The big YouTube payoff.

From Mark Cuban’s blog, some intimate details on the Google YouTube Deal. This analysis is interesting because, according to Cuban’s informant, as much as $500 million of the $1.62 billion deal may have been set aside to pay off copyright infringement claims.

But here’s the really interesting part: As part of the deal, Google may have struck side deals with copyright holders (movie studios and record labels) so they will refrain from suing YouTube for a few months in order to build Google Video / YouTube’s market share. In fact, the studios may even be suing competitors in order to indirectly help YouTube. At the end of 6 months or so, YouTube — now totally dominating the market — will go legit, remove or license any remaining copyrighted content, and compensate the movie studios with Google stock — from which, incidentally, they won’t have to pay royalties to their artists. If it’s true, this is a fiendishly clever and borderline ethical deal. If I were any of the 200 or so other video-sharing sites, I’d be real pissed right now.

The public usually doesn’t get an inside look at how deals like this are structured. We may never get a good look at the side deals in this case, because Google is so huge that they can legitimately claim that a $50 million side deal is not significant enough to warrant reporting in detail in their next SEC filing. “Don’t be evil?” I think this is the last time anyone will take that marketing slogan / motto seriously.

Please note I have not verified any of the info above. I welcome insight and amplifications.

The big YouTube payoff.

Marie Antoinette.

Kirsten Dunst as Marie Antoinette The problem with Marie Antoinette is that it ends before the title character is executed. After watching that much profligate waste for two hours, I could understand the peasants’ rage perfectly. And by waste, I don’t just mean the French court’s–I mean Sofia Coppola’s. What a way to blow a bunch of money, costumes, time, and talent. My takeaway: Rich heiresses are all the same, whether they’re negotiating Versailles or swanning around Napa Valley. (Though I agree with the quirky group blog Clusterflock, from whom I stole this image, that Kirsten Dunst is lovely.)

Marie Antoinette.

Carl Thayler 1933-2005.

I found out just last week that the poet Carl Thayler died last year.

Thayler is a thorny, difficult poet, committed to the precision and beauty of carefully-chosen words. His poetry is dense, often allusive, and steeped in historical events and figures that many people now are not intimately familiar with–and yet his poems make no concessions to the ignorance of the reader. As a result it’s easy to misunderstand or misconstrue his poems.

Add to that Carl’s pointed right-wing viewpoint (pro-guns, pro-frontier justice, pro-McCarthy) and it is clear that the man was never destined for fame within the literary establishment. Indeed, Carl died with most of his work still unpublished, although a few new volumes came out in recent years and more work is, apparently, in the pipeline.

I met Carl Thayler only once, but it was enough to make a strong impression. Carl came to dinner at my mom’s apartment and spent the evening drinking wine and regaling us with stories. He spent far more time talking than we did, and we were all transfixed by his articulate, genteel, and lively conversation. Interviews with Carl prove that he could talk, and provoke, without incurring rancor. That’s not a bad trick for a man whose politics led him to admire Eugene McCarthy, excoriate the ACLU, and celebrate pro-Franco Spain and Capt. NcNelly’s Rangers, early white patrollers of the Tex-Mex border.

I don’t remember any of that in our conversation. I do remember that he’d recently seen his own heart: He’d had open-heart surgery, and had either watched it, live, on a video monitor, or had been able to watch a videotape of it after he recovered. Either way, it had clearly impressed him — as it impressed me. To watch your own heart beating: Is there anything more terrifying, or moving? And to watch it without turning away. That’s the kind of hard, clear vision that the poetry of Carl Thayler has.

Carl Thayler 1933-2005.

The future of new media.

The SDForum event I spoke at on Wednesday was fairly interesting. I got to discuss the future of new media with Anil Dash of Six Apart, Theresa Carey of Barron’s, and Ramneek Bhasin of Mobio Networks. The moderator was Steve Bengston of PriceWaterhouseCooper.

It was a lively discussion that focused primarily on mobile media, and its potential to replace and/or supplement PC-based media such as the web. Ramneek made the very apt point that for billions of the planet’s residents, the only way they are ever going to experience the Web is through a cell phone. This accounts for the rapid uptake of mobile data services in Japan, Korea, and parts of Europe: PC penetration is not very high in these places, so if people want to get online, a data-enabled phone is an ideal way to do that.

I’m skeptical, though, that this model will ever take off in the U.S. Here, where PC penetration is very high (and the number of TVs per household is even higher) there’s much less of a compelling reason to use your phone for web browsing, sending email, or watching TV shows. Why would you ever use a phone to do such things if you had a computer available to you? When I raised this objection, Anil pointed out that the two media are not mutually exclusive: Many people send text messages while watching TV, or use a laptop while sitting in front of a favorite TV show. And that’s true: But the way you’re using the phone is these cases is substantially different from the way someone in Japan (or, soon, in Africa) is using the phone. For us in America, the phone is a supplementary, not the primary, channel for communication.

The liveliest part of the discussion came during an exchange with a Sprint employee, who asked us what kinds of applications we thought would be most useful or interesting for a high-speed mobile data platform. On this point Anil and I agreed, though Anil expressed it far more eloquently: Open up the phone and the network, and let people hack it. If your platform is open and is easy to hack, it will attract the most innovative, experimental people–and they in turn will create the “killer applications” which we simply cannot predict ahead of time. That’s exactly what’s happening on the web, where the “View Source” control in your browser makes it a simple matter for anyone to become a developer. Today’s kids have tricked out their MySpace profiles, built up Blogger sites, and will soon be developing custom AJAX applications. If the carriers want to attract that kind of innovation, they need to open up their networks and their phones. Without it, the phone will never become as significant of a tool (or a toy) as the PC has been. And so far, U.S. carriers are simply not living up to that potential — none of them.

As a final note, I’ll list some of the tools/companies that are doing interesting things in new media. I started off the discussion by naming a few of these, but we didn’t talk much about them since the conversation turned quickly to mobile topics.

PBwiki — Wikis have a lot of potential but are far too counterintuitive for most people. PBWiki is the easiest wiki system I’ve seen yet, lowering the bar considerably. But why do wikis still require you to enter bizarre formatting codes? Where is my WYSIWYG Wiki?

Odeo — Radically simplifies the process of podcasting. Especially cool is its embedded Flash application that lets you record your voice and upload it to a podcast in one or two steps. Pretty good sound quality too.

Eventful — Well thought-out, user-driven database of upcoming events (primarily conferences, meetups, and concerts in the the real world)

Revver — Video sharing site that actually has a business model, by inserting ads (usually at the end of a video, in contrast to the way most do it) and sharing revenue with content creators. Although overshadowed by YouTube and Google Video, I think Revver is actually easier to use and superior in many ways. It’s used by the Mentos and Diet Coke guys and by the insane, brilliant Ze Frank.

Dabble — User-driven meta-video-sharing site, which collects information on videos available at any of the 240+ different video hosts, from YouTube on down.

BlinkX — A somewhat more mature video-search site.

Democracy — This video player makes it easy to find, download, and watch high-quality (not just 320×240) video from all over the net. Very easy to use and quite slick, albeit still a little buggy (it’s still in beta).

What’s missing from the new media landscape, in my opinion, is a good solution for live video webcasting. Part of the problem is architectural, in that Internet Protocol simply isn’t set up for efficient delivery of a massive data stream from one source to tens of thousands (let alone millions) of recipients, all in real time. Still, I think the opportunity is huge here. If Internet TV is ever going to rival broadcast TV, someone needs to come up with a way of delivering live video to thousands or millions of people at a time.

The company that delivered the live video of the SD Forum event claim they can do this, but the audience for this event is much smaller than what I’m talking about.

The future of new media.

When man invented the bicycle…

“When man invented the bicycle, he reached the peak of his attainments. Here was a machine of precision and balance for the convenience of man. And (unlike subsequent inventions for man’s convenience) the more he used it, the fitter his body became. Here, for once, was a product of man’s brain that was entirely beneficial to those who used it, and of no harm or irritation to others. Progress should have stopped when man invented the bicycle.”

– Elizabeth West, Hovel in the Hills (via SFBC)

When man invented the bicycle…

BT MeetMe

BT has a phone conferencing system called “MeetMe.” I was rendered nearly speechless with giggles when the automated system greeted me with a chirpy female voice saying, “Welcome to BTMeetMe!”

BT MeetMe

21st century paperboys.

The Washington Post’s largest driver of website traffic is Drudge, according to the paper’s editor.

That’s impressive clout for Matt Drudge, given that many bloggers regard him as a has-been. I suppose he’s not technically a blogger, either. He doesn’t post stories in reverse chronological order, there’s no archive, and if he has an RSS feed I haven’t found it. Drudge is notoriously sensationalistic and unreliable, and his fame seems to have peaked during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. In spirit, though, he is a blogger: An eager, hectoring, and occasionally critical reader of mainstream news sources. And in function, he certainly is: He digs out pearls of interest from the massive flow of global news information, and drives readers to them.

The Washington Post’s traffic pattern is not unusual. At Ziff Davis, some of our biggest drivers of traffic are meta-blog sites like Slashdot and Digg. I’m sure the same is true of the other major tech journalism publishers: IDG, cnet, and so forth. A post on Boing Boing is a virtual guarantee of a massive traffic attack. Recognizing this, all journalism websites are increasingly crafting their stories to be bloggable, both technically and in terms of content. Sites are adding “digg this!” buttons and “add to del.icio.us” buttons to facilitate linking and traffic flow. They understand the value of consistent permalinks and readily accessible RSS feeds. And the editors frequently post stories that are designed to appeal to the Digg and Slashdot audiences. That’s not to say that all their content is aimed at this audience (as big as their traffic is, Digg’s readers are still a rather narrow niche of super-techie geeks) but it is important to have frequent hits from this direction, in order to keep the flow of readers to the site.

In fact, in the old bloggers vs. journalists debate, it’s clear that news bloggers have indeed supplanted a major component of the journalism business. It’s just not the component that most bloggers originally thought they were supplanting. With a few exceptions, bloggers are not doing primary-source reporting and breaking new stories.

Instead, bloggers are replacing the news distribution function. Indeed, they’re doing it far better than before, by selecting individual stories, commenting on them, and by creating and facilitating feedback. But most still rely on a central producer of the news, without which they’d have nothing to link to. Conversely, news sites increasingly rely on bloggers to distribute their stories to audiences they want to reach. In other words, bloggers have replaced not reporters, but paperboys.

21st century paperboys.