Tuesday, November 24, 2009

More watching TV online - Hulu ads near sellout for year!

A look at Google Trends (current in the lower right column) or Twitter trends (TwitScoop at right) on any given weeknight and one thing becomes apparent in the US.  TV drives search in a big way.

That trend continues, and provides an insight into viewing habits as the trends almost always peak as the episodes air live (and gobs of people on the east coast 'take the ending out' for those in the west ... here in the US ?!).

The tech crowd was, no doubt, first viewing TV online and then a younger audience ditching their DVRs but with broadband now reaching more homes in the US and higher speeds enabling HD, an article today in AdAge confirms that Hulu is rocketing to new heights ... and their advertising is almost sold out for the year!

AdAge attributes much of this to the new TV season and the addition of ABC to the Hulu (now massive) line-up.  While that may be true, there's much more going on here.

First, the Hulu desktop app enables you switch to two lower resolutions, making it possible to catch up on   your favorite shows on slower connections.

Second .... Yes, it's Windows 7.

The video drivers on many Windows 7 computers and laptops, particularly Intel drivers (that are being updated often), simply make video on Windows better then ever.

Add the new Windows Media Center in Windows 7 that not only records TV, but also provides online programming from CBS (not on Hulu) and also recently added a huge online library of diverse online programming.

Port from your TV ... to your TV .... and while your at it, NetFlix on demand.  Hmmm.

While all of this has been around in various forms (Apple TV?) for some time, the landscape in now dramatically changing.

More and more PC's will be shipped with Windows 7 and people will slowly change their habits.

I once called the Internet "The World on Your Time".

'TV on Your Time' is here and it will be adopted a lot faster than most pundits are predicting (although if Hulu begins to charge a fee as has been rumored, as opposed to raising ad rates, that could throw a huge wrench into their market share ...)

It's important to note that there are two considerations if you are thinking about TV on your PC this holiday season.

Make sure your new box has 'decent' inputs and outputs for what you plan to do as well as 'reasonable' system resources (IE: At minimum, a dual core processor and 3-4 GB of memory).

Your broadband connection needs to be around 4 Mps for any decent low resolution rendering with current technology.  For HD, you could need as much as 15 or 20.

So what will all of this do to YouTube?

Now that YouTube support 1080p HD, they too will continue to grow with the very distinct possibility of becoming 35 per cent (or higher) of Google's searches.

Will I watch NCIS and NCIS Los Angeles (on cable) in prime time tonight?

Yeah ... probably ......

..... but maybe not next year :)

Links updated 11/24 8 PM ET

Seesmic for Windows Preview Version now available

A short time ago, the new 'Seesmic for Windows' Twitter client (which we previewed here) went through a significant update and the program also came out of 'closed preview' and is now downloadable (in an enhanced  Preview Version) from the Seesmic Website.

What makes it different?

So far, a variety of features mentioned earlier but most notably ... seemless (and excellent) integration with Windows 7 plus support for Twitter lists (as well as multiple accounts). 

You can read about this latest version here or download it and check it out here.

Note: This past week Seesmic also introduced products for Android and Blackberry based cellphones as well as enabling Twitter's 'location awareness' in the Seesmic web-based product.

Monday, November 23, 2009

The Money is in Redistribution

While the tech world continues to spin the story that Murdoch (News Corp / Fox) wants to block Google and cut a deal with Bing, this whole deal could be missing the point altogether.

Anyone who follows this blog knows that almost everything I've done here has been some sort of experiment in marketing (while providing a little stuff you may want to know at the same time).

Over the past year, we've seen some dramatic changes in the Internet distribution landscape.  One of those trends is 'shared feeds' like the one I try to update at least daily to the right of this page.

There are others that share with me while others port their 'shares' to Facebook, Twitter, Friendfeed and a bunch of other places.  That trend seems to be increasing as those who were worried about creating too much 'noise' on other peoples pages are returning to the sharing vehicle.

You don't really need that 'Fan Page' ?!

For the tech crowd, RSS feeds have become important.  For many, it's the way they get their morning news.

Enter advertising.

It blows my mind when I go to a blog or website and there are 5 or 10 ads all over the page.  In some cases,  you have a hard time even finding the actual content.

The same can be said for feeds.

While I have no problem sharing feeds with one or two ads at the bottom, when they're hyper-stuffed with 5 or ten (or they're HUGE compared to the content), I'm much more likely NOT to share it.

The publishers should (and need to) profit from advertising and at least I have no problem redistributing their ads as long as they keep it within reason and don't make my shared feed look like a huge billboard.

A few weeks ago, I tried a small, non-scientific experiment.

First, after years of having NO advertising here, I put a few subtle AdSense ads in the lower right hand column.  That was about 6 weeks ago.

Considering the fact that I've been blogging a little less, the return was 'reasonable' but certainly not earth shattering as compared to page views.

About 3 weeks ago, I added Google's AdSense to the RSS feed.  No, not 19 ads blaring 'click me' ... just one 'block' at the bottom.

The return was instantaneous and continues.

Is the mainstream missing the point by not having RSS? (Note: Some do but most don't monetize them..).

While the entire universe is embracing Twitter and Facebook, they're missing an important vehicle.

Redistribution, which continues to be assaulted by numerous large organizations, can actually make more money than your home page.  Certainly this isn't universal but considering all the website and blogs looking for YOUR attention, it's important.

Keeping it reasonable (one or two small ads) and keeping ALL the content in the feed, as opposed to a 'teaser' to your blog or website, could be the answer for many .... at least during this chapter.

As the landscape continues to change very quickly, I suppose we'll see.

For now, it's certainly worth a try.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Microsoft Office 2010 Betas now available

As short time ago, Microsoft made it official.

Office 2010 and Sharepoint 2010 betas are both now available to the public.

The news came first today in an article by Mary Jo Foley of ZDNet who, over the years, has very much been in the loop of breaking Microsoft news.

Microsoft appears to be continuing a tradition started with Windows 7 of releasing betas in the general public for evaluation and feedback (and, of course, to help create a buzz).  Prior to Windows 7, most if not all Microsoft test products were evaluated by a smaller group of Microsoft beta testers.

The confirmation process (which I just went through) appears different than in the past, routing you to your exisiting Microsoft profile to determine which product version is right for you and then confirming your email.

There seems to be no shortage of servers for this event and my 684 MB download of Micorsoft Office Professional Plus 2010 is zipping along as I write this blog post.

With Google holding a launch event tomorrow for the much anticipated Chrome OS, Microsoft also got the jump on them by one day with this release.

Will Office 2010 be a HUGE improvement over previous versions?

I'll be sure and share some of those opinions in the shared reader feed (at the right) over the next week or two .... and hopefully have some time to do a review right here as well.

One thing is becoming clear.  Microsoft and Google are looking right at each others territory.

Yes ... the war for your desktop (AND your Internet pageviews) is on. 

Seesmic for Windows previewed at PDC09

It wasn't just new and enhanced Microsoft programs being launched yesterday, the first day of Microsoft's Professional Developer Conference (or PDC09) in Los Angeles.

Loic Le Meur 's team revealed a preview of  'Seesmic for Windows'.  A new version of the popular Twitter client optimized for Windows 7.

I received a copy of the preview bits this morning and did a quick run under Windows 7, and while all the features aren't yet available, the Windows native client seemed much 'lighter' and more responsive than the cross platform version powered by Adobe Air.

Here's a rundown from the Team Seesmic announcement:

"Fully functional with Twitter, we continue to make Seesmic for Windows a simple yet powerful client application:

Manage and posts from multiple twitter accounts
View aggregated Home, Replies, Private and Sent columns.
Create and save searches
View your Twitter lists and create your own groups
Create unlimited columns
Enable choice of multiple image and url shortening services
Manage notification of your messages.

Utilizing the best of what Windows 7 has to offer, Seesmic for Windows provides users managing Twitter the best experience available:
Drag and drop to add user lists
Sleek and Smooth User Interface
Increased performance
Full panel Twitter user profile
Tabbed view of Accounts and Twitter lists"

Facebook support is expected to be added in a few weeks as well.

Not yet in 'general release', you can sign up at the Seesmic website to be among the first to try it when the application is released here.

Excellent coverage of PDC09 is being provided by Microsoft's MSDN Channel 9 here.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Don Dodge already has a new job

It's becoming more and more apparent that Google totally gets it (and despite numerous significant product announcements this year).... Microsoft is losing touch with a huge portion of their own base.

We live in a time where different groups of users want to be 'in the loop'.

Whether they're developers, system builders, IT professionals or just regular everyday users, people want to put a real face on a company more than ever, and more importantly, be able to communicate with a 'human' to answer questions .... and begin to 'trust' a significant change or new product.

Just before Twitter arrived on the scene, Google's then 'top secret' webmaster contact who made numerous appearances on message boards as 'GoogleGuy' outed himself.  We know him now as Matt Cutts.

Matt now makes regular rounds of trade shows, has numerous videos all over the web explaining how Google works and is (very) closely followed by almost every SEO in the world.

Microsoft has a small army of product evangelists. They're even divided by 'region'. Can you name more than two?

Many are relatively new to the scene.  Some answer e-mails and some don't.

A few I've encountered since falling in love with Windows 7 simply have no clue of who to turn to within the organization for what.  This, at least, has been my experience so far  this past year.

In the meantime, Microsoft is spending hundreds of millions of dollars promoting Windows 7.  In networking with a few of my peers, they forgot one thing.  The 'evangelists' of my generation.  The guys that used to get the 'pre-release discs' back in the Windows 2000 era and before ...

I didn't making any 'public noise' after contacting 6 or 7 Microsoft folks about dropping 'the old dog' a few RTMs of Windows 7 and getting no reply?!  ("No" ... with a reason ... would have been OK).

You'd think that after ten years of belonging to just about every Microsoft program there was (on and off) including the somewhat controversial Freedom the Innovate Network,  OEM System Builder program (one of the first), TechNet, MSDN, Connect, Partner etc. etc ... they'd make an exception for a guy that just didn't have time to throw a party?

I basically just wanted to share a few downloads or discs with people in my circle so they could discover what I had in the Release Candidate .... (and wrote about many times here .... and elsewhere).  Maybe they thought I needed a few Christmas presents ? :)

I decided the just buy a family pack (as a few Microsoft employees that DID communicate know).  Ballmer got my $150  (Wow?!) ... but probably lost a bunch of IT demos that could have turned to $$$$$$ because I decided I had spent enough time trying to find the right person in Redmond .... or wherever.

So TechCrunch is reporting tonight that Don Dodge is onboard with Google.  Another familiar face to many of us and one case where I can totally see bypassing the Google hiring process to snag him quickly before someone else did.

It doesn't matter how big a company is.  In fact, it may not matter how great a product is.  In today's market, it's all about the buzz and trust

Dodge, like Cutts (and many others) have that trust from the tech community.

From huge corporations to small business and new entrepreneurs, there's nobody that doesn't prefer 'a contact' or at the very least, someone they can read on the web ... and trust what they're reading.

Google just set another example of their understanding of the landscape, the market and the competition.

I tweeted when Dodge was 'fired' (above) and again yesterday tongue and cheek about Windows 7.

I never expected to go public with these thoughts because I honestly think Microsoft made huge inroads over the past few months, not only with Windows 7 but with Bing, the Yahoo search deal, and more.  I didn't want it to sound like sour grapes .... but the fact is the marketing effort and networking off-line just seems to be a mess.

'Free evangelists' never ask for compensation.  I never did and people currently much more visible than myself talk and blog about products and companies simply because enjoy it.  The FTC now wants to see some disclosure.  I'm confident most will do it when they get NFR's or freebies of significance.

Give the writers and networkers the tools.

Just imagine.  You might save a few million bucks??

Good luck to Don.  I sincerely hope he enjoys his time at Google as much as he seemed to enjoy the years he spent at Microsoft.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Breaking: Verizon FIXES overcharging issue

Yesterday, NY Times' David Pogue took Verizon Wireless to task over miscellaneous charges appearing on his bill .... due to 'hitting the wrong key' and receiving a data charge.

I seriously doubt that anyone that owns a Verizon web-enabled cellphone  would disagree with this. It's a known problem.  I've been told about it by numerous Verizon Wireless employees ...... and it has caused them huge headaches (and lots of calls to customer service).  This, despite employees trained to warn customers when selling the phones as well as demonstrating locking features.

In my case, I took the time to call and have the charges deleted when they occurred.  It was easy and fast but no doubt, an unnecessary call and waste of time.

One of the phones in my family plan, an LG Env Touch (or VX11000), despite a locking touchpad and other security features, still managed to access services I don't use and incur monthly charges.

I phoned Verizon and simply had those services blocked a few months ago.  (Yes, you CAN do that).

A better fix??

A few hours ago, I received a text from Verizon informing of an impending software update. It was the first I had seen in a while and mentioned 'a change in the Verizon Home front page'.  (Verizon sends texts in advance of most software updates because the updates automatically re-boot the phone).

About an hour or so after the text, I heard the phone re-boot.

Of course, curiously got the best of me and I visited the Verizon home mobile page.

It read "For (as little as) $1.95 a day, you can access the WWW .... Click here".

While this is still somewhat misleading (the mobile web on some plans is charged by megabyte), it is a huge improvement over the past when many users simply accessed the home page or Verizon's GPS navigator (which is excellent) and at the end of the month .... received 'the bill surprise'.

While I didn't get much of a chance to network with others today to see if other phones were updated (yet), it's my guess that this will mean more revenue for Verizon and not less. Blocked phones can now use any feature and it's almost impossible to just stumble on them.

Smart move by Verizon.

Now if there was only a Google Voice app .... hmmm.

Clarifications: (1) Blackberry contracts (which automatically get billed the data plan) may differ from the above. (2) Verizon now offers blocking of various services and downloads (as well as specific  e-mail addresses and other features) directly from 'your account' at verizonwireless.com

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Google's PR machine goes into overdrive (Updated)

I honestly can't remember a time when Google has made the amount of product and service announcements as they have in the past two weeks.  Some were subtle, others very direct.

Regardless, Google has managed to be in the headlines (in a myriad of spaces) almost every day.

The 'Wave' continues ....

For well over two weeks, Google Wave has been 'trending' on Twitter.  

The team has been sending invites to existing users on a fairly regular basis and 'techie curiosity', as always, is running at a fever pitch.  I gave a few away back here, and just today received 30 more.  The 'buzz' on this product continues.  The invite-only roll-out is HOT, very hot.

In a salute to Veterans Day, the Google Voice team announced a partnership with Blue Star Families. (Unless I was sleeping, this important initiative was barely covered by anyone?!).

The headline today (actually announced yesterday along with the launch of a special website) is that Google is paying your Wi-Fi bill at numerous airports.  This program is hitting the main stream media like a bullet ... (and probably will be 'sticky' for a week or more).

Google's new integrated dashboard, announced last week, helped calm the fears of privacy advocates (and also helped users correct a lot of old data!).

Most likely hitting a completely different audience (and probably a coincidence), Google VP Marissa Mayer made Glamour Magazine's Women of the Year list.  (Think techies still wear goggle glasses? .... That stereotype is history :)

Late yesterday, the Picasa team announced a dramatic price decrease in storage fees (Hello Flickr??) along with some of the same from the Gmail team.

The Google Latitude team also announced an enhancement yesterday.  You may want to look over your shoulder for this one.... :)

On top of all of this, Google's open-source Android operating system made it's largest appearance on the scene yet with the release of two Android powered phones in the US by Verizon.  The Motorola Droid (very cool animation) and HTC's ERIS.

Like downloading music? Here's another surprise partnering announcement last week.

There's actually more.  Yes, Google is firing on all cylinders.

It's readily apparent that Google wants very much to be looking at you this holiday season ... or more importantly, they want as many people as possible .... looking at them.

After one of the most dynamic years in tech history that I can remember, I can only begin to imagine what's next from Mountainview .... and their competitors.

Finally ... If you have the opportunity.  Take a minute to Thank a Vet today. You'll feel good about it and so will they.


Update: A few moments ago, Google announced yet another feature, this time for the main index.  Parents, educators and others can now lock 'SafeSearch'.  Details have been posted to the Official Google Blog here.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Firefox issues fix prior to version 3.6

Mozilla has issued a maintenance release for Firefox 3.5

The release handles a several stability issues which can be found here.

On our end, it appears that this latest version is no longer locking up under Windows 7, which was a problem on some PCs.  (Google's Chrome and Microsoft's Internet Explorer have been running seemlessly under Windows 7 with Firefox exhibiting a more-than-occasional lock-up).

If you are a Firefox user and haven't been automatically updated, you can click 'Help' at the top of the browser and then 'Check for Updates' for the latest version, now 3.5.5

Updated versions in most languages, for Windows, MAC, and Linux, have been posted to the Mozilla website here.

Update (Nov 11, 2009 9 AM ET) Mozilla has now released the second Beta of Firefox 3.6 (which so far looks like a screamer?!).  Over 190 changes since Firefox 3.6 Beta 1.  You can find out more here.
Updated Sat Nov 7, 2009 8 AM ET

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The media should be thanking aggregators

Let's face it.  This isn't 1985.

Most magazines are getting smaller. Newspapers are having more-than-serious financial issues and so are TV networks.

This isn't the first wholesale change in our every day habits that the Internet has created.  It's one of many, and somehow everyone is blaming Google.

We're probably only a few short years away from 'regular people' adopting broadband for TV viewing ....  and mobile is another story altogether.  It's still in it's infancy.

It's an all-out fight for your eyeballs! ... and it's on, in a big way, right now.

While habits are hard to break, people are exploring the 'net more than ever.  They're changing their reading habits ... and even their daily routines.  With the economy still a wholesale mess, many are busier (working?) and many simply want a quick 'daily take' when they get online.

The problem for marketers, advertisers and anyone else that want YOU to see them is that instead of 5 or 50 'channels', the are now literally millions.

The idea of micropayments, or charging you for exclusive access, isn't the answer despite ongoing  pronouncements from CEOs saying "We're going to start charging for web content soon".

In most cases they wont.

Huge websites are being challenged every day but some brilliant bloggers.  It's been going on for a long time .. but nobody complained until ad budgets were cut deeply during the so-called recession.

Aggregators like AllTop, PopUrls, TechMeMe and many others featured here over the last few years aren't 'stealing' content.  

They're delivering visitors.

If you did your SEO homework (or read the instructions on how to get included in Google News?!), there's simply no reason to blame Google.

Imagine an Internet right now without search engines.  It could be a vast wasteland.  Think about it.

So instead of playing the blame game or dreaming about micropayments, maybe it's a good idea to get a better understanding of SEO, PPC, Social Networking and more importantly, welcoming your inclusion on aggregators ....

.... before you're extinct.

Just my two cents.