Posted on March 26, 2012
A little under a year ago, we posted four reasons why Apple may decide to become a Wireless Internet Service Provider. Presently, we conclude that if Apple doesn’t do it, one or more of the other Internet-dependent giants shall, by the year 2020. Companies like Apple, Amazon, Google (YouTube), FaceBook, and Microsoft cannot permit their futures to be controlled by today’s dominant wireless carriers. Increasingly, their growth will be throttled as cellular carriers expand bandwidth-metered pricing.
The new competitors shall use (1) licensed and licensed-exempt frequencies in combination with (2) cognitive white space manipulation as a new incremental paradigm for efficient bandwidth allocation. Licensed channels may be purchased from current holders of lightly-used spectrum. One example could be Clearwire. Assuming government approval is denied, the channels Verizon is trying to buy from the Cable TV industry might be a second example. Read more…
Posted on March 20, 2012
The night before many Americans file income tax returns this year marks the Centennial of the Titanic disaster. Consider how media frontiers correspond to the end-points of the one hundred year span.
First, the shipwreck underscored the value of incipient wireless communications. Marconi operators on Titanic were among the first to use S.O.S. A New York Times editorial proclaimed, “…every Titanic survivor owed life itself to (Guglielmo Marconi’s)…genius as an inventor.” In three days of trading on the American (Curb) Stock Exchange, shares of American Marconi rose twenty-five percent.
Since Marconi was half-Italian and half-English, domestic industrialists, overwhelmed with public interest altruism, convinced our Government it was necessary that the technology to be controlled by an American corporation. Consequently, American Marconi was ordered to sell its patents to Radio Corporation of America (RCA) whose owners were General Electric, AT&T, United Fruit, and Westinghouse. Today the descendent components of RCA are held by Comcast and Technicolor. Read more…
Posted on March 14, 2012
In addition to clicking on the hyperlinks above, readers may also locate the article by searching for “The President and His General” at the New York Times website.
Posted on March 13, 2012
Although there are only a few winners, about 45,000 runners complete the New York City Marathon. It’s likely that each one completed a disciplined training regimen which probably included at least a few moments of indulgent fantasy about attaining unlikely goals. In the end, most are satisfied by the award of a modest medal and the knowledge they ran the same course as guys like Geoffrey and Emmanuel Mutai.
Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing can provide unknown authors a similar experience. Metaphorically, they’re permitted to run the same race as Laura Hillenbrand or Theodore Dreiser. Like ordinary marathon runners they get token recognition when their self-published e-book “goes live” at the Kindle Store. Given a conscientious effort, there’s noting trivial about a Kindle title. It has their name on it. Dreams of selling 100,000 copies are like the fantasies of winning the New York City Marathon. But when the project is taken seriously, even authors who don’t sell any copies are like the runners bringing up the rear of a marathon. It still has meaning to them personally.
According to the National Endowment of the Arts, there are about 120 million domestic adult readers. Presently, GigaOm estimates about twenty-five million read at least some e-books. Furthermore, they estimate the figure will rise to about fifty million by the end of 2012 and to eighty million by the end of 2013. Simultaneously Amazon’s self-published authors earn royalty rates ranging from 35% – 70% of the retail sales price. In contrast, under the agency model dictated by conventional publishers, authors normally earn royalties of less than 20% of the retail price for e-books, and even lower percentages for hardcover and paperback books.
Such circumstances imply the possibilities for author e-book profits are comparatively unlimited; as are the probabilities of fraud. An example of the latter are “authors” who choose titles by identifying popularly rising Google search terms and merely copy Web-content into blank pages to create their e-books. Such writers are similar to the rare misfits who sneak into an official marathon race a few miles from the finish line.
Presently, I can only share personal experiences as a participant in Kindle publishing. Furthermore, my “races” are more like 5k’s than marathons. Readers looking for advice from the front of the pack in marathon-like Kindle efforts might consider Joe Konrath or Barry Eisler.
My first Kindle e-book, The Future of Television, was published about a year-and-a-half ago in October, 2010. It was a lower-priced derivative of a market research report I wrote over three years ago entitled Third Generation Television. One of the reasons for publishing at that time was to acquire experience thereby enabling me to create a video podcast demonstrating how others could self-publish at Kindle.
The Future of Television remains my best seller, presumably for three reasons. One is that the title unambiguously fits the topic. The meanings of other titles, such as Allergies to Innovation, are not readily apparent. Second, the topic holds broad interest. Third, the future of TV is pertinent to the subject matter of my eight year old blog, Inside Digital Media.
More recently, I’ve experimented with miniature e-books termed Kindle Singles. They’re a type of long-form journalism targeted at the sweet-spot between magazine articles and hard cover books. Normally priced at $0.99 they’re ideally suited for articles I write that don’t conform to scope of my Digital Media blog. Examples include, “Natural Selection at Pea Ridge”, and “Brooklyn in Charleston.” Finally, last week I completed my “author page” at Amazon.com. It provides a short bio along with a three minute video. Blog posts at Inside Digital Media are also automatically updated at my author page.
Marshal McLuhan’s “content follows form” principle, suggests Kindle Singles could evolve into an important new form factor. Just as magazines, such as The Saturday Evening Post, serialized enduring novels, Kindle Singles offer journalism and literature otherwise ill-suited for conventional distribution.
In sum, for mere participants, Kindle Publishing requires considerable work with little glory. But it can entice a latent desire for intellectual fulfillment much like marathon running addresses a hunger for physical accomplishment, even among those trailing at the end. Kindle Publishing may similarly attract tens-of-thousands of amateur participants. Ideally, competitive sales shall grant the humility to make us teachable, even as finishing-the-job provides the satisfaction to try again.
Posted on March 8, 2012
Smartphones have already supplanted personal wallets in several ways. Perhaps the best example is how they’ve displaced the paper family photos that were customarily tucked behind a plastic window in leather wallets. Furthermore it’s easy to envision how smartphones-as-wallets could replace the clutter of discount coupons clipped from newspapers and sundry items, like laundry claim checks, often stuffed into conventional wallets.
But there are two reasons why smartphones are also likely to become the prime tool for retail monetary transactions. First, they’ll be more economical for the consumer by automatically tracking and applying (when desired) (1) discount coupons, (2) rewards points, and (3) special offers derived from our purchasing habits and ephemeral geo-location based on the phone’s location-awareness. Second, they’ll enable faster “check-out” thereby benefiting both the retailer and consumer. Read more…
Posted on March 2, 2012
Recently Time-Warner cable announced it’s once again testing subscription plans that bill Internet subscribers based upon the bandwidth they consume each month. They call it usage-based pricing. Others, such as the editors for The Wall Street Journal, like to call it consumption-based pricing.
Either term implies Internet Service Providers (ISPs) can justify charging subscribers additional fees for incremental bandwidth, just as electric utilities routinely charge users based upon the number kilowatt-hours consumed. But there’s a key difference the ISPs don’t bother to explain.
Specifically, electric utilities must not only deliver power, they must also generate it. In contrast, ISPs such as CATV and telephone companies generally must only deliver bandwidth.
Electric utilities deliver power to our homes thorough a network of conductors, seldom needing replacement. Typically there’s a large cost to build the network and small annual expense to maintain it by repairing breaks, aging, weather, and other damage. The average home uses 15,000 Kilowatt-Hours (kwh) annually. The incremental cost to deliver it over the network of conductors is negligible. The big cost is generating those 15,000 kwhs. Read more…