Archives for category: News

Comcast is threatening “abusive” users with disconnection if they don’t reduce their use, but won’t tell them what level of use triggers such a warning. This story follows less than a week after BT has sent up a trial balloon for charging users by the bit.

Vin Crosbie (who knows more about this than I do) says that the Web didn’t kill Editor & Publisher as a weekly. He blames by poor management by VNU.

I confess, I haven’t read E&P since 1996. So, I was alarmed to read Vin say that the magazine declined under the management of VNU. Really alarmed. In the 90s, before they were bought by VNU, E&P was arguably the worst trade magazine in America.

He then makes two excellent points:

  • Circulation declined under VNU.Surely a big part of this circulation decline is due to the Web. I’m not the only person who has stopped reading the weekly trades because they no longer contain any news.
  • Advertising was decimated by too-high ad rates and advertiser migration to the production-specific magazine Newspapers and Technology. I can hear the pitch now: “Why waste money to reach an audience who don’t have any purchasing authority over presses/paper/computer/services? And why pay to reach them four times a month?” I’m already reaching for my checkbook. That a humble industrial trade like Newspapers and Technology can bring low the mighty journal of journalism itself is a symptom of the decline of newspapering as a American endeavor.

There is no reason for E&P to be weekly. That didn’t serve its readers and it didn’t serve its advertisers. E&P barely has any reason to exist as a monthly, now that the industry is milling about waiting for permission to become a subsidiary of the NAB.

E&P has been drawing dead for a decade or two. It would have been doomed by the consolidation of the industry even if the Web hadn’t made weeklies irrelevant, or VNU hadn’t stepped in to manage its decline. But today, every weekly trade in America needs to think about whether they’re on the right frequency.

The will be difficult for newspaper publishers to ignore. The industry’s trade magazine, Editor & Publisher is moving from weekly to monthly publication, moving its news to the Web and using print for features, analysis, and commentary.

Steve Outing (an E&P columnist) notes that this is part of a long-term trend in magazine publishing. The Net killed weeklies years ago, and we’re just waiting for the bodies to drop. All the computer weeklies have been struggling to find a reason to exist for years.

How much longer can newspapers ignore the impact of the Web on their own publications? I’m still waiting for the first big daily to drop stock price listings.

Yesterday, I said that the telcos would make us pay by the bit for Internet access if they could. Today, PaidContent pointed up an article that shows BT, the UK’s access monopoly, wants to charge by the bit.

it’s based on the specious argument that a few heavy users are being subsidized by everyone else:

It sounds like a good idea, as no-one wants to pay over the odds for unused services.

“All consumers are not equal,” says Mr Gadekar. “You have some of the heavy users who are using so much of the network that a user who wants to do a simple video stream or talk to someone over the internet suffers.

Rafat Ali at PaidContent suggests this is because Europeans have a “socialist” desire to make heavy (presumably rich) users subsidize light (presumably poor) users. Of course, per-bit pricing will limit the communication options of the poor, defeat creative applications of the net, and result in higher charges for everyone. But you can bet that the access monopolies will appeal to our sense of fairness when they’re selling this dangerous nonsense.

The FCC chairman has changed the direction of his spin lately.

He’s saying that we must lift the limits on how many stations a single company can own so that we can save free television.

To survive, free TV must improve its competitive position against pay television and find a way to innovate and offer personalized television experiences that today’s viewers have come to enjoy and expect. The future of free television is, at best, uncertain and, at worst, in peril.

The shift to pay television and the value it has brought to the television viewer over the course of the last 20 years begs a question — do we even need free television? From a public policy perspective, I believe the answer is yes — we absolutely need to maintain a viable free television service for the welfare of our citizens. Free broadcast television remains an important service for those citizens that cannot afford pay television. Additionally, free television continues to play a vital role in informing the public during national and local emergencies and in serving the interests of their local communities.

That’s why this past June, the FCC passed a new set of broadcast ownership limits, modernizing a regulatory regime that was made for the bygone era of the big three to reflect today’s dynamic media marketplace. Those rule modifications were made, in part, to strengthen free television to give it a chance to remain viable for our citizens to enjoy for decades to come. For example, by setting a slightly revised national television ownership limit, the FCC will help the networks attract and maintain quality programming, from the World Series and Olympics to the next great TV series like “Everybody Loves Raymond” or “The West Wing.” Other rule changes, such as allowing cross-ownership or the ownership of more than one local television broadcast outlet in some markets, will bring consumers more and better quality local news coverage and will help fund the transition to high definition digital television , potentially giving free television the ability to provide new innovate services to the public well into the 21st century.

These changes have been under attack from some in Congress. A rush headlong into re-regulating free television is afoot, and if successful, would prove disastrous . Bringing free television into a more hostile regulatory environment will continue to drive investment to pay television and drive more sports and creative programs to pay television. It may just drive free television to pay television altogether, as Bob Wright, CEO of NBC, once suggested that he might shut down NBC and simply move it to cable.

While I’m certain that Michael Powell wants to ensure we can see “The West Wing”, this may not be the best use of the spectrum.

There are multiple free-market answers to the question “What should we do with this spectrum?” It’s far from clear that the best solution is to give that spectrum to networks who also control the cable channels and the producers. That sounds like flouting the public interest.

Why not let local programmers and spectrum licensees decide how much network product to deliver to their communities, instead of leaving that decision to network employees?

As far as I know, it’s not the FCC’s mandate to assure our access to “Everybody Loves Raymond”.

AOL Europe is now growing a lot faster than its US counterpart, after years in the doldrums. AOL Europe is growing faster because they were forced to separate physical networking from Internet access.

Until they merged with cable company Time Warner in 2000, AOL fought hard to assure equal access to high-speed networks.

Without those open access rules, the AOL service in the United States has struggled to make affordable deals to package its service with network connections from cable companies.

[…]

But in Europe, AOL kept pressing the case for open access. In the last two years the company has won guarantees of equal wholesale prices for broadband telecommunications capacity to sell to consumers in Britain, France and Germany. The rules have played a pivotal role in helping AOL Europe solidify positions in Germany and France and come from far behind to vie for the biggest share of the British market, where it now makes all of its slender profit.

In the US, AOL Broadband has been forced to go it alone as a content service. That strategy has the stench of desperation because ever since AOL is an access company that dreams of being a content company.

Yahoo bought Overture for $1.6 billion or so.

I’ve always thought that OVER was underpowered and overpriced. Their margins are plummeting. Their revenue is too dependent on a few large customers (especially Yahoo). And any idiot could build their own paid search business if push came to shove.

But Overture is probably worth more to Yahoo than to anyone else. Yahoo will save a lot of money over the next couple of years by not having to pay commissions to Overture. Add to that the savings of not building a paid search business and the strategic advantage of keeping Overture from MSN and Google.

In a sense it was inevitable.

The FCC has voted to allow the trading of spectrum licenses. While this will certainly improve the efficiency of spectrum use, it seems to have some real problems.

  • It ties up unused spectrum that could be used for commons-oriented applications.
  • It muddies the idea that a license is not owned, but only borrowed from the public for a limited period.
  • It creates more entrenched interests with a financial stake in preventing creative use of spectrum.

Aside from one good piece by David Reed, I don’t understand why we haven’t heard more about this plan from the spectrum geeks.

Twenty-four hours after I praised Verizon for competing on features and price, and not with lawyers and lobbyists, the WSJ runs a story that says Verizon’s suing to keep the creditors from reanimating the corpse of MCI.

I commented on Verizon’s whingeing about this earlier, but it turns out they’re deadly serious. They’ve hired a former Attorney General to drive a stake through the heart of the the undead long distance company. They’ve enlisted a posse of state attorneys general — who should be looking out after the interest of consumers, not monopolists.

Undoubtedly corrupt Republican congressman Billy Tauzin is representing the Direct Marketing Association, and not the citizens of Louisiana, with his new “anti” “spam” bill.

According to participants in at least three meetings in recent weeks, e-mail marketers prevailed in adding provisions that would supersede tougher state anti-spam laws, would prohibit consumers from suing spammers and would give companies the right to send e-mail to anyone who has done business with them in the past three years.

“If I thought that everything that was legal under this bill would end up in my mailbox, I’d jump off the Capitol building,”

The bill would also require citizens opt out of mailing lists individually.

The so-called federalists are all for devolving power to the states when it decreases the rights and protection of citizens, but when states attempt to limit the rights of the corporations who employ them or happen to have them in a database, the ninth and tenth amendments must be preempted.

Also, why is it that the Republicans invoke the first amendment only to protect corporate political contributions, media consolidation, and advertising?