Category Archives: iTunes

Warner Brothers spins someone else’s web


Way back in the old days, say, 2008, people worried about losing their personal identities and companies fretted about competitors gaining their customer lists. The new valuable asset in play is your personal social network.

Case in point: Warner Brothers, eyeing the $59 billion in annual U.S. TV advertising up for grabs as consumers shift from cable, is about to launch a “Digital Everywhere” network that allows you to aggregate your entire video library in the cloud. Digital Everywhere combines flavors of iTunes (you buy or rent movies and TV shows), Amazon Cloud Drive (you store your stuff online), Netflix (the service personalizes recommendations), and Facebook (it pushes recommendations to your friends). If that sounds confusing, think of Digital Everywhere as a new hub that links to all your other entertainment hubs — a Dyson vacuum to suck up all your cluttered video content so you can find it in one place. Warner Brothers has a vast library to stir interest: everything from Peanuts, Sesame Street, Looney Tunes and Charlie Brown to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Austin Powers, the Harry Potter film series, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Mad Magazine and Ocean’s Eleven.

Groovy, except this brings up an interesting competitive point. This app works with the rest of the entertainment industry, but also lifts data from those players. CNBC reports that if you plug in your password to Netflix, Digital Everywhere can scrape your history there to personalize recommendations. Digital Everywhere also plugs into iTunes and Facebook, where it can parse all the purchases you made through Apple and then share what you’re doing with friends.

In essence, Digital Everywhere is building off the entertainment and social networking equity competitors have accrued elsewhere. Often, this “network scraping” technique helps new services scale — Instagram, a clever social media photo application, grew to more than 2 million users in just 6 months by linking seamlessly to Twitter, for instance. Riding the web of others is a fast path to growth. The hard lesson for companies like Apple and Facebook rushing to build the future’s new entertainment platform is if they build wide enough, competitors may not stand on that stage — they may draw a circle around it and push a new platform under it.

Ben Kunz is vice president of strategic planning at Mediassociates, an advertising media planning and buying agency, and co-founder of its digital trading desk eEffective.

Image: Zxgirl

Apple predicts the death of the CD


Notice anything new about the logo above?

With all the chatter about new Apple iPods and Ping and pricing this week, you may have missed this nuance: Apple removed the CD image from its iTunes logo. The little desktop icon has featured a music note over a compact disc for a decade, but no more. The CD is now a blue circle. Apple takes every design element seriously so it’s a move to watch — after all, Steve Jobs telegraphed the shift to aluminum casings for most Apple products by preceding them with an updated Mac OS that used brushed-aluminum color around the OS windows (you know, so it all matched like neat socks). Based on this little new music icon, soon your MacBooks may not have slots for CDs.

If you miss the old iTunes logo, you can follow @itunes10icon and @iTunes9icon on Twitter. The new and old icons have come to life and are arguing with each other over which is better.

Social media iTunes?


This one’s for the Apple fanboys. A German blogger has posted screen shots of what appears to be a newly planned icon in the popular iTunes interface marked “social” — at left in shot above — so you can share music with your friends on Twitter or Facebook.

While this could be a Photoshopped crock, it points to the future Charlene Li has been riffing about for a year now: that social media will become like air, a utility similar to wall outlets that you plug into. The idea of human relationships being tied down by specific portals such as Facebook or Twitter is comical when you think about it. After all, it’s your life and contacts — shouldn’t you own your social graph? Eventually human networks powered by technology will disengage from specific applications and instead be a cloud than any program or device can access. Swipe your finger in 2020, technology recognizes you, and the bar tabletop at the hip club in New York City can broadcast your fun to all your 20,000 remote friends. Add in GPS and chips that cost as much as sand, and everyone you want can follow you everywhere as soon as you toss the virtual switch.

The challenge will be setting up logical filters so your boss doesn’t hear about the party. Perhaps you’ll simply set up friend playlists, just like your music controls now, so you can play to the world depending on your mood — hip, sexy, family, work. It’s coming. Just ask Apple … or the bloggers who mock up the fake products Apple will eventually make.

Lala.com tests the psychology of music ownership


If the iTunes Store had an affair with Pandora, the resulting love child might look like Lala.com. Matt Geraghty over at the Razorfish Scatter/Gather blog points out Lala.com may revolutionize the music business. Yeah, we’ve been there before, but Lala has an interesting spin combining your human itch to own songs with your desire to grab music for free off the interwebs.

Lala basically gives you a tiered access structure — you can listen to any of 6 million songs online for free, but only once; you can buy a song for only 10 cents and play it anytime as long as you’re connected online; or you can purchase MP3s for download for 89 cents and take them anywhere. As a bonus, Lala will upload your current iTunes library into the cloud so you can access all the music you already own from any other device connected to the net.

Lala is a fascinating test of the psychology of ownership. Will consumers shill out a micropayment of 10 cents for quasi-owning a song that lives only online? The challenge for Lala is it’s not quite as good as free (illegal) music, and it’s not quite as portable as the buckish (legal) tunes we’re used to purchasing. Given the trend of teens to run around with mobile gadgets and expect a zero cost for digital content, the real audience for Lala may be fortysomething business types willing to build a nice office music collection for 20 bucks. We say, put some early U2 on the home page.

Photo: Behindalens

The video game as sales channel


Like, dude. This is so gnarly. The MTV-produced video game Rock Band, which emulates the smash hit Guitar Hero by adding bass, drums and vocals to your ability to play rock guitarist, is turning into a music download store. The game sold 3.4 million units through this summer, but the real juice came — get stoked, music chiefs! — from 21 million song downloads in its first year.

It’s an intriguing case study in how traditional media and sales channels continue their fragmentation — so much that small, intelligent game boxes can become store fronts. Musicians are taking note; AC/DC is releasing a special live set of songs through Rock Band this fall.

Fortune reports that Judy McGrath, CEO of MTV Networks, was skeptical the first time she saw the plastic guitars of Guitar Hero. But now, with her own hit, we bet she has the dial turned all the way up to 11.