Thursday, July 30, 2009

Delicious Today: cloud, radio, iPlayer, $$

#1: US Federal Government to Offer Cloud Computing Services
"The US Federal Government has plans to offer both Software as a Service for government agencies and a cloud-based platform for agencies to develop, test and deploy new applications." No, the government won't build it by themselves but contract it out. Request for quotes for infrastructure-as-a-service will be issued in the next few weeks.

A universal infrastructure also sounds like a good idea for public broadcasters so we can pool resources to achieve higher efficiency and investment return through economy of scale. We can even incorporate a business layer into the infrastructure to allow local stations to share easily and fairly any revenue generated through the infrastructure. But there's one downside in having a single giant infrastructure -- inflexibility. This is a caution I learned after talking to a technology expert at BBC. When a technology becomes obsolete which happens quite often, it's very hard to replace it with a better one when it's embedded deeply in a giant infrastructure. So the challenge is to build some flexibility into a universal infrastructure.

#2: Radio's "Rules of Thumb" - an interview with author and Fast Company founder Alan Webber
"Could radio stations have members, rather than just listeners? Membership – as the old American Express ad used to say – has privileges. So if you become a member of a radio station, you end up with different levels of privilege; you not only get to listen to the broadcast, you get to meet the people in the programming department, you get a briefing from station managers, you get the participatory role in shaping the direction of the station. You are a member, not just a receiver of the broadcast. So it’s participation and a partnership rather than a one way broadcast and passive reception by the audience. I think that’s one thing that we’re seeing across all media platforms, and it is really one of the big changes in technology."

What privileges can public broadcasters offer to audience? Are there any privileges that can also become source of revenue?

#3: BBC's iPlayer
#4: iPlayer's new competitor: MSN launches free streaming video
"Microsoft has announced a UK service that will stream full-length videos of television shows for free." The MSN Video Player will be advertising-funded and a competitor to BBC's iPlayer and Hulu, an ad-funded service from News Corporation, Disney and NBC Universal. Hulu is already popular in U.S. and will be available in UK later this year.

There are some big differences among the three.
  • iPlayer: ad-free, both BBC radio and TV programs in the past 7 days, TV content is available for UK Internet users only.
  • MSN video player: ad-supported, TV programs only, content from BBC and other media, not limited to content aired in the past 7 days
  • Hulu: ad-supported, TV and movie content from News Corporation, Disney and NBC, not limited to content aired in the past 7 days
It seems that the companies are using the players (technology) to promote their content. I'm not sure this is a viable long-term strategy because eventually the difference between players will shrink to be negligible in terms of usefulness and convenience, two determinants in people's choice of media channel. It's content that will decide who is the winner.

#5: New Business Models for News Project
Funded by the Knight and McCormick Foundations and based in the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism, the project "is researching best practices in the business of journalism online, gathering new ideas and experiments in revenue for news." The lead of the project is Prof. Jeff Jarvis, head of the school's interactive program. He has a popular blog, Buzz Machine, and also writes a new media column for The Guardian and is host of its Media Talk USA podcast.

The Guardian is very aggressive in its digital media effort and its Media Talk podcast is worth listening to. For example, it launched an experimental project to offer a Chinese language version of its selected content using volunteer translators.

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