Netly: The Third Screen

Archive for November 2009

Amazon published a press release today asserting that “November is already the best sales month ever for Kindle, even before Cyber Monday.”

That sure sounds like a big deal, but since Amazon has never shared any real numbers on the Kindle, who knows what it means. Perhaps it sold 6 Kindles in November, who knows?

That said, I counted a half dozen of them on the SFO-to-NY plane last night, so it’s a safe bet they sold more than 6 in November. I wish the giant e-tailer would be more forthcoming with data; “press releases” like this make me feel like I’m being played.

Say it ain’t so, Mike. I’ve been awaiting the launch of the CrunchPad for many months—ever since I saw a non-working version of it at a dinner with Arrington last summer.

But today, TechCrunch’s Gentle Leader says the project appears to be headed for the courts, rather than BestBuy. I feel like the Grinch stole Christmas.

Of course, this could also be some kind of negotiating tactic. A Stanford-educated lawyer, Arrington isn’t exactly scared by the legal system.

Also, am I the only one who thinks it’s ironic that the head of TechCrunch’s CrunchPad team is named Kindle?

I doubt Rupert Murdoch was the first big media guy to think of a way to turn the tables on Google. At Time Inc., this idea has been kicking around for over four months…

Kara Swisher does an excellent job today of parsing the various scenarios that flow from Rupert Murdoch’s threat to de-list the Wall Street Journal and the rest of News Corp,’s holdings from Google’s search engine. (What a high wire act: Married to a Google muckety-muck on the one hand, and employed by Murdoch on the other, Swisher still comes off as objective and well reasoned.)

I’ve been watching the whole Murdoch move with equal parts fascination and envy. That’s because back on July 22, at the Fortune Brainstorm Conference, one of my co-workers high up on the business side of Time Inc. ovulated the same brilliant idea. (I am not naming him here because I don’t have his permission.) “We know exactly how much traffic Google refers to us, and down to the penny what it’s worth,” my pal told me at lunch that day. “We could go to Microsoft and see if they’ll guarantee us more if we keep Google from searching us.” I thought it was one of the smartest schemes I had ever heard, but pointed out that it could get expensive for Microsoft fast since it would start a bidding war among big content producers. Why would they open the door to something so potentially expensive to them in the long run? My friend pooh-poohed me.

The more I thought about it, the more I agreed. We’re talking about chump change for Microsoft. Figure $100 million or so for bragging rights to some of the biggest content libraries in the world? That’ll turbo-charge Bing big time.

Needless to say, as far as I know—and note that I’m not privy to the top-floor discussions anyway—my friend’s idea hasn’t gotten anywhere at Time Inc. So far, anyway.

But guaranteed, if Microsoft starts writing checks, it’ll be a somewhat happier holiday season for big media companies.

Let’s say that the iThing, and all the tablets like it, are indeed the magic bullets for the publishing business: People are willing to pay for reliable, produced and highly packaged content. The e-mag experience is way more fun, useful and convenient than the paper magazine. And advertising—full page, video heavy, relevant, measurable—lifts off like a rocket.

We can assume that publishers will slowly stop giving away their exclusive content for free online. Many big media sites will become more like billboards, advertising the bounty that lies within pay walls, without giving away the value.

To be sure, the closer you are to news, the more you’ll still have to give away something for free. So the New York Times, Time Magazine, and so on will still have to give away the fungible stuff. But the exclusive, the highly produced and packaged—all that will start living inside paid apps.

Naturally, that’ll make it a little harder for blogs to grab the interesting bits from the pros, at least to the extent they do now. I assume, for instance, that rights holders will be more vigilant in enforcing “fair-use” limitations.

But the rising tide will lift all boats—and the blogs too, especially the established ones.

That’s because the same benefits that tablets bestow on old media will accrue to new media as well—in spades.

At the low end of the food chain, the opinion-based and gossip-mongering blogs probably won’t get subscription revenue, as they adapt to the “page” format of a tablet, they will almost certainly enjoy far better advertising revenue.

The real winners, I suspect, will be blogs and small sites that do original reporting, and are scaled in a lightweight way, with low overhead, lean staffs and a mass of loyal readers. It’s pretty easy to imagine a world in which, say, TechCrunch or TPM or even something more capital-intensive such as Slate, Makes $$$ Fast in the next few years and becomes the most efficient business model.

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  • Steven Baker, PMP (@STEVEPMP): I just read your comment about wanting an artist to be a part of the resurrection of Netly News sometime. If you ever want to try, I have a very tale
  • Magda: If you're looking to buy these arceilts make it way easier.
  • Mikel: Such a deep ansrew! GD&RVVF