Category Archives: Media & Entertainment

Give Someone The Tools, They Can Make a Difference

I’ve been blogging for 2 years now and it’s been absolutely phenomenal.  When I first started the blog, no one ever taught me what to do, nor told me what to say.  My voice developed over time and I think this blog has found its own niche.

HermanWebWhen Sherri and I decided to get engaged, I proposed having a central website where our family and friends can keep up to date with our whereabouts and our wedding details.  Sherri was extremely hesitant at first because of privacy issues, but over time, she broke down and we launched HermanWeb.

I contribute 1/10 the amount of time to HermanWeb than Sherri does.  It’s basically her entre into the blogosphere and she absolutely loves it.  While at family functions with people we haven’t seen for weeks/months/years, somehow, everyone knows about HermanWeb and they keep up to date with our life.  At temple for Yom Kippur, one of my best friend’s father voraciously reads HermanWeb and we had a debate about one of our posts.  The word is spreading to our little circle… and it’s exciting.

I received an email this morning from Sherri.  From someone who has been in corporate finance for her career with very little to do with technology, this is impressive:

Oh – I checked my analytics and visits and visitors yesterday were higher than sat :)  And my readership is spanning the globe too.  The number of visitors yesterday equaled the number of visitors I had on Friday.

Why do people blog?  For every reason imaginable under the sun.  All we did was setup a WordPress blog in our own template (thanks Cristi!) and gave her a username/password to blog from. She took it from there and creates content daily.  If you give someone the tools, they can make a difference.  We all have voices and humans are inherently social.

Armano's post on blogging

Any marketing maven knows there are 4 Ps’ of marketing….product, price, place, and promotion.  I’ve even argued that they exist in the virtual world as well.

Dave Armano (VP, Experience Design @ Critical Mass and A-list blogger) laid out the 4 C’s of blogging in one of his latest postings.  I have linked to his picture below which shows a very clear graphic representation:

4C's of Blogging

Check out David’s post as it goes into detail about each.  Fantastic read.  I try to follow everything to a “C” :)

Fans & Customers Should Be One and the Same

Lefsetz talks about how bands should embrace fans, which I’ve hounded upon in the past.  Afterall, fans are the bands customers and why alienate them?  When you’re in the label world, bands are a business.  Each individual band has a P&L and budgets.  It’s a reality that the label’s spreadsheets and management’s egos are just as/almost as important as the music itself.

I totally gree with the quote below, not just because he outlines the DMB.

One of Bob Lefsetz’s recent postings:

We’re in the business of making people feel good about themselves. And, stunningly, we’ve still got a business after abusing our customers again and again. The biggest bands ARE IN BED with their fans. Like the DMB. It’s an ongoing relationship. Tape the shows, trade ‘em, you want ‘em that much? TAKE THEM! You need a uniform, WE’VE GOT ONE! You want to come to the picnic? We’ll let you in baby. We’ll find a way to get you reasonable seats at a reasonable price, which the DMB does, maybe because they control 50% of the house.

We’re sitting on a goldmine. We enable people’s hopes and dreams. They live for the music. The artists are gods. Guard this golden goose preciously. It will pay dividends forever. If you don’t whore it out, if new acts know it’s about the bond.

Let’s parallel this to traditional business.  JetBlue, Apple, Harley Davidson, Cartier, and Ikea all enjoy brand loyalty because they’ve built their brands around their customers; they work with their customers, not against them.  Customers are fans and they are sneazers (as Godin would say)… why prevent them from really enjoying your product/show?

NYC Entrepreneurial Scene: Culture

Lots of people spend time wasting oxygen when debating between Silicon Alley and Silicon Valley.  I’ve always said that it doesn’t matter whether you’re here in the streets of NY reading Silicon Alley Insider or out in Menlo Park reading Valleywag; what matters at the end of the day is execution and entrepreneurship.

Entrepreneurs tend to get wrapped up in the product/service/business model which is extremely important, but don’t take time to define a culture for their business or participate in the larger culture which is the ecosystem that surrounds New York and the boroughs.  Culture is similar to a financial analysis in a way… you can take a top down or bottoms up approach.

Top down: Defined clearly and with a strong fist from upper management or the original founding team.  For more established companies like Morgan Stanley, Microsoft, American Express, this comes from years of legacy and history.

Bottoms up:  No real definition of what the corporate culture is, everyone does their own thing, and it tends to sometimes be sloppy (not necessarily in dress, but overall).

They do not have to be mutually exclusive either.  You can have a hybrid approach which could make total sense.

Anyway, the point to this posting is that sometimes, you need to remove yourself from your startup or company and participate in the larger “cultural” scene.  Charlie (Path 101), Nate (Bricabox), Michael (Worth1000), Ali (Google), Brian (SportsVite), and others have teamed up to play in the ZogSports Dodgeball league.  You may not realize that dodgeball is a sport, but apparently, there are 105 teams signed up to play in the league which represents over 1,000 NYC inhabitants. Not bad, eh?  Our team is effectively called Dodgeball 2.0, which is probably the geakiest name around, but we’re having a terrific time.  My other half blogged about our game from last night… her first dodgeball experience in a long time.

The scene for entrepreneurs here in NYC is picking up.  The NY Tech Meetups are packed, the Web 2.0 Meetups are attracting many folks, I’m getting quite a few invites for digital media happy-hours, and so on.  It’s one thing to set a company culture, but also, be part of the larger picture.  Lets keep contributing to the industry culture as we’re in the early stages of shaping it.  We can do a lot here for New York.

An Insiders Look at the Video Game Industry

The video game industry is going through some monumental changes and I thought I’d shed some light on them from the inside. With that said, I decided to whip up a presentation that looks at many of the different areas of the industry including many of the trends that are occuring.

The presentation is geared towards the following:

  • If you work at a media co. looking to acquire in this sector
  • If you work at an ad agency or brand trying to make sense of the video game space
  • If you’re a game publisher and looking to expand your product line and features
  • If you’re a game publisher trying to make sense of the macro industry trends
  • If you’re an investor, trying to figure out which are of the industry is hot

Please note that I purposely left out IGA Worldwide, a company that I co-founded a few years back. The reason why I left the company out of the presentation is that some readers would think that I made the presentation solely to hype the company. I tried to be as company-agnostic as possible, to give readers a non-biased view on the games industry.

I welcome all commentary and criticism. Please leave a comment on the blog or shoot me an email. I promise to respond to each comment individually.

I think we’re in an extremely exciting time with Halo 3 bringing in $170M on the first day, Areae launching Metaplace, and Habbo & Tencent proving out the virtual goods model. Who said games aren’t fun? :)

The presentation is below, and hosted on slideshare (if you’d like to view it there):

 

 

Genesis Rocking NJ

Flickr GenesisSherri and I ended up with 2 floor seats to the Genesis show last night because her brother had a few extra tix.  I had never seen Genesis before but had grown up around Phil Collins’ solo stuff because my mother loves him.

I hit some major traffic on the way to the show (coming from Westchester) but when I finally arrived, we went in and took our seats.  The set itself was huge – lots of backdrops and lights… certainly a performance.  The event staff blocked off seating behind the stage and on the corners, so I’d say the stadium was only at 70% capacity.

It was a solid show.  Most impressive to me was Phil and Chester playing a 5 minute drum duet at the end of the set.

Mark and Sherri loved the show and knew most of the music (if not all).  I knew about 3 songs which is usually the opposite when going to shows with Sherri.

There are not many acts that can play stadiums anymore, certainly not when they get into their later years.   Genesis is one of few bands which include U2, DMB, Madonna, Streisand and maybe one or two others that are able to pull  a Stadium tour off.  Keep on rocking.

Sports & Game Shows, Sign Me Up

I’m a huge fan of sports and happen to like game shows… so when Electronic Arts announced their upcoming game, GameShow, for whatever reason, I didn’t take notice. Not many people did. However, lets look at it as it’s pretty unique and cool.

First off, IGN reviews GameShow here. It’s a free to play, downloadable PC game, that a live moderator asks trivia questions in the form of streaming video, audio, and text. You get points for right/wrong questions and can win prizes and schwag from advertisers/sponsors. Initially, it’s sports themed and may have sports celebrities partaking as moderators, but I do not see why they can’t extend the product line into other areas.

There is a game that we like to play when visiting Peabody’s Bar in Saratoga Springs… NTN Trivia. I’m going to assume it’s similar in the questions area, but different as there is no social networking component to NTN. I’m sure GameShow will take advantage of avatars, social networks, etc.

I’m predicting that this title will do fairly well. Not sure how EA is going to provide a live moderator 24/7, but I’m sure they’ll figure something out.

Halo 3: THE franchise

We all remember this headline from a few years back:

‘Halo 2′ sales top ‘Grand Theft Auto’
24 hour sales of Xbox title exceed what GTA earned in its first six days.
November 11, 2004: 5:40 PM EST

By Chris Morris, CNN/Money staff writer

NEW YORK (CNN/Money ) – “Halo 2″ has claimed early bragging rights in the 2004 video game battle.

In its first 24 hours of retail availability, the flagship title for Microsoft’s Xbox gaming system sold approximately 340,000 copies more than “Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas” did in its first six days on shelves.

Microsoft announced late Wednesday that retailers sold 2.4 million copies of “Halo 2″ on Tuesday, racking up sales of $125 million — 25 percent higher than what Peter Moore, vice president of Microsoft’s games division, predicted at a Harris Nesbitt investment conference Tuesday.

The alleged video game of the year has been released about 8 hours ago now (midnight last night) and the industry is awaiting the numbers. Imagine selling 2.4M units in one day racking up sales of $125M. That’s incredible. Spiderman-3 sold $151M in the first weekend (box office#) and some are predicting that Halo 3 could beat that number…

Microsoft remains coy about sales predictions, but many are calling this the biggest game launch ever. Outside New York City, a reported 10,000 U.S. stores held “midnight madness” sales, and special launch events took place in Los Angeles, Seattle and Miami. In London, authorities fearing mob scenes banned “midnight madness” events, according to The New York Times.

One thing that I find extremely interesting about the Halo franchise is that women play it. Of course women play video games but you do not tend to find them in action/first person shooter games. When talking with friends and even visiting colleagues in ad agencies, women certainly know about Halo and have been exposed to the game.

There is more to Halo than just the game. There is an entire ecosystem around the game. As you can see above, approximately 10,000 stores held midnight madness parties. Not many games can substantiate that. When EA released its lastest iteration of it’s top football game (Madden), it called it a Madden Holiday. Remember seeing all the television commercials around that?

Just like we eagerly awaited Aquaman’s opening night numbers in Entourage, we await the figues over the next 18 hours for Halo 3. Should be interesting. Spidey, watch out.

Here is a good analysis of Halo 3 that just came out


Business (Game) Idea: Social Stock Market

Maybe I’m listening to the likes of Howard Lindzon, Pip Coburn too much or Sherri is rubbing off on me (her career), but I’ve been watching the equities market much more in-depth lately.  Am I ready to become a trader?  No.  Would I ever want to be?  Probably not.  However, I think I have a neat idea for a game/business that I would love to see done.

The game would be simply titled:  Short or Long.  Much like Hot or Not, [where you are shown an image and you’re told to rate it 1-10], here, you would see the financial performance of a company (Google Finance snapshot), and would either click “Short” or “Long.”

After you click your answer (Short or Long), you would see aggregate information for each particular company, and if the companies name were withheld (just showing financial performance), it would show the actual company.

If you allow users to register accounts, you can chart their performance and benchmark them against their peers.  If you have a certain peer group (a high school class studying the stock market, your office, your buddies, etc), you can compete against each other.  If you really wanted to get tricky, you can short/long over time and specify a date.  Maybe even throw options into this (my uncle Bob has been showing me this tricky world) mix.

Revenue?  Oh yes, it’s a business.  Charge $10 for 100 trades ($0.10/trade) or more.  By doing this, it disables spammers to hype stocks as it becomes costly to do so.  I would love to see some sort of virtual goods model mixed into this as well, though I need to put some more thought into this.

Just my two cents – I like the idea and it’s less than half baked at this point, but would love to hear feedback.

IAC Moves into Video Games (Analysis)

I read a fascinating analysis of IAC (InterActiveCorp) this evening and wanted to share my view.  First, please read the article written by Sramana Mitra entitled Web 3.0 & IAC.

IAC holds more than 60 online properties and someone could easily mistake it for a VC with a well-diversified portfolio of Internet properties. When some of these properties start “exiting” the portfolio, they seem to be able to get much better visibility and valuation. We have already seen how Expedia has performed over the past one year after being spun off from IAC. The question is, should IAC club together more of its synergistic properties and take them public separately, while maintaining a holding company status? As it stands, IAC seems to be losing focus as well as operational efficiency, and in trying to do so many things at once, it is not doing any of them very well.

The profitability of the company is remarkably low, and that is reflected in its relatively low market cap of $8 Billion, against a 2006 revenue of $6.2 Billion.

One area where IAC can innovate within is the video game arena.  I believe that IAC can grab a leadership position by working independently of any one particular video game publisher but doing business with all of them.  There are different ways to play within the games industry including both long tail and hit-driven models, subscription, virtual goods, and retail sales models.  IAC certainly has the resource to get behind such an initiative and they are currently on their way into venturing into the market.

InstantAction was setup by IAC and has been underway/underwraps for months.  They are buying their way into the games market by acquiring Torque (GarageGames) recently and looks like they are enabling game developers to use their engine to monetize their games (give out the tools and monetization assets to anyone and let IAC monetize their games…. and take a % of the action).  Should be interesting to see what IAC does here… and if the above is correct, InstantAction will probably be a solid standalone company.

Just remember:  subscriptions, virtual goods, in-game advertising, are all emerging ways of monetizing games.  Some do much better than others depending on the type of game/environment/gamer, but if used correctly, could do extremely well for the game publisher/developer.  I am assuming IAC understands this and is building for the future.