And the Oscar for clueless goes to…

Well if book publishers like HarperCollins and Random House have got it half right, as I wrote earlier today, then that puts them light-years ahead of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (yes, the Oscar folks), who don’t seem to get very much at all.

Oscars.jpgIt’s not really all that surprising to hear that the Academy told YouTube to take down video clips of portions of the telecast. In fact, when I saw the headlines on Techmeme, I initially discounted it as just another notice and takedown effort, just like Viacom’s not so long ago. But the Oscar takedown makes even less sense than that, as Techdirt points out. At least Viacom had some kind of sensible rationale for pulling the clips — because it wanted to run them itself at its own site. The Oscar team? The exact opposite.

In fact, Variety reports that the Academy is only running a five minute highlight clip at its official site, with none of the musical numbers or the opening monologue available (two of the most popular clips on YouTube were the skit with Will Farrell and Jack Black and the monologue by Ellen DeGeneres). And then the spokesman comes out with this howler: Not only are there are no plans to post additional clips, but the current ones will be removed soon, to “whet people’s appetite for next year’s show.”

That’s some good work there, Academy dudes. Forget about all the free advertising YouTube is giving the Oscars by letting people see how funny it was. Better to take those clips away and hope that next year someone watches it anyway. That’s a great idea. At least Mark Cuban has a plan that makes some kind of sense — it may be crazy, but it’s a plan. And Larry Dignan of ZDNet notes that many of the video clips are back anyway.

Book publishers half getting it

They may not be all the way there yet, but at least HarperCollins and Random House — both ultimately owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. — are trying to bring books into the Web era with their new “browsing” widgets. As Pete Cashmore over at Mashable describes, the HarperCollins one pretty much just opens a new window where you can browse through the text, but the Random House one is a bit more elaborate.

books.jpgThe latter is a full-fledged Flash widget, suitable for plunking into the sidebar of your blog or embedding on MySpace pages or wherever, and it allows you to search right inside the widget box, and then view the pages in a larger pop-up version of the widget (although it took awhile to load for me). You can see small thumbnails of the pages, or larger versions, and you can search within the text. But — as with most other book searches, including Amazon’s and Google’s — you only get a few pages at a time.

I have to say, though, that as cool as the Random House widget is, I wonder why the publisher decided to go to all that trouble instead of just doing a deal with Google as part of its massive book indexing project. I know there are copyright issues, but it still seems counter-intuitive to keep your own books segregated in a little pile that belongs just to one publisher rather than part of a giant archive that is easily searchable.

Like Mike Masnick at Techdirt, I don’t really see the wisdom of snubbing Google in favour of what amounts to an “expensive, fragmented and limited” book search.

mesh 2007 is a go for launch!

Houston, we have liftoff.

For some time now, people have been emailing and calling and otherwise buttonholing us (that is, the mesh organizers — Mark, Rob, Stuart, Mike and yours truly) to ask when the next mesh Web conference was going to launch, and we are pleased to say that moment is now.

Sorry to keep everyone waiting, but we think — and we hope you’ll agree — that it has been worth the wait 🙂

Just as it was last year (memories and podcasts here), mesh 2007 will be an interactive forum for talking and learning about how the Web is affecting media, marketing, business and society, and we have lined up what we think is a killer combination of keynotes, panels and workshops to help make that possible.

At this point, we can tell you that the “keynote conversations” for the four streams will consist of:

  • Michael Arrington, founder/editor of TechCrunch.com, speaking about new media and journalism in the age of the Web
  • Jim Buckmaster, CEO of Craigslist.org, talking about how the Web is disrupting traditional business models
  • Richard Edelman, CEO of Edelman Co., on the tension between the openness of the Web and traditional marketing
  • Tom Williams, founder of GiveMeaning.com, and Austin Hill, founder of Gifter.org, talking about the Web as a tool for charity.

So come to mesh and ask Mike Arrington what it’s like to build a new media entity that gets quoted in the New York Times and profiled in the Wall Street Journal — but one that has also been criticized for getting too close to its Web startup sources.

Come to mesh and ask Richard Edelman how it felt when his firm, a leader in Web-based marketing and public relations, came under fire for the behaviour of a blog launched by one of its largest clients.

Come to mesh and hear Jim Buckmaster tell you why Craigslist isn’t interested in making the $50-million (or more) in revenue that some analysts have estimated it could make every year if it wanted to.

And come to mesh and find out why Tom Williams and Austin Hill see the Web as a powerful force for social networking and social action.

You can register here, and stay in touch by subscribing to the mesh RSS feed. More news to come.

Why most of Hollywood’s output is useless

From Steve Safran at Lost Remote — which has quickly become one of my favourite media blogs — comes a link to a piece of commentary at the Hollywood Reporter, written by Steve Bryant. The headline is “Hollywood too often misses the moment,” but I think Steve Safran’s headline at Lost Remote captures the point much better: taking a line from the HR commentary, he says “Media that can’t be manipulated is almost useless.”

borat.jpgAn exaggeration, perhaps, but the more I read of Steve Bryant’s piece the more I found myself nodding my head in agreement. He describes how, having written about, blogged about, seen mashups of and otherwise consumed content related to the Borat movie, he has virtually no interest whatsoever in buying or watching the DVD. “Media is changing from entertainment into utility,” he says. “Media that can’t be manipulated is almost useless.” When listening to the radio, he says he wants to freeze the broadcast so he can pull a link from it and email it to someone. Likewise when he watches TV or goes to the movies.

All of the chatting and blogging and linking and YouTube-watching, he says:

“make a greater imprint on my psyche than any single media event inside a theater — or inside a DVD — could have. It’s simple reward/response psychology. Online, I can track who watches my clips, who reads my posts, who liked my mash-up. The Internet flatters us with attention in a way Hollywood no longer can.”

The solution? “Join the gabfest while the gabbing is good,” Bryant says. “Get rid of distribution windows, or shorten them dramatically. Between the theatrical release and the DVD, seed the Web with deleted scenes. When the DVD comes out, include shareable clips and tell people to upload them. And put the entire movie online. Allow people to stream it, download it, whatever.”

Good advice.

At least the resolution is decent

From Howard Owens comes a link to a hilarious post by Amy Gahran at the Poynter Online site (where she edits the E-Media Tidbits feature). In it, she tries to describe this new information-delivery technology called a “news-paper” to her skeptical husband:

“Check it out,” I said, “It’s a different kind of news delivery technology. It’s called a news-paper.”

“How does it work?” he asked.

“They have giant printers in Denver that print up thousands of these every day with news that was current as of something called ‘press time,’ and then they truck them out to towns, divide the truckloads into cars, and drop them on subscribers’ doorstep.

“You paid for this?…” he frowned, shaking his head. “How do you search it?”

“It’s not really searchable, but it’s scannable. See, you can open up the pages wide and see lots of stories.”

“Looks like mostly ads.”

Hilarious. And yet, kind of sobering too. At least by the end, Amy’s husband grudgingly admits that “at least the screen resolution is decent.”