20 Sep

Online Video News – Netflix’s DVD business: Does Qwikster have a future?

Netflix announced in a blog post Sunday evening that its DVD-by-mail operations would soon be rebranded “Qwikster,” and that the service would be separated from the streaming service that the company has been pushing for the last several years. Doing so clearly grants some independence to the unit, and will help it to operate without dealing with fast-growing streaming business. But it also raises questions about the future viability of a standalone DVD-by-mail operation.

Netflix isn’t completely abandoning the new DVD business — at least, not yet. After all, Qwikster will have the same characteristic red envelope and the same legacy infrastructure and library supporting it. However, it seems clear that Netflix is creating a wall between the two businesses as a way to smartly manage its profits and losses, and to help Wall Street better value the separate operations.

via Online Video News – Netflix’s DVD business: Does Qwikster have a future?. Most people have complained primarly about the price increase Netflix brought about with splitting up it’s DVD and Streaming plans. That’s a side issue, licensing fees for streaming have most likely increased as the popularity and catalog of streamed movies increased.

The thing that bothers me about this decision is it makes a worse experience for those customers who straddle the line (using both the DVD and Streaming plans). All of sudden we have multiple queues, websites, rating systems, etc. One side aspect of this is who gets the core of the team that works on predicting what movie you’ll like after ranking this other movie (Netflix’s real golden goose). Will my rankings on one site generate better results? It also begins to sound like Netflix is planning to sell off it’s DVD side of the business. Never outside the realm of possible options but now it feels like it could happen in the next 6 months and Netflix couldn’t be bothered otherwise.

How long until Qwikster becomes just another forgotten piece of internet real estate?

15 Jul

Wired – How Online Companies Get You to Share More and Spend More

You’re not stupid, but you can be fooled. For millennia, the best salespeople have known how to exploit the vulnerabilities of the human mind. In the burgeoning field of behavioral economics, we’ve begun to give precise names to the mental weaknesses that make us all susceptible to a well-crafted pitch. Drawing on the insights of psychology, behavioral economists have explained why we buy more stuff at $0.99 than at $1.00 (the “left-digit effect”), why we commit to gym memberships we’ll never use (“optimism bias”), and why we don’t return things we buy as often as we should (“post-purchase rationalization”). The giants of the web, from Amazon to Zynga, use similar tricks to keep us coming to their sites, playing their games, and buying their goods. In fact, that’s how they became giants in the first place. Here’s how they game us—and how, in some cases, we wind up gaming ourselves.

via Wired – How Online Companies Get You to Share More and Spend More. Always neat seeing psychology at play especially with companies that excel at it.

10 Apr

Huffington Post – U.S. House Ignores Internet Reality, Again

The U.S. House of Representatives resumed its flight from reality earlier today (April 8th) when it voted to repeal the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rules to mandate an open and non-discriminatory Internet.

What was remarkable about the vote was how the Republicans pushing the legislation managed to at once speak in favor of the legislation as helping small business and innovation, while ignoring the testimony and other advocacy from those very businesses that opposed it.

House Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), for example, cited the success of companies from Apple to Zipcar because of the absence of government regulation. Rep. Steve Scalise (R-LA) questioned the future of startups in an environment without government regulation.

It appears that Upton, Scalise and their colleagues missed the article published earlier in the week by Robin Chase, who founded Zipcar. She wrote a well-received article for Politico on how that company wouldn’t exist without an open Internet. None of it mattered to those on an ideological mission to protect the large Internet providers. Other companies have said much the same thing. They similarly ignored the experience of their colleague, Rep. Jared Polis (D-CO), who made his fortune as an Internet entrepreneur, and who earlier in the week opposed the GOP bill during debate on a procedural motion.

And when Rep. Lee Terry (R-NE) said that the FCC had taken control over business plans of big Internet Service Providers, he was partially right. If the business plan’s goal was to drive competitors out of business, he was right. Terry, ironically, said it was the open Internet that allowed Netflix to develop.

His statement was ironic because Netflix sent one of the strongest letters ever seen from the corporate sector to the Congress opposing what Terry wanted to do. As senior Commerce Committee Democrat Henry Waxman (D-CA) pointed out, a cable or telephone company could stop Netflix simply for competitive reasons without it being an antitrust violation. Without Net Neutrality, there would be no stopping phone companies from controlling Netflix’s access to its customers.

Through it all, the Republicans argued that the FCC wanted to take control of the Internet, much as totalitarian governments wanted to do. That argument is so tiresome. The purpose of Net Neutrality is to make sure no one can take control of what’s online — not the government, not the big businesses that control Internet traffic on a day-to-day basis and have the incentive and opportunity to harm competition.

via Huffington Post – U.S. House Ignores Internet Reality, Again. If it wasn’t so frustrating you have to almost admire Republicans ability to ignore their own experts or examples when legislating.

10 Jan

Subtraction.com – Blu-Ray Blues

To even casual technology observers, it’s always been obvious that Blu-Ray is a format designed more for content producers than for consumers, but it’s hard to understand how hostile the Blu-Ray ecosystem is to consumers until you actually own one and try to use it regularly. Turning on my Blu-Ray player is just not as fun as streaming movies via Netflix, or renting them from iTunes. And I say this as one of a dwindling number of consumers who would prefer, on the whole, to own my media on discs rather than as digital files.

What’s amazing about this situation is that the leap from DVD to Blu-Ray shouldn’t have been this complex. The newer format bundles in all sorts of features like bookmarking, inline menu availability and BD Live, which accesses supplemental content over the Internet, that frankly I couldn’t care less about. What I wanted, and what I would be willing to guess most consumers want out of Blu-Ray, is simply better looking home video. That shouldn’t have been hard to do at all, but the business agenda of the entertainment and technology industries stepped in and subverted that simple equation until it became a complex mess. If you haven’t yet made the switch to Blu-Ray, I would urge you to consider carefully before you do.

via Subtraction.com – Blu-Ray Blues. I’ve thought about purchasing a Blu-Ray player but I keep avoiding it due to crap like this. Though with Star Wars coming out on Blu-Ray that is a pretty strong incentive.

27 Aug

TechCrunch – Google, Facebook To Microsoft’s Paul Allen: Your Argument Is Invalid

The entire Internet (aka Facebook, Google, Apple AOL, Facebook, eBay, Netflix, Office Depot, OfficeMax, Staples, Yahoo, and YouTube) has just been served with a vague and vast patent violation suit from Microsoft’s co-founder Paul Allen. As patent suits are notoriously unpopular, the response from tech pundits has been apprehensive. Now the companies named are starting to punch back, a representative from Facebook told TechCrunch, “We believe this suit is completely without merit and we will fight it vigorously.”

via TechCrunch – Google, Facebook To Microsoft’s Paul Allen: Your Argument Is Invalid. Oh software patents how worthless you are.

07 Jan

Why the Netflix/WB deal isn’t a bad thing – johnaugust.com

This afternoon, Netflix announced that it wouldn’t be shipping new releases from Warner Bros. until 28 days after street date. In exchange for this window, WB is giving better prices and — most crucially — deeper access to its library for Netflix’s streaming service.

via johnaugust.com » Why the Netflix/WB deal isn’t a bad thing. I can understand the logic here, and tell you what I don’t mind having to wait a month for DVD’s and more streaming videos is a great tradeoff.

28 Nov

Updates to Netflix for Books

As an update on my idea for a Netflix type system for books. I realized while discussing the idea with family members over the weekend that there is one important change that probably needs to be made.

To make this idea a viable business you would almost have to only allow for e-books. While you could rent physical copies of books, unlike a DVD the normal wear and tear for a book is a lot higher. This throws more weight to Amazon as they have released their Kindle app for Windows PC’s.

As a side note, I’ve downloaded the Kindle app along with a nice selection of the zero cost books listed. It’s actually quite nice. My most likely complaint of the book not being enjoyable since it isn’t a physical book, really didn’t seem to matter. Though admittedly I have yet to read a book the whole way through, once that happens I may have a different opinion.

22 Nov

Netflix for Books

The tweet that spawned this post

The tweet that spawned this post

Netflix in case you haven’t heard of it is system whereby you give them money and they send you movies by mail that you can keep for as long as you want. No late fees, no extra charges on your account. Mail back the movie in their pre-paid envelope and a new movie is on your doorstep, in a few days.

What makes Netflix stand out against any other system with the same feature set is their super intelligent prediction system. After you view a movie, they ask you to rank it on a scale of 1-5 stars, and over time they make guesses what you would like to watch.

As a side note, Netflix just finished a campaign gathering independent teams to compete for a $1 million to beat their internal algorithm by 10% or better. While it doesn’t sound that hard, it took a long time before a team was able to be declared the winner.

What I really want I realized tonight, is a throw back to my days as a kid and visiting the library but modernized. I loved checking out and renting all those books that I would never have been able to afford to buy (and still wouldn’t). I read a lot back in the day and checked out so many books for pretty much a single reason, about 1/4 of the books just weren’t worth my time to read and would go by the wayside.

Applying Netflix or Amazon’s prediction algorithms to my reading list and let me put books in a queue to rent, add in Netflix’s keep out for as long as needed and deliver when available electronic copies of a book when available and I would be in heaven.

The idea is purely stolen from Netflix, but the majority of what is needed Amazon already has:

  • Relationship with publishers — √
  • Storage facilities and mailing system for fast delivery of books — √
  • Electronic version of books — √
  • Software and delivery platform for these ebooks — √
  • Queue of books to read – that’s a sorta they’ve got the Wish List but it’s for items to buy little bit of work and converted, better than half way there
  • Rating system — √
  • Prediction algorithms — another mostly there, their algorithms are good but sometimes get fooled by stuff that you buy on a one shot deal

Get working Amazon (or anybody for that matter) and I’ll sign up and buy more books in the process.