Welcome, Marshall!

December 11, 2006

Today is Marshall Kirkpatrick’s first day at SplashCast! 

Just a few days ago Marshall was writing for TechCrunch.  Today he is our Director of Content.  Indeed, this past week has been an especially busy one for us.

We are absolutely delighted to have one of the most talented, resourceful, and influential bloggers spearhead our ambitious agenda for covering the wild, wild west of  user-generated content (see yesterday’s New York Times article on UGC).  Marshall will not only be the voice of SplashCast, he will act as executive producer, folding in the best writers, podcasters, and vloggers in our industry.  We have big ideas for “SplashCast Media”, and can’t wait to integrate these ideas into the SplashCast syndication network for all your publishing desires (public beta coming soon, I promise!). 

I hope you will join me in giving Marshall the warmest of welcomes.

Welcome aboard, Marshall! 


Beta Testing in the Web 2.0 World

November 15, 2006

beta test

The final stage in the testing of new software before its commercial release, conducted by testers other than its developers. http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/betatest

I’ve been involved in the IT space for many years now, and the definition above was clearly supported in the traditional software development lifecycle. It seems like every product I run across now has a Beta disclaimer on their site. A Beta test obviously doesn’t have to be non-public anymore either. The entire world can now be considered Beta testers. And when is a product not considered Beta anymore? A product can be in Beta for several months, if not years. If we are now moving into the Web 2.0 world, should Web 1.0 be considered as one really long Beta test?

Why am I pondering this? The SplashCast crew is currently conducting internal QA testing and, as Alex mentioned yesterday, we will be ready for “Beta testing” soon. What does that mean to us? Well, the first few weeks will be very limited and available only to a small group of invited testers. This will allow us to get very personalized feedback and enable us to correct or change anything in the product that we missed or is not quite as intuitive as it should be. This fits my definition of a Beta test.

Then, we will open up our “Beta test” to a much larger group of “Beta testers” that have signed up via our web site. Given the nature of the SplashCast product, this essentially means the product is now public. Granted, it will be under continuous improvement based on user feedback. So when does it stop being a Beta product?

What does Beta mean to you? I believe a new lexicon is desperately needed. Any suggestions?

Democratizing Airwaves with User-Generated TV Channels

November 3, 2006

I think Michael Arrington at Techcrunch is partially correct in his assertion that the convergence of TV across all devices (traditional TV, PCs, and mobile devices) is the real win  in the IPTV race.  But I think he is missing the bigger story.

We believe the promise of IPTV is not to create a  more convenient television experience, it is to completely redefine what television is.  IPTV can finally “democratize the airwaves” by leveling the play-field between the established media networks and user-generated channels.  

Services like SplashCast will enable anyone to build their own media channel, broadcasting content they’ve either created or aggregated.  As I stated in a previous post, you will be able to flip between NBC Nightly News, the Techcrunch channel (to watch their daily vodcast), the Justin Timberlake channel (to get footage of him eating breakfast at IHOP — paid for by IHOP), the Barack Obama channel (to get the latest scoop on his presidential ambitions), and your brother’s channel (where your 4-year-old nephew is the star).

IPTV Meets User-Generated Channels

November 1, 2006

Om Malik writes about the coming of IPTV (digital television over your Internet connection).  Not surprisingly, Europe and Asia are way ahead of the US in early adoption. 

Bluewin TV, one of the new IPTV services out of Switzerland, is boasting 100 TV channels and 70 radio stations.   

Uh… so what? 

The promise of IPTV is not to create a better television experience, it is to completely redefine what television is.  TiVo took this part way, but not far enough.  IPTV will pick up where TiVo has negligently left off. 

That is, we demand that IPTV services include all of the social features we’ve become accustomed to in the MySpace / YouTube world.  That is: collaborative filtering, user commenting, ratings, flagging,  content sharing, bookmark sharing, etc. 

But most importantly, IPTV holds the promise of truly democratizing the “airwaves” by opening the network up to user-generated channels.

SplashCast will enable anyone to build their own media channel, broadcasting content they’ve either created or aggregated to any web site on the web.  In the not-so-distant future, these user-generated and user-programmed channels will be available in your living room.  You’ll be able to flip between NBC Nightly News, the Om Malik channel (to watch his latest vodcast), the Justin Timberlake channel (to get footage of him eating breakfast IHOP — paid for by IHOP), the Barack Obama channel (to get the latest scoop on his presidential ambitions), and your brother’s channel (where your 4-year-old nephew is the star).

Coming soon

Dynamically Updating Rich Media Ads

November 1, 2006

As a frugal web advertiser, I’d like to keep our ads fresh with dynamic content updates.  Publish once to the ad network, update the ad content whenever I want, and the published ad automatically updates in realtime, everywhere it exists. 

This works pretty well with text ads in Google AdSense.  But I need the same flexibility and ease of use in my banner, flash, and video ads.  Swap out an image, change the background music, add the new the video, update the text, keep it fresh.

Kim and I were discussing our pre-launch SplashCast advertising strategy today.  Bemoaning how limiting static banner and flash ads can be, both of us simultaneously yelled over to our programmers, “So how many hours until beta?  We need it now!”

Dynamically updated rich media advertising, yet another SplashCast possibility.  Coming Soon (how soon, guys???)

Universal Media Player for the Distributed Web

October 30, 2006

Pete Cashmore of Mashable is a visionary.

Last February Pete wrote about the idea of a Universal Media Player:

Flickr, YouTube, Stickam, del.icio.us, Revver and many more Web 2.0 players have successfully employed widgets to drive traffic back to their own sites. eBay and Amazon take the next step by incentivizing their widgets (you earn a % of any transaction). And finally there’s the widget to end all widgets: the indefatigable Google Adsense. Ultimately, I wonder whether we even need to drive traffic back to the originating site – it seems feasible to have all the interaction taking place within the widget itself (and in fact this already happens with Adsense). Nonetheless, you still need a centralized site where the user can create his widgets (or do you?).

The answer to your parenthetical question, Pete, is no.  In the post-destination-website era (a.k.a. “the distributed web”), your rich media content will be splashed across hundreds of different web pages, yet you will be able to remotely control and track it all from one simple console, accessible directly from any Universal Media Player, on any web page.

Sorry it took 10 months for your vision to become reality, Pete.

Wanna sneak peak?  Sign up for SplashCast beta.

Security, Control, Trackability in Online Media Distribution

October 29, 2006

The Ze Frank vs. Rocketboom video blog popularity contest sparked a lot of chatter this past week on how to best measure the value of web-based media shows (podcasts / vlogs / vodcasts / whatever).  Is it possible that Ze Frank’s shows are worth more than Rocketboom’s, even though Rocketboom could have 10 times more viewers?  Techcrunch, Robert Scoble, and Haydn Shaughnessy, among many others, all weighed in and offered their insight.

This discussion ties directly into what we believe is the most critical discussion for the media world right now. 

As traditional print, radio, and television continue to spill onto the web, and as blogs, podcasts, and vodcasts begin their migration from the web back to traditional print, radio, and television (Rocketboom is now available on TiVo), producers and publishers have a real challenge in controlling and tracking content distribution — and its monetization — across all these intersecting channels. 

Further, the democratization of media distribution that is currently taking hold — anyone can broadcast any content to anyone else in the world — creates an amazing opportunity as well as a very stressful environment for both copyright owners and publishers. 

As Marshall at Techcrunch points out: “Ze Frank prominently asks his viewers to keep his videos out of sites like YouTube, presumably so he can track the numbers closely.”  Meanwhile, Rocketboom is syndicating its shows as far and wide as possible.

Is there a way for copyright owners and publishers to leverage viral distribution of media on the web in a secure, controlled, and trackable manner?  Is that media nirvana?