February 2009 Archive
Hollywood's biggest night of the year, The Academy Awards, takes place this Sunday night (2/22/09) and there will be many Oscar™ parties taking place all over the world. Thanks to the web, you can find some very useful sites and services that can help make your Oscar night all the more enjoyable.
Oscars - This is the official home on the net for the Academy Awards so obviously it's the first place you should checkout for any info on the big event. They have a fun Oscar Live Challenge which is where you predict the winners. This is always an Oscar party pleaser and staple.There's also a printer friendly list of all the nominees. Add your cell phone to their Mobile Alerts to get all the latest info in case you can't make it to a party or a computer.
IMDB - The largest movie database site has an excellent "Road to the Oscars" section with all kinds of video clips of the nominated actors and movies. This could come in handy if you're participating in any Oscar voting contests where everyone tries to predict the winners.They have the entire list of nominees too.
The Little Golden Guy doesn't have the same glitz and glamor as the previous sites but its strength is the way that it presents information for every Oscar winner in history. Click on any category or year and you will see everything there is to know. It truly is an impressive database with an easy interface to use. You can see the winners and nominees for every single Academy Award ceremony in history going back to 1927.
Celebrations offers a plethora of ideas and suggestions for making your Oscar bash a complete success. You'll find everything from types of trivia games to play to appetizer tips and party favors.
AllRecipes serves up a feast of culinary ideas for your Oscar celebration. Everything from apps, desserts, drinks and the main course. This is a great place to get some new ideas for your Oscar party.
eHow to throw an Oscar Party gives out some down and dirty information on the right and wrong ways to host an Oscar party. Not a bad idea to check it out whether you're a rookie or a seasoned veteran.
Chiff.com has a simple checklist for Oscar nominees.
Oscarfrenzy covers all the juicy gossip and news.
Mahalo has a useful Oscar page with the latest buzz.
Yahoo has an excellent Oscar page where you can make your predictions too.
Advice from an Oscar Party Champion
I've hosted many Oscar parties and not to brag or another, I've won almost every prediction pool I've played in. It's not because I'm such a film buff or trivia God (although it doesn't hurt!), it's mostly because I've learned some dirty little secrets about the way the Academy members think and vote. It's like high school and it's mostly a popularity contest.
On the jump are some other little things to keep in mind when you're filling out your prediction sheet.
I've been quite the juggler so far this week, so I thought I'd link to some of the stuff I've been up to.
Here's my latest BusinessWeek column. It talks about the erosion of local advertising amid newspapers and why we don't care enough that they're going away to, oh, say, subscribe. Further, I throw doubt on this whole idea that these local ads will flood online creating the next great market. Needless to say, it's created some controversy and push back. A dozen or so companies have written me to tell me they're indeed selling ads to local companies. I don't doubt it. My point is it's near impossible to build one huge-billion dollar business selling ads in local markets throughout the country. It's a bit like the push back I got on my software as a service column. Yeah, customers love it and you can get to $10 million-$50 million in revenues pretty easily. If that's the new end goal for venture backed startups the Valley is in trouble.
Meanwhile, I've also been busy deriding Sirius and actually defending Google over at TechCrunch. And below is the first installment of a four part series of interviews with the controversial Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia. It's a longer clip than we usually run, but I found the stuff at the end about why Wikipedia doesn't put ads on its site particularly interesting. Enjoy!
In what is clearly an ill-advised follow up to a January of record traffic, I'm mostly abandoning SarahLacy.com for the rest of February. I'll still pop back in to whine about my life and post some links of what I'm up to on TechCrunch, Yahoo and BusinessWeek. Hopefully you'll all still be here when I get back in March, and hopefully I'll have some new TechCrunch friends too.
Meanwhile, check out my first post on the 'Crunch.
Why? That's not important. What's important is that I'm fully-- FULLY-- vaccinated. I've also got anti-malarials and cipro. I won't be blogging or Twittering much while I'm gone, so enjoy this little farewell video shot from the floor of the San Francisco Department of Health. When I get back, it's TechCrunch time!
BTW: this is what my arms felt like the next day. Wait for it...
Duncan Riley over at The Inquisitr has a poll asking how long I can last at TechCrunch. It's actually an incredibly complimentary post. I mean, I want this on my tombstone:
But Duncan details how tough of a battleground that blog has been for women. He aptly sums up every reason Mr. Lacy didn't want me to help Arrington out. I, for one, can't imagine any comments worse than the ones I got at SXSW or get daily on TechTicker. I think Duncan underestimates how much people already hate me!
But he is right that I don't mince words or opinions. So, readers, you know me pretty well. What do you think? Can I last two weeks? Head on over and vote!
For those women starting companies you won't want to miss this workshop!
Morning Don't, Episode 17 from sarah lacy on Vimeo.
Back in the late 1990s, dot coms were all about the land grab. The idea was the more eyeballs and shoppers you got- POOF!- the more valuable you were. Never mind, the advertising market wasn't quite there yet and you were selling bags of dog food at a loss. The common wisdom has been that this was irresponsible, and truth be told, none of these companies had any business being publicly traded. But, more than half of the companies started during this time, actually stayed in business-- incredibly high odds for startups. To many, that proves that the problem wasn't that too many companies were started and nor was it their unfounded business models. It was that too much money was wasted on each one, and that it was never a game the public markets should have been playing.
There was, of course, one very important benefit to that land grab and wasted millions in investment capital: All those free services and cheap bags of dog food did bring a ton of people online. And they stayed online, even as many of the companies that did survive did so by charging realistic prices and shipping if they were in ecommerce, or switching to premium services and subscription fees if they were in content or entertainment. In fact, throughout the post 2000s, nearly every Web startup pitching venture capitalists or reporters were all talking up their premium services and subscription fees. You can still see vestiges of it with The Wall Street Journal's stubborn resistance to giving away content for free and early Web 2.0 companies like LinkedIn that didn't wait for an ad market to develop, but rather charged fees for things like job posting and "InMail."
As the wet blanket of recession has settled around the Valley and startups have come under pressure to monetize what they've built, I've wondered when we'd see the same flight to subscriptions and fees. Instead we're starting to see something similar but with a Web 2.0 twist: The rejection of user generated content in favor of professional content that's more consistent, reliable and palatable to advertisers.
This is bold shift, as the whole Web 2.0 movement was predicated on user generated content and the engineer-centric idea that you could build an easy to use platform, everyday people would create content for free, and other everyday people would navigate it, consume it and push the very best up to the top. It was rooted in the conviction that you didn't need the kind of doomed content partnerships of the past between New York, Los Angeles and Silicon Valley, because Web 2.0 was democratizing media and entertainment and ultimately that platform was the future, not the content gatekeepers.
This was clearly the most pronounced on YouTube, where the viral sensations like the Evolution of the Dance and the Grape Lady (ow! ow! owwwwww!) became the lexicon of an entire generation and the myth sprung up that everyday stars of viral videos would become household names with their own movies and HBO shows. (They never did.) Sure there were whispered claims that as much as 50% of YouTube's views were actually of copyrighted material. Still, the company never would have sold to Google for $1.65 billion without UGC.
In other words, user generated content was to Web 2.0 what free-bags-of-dog-food was to ecommerce. But flash-forward to 2009, and there's still no clear way to monetize user generated content, either from the sites themselves or the would-be stars.
Guess what? The Web has evolved to the point where you can monetize professional content. And that's why you see most of the smarter members of the Web 2.0 elite doing the very content deals they would have rejected a year ago. First, there was YouTube's rumored deal with the William Morris Agency, and now Slide has teamed up with the Valley-addict Ashton Kutcher and his company Katalyst Media. Katalyst also launched its site The Blah Girls at TechCrunch50 and produced 24-hours-at-Sundance with Kevin Rose last month, to mixed reviews.
Under the deal, Slide's FunSpace application on Facebook will be the exclusive distributor for Katalyst's reality show about its own company, KatalystHQ. Cheetos will sponsor the show. (What's that? ACTUAL REVENUES!? Between Cheetos and BlahGirls' sponsor Vitamin Water, Ashton's poor fans are going to need gym memberships, stat.)
Liz Gannes over at NewTeeVee questioned the logic in limiting distribution to an application within a site, even if it is the highly popular FunSpace on the highly popular Facebook. That was my first question too. But, Ashton's approach to all things Silicon Valley is very hat-in-hand, you-guys-are-the-experts, teach-me-your-techy-ways. He wants to learn what works as much as he wants to make each particular project a raging success. I think that's smart. And Max, with his metrics-watching obsession, knows what works online.
I talked to Ashton and Max yesterday, and while they noted the shift from UGC to professional partnerships was real, both said "loss leader" was too harsh a term for User Generated Content. They were both careful to extol UGC's virtues. Max talked it up as an unparalleled way for sites to get a volume of cheap and frequently highly viral content, and Ashton said that professional content had learned a lot from more on-the-fly lifecasting and the interactivity of user generated video. Indeed, the content of KatalystHQ is little more than Ashton's receptionist shooting video of life around the office.
But the inconsistency and unpredictability makes UGC nearly impossible to monetize. Said Max, "It's a much easier ad sale to do product placement in professional video where advertisers can control how they want it to be. They don't really want to rely on thirty second clips of people slamming into trees." So UGC is a tool for bringing in users and content, but not very monetizable. Hmm...Sounds like the very definition of a loss leader to me...
But I grant their point that the shift hardly means that the move to democratize content is over. It's very possible there is still a genius way to monetize UGC, we just haven't found it yet. Remember how long it took the industry to come up with paid search ads? Back when Google was founded, many VCs deemed it too late to an already mature market with no good business model. It's also very possible a huge star does arise from YouTube and actually does cross-over to traditional media. But just like in the post-March-2000-era, companies need to focus on where advertisers want to spend money now, versus trying to sell them on the future. The future, simply put, will still be there when the economic crisis is over.
But why should we believe ties between Hollywood and the Valley will finally bear all that much-promised fruit? Max pointed to nearly every broadcaster voluntarily making content available online, the surprising success of Hulu, and viewers increasingly choosing the Web as the place to consume even long-form content. "A year ago, I think (Slide's sassy head of business development) Keith (Rabois) would have spit in the face of anyone suggesting a content deal with us," Max said. "Now you can't argue against it." The wake up call for Ashton? Five years ago, if you made people chose to get rid of their TVs or computers, most of the ones he knows would have said computers. "Now, you ask the same question and hands down everyone would get rid of the TV. You don't need it anymore."
When I teased Ashton about his third splashy Valley press tour in just a few months, he added, "By the way, I'm not going away so people can brace themselves for that."
Is a deal with Twitter next?
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