Discovery And Revision3: Peanut Butter ‘n Chocolate

I’m at an industry event yesterday in NYC and I run into the affable Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3. He follows this little blog occasionally, and we’ve spoken at numerous industry events. (Jim is also cool, geeky and provocative… important attributes of “emerging media mavens”).

For no particular reason, I asked him when someone was going to acquire his studio. He smiles and says, “acquire or invest?” Moments later a Google guy tipped me off to the TechCrunch rumor earlier this week that Discovery was acquiring Revision3. Psychic powers? Apparently.

Well chocolate and peanut butter merge, friends.

Revision3 discovery

All Things Digital’s Peter Kafka just reported that Discovery Communications acquired Revision3. Says Kafka:

Discovery isn’t disclosing a purchase price, but multiple sources familiar with the transaction tell me the cable guys will pay around $30 million for the start-up. The company ended up raising about $10 million during its six-year lifespan, with the last chunk coming from a group of investors that included Mark Cuban.

Revision3 will continue operating out of its San Francisco headquarters, and make its own web shows. Obviously Discovery will want to figure out ways to leverage Revision3’s experience in online-video audience development and distribution. 

Revision3 now has Discovery’s dollars, distribution and clout with advertisers, and Discovery gets to learn how to produce video more efficiently. “We produce content on a $500,000 to $750,000 an hour scale,” said Discovery’s digital leader JB Perrette. “Producing something at a tenth of that cost means it has to be very different.”

For those reasons, I like this combination better than peanut butter and chocolate. Revision3 was one of the first online-video properties, and Discovery Channel was a cable network that began to figure out online video earlier than others (see my “Shark” blog post about Discovery from 2009). Now it gets interesting.

CableTV’s Funeral Attended by Nobody

TechCrunch’s “2010 year in review” featured CableTV as a “loser.” It had a funeral. Nobody came. Check it out:

Losers: Huzzah! Cable companies are losing more and more subs every month! Victory!

Well, sort of. Sure, pay TV companies are having a hard time holding on to subscribers, but that’s only going to mean prices will probably stagnate or worse, will be raised to compensate for the lose of income. Comcast has to pay the power bill on their massive video wall in their swanky new-ish skyscraper somehow.

But where are these people getting their content? Not one report surfaced that showed the cable cutting movement has any real traction, and big media basically control the future of living room streaming devices anyway. Pay TV needs a savior or a disruptor. Someone will probably have to paint their face blue and white and stand in front of a horde of angry subscribers to really make a difference.

Meanwhile Roku was listed as a “winner,” and Ooyala helps creators make their own channel. I gotta do that.

“Online Influencers” Definition: TechCrunch vs. Fast Company; 4Chan’s Moot Photo Faked.

Fast Company’s November issue takes on the subject of online influencers, with prominent features of YouTubers, iJustine and MysteryGuitarMan. The piece provided some nice insights into the “going rate” of a weblebrity/webstar… mid-high six figure incomes with $20-$50K per sponsored videos. Sustainable?

Techcrunch took objection to the piece and brought it out back for a good-times ass whooping. And to that I shout, “fight, fight, fight” (and hope nobody kicks my ass while I get some good footage). Here’s a picture of Justine Ezarik. I’m not swiping the one of Joe Penna (MGM) because I’m too lazy.

Most online publications took on the debate of "online influencers" as an excuse to use photos of iJustine to boost page views.

The real surprise of the article, beyond such trivial disputes as to “what defines online influence,” is this… who would have thought that 4Chan’s “Moot” would be fairly zit free, thin, and (dare I concede without sounding perverted) handsome? Is this an elaborate plot by “Anonymous” to give Moot a fake image, torn from some J. Crew catalog or an Asian teen porn magazine?

4Chan's "Moot" isn't as ugly as we might have expected

Yeah I’d say we’ve been punked. That aint Moot. Here’s the real Moot. But you gotta love 4Chan. I’ll bet they cleverly manipulated all of the influence data, showing that Fast Company and TechCrunch are both wrong. Fight, fight, fight!

The real Moot (4chan)

Just remember kids… I may not be in the cool crowd, but I knew them when.

TechCrunchTV Debates Crowdsourcing Creative, Sucks

Peter LaMotte GeniusRocket
GeniusRocket CEO Peter LaMotte in a rare moment where he gets to speak on TechCrunchTV.

The Gap logo disaster brought attention to crowdsourced creative, and the issue is debated in this awkward cable-TV-like debate about the rights and wrongs of crowdsourced creative. Occasionally we get to hear from GeniusRocket’s CEO Peter LaMotte (who happens to be the guest of the segment), but mostly co-hosts Sarah Lacy and Paul “I like to say fuck” Carr try to out-clever each other with quotes like “crowds are stupid,” “there’s so fucking many designers,” “we touched on this before we started filming,” and “poor Paris Hilton.”

Still, it’s worth noting that GeniusRocket is playing in a similar market as Poptent.net, and bridging the gap between tight-budget companies and freelance creators (animation, “viral” videos, and graphics). LaMotte says he’s worked also with small brands and agencies, but estimates that crowdsourcing will overtake no more than 20 percent of advertising revenue. He also observes that brands can customize creative for specific demographics with smaller budgets ($40K vs hundreds of thousands) to maximize media spends.

The video ends with a sample crowd-sourced ad for Athena Hummus. It’s a bit better than my Hummus video.

If you can make it through the entire TechCrunchTV “interview,” you’ll be quite impressed by LaMotte’s intelligence…. If only by contrast by the hosts. Sorry, TechCrunchTV. But stick with the digital word, and leave these shows to the campus television networks. Or heck- crowd source the show.

Most horrendously awkward interview ever: so we get more resources, right Uncle Tim?

Wait TechCrunch is an AOL property now, so I suppose it doesn’t matter anymore. Watch Erick Schonfeld’s painfully awkward interview with AOL’s Tim Armstrong (formerly Google sales leader). It’s like watching Fast Company or Industry Standard die again. Wait- one of those is still alive, right?

Cloning is Lame. Google Should Do It To Facebook Anyway

by Kevin Nalty

Small companies clone big companies all the time. And by clone I don’t just mean steal a basic idea. I mean clone almost literally – they just plain rip off every single feature and hope for the best. It certainly saves time on user testing.

Big companies, particularly big tech companies, don’t do this as much. Pride and ethics come into play at an individual and team level. Pure copying just isn’t how things are done. Instead they tweak a little here, add a little there, and launch it as a variation of the original. That’s evolution, not stealing. And most of the time it doesn’t work very well. Facebook’s users just don’t seem to want to behave like Twitter users, for example, no matter how hard Facebook tried to get them to change. And Google Buzz, besides the privacy snafus in the beginning, is just a little too complicated to get people using it wildly. Plus, I’m not convinced that people want all that junk in their email inbox.

But pure clones work well. Microsoft crushed Netscape in the 90s by simply building their own web browser and giving it away for free. Webmail and instant messaging services across Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and AOL are all largely the same, and that market is fragmented among all of those companies. If there’s a better way to do mail and messaging, no one has figured it out yet and gotten all the users to switch to them.

And that’s why it’s time for Google to just plane clone Facebook. Enough with the fancy pants Google Buzz Twitter-Facebook-Yelp killer. They need to raise the white flag and just copy Facebook right down to the details. Otherwise the war is over before Google even got to the battlefield.

So I’m not surprised to see that Google appears to be working on exactly that – a new social network that isn’t Orkut and isn’t Buzz but that will be 100% focused on being as good as or better than Facebook.

Why do they need to do this? Google is, after all, firing on all cylinders. Google continues to grow fast and has $24 billion a year in revenue. They dominate search marketing, possibly the most profitable business in the history of our species if you don’t include taxes, drugs or prostitution. Facebook has a long way to go to catch up.

Or do they? Facebook’s self serve ad business is exploding, say our sources, and may be significantly more robust than even the most favorable third party forecasts predict. Google let’s self serve users target ads based on search queries, and that works extremely well. But Facebook knows much, much more about its users than Google does, and allows self serve ads targeted to extremely relevant and timely user information. And with Facebook’s strategy of organizing the Internet through Facebook Platform has created a big open door for them to later insert ads on those sites, too. Facebook could be challenging Google’s revenue lead much sooner than people think. It’s not outrageous to think that the two companies could be in a dead heat by 2015, for example. See The Age Of Facebook for more of my thoughts on the rise of Facebook and why I think they’ll dominate the next decade.

Facebook is already bigger than Google in many ways. Not in total unique visitors per month – Facebook’s 550 million is still a lot less than Google’s 900 million. But Facebook has more page views: 250 billion v. 165 billion per month. And total minutes spent on Facebook is more than 2x Google: 150 billion v. 73 billion. (All stats are Comscore worldwide, May 2010).

Google needs a horse in the social networking race to be able to defend itself against Facebook over the long run. And the only way they’re going to be able to compete effectively is to just clone the darn thing. Original? No. Honorable? nope. But people have very short memories, sadly, and it’ll all blow over shortly.

There is one area where Google can gain a quick advantage – in truly open data with simple export tools and easy to understand privacy settings. I’d recommend going with the Twitter model on privacy – it’s all public or it’s all private (for approved friends only). It’s not hard to understand, and very few people actually choose the private option.

What Google shouldn’t do – must not do – is try to tie the service to other Google products for the wrong reasons. Microsoft’s web properties are constantly hobbled by the strategic decisions of a parent company that must protect an aging Windows and Office revenue stream, for example. Google must avoid that pitfall. And Facebook’s Twitter experiments, as well as Google bolting Buzz onto Gmail, show that users don’t like having the fundamental way they use products change very much. They need to flock to Google Me, or whatever it’s called, simply because they like the service.

This will be the great battle in consumer Internet over the next few years if Google does it right. And while I don’t like seeing clones, there’s really no other choice for Google. And at least the users will win – one thing Facebook needs right now is a little competition.

ps – Next up would be the Google Twitter clone. An exact copy, except with an open protocol that would let anyone run the service on their own server. They should call it Glitter.

iPad is Pissed

I couldn’t help reflect on my commute this morning about how very sad the iPad must be from the scathing reception he’s received. Perhaps he’s hurting deep down, and needs to vent in a “hater” vlog. So I gave him the chance.

It was fun to watch the faces of people as I drove up Route 202 through New Jersey with a mask on my face, a camera on the dashboard, and a paper taped to the window with some notes I drafted up (while at a red light, of course).

Poor guy. Can you blame him for being so angry? He’s doing the best he can within his own limitations.

Copacabana Silicon Valley Parody

From the folks that brought you “Here Comes Another Bubble,” enjoy The Richter Scales‘ Silicon Valley Copacabana parody, “In the Valley.” The camera work was apparently done by my deceased grandmother, but you’ll enjoy the live performance at the Crunchies (source: Mark Casey sending me SFWeekly article).

These guys aren’t lounge singers. They’re accomplished attorneys, engineers and technology executives from little schools like Princeton, Stanford and Yale (meet them). Their a cappella voices just happen to be the cherry on their intellectual banana split.

Parenthetically, my old boss knows these guys, and first brought them to my attention the bubble parody in December 2007 (I called it a seminal viral moment). The “Here Comes Another Bubble” spoof viralinated, but lost much of its traction when the creators had to pull the original video. Seems photographer Lane Hartwell bitched about her photo showing up in the bubble song for about .04 seconds. That sent me on a wild mission… challenging fellow video creators to exploit her work in video (see my Dec. 2007 video rant). There are nine videos pooping on Hartwell that still exist.

Some favorite lyrics of this new doozy:

  • “His name was Michael (Arington). He was the blog king. But deep inside he really felt he should be hardware king as well. He took a napkin, and drew a tablet. He called a group in Singapore to ship his Crunchpad out the door. But Singapore said “psyche.” They tore the napkin, Mike. Your old Crunchpad is now our JooJoo, so go take a hike.”
  • “His name was Eric (Schmidt). He wanted downloads. But Apple’s ruthless App Store Cops wouldn’t give his products props. They blocked his map app. And Google Voice too. At first we blamed AT&T but even fanboys came to see that their beloved Steve had something up his sleeve. They were locked in an iPhone prison and they could not leave…. open or closed either way you are hosed at the Valley.”
  • “His name was Rupert (Murdock). He was a mogul. But then the Internet arrived and Rupert saw/watched his profits dive. He claimed that Google was stealing content. The Googlers said that you’re so dexted just go and change your robot.txt… No we will never pay to search the WSJ. Cause the journal gets all its news from bloggers anyway (roar from crowd).

These are all clever spoofs of important moments in the technology evolution/war… little moments that point to major issues about the implications of open/closed technology, intellectual property theft, rights protection. Set to the tune of Copacabana by Barry Manilow, the parody takes on a number of super-geeky technology themes, including (1) Mike Arrington’s CrunchPad debacle, (2) the Apple vs. Google Voice conflict, and (3) the threat by News Corp to de-index itself from Google.

Sometimes I feel dangerously detached from the latest technology news, but I found myself getting most of these references, and watching my laptop dance on my chuckling-induced bouncing belly.

Viral Video Villain Got $1 Million as 750 Industries

Michael Ackerman Greenberg Viral Video CompanyThe Viral Video Villain (www.viralvideovillain.com) just got a $1 million investment. Dan Ackerman Greenberg, who caused quite a stir with his “Secret Strategies Behind Viral Videos,” is now 750 Industries. Or as TechCrunch put it, “The Viral Video Guy Gets $1 Million.”

Greenberg explained 750 Industries to TechCrunch’s Michael Arington as, “a startup providing viral media distribution solutions that gives content owners and advertisers quick and effective access to millions of consumers.” And they say the company is already “very profitable.”

Then, with David Blaine agility, Greenberg took Arington’s watch off and pocked it. But not before hypnotizing him to write another promotional post for him. But if you don’t believe he’s profitable than click this thumbnail for a hot naked woman.

While I may not agree with Greenberg’s boasting of manipulative approaches to get video views, you have to give him three props:

  1. Greenberg has a killer logo. It’s modern, but very James Bond. It makes me want a martini.
  2. He snagged a million dollars. My guess is he’s already half way to Mexico with that money. And investor Ron Conway (Maples Investments and Baseline Ventures) is going to soon find some moldy boxes packed with counterfitted bail bonds in the empty office that was formerly Yelp’s. But he did it.
  3. He’s a pioneer in a burgeoning industry that could be likened to the early days of search-engine optimization. Just like firms approach Google placement with paid ads and organic strategies to rank high, companies will promote videos with a “paid” and “earned” approach. Eventually the market will transform from black hat to white hat tactics (or dare I say “from Wicked Witch to Glenda‘), and will be as reputable as the industry that focus on organic website optimization.

The original search-engine marketing (SEM) firms would promise top placements and use link farms and mirror sites to trick Google. But now many of them work ethically and responsibly to ensure that websites are built so Google search spiders can index the site appropriately, and that titles, metatags, copy and image tags are carefully chosen for relevance. The companies that try to trick Google and web searchers (like illegitimate online pharmacies and porn sites) are eventually pushed down on rankings or eliminated from Google’s results.

That’s where online video is going. Google’s technology and the wisdom of crowds will eventually render tricks (like fake headlines and autobots commenting) ineffective. And that’s when it gets interesting.

But want to know a little secret? The first companies to figure this out for clients won’t be the advertising agencies, and probably won’t even be digital agencies. It will be nimble firms that have an understanding of online video, technology and marketing. So while 750’s exit strategy may be selling to a digital agency, Greenberg does have a first-mover advantage.

Who Won the Cheese? Weird Comments.

american cheeseIt took almost two months of deliberation, but our judges have selected the honorable mentions and winner of the “Weird Comment” contest, which boasts a grand prize of an autographed slice of American cheese.

As you won’t likely recall, back on January 5, 2008, I invited you to post the weirdest comments on this TechCrunch article about my book. There are a about 50 plus comments on my invitation post too (see them).

You took the challenge, and you delivered. That’s why we spent so long deliberating. It is not because we forgot or anything.

Click “more” below to see the 33 weirdest comments. Honorable mention also goes to Maryln and Sukatra’s back ‘n forth.

It’s a tough call, but here’s the winner. Johnny, whoever you are, send your address. We’ll send the cheese.

  1. Johnny January 7th, 2008 at 4:22 pm

    WARNING I DID NOT START THIS SPAM ok susie was going to a river where she watched the school of dogs dissecting cats that could fly because of their lung cancer thus enabling the time portal to pull down the trigger that made the lever go down into Narnia which was currently in a war against the Summer Queen who made eternal summer, when the summer queen was vanquished Fred came to save the day transporting all living babies in the world to travel first class to Funkytown singing Funkytowwwwwn the whole way there the babies enjoyed their sparkling white grape juice which made them all fart Beethovens Ninth backwards making them change each others pampers for a milenium until two magical beavers came and started to shop at wal-mart because of it having the lowest prices they bought firewood to burn the Ohio River therefore making Lisa Nova drinking an 8 ounce glass of water flexing her liver making it break thus powering all of new york city for the rest of the year making arnold schwargentator happy to be alive until the terminator kills him everyone is living happily except George Bush since lisa novas liver broke and two squirrels from sydney come in to kidnap president lincoln holding him as ransom for 70 nuts or walnuts making the world fall in the Great Depression 2 thus starting war against switzerland because of all of the obese people in america wanting it’s magical chocolate mines causing them to get more obese and starting weight watchers to gain even more weight causing the worlds rotation to end effecting into the sun being blocked by an enormous bottle sun tan lotion sold by an eskimo in iceland causing a humonguos meteor to fall into austrailia and killing all of the worlds opera singers thus making everyone happy again and then everyone died except nalts, he lived. (run-on consider revising)

(Select “more” below to see some favorites).

Continue reading “Who Won the Cheese? Weird Comments.”