Archive for February, 2007

Boston Proper, Err Paper

Competition in the news business can never be a bad thing right?

Well, news of a second free tabloid-style daily paper in Boston broke today in Steve Bailey’s “Downtown” column. Bailey reports that Russel Pergament, who started Metro Boston six years ago, is back in the Hub with plans to launch a Metro Boston competitor called Boston Now. Bailey writes that Pergament hopes to replicate this effort in eight to 10 U.S. cities within the next few years.

In so doing, Pergament will be duking it out with Stuart Layne, the Metro’s publisher. Layne, one of the true gentlemen in the news communications business, assumed the reins of the Metro last fall. Layne formerly ran his own sports marketing firm and also headed up marketing for the Boston Celtics and Seattle Mariners in previous lives. He’s a native New Yorker and die-hard Yankees fan, but that doesn’t necessarily make Layne a bad guy. And in fact, as any good marketing guy would admit, Layne has acknowledged what a great job the Red Sox have done in building their brand and marketing their product – locally, nationally and now (thanks to Dice-K) internationally. Given his baseball loyalties, however, one wonders if the Metro-Boston Now rivalry will one day be the newspaper equivalent of the Red Sox-Yankees rivalry.

Finally, did anyone else who read Bailey’s column this morning pick up on the irony of Bailey’s and Pergament’s commentary relative to local news? Bailey wrote…(“Pergament promises a paper that will emphasize staff-written local news. That has certainly not been the track record of these McPapers, which are loaded with wire-service stories.” Pergament was quoted saying: “Our commitment is local . . . We are going to break some news. It is not going to be just watered down wire copy.”

Interesting stuff. So, just for kicks, let’s take a look at the very pages of this morning’s Globe business section and let’s do a quick count of its stories……including the Bailey column there were five staff-written stories with local angles compared to 12 wire stories of national or international import. Hmmm. Want some fries with your Boston Globe this morning?

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One Bad Apple

Steve Jobs is many things: master showman, spinmeister, cheerleader, visionary, God of Silicon Valley, and icon not simply of the computer industry, but of the media and entertainment arena as well. He’s also a master manipulator and his DRM Manifesto “Thoughts on Music” issued today on the Apple site was vintage Jobs: it was eloquent, convincing and just slightly salesy. Curiously timed, the underpinnings of his open letter posting are pretty simple — the best defense is a strong offense. Jobs takes a jab at the Norwegian Consumer Council and the Dutch Consumer Ombudsman, last week the latter joined the June 2006 complaint filed by the former against Apple, alleging that Apple is violating Norwegian consumer law through its exclusive link between Apple’s iPod and iTunes music store because Norwegian iPod owners are prevented from playing songs bought from competing online services or listening to iTunes songs on rival MP3 players.

In his Tuesday posting, Jobs said Apple can’t risk opening up the iTunes store to other portable players as long as DRM technology remains in place. This does not sound like a man who is concerned that wannabe rival players like Microsoft’s Zune or those from SanDisk (whose stock was pummeled last week due to thinning of its flash memory margins). But, let’s be real – this is the posting of a man with a silver tongue (keyboard?) who is trying to deflect the heat of Apple’s proprietary position in online music. Many of his critics fully believe that DRM could work just fine if Jobs and Apple would cooperate. Teflon Steve got nicked a few weeks back when the options backdating flu bit a few folks in Cupertino. Let’s see if the Goodship Apple starts to take on some more water after this latest issue heats up.

DEMO 2007 Profile: Eyejot, Inc.

Okay so who among us has never sent an email that was misconstrued, misinterpreted or misunderstood? How many of us – either as a sender or receiver of an email message has caused or witnessed some fairly serious communication problems because the tone or main premise of the message was not clear? Well, if you fall into either camp, eyejot might be for you. Eyejot is the namesake service debuted by EyeJot, Inc., a Seattle-area company. It allows users to instantaneously send video-emails to other individuals or to groups – with no client software needed. It works on any PC or laptop with flash and to use eyejot all you’ll need is a web camera and five minutes to sign up. The company says the service combines the best of email and video chat and bills the service as “the first comprehensive, client-free video-messaging platform” and is targeting both personal and business users. To that end, of course, it works with social network sites, like MySpace and it can handle “genuine business applications” such as BlackBerry or any phone that can play video files.

EyeJot got some really good press in the past week – a Wall Street Journal mention and photo, a “Top Five Innovations” award from CNET and the estimable Larry Magid included them in his CBS News.com report from DEMO.

I can see some practical applications or uses for the road warriors out there. For one there is the time zone and language barrier that could be overcome with eyejot. Here’s another idea: I for one, hate calling my wife when I am on the road while she’s back at the ranch, minding our three kids, cooking, cleaning, shopping and otherwise, as she did while I was in Palm Desert, braving 10 degree weather back here in New England. I dread those phone calls and sometimes hope I get voicemail in these situations. However, I’d also pretty much never email her from the road – too impersonal. EyeJot is a great solution for this “problem” – the recipient gets to hear your voice, see you smile, etc. and that’s a whole lot better than an email. So, will these ideas support a business model? If I am a betting man, I’d say I doubt it.

Amateur Hour

Since the Pats weren’t playing in this year’s Super Bowl (and we couldn’t switch to the Simpson’s during half time to avoid watching the sopping wet Prince, er, perform), the only thing us New England fans had to look forward to (other than hoping Peyton Manning didn’t advance on to win the coveted ring or MVP) was the ads. Too bad they – much like the game itself – were a big disappointment.

As usual, the Anheuser-Busch ads were the most entertaining (loved the hitchhiker and rock/paper/scissors Bud Light ads), but for the most part the ads were just plain boring. Yes, even K-Fed left a lot to be desired. Meanwhile, when Robert Goulet’s Emerald Nuts spot ran, nobody at the Super Bowl party I was at even knew who he was. In fact, one of the best ads in my opinion was one that the pros didn’t even create. Doritos followed the user-generated content trend and had regular Joes (albeit extremely creative Joes) submit ads that they wrote, directed, and produced. After five finalists were selected, people voted online for their favorite. Two spots ran, but in my mind the clear winner was this ad.

Maybe next year more of the ads will be user-generated. Though Madison Avenue may cringe at that thought, at least the rest of us would have a chance at actually being entertained.

DEMO Profile: jyngle

Brevient Technologies is a Milwaukee-based tech company that offers CRM, web and audio conferencing products. Hardly unique right? Well, at DEMO, Brevient went in a different (consumer) direction as it unveiled jyngle, a free voice and SMS service that allows users to create, send and receive messages from large groups via the web or their mobile phones. Jyngle is the brainchild of CEO (and youth soccer coach) Matt Lautz, whose “light bulb” moment came when he was frustrated by trying to keep his soccer teams’ players (or more likely their moms) informed – via email or multiple phone calls — of last minute field changes, rain outs, etc. With jyngle, Lautz, and quite possibly, many other coaches around the U.S. will be able to update their teams, co-workers, clients, classmates, friends, etc. of last minute itinerary, game, meeting or social gathering changes or other important news in near real-time. It is an interesting concept and I’ll be trying it out with my son’s baseball team this spring for sure. Lautz told me that scaling Brevient’s business to support jyngle was a “no brainer” – they already had the infrastructure in terms of hardware and software engineers in place to support jyngle. He also said he’s gotten some interest from VCs attending DEMO and he thinks jyngle could represent a third of his company’s revenue over time.

Doings at DEMO


Didn’t make it to DEMO this year? Curious about what some of the most innovative companies and technologies that showed their wares out in Palm Desert? Well, if you are interested in reading an unbiased report of the cooler products, services and sites now available, check back with us over the next few days as we provide a capsule view of a few of the things that caught my eye. There was a lot of talk about whether or not the “next Google or YouTube” happened to be among the 68 companies who got their six minutes of fame on stage at DEMO. I won’t go so far to say that this is likely, but I will go out on a limb and say that at least a few of these companies will either become tech industry house hold names, attractive acquisition targets or at the very least, new additions to the list of “must have” products or services in the coming months.

Bring The Bling

Feeling the need to defend myself, err, shed some light on what is really happening at DEMO 2007 –  the coming out party for a number of promising companies and cool applications – there is simply no truth to the Jay-Z sighting rumor. Other than some big name journalists and tech industry luminaries, there wasn’t a “celebrity” in sight. Late in the day, however Bling Software (gotta love the name right now, but wonder if it has staying power and will sound very 2005 in a few months) demonstrated some very visually compelling applications for mobile phones. Bling’s CEO Roy Satterthwaite and Vice President, Products, Mike Uomoto conducted the demo and showed an application they have built for BarryBonds.com. They were joined by Bonds’ Web designer Anthony Phills. Near the conclusion of his six minutes of fame, Satterthwaite paused somewhat awkwardly and welcomed onto the stage, not Jay-Z, but the embattled Mr. Bonds himself. Barry strolled on stage, gave a big smile and a wave to the crowd and thanked Bling for bringing his application to market. I have it on very good authority (Bling’s PR guru Christine Cefalo, a former colleague and a friend of mine) that Bonds spoke with AP, BusinessWeek and Forbes about his work with Bling prior to going on stage. I’m sure Bonds felt relieved to be talking to technology reporters and for once, did not have to answer the dreaded steroids questions or make predictions about how many “dingers” he will hit this year. Either way, Bling looks like one of DEMO 2007’s home runs.


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