Thursday, July 24, 2008
  • Ross Fadner, July 24, 2008, 11:00 AM
  • Cnet's Greg Sandoval suggests that peace may be near for Google and Hollywood, who have long been at war over the amount of pirated videos that appear on Google's video-sharing site, YouTube. Indeed, if deals like the one announced last week with Lionsgate are any indication, YouTube could soon be the legal home to clips from popular movies and TV shows. Why? Now that Google has ramped up its content filtering efforts, major movie and TV studios are softening to the prospect of having their stuff passed around the video-sharing site, which has an unmistakable brand and an unmatchable reach in online video.

    According to Sandoval, the Lionsgate deal is only the beginning, as Google is also in talks with other big media companies about similar deals. Insiders say that Google has become more flexible about revenue sharing and helping to protect films and TV shows against piracy. "We've been working with them on filtering and they're doing a pretty good job," said one unnamed big media exec. "We're pretty impressed with the results and their ability to identify our clips and allow us to automate the process."

    According to Sandoval's sources, Google has also been making big strides in the fields of ad delivery and content filtering, two areas of enormous import to big media companies. One possibility: Google is working on a technology that would let content owners insert ads into unauthorized video clips. As YouTube spokesman Ricardo Reyes says, YouTube has "always been committed" to protecting big media firms' copyrights. Read the whole story...
  • News Corp. President Peter Chernin on Tuesday noted that advertisers haven't fully embraced the opportunities online, particularly in video and mobile. In an interview with Fortune's Richard Siklos, Chernin said advertisers continue to have a television mindset, noting that one recently told a MySpace rep to come back to him when the social network has a "Super Bowl-level" event.

    The News Corp. president said the advertiser failed to realize that the MySpace homepage has as many viewers every day as the Super Bowl has once a year. Of course, MySpace users aren't paying as much attention to the ads, (this is News Corp.'s No. 1 problem with the growing site) but given its massive audience, Chernin noted there are greater opportunities for advertisers than they realize.

    For one thing, MySpace ads are cheap; indeed, one of the News Corp. company's greatest problems lies in finding a decent price for ads on the social network. "What drives ad prices is scarcity," Chernin said. "The place that is most promising is probably in video. By definition there's more scarcity in video, and there's even more scarcity in premium video." Mobile, he added, is also attractive because, it "is by far the most penetrated device on earth," with an "enormous distribution platform." Chernin noted that consumers won't watch full-length movies on their phones, but "It's going to be interesting to see people develop uniquely mobile content." The process, he said, should take another two years to develop into a healthy market. Read the whole story...
  • As bloggers complained that Facebook announced a whole lot of nothing at its developer conference in San Francisco, developers happily received news of the social networking giant's new application verification process. Closely held Facebook now plans to begin verifying applications in order to allow some developers greater access to Facebook features than others. Jia Shen, co-founder of app maker RockYou, told The Wall Street Journal: "I am really happy they clarified the sorts of applications they want on the site. For a long time, that wasn't clear."

    Mark Zuckerberg, who keynoted the event for the second year running, also outlined new details of a service called Facebook Connect, which allows people to log onto other Web sites with their Facebook accounts. This means users will be able to interact with their friends while surfing participating Web sites like Digg.com. "Things are going to decentralize quite a bit," Zuckerberg said. "Less is going to be about the site Facebook.com and more is going to be about other apps and the experience we are building together." Facebook Connect will be available this fall.

    Regarding the stewards of Facebook's growing application ecosystem, Zuckerberg conceded: "We haven't done enough to reward the good citizens of the ecosystem and to punish those applications that have been abusive. We need to find a way to ensure that the applications that provide the most long-term value succeed." As part of this push, Facebook will begin featuring a more select tier of applications, called "Great Apps." Read the whole story...
  • Officially, he may be leaving the company, but TechCrunch's Michael Arrington suggests that former Microsoft President of Platforms & Services, Kevin Johnson, was on the receiving end of an axing by CEO Steve Ballmer, who on Wednesday announced the company's latest reorganization of its online services division, after (officially) Johnson decided to leave the software giant.

    Johnson had the dual-role of pushing along Microsoft's Windows cash cow while building its online services division, which includes the MSN Web portal and Microsoft's suite of Windows Live services. He leaves Microsoft to become the new CEO of hardware manufacturer Juniper Networks.

    The reorg sees the Windows and Windows Live products report directly to Ballmer. All other online products, from search to advertising to MSN/Live.com products, will be headed up by a new executive. Ballmer said the company will look both internally and externally for a new online services leader. Arrington says Johnson was asked to split his time between the Windows machine and online services, and the results were predictable. "It's damn well time Microsoft put someone in charge of its online efforts," he writes. "A half time executive running a product that doesn't even have a brand (Live? MSN? Microsoft?) can't win against Google." Read the whole story...
  • Zynga, a San Francisco-based startup which makes free poker, puzzle and other casual games for social networking sites, received some heavy financial backing on Wednesday, announcing a $29 million round of funding led by VC heavyweight Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. KPC&B was an early backer of some major Internet winners, including Amazon.com and Google. According to The Wall Street Journal, the firm's backing of Zynga could be taken as a sign that social networking applications are set to become a real moneymaking industry. Until now, Kleiner Perkins has refrained from investing in social applications.

    "We have a really high bar when it comes to investments," Kleiner partner John Doerr said, describing the Zynga investment as "special and surprising" because the fund usually invests at an earlier stage. Doerr said he was drawn to Zynga's ability to develop engaging and viral games quickly. "This is not a hits business," he said. "There is quite a science around fine-tuning the product."

    With the exception of sector leaders RockYou and Slide, few social application makers make any real money. Even so, investors are lured to social apps because of their fast growth. Gaming is a particularly hot sector within the group, with millions of users downloading games to their profiles that they can play with their friends. Zynga makes money from the sale of advertising and add-ons for its games. It has roughly 18 million users and adds roughly a million new users every two days. Read the whole story...
  • Read the whole story...
  • Read the whole story...
  • Read the whole story...