Category Archives: Diatribes

Hamstrung Hulu

On TechCrunch Mark Suster compares Hulu to the oil cartel OPEC. I’m not sure what this point number 2 has to do with the cartel comparison, but I think it’s one of the more interesting points of the post:

2. Limited “Targeting” of Advertisements: The great promise of the Internet for advertisers was that they were finally going to be able to deliver targeted advertisements to users because they could finally know who you were. This has become a reality with banner ads, search ads, contextual ads and Facebook ads. But not Hulu ads.

Why? They know who we are, don’t they? Yes, they do. But they generally don’t even allow advertisers to purchase ads for a single show let alone ads targeting YOU by reading your cookies on your computer. So we have ads that are even less targeted than those on television. The reason lies in protecting the high price of broadcast & cable advertising rates. They are nervous about “trading analog dollars for digital pennies.” So advertisers have to buy “run of site” ads rather than show specific ones.

It was over a year ago now when I wondered why Hulu wasn’t targeting ads to it’s users. I haven’t run the numbers on targeted ads with lower volume vs. sitewide untargeted ads, but I’d have to think there’s a price point at which you can at least break even. I mean, Facebook’s advertising platform specializes in making it easy to target people based on tons of different criteria. Again, I haven’t run the numbers, but I think Facebook is making a lot of money.

Of course, even running the numbers won’t get to the heart of the reason that Hulu is basically having it’s hand tied when it comes to being able to innovate like other technology companies. For as long as the cable and satellite providers control that major distribution channels, the networks have no choice but to hamstring the efforts of other methods of distributions (even, obviously, ones that they support). Unfortunately (for me and other Hulu users), since the user base of people watching TV via the Internet using Hulu, Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, etc. is still tiny compared to the number of people who pay companies to provide them with TV (while most of the time also paying them to provide Internet access), the networks have to tread lightly when it comes to the user experience provided through these alternate services.

Cable companies (and satellite and other pay-TV providers) are certainly scared pantless when they realize(d?) that something like Hulu could easily make networks more money by showing targeted ads for higher rates (not to mention charging people $9.99 per month without having to hand any of that over to the cable company). But they still have the market share, and therefore, the power, to make sure that networks don’t get too excited about prospects of nearly infinite riches. Netflix has run into the same problem (over and over) in dealing with movie studios who still see DVDs as their major distribution channel (although that point of view is even more short-sighted than the view that cable companies will continue to maintain their dominance in the television distribution market).


So close

I’ve been about 10 seconds late for the train home at least 4 out of 5 days this week. I always think back to when I was daydreaming and walking a bit slower, or when I slowed down to use my phone/minicomp for a sec. Not like I’ve been in any hurry, but it’s frustrating, especially when it happens so frequently and especially when I worked hard today and I just want to get home and crash.

Quit the Twit

There is a reason that people who blog are quitting Twitter. Those people include John Mayer, Paul Carr, and (sort of) Leo Laporte. In case you didn’t hit the links (and who has time for that with all the Information Overload and whatnot?) the reason is: Length of Life. Not the life of the people who author the tweets or blog posts, but the length of life of the tweet versus the blog post. Most tweets are retweeted or replied to within an hour. After that? Good luck. (Unless you’re famous enough for people to write blog posts about your tweets, which, when taken together, are about as long as a blog post would be anyway.) Blog posts, though? When well written they can draw comments for days (for a news blog) or continue to garner hits for months or years if the content is truly high quality (or if they have pictures of Kim Kardashian).

Think about books compared to tweets. People still read books that are hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of years old. Is anyone going to read even the most retweeted of all tweets in 100 years. My money’s on No.*

And so, I’m going to do what Leo did and rededicate myself to the blog that bears my name. As Laporte said:

I should have been posting it here all along. Had I been doing so I’d have something to show for it. A record of my life for the last few years at the very least. But I ignored my blog and ran off with the sexy, shiny microblogs. Well no more. I’m sorry for having neglected you Leoville. From now on when I post a picture of a particularly delicious sandwich I’m posting it here. When I complain that Sookie is back with Bill, you’ll hear it here first. And the show notes for my shows will go here, too.

* Full disclosure: my money is actually mostly in mutual funds. I avoid making investments, let alone bets, with a 100 year payout time since I probably won’t be around to collect.

Groupon Fail Whale

I’m sure this is a situation that’s starting to happen more and more often as Groupon gets bigger and bigger (what up Chicago-based start-ups!) …

Just a bit ago, (okay, it’s actually been over a month now) I went to Tank Sushi with my wife and a friend for dinner. We were going there because we had a Groupon – an expiring Groupon. As in, expiring on the day we went. (Can you see where this is going?)

We got there about 8:30 and were told it would be about midnight before we would be seated. Now, if it were just me, I’d say “funk dat!” and use the 3 hours to make up for the $20 I would have lost by not using the Groupon.

But, since I was with my wife and a friend who I hadn’t seen in a while, we were okay with waiting for 3 hours since there were plenty of things to talk about.

As we waited, the length of wait for people who came in after us was given as anywhere from 11pm to “We’re not going to be able to get you in.” The point is not the variation, though, but rather that the restaurant was staying open an extra two to three hours just to accommodate all the people who’d waited until the last minute to use their Groupons.

Here’s my solution: Give restaurants (and other Groupon offering establishments) a sign (preferably designed by either the person who does the Foursquare badge or the oatmeal [that dude is awesome]) that would basically say “You waited till the last minute and now we have too many people up in here. Let this be a teaching moment for you.”

Of course, they might just be able to turn the old Twitter Fail Whale upside-down and have all the little birds bringing the big guy down.

So, really, I guess the question is: Can something like Groupon be too big for it’s own good? Even with their “diversification” via “personalization”? People are looking to cut costs just as much as businesses in this economy…

Twitter Fail Whale

Evidently AT&T Does Know What Kind of Phone I Have

This one is a much better sell than the previous marketing email. Still kind of odd they’re going for the upsell iof adding a line with the 3GS instead of the 4G, but perhaps they did some checking and saw that I’m not actually eligible for the 4G just yet.