This week, Spotify has shown off it’s iPhone aplication on YouTube, and my reaction was wow. Check it out:
Now, I love Spotify – it’s simple, works well and sounds great. I’m starting to discover a lot of new music, and it means that I’m listening to music again for the first time in a long time. Being able to take Spotify around with you is the only problem. So far, you can’t. With the iPhone app, this becomes possible. Looking at the app preview everything looks good. I don’t own an iPhone or iPod Touch and I wouldn’t normally subscribe to an online service like this, but for me this could be the iPhone / Touch killer app. I can almost hear the sound of my credit card weeping already.
I have seen a lot of people using iPhones, I have used them too and like them, but still I have resisted. I have seen the Touch and have held off because I think that it is a bit too big to carry around along with my phone. My iPod mini is still going strong so I have no real need for a new one. Spotify for iPhone / Touch, though, would be a game changer. All other issues fall to the wayside as suddenly there is a compelling reason to trade up.
The big question the moment is if Apple will actually allow the app onto the App Store.
There have been a number of stories since the launch of the App Store about applications being rejected for spurious reasons (eg Eucalyptus), but this isn’t just another book reader, this is a service with over a million users in the UK alone. It is due to launch in the US by the end of the year.
There has been some speculation as to why Apple might block this app – some say it’s an iTunes killer; another reason could be that it contrivenes Apple developer guidelines, or features aspects of forthcoming Apple software.
I don’t think that Apple will reject the app.
Why not? There are a number of reasons – I don’t think it is an iTunes killer (I think it complements iTunes and it could drive sales) and Spotify appear to be confident that they have played by the developer rules. But most of all, I think it would start to focus official attention on the way Apple chooses what to put on the App Store and the fact that they are the only people who can say what gets on there, especially as the App Store is the only way to get third party apps onto the iPhone / Touch.
What do I mean by official attention? I mean the EU. The European Commission doesn’t like technology giants using their dominance to stiffle competitors. Check this out from the €1bn fine for Intel earlier this year:
By undermining its competitors’ ability to compete on the merits of their products, Intel’s actions undermined competition and innovation.
That kind of money really starts to undermine the balance sheet – not something you need in this economic climate. Just ask Microsoft.
Apple really wouldn’t like the Commission looking any closer at the App Store – its already looked at pricing of songs on iTunes. When only one company can control access to something, that brings the prospect of anti-trust hearings. Spotify is a Swedish company, so the Commission might be even more eager to protect the innovation and enterprise of its own member states.
For me there are also another few points: firstly, Apple doesn’t actually make a lot of money from iTunes music sales – it uses it primarily to sell iPods / iPhones. Its the hardware sales that give it high profit margins. Also, Spotify is coming to Android phones fairly soon, and although those phones aren’t so compelling yet, they may be good enough for the majority of people in a years’ time as things improve rapidly in the mobile phone world. Finally, the EU now has a greater population than the US, and there are a number of countries where the market for mobile phones is not yet saturated, so there is a prospect for growth that you do not find in a lot of developed countries.
If I were Apple, I’d let Spotify through. At worst, get Spotify to charge £5 for the app and Apple will still get it’s 30% cut. With the prospect of Spotify breaking through into the mainstream over the next couple of years, why not jump on board? Apple and Spotify together sounds like a perfect mobile match to me.
Just as Twitter starts to pitch itself to businesses (or, at least, explain what it is) as a pre-cursor to start making some money, things are starting to come together that will let everybody send messages in realtime without relying on specific companies like Twitter and Facebook.
The Pushbutton web is the name being given to a number of technologies that will be used together to allow you to send realtime messages to anyone who wants to listen. Most importantly, from a software point of view, these are free and open.
Anil Dash puts the idea forward in a clear and concise way, with the aim of popularising the idea:
I think the Pushbutton web has the opportunity to give individuals and organizations with distinct and passionate voices the ability to be even more immediate and expressive on the web
He also shows an old Wired magazine cover, not actually linking to a particular article. However, a quick search finds Push! – a 12 year old article which simultaneously manages to really show its age and prove ahead of its time:
…a new medium is arising, surging across the Web in the preferred, many-to-many way: anything flows from anyone to anyone – from anywhere to anywhere – anytime… It means information that cascades, not just through a PC, but across all forms of communication devices. And it means content that will not hesitate to find you – whether you’ve clicked on something recently or not.
The buzz phrase for this convergence is “push media.” Content is pushed to you, in contrast to the invitational pull you make when you click on the Web. The push can be gentle, in-your-face, intermittent, in the background, or always on.
At the same time, networked push media can – and will – bombard you with an intensity that invitational media never muster.
The promise of push-pull media is to marry the programmed experience of television with two key yearnings: navigating information and experience, and connecting to other people.
You also get the ability to address small self-organizing audiences that broadcast could never afford to find…
You are participating in a ritual that links you to thousands of other citizens
There is value in common and simultaneous knowledge.
There are likely to be giants involved in the new push media, but they won’t have control.
But push media’s most revolutionary advance may be the creation of a whole universe of small-scale (and not-so-small-scale) broadcast networks.
This week we celebrate man’s first landing on the moon. NASA has released restored footage:
• Compare the original and new footage: Apollo 11 Partial Restoration HD Videos
• We Choose The Moon – CHECK THIS OUT, IT IS FANTASTIC
Also this week, Russia completes a simulation of a long distance space voyage as part of its preparations for a manned trip to Mars:
This article in Vanity Fair (from May 09) was the first to really make me think about the future of newspapers. Up until then it was part and parcel of working at a newspaper that you would hear that “newspapers are doomed” - something being said way before I was even born. Back then it was the unions, now it’s the internet.
Since this article I’ve found Twitter to be a great source of debate and good links. I’ve discovered a whole internet meme dedicated to looking at the future of newspapers - who knew?!
The article, written by Mark Bowen (author of the staggering Killing Pablo), examines the effectiveness of Arthur Sulzberger, the latest in the family line of publishers of the New York Times. What is largely an exercise in character assassination and feint praise actually brings up some interesting points towards the end – looking at the impact of the internet on the industry and how the NYT has approached it.
What follows is a series of excerpts that cover a few important points – ones that will be need to be discussed further in future posts.
The impact of the internet on the newspaper industry
American journalism is in a period of terror. The invention of the Internet has caused a fundamental shift not just in the platform for information—screen as opposed to paper—but in the way people seek information. In evolutionary terms, it’s a sudden drastic change of climate. One age passes and a new one begins. Species that survive the transition are generally not the kings of the old era. The world they fit so perfectly is no more. They are big and slow, wedded to the old ways, ripe for extinction.
…in practice, there is no such thing as being platform agnostic. [It is not enough to say] Everything we put in the newspaper, we’ll put online. You actually have to choose which platform you work on first, which one comes first… If you really want to move to the Internet in a serious way, you need to change the culture of a news organization and decide that the Internet is the primary new thing. Platform agnostic means that all the online companies are going to zoom past you
Arthur’s idea is to continue producing The New York Times the way it has always been produced, and then to offer a digital edition of the product, with video, images, interactive graphics, blogs, and so on. That’s what nytimes.com does superbly. According to Nielsen, it attracts more than 20 million unique visitors a month. Imagine a newspaper that was picked up by 20 million readers every month! If only a tiny fraction of that number came back and became subscribers, circulation would explode. But those users are not “picking up” the newspaper; many of them are just picking up individual stories. Nearly half of those who access nytimes.com to read a story come in, as it were, through a side door… And in any case, they’re not spending a lot of time with the newspaper: the average amount, says Nielsen, is 35 minutes per month.
The Internet has disaggregated the news. It eliminates the middleman—that is, it eliminates editors…. [it] replaces editors with an algorithm
Much more is at work here than a change of platform.
The need for information would survive the advent of the digital era, but the package offered by The New York Times might not. So how do you protect the package? What was so great about The New York Times was not that we offered the best coverage in any particular field but that we were very good in so many. It was the totality of the newspaper that was a marvel, not any of its particulars. The Web threatened to break that up.
The belief that if the editorial content of the newspaper is good enough, then the people will buy it
Arthur’s argument, or his hope, is that the quality of the Times’s brand will prevail, that quality independent journalism is so obviously valuable that serious readers will continue to seek it out.
“This is ridiculous,” says a former business-side executive at the Times. “It flies in the face of logic and reason, this belief that if your news product is so good and so comprehensive the normal rules of business are suspended. Think about it. Think about the inanity of saying that you survived by putting in more news and cutting ads.”
Arthur’s grandfather did make one important change during [World War 2], but it was more of a shrewd business move than a principled stand for journalism. While the rival Herald Tribune sat on its swollen profits during the war, Sulzberger used his profits to print not more news but more newspapers, greatly expanding the Times’s reach. That strategy left the Times with a larger circulation than the Herald Tribune after the war. The Times was better positioned to survive. The lesson of the story is not that investing in news pays but that a clever business strategy adapts to a changing market.
It is a company run by journalists. The Sulzbergers are journalists at their core, not businessmen
Producing a newspaper is expensive
His brand remains the best in the business, but that hasn’t solved his revenue problems. Journalism costs. The revenue from Internet advertising is still only about a tenth of total revenue. Even if those millions of brief hits on nytimes.com continue to swell, the Times itself may be in bankruptcy court long before the Web site generates enough revenue to replace what Arthur has lost.
This is just the beginning – there is much more to come on this subject…