March 2008

Pretty Sneaky Zucker!I’ve always been slighted baffled by NBC/Universal’s attitude toward iTunes. Why in the world would they suddenly pull all of their video products when, by many accounts, iTunes was singularly responsible for saving some of NBC’s most popular shows? At the time, many believed this was just a power play to convince Apple to allow studios more flexible pricing, but as I read John Gruber’s mention of Hulu, NBC/Universal’s advertising supported online video service, I realized there might be more to it than that. It reminded me of something I heard while catching up on NPR podcasts this weekend.

As reported by Kim Masters on Morning Edition (which you can hear in the Feb. 10th Pop Culture podcast), one of the main concessions that the writers made on their new contract with the networks is that while they do now get a percentage of digital content that is paid for by the consumer (such as TV shows from iTunes), they only get a fixed sum for digital content that is advertising supported. So the more popular a show is on iTunes, the more money the networks have to pay the writers. But with Hulu, the writers get a small lump payment at the very beginning and no more, regardless of how much money the studio makes from it.

It’s almost enough to make Jeff Zucker seem clever.


As an addendum to my last post, it seems like NPR is now just daring people to say something. While listening to Fresh Air on my way back to work from lunch, I listened to a nearly ten-minute glowing review of The Riches, a show whose season premiere is tonight on FX. Immediately afterward, the national announcer lets us know that Fresh Air is sponsored by none other than The Riches, premiering tonight on FX.

What made it even more hilarious is that the local announcer then came on to talk about how because NPR doesn’t have to air commercials, they have more time for more in-depth coverage. Sheesh.

So after hearing about a singer/songwriter Bon Iver on NPR this morning, I decided to check out NPR’s music website to, as advised, hear more. I was utterly flummoxed to then see that the music was sponsored by Pabst Blue Ribbon. Seriously. I watched a full sized ad for Pabst Blue Ribbon before listening to something on NPR.


NPR has been advertising free in theory only for a long time, so I guess I shouldn’t be shocked. I can name longstanding corporate sponsors of NPR off the top of my head. And I’ve actually long held the belief that they should just come to grips with reality and drop the pretense anyway. But it was nonetheless jarring to realize that my experience listening to a segment on NPR’s website wasn’t different in any meaningful way from watching a show on NBC’s website.

But then again, this is the group that fired it’s CEO because they were afraid his digital initiatives (podcasts and such) where taking away listeners, while at the same time celebrating the fact that it’s listenership is at an all time high. This is what happens when you let hippies run a business.

John Gruber on Daring Fireball:

I’ve always liked ThinkPads, and the X300 looks like a winner.

For some reason, Mac nerds love Thinkpads, and I really do not get it. Thinkpads looks like the first generation Dell laptop I used to lug around when I had offices on opposite sides of campus. They’re as ugly and boxy as a laptop can get and look like something someone built from a Radio Shack project.


Maybe I’m missing something about them, but I can’t get my head around why folks who appreciate such attention to detail in Mac laptops seem to have no qualms about a laptop seemingly designed for the color-blind.

Andy Ihnatko on the AIM demo for the iPhone:

AOL is up next, showing off AIM for the iPhone. Good. And I’m absolutely confident that now, all of the bloggers and messageboard posters who bitchily insisted that Apple would never support chat on the iPhone because they didn’t want to give users a free alternative to AT&T’s text messaging are dislocating their wrists in their rush to post their apologies.

What I don’t get is that these same people* are all whining about the fact that the iPhone doesn’t have MMS. With every cell carrier I’ve ever checked with, there’s an email gateway to MMS, so why in the world do you want to pay $0.20 in order to do what you can do TODAY, RIGHT NOW for free as an email?

First thing I did when I got my iPhone was set up a Gmail account just for MMS and told everyone who wants to MMS me that they just need to send it to that address. When I want to MMS someone, I send an email to their MMS email gateway. And, as an added bonus, my ever expanding Gmail account serves as an excellent record of all the messages.

*I can’t prove these are the same people, but I’d bet money on it.