws have tracked closely with the advent of traditional broadcast mass media. The money is raised for massive television ad buys, not print ad buys or billboards or a whole bunch of other things. I don't think the Democrats lose sleep over the fact that the Republicans can out spend them with regard to Washington Times page buys. But what is the common solution to the television ad problem? All sorts of arcane, loophole-ridden, cynicism-increasing, lack of respect for law fomenting, First Amendment-threatening regulation of how money is to be raised and spent (basically for television advertisements).

I look at this and I'm baffled. If the problem is the need to raise lots of money to run an expensive television-ad based election campaign, maybe the problem isn't campaign finance but the durn fool way we've regulated our broadcast medium. Rather than see the problem as one of campaign finance, why don't we see the problem as one of television regulation? If the major networks weren't bottlenecks and gatekeepers for the most popular medium of all, I don't think we'd have 1/10 the problem with campaign ad buys (and the money raised) that we have now. Read on...

...continue reading.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Freedom of Expression | Telecomm

Broadcatching Roundup - RSS v Syndication, RSS Radio and More

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Lucas Gonze has a post I completely agree with regarding the origins of the term "broadcatching" (Where did the term broadcatching come from?). See also, Marc's Voice (Broadcatching).

More importantly, Gonze breaks down the difference between "RSS" and "syndication" (RSS and weblogs tag team mano a mano vs. syndication and broadcatching). I've played fast and loose with using RSS for broadcatching, letting the herd spread a bit much. Gonze flanks the cattle back into line:

The reason for the awkwardness is that RSS is about content from the creator of the RSS feed, while playlists are about deep linking to resources not owned by the linker.

Absolutely. Gonze also identifies some subtle differences between reading RSS feeds and using television. As TiVo has proved, useability is absolutely critical. Gonze also points out that some of the tools being used to make RSS more efficient (Technorati, Google, Feedster) will have to be seriously retooled to be effective for broadcatching.

Diablog connects broadcatching with the spread of broadband in Europe (Broadcatching, the future of “broadband television”). The two early posts link to articles that demonstrate that traditional broadcasters still don't get it. For example, Strategy Analytics gives bogus advice to broadcasters (Broadcasters Beware: Broadband Is Stealing Your Viewers):

TV programmers and service providers can deal with this trend by continuing to emphasise iTV services and products like Digital Video Recorders (DVRs), which can offer viewers the same kind of interactivity and personalisation associated with the Internet.

The problem with this vision is that it doesn't forsee programmers and service providers providing the tools to let the public provide the personalization. iTV has always meant, "why don't you buy this?" It should mean letting consumers help to organize and even provide the content. Read on...

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

June 03, 2004

Broadcatching, the Future of Television News and the Death of Chattering Monkeys

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Posted by Ernest Miller

This was actually a piece I had been planning to write for some time and never quite got around to and now it seems that Jon Udell has beaten me to it (Broadcatching: the RSS-ification of television news). Udell is considering the implications of Brett Singer's television news clip playlist (News Video-Daily), which I noted last week: Video Playlists. Lucas Gonze, one of the leaders of the playlist community, also has a couple of comments on the issue: Brett Singer's comment on his collection of news video clips and Jon Udell on Brett's video playlists. In fact, Gonze points out one of the more interesting implications of "broadcatch news": the lack of a need for "chattering monkeys inserting patter between clips."

As Udell notes, television remains a very popular and important medium. It is precisely because of its importance that I think broadcatching is a critical element in democratizing media, something I also noted earlier today on Copyfight (Commercials - Rip, Mix, Post on a Website). Read on...

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

June 01, 2004

Media and Government Partnering for Emergencies - An Innovative Proposal

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Tomorrow, the FCC and the Department of Homeland Security will be co-hosting a media forum: Federal Communications Commission and Department of Homeland Security to Host Media Forum Wednesday, June 2 [PDF]. The purpose is to "examine the relationship of media and government in times of emergencies." FCC Chairman Michael Powell had this blurb:

Media and government must be partners in preparing for emergencies. The public needs clear lines of communication of accurate and timely information. Only by working together can we ensure full readiness for when disaster strikes. During this forum we want to explore how this relationship can be strengthened at the local level.

The press release also noted that:
The forum will address means of fostering coordination between local government and media before an emergency occurs, media awareness of service vulnerabilities, and plans for restoration of service to community, including the special needs of disability communities.

Read the final agenda here: Final Agenda Released for FCC and DHS Media Forum [PDF].

Of course, I doubt this forum will have anything innovative to add. The focus is on broadcasters and how best to use their platform. Yes, broadcasters are and remain important, but they aren't the only information distribution game in town anymore. Perhaps the best way to distribute information is to bypass the broadcasters all together, or use a separate channel. You want local? Have emergency RSS fron any entity that thinks it needs one. Let people subscribe to these emergency RSS feeds so that they show up on their television screen no matter what they are watching. I've written more on the concept here: RSSTV Emergency Broadcatching System. Problem with my idea, though, is that it reduces, as opposed to aggrandizes, the power of traditional media. The other problem with the concept is that is a forward-thinking innovative take on the difficulties of distributing emergency information.

Interestingly, given that the FCC desires to regulate as much distribution technology as possible, when I forwarded the concept to the FCC, I received this response:

Thank you for your interest in this issue but the FCC and its rules do not address the technologies that the covered entities might use.

Imagine that, a technology involving broadcast that the FCC has no interest in regulating.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

May 27, 2004

Advice for TiVo

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Engadget has some advice for TiVo (Advice to TiVo: get your software onto PCs):

So here’s some free advice for TiVo: create a version of your software that works on a regular PC and then either license it to manufacturers so they can put it on their PCs instead of Microsoft’s Media Center operating system or sell it directly to consumers so they can install it themselves (or do both).

Read the whole thing but, in addition, I would recommend opening APIs and making it easy for people like Andrew Grumet to develop interesting tools like RSSTV and, of course, Broadcatching.

That would be thinking outside the box and creating consumer value. So, I don't really expect a major company funded by the broadcasters to actually try it. Instead, TiVo will probably follow the blindered future noted by MediaPost (Life After TiVo, Experts Debate The Next Generation Of Broadband Enabled DVRs):

The benefit of the broadband connection [to the DVR] is that it can enable real-time lead generation, couch commerce, instant polling (without a cell phone), long- and short-form branded content, and any manner of viral Web promotions.

Yeah, that's the benefit of the broadband connection. It is so sad that the people making comments like this get paid the big bucks. Frankly, I don't get it.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

May 26, 2004

Video Playlists

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Lucas Gonze has an interesting post on broadcatching with video playlists (On the topic of broadcatching). He points to the Webjay video playlists of Brett Singer: Playlists by webjaybs. According to Lucas:

Since I don't have a television in Montreal, I watched the news last night via his [Brett's] compilation of BBC and NY1 clips. It was embryonic and crude, but also mind blowing.

Mind blowing, indeed ... and the future.

Comments (6) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

The Network Television

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Posted by Ernest Miller

According to a Reuters wirestory that was widely published, including on C|Net News, Sony will be incorporating its new "Cell" processor in both the next generation PlayStation and what they call a "network television" (Sony says 'Cell'-based TV ready by 2006).

The article lacks any detail about what, exactly, a "network television" is, but the image the words invoke is fascinating. I would imagine that one could rather easily broadcatch with a network television, for one.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Tools

Broadcast Flag Quote of the Day

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Andrew Grumet: "The XML button is the anti broadcast flag."

Caveat: I think that using the XML button for too many things can lead to confusion, but I definitely agree with the sentiment.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcast Flag | Broadcatching/Podcasting

April 12, 2004

Follow the (Political) Money - Use the Web

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Posted by Ernest Miller

WIRED has a very interesting article on the various websites that make it easier to track campaign finance in the political system (Following the Money Made Easier). A number of the best websites are cited, such as Fundrace, Political Money Line, and my favorite, Open Secrets.

Worrisome Privacy Issues

Increased transparency in funding is all to the good (especially for larger donors), but I feel a little strange being able to know which of my neighbors have given $100 to Bush or Edwards (no local Kerry fans, apparently). How long will this data be held? Will these websites discourage people from donating to candidates not favored by their neighbors? What effect will this have on our politics?

More Efficient Tracking Desired

Of course, I would love for these websites to become even more efficient. What about email alerts and RSS feeds? You could subscribe to a candidate feed and be notified when they have new donations above a certain limit. You could have geographic feeds and industry feeds. You could track particular donors, especially industries, across a variety of candidates. Bloggers could make excellent use of such feeds.

Fix the Problem of Money in Politics

We really need to reduce the importance of money in politics (it'll never go away entirely). The more we undermine mass media, the better I think. A vast amount of political money is spent on television advertising, if we can change that paradigm with something like broadcatching we would be better off.

Bonus IP issue: The logo for Fundrace is highly reminiscent of Nascar's.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Privacy | RSS

April 09, 2004

Steadicam for the Masses

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Not all technological advancements that increase the ability of the average person to produce professional-quality video come in the form of software or silicon. Sometimes they come in the form of $14 worth of galvanized pipe, washers, nuts and a barbell weight.

Multimedia artist Johnny Chung Lee has developed the poor man's steadicam. What is a steadicam? According to the Steadicam FAQ, it "is a camera stabilization device that, in the hands of a skilled operator, combines the image steadiness of a dolly with the freedom of movement of a hand-held shot." Normally, the cheapest 3rd-party steadicams go for $500 and up. Lee's version costs about $14 in parts ($14 Steadicam). It might not have all the bells and whistles, but seems to do a pretty darn good job, considering the price.

Sometimes it is nice to note that not all cool hacks are digital.

via mehack

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Tools

April 06, 2004

No Clever Name Comes to Mind for this RSS/BitTorrent/Broadcatching Roundup

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The Portland Phoenix actually had a feature on broadcatching (RSS + BitTorrent = Tivo for your PC). The article is a pretty good introduction to the concept.

Cinema Minima, the blog for independent films that are actually independent, has declared that "The salient issue facing movie makers is distribution" (Trendwatch: new ways to distribute movies). To that end, they will be paying close attention to developments along the broadcatching front.

Steve Gillmor, one of the first to recognize the potential of RSS+BitTorrent back in Dec '03, has penned an open letter to Microsoft's CEO, Steve Ballmer (Memo to Steve Ballmer). The letter makes the case for increased Microsoft support for RSS, including the broadcatching combination.

Read on for many more links.

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

March 29, 2004

RSS+BitTorrent in Action - Broadcatching Examples & Roundup

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Andrew Grumet reports that broadcatching actually picked up some interesting and unexpected content (March 26, 2004):

When I logged in this morning there was a BitTorrent window open and a copy of Free Culture on my hard drive. Simon put this Creatively Licensed work on LegalTorrents, and the Radio plugin did the rest. What a pleasant surprise! [links in original]

Speaking of LegalTorrents, Grumet also notes that they now have "a music feed, a books feed and a movies feed" (March 28, 2004).

The Blogdigger Development Blog has some interesting updates on their integration of broadcatching. One obvious problem is that promiscuous use of broadcatching can lead to your system trying to download more media than makes sense (Radio and BitTorrent):

So for the second moring in a row, I logged on to my computer and noticed things were a tad sluggish. The culprit: the collection of around 25 BitTorrent sessions that had been initiated from subscribing to the Blogdigger torrents.xml feed! I killed most of the sessions, as they were for things that I was not interested in, but I did keep a few running (like the latest episode of Scrubs!).

Blogdigger is also putting together feeds for different media, including their existing feed for torrents (Blogdigger Media!). As Chris Pirillo says, "All your torrents are belong to us."

Adam Curry notes that it would be great to get the audio version of Larry Lessig's new book, Free Culture, downloaded a chapter every morning (free culture audio boook). More interestingly, Curry points out how, since each chapter of the book is being read by different bloggers, RSS makes a lot of sense for aggregating the spacially diffuse files. He also points to his early writing on the topic of RSS+BitTorrent, RSS: A Cool Web Service, near the bottom of the post.

Digiwar considers some new uses for RSS, including broadcatching (RSS, more then headlines). One cool use of RSS he mentions is a concert notification system, which lets you know when a concert is announced and reminds 30 and 2 days before the concert. Why not add a broadcatching that sends you a copy of the concert the next day or so?

KnowProSE, doesn't have much to say, but his brief comment is an interesting take on the appeal of BitTorrent (All you wanted to know about BitTorrent and were afraid to ask).

As an old school IRCer, I stayed away from Napster, Kazaa and all those other things. But Bittorrent with RSS has a lot of potential, especially for expanding on existing uses.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing | RSS

March 26, 2004

TiVo's Quasi-New Extended Commercial Model

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Posted by Ernest Miller

A few days ago C|Net News reported that TiVo is planning on rolling out a quasi-new advertising model this fall (TiVo looks to tune in to advertisers). The new system is described thus:

Known as Video-to-Video, the idea is to let viewers click a button on their remote control to immediately watch a 3-minute video describing products and services that might appeal to them. The marketing clips are promoted through small icons that appear on the TV screen as viewers fast-forward past regular ads.

This is a perfect example of TiVo forgetting what made it successful in the first place. Remember those cool, early commercials for TiVo in which a couple of guys charged into a television network's offices and tossed a programming exec out the window? While the commercials might not have been terribly effective (many people still don't "get" TiVo), they did get to the heart of what makes TiVo successful: empowering viewers. With TiVo you no longer had to watch programs when and how the network execs (or advertisers) chose.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Open Standards | Telecomm

March 24, 2004

RSS, BitTorrent, Broadcatching, Porn, Business Models, and Banned Music

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Everyday it seems that there is something cool and neat in the RSS/BitTorrent/Broadcatching realm. Today is no exception. For example, Brian Clark, proprietor of the excellent Outside the System, suggests two business models for broadcatching.

Additionally, the music hacktivists behind Downhill Battle have launched Banned Music, a website dedicated to distributing unauthorized sampled music mixes such as the infamous Grey Album (About BannedMusic). Without discussing the merits of their concept (see here, here, here, and here for my take on related issues), they have come up with an interesting technology. Since many people haven't yet installed a BitTorrent client, Banned Music wraps their initiating .torrent files in a Nullsoft scriptable installer so that people automatically install the necessary software when they attempt to download the music (A New BitTorrent Downloader). The potential for this approach with regard to broadcatching is apparent.

Read on for all the latest broadcatching news ...

...continue reading.

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing | RSS

March 23, 2004

RSSTV Emergency Broadcatching System

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Posted by Ernest Miller

On Saturday, Andrew Grumet announced the release of RssReader 0.4d (RssReader 0.4d). In Andrew's words, "RssReader is TiVo-resident software that displays the contents of an RSS feed on your television." Of course, who the heck really wants to read RSS feeds on television? Sounds like one of those dotcom-era WebTV-like monstrosities. Instead, Andrew notes that "More interestingly, RssReader can schedule recordings from syndication feeds containing RSSTV extensions. This means you can subscribe your TiVo to a community-evolved ToDo list, such as the feed generated by Program My TiVo!" Absolutely, and something I think has amazing potential (RSS for TV, Music).

However, I also think that there is not only a desire for at least some RssReader functionality on television, but important reasons to make it happen. Indeed, perhaps a grant from Homeland Security to Grumet would be in order.

Imagine an RSS feed that would scroll at the bottom of your television display while you watched any other channel, a news ticker if you will. It would be just like the scrolling feeds on the news and financial networks, but would be overlayed on top of whatever you are currently watching. Most importantly, the content would come from an RSS feed.

...continue reading.

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing | RSS | Security | Telecomm

March 22, 2004

Broadcatching, RSS+BitTorrent Progress Report and Roundup

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The Dowbrigade News is quite excited by the possibilities of broadcatching (Video Aggregator 1.0).

A broadcatching discussion has been taking place on a Yahoo! BitTorrent group (RSS + BitTorrent = Broadcatching).

Jonathan Schull jumps on the broadcatching bandwagon and points to an RSS torrent feed (As Scott Raymond Foretold).

Dave Brondsema is experimenting with Grumet's work. If it works well, he promises to port it to a Linux client (spring break accomplishments).

Paolo Valdermarin sees potential for videobloggers (Are We Ready for Videoblogging).

realkosh, a self-described "aussie music fan," thinks the broadcatching concept is "excellent" (Promotional music should be free). He also has some interesting things to say comparing music to peanuts:

When was the last time you bought a peanut? Peanuts are something you just get for free. People buy peanuts to give to other people for free. I'm sure there are hundreds of people out there who buy more peanuts for other people than for themselves. Peanuts are just there when you go to your local pub. When you go to a party. Peanut night clubs where the peanut people go.

I like the analogy, but for the record will note that I do buy peanut butter.

Continue reading for many more links...

...continue reading.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing | RSS

March 18, 2004

Broadcatching - The Good, the Bad, the Slashdot

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Thanks to all the recent publicity, Simon Carless reports on his ffwd blog that LegalTorrents, a site for legitimate music torrent files that is experimenting with broadcatching, has given away an additional 300gb of music (broadcatching in the dark fatman ides?). 300gb! I guess broadcatching works.

Outside the System has an interesting analysis of the possibility of micropayments combined with broadcatching (BitTorrent + BitPass: Ethos & Practicalities). Most interestingly, the author goes into some detail regarding the ethos of the concept, what one might also call the social norms.

Now, I'm not a big fan of micropayments, but I think there might well be a market for certain Big Media Objects (BMOs) if the payment isn't too small. For example, the author imagines films being made available through this method for $2-3. I could certainly see this sort of payment making sense for a series, such as the awesome Red vs. Blue, where you buy an entire season for, say, $5-20. Of course, a subscription model for all-you-can eat content *cough*music*cough* might be a very good model as well.

The best part of the piece though is the analysis of the ethos of BitTorrent and payments:

Does this mean that there is a common ground between independents and the BitTorrent community that allows for the introduction of transactions into the equation? There very might well be, and there seems to be little technical barrier in experimenting and seeing firsthand. It might even be a common ground that traditional media companies and the artists they distribute don't/can't/won't share, making this an emerging system ripe for independent adoption over corporate adoption. There are also tantalizing questions I still have about how this microtransaction model could interact with the tracker also running on that webserver -- the potential to allow fans to favor those "in the club" versus "outside the club" at the peering level, which could reinforce the idea that the independent media creator and their Internet fans are all in this together.

This is something that I have been thinking a great deal about and I think that there is something quite interesting here. I believe that a well-designed market using broadcatching would encourage cooperation between creators and consumers, turning distribution into a collaborative effort. Sure, corporations could play this game, but independents could be on an almost equal footing, both would have consumers as their partners. I'm still thinking about the possibilities here, but I think they may be one of the most significant aspects of broadcatching. Broadcatching could be much more than what the Hollywood Liberation Army calls "the holy grail of a profitable business model for independent movie-makers on the web" (BitTorrent, BitPass & Outside the System).

Unlimited Freedom has some interesting comments about the whole broadcatching concept (BitTorrent and Broadcatching). Most of his post concerns what he sees as various drawbacks of the BitTorrent protocol. While he makes some good points, overall I don't think they really undermine the broadcatching paradigm.

BT differs from other P2P systems in the algorithm that it uses to distribute data. That's what makes it work so well for large files. But there's no reason P2P networks couldn't be enhanced to use that algorithm. If they did so, they would be SUPERIOR to BT for almost every purpose.
No longer would you have to find a .torrent file host to download data. No longer would someone have to do something special and act as a seeder - they could just put the data file into their P2P shared directory and it would be available to the world. No longer would you have to beg people to keep their BT clients (instances of which are specific to the file being downloaded) running after the download finishes, scolding them about being "leechers" if they don't upload at least as much as they downloaded.

Actually, some P2P programs already implement versions of swarm download protocols. However, that doesn't mean they are necessarily superior to BitTorrent. In particular, the advantage of broadcatching is that you have RSS feeds letting people know when fresh content is available. Consequently, you are more likely to have people hitting the .torrent file shortly thereafter, which makes the whole swarm download thing work better. With other forms of P2P, even if you get an RSS notification of fresh content, you'll have to wait for that content to diffuse through the P2P network. Even for very popular files this might take hours or days. With broadcatching, because of the centralization of the seeding server, content diffuses as quickly as the RSS feed.

There is also a question of search horizon for large media objects with normal P2P. The most popular files would be available in the local P2P network, but less popular files would be more difficult to find. Centralized seeding servers mean that the search horizon is virtually infinite. Moreover, you might not get much swarm download benefit for less popular files with normal P2P, but a centralized seeding service would aggregate even widely dispersed interest in less popular files.

The question of leechers is an issue, but since broadcatching would be mostly automated (update RSS, check for new files, initiate BitTorrent for new files), chances are the defaults could be set to let the BitTorrent application run fairly regularly in the background.

Undoubtedly, there are improvements that can be made to the protocols, especially with regard to usability for the average consumer. Those advances will come with time.

Slashdot has actually covered the BitTorrent & RSS concept before (RSS & BT Together?), but the latest is probably the most interesting as the concept begins to sink in (RSS And BitTorrent, Together At Last). Below are a couple of interesting comments:


People keep trying to make BitTorrent something it isn't. And really, we should be fighting its corporate adoption in any form, as it's simply an attempt to shift server bandwidth costs to the client. ISPs eat that right now, but we're going to metered access if this keeps up.
Which is effectively getting us to pay for website access/services, but instead of giving the money to the content creators we'll be giving it to ISPs instead and paying in bandwidth besides. So this is a bad idea.

Hack your TiVo for fansubs

The way I figure it, with this bittorrent-RSS combination and a slight modification of torrent watching sites like animesuki [] we will essentially have a fansubbed anime online tivo at our disposal. Actually, you could have probably done that even without RSS, though it does simplify matters. The only limitations are our bandwidth and hard drives. Which actually are pretty limiting these days, especially with p2p being frequently capped.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing | RSS

March 17, 2004

Television's Pushme-Pullyu

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Alex Ben Block of TelevisionWeek has an interesting article on television in the era of TiVo (Push Comes to Pull). He clearly recognizes that television is switching from a form of "push" media to "pull" media:

From the dawn of modern broadcasting until today, television has been a push technology. That means a network aggregates content and then markets it. It in essence "pushes" programming through a pipeline to the consumer, who then chooses where to spend time and money.
....Instead of programs being pushed to consumers through scheduling, advertising and promotion, the new order is to have programs "pulled" out when the consumer is ready.

Block's analysis is lacking, however, in what "pull" media really means. For example, though he acknowledges that consumers will "pull" the media they desire, he still believes that distributors will retain the most clout:

Another problem is how to make it easy for consumers to sort through thousands of program offerings. It seems clear that at least in the early years, there will be no single method. There will be video-on-demand sold one show at a time, and subscription packages that offer unlimited VOD selections. There will be "free" VOD, which will include teasers for paid shows, extended commercials and brand builders like a gardening show from the Home & Garden channel.

No mention whatsoever of consumer-based collaborative filtering. Personally, I record for later viewing what my friends, family and trusted reviewers recommend. Push your VOD all you want - it won't be terribly important to me, unless recommended to me by people I trust. Moreover, unless something is truly compelling, I'm going to skip the ala carte menu and go for an all you can eat option.

He keeps talking "pull" but I keep hearing "push":

That is where metadata becomes important. It is a crucial source of intelligence for marketers in what is called the "last mile display," the final step before the consumer makes a choice. It becomes the code that determines how and where the program info is displayed (by title, brand, genre, affinity to other programs), the pricing, the spin of the synopsis (toward specific groups or interests), and what is displayed on the program guide.

If television truly becomes "pull" what are the marketers doing there puching pricing, spin, etc.? Where are my fellow consumers providing their views so I can make an informed decision?

What also of allowing consumer-created content into this network of "pull"? No mention whatsoever. In time, television's pull is going to be severely limited if much of the innovative video content available on the web isn't integrated nicely into the distribution of standard broadcasting fare.

Interesting view of the future of television, but give me a broadcatching feed anyday.

via JD Lasica

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting

March 16, 2004

RSS + BitTorrent Roundup - Broadcatching Isn't MS Active Channels

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Posted by Ernest Miller

WIRED publishes an article that does a good job of summarizing the potentials of RSS + BitTorrent (Speed Meets Feed in Download Tool):

A demo publishing system launched Friday by a popular programmer and blogger merges two of this season's hottest tech fads -- RSS news syndication and BitTorrent file sharing -- to create a cheap publishing system for what its author calls "big media objects." The hybrid system is meant to eliminate both the publisher's need for fat bandwidth, and the consumer's need to wait through a grueling download.

The author of the WIRED article, Paul Boutin writes on his blog that "Those of you who remember Microsoft Active Channels and Netscape Whatever it Was Called, take note" (RSS + BitTorrent = ?). There are definitely similarities between broadcatching and MS Active Channels, but the differences are more significant. Broadcatching gets the whole channel concept right.

The most important difference is that an Active Channel provider has to provide all the bandwidth for the content they are sending. For large media objects this can quickly become rather expensive, relegating music or video channels to those who can afford substantial bandwidth (such as large media companies). In comparison, BitTorrent is specifically designed to share bandwidth costs for making large media objects available. RSS announcement of the availability increases the liklihood of more simultaneous users, thus decreasing the bandwidth costs of the seeder substantially. This means that anyone's content can be broadcatched, not just those of major media companies.

The main problem for Active Channels, however, was that there were few tools for ordinary folk to use to create their own channel. Sure, anyone could create a channel, but there was no blog software that made it easy to publish channels automatically. Consequently, Active Channels were dominated by the major media companies, who didn't necessarily use any standard format for sending content to users nor did they necessarily take user needs into account (such as not sending so many ads). One user feature that was definitely lacking was the concept of an aggregator. Switching between channels was more akin to clicking on a bookmark than looking at a list of feeds (as in a news aggregator) to see what has been updated. Generally, Active Channels meant that bookmarked webpages could have more annoying "interactive! (tm)" content.

In related news, Grumet has written up more about his implementation of broadcatching here: Experimenting with BitTorrent and RSS 2.0. In his description of the initial implementation, he has a very clear depiction of why this is darn neat:

What makes this interesting
First, RSS and BitTorrent complement each other naturally. RSS was designed to report freshly available content, which is exactly where BitTorrent shines. RSS 2.0 enclosures were designed to automate the download process that BitTorrent optimizes.
Second, combining the two should reduce the barrier to entry for small broadcasters. While not a new idea, video blogging has always borne a bandwidth cost. Combining BitTorrent's cost savings with widely available RSS emitting tools should, for example, make it possible for a small group of motivated people across the world to create their own news channel.

Simon Carless of Slashdot has a short article on the O'Reilly Network touting his work with Andrew Grumet on making broadcatching real by making RSS+BitTorrent feeds available at LegalTorrents (RSS and BitTorrent, Sitting in a Tree...). He has some valuable notes for others interested in joining the revolution.

Map the Way has this to say (Combining RSS and BitTorrent What Andrew Grumet has done!):

With modern production tools, the biggest problem for amateur and professional moviemakers is no longer producing video, but delivering it to the intended audience.

Trevor F Smith wonders about the serendipity of it all (Small screen, big net):

[Is it] a coincidence that the morning after I ordered a TV tuner for our iMac that my RSS daily update revealed a cross-blog conversation about RSS, bittorrent, and PVRs combining to create a nice web of user contributed video feeds[?]

Steve Gillmor, one of the earliest proponents of RSS+BitTorrent (BitTorrent and RSS Create Disruptive Revolution) expresses his surprise that RSS aggregators is as widely adopted within Microsoft as it is (about 15%) (Your Winnings, Sir). As usual, he has some perceptive things to say about the capabilities of RSS:

This [ubiquity of small consumable, searchable XHTML fragments] runs directly counter to Microsoft's preservation of Word document formats by European and New Zealand patents. It explains why there's still no InfoPath freely redistributable runtime--you gotta buy a ticket for enterprise workflow and form routing--and why Microsoft doesn't want to seed a poor-man's BizTalk server around RSS alerts. And let's not forget RSS/BitTorrent enclosures, which offer a DRM-free standard for peer-to-peer content exchange and publishing years before Longhorn locks down those ports.

For more information on Broadcatching, see also:
BitTorrent + RSS = The New Broadcast
Broadcatching - Not Broadcasting
Broadcatching - The Early Days
RSS + BitTorrent Announcement Soon?
BitTorrent, RSS and Broadcatching, Catching On
First Broadcatching App Available! (And Related News)
Broadcatching Roundup
RSS, BitTorrent and Broadcatching for Courts

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | RSS

March 15, 2004

RSS, BitTorrent and Broadcatching for Courts

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Posted by Ernest Miller

The Shifted Librarian, an RSS maven if ever there was one, has a short post on the use of broadcatching for library archives (RSS Feeds for Internet Archive Collections). This reminded me of a concept that I worked on several years ago ... a distributed database of legal information, decisions, journals, etc.

The basic idea was that every law library in the country would have locally stashed copies of every court decision. Court decisions would have been published into a network of massively redundant distributed databases with nodes at every law library. The system was actually a bit complex (but cool, using Jini and stuff). The Shifted Librarian's post reminded me of this concept and I thought, "why not use broadcatching to send full decisions (or articles) to everyone who wanted copies of court decisions (or law journals)?"

RSS is already used by some of the smarter courts to keep lawyers, clerks and assorted legal professionals current on court decisions, rules changes and related matters. The highly innovative Rory Perry, Clerk of the Supreme Court of Appeals of West Virginia, was the first to recognize this potential and has been providing RSS feeds for his court since May 2002 (Syndication and Weblogs: Publish and Distribute Your Court Information to the Web).

The feeds that Rory provides are great, but they don't include the full decisions - only summaries. You could use RSS enclosures, but providing full decisions to hundreds or thousands of recipients might tax bandwidth. BitTorrent to the rescue, of course. Why shouldn't every law library, law firm or other interested party broadcatch copies of every court decision published?

Of course, this only solves the problem of distribution. For law to truly be free, you'll need open standards for court decisions and nearly complete databases among other things, but this could be a major step forward. The potential uses for this technology continue to grow.

For more information on Broadcatching, see also:
BitTorrent + RSS = The New Broadcast
Broadcatching - Not Broadcasting
Broadcatching - The Early Days
RSS + BitTorrent Announcement Soon?
BitTorrent, RSS and Broadcatching, Catching On
First Broadcatching App Available! (And Related News)
Broadcatching Roundup

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | Open Access | RSS

March 13, 2004

Broadcatching Roundup

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Techdirt discusses how the mainstream press doesn't really seem to understand BitTorrent and is missing out on how much potential the system has (Distributed File Sharing Systems Learning From BitTorrent).

Broadband Reports also sees broadcatching as a potential disruptive technology (RSS & Bit Torrent: Content distribution gets interesting):

While illegal ideas abound, such as the instant download of every South Park episode the second it hits the net, the idea lends itself to a great number of ideas that could turn traditional distribution models on their heads, giving smaller operations a new opportunity for content distribution.

Teldar Paper, a Swedish blog in English, imagines BitTorrent and RSS as part of a nationwide, perhaps global, always-on grid (Living in always online land).

Prophecy Boy can't wait to see who the RIAA will sue first over a BitTorrent + RSS merger (RSS+BT = fun4all).


Random Rants has several posts following RSS + BitTorrent. See, P2P meets BitTorrent, Ye olde RSS & BitTorrent debate and RSS, BitTorrent & Tivo.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing | RSS

March 12, 2004

First Broadcatching App Available! (And Related News)

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Andrew Grumet, who has been the leader in developing BitTorrent + RSS technology, has announced the arrival of the "an initial version of a RSS+BitTorrent integration tool for Radio Userland's news aggregator" (Announcement: RSS+BitTorrent Integrator for Radio Userland). Visit the project website here: Getting started with BitTorrent + RSS in Radio [BETA]. Grumet promises to write more about the idea in the coming days and asks for bug reports, comments and etc., here.

Damn the luck! I'm not a Radio Userland user - just might have to become one.

In related news, David Shipp writes about Chris Pirillo's IT Conversations interview (Chris Pirillo: March 1, 2004) in which Chris discusses the concept of BitTorrent + RSS (Future Web). Shipp summarizes thus:

Chris goes on to talk about the fusion of RSS and BitTorrent. This is where things get interesting and controversial. BitTorrent is an excellent technology for P2P downloads, and one of it’s emergent properties is that newly available files become widely available through BitTorrent far quicker than on traditional P2P networks. The disadvantage is that users have to trawl the web for BitTorrent pointer files that direct them to the downloads. He suggests that RSS can provide the delivery mechanism for these BitTorrent links, so for example, users can be presented with links to all the new episodes of their favourite TV series. Chris steps away from the legalities of the issue, and rightly so, but highlights the concept that RSS + BitTorrent is essentially a TiVo (or Sky+ for my fellow British).

Lucas Gonze is working on what I consider another element of broadcatching, RSS + Playlist Format, which he is calling RSS + Time (Analysis of RSS+Time as a playlist format). Exactly. Wouldn't it be great if one could receive a playlist from a trusted source in RSS format? The playlist would automatically play the songs already available on your system and launch a BitTorrent download of those not available.

Bonus: the RSS+Time format includes some primitive client-side remixing capability. I like to call this a remixing "recipe" (A History Palette for Music and The Grey Album - No Copying Necessary).

C|Net News reports on the public unveiling of Red Swoosh, a new P2P entrant which has adopted BitTorrent-like technology for distribution of large files for commercial companies (Legal P2P networks gaining ground):

In part, that's why the company's CEO is now reaching out to the broad community of people using BitTorrent, an underground file-trading application using similar technology that has exploded in popularity among people distributing or downloading video and software programs.
Red Swoosh CEO Travis Kalanick said he wants to tap that energy. He's offering free use of Red Swoosh's content distribution services to noncommercial filmmakers, game developers or other publishers.
"I don't want to fight BitTorrent," Kalanick said. "I want to have a relationship with that community. That's not just about cutting a deal; you have give to that community."

Interesting. I'll have to give a try (I hope they don't use spyware). Wonder when they will adopt broadcatching?

For more information on Broadcatching, see also:
BitTorrent + RSS = The New Broadcast
Broadcatching - Not Broadcasting
Broadcatching - The Early Days
RSS + BitTorrent Announcement Soon?
BitTorrent, RSS and Broadcatching, Catching On

Comments (2) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing | RSS

March 10, 2004

BitTorrent, RSS and Broadcatching, Catching On

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Bad pun, I know. So sue me.

Today I've come across a couple of posts relating to the revolutionary idea of Broadcatching, that is, using RSS and BitTorrent as a new distribution channel.

A new blog, Outside the System, authored by an indie media producer, discusses in detail how broadcatching could be an alternate distribution channel for movies (BitTorrent + RSS = Broadcatching):

These margins and the edges of cost and value are a hamper on the real blossoming of video distribution on the Web, and can only be aggregated so far out of the way. P2P swarming technology is the only current viable route to break that stalemate by spreading at least part of the costs away from your own bandwidth pipe, but under a system like BitTorrent that's only really useful if there are a lot of people with fully download copies to swarm from (so you have a classic tipping point model of efficiency.) Promotion preceeds adoption preceeds efficiency.
The brilliance of an RSS approach, though, is that it builds in at least two important features that BitTorrent alone doesn't address. First, it provides a method of propogation through editorial filters -- a successful editor picking new BitTorrent works could help create an instant rush to the tipping point, in the process decreasing the cost of bandwidth on each copy. Second, it turns BitTorrent into a subscription system, one where your system automatically collects new content of a large size overnight (for example.)

Read the post for a concrete example of how expensive traditional internet distribution is and how broadcatching can alleviate this problem.

The film used as an example, because the author of the post executive produced it, is Nothing So Strange , which documents the aftermath of the assassination of Microsoft's chairman Bill Gates on December 2, 1999. Bonus cool factor: Bill Gates Assassination Film Goes "Open Source," Releases "Evidence" DVD:

"Nothing So Strange" will be released under a license that allows all of the "source" footage of the movie to be used without restriction, in personal or commercial projects, but keeps the actual film as created by the filmmaker under copyright. "You have free access to all the parts of the movie," said Flemming. "But you can't just copy our version of it--you have to make your own original work with the various parts." pointed me to a collection of links to blogs that post MP3 files (mp3 blogs/rotation etc.). For example:

Could it be more obvious that MP3 blogs would benefit from broadcatching?

For more information on Broadcatching, see also:
BitTorrent + RSS = The New Broadcast
Broadcatching - Not Broadcasting
Broadcatching - The Early Days
RSS + BitTorrent Announcement Soon?

Comments (3) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Blogging and Journalism | Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing | RSS

March 08, 2004

RSS + BitTorrent Announcement Soon?

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Posted by Ernest Miller

On Dave Winer's test site there is this notice (Dear Bay Area friends...):

PS: Murphy-willing Andrew Grumet will have something exciting to announce that connects RSS with another nominee, in the same category: BitTorrent. We're very excited about combining syndication with BMO's. It would be cool to make the announcement on the day of the award ceremony [WIRED Rave Awards], March 15.
PPS: BMO stands for Big Media Object.

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing | RSS

March 06, 2004

Broadcatching - The Early Days

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Andrew Grumet is blogging about the practical steps towards making BitTorrent and RSS work together and some of the issues involved (BitTorrent + RSS, step 1). One of the interesting problems of development is getting the client software to behave properly with regard to this new concept:

BT has a nice command line interface, btw. We need to feed it appropriate --responsefile and --saveas arguments. An open question, at least on Windows, is dealing with client software that spawns windows who don't know how to close themselves. Ideally we'd have a client that didn't spawn a window and that accepted a parameter that told it how long to continue running after completion of the download, to help other downloaders.

This is important, but I think it is a bigger problem than this. Ultimately, for the new broadcatch to be successful, the client will also have to integrate closely with the playback software (your DivX software, MP3 player, etc.). A proper user interface is going to be critical. TiVo would be a great place to start, but it is designed around the traditional broadcast paradigm and would need some serious changes to handle this concept.

BitTorrent + RSS will be revolutionary, but there is a lot of work to get from the concept to user-friendly implementation. For example, when the internet was in the early days, everyone was excited about the prospect of everyone making their own homepages. Great idea, poor implementation, as traditional webpages were too difficult to maintain and there was no RSS to make following changes easy. Today, blogs are a much better implementation of the homepage concept. Today, we aren't even at the homepage stage of BitTorrent + RSS.

In related news, I'm not the only one who thinks this is a great idea, Dave Winer had this to say:

After dinner, walking back to my car, Andrew Grumet told me that he planned to integrate BitTorrent with RSS. A namespace, a couple of Radio callbacks, and it should work. I'm in awe.

The Shifted Librarian is also enthusiastic (Waiting for SyndiCon I):

The RSS Winterfest was a good start, but it's difficult to over-emphasize the value of this type of conversation taking place in-person, face-to-face. In addition, how great would it be to include an "RSS Hackfest" (led by Andrew Grumet) to get us BitTorrent + RSS, authentication, better customization, metadata, and more?!

For more information, see also:
BitTorrent + RSS = The New Broadcast
Broadcatching - Not Broadcasting

Comments (0) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing | RSS

March 03, 2004

Broadcatching - Not Broadcasting

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Posted by Ernest Miller

Yesterday I wrote about the incredible potential of combining RSS with BitTorrent for video (or any broadcast media for that matter) (BitTorrent + RSS = The New Broadcast).

Had I done a little more digging before I posted, however, I would have found a couple of other really great posts on the issue from a couple of months ago. Great minds come up with similar titles, as I note a post with an almost identical title from PVR Blog (BitTorrent + RSS = TiVo). However, I think the potential here outstrips even the disruption capabilities of TiVo. That led me to Scott Raymond's excellent post on the subject from last December (Broadcatching with BitTorrent). I especially liked (because it seems so apt) the use of the term "broadcatching" to describe this new method of distribution.

Such a system would be an excellent basis for a subscription-based service. Hint (Thoughts on the EFF P2P Solution White Paper) hint.

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | File Sharing | RSS

March 02, 2004

BitTorrent + RSS = The New Broadcast

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Posted by Ernest Miller

I've touted Andrew Grumet's work before (Program My TiVo! and RSS For TV, Music) and once again I have to recommend paying attention to what he is up to. See his post, Skirting the edges of the new media universe:

Chris Pirillo feeds a new addiction. If I understand correctly, the idea is that the RSS feeds give you a list of fresh downloads in your newsreader. Click on what you want, and shortly thereafter the video is on your hard drive. Maybe we aren't too far from giving Dowbrigade StrongBad in his Video Aggregator. We'd need an automated way to launch BitTorrent when new items arrive in the feed. I don't know, maybe people are doing this already. We'd also need specialized feeds so that we wouldn't have to download everything.

Read the whole thing.

I really think there is something interesting here. Isn't RSS + BitTorrent an ideal means to distribute periodic video content? Subscribing to a particular series' RSS feed would be like setting up a Season Pass on your TiVo. As episodes are released, no matter the time, your system would automatically begin a BitTorrent download. Video RSS feeds for every taste would be available. You're a fan of Sarah Michelle Gellar? Get the SMG RSS feed and you won't miss a single video appearance of her buffy-ness promoting Scooby Doo 2.

Who will be the first video network to adopt this technology?

Comments (1) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: Broadcatching/Podcasting | RSS