Nationwide Dead-Boy Commercial (Memes)

Memes for dead kid from Nationwide commercial in Superbowl 2015

Nationwide pulled a “Debby Downer” during last night’s Superbowl, and the ad went over like an ISIS beheading at a Circus. Here’s the commercial, titled “Boy.”

Here are a few of my favorite memes. Yours?

nationwide, dead, boy, kid, superbowl, ad, commercial, memes
Nationwide dead boy memes

Idiot & Cheapskate’s Guide to Automating Your House (DIY SmartHome Hubs Controlled via Phone)

When I was a kid, I had this vision for my home that included automated everything — from lighting to blinds. Until last night, it was theoretical. Now I can turn off lamps from various rooms… from an Android or iPhone, even when I’m not in the house. It’s a start. And this morning when I got to work, I had the joy of toggling the lights from my phone to freak out WifeofNalts.

Let me warn you that we’re in an odd point of home-automation maturity. We’re moving beyond the era where it was reserved for the wealthy or techno elite. But it’s definitely not ready for prime time, and requires more patience and experimentation than I’d like… but such is the cost of being an early adopter, right?

My entry into “Smart Home Land” set me back only about $125: just $50 for a Wink hub (less if you buy it with add-ons) and about $75 for a bunch of GE Link lightbulbs (get the six pack). And I’ve got a plan for growing into additional functionality like remote monitors, appliance device on/off, security/alarms and broader control of lighting without doing the nightly sweep of 50 light switches. I can’t yet spring for the Nest, which is the connected thermostat that is the best-selling in its class. Honeywell and Lux fell asleep at the wheel.

Let me cut to wide shot and tell you about your options to entering “Smart Home Land.” Home automation was once reserved to the elite and wealthy, and required a special contractor and installation. Now you can pick up a hub and some $50-$150 add-ons and do-it-yourself quickly. I’m not going to get into the really nerdy hacks, but there are plenty of forums that can teach you to customize these beyond what the manufacturers specify or even offer.

There are too many options and a shake-down is looming. There’s Belkin Wemo, Phillips Hue, Quirky Wink, GE Link, Staples Connect, Harmony, Insteon, Lutron, Revolv, Smart Things. Overwhelmed yet? Here’s a review of some of them if you want to get into the weeds.

Let’s cut to your basic entry options, and then I’ll tell you why I started with the cheap, flawed but Swiss Army Knife option called Wink… note that I’m favoring options that don’t require ugly remotes or special displays. We’ll use our iPhones and Androids, thank you very much.

Which smart-home system offers the best flexibility at the best price?
Which smart-home system offers the best flexibility at the best price?
  1. Belkin has a Wemo switch that is a best-seller on Amazon and an easy place to dabble since it’s only $40. It uses your wifi and allows you to control any appliance via your Android/iPhone (just plug appliance into the Wemo, and the Wemo into your outlet. You can add on lots of additional options via Amazon or Home Depot. And if you’re all about lighting, you can get a Belkin Wemo starter kit for $85 that comes with a little hub and two lights… nice dorm room gift for that college techno kid. But I don’t see Wemo as a serious player.
  2. Then there are the lighting-specific solutions: Phillips answer to lighting customization: the Phillips Hue, which comes with a ton of different lighting options. The starter kit will set you back $188 and the individual lights get pretty expensive. Phillips Hue is generally cost-prohibitive except for those elite wealthy who might as well higher a contractor. But Home Depot has a decent spread of expensive lights so I imagine Phillips will be a formidable player. For those without excessive cash, the GE Links are better (you can also get these at Home Depot).
  3. There are a few other hubs that I didn’t look at closely. A cool-looking Revolv smart-home automation system (now part of Nest, the Google thermostat). Haven’t seen Revolv as a player yet. There’s Staples Connect (with Linksys), which is decent player and one that will likely survive the consolidation because Linksys and Staples are serious individual players. And the Smart Things Starter kit, which seems fairly comprehensive and has the best Amazon ratings… but is $300.
  4. And there are loads of home security devices, but I’m not writing about those.
  5. And the winner/wiener is… Wink hub despite some seriously negative reviews (including my own). Setup is torture (40 minutes of trial/error), but adding GE Link bulbs was as easy as screwing in bulbs and naming them. I can’t speak yet to the pain/joy of adding things beyond GE Link bulbs, but that alone made it worth the trivial entry cost of $50.

 

wink compatible products
Wink’s interface allows you to connect with a bunch of devices from other manufacturers

Wink is the buggy but poor-man’s Switzerland of all these home automation standards and devices. It has built-in support for Bluetooth LE, Wi-Fi, ZigBee, Z-Wave, Lutron ClearConnect, and Kidde. It also handles Phillips Hue (with some limitations) and works like a breeze with GE Link bulbs. I also like that Wink is a product of Quirky/GE, which gives inventors a chance to manufacturer ideas.

Once you have a hub and suffer through setup, you can add all kinds of things: alarms (Kidde/Nest), blinds (Bali/Lutron/ZWave), cameras (Dropcam), weird things from Quirky, garage doors (Chamberlain and Quirky/GE), heating and cooling (Honeywell, Nest, Zwave, Quirky/GE), lawn/patio, kitchen, door and window locks, and general appliances via a power plug that accommodates two different plugs that can be controlled separately (the other two are just plain extension plugs). Warning- that power plug got absolutely hosed on Amazon comments and it’s clearly flawed.

We’re still a few years before this stuff becomes more mainstream, but it’s nice that it’s become somewhat affordable and I like that you can experiment with different components to see what’s worthwhile.

Have you tried any of these? Would love your experience and “watch outs.”

Rob Cantor’s “Perfect” Song Was Hoax: 29 Impressions Weren’t Him

Rob Cantor impression song, “Perfect” on YouTube was hoax: professional impersonators helped

Celebrity Impression SongRob Cantor’s video of his original “Perfect” song went viral in the past 10 days, racking up more than 7 million views. My family probably watched it 20 times, marveling at the impressions — from Randy Newman and Jack Black to Adam Sandler. The most amazing parts were his “impressions” of female singers like Gwen Stefani, Cher, Britney Spears and Billie Holliday.

Cantor appears to nail the impressions even of folks we haven’t likely hear sing — like Christopher Walken, Ray Romano and Steve Buscemi.

But as his “behind the scenes” video revealed, he had some help from some accomplished male and female impressionists.

The full voiceover cast is below, and includes Piotr Michael from “The Impression Guys.” And the cast from “The Impressions Guys” had their own response: a very funny deprecating parody where the voices are clearly dubbed. Check out the “Impression Guys” if you haven’t seen it, and season two starts soon.

I’m usually pretty good about detecting fakes, but I convinced myself it was real based on some nice tricks:

  • The lip synching was near flawless
  • Cantor’s facial expressions reinforced the  impersonations
  • Cantor continued looking at his phone, as if he needed help recalling the next impression (of course the vocals had been prerecorded by pros).
  • The video seemed informal and low-budget — a bit out of focus and compressed, and lighting was good but not “perfect”
  • Small details helped, including a squeaky chair and some alterations of the audio to give it an amateur echoed sound

Did you fall for it? I did!

CAST (in alphabetical order):
BROCK BAKER: Jack Black, Kermit the Frog, Smeagol / Gollum, Peter Griffin, Adam Sandler, Patrick Warburton, Jon Lovitz
GILBERT GAUTHIER: Frank Sinatra
AMANDA GARI: Cher, Flipper
REAGAN JAMES: Gwen Stefani
BORA KARACA: Whistle
ANDREW LAURICH: Christopher Walken
ANDY McCLOUD: Bono
PIOTR MICHAEL: Christopher Lloyd, Steve Buscemi, Gilbert Gottfried, Ray Romano, Ian McKellan, Jeff Goldblum, Bob Dylan
MISSY MODELL: Shakira
MARK SIPKA: Randy Newman, Louis Armstrong, Willie Nelson, Billie Holiday
GABE STEINER: Trumpet
MELISSA VILLASEÑOR: Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, Bjork

 

Did Pharrell Williams Plagiarize Happy Video?

Pharrell Williams Happy music video plagiarized Anne Marsen’s dancing video as seen on Vimeo in 2011.

Did Pharrell Williams Happy music video plagiarize Anne Marsen‘s dancing video as seen on Vimeo in 2011?

Happy is almost a shot-for-shot reproduction of this dancer's 2011 video "Girl Walk All Day"
Happy is almost a shot-for-shot reproduction of this dancer’s 2011 video “Girl Walk All Day”

 

In this video, the dancer shows how Happy was almost a shot-by-shot reproduction of Marsen’s 2011 video titled “Girl Walk // All Day.” Her video showing the theft is titled “Pharrell Likes My Work.” But it’s so close, it seems like she has a decent case for copyright infringement. Or at least warrants a public apology or acknowledgement by Pharrell and Yoann Lemoine, the creative director of Happy’s music video.

Pharrell Loves My Work from Anne Marsen on Vimeo.

 

 

YouTubers Get Love from Yahoo, Google and Disney

What does it mean to top YouTubers now that Yahoo, Disney and Google are showing them love? Will we see the online-video landscape resemble network/studio relationships?

Yahoo, Disney and Google are proving that being popular on YouTube matters.
Yahoo, Disney and Google are proving that being popular on YouTube matters.

It’s a good time to be a YouTuber… or at least own a popular YouTube channel. We’re seeing the online-video landscape mature, and start to resemble how networks and studios connect. The networks (Disney, Yahoo, YouTube) are working with studios (online-video studios and some individual partners/channels) in some interesting ways….

What’s interesting about these big moves is how markedly different this is from the past behavior of these companies.

  • We saw Disney making some early bets with its own home-grown online-video content. Remember Stage 9?
  • Yahoo contacted me and other YouTubers around 2008 to discuss potential revenue-sharing deals. They were considering exclusivity at the time, and that’s a deal breaker for YouTubers that won’t give up their primary audience.
  • And Google? It hasn’t even marketed itself well, much less its partners. And who would ever imagined the tech-engineering company would advertise YouTube partners on TV, print or outdoor? They’re doing it, but you know it pains them.

So what’s all this mean?

  • These events don’t impact your typical YouTuber, but the winners of the Yahoo/Google efforts will be the YouTube creators with large audience and studio representation by one of the online-video networks. That’s because Yahoo and Google will have to deal with the complexities of Discovery to get to Revision3 content, and Disney to get to Maker channels/creators.
  • But watch for partnerships between Yahoo and smaller studios like Fullscreen, BigFrame and Collective. 
  • And what about Google’s efforts to promote YouTubers beyond the YouTube regulars? I would expect to see “the rich get richer,” because it’s most likely to promote the proven content with top views. So like a marathon’s second half, we’ll see an increasing distance between the leaders and the rest.
  • There will surely be some more attempts to lock creators and studios to “exclusive” arrangements, although Yahoo won’t get anywhere requiring that of popular YouTubers. But it makes sense. TV shows don’t get to broadcast on every channel. The networks pick the shows, and promote them to “their” audience. We’ll see that happening with top YouTube channels in coming months and years, which is why YouTube will have to work harder to cultivate relationships and keep stars/channels.

What’s your take? And where is the Global Online Video Association in all of this? How about a POV, Kontonis?

 

Best Web Series of 2014: The Impression Guys by Soul Pancake

“The Impression Guys” is the best online-video series of 2014. Get a bowl of oatmeal, pull out your phone, and check it out. So far episode one and episode two have launched, and new episodes are each Monday.

It’s produced by Soul Pancake, which was founded by Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office). It also features Angela Kinsey (who was Angela Martin in The Office), and this week’s episode (number 2) featured Matt Jones from Breaking Bad.

Jim Meskimen and Ross Marquand play tortured optimists who are trying to shift from impressionism to character acting.
Jim Meskimen and Ross Marquand play tortured optimists who are trying to shift from impressionism to character acting.

But the duo that carries the series so far is Jim Meskimen (playing Jim Marshall) and Ross Marquand (as Ross Marvin). Long-time readers of WVFF will know I’ve had a long-time creative crush on Meskimen, who is the voice behind the infamous JibJab cartoons. He’s a masterful impressionist who also is a really sweet guy. His mom is Marion Ross, who played Marion Cunningham.

Meskimen admits a lot of it is improv, but credits the success to “Impressionist Guys” writer and creator Ben Shelton, who also does The Flipside series for SoulPancake. “He runs a really happy set, has a great crew and makes the most of what has to be the smallest budget in television,” Meskimen told me.

SoulPancake also is living up to the “soul” in its name. Says Jim about SP, “their flow is positive and re-affirming… not edgy.”

Anyway, here’s the fun of the series. You’ll first dismiss it as an excuse to stitch together some very good impressions by Meskimen, Marquand and others. But if you give it time, you’ll realize there’s a depth to the characters and a compelling storyline. Some vulnerability that you don’t see coming.

Give it a watch. Let me know what you think!

Episode 1: Premier

Episode 2: The Worst Impression

 

What GOVA’s Gavone Means to Online Video and the New Networks

There’s a new Global Online Video Association led by Paul Kontonis. What does it means to YouTube and the networks like Collective, Maker, Machinima, Fullscreen and others?

He’s the new GOVA Gavone. The leader of the online video association. The guy who’s scream silences a room.

AdWeek reports that Paul Kontonis, former online video producer and agency guy, is heading the new Global Online Video Association (GOVA). Kontonis has been a leader in the online video space from its inception, including such roles as founder of “For Your Imagination,” VP at Digitas’ Third Act, and chairman of International Academy of Web Television.

online, video, gavone, GOVA, association
Paul Kontonis is the gavone who heads GOVA, the new online-video trade association.

By day, Kontonis heads sales and strategy for one of the top “multichannel networks” (MCNs) called Collective Digital Studio. GOVA is made up of nine of the top MCNs (also called online-video studios and “new networks”). These include Collective, Maker Studios, Fullscreen, Big Frame, BroadbandTV, DECA, Discovery’s Revision3, Magnet Media and MiTu Networks. Machinima is conspicuously absent, but unlikely for long (it’s quite common for the biggest in an industry to initially think they don’t need an association).

GOVA represents 9 of the top 10 online-video studios, or MCNs
GOVA represents 9 of the top 10 online-video studios, or MCNs

Caveat: I know Kontonis and like him (which is why I am allowed to call him a gavone as a term of respect). He was even in one of my videos where I thought I turned invisible. But I haven’t spoken to him in a while and know nothing directly about his GOVA appointment. So this is all my speculation based on watching this space mature. And I wrote a book, so shut up.

What’s ahead, and what does GOVA mean to the networks and the maturing landscape of online video?

  • Susan Wojcicki, the leader of YouTube.
    Susan Wojcicki, leader of YouTube, is focused on mainstream players. GOVA may help keep her attention on smaller studios.

    Bargaining Power with YouTube. The online-video networks, or “multichannel networks,” will now have a collective voice they’ll need more in coming years. That’s in part because YouTube, the virtual monopoly on distribution, is increasingly turning its attention to more mainstream studios and traditional networks. As YouTube grows, it will be increasingly difficult for individual studios to command the attention they’ve received in the past. How do we know that? History is the best predictor: Initially top YouTube stars could garner attention from Google and resolve issues. But eventually YouTube creators needed the power of a network. The networks don’t know it yet, but in years ahead they’ll need strength in greater numbers than they have today.

  • Bumpy Road, Herding Cats. Associations can be tricky, as participants theoretically want a collective voice, but they’re also competing against each other for precious advertising dollars. Kontonis has shown he’s got the diplomacy and persuasion to herd these network cats.
  • GOVA may help keep emerging studios independent, which is good for "amateurs."
    GOVA may help keep emerging studios independent, which is good for “amateurs.”

    Could Slow Down Acquisitions. In the coming years, we’d expect to see more of these online-video networks get acquired by larger players. Discovery ate Revision3. Google ate Next New Networks.  GOVA may give some of these players more time to play independently, if they wish, before the eventual consolidation of traditional and “multichannel” networks in the 2015-2020 period.  That doesn’t mean the MCNs will be less attractive to acquiring parties, it just means they won’t be as desperate to be sold. That’s a very good thing for individual creators of these networks. (When they do get acquired, they’ll try to convince you it’s a good thing…  but as a loyal WVFF reader you’ll know better).

  • GOVA can help negotiate with emerging video-playing technologies
    GOVA can help negotiate with emerging video-playing technologies

    Developing Emerging Channels to Reduce Dependency on YouTube. As we look beyond YouTube, the major stakeholders are technology companies, advertisers, and content creators. Years ago, an individual studio could negotiate their video content onto new platforms — like we saw Revision3 do with Roku and College Humor do with TiVo. But that will be more difficult as stakes increase and traditional networks start seeing more meaningful “TV dollars” moving to emerging channels. This coordinated approach through GOVA will increase the studio’s voice with new platforms. Watch for GOVA serving a role to keep them “out in front” of new platforms — from Roku to Netflix and Hulu to Amazon. And more importantly, the emerging video distribution platforms we don’t yet see coming. Maybe one day even AppleTV!

  • Other Boring But Important Crap. GOVA can also help with legislation/regulation, advertising formats, metric standardization, growth of the online-video, and thought leadership. Depending on the issue, they will likely partner and challenge other players like IAB, ComScore, traditional media associations, and marketing agencies.
  • Four More Years. That’s how long I see this lasting. By 2018, we’d expect GOVA to roll into the Internet Advertising BureauIRTS or some other association. But no other association has the knowledge of or focus on this medium.
  • Bottom Line. Creators and studios need GOVA whether they know it or not. Otherwise the technology platforms and advertisers will set the agenda.
maker, deco, big frame, deca, magnet, fullscreen, collective, web, studios, networks, online, youtube
9 out of the top 10 “multichannel networks” are included in the new association.

Four Alternatives to Sonos Music: Stream Your Music to Speakers

Can’t afford a Sonos? Here are some cheaper DIY options and hacks. Stream your music via your existing speakers/stereo via a Beep, Rocki or a low-cost tablet.

connect phone to stereo system to play and stream music wifi bluetooth

So your phone is holding  your music collection and access to your online radio stations. And you have boom boxes, speakers and old amplifiers sitting around… depreciating. How do you connect them via Bluetooth or Wifi so you can stream your music in full sound?

Sonos sounds great, but aren't cheap. Especially if all you want is to activate your exiting stereo.
Sonos sounds great, but aren’t cheap. Especially if all you want is to activate your exiting stereo.

If you’re an audiophile with excess cash, the Sonos Play 1 is a $199 Wifi amplified speaker that is easy to use, sounds great, and fairly portable. I have one of them and the $299 Sonos Play 2 , and they come with an iPhone/Android app that allows me to stream Pandora or my saved music from my phone or laptop. SONOS does have a way you can connect to your existing speaker/amp, but it’s even more expensive than the one with the speaker (it’c called a SONOS connect). Note that you need one $44 SONOS bridge for to get started, and that Bose is also catching up with the Soundtouch.

So what if you don’t want to spring for a new amplified speaker? What if all you want is the ability to connect your phone to your existing stereo system? Here are four less expensive options.

  1. The real poor-man’s solution is my do-it-yourself speaker kit. But you’ll have to live with the frustrating range limits of Bluetooth. And some of the Wifi options are not that much more expensive.
  2. beep wifi speaker aluminum ashtrayAlternatively, you can wait for a Beep , which is a retro-looking metallic device that will connect your existing speakers to your digital music. Beep, created by some Google alumni, says it makes all your speakers wireless, but it doesn’t have an amplifier. But if you have good speakers without an amp, here’s an $18 amp that sounds like it should cost $100.  Beep is not available yet, but the pre-orders are $99. No shipping date announced on site (at least that I could find). Here’s a Cnet review.
  3. rocki speakerThe Rocki is very similar to the Beep, but also not yet available. Personally I like the Beep’s look better. To me the Rocki looks a bit cheap, although one critic says the Beep looks like an aluminum ashtray from bowling alleys, turned upside down. Touche.
  4. And here’s a clever Wifi audio hack. Buy a crappy tablet (like this iView Cyberpad at NewEgg)  and connect it to your existing stereo system via its headphone jack. This would also work if you have an old iPhone. But I don’t believe you can control it via your existing phone.

Here’s an article that also shows you how to stream tunes via an AppleTV or Miracast if you’re an Android user.

Rumble Online Video Site Takes on YouTube. Will Fail.

Rumble online video site takes on YouTube. Goes bankrupt.

Rumble will fail. Mahhhh. I just pissed in my own pants.
Rumble will fail. Mahhhh. I just pissed in my own pants.

I just got a reporter inquiry about a website called Rumble. It was created to take on YouTube head on (see story), and I think that’s about the worst idea for an online-video site ever (at least in 2014). I’m going to come off like an angry old man in this post, so try to imagine me sitting in my boxers on a rocking chair holding a shotgun.

Rumble will either change strategy or be dead in less than 12-18 months.

Its offering to video creators is so bad I checked to see if this was an early April Fool’s joke (please note 1-26-14 update from CEO, below).

  • Rumble: Because the world needs another video-sharing site for cats.
    Rumble: Because the world needs another video-sharing site for cats.

    It requires exclusive content. That’s a really bad idea if you’re trying to compete with a market leader that doesn’t require exclusive content. I  never suggest a content creator license exclusively unless they get a guarantee that offsets what they might otherwise make elsewhere. Even Revver.com new better.

  • It takes about 3-4 months before they provide analytics to creators (YouTube analytics are instant, and payment is monthly).
  • 60% of revenue (now that’s decent, but 60% of nothing is nothing).
  • No guarantee of views because there’s a limited audience using Rumble (although maybe some of its partners have an audience, and they’ll pull an intermediary approach- they claim some big partners like Yahoo!). Rumble’s CEO says they’re doing 100M streams.
  • No apparent advertisers using the site. They could theoretically solve this by letting their partners sell the inventory, but that would change CPM income … creating a Rumble advertising salesforce would take many months or years).

Rumble is founded by a bunch of folks who have been doing online video for a long time. Some at  successful companies, but some come from companies (you haven’t heard about) that got destroyed by YouTube. So will their vengeance inspire them to topple YouTube? Or is history the best predictor of success?

What they do have is a nice name. Rumble. Rrrrumble. Get ready to Rrrrumble. I was going to say they have a nice logo, but the play button is kinda owned already. Hopefully the founders, advisors and employees will adapt Rumble to find a better niche. Anything but trying to compete with a market leader without any discernable differentiation or advantage.

Mind you- this comes from somebody who makes money on YouTube, but who can’t stand monopolies. For amateurs making online video, YouTube is pretty much the only way to make money via online video. So there may eventually be an online video-sharing site that caters more to amateur creators. But I sure wouldn’t hold my breath for it, and resign not to make a dime anywhere else while they try to figure it out. As I told the reporter, I wouldn’t become a Rumble creator (under current terms) if it was founded by my mom and funded Chad Hurley.

All this said, take my advice with a grain of salt. I’ve called a lot of things accurately, but I also was rooting for Revver.com and initially saw YouTube as a horrible financial investment.

Rumble CEO Chris Pavlovski clarifies the terms the online-video company is offering creators
Rumble CEO Chris Pavlovski clarifies the terms the online-video company is offering creators

Note from Chris Pavlovski, CEO of Rumble 1-26-14

“I recently noticed your review of Rumble. I totally respect your opinion and enjoy reading various takes, although I hope we do not fail 🙂

I wanted to point out that we offer other options for video creators. The 60% profit share is definitely a difficult one for users to swallow (this is because all revenue is generated on Yahoo, MSN, and takes a long time to receive reporting, but its worth it). We also offer two other options for video creators. If the video is good, they get rewarded within 24 hours and paid within 14 days. Here are the options:

  1. up to $1000 for an exclusive video license, up front cash
  2. up to $250 for a non-exclusive video license, up front cash
  3. we do custom deals as well (for larger creators)

The profit share is the 4th option, but normally makes more than the above two if you can wait 3 months. We are currently pushing well over 100M streams per month on our partner websites, so our reach is considerable and many creators are happy with it.”