Thursday, July 28

Brute force solution to lack of a good EPG

I've bemoaned the lack of a good extensive Electronic Program Guide (EPG) in Australia and the politics behind it in previous posts. Now a UK company, Promise TV have demonstrated a prototype solution to the problem which, while obvious, is still remarkable - just bung together sufficient tuner cards and hard disk space in one device to record everything being transmitted on all channels, for the whole week!

That solves the problem of programming your device to record particular shows. You don't need an EPG so much if you know that it's all recorded there somewhere on your disk. It remains to be explained exactly how the Promise box helps you navigate through all that content, but Cory Doctorow's story mentions that all the content is indexed as its recorded.

Obviously a Promise TV box isn't going to scale economically to a 500 channel market, but in the UK, or here in Australia, where you can count all the free-to-air stations on one hand, and all the worthwhile pay TV stations on the other, this product may prove very popular. No info on pricing but UK press launch planned for August.

Having all the content stored locally raises another interesting possibility: you can't publish an extensive EPG in Australia because the networks who own the copyright won't allow it. However, if I was publishing an EPG covering the week's content stored on my Promise TV box, perhaps I own the copyright to that? And if I was to sell/share that EPG with other owners of the Promise TV box in Australia, well, maybe it's defensible? Even profitable?

More from CNet
More from BoingBoing

Friday, July 22

Mac Bank employs smart people, how unusual!

I've been a customer of Macquarie Bank now for a few years and it's occurred to me just now that they have one single unique advantage over their competitors:

they employ smart people in their telephone customer service department!

It doesn't seem like a big deal, I know, but it makes an enormous difference to call a toll-free number to speak to someone who:

  • Isn't in Mumbai

  • Did finish high school

  • Knows what you need; and

  • Is able to do it for you immediately, without any fuss or bother, and without having to transfer you to someone else.

It shouldn't really be an exclusive point of difference, but it seems to be.

Tuesday, July 19

Rupert pays $770m for... uhh... spotty hotties?

Hold the frickin' presses, this kind of story only comes along once a year. News Corp has announced it has acquired IntermixMedia, and according to this ABC News story it's all so Rupert Murdoch can get his hands on the hotties at

"What's that? Hotties?", you say? Yes, hotties. MySpace is mostly an online community where young people come together to flirt with each other in the more overt way of young people these days.

Intermixmedia claims its whole network gets 16m US unique eyeball pairs a month, so that values these horny kids at about $48 per. Way back in when Yahoo! acquired a similar online community play - GeoCities - for similar reasons (reach, audience, online community) it paid about $4.67 billion for an audience of 19 million unique users a month. But this was at the peak of the Internet boom (we all remember how crazy valuations were back then, right?) and crucially, Yahoo! paid for GeoCities in stock, not cash!

Now consider that GeoCities was making real ad revenue at the time. The ABC story claims MySpace attracts about 8% of the total online ad market in the US, which I'm certain is complete nonsense unless we're counting ad impressions instead of ad revenue. I've been using MySpace to promote my band Karma County for about six months now and every single ad position I've seen in the network has been taken by the one advertiser, and a third-tier, small-brand, low-CPA advertiser too, if appearances are anything to go by.

Now consider the demogs of the audiences on offer. GeoCities was (still would be) unusual in that its audience was an unusually diverse set of demographics - everyone from grandparents to teens - doing all kinds of professional, personal and hobby-related stuff. MySpace is really just an 18-24 audience, with more pimples than disposable income, which makes more sense if you're a youth brand like Disney, but News Corp? OK, it owns Fox, which is a youth network, but does extending Fox's online reach really merit a billion dollar acquisition and the integration costs that follow?

If it were me, I'd be learning from the GeoCities lesson, which was that all the audience and all the revenue dried up as Yahoo! tried to bring it into the fold. The more Yahoo! tried to introduce GeoCities customers to the rest of the Y! network, the more they left in droves.

If I were Fox, I'd leave this new acquisition completely alone for five years and see if it can make its own way in the world. Start to integrate it with the rest of News too soon, and those spotty hotties, so leery of marketers trying to push brands in their face, will all leave to join some other free-to-register online flirting community, leaving Rupert holding little more than a receipt for $770m and a very clear idea of whether he's hot or not!

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