Paying for TV shows vs. Streaming for Free

Posted on January 23, 2011 | No Comments

I love my 30 Rock: so much that I chose, for the second year in a row, to purchase iTunes’ Season Pass for the show since I don’t have cable. This means every episode is available for me to download soon after it’s broadcast on TV… in theory.

There are a few reasons why I chose to pay for an episode on iTunes:

– I’m a good person and not keen on illegally downloading content

– much like those who pay to watch a movie at the cinema rather than wait to watch the film for free on TV later, this Season Pass gives me the privilege of watching a commercial-free episode before others get to watch it for free

The newest 30 Rock episode aired last Thursday. It is now Sunday and the episode is not yet available on iTunes.  And to add salt a $3.50 wound, I can go to my local broadcast channel website and watch this episode today for free.

When this happened earlier once before, I was annoyed, but shrugged it off… NBC  had changed 30 Rock‘s timeslot and in doing so perhaps affected its availability on iTunes. But for this to happen a second time just a few months later, without a means for me to get my money back or a gesture for a free download, shows a lack of respect for the consumer of legal content.

If companies create business models based on having consumers pay for content directly, these types of hiccups cannot happen – especially when the content being sold is already readily available elsewhere for free – first illegally and then legally by means of the broadcast website.

Now that this is the second time an episode I paid for is available for free, I shall:

– never purchase an iTunes Season Pass again

– collect horror stories by other good citizens who are willing to pay for content, but who venture to watch the content for free to avoid the hassle.

Why the Computer-Savvy at Work are so Frustrated

Posted on January 18, 2011 | No Comments

Does your boss enter www.google.com into the Google search bar instead of the browser’s address bar? Does reading that sentence remind you how frustrated you get when that happens? Or… gasp… maybe you’re reading this and now understand why the web team at work always acts so cranky towards you. Either way, watch this fun video below for a laugh:

Kickstarter – crowd sourced financing explained

Posted on January 17, 2011 | No Comments

Kickstarter calls itself “a fun way to fund & follow creativity,” and gained a lot of attention after TikTok+LunaTik Multi-Touch Watch Kits for the new iPod Nano pledged for $15,000 and got just under a million dollars in funding. It’s a site where artists pitch creative projects that need funding, and it’s up to the user to determine whether it’s worth of a pledge (aka, crowd-sourced funding).

Outside of crowd-sourcing, if you work professionally in a creative field (television, gaming, etc), this site may offer a unique vision into what’s being pitched, what’s piquing interest form the masses, etc.

Zippycart created an awesome infographic so I don’t have to explain a thing about how it works. Love that! (And if you’re interested in e-commerce, definitely read up on Zippycart.)


Click to Enlarge
[Via: ZippyCart – reviewing the best ecommerce software online]

Gasp – most online comments are negative

Posted on January 13, 2011 | 1 Comment

Using the BBC news boards as bait, a group of researchers have confirmed what we suspected all along – online comments generally come from a bad, bad place.

The group from the Warsaw University of Technology concluded after four years of studying the Beeb’s news forums that online conversations are borne from emotions, and more interestingly: “participants with more negative emotions write more posts.” Since these Negative Nellies write more posts, longer forums tend to be chock full of cranky comments. In other words, negativity breeds more negativity.

Is this negative poster part of the 1% rule and are 90% of people online less negative or have better control over their emotions because they choose not to content?

Group Messaging Apps Explained

Posted on January 11, 2011 | No Comments

A friend of mine just got an iPhone and was frustrated by an app she got that promised free texting – mainly because none of her friends got her texts. Yeah, we’d all be frustrated too.   Fortunately, there are better options!

Group messaging apps are real-time ways to text people for free, no matter what kind of smart phone they have (in theory). It’s like MSN Messenger or iChat for your phone… or for those Blackberry users, it’s BBM but works across all phones. While the cost to text isn’t necessarily prohibitive to all smartphone users (unless you’re traveling, then it’s ridiculous), it’s worth trying out something free, right?

There are a few apps that have been around for a while – Meebo, Beejive, etc, which use your preexisting memberships to Instant Messagers such as Yahoo! or MSN, but here are a few that break out:

Kik launched in late 2010 and I’d love to love it because it’s created in Canada, but it’s restrictive because you can only communicate with other Kik members. The app asks to scan my address book to find other Kik members, but since my contacts include some old and new work related people, I wanted to add my friends manually. Unfortunately, I couldn’t do it because I could only search by Kik user name instead of pulling via predictive text from my address book, which is what I expected. Its creator, a former employee of RIM, is currently being sued by the maker of the Blackberry and the app has been pulled from its store.

Beluga was created by former Google employees and its app is available for iPhone and Android – but you can still access Beluga conversations, or “pods” from any mobile browser. You do need to sign in to use the service, but the process is really simple. While in the app, it uses predictive search using your address book to find who you want to start a conversation with (rather than automatically scanning for its members – great!).  You can turn on a map feature so people you text know where you are (very cool), though it’s not an exact science – I’m texting someone who is in the same room as me, but the map indicates I’m a few blocks away. I mean, really. In this snowstorm? No thank you. Another cool feature- it updates your conversation by scrolling down/release to refresh – just like in the Twitter app. I love that more apps are adopting this functionality.

GroupMe is another app, but it’s unfortunately not available in the Canadian iTunes store. I can’t test it.

I know a lot of people who love their Blackberries because of BBM, so the ability of apps to share this functionality across all different types of smartphones might be a text killer and save us all some money. I wonder if Beluga will ever make it into the Blackberry app store… hmm…

Are there other similar messenger apps to try out? Let me know.

Netflix Canada to a cable cutter – yes please

Posted on January 10, 2011 | No Comments

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t have cable anymore. As someone who LOVES television, this was an adjustment in how to spend my spare time. While I don’t miss it, I’m thrilled to see more options to catch great content without a cable subscription.

Thank you, Netflix Canada. Sure, it’s has only one season of Hoarders (not… that… I.. watch… it…) and some sub-par programming choices (no, Netflix, I am not interested in anything from Jeff  Dunham). But it also has the first three seasons of Mad Men, all seasons of The Kids in the Hall, Faulty Towers, documentaries galore and tons of A-list movies.

This is why I’m perplexed to read some statuses updates on Facebook and Twitter where people are thinking of quitting. Is it that these people have a cable subscription and are used to a wider selection of programming choice? Or is this service actually more expensive for Canadians than Netflix’s $8/month subscription fee?

A recent Credit Suisse study outlined in Forbes suggests a Canadian Netflix subscriber watching a standard definition video would see his or her broadband usage go up by roughly 1GB an hour. “Based on Rogers Communications’ data pricing structure,” the study says, “this would have resulted in a $12 per month increase in broadband for our test home.”

I haven’t heard from others whether they’ve experienced this type of sticker shock by watching video with Netflix. The main complaint I see revolves around content selection.

For me, however, the no commercials (yet?), fast streaming (due in large part to my good internet connection) and number of titles (including those I wouldn’t pay iTunes to watch – see mention of Hoarders) makes it worthwhile.

Maybe that’s the point… Perhaps Netflix is only really good to someone like me who has been away from cable television for over a year. Even if I were with Rogers Internet and needed to purchase a higher broadband subscription, $20/month is still worth it. It’s still cheaper than what I was paying for cable with, to be honest, some really horrible programming choices.

What about you? If you subscribe to Netflix, do you like it? If you don’t, what’s holding you back?

Google losing its Google?

Posted on January 6, 2011 | No Comments

Lately, I’ve needed to look to Google to get some information about vitamins. It’s been a frustrating experience. The first two pages of findings were uselessly filled with links to content farms. What’s the problem?

Content farms aren’t necessarily great sources of solid information. Rather, much of what they produce is inaccurate, low quality, or sometimes mirrored (aka, stolen) all to secure a high number of visitors to collect income from advertising dollars. Additionally, they pay their writers (if they hire them at all) next to nothing to create articles. Go onto any freelance writing job site, and you’ll see loads of offers to write 300 articles for $20, where the only stipulation is to rewrite preexisting articles. The journalist in me weeps…

Content farms pose a huge problem for Google as the engine is producing increasingly poor search results due to the proliferation of these content farms and their ability to “work” the system to ensure their sites appear on the first two pages.

How is this happening? Some experts believe there are serious issues in their SEO algorhythms, as is explained in this great blog post from StackOverflow.com. It’s a great read as it takes personal experience with Google, and includes some great links to articles explaining this issue and why it might be the downfall of Google search if they don’t nip it in the bud soon.

Chartbeat creates analytics for writers

Posted on January 5, 2011 | 1 Comment

As a writer and an analytics nerd, this sounds awesome!

Chartbeat, an analytics/engagement tool for websites such as Gawker and The New York Times has created a new real-time analytics tool for web writers called Newsbeat where the dashboards are personalized to the writer’s articles. This means content creators and publishers will get cruical information in real-time, such as clickable content, traffic flow and social info, to help optimize and update their stories.  Some of the features include:

– knowing where the traffic is coming from to a specific piece of content

– information on what people are clicking within your article

– what articles have low social traffic and figure out where you’ve gone wrong

I hope this also shows social media content, so the writer can see what other people are saying about these articles on other sites.

For a video explanation of Newsbeat, check here. I look forward to seeing what this puppy does!

Thanks to  @ContentSummit for the tip!