Las Vegas – Frontier Hotel Demolition Video

This just in from the “only in Las Vegas” department.  

The New Frontier Hotel near the north end of the Las Vegas Strip   is demolished in a huge explosion preceded by a great fireworks display that mimics the pending destruction.   I think I have this right that the Frontier was the *last remaining* big hotel casinos from the second big surge of activity on the Las Vegas Strip.   First there were the original “rat pack” hotels like the original Tropicana  and original Frontier.    These were gradually replaced by hotels like the Sands, and New Frontier  (but not the current Tropicana?   I was there less than a year ago for Bodies – The Exhibition so I’m sure it’s still standing, but the current one must be a third generation Tropicana.   These in turn have been “replaced” – though not by destruction – by the mega hotels like MGM, Caesar’s Palace, the Mirage, TI, The Venetian, The Wynn, and the Bellagio.

Paid Content has a great article about online advertising and how the concentration of online advertising in the hands of so few websites is becoming a problem. 

They note this remarkable stat from Zenith regarding distribution of online ad revenue:

So the big problem is not that ad spending is drying up, it’s that the bulk is concentrated in a few sites. Citing the IAB, Reuters points out that the top 50 websites in the U.S. took in more than 90 percent of the revenue from online ads in H107, while the top 10 sites sucked up 70 percent of internet revs for the same period. 

They also quote Zenith as suggesting that even as late as 2009 online advertising will remain a fraction –  under 10% – of the total global ad spend of some 495 billion.     I’m skeptical of that estimate – very skeptical – because online ROIs remain vastly superior to offline, though this advantage is not as obvious as it should be because so much of the spend is done in foolish “old media” ways with large, expensive, poorly targeted campaigns.  As PPC campaign sophistication improves, people continue to move online, video continues to move online, and advertisers increasingly continue to insist on positive ROI we should see online buys approach offline – I’d wildly guess there will be online / offline ad parity by 2015, though interactive TV and video clip advertising may blur the distinction between a TV ad and an online ad.

Social media frenzy may kill high quality content. Somebody fix this!

The news last month that Microsoft may wind up offering Facebook $500,000,000 for a 5% stake is great news … for the tiny number of Facebook insiders who stand to gain from this move which would effectively value the social media giant at about $10,000,000,000.    For the millions of Facebook folks like me who provide the content and faces that drive Facebook it means … um … more advertising.   

Gee, thanks Facebook.   

When people wake up they may start to realize that we’ve got a potential crisis as small numbers of “info intermediators” like Google and Facebook scoop up the lion’s share of the online ocean of cash while the “info creators” are distinctly second class citizens in the big show.   Small time web publishers and mom and pops are in this group.  So are major newspapers like the New York Times and Washington Post and most other print outlets who tend to make relatively little online despite offering much of the web’s best content to date, especially now that the foolish paywalls of some newspaper outlets like NYT are coming down.   Having no paywall will allow them to make more, but it’s not clear to me they’ll make enough to keep all that high quality content coming.  

Print and newspapers are  hurting and that is going to continue.   That’s OK as long as websites and blogs continue to provide great insight and breaking news, but it’s about time the big players in the online world start working *a lot harder* to feed the hands that are feeding them.  It’s about time they realize that the best web ecosystem encourages high quality content and not just socializing for the sake of hanging online with friends.

Yes, it is true that revenue sharing programs like Google adsense give publishers a nice share of revenues that come directly from activity at their websites.  However lost in this debate is the fact that *most* of Google’s money  (and virtually all of Myspaces), goes into the pocket of Google and Fox (owners of Myspace).   This is because most of the cash comes from searches done at rather than publishing affiliate sites, and Google keeps all that despite the fact it’s generated *indirectly* from the ocean of content Google has categorized.  Sure Google should make *a lot* from categorizing *your content* so effectively, but should they make 100%?   You can argue this arrangement is fine if the big players turn around and do things with that money that make the internet ecosystem thrive and grow in ways it could not without their involvement.  I think that argument was far more valid a few years ago than it is now.  Literally thousands of  startups are dying off as the Youtubes and Facebooks – built squarely on the shoulders of other people’s content  – scoop up the super gigantic big money.    It is not a problem that startups die – in fact it’s a good part of the ruthless evolution of things – but it’s problematic when the lion’s share of online resources from the work of so many are redistributed to so few.    Not because this is “unfair”,  but because this type of  inequity does not lead to optimal system efficiency and growth.

Social media in all its various and sundry forms is a wonderful development.  Finally we see clearly that people, not computers, will be at the heart of future online developments – probably for some time into the future.    Facebook users are now leading the innovation in this area, though Alice at NYT thinks this could lead to unintended consequences.

To protect this new socially charged online environment from the ravages of our silly, stupid and prurient human interests we’ll need better incentives than the big players currently offer to quality content producers.   Those incentives will ultimately shape the quality of online content for years to come.

Bebos, billions, and why Yahoo is starting to piss me off.

Yahoo may buy Bebo, the British “Myspace”, for a billion dollars. That is a LOT of money – about 3% of Yahoo’s market cap. Presumably this, like Yahoo’s unsuccessful Facebook aquisition attempt, is Yahoo’s approach to recapturing the market dominance it enjoyed back in the day. Dominance through the aquisition of a social network rather than developing their own.

They should know better than to trust their existing criteria for decisions about aquisitions. Yahoo is the company that aquired Overture’s pay per click technology years ago, and then managed to cede dominance in that area to Google. Ever heard of Google? Yahoo probably could have *owned* Google, but it seems higher management didn’t think search had the monetization potential of … which was purchased for billions.

Isn’t it time for top management at Yahoo to let innovation, not aquisitions, rule the day? This approach has worked very well for Google, who’s main mistakes now appear to be in aquiring things like YouTube which in my opinion is unlikely to recover YouTube’s 1.6 billion price tag and will certainly pester Google with big money lawsuits for decades. Yahoo’s still got a LOT of great technical people, especially in the developer and new business divisions. More importantly, the world is producing hundreds of thousands of new, brilliant innovators every year, most of whom are chomping at the bit to bring new and exciting innovation to the hungry online world. Why not devote the billions to this rather than purchasing companies with marginal revenues and long term prospects that are more hope and prayer than reality?

With the latest flurry of high priced aquistions it almost seems like, to the big players, the billion dollar deal is the new million dollar deal. I remain skeptical that deals of this size pay off in the long run – certainly very, very few of the early pre-bubble ones did not pay off for companies. I’d suggest that the smaller deals (e.g. Flickr) do have potential, but that Yahoo’s top management is looking for a killer deal that simply does exist while the innovation approach (ie much, MUCH more support to the core values and teams at Yahoo) is starting them in the face. Traffic? Yahoo’s got plenty of it. Modest changes can send millions of Yahoo users to any new idea, so why not do this *a lot more* and test *a lot more ideas*.

Edison suggested that there is always a better way, and it’s time for Yahoo to ….. find it.

More Bebo-logy from Techmeme:

Yahoo may net Bebo owners $1bn



Bebo/YHOO: My Rumor’s Bigger Than Yours

Yahoo May Be Bidding For Social Network Bebo: Report

Yahoo: When You Can’t Buy Facebook, You Buy Bebo

Bebo is not for sale

Digging Copyright Infringement?

Today’s excitement at Digg regarding posting codes to override copyright protection on HD DVDs, combined with the pending Google v Viacom showdown, may be referenced for some time to come as the “starting date” of the online revolution against old notions about copyright and intellectual property.

My take on this is, as usual, unusual in that I think two things that everybody is arguing about are actually very clear:

1) Based on existing law, YouTube and DIGG have an obligation to remove offending materials, and probably are in violation themselves for posting those materials, basically ignoring the rights of the copyright holders in favor of community enthusiasm for the coming IP revolution.

2) Existing law is outmoded (perhaps more accurately it should be considered irrelevant and unenforceable, and won’t stand much longer without significant modifications.

Diggers, YouTubers, and other online enthusiasts seem to think that becuase 2 is true, 1 is not true. That’s silly. law is law, and these are violations and everybody knows it. The copyright laws are not outrageous or fundamentally unfair in their *intentions*, and thus they’ll continue to hold up in the courts until we see new laws enacted that are relevant, enforceable, and in line with new sensibilities about what constitutes fair use.

Personally, I’d like to see more experimentation with dramatic expansion of the principle of “fair use” to basically include all non-commercial uses. We see this principle in play in the open source community and even at Google, Yahoo and MSN with many of their web innovations. This openness has arguably done more to foster creativity than any proprietary projects could ever do. Examples: Linux and Firefox to name two of thousands of brilliant and innovative projects that thrive, unencumbered by most old fashioned copyright restrictions.

So, what needs to change here? The law, and thus it’s up to congress to enact new rules that make more sense. Perhaps these could be as simple as suggesting that the commercial benefits of programs and music and other creative stuff should be controlled by the creator of those programs, but that the *societal benefits* should be considered part of the obligation of any artist or creator to contribute to society at large.

Google to Viacom: See YouTube in Court!

Viacom’s Google suit may actually go to trial, though I think everybody is just blowing smoke right now with Viacom looking for a nice payoff and Google looking to minimize the payoff to keep within the 400 million they allocated in the YouTube sale to copyright infringement payoffs.

Unless Google is lucky enough to get a silicon valley jury with an average age of 25 it seems to me they’d handily lose a lawsuit.   The notion that Google (let alone everybody with a PC and internet connection), didn’t realize YouTube contained vast amounts of copyrighted material and that Google didn’t have the technical capabilities to screen for copyrights is absurd.    I presume they’d make the fairly technical case that they can’t be held responsible for users uploading stuff, only for taking it down when they get complaints, but I think this (reasonable in the future) notion will wear thin under the weight of current (old fashioned) copyright rules.

Viacom “Austin Powers” to Google: We want ONE BILLION DOLLARS!

Viacom has sued Google/YouTube for copyright infringement, filing papers today and asking for a billion bucks in damages. The Viacom Press release summarizes their point of view. In short Viacom says of YouTube:

Their business model, which is based on building traffic and selling advertising off of unlicensed content, is clearly illegal and is in obvious conflict with copyright laws.

Here’s the Reuters Story

Mark Cuban warned about this type of legal challenge overwhelming the YouTube deal several months ago.  Here’s his take on the latest news.   It seems possible Google may wind up regretting their purchase of YouTube, proving to be a hornets nest of potential litigation that seems to be increasingly expensive. This while it remains unclear how well YouTube content can be monetized, to the extent there is much left after all this litigation. Google allocated about 400 million of the 1.65 billion purchase price to settle these claims but if the Viacom lawsuit it any indication it may get more expensive than that.

Ultimately I’m guessing it’ll be judges reaction to the new ethos surrounding IP law. Onliners big and small routinely disregard many longstanding content distribution rules so judges may decide that the legal issues have become so universally murky that they’ll start ruling in favor of the new media distributors like YouTube/Google, though I’m guessing the first sets of judgements will seek to penalize them in the name of respecting existing copyright laws. The swirl of legal challenges to YouTube content may be a case where Google’s freewheeling, usually innovative approaches come back to bite them, but it’s too early to know.

Viacom to Google – YouTube aren’t the boss of me now!

Viacom’s ditching YouTube, and says they are glad they did.   This  FT story suggests that we may seeing the beginning of what could become a monumental shift in content distribution online.   Viacom has forced YouTube to delete Comedy Central and other popular clips, and says these deletions have resulted in people heading over to the Comedy Central website to find the content rather than YouTube.  This was exactly what Viacom wanted.

Key questions are shaking out about online video:
*How much  of the video traffic is to the “professional” content like that produced by  Viacom vs amateur content?

* How important are search engines / major video sites to finding clips?    The Viacom statement suggests that people will seek the clips they want away from YouTube.   However if they are using Google search to find the alternative locations of the clips Google may have successfully covered both these bases with the YouTube aquisition.

* The most important question is about $money$ and it is simply this – can video be monetized well?   Nobody knows yet.   I predict the answer is going to be somewhat complex, but basically no, you can’t monetize it nearly as well as pay per click advertising, where the information experience can be integrated well with the buying experience.    With Video this match is going to be more difficult and usually impossible.   Somebody watching a “Daily Show” clip is primarily interested in a quick laugh, and seems unlikely to wind up clicking off on an advertisement and almost totally unlikely to buy something as part of the Comedy Central clip watching experience.

Sure there will be some room to market clip specific advertising like Comedy Central hats, but that type of thing is not much of a market for the burgeoning video content industry.    Even junky clips take a lot more time to produce and and bandwidth to distribute than text content, so the revenue equation is simply not as favorable and probably will always be a challenge.

I think a major challenge with Video is that many think the online video experience and advertising will be similar to Television content and monetizing.   It won’t.   Decentralized control and the fact almost anybody can and will produce content are changing things rapidly and globally.

The video fun, junky content, and advertising experiments have only just begun.


Blinkx is a brilliant video search program that allows people to search *within* videos for specific content.  This has become one of the holy grails of search because the internet is now awash in video content. Tastes vary but almost everyone would agree that most of the clips out there are garbage. With routines like Blinkx users can rapidly search the tidal wave of video that pours online every day for things that interest them.

Check out the Blinkx home page with it’s “wall” of tiny video clips reflecting content they have recently indexed.   It’ll keep the attention of even the most stubborn A.D.D. sufferer.   Some cringe at the sensory overload of dozens of videos, but massive input reflects the new ethos of the internet, and I predict we’ll see desktops and applications become increasingly overwhelmed with content.    As a superb tool that will manage the most rapidly growing and complex part of the digital maelstrom – video clips – Blinkx has a rosy future indeed.

The New York Times reports on this today.

Mark Cuban, the sage of internet video?

I think Mark Cuban  has more valid points than Cory does on the controversies swirling around copyright and takedown notices delivered by Viacom.     Cory is right that it’s annoying and obnoxious to send takedowns to people who obviously are not infringing, but that’ll shake out soon enough.  What isn’t shaking out soon enough is what I’ve discussed at length before – YouTube and Myspace and other big players are making hundreds of millions by purposing user generated content to their commercial needs.   I’d even concede that commercialism is not the bottom line on these big player/user interactions, and also concede that users like me are agreeing to provide content that in turn gets searched at Google and generates money for them and *sometimes* for me.

However as Mark correctly notes it’s significant to ask within the copyright, content, and user community issue this question:  Who gets the lion’s share of the revenues created by copyright holders or community participants?    I’d like to see more of that cash flow to the community and less to the big players.   But maybe that’s just because I’m a community guy?

Go Mavs!