Monday, January 25, 2010

Walking-Talking, Avoid!

I have been a great fan of Idea Cellular’s advertisement. Their ads are differentiated. Unlike others’, which delve on features, offers or sentiments, Idea’s ads most often have social message in it.

Walking-Talking is one such campaign that urged people to use the time spent talking over mobile to walk and keep one healthy. The ad goes on to depict how people in India use the idea to become healthy and how the doctor (Abhishek), who suggests this idea in the first place, loses his business as Indians have become healthy!

Of course, we have heard that it is dangerous to talk and drive, but talking and walking seemed to be a good thought. But a recent incident changed my feelings about Walking-Talking!

Last week after my routine game of tennis in the morning at the Mylapore Club, I took my car and proceeded towards the gate. While, I was taking doing the roundabout just before the gate, a person who was talking over phone appeared suddenly from nowhere. I am sure that I wasn’t speeding but I could have been little slower though. The other person who probably is one of the oldest members of the club became furious and in a tone, which I didn’t much admire, suggested that I drive slowly. Since I was sure that I wasn’t driving rash, I lost my cool. I suggested back to him that he better avoid talking and walking. Well since it was an ego trip for both of us, no one heard each other. Without wanting to carry this conversation any further, I left.

Now this incident, in addition, to bruising my ego also led me to think about Idea’s Walking-Talking ad. Not that people weren’t doing it before but just that I strongly associate the activity with the ad. If driving and talking is dangerous, shouldn’t the rule apply to walking and talking?

Studies indicate that during Driving-Talking, a multi-tasking activity, our concentration levels are devoted more towards talking. This causes many accidents as a driver loses sense of direction and speed. Now it may be debated that walking may not be as dangerous as the horsepower is limited to the maximum ability of the two legs. But it has to be noted that they are not the only ones who fight for the tarred surface.

Walking and talking over phone can be as dangerous. Look around and you will find many cases.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Piracy Is Good (Part Trois)

Now this topic doesn’t seem to be coming to an end. Chinmayi, a very popular singer, radio RJ and multi-faceted personality (whom I am not stalking on Twitter), and I had a tweetersation (Twitter Conversation) about the piracy affecting the film industry.

While, I have happily suggested that the movies should be released in various formats – theatre, CD/DVD, internet, DTH…- I seem to have made it look so simple.

It never is that simple, is it!

Before we look at the issues plaguing the industry, it might be worthwhile to look at the value chain. Broadly, on the basis of the players in the market and when they receive the compensation, the cinema industry can be divided into:

1. Pre-release beneficiaries: Actors, Directors, Technicians…
2. Post-release beneficiaries: Producer (Financier) and Distributors

Now, I wouldn’t claim that I am an expert. This is at best my logical thinking. Even if this classification is wrong, it is quite clear that the biggest investors in the whole game are Producer and Distributors.

I have heard that in the initial days, movie goers were given money to watch the productions! Of course, even today there are movies for which you hope the producers compensate.

Things have changed and have changed drastically. The intervention of technology in every aspect of film making has drastically changed the way cinema is made and served. Right from capturing and recording to editing and distribution, technology has had a telling effect.

But the basic rule of profit making has remained unchanged. The director, actors/artists and technicians have to whip up a fare that a producer finances, serve it to customers through the distribution channel (theaters). Producers and distributors being the biggest risk taker are likely to reap extraordinary profits, at least theoretically.

Picture perfect!

But as it would be, it was an ever changing picture. Not many may realize but JL Baird can be blamed for this change in fortune. Yes, the inventor of Television/Telly/TV. The importance of television is that it produced the first real viable display mechanism. The continuous innovations have ensured that the quality of sound and picture produced over the idiot box matches, if not surpasses, the experience of a theatre. There has been constant improvements in the software for TV, too, making things more difficult for movie industry. In fact, there are plethoras of delivery channels – tertiary, cable, DTH, internet…TV itself has emerged as an entertainer and far more inexpensive.

If this weaning was not enough, the arrival of VCRs and VCPs sounded the death bell for cinema theatre. The only respite being that the reproduction was a barrier. But things changed, yet again. Computing, Internet and digital reproduction now accessible to masses struck final nail on the coffin.

Theater industry is highly dependent on real estate. The success of a theatre depends on the location and patronage of customer. In its golden days, these theatre owners through monopoly made a killing from new releases. But today, the real estate dedicated for screens has become a liability. Many theatres that were popular, today, don’t exist. Theatre complexes have either become captives in malls or have reinvented themselves, as Satyam in Chennai, or transformed into small screens screening multiple movies to reduce their dependence on single hits. The box office has turned empty coffer! Unless theatre industry reinvents itself and realizes the reality of the new age, its fortunes are likely to sag like that of the fallen star.

In my opinion, the fortune for producers isn’t that bad. They, in fact, can gain from this paradigm shift. Earlier the distribution chain was the king because of the limited supply. Movie theaters are capital intensive; hence, the supply could not be built at will.

Today, the producers have multiple options. Monies can be made on rights for:

1. Theatre
3. Internet
4. DTH/Cable

At reduced risk and greater number of buyers, the producer can actually mint money. Of course, the consumers also get to make choices on how they would watch a movie.

While collective bargaining can put off the imminent death of theatres, it may never present an answer to the problem of piracy which is fast eroding the current rusted structure of the movie industry.

Till then, it is happy piracy watching. Sorry, privacy watching!

Monday, January 18, 2010

An Apple Search Engine?

An Apple Search Engine?: "
....driven by the need to kick Google off the iPhone? An interesting idea. Worth thinking about....

From a Businessweek article:

Some analysts believe the Apple-Google battle is likely to get much rougher in the months ahead. Ovum's Yarmis thinks Apple may soon decide to dump Google as the default search engine on its devices, primarily to cut Google off from mobile data that could be used to improve its advertising and Android technology. Jobs might cut a deal with—gasp!—Microsoft to make Bing Apple's engine of choice, or even launch its own search engine, Yarmis says. 'I fully expect [Apple] to do something in search,' he adds. 'If there's all these advertising dollars to be won, why would it want Google on its iPhones?'


Friday, January 08, 2010

Twitter Killed Jyoti Basu

Let me assure you, Comrade Basu is still alive. He is extending his life as he did with his regime in West Bengal. But Twitter and its Twitterites killed him about two days back!

Clay Shirky rightly described this phenomenon in his book – Here Comes Everybody. The emergence of Web 2.0 has transformed internet from one-way lane to a two-way chaotic highway. Web 2.0 tools and applications empower every wanting user to create and distribute information in a way that was unimaginable in the past. The coinage information-overload falls too short to describe the current situation.

Twitter, in my opinion, has become the most active real-time news medium.

It was very interesting that 140 character obituaries were being written while the man was ‘dying’ (as Sagarika Ghosh’s tweet said). Well, I, too, mourned in a hurry. But was quick to google (another contribution of internet age as now the word has been recorded as a verb) and found that no such news was floating on the web. The news alerts only said that he was ‘dying’. It is two days, now, and comrade is still ‘dying’. Not that I want that poor old legend to die.

There is a joke that you must have heard about the authentic and credible The Hindu. It is rumored that the publication house would send their own doctors to verify before they print obituaries. Well, it does sound funny, but it is journalism. Investigate, ratify and, only then, publish. Oh, of course, don’t be biased.

While it is good for the Barack Obama and Shashi Tharoor to tweet and connect with masses, I doubt whether they will or should use it as a medium for official communication.

Just wondering, if, Obama will tweendor (Tweet-Wonder) about increasing troops in Afghanistan or remove embargos slapped on Cuba. Or will he discuss or brainstorm with the think-tank and advisors. Mr. Tharoor, on the other hand, will most likely Tweenicate (Twitter communicate) and leak every disagreement that he has in his ministry with the ‘cattle class’ in Twinderland (of course, Twitter Wonderland).

I am wondering that democratization of journalism might actually create a very chaotic information board for us. But after the ripples, the waves calm down. I am sure the chaos will prevail for some more time. Then consolidation has to happen.

Twitter has already become source, inspiration, distribution and interactive channel for media. Will Twitterites become the future journalists and Twitter the media!

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Piracy Is Good (Part Deux)

Well, I said it earlier. Piracy is good!

Newspapers say that Jaggubhai, Sharatkumar-starrer and KS Ravikumar directed flick, is now available on internet. Oh by-the-way, the movie hasn’t been completed, yet. At least earlier, the movies were copied only in theaters after release or from the originals that were sent overseas. Now, they are being copied in editing rooms!

Technology is making digital reproduction and distribution easier. Also, we know crooks will always be one step ahead. It is ‘mission, impossible’ for the cinema industry.

The report says that Radhika Sharatkumar, wife of Sharatkumar, complained to M Karunanidhi. I can only laugh. J Jayalalitha, ex-CM, was far better in controlling piracy during her regime.

Of course, try, try and until you fail, again.

So as I had said earlier, instead of fighting piracy, make the best use of the technology. The pirated movies are available for a meager Rs. 40. And that booty is going to “pirates of the ‘cinemawood’”. Take it, guys! There is money to be minted. There is an existing distribution channel.

Those who love watching movies in theatre for the experience will anyway watch it in theatres. For those who think cinema is an expensive proposition, which I am sure is a huge segment, will benefit from this change in strategy.

Of course, the cinema industry has already started releasing movies on DTH platform. So what stops them from selling on inexpensive storage formats? Since prices points are low, there will be no entry barrier for purchases. This means that everyone will want to own a copy rather than circulate amongst each other. Well even if circulated, it is fine. As long as the cineconomy has made some money, it is fine.

Well, if the cinema industry doesn’t listen, what can be done? As the Kalyani Beer ad says – what goes my father, it’s your funeral!

Till things change, selling of pirated movies will continue at ‘Burma’ Bazaars, Subways and at train stations! Right under your nose, Mr. Producer!

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Kindle In Interesting Times

Long time back, I had a very interesting conversation with a journalist about e-paper. Now, that was seven years back. It was the time when news portals were mushrooming. Internet and PC penetration, still at miniscule figures, was the buzz.

Sankarnarayanan, then with Express Computers, said, "While e-content is available, the consumers are not comfortable with the medium to read. Unless the medium is similar to newspaper or a book, the adoption of e-content will not be easy.”

True, I thought. And impossible! How can computer or even laptop be as comfortable as the thin and foldable paper?

I read newspaper and books on paper format. I didn’t want to read them on eye-irritating and neck-pain-inducing computer monitor. I can’t hold the computer, closely; can’t fold them; throw it away when done. Also, PC at that point of time was more for checking emails and chatting.

You must be thinking that I am a laggard. I was, then. The 'legacy' behavior of touch-feel-read of paper was all pervasive.

Over the years, the continuous innovation leading to thinner laptops coupled with the slow-yet-steady change in consumer behavior was certainly ensuring that more and more people consumed e-content. Mobile phones have further accentuated the process. Of course, one cannot deny that improvement in the quality and exclusivity of e-content also helped the cause.

So recently a blog by John Battelle on why he wouldn't like to use Kindle caught my attention. Consciously or otherwise, he has best articulated feedback to Amazon. For non-starters, Kindle is a gadget manufactured and marketed by Amazon. Kindle allows one to read e-books; I understand it has ecommerce capabilities.

Battelle has actually articulated the same points which Sankar had raised then, but in detail.

Fast Second by Constantinos Markides and Paul A. Geroski classifies technology innovations based on their ability to destroy the competencies and complementary assets of established players in the traditional publishing industry and its effect on consumer habits and behaviors. If I were to plot Kindle (substituting for e-content medium devices) on the quadrant, I will plot it in Radical Innovation square.

But on the other hand it may not be entirely true. Consumer habits and behavior has already changed a lot as far as reading e-content on such devices is concerned. The usage of PC and other medium to consume other e-content is quite prevalent.

Kindle, after all, may not be entirely radical.

If we analyze the adoption of e-content reading medium technology based on Geoff Moore's Crossing the Chasm, I can, with some confidence, say that Kindle is certainly in the Visionary market. But certainly, it hasn't crossed the chasm into the Main Market. Battelle, who probably can be classified as Visionary or Early Adopter, uses it but is not entirely satisfied. That is the character of a Visionary.

For Kindle to cross the chasm and reach the main market would mean that e-content would have displaced the traditional print content - newspapers, books, magazines, research reports. For that to happen, the penetration of internet and computing devices (even PDA/large screen mobiles) has to increase. This will catalyze the change in consumer behavior. The book – Crossing the Chasm – has enough strategies already spelt out for Amazon to kick Kindle hard enough that it doesn't have to peep below in the biggest crack in the Technology Adoption Lifecycle. With our lives being taken over by technology, Kindle would be in the eye of the Tornado.

While, I will not attempt to chalk out the strategies for Kindle, it would be important to note that for success, Kindle will have to become more affordable, get standardized and find partners for growth. But most importantly, it has to get close the consumer’s current behavior of reading. From this perspective, Battelle's blog on Kindle is significant.

Out of the couple of very useful insights, I liked the one on show off value. Battelle has highlighted that we like to show-off what we read in public which is very true. Kindle right now doesn't offer that capability. But I am sure technology will advance, if it already hasn't. In future, we might be able showcase the cover of the book on the other side while reading the content on one side of Kindle. For example, if I am reading Da Vinci Code, the other side should/could show a movie trailer of the same movie. Opportunities are infinite. Am sure e-content reading medium will see incremental innovations in the future.

Having said so much about Kindle, it would be interesting to watch Kindle’s growth and how the PC/laptop and mobile phone companies react. For all you know, Kindle can easily morph into one these devices.

Amazon's 'forward' integration, watch out!

Oh wait, somebody is already moving in the direction – Apple.