Friday, June 25, 2004


Haven't posted in over a week. The new business is getting busy AND my wife and I found out recently we are expecting triplets. No fertility drugs, no family history, just the universe's way of throwing you a curve ball. Needless to say we are in shock and excited. I am wondering how my soon to be 2 year old is going to dig being an instant big brother to 3 later this year? I wonder if there is such a thing as a cool mini van? Are buses an alternative? More on this later, hope to get back in the writing grove now that I am on a mini vacation in the Midwest.

Monday, June 14, 2004

Camera phone

This is an attempt to post a picure to my blog

This message was sent using Picture Messaging from Verizon Wireless! To learn how you can snap and send pictures with your wireless phone visit

Sunday, June 13, 2004

Wireless User Experience - Lava Life Example

As part of the research I have been doing in conjunction with the company we are working on, I have been spending a lot of time using applications on a Audiovox CDMA handset using Verizon, and my Sony Ericsson GSM phone using TMobile.

I have been using my Tmobile account for over a year and one of the good/bad things about TMobile is that they have a very focused strategy. I can read the news in a mildly painful interface. I can download ringtones and pictures. I can download and play some games. All in all the 'Tzones' area is very Mac like in my mind. It has most of what you need and thats about it.

Verizon has the Brew 'Get it here' section which has a fairly wide selection of things I can do such as ringtones, pictures, games, productivity software etc.

Last week, as part of my research, I signed up for Lava Life's mobile dating application. The experience has been very instructive on how far these applications have to come before lots of people start using them. Here is what I experienced:

1. I was instructed to send an SMS to a number 25425. I was told that a welcome message would be sent to me.
2. Two days later, having not had a reply, I sent a message to 25425 again. This time a reply came to me asking me to send a reply SMS with my gender and age.
3. I sent an SMS with MALE and 39. I received a response that asked me to select a username by sending an SMS with username.
4. I sent an SMS with my proposed username and I received an email that asked me to enter the sex of the person I was looking for and the age range.
5. I sent an SMS with FEMALES 21 39 and received an error message. I sent Females 21 39 and received an error.
6. I continued this step approximately 10-15 times with the same result.
7. I send an email to technical support at Lava Life.
8. Two days later I get the following response:

From: Christine Kovacs
To: "''"
Subject: FW: Lava Mobile (fwd)


I am the Lavalife Mobile product manager. Sorry to ehar you ahd a
frustrating experience. I looked into the bounced messages. Your cell phone
has some sort of auto signature set, that is being appended to all of your
text messages. I've escalated this with my mobile development team to see
if they could remove any appended text messages, so these bounced messages
would not happen again in the future.

Unfortunatelly those messages were billed 50c each. I am so sorry but
there isn';t anything I can do about them. You could call Verizon, and ask
for a credit. I would like to help but I am not sure if there are any other
alternatives that I can explore on my end (maybe somehow I can save you as a
Verizon customer from having to call and ask to have you to issue a credit.
I'll check what I can do on this end.

Christine Kovacs
Lavalife Mobile

christine kovacs| product manager - wireless | lavalife inc. | toronto
tel 416 263 6300 x3178 | fax 416 263 6301

This is very cool. A couple of things. As I am married I don't really plan on using Lava Life anyways. But if I were I can promise you that 1. I am sure I would have never gotten this far, and 2. I would be really ticked off.

Lavalife suggested that I take away my signature and that this would solve the problem. I did this and sent a message that didn't result in an error. Unfortunately, I haven't gotten a response. I cant wait until I do. When I do, I will let you know. In the meantime, I can promise you that what we end up unveiling, will be very focused on a very good user experience.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Digital Music Take 10

Late last summer I started working as a consultant with Echo Networks, which is a consortium of larger retailers who banded together to create a common infrastructure to launch an iTunes competitor. I was attracted to the linkage between online and offline and thought that the foot traffic in stores, combined with POS integration, could be a powerful tool in bringing digital music into the mainstream(at least paid digital music). So things didn't quite work out the way it was planned as shown in this article today in Cnet, and in this one in Techdirt.

Ok, so some kind of commerce has to eventually happen online with music, but the current ones don't seem to have much steam from my perspective unless you can sell iPods or something similar. It's interesting to see how fast ringtone sales are growing but it will be interesting to see what happens when devices have greater connectivity through things like Bluetooth and companies like Xingtone start getting adoption of their software.

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

User Generated Content

Entertainment and media have historically been driven by a narrative. The emphasis has usually been on the story, or the song, or the movie, etc. We as consumers of media sit back and watch/listen/read the narrative and are entertained. Increasingly though we are moving to a new paradigm. In this paradigm we want to create content once a framework has been created. We are becoming increasingly interested in helping to create the narrative. We want to be a part of the story.

This concept takes many forms. It could be my desire to play a role in an online game such as Everquest or Counter Strike. It could be my desire to be a musician and post my music to websites such as It could be my desire to program my own TV by using my TIVO. It could be my desire to create a Fantasy Football Team and compete with others is a game that is driven off the statistics from a week of football.

In this world the narrative is less important, and the set design, or the context is more important. Its the Dungeon Master that creates the place for the story and its the characters who write the narrative. Its the viewers who vote for American Idol. Its the other players who vote you off the island in Survivor.

If we as media consumers can be given context to create our own stories, and we can find use for the mass amount of distribution capacity that exists, it seems to me that we are poised for a massive change in the way that media is created, thought of and consumed. I think that we will always have hits that come out of the center of some creative apparatus, but I think the world of tomorrow will allow us to experience a world where content increasingly comes from the edge of the network, not the center of it. Edge of the network content is my next topic.

Monday, June 07, 2004

Phone blog - Until i

Phone blog - Until i get a handset that has an easy text entry, I cant imagine that phone blogging will be very useful.

Saturday, June 05, 2004

Distribution, Name Brand Content, Cheap Technology Tools

When I left Universal Music in 1999 to go to, one of the main things that got me excited about digital music was that digital distribution had an amazing potential to create new markets and access customers who previously couldn't get the product they desired. Of course there are a lot of roadbumps that occurred and continue to occur, but there is an interesting intersection of events that drive how I view media in the future.

Distribution - Throughout recent history there has been amazing growth in the capacity to distribute media content throughout the world. When one considers the growth of radio, followed by television, followed by Cable and satellite TV, followed by the Internet / Digital Cable / Satellite Radio, etc., one sees more and more opportunities for content to reach an audience. There are a lot of interesting implications that result from this that I will touch upon later.

Name Brand Content - I don't know about you, but it seems like there are only 10-15 stations that I regularly tune into periodically. TIVO seems to have made this problem worse. There are a small handful of websites that I visit with frequency, except that RSS readers are making that number grow in an amazing way that I wouldn't have considered a few months ago. For most people, Media content is Friends, ESPN, and Yahoo news. Clearly this content is good, as are the films from the major film studios and the major record labels, etc. etc. The problem with this content is that it is expensive. The businesses that provide these types of media have cost structures that are amazing. The above mentioned increase in distribution means that consumers have increasing methods to substitute consuming/viewing/listening to show/record/game X. If the size of your audiences are shrinking from fragmentation, you either need to find away to reduce your costs to create content, or charge more to the people who distribute the content. It seems to me that the leading point of view today is the later. That is unfortunately because of the third trend:

Cheap Technology Tools - You can produce a record in a much cheaper way than you could 10 years ago. Same goes for movies, books, etc. etc. It seems to me that more and more people are picking up their PC/Mac/DV Cam/Keyboard/ etc. to make a product. Aside from this creative freedom that exists when tools get cheap, business people are also taking advantage of this new paradigm by making feature films with DV Cams such as 28 Days Later. I have a lot more thoughts on these issues, but they lead me to one key conclusion:

Increasing distribution capacity, combined with rising costs of name brand content, when overlaid with the ability to use technology to make inexpensive content, will ultimately lead to a new world where a great opportunity will exist to create new forms of entertainment around a concept many refer to as User Generated Content. That is the subject of my next post.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Phone blog. This is the

Phone blog. This is the first time i have posted using my phone. More to come.

Wednesday, June 02, 2004

History as a guide for future media models

Through a friend I met a guy by the name of Owen Mahoney. I can't recall the name of the company he worked for at the time, but he was about to take a position at Electronic Arts when I was trying to convince him to come and work with me at Vivendi. He passed and is head of Corporate Development at EA. I am sure that has been an amazing ride.

I was in San Francisco one day and dropped in to have lunch with him. We had a good conversation about changes in the media business and how there might be some interesting parallels for today in the cable industry. At the time I was trying to get my head around how things change over periods of time and that even though things had moved very quickly in the late 90s - it is really only over periods of time that models emerge and winners become apparent.

While talking I mentioned the story that I was exploring at the time which was the story of Sterling Manhattan Cable . The company that was started in the mid 60's, launched HBO in 1972 and became the vehicle for Gerald Levin's climb to the top of Time Warner.

After sharing the story as I knew it, Owen recommended that I read The Highwaymen by Ken Auletta. I ended up reading this book and loved it. It is a profile of all the media moguls throughout the 90s and included profiles of Rupert Murdoch, John Malone, Edgar Bronfman, etc. It is a must read if you are interested in media.

This book then led me to read Cable Cowboy: John Malone and the Rise of the Cable Business. This book was amazing.

I think that if you read these books and some other books like them, it will give you a unique perspective on how the media world is evolving in the face of technology and will provide some insight into possible outcomes.

Tuesday, June 01, 2004

The Way the Music Died

Ok, so my interest in music goes back a couple of years. In college I was a radio DJ in 1984 (God I am getting old) at Linfield College. I worked at the movie studios from the late 80s through the early 90s and spent a lot of time in the clubs following the various industrial, punk and alternative bands playing Los Angeles at the time. I later went to work very briefly at Universal Music Group, and then, which was subsequently purchased by Vivendi Universal. At Vivendi Universal I was the President of the group which included,, eMusic, GetMusic, and Trusonic.

Ok, so I guess I have some opinions about music. I don't intend to say much today about those opinions, but rather I wanted to make a comment about a show I Tivo'd and watched this week. The show was produced by PBS Frontline and it was entitled The Way the Music Died. I was really excited to see this as there is so much good material to review when one considers the state of music. Although I expected to hear a lot about Napster etc., the real message was concerning a consolidation of labels and distribution.

I was glad to hear this issue vetted but it really failed to outline all of the issues, which is a much more fascinating story and one that is instructive for television, film and the other IP based businesses (That's Intellectual Property not Internet Protocol). What I thought was going to be mentioned is touched on briefly on the shows website on this page describing "The perfect storm" that hit the industry. Now that slide would have been a good story and much more interesting than the side by side profiles of Velvet Revolver and Kate Hudson's cousin. If you missed the show I would encourage you to check out this page and the links around the CD. They really give a thoughtful look at how complex the problem is and I think it provides certain insights into what has happened and what can potentially happen as the content businesses evolve in the coming years.