That’s Why They Call it Yahoo

In an article that coincides with the iPod’s fifth birthday (tomorrow), the Washington Post has an article today about the topsy-turvy world of digital music.

Ah, progress. It used to be that you just went out and bought a compact disc and you didn’t have to worry about whether it would work on your player.

These days, in the age of digital distribution, we don’t need to buy CDs anymore. What we have, instead, are a bunch of online music services, offering songs for sale or rent via quick download to a bunch of digital music players that might or might not actually play them.

The article is helpful overview of some of the “messy” issues involved in the multiple incompatible players and formats, but it includes a quote from Yahoo Music’s director of product management, Ian Rogers, that I think is way out of line.

He said he hopes today’s protected file formats will eventually go the way of the Betamax videotape or other, now-obsolete music formats.

“I feel for anybody spending $10,000 to fill up an iPod today,” he said. “It’s like spending $10,000 on eight-track tapes in 1978: You’re going to be super-bummed come 1990.”

Bad analogy, Mr. Rogers. I’m willing to bet that maintaining backward compatibility with AAC files on computers or whatever new devices Apple invents won’t be an issue. If Microsoft has kept Windows compatible with earlier versions for a decade, doing the same for DRM music files will be relatively simple.

Everyone who is concerned has the ability to burn their music and back up to CD files today, for maybe a nickel a song. I’m not going to take the time to do that, because I’m betting I will be able to play my files on some device for the rest of my life. Those 8-tracks, on the other hand…

The reason everyone laughs at the “8-track” punch line is no one makes a device anymore that can play them. It requires a physical manufacturing of a special device. That’s not true for digital files.

What it comes down to is Apple has been able to bridge the gap between the pirates and the copyright holders, and has staked out a position that is eminently reasonable for people who want to follow the law and share fairly.

For some newer bands, copy protection hasn’t been an issue. They thrive of the viral nature of the net, and want their music to get broad distribution outside of the major record labels. But Apple’s important contribution was to put the seal of legitimacy on digital music, so that the big current hits are available in the same location as those in the Long Tail.

Check out these other related Post features from its section entitled, “The iPod Turns 5”

Changing Her Tune on Apple’s iPod
Digital, Our Song for the Ages
Music Store Cold War
iPod Jeers and Cheers

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The Downside of Power Windows

My flight home last night on Northwest was mostly uneventful. I wish the same could be said of the drive home from the airport.

On the way from MSP to Austin, I stopped at the McDonald’s in Lakeville, Minn. for some sustenance (since all I got on the flight was a $2 can of Pringle’s.)

MSP to Austin

I rolled down (well, I guess that would be the old-fashioned way of describing it, as you will soon see) my window to pay, and as I pulled away, was met with a surprise. You can see the reenactment below (along with footage of the outside of our home that illustrates the blessings of our small-town life.) The total time for this video is one minute.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YwMdRwAyWHU]

The 40 degree ride with the window open (and the car’s heater turned on full blast) lasted about an hour and 10 minutes. As Steve Martin would say, though, it seemed more like three hours and 28 minutes.

If anyone can give me pointers on what the problem with our ’96 Chevrolet Lumina’s power windows might be, I would appreciate it. Is it a fuse? Something more serious? It would be great if I could get this fixed this weekend instead of having to take the car into the shop.

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ALI Conference: Wrap-Up

Key learnings mentioned by people who attended:

Podcasting needs to be episodic.

Blogging isn’t just corporate messaging. It needs to have a human perspective.

Time commitment for blogging can be significant, but it depends. Blogs are a new tool for CEOs that can be better in some respects than other tools…so it may mean less time spent in other areas.

Moderation for a blog will make it easier to get these launched. It will keep out the spammers, and also give some comfort to those who are resistant.

Wikis for policy development, an internal LinkedIn and Whirlpool’s interview format for podcasts were interesting to Lara from Charles Schwab.

Jen mentioned Twiki as a good resource for Wiki implementation.

Blogging as a damage control tool was a revelation for one participant, because of the openness and transparency.

If you are considering getting into the blogosphere, start by reading blogs, subscribing to feeds, commenting on other blogs and then start your own.

Blogging – Beyond the Hype

Jason Cieslak and Inesa Figueroa from Siegel+Gale gave the final presentation, in which they sorted through the hype about blogging and other highly hyped technology trends.

Inesa says it’s difficult for corporations to exploit the phenomenal growth of blogs. The linking structure of blogs and that sub-culture doesn’t fit with the typical corporate culture.

Corporations aren’t super nimble. “If you aren’t updating your blog all the time, you don’t have a blog. You have a web site.” They also have legal and prudential obligations to consider.

Religious, political and social affiliations drive a lot of the growth in blogs. People blog because they get excited about a topic (like religion and politics) and controversial issues, which isn’t the kind of environment in which broad-based corporations want to become entangled.

She questions whether bloggers are going to think it’s still cool to blog once the corporations get into it. I think the answer to that is “Absolutely!” They won’t necessarily interact with the corporate blogs, but people are still going to want to express themselves and group into their own sub-cultures.

She says Dell’s blog doesn’t really capitalize on the medium. The publishing and approval processes are really cumbersome for a corporation. The lack of transparency also is an issue, as with the Edelman/Wal-Mart controversy.

She cites GM and the blog post about the letter the NY Times refused to publish as a good example of good use of blogging, and IBM is another best-practice organization, as we heard yesterday.

Being part of the blogosphere is about contributing to other people’s blogs, not just having your own. And it’s possible to be engaged in the conversation even without a blog of your own.

If you’re going to blog, you need to have a strategy. How does it meet an institutional objective? One might be dealing with issues or crises.

Jason says his company works with Yahoo, which has 500 million users, while a billion wireless phones will be sold worldwide. Companies like Yahoo are working to port their applications and rich media to mobile devices, including cell phones.

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Edelman Disclosure of More Fake Wal-Mart Blogs

Shel Holtz mentioned this morning (and has blogged about) the disclosure of more fake blogs produced by Edelman for Wal-Mart. His closing comment:

I applaud Edelman for introducing transparency to these blogs (yes, of course, they should have featured such transparency from the get-go) while simultaneously questioning the wisdom of PR agency account members speaking for a client. I was just listening to Inside PR on my way home from an assignment last night. Terry Fallis and David Jones zeroed in on this very topic and both agreed that it is inappropriate for agency reps to act as spokespersons on the client’s behalf. Does a blog change that dynamic or is it no different than getting up and speaking for the client at a press conference?

I think the key difference is when a blog represents itself as being just “average people” instead of paid representatives. But I agree that Edelman was smart to reveal this now instead of waiting for one of the Wal-Mart opponent groups to dig it up (which would lead to Digging, too.)

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