Category Archives: Media & Entertainment

Masterful Takeaways

ImmelmanI spent the last 3 days down in Augusta, Georgia @ the Masters with some friends and colleagues.  I had absolutely no idea what I was in for as I had not been to a golf event of that magnitude.  Here are a few things I had observed and learned this weekend:

  •  The Masters is offline:  Do you think the airport has tight electronics security?  Head over to the Masters… they do not allow any electrical device including ANY cellphone, Blackberry, camera, etc. The only people with cameras are the press photographers and even most of them do not have cellphones.  It’s extremely nice to shut-off for 6+ hours per day.
  • Respect:  Sometimes we forget this living in Manhattan.  At the Masters, you can put a chair down by the fairway and return to it 4 hours later… and still use your seat and not worry that someone else has moved it.  If you aren’t in your seat within the first inning of a Yankee game, chances are, someone will move down to it and remain there until you kick them out.
  • Tiger Woods is the PGA Tour:  Unless you see him in person at a golf event (that he’s playing), you cannot understand the magnitude of his fanbase.  Even if you aren’t following him around the course, you always know where he is by the cheers and screams of his thousands of fans across the fairways.  When Tiger moves onto the hole you’re standing on, his thousands of fans follow and you’re instantly surrounded on all sides and generally, it’s 5-10 people deep.  No other player had his following but the closest was Phil Mickelson.
  • Food is cheap; merchandise is not:  The Masters is old school and the prices have stayed the same since the late 50s (I believe). Sandwiches are $1.00-2.50 and beers are $2.  You can have an entire meal for under $4.  Where else can you do that?  The famous sandwich is a cheese and pimento sandwich on white bread… and it’s pretty good!  The merchandise is not cheap but I didn’t see anyone NOT buy something.  The lines into the merchandise store were incredible and the amount of inventory moving off the shelves was more than Walmart on Black Friday.
  • People Love to be Social and Share:  As we walked the course and ate on picnic benches, we met people from all walks of life and the one thing we all had in common were stories of golf.  We heard from people who had been coming to the Masters for 30+ years and others who were here for their first time.  People love to share their stories and if given the chance, more often than not, will do so.  This makes me think harder about all of the startups in the digital media world who help people communicate.
  • The Best/Most Popular Doesn’t Always Win:  This tournament wasn’t Tiger’s best, but congratulations to Trevor Immelman.  Show’s that ANYONE can win at anytime – Google/MSFT/Yahoo doesn’t always dominate and there is room in the market for everyone.
  • Brands Don’t Have to Be Everywhere, Just Strategically Placed:  There are NO brands on the inside of the Augusta National Grounds… the only brands were on the clothing of the players.  Even the food was branded, Masters.  There were hundreds of opportunities to have areas of the course co-branded but they were not…

Lots of observations and looking forward to more golf events this year…

When the market fragments

When I want to download music, I really don’t care what label the band is on.  Honestly, most of the time, I don’t really know if it’s Universal or Sony BMG or Saddle Creek, etc.  iTunes is great because the majority (note, not all) of what I listen to is listed and available.  Sony BMG is now developing their own music service…. I’m calling it’s demise now.  Why?  Because it’s going to fragment the market and listeners have to worry about which labels their artists are signed to.  Yikes.

Talent Agents in the Digital World

In the past, I’ve written about talent agents in many different capacities including music and video games.  Some music industry pundits would say that the most promising position to have in the upcoming years is on the “agent” side, and for the competitive video game space, major talent houses such as CAA & UTA are creating divisions to rep extremely talented gamers.

Steve Rubel blogs about three Internet Careers that Won’t Soon Exist and one of his three are digital talent agents.  Excerpted below:

Digital Talent Agents

During the AdAge Digital Conference last week, a Digital Agent with a major talent agency talked about how they have a group of people who crawl the web in search of undiscovered musicians, artists, etc. These agents then pair promising amateurs with Hollywood or branded entertainment projects. I last wrote about this three years ago. Then it was emerging business. Now, however, it is becoming the norm.

Rubel further makes the point that the digital talent agent will not exist in the future because there really is no difference between a digital agent and traditional (offline) agent.   Digital/traditional lines are blurring and there should be no seperation.  He raises an extremely good point here.

For the foreseeable future, digital talent agents aren’t going anywhere, IMHO.  There are too many people at the top of the pyramid that still do not understand the digital space and will want dedicated teams to oversee it.  Not everyone loves integration…. just look at the advertising world.

I sat through presentation recently by John Battelle as he spoke on behalf of Federated Media (his company).  After listening to him speak about the position of his company, I can see them as the next UTA or CAA… he’s got many of the top celebs of the digital world under representation agreements.  I’m not sure what his contracts state, but he’s able to help generate revenue on their behalf through integrated marketing opportunities.  I’d like to see him go beyond (or maybe it’s already done) the traditional marketing arrangements and do a “management” division and really step on the toes of the big guys.

The talent agency world is fascinating…

Spending Time in the Desert: iMedia Breakthrough Summit

I’ve spent the past 24 hours out here in Palm Springs at the iMedia Breakthrough Summit, as guests of our trafficking partner, Operative. Lorne and Dan have been extremely hospitable and it was great to finally meet Lorne in person.

Last night was the opening reception and saw some old friends such as David Berkowitz, Mike Rosner, Andy Monfried, Tim Kelly (thanks for the t-shirt!), and put some faces to names I’ve known such as Adam Broitman and Jameson Hsu (amongst many others).

I had the opportunity to give the opening speech this morning for the industry participants and the “sell side” and it went well. The topic of my speech was, “How to get on an agency’s radar.” For the dozens of vendors in the room, it should have been extremely helpful as I always enjoy learning from the people I’m selling to.

Breakthrough Summit

I’ve had a few requests for the presentation and I believe that iMedia will be putting it online somewhere. If that’s not the case, please feel free to contact me and I’ll gladly send it over.

The music that filled the room right before I got on stage was all DMB – who leaked it to the sound guys? I was excited!

Time to leave the beautiful desert and head back to New York so I can be in the office tomorrow…

Lifestreaming/casting Diatribe

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’re well aware of the Lacy/Zuckerberg interview that took place in Austin. If we can look past this historical interview, you would notice that FriendFeed emerged and as some would quote, became the Twitter of SXSW.  Recently, there has even been a lifestreaming backlash posting that made the front page of Techmeme.

When Twitter first emerged, I was skeptical. I didn’t think I needed to broadcast to the world that I was eating or that I was sitting in traffic on the West Side Highway. I saw some applications for it in terms of groups getting together, but all-in-all, it’s been an application that was always secondary or tertiary to me. But, for a select few lifecasters (350k Feb ’08, ComScore), this service has been serving them well.

Twitter contributes to a growing technological/MEdia segment called lifecasting (lifestreaming too). The notion of lifecasting/lifestreaming is that people are interested in your behavior both offline and online. This is not new at all, as even in the earliest days, voyeurism has been extremely popular with certain audiences. Facebook’s News Feed, is taking lifecasting to new levels and introducing it to audiences that never would have adopted it.

Lifecasting/streaming certainly brings a level of transparency to this world. In advertising, transparency is all the rage now with all of the major ad networks divulging their properties. In the latest Wendy’s advertisements, it talks about how their food is always fresh… and even the fish are from the north pacific. Transparency.

So I’ve been recently turned onto FriendFeed… how could you not with all of the recent hooplah around it. FriendFeed is certainly not the first in it’s market but apparently has a stellar team that’s building it out (ex-Googlers) and their credibility is gaining the startup some attention. In a market that’s all about transparency, someone has to aggregate all of the different lifecasting services together and create one platform or ‘feed’ (maybe the wrong term). FriendFeed aggregates all of my blog posts, Twitter “tweets”, NetFlix movies, Flickr photos, (and a lot more), all together and then mixes them with my friends (people I subscribe to). By doing this, you’re essentially creating a single place to get all the information you need about your friends. Certainly interesting. From an aggregation layer, I do like the opportunity that this affords.

In terms of FriendFeed overall – are we there yet? Here’s my FriendFeed. Is society ready to be fully transparent? Apparently Spitzer didn’t think so and he’s paying the price for it now. Honestly, I’m not ready….there are many things that I’m doing both personally and professionally that I’d rather not share. Not saying any of these things are illegal, but there are certainly times that I want my alone time. Anyone who knows me extremely well understands that I can easily survive alone. Justin.tv is the opposite and over 300k people are going to Justin.TV according to ComScrore in Feb 08… so there is an audience.

These lifecasting/lifestreaming services are not for everyone but it seems that many web applications are being built today with a massive target audience. Many of the major bloggers and journalists almost expect FriendFeed to be for everyone. I can almost garauntee that my mother would not use it.

There is one thing that we cannot change in this world and that’s time. We have 24 hours a day in order to live. Some of our lives are shorter than others, but if one thing remains constant, we’ve all been given the same amount of time per day to live. How much content can we consume in one day? How many different applications can we use in one day? How many different devices can we utilize each day? How many different feeds/websites can we use in one day? I personally don’t see where people have the time to update their lifecasting/lifestreaming feeds on a continuous basis. Life is all about priorities and for certain audiences, lifecasting/lifestreaming maybe just that… but for me, I think I may have to take a back seat position for now.

From an investment standpoint, we need to explore how this impacts the future of services.

CEO & Founders Series, Interview #8: CollegeHumor.com

At some point in our life, we’ve probably all seen a video/story/picture or two that originated from CollegeHumor (acquired by IAC in 2006) or maybe you’ve worn a t-shirt from BustedTees. For this interview, I sat down with one of the two brain children (a friend) behind the sites and chatted about entrepreneurship and strategy in general.

Please join me in welcoming Ricky Van Veen…

1. Please state your name, title, and years at current company/position:
Ricky Van Veen, Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief at CollegeHumor.com, which is eight years old.

2. What are you currently up to? If entrepreunering (my word), tell me about your startup.
Entrepenuering is a word that makes me think of flashlights and caves. Maybe because it reminds me of the word “spelunking?” Anyway, I’m still doing what I’ve been doing since I was a freshman in college – making young guys and immature older men laugh through the internet. Though now I’m less involved in the actual day-to-day content and more focused on growing the site long term. Also, I’m working with my business partner Josh on coming up with ideas for new web properties.

3. Why are you doing this? You could be doing so many other things in the world, what about this particular idea strikes you?
Well, technically I’m under contract to be doing this (when IAC bought our company in 2006, part of the deal was that the partners would stay and help grow the business for a few years.) But I’d be here regardless. Watching a business you started grow is always interesting, but the stuff we’ve started to do in the past year with original video in particular has been really exciting for me. We’re basically trying to take a brand that has built up a big following for one type of product (user-gen stuff and articles) and transition into the future with another (high quality short form original video). From an editorial perspective, it’s almost as if we’re starting a new company. That’s a bonus for me since new ventures are my favorite drug (besides heroin).

4. All startups should be addressing a problem in the market. What is that exact problem and how are you solving it?
I think there are two problems we’re addressing. The first is that there is a massive amount of new content being created on a daily basis online (especially in the humor space) and trying to find content that appeals to your particular mindset can be difficult. CollegeHumor offers this proposition: if you’re a young male who’s into offbeat comedy, visit our site on a regular basis and we’ll create stuff that you’ll like. And if somebody else creates something you’d enjoy on another site, we’ll make you aware of it.

The second problem concerns the quality of most content online – there simply isn’t that much being produced specifically for consumption over the web. There’s obviously lots of amateur stuff that’s fun to watch and some high quality 30min and 60min repurposed TV stuff, but little made for the web that’s shot/edited/acted well. So we’re trying to make content to bridge that gap.

5. Have you thought about your business model yet? I’m assuming so, so tell us a bit about it.
Our fundamental business model is not unlike any other media business. We present content to a specific demographic, and then sell advertising around that content. Where we do differ is in our ability to offer easy integration with our content since we have our sales, edit, and production teams under the same roof. As the online world shifts away from banner ads, this becomes more critical.

6a. If you’re looking at an ad-supported model, how are you going about it? Do you have in-house ad sales? Using a rep firm? What are the challenges that you’re facing with getting ad dollars?
We do have an in-house ad sales team based in New York, with outposts in Chicago and LA. I’d say that scale is probably our biggest challenge – trying to compete with those who might not have a better product, but more monthly visitors. We’re working to grow our numbers by upping our original content output (that’s really been a driver of traffic for us lately), increasing our marketing budget, and starting new sites.

6b. If you’re selling a product/service/subscription, how is that coming along? What are the challenges? Are you using the freemium model?
We’re not using a subscription model for CH. Though we do sell t-shirts through our apparel division, BustedTees. That’s coming along swimmingly. Originally we started selling t-shirts on the site because we weren’t big enough to sell ads. Now that we are, we still use BT ads for remnant inventory on CH, but that business has taken on a life of its own independently.

7. As an entrepreneur or investor, what are your thoughts on competition? How do you view competition?
Competition can definitely be a help. Indirectly, it forces you to innovate – stagnation equals death. Competition can help directly as well — every once in a while we’ll sit around as a group, and surf our competitor’s sites on a projector to see what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong, and see what we can learn from them.

At CollegeHumor, we view our competition in two different categories, those who compete for the attention of our audience, and those who compete for ad dollars. Surprisingly, there’s little overlap between the two groups.

8. If your competitor called you up to have coffee and discuss shop, what would you do? Would you go? What would you divulge?
I’d definitely go. We’re friends with most all of our competitors. In fact, I share a Hamptons house with a friend who runs what many would consider to be our biggest competitor. We learned early that the web content business isn’t a zero sum game. Just because somebody goes to site A doesn’t mean they won’t visit site B as well. I think most people would be surprised at how much information is divulged among Internet entrepreneurs, even competitors. That probably has to do with the fact that the Internet industry is so young and everybody feels like we’re all on the same team figuring it out together.

9. Is the current state of the economy playing to your favor? If so, why? If not, why?
No, it is hurting us. On-line advertising, despite its obvious advantages, is still slowly catching on with most traditional advertisers. Since on-line is still considered somewhat experimental, many of our larger clients have had their on-line ad budgets cut down to achieve cost savings in anticipation of this years recession.

10. How much of your time is spent working? How much is spent with family? Have you found the entrepreneurial quality of life yet?
Though I’m not sure if I fit in age-wise, I do think I fit into the “Always On” generation psychographically. That mindset – constantly checking e-mail on my phone, etc — has defined my work/life ratio since I started the business. I’m finally getting over that and starting to do things like not bring my laptop if I go away for the weekend, to the delight of my girlfriend.

It’s tough to shut off the work part of your brain, however. I find that to be true of many fellow entrepreneurs and I think the reason for that is simple: there’s no clear work/play distinction if you’re engaged and loving what you do in life. As long as you remember to take a break every once in a while, that’s a pretty great way to live.

I want to thank Ricky for taking the time to sit thru the Interview and if there are any questions, please feel free to leave them in the comments area and we’ll do our best to answer them. Thank you!

 

Global Book Release: Coloring Outside the Lines

March 12 is here… finally. I’m proud to announce that my first book, Coloring Outside the Lines: Confessions of a Digital Native is officially for sale. It can be purchased online at the book marketplace, Lulu.

I’ve spoken about the book for the past couple of weeks and even have run some promotional advertising for it, but the day has finally come where the talk stops and it’s universally available for all. The paperback version of the book is fairly priced at $14.95 and the digital download is $0.76. Please note that profits from the book will be invested through Prosper to entrepreneurs in other countries who are trying to feed their families. I will post about this experience seperately over the coming weeks.

I couldn’t have written this book without the strong support of YOU – the readers of this blog, my family, friends, and colleagues. I hope you enjoy the book as much as I enjoyed writing it.

If you don’t step out of line, you end up waiting.

CEO & Founders Series, Interview #5: PhotoShelter

I’ve got a passion for photography, both personally and through business. When I was working at FortuneCity, I worked with the team to create MyPhotoAlbum, one of the leading photo hosting destinations. I met Allen through another entrepreneur and it was only fitting to run this interview because I’ve got a photography lesson this weekend in Central Park. Also, the interview is fairly in-depth and fascinating.

If you’d like to subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed to have these interviews delivered directly to your feed reader, click here.

Please welcome the CEO and Founder of PhotoShelter, Allen Murabayashi.

 

Please state your name, title, and years at current company/position:
Allen Murabayashi, CEO/Founder. We officially registered PhotoShelter as an LLC in February of 2005, and launched our first product, the PhotoShelter Personal Archive in late June of 2005.

What are you currently up to? If entrepreunering (my word), tell me about your startup. If investing, what are you looking at?
I currently run PhotoShelter, which has two main services for photographers. The first is the Personal Archive, which is a subscription-based, “business-in-the-box” service that allows photographers to archive, distribute and sell their images. Over 20,000 photographers worldwide use that product.

We recently launched our second product, The PhotoShelter Collection, which is a stock photography platform that sits between flickr and Getty Images. Basically, we allow anyone who is interested in selling an image commercially as stock to upload images, go through our editing process, and then we market the image to ad agencies, publications, graphic designers, et al.

Why are you doing this? You could be doing so many other things in the world, what about this particular idea strikes you?

I’ve been interested in photography since junior high. In 2001, I purchased a digital SLR, and started hanging out with a lot of professional photographers. The shift from film to digital presented some pretty unique problems, but it also was a huge opportunity to take these digital files and use the Internet to solve the problem of distribution and photographer rights.

With the explosion of digital and the increasing demand for content, we see so many opportunities to take a hugely diverse group of photographers from amateurs to pros, and assemble them in a community with the primary mission of licensing the photos. The buyers love it because they get the diversity of flickr, but with the ready-to-license capability of the mega stock agencies. And the photographers love it because we give them the best cut in the industry, and treat them like artists, and not just suppliers.

All startups should be addressing a problem in the market. What is that exact problem and how are you solving it?
We believe that image buyers are constantly seeking new sources of imagery, and they have real budgets to spend on getting the right image to illustrate their concept. The current models of selling stock photography are outmoded and don’t address 1) the diversity of contributors that exist, and 2) the velocity at which buyers need to find and then license work.

I like to use eBay as an example because they are the prototype for the online marketplace. Ebay treated suppliers and buyers democratically, built a community and a platform, and once they created some fluidity in the marketplace, they grew dramatically. They proved that there was a need for diversity, and that you didn’t have to go through traditional channels to create commerce. We believe that we can follow the same path.

Have you thought about your business model yet? I’m assuming so, so tell us a bit about it.
The PhotoShelter Personal Archive has a monthly subscription, and we take transaction fees from sales originating from The PhotoShelter Collection.

If you’re looking at an ad-supported model, how are you going about it? Do you have in-house ad sales? Using a rep firm? What are the challenges that you’re facing with getting ad dollars?
I’m a bit anti-ad-supported model because it typically only works for the largest of consumer plays. And I think that a lot of the large companies are still trying to figure out how to make money. I personally prefer a much more direct revenue model that isn’t a function of traffic, but rather of buying activity.

If you’re selling a product/service/subscription, how is that coming along? What are the challenges? Are you using the freemium model?
Yes, we offer both a free, limited account, as well as paid subscriptions with the Personal Archive. The free account acts as a great funnel for acquiring paid users. It gives us an interested pool of users, who in some ways, are really looking to be upsold on a product that can solve some of their fundamental problems of archiving, distribution, marketing and sales.

Conversion points and conversion % will always be the challenge. You can always work to improve the conversion, and we’re learning a lot about how people perceive our product when we examine the conversion possibilities.

As an entrepreneur or investor, what are your thoughts on competition? How do you view competition?
The competition is really Getty Images, and in this respect it’s tough because they are a very well established player with lots of big contracts in place. However, there’s also a lot of unrest in the industry and people are looking in particular for ways to license images very easily for usage on the web. In this respect, there is a huge opportunity for an Internet upstart to come in and shake things up. Getty uses the Internet as a channel; they are not an Internet company. We think this distinction actually ends up being pretty crucial in the operating philosophy.

If your competitor called you up to have coffee and discuss shop, what would you do? Would you go? What would you divulge?
Of course! There is so much to be learned by talking to people, especially the competition. And in some ways, I appreciate the academic challenge of growing a business, and am very interested in people’s philosophies of success. That said, “loose lips sink ships” so I wouldn’t divulge anything that I felt would comprise our success.

Is the current state of the economic market playing to your favor? If so, why? If not, why? What is your forecast of the market throughout 2008 and do you see affects? Macro and Micro economic theory would be interesting to hear about.
I’ve never felt that as a start-up that we were so affected by the markets. If you’re starting from zero, there is a huge opportunity for growth, so to use the economy as a reason that you can’t make your first $1, $100, $1000, $10000….it’s silly. If we were making $10MM a month and much more mature a company, I can understand how the economy would affect the bottom line, but we’re in growth mode. Maybe I’m naïve about this stuff, but I think at this stage, blaming a lack of success on the economy is an excuse.

How much of your time is spent working? How much is spent with family? Have you found the entrepreneurial quality of life yet?
I work 6 days a week. I absolutely refuse to work on Saturday, and this is more of a sanity thing. I find myself working a little more than I’d like, but at the same time, it’s enormously satisfying to be able to create change as execute plans and “turn the ship” when we think we need to. It helps that I’m single, that’s for sure. It would be very difficult, if not impossible, for me to have a family while doing the entrepreneurial thing.

Thank you very much Allen, we really appreciate you taking the time! Please leave questions and comments for Allen here and he’ll be sure to answer.

Pick Me Up Love! – Summer Dates for DMB 2008

Summer Tour

Today’s a beautiful day here in New York City – sun is shining and everyone seems to be in high spirits.  The day just got better…. received an email from The Warehouse, the official DMB fanclub with the 2008 Summer tourdates and some more information that’s gone overlooked…

Fans attending DMB shows this summer will be the first to hear the latest material from Dave Matthews Band as the band debuts songs from their forthcoming record!  DMB is currently in the studio with Rob Cavallo (Green Day, My Chemical Romance, Alanis Morrisette) working on the yet-to-be-titled album.  Guitarist and long time friend Tim Reynolds is playing on the album, marking his first recording with DMB since 1998’s Before These Crowded Streets.

I’m excited to see what Rob Cavallo comes up with for this album.  Having produced Green Day, My Chemical Romance, and Alanis Morrisette in the past, it should certainly have an edge.  There is a connection here – as Alanis Morrisette appears in the DMB song, “Spoon” on the album, Before these Crowded Streets.

As for the tour dates, I’ve not decided which show’s I’ll be at just yet, but I can almost garauntee at least one of the Saratoga Springs (June 20) shows (Saturday night probably) and potentially head out to Arizona for some others.

Click here for the full list of dates (quite a few).