there are 16 posts from February 2009

February 27, 2009

albums plus apps

U2 iPhone?

Listening to the stream of the new U2 record last week, I was struck by how the most interesting bits of the album were the atmospherics – not necessarily the usual chiming guitars or Bono’s falsetto, but the electronic blips and chimes and patterns and samples that build the intros and undercurrents of tracks like Moment of Surrender and Unknown Caller. I kept thinking to myself “wow, that little bit right there? That would make a great ringtone.”

And of course, all of those bleeps and blips will end up as ringtones, legit or not. But it points to an interesting bundling opportunity that Apple’s in a unique position to take advantage of: albums plus apps.

As the iTunes music store faces more and more competition from Amazon and other online sources (Facebook + Lala, anyone?), and the core deliverable of the music purchase becomes undifferentiated (DRM-free MP3 256kbps MP3 files), Apple’s going to need to compete on a different angle. The device integration angle isn’t as strong as it once was (the Amazon MP3 downloader / iTunes integration is pretty damned seamless), and competing on price is difficult when most of what you’re selling is available online for free.

Today, Apple’s offering digital add ons to album sales through iTunes – typically these are things like PDF booklets, add-on videos, behind the scenes footage, etc.. But what I keep waiting for are the iPhone specific bundles that provide a platform specific experience for the fan that’s tied into the Apple product line. There’s no need to sell pre-loaded hardware with the artist’s catalog…instead, develop applications that turn any iPhone / iPod Touch into a platform for fandom, and deliver those either bundled with tracks or a la carte…

Miscellaneous product ideas, in no particular order…

  • An app that installs a custom sounds set of ringtones / alert sounds that are based on the sounds from the record.

  • An app that provides a front-of-the-line concert ticket purchasing opportunities (think what American Express does, but exclusively for iPhone users), and real time tour info – dates and locations, of course, but also set lists, photos, notes from the artist, comments from fans, etc…

  • An app that provides enhanced access to the band’s social web presence. Simple registration, userpic badging, exclusive video content, etc. Couple this with geolocation services and the (yet to be released) push notification service and music marketers can reach specific fans in specific locations at specific times for reaching specific fans in specific locations and encourage, well, specific behaviors.

Steve Rubel recently pointed out on this blog three ways that media is innovating with user interfaces -- mobile being one of them. The music industry has a similar opportunity (and, frankly, motivation) for innovation around how to fans can engage with the artists they love. Browsing through the App Store today, there are very, very few artist-specific music applications available. But I can’t imagine it will take long for the labels and Apple to capitalize on the hardware + software + distribution channel combination of the iPhone + iTunes.

February 26, 2009

peter arnell's remarks on the launch of tropicana packaging

Offered without additional comment is a transcript of the Ad Age video of Peter Arnell from Omnicom’s Arnell Group introducing the (now pulled) Tropicana packaging back in January.

We started on a journey approximately five months ago to try to give a new refreshed, a new energy to Tropicana. We thought it would be very very important to bring this brand, to evolve it to a more current or modern state. Emotionally it was very very difficult, and it still remains difficult for everyone to grasp the importance of that change because it’s so dramatic.

Historically we always showed the outside of the orange. What was fascinating was that we had never shown the product called the juice. There was a strong drive to bring big messaging on to the carton where the biggest single billboarding was.

Having said that we wanted to take the orange and put it somewhere. We engineered this interesting little squeeze cap here (which you guys can come up and see after) so that the notion of squeezing the orange was implied ergonomically every day when you actually went to the actual carton. The skin of the orange is replicated on the cap, and tooled in to the cap. The idea, of course, is to have a consistency between the purity of the juice (which is coming directly from the orange), the cap (which you squeeze every day), and, of course, the carton.

The reason why that’s all important is because, of course, “squeeze” also maintains a certain level of power when it comes to this notion emotionally about what “squeeze” means – like “my squeeze” or “gimme a squeeze” or the notion of a hug, or the ideas behind the power of love and the idea of transferring that love, or converting the attitude between mom and the kids, right?

February 14, 2009

frank rich's links

I was catching up on some news tonight, skimming the Times online, and read Frank Rich’s op-ed piece from the Sunday paper. And you know what? It’s full of links.

I’m used to the Times linking proper nouns, stock tickers and the like to topic pages, but Rich’s column is full of non-obvious, blog-like links, most of which lead to resources outside the Times. Here’s a screenshot of one link-riddled paragraph:

new york times with links!

That paragraph links to two news stories from the Washington Post, one from the St. Petersburg Times, a blog post from WaPo and a blog post from the Times. By my count there are a total of 37 links in the piece, all of them appear to be hand-crafted (as opposed to machine-generated)…and only eight out of the 37 link to

Question: is Frank Rich finding and linking these stories himself? Or is an online editor doing this for him? Because as we all remember from hypertext 101, the right (or wrong) link can really deepen the context for the reader. Regardless, this is what can make online news more a more engaging experience. It’s a small thing, but having a major columnist’s piece marked up with outward facing links is very, very refreshing.

Update: Josh from Nieman Journalism Lab in the comments points to a great interview they did with Rich back in November about his linking practice. I loved this quote from Rich in the piece: “As a reader, I can’t stand the links where if the link is ‘Barack Obama,’ and you click the link and it’s Barack Obama’s official campaign page. It’s useless because any sentient person who knows how to use the Internet doesn’t need that link to figure out how to get a motherlode of information about a proper name in a piece of journalism.”

February 13, 2009

joss whedon on fresh air

I wasn’t a Buffy watcher (and thus never became a Buffy fan), but I’m looking forward to watching Dollhouse this weekend. I caught most of the Joss Whedon interview on Fresh Air last night, and now not only do I feel the need to connect with my inner Buffy, but also to finally watch Dr. Horrible’s Sing Along Blog. (Yes, I know. I’m way behind.)

February 12, 2009

this post is for natalie podrazik

This week’s gem from Lostpedia, a bon mot re. Christian: “Plenty of gifted doctors become alcoholics having never lived on a magical island.”

February 12, 2009

space debris

I’m fascinated by this “satellites collide” story – it’s an easy way to avoid thinking about things like collapsing markets and stimulus packages. This quote from US Strategic Command is perfect: “Space is getting pretty crowded. The fact that this hasn’t happened before – maybe we were getting a little bit lucky.” The European Space Operations Center has some nice visualizations of the trackable objects around the planet.

February 12, 2009

more denk thinking

I’ve posted about Jeremy Denk and his blog before, but just to reiterate – you really should be reading this. His latest – Elegy for Toothpaste -- is great reading, all the way through.

Some morning soon I fully expect to be stopped by a TSA official, who will say: “Mr. Denk, President Obama has alerted us that you are far too much of a pain in the a** to fly today.” And I will abjectly consent. “Go home,” they will say, “write a poem, eat a bagel, have a massage, do a crossword puzzle, fall in love, and then, only then, come back.”

Go read the whole thing. It’s eventually about toothpaste.

February 12, 2009

hudson on darwin

Olivia Hudson on Charles Darwin: “He practiced a kind of ideal, dream-like science. He examined the minutiae of nature — shells of barnacles, pistils of flowers — but worked on grand themes. He corresponded with lofty men of learning, but also with farmers and pigeon breeders. He observed, questioned, experimented, constantly testing his ideas.”

February 10, 2009

a book is not a machine

Edward Champion is doing some amazing blogging from the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference. This particular post about Peter Brantley’s talk resonated with me – even as I’m currently reading a book about machines on a machine

A book may be generated by a machine and ebooks may be available through machines, but that does not mean the book itself is a machine. Nor should the reader transform into a machine. This kind of perspective may work in programming circles, where jargon and other linguistic bullshit is tossed around as casually as spitballs.

February 09, 2009

uncensored sopranos

The thing about the sopranos, uncensored video is that it simultaneously tests your patience (I only made it to 1:28 before needing to turn it off) and makes you want to go back and watch all six seasons all over again.

February 09, 2009

so how much did they pay?

The story behind the Google Sync story is this statement from Microsoft

Earlier today Google announced Google Sync, which is made possible by a patent license they obtained from Microsoft covering Google’s implementation of the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync protocol on Google servers.

So iPhone 2.0 includes ActiveSync support in the client, which makes it work with every ActiveSync-enabled Exchange and non-Exchange server around the world. iPhone 2.0 also does not allow background applications. Google wants background sync for their calendar and address book applications (and you have to believe that Mail will come soon). Background apps can’t run in 2.0, but ActiveSync support is there, so, of course, they choose ActiveSync. So Apple’s decision re. no background apps benefits Microsoft.

I wonder how much Google is paying for their ActiveSync license. And I wonder how much Apple paid to license ActiveSync for the iPhone. Because there’s a reasonable case to be made that Apple’s license was (or should have been) close to $0. (And if it was actually $0, that would have been the internal kiss off for the WinMo team, dontcha think?)

February 06, 2009

in a new york minute

Khoi Vinh on his experience trying to learn just what Ubiquity for Firefox actually does…

Granted, the amount of time I’ve spent absorbing information about Ubiquity, distributed across a few Web browsing, Twitter and RSS sessions, probably totals less than five minutes. That’s not a lot of time in which to make a pitch… except that it’s all that many products get. I happened to know Aza and so I was predisposed to an interest in his work. But in any other instance in which I would have no personal connection with the people behind a product I doubt I would’ve gotten even as far as I did.

Fantastic reminder that when you’re marketing a product online, you need to get to the point as quickly as possible.

February 05, 2009

the updike tour of new york, as seen in the new yorker

Via Kottke comes In Updike’s Footsteps, a post from a couple of New Yorker bloggers who retraced the path that Updike took in his 1956 Talk of the Town piece where he described a way to get from the Empire State Building to Rockefeller Center without using 5th or 6th avenues.

Since I’m sure you’ve all already seen that post, here’s the value add: how great would it be if some enterprising young New Yorker took it upon him- or herself to start a walking tour of New York that took that path: the John Updike tour of New York. And may I suggest the perfectly complementary marketing vehicle – those little ads in the back of the magazine.

February 05, 2009

facebook + openid

Congrats to Facebook on joining the OpenID foundation. It’s a smart move on their part and I’m looking forward to seeing how they implement it across their platform. And huge kudos to David Recordon and Chris Messina for driving this home.

February 04, 2009

mccarran airport is too small

A brief note to the architect who designs the next airport in Las Vegas: make it bigger. The current McCarran airpot is way too small. Not in terms of number of gates – I’m not qualified to opine on whether this airport will need more gates. It needs to be just simply, physically bigger so that it’s in scale with the rest of Las Vegas. You can’t have a mall or a conference facility or a hotel that’s 10x normal scale – redwood-height ceilings, boulevard-width hallways, cavernous conference rooms, restaurants that seat thousands – and have an airport that’s merely “normal.” It’s too jarring, the experience is way out of scale. So at a minimum, the next version of McCarran needs to be at least as big as the United terminal at O’Hare. Preferably bigger. Much bigger.

February 01, 2009

let's go get that

Bruce Springsteen, who’s scheduled to give a 12 minute party this afternoon, on the impact of November.

“A lot of the core of our songs is the American idea: What is it? What does it mean? ‘Promised Land,’ ‘Badlands,’ I’ve seen people singing those songs back to me all over the world. I’d seen that country on a grass-roots level through the ’80s, since I was a teenager. And I met people who were always working toward the country being that kind of place. But on a national level it always seemed very far away.

“And so on election night it showed its face, for maybe, probably, one of the first times in my adult life,” he said. “I sat there on the couch, and my jaw dropped, and I went, ‘Oh my God, it exists.’ Not just dreaming it. It exists, it’s there, and if this much of it is there, the rest of it’s there. Let’s go get that. Let’s go get it. Just that is enough to keep you going for the rest of your life. All the songs you wrote are a little truer today than they were a month or two ago.”