Thursday, December 31, 2009

Time Warner Cable Shows Subscribers How to Cut the Cord

Time Warner Cable Shows Subscribers How to Cut the Cord

by Peter Kafka
Posted on December 31, 2009 at 8:41 AM PT

time warner screengrab The nightmare scenario for cable companies is that customers drop their TV subscriptions and grab their video directly from the Web, turning the cable guys into mere providers of “dumb pipes”.

But here’s a comprehensive set of instructions from a big cable company showing its customers how to do just that. It suggests that they head to the likes of Hulu, Fancast or “any search engine” — weird for them not to call out Google (GOOG), no? — to find their favorite shows.

Time Warner Cable’s (TWC) instructions on “How to Connect Your PC to Your TV” are embedded at the bottom of this post. And here’s a helpful video (Sorry for the clumsy screengrab – the video kicks in about 5 seconds in, and there’s some unpleasant coughing around 2:30. Yikes!):

The instructions (which Time Warner Cable promised to provide last week) are part of the company’s game of chicken with News Corp.’s Fox (NWS), which is supposed to come to a head tonight. If you believe the posturing so far, and Fox and its associated cable channels (Fox News, FX, etc) will disappear after midnight tonight, because the two sides can’t agree on new rate.

Alternate view: This thing will go down the wire and then get resolved, just as Time Warner Cable’s back-and-forth with Viacom (VIA) went a year ago.

If you want blow-by-blow coverage, let me suggest the LA Times’ tireless Joe Flint, who is updating each salvo in real time, or very close to it. Or you can just turn on your TV set after midnight tonight and take a look for yourself.

Still, no matter how this resolves, the danger for both sides is that consumers really do take up Time Warner Cable on its offer and start watching Fox stuff on the Web. And to be clear: Fox would prefer that people keep paying for cable TV, because it really likes getting subscription fees from cable TV providers.

That’s happening already, of course, but it’s not mainstream behavior yet. It may be that it’s inevitable anyway, but no matter what you hear from both sides of this contract dispute, both of them like this model very much, and they’d like to keep intact as long as possible.

Which is why discussions with would-be “over the top” providers like Apple (AAPL) are supposed to be about adding additional TV programming, not replacing cable.

The safety catch here for the TV business is that consumers who do go to watch TV on the Web, at least through sanctioned means, may be disappointed: They’ll find that the programming that is there doesn’t show up for at least a day — and often longer — after it airs. And some stuff, notably live sports like the NFL playoffs (contrary to the image in the screenshot above) and Fox’s “American Idol” don’t make it on the Web at all.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reading hybrid books

As books go beyond printed page to multisensory experience, what about reading?

By Monica Hesse
Monday, December 28, 2009; C01

The mysterious man looks completely wrong to me.

In the text of conspiracy thriller "Embassy," an online novel by Richard Doetsch, the character is described as "a starkly thin fellow with a protruding Adam's apple." My brain goes: Alan Rickman!

But when I click on the chapter's accompanying video, the man is younger, tanner, scruffier. He's dressed like he should be bumming clove cigarettes at a concert, not spying on the Greek Embassy.

What I'm reading is a Vook -- a video/book hybrid produced in part by Simon & Schuster's Atria Books. Interspersed throughout the text are videos and links that supplement the narrative. In one chapter, the Greek ambassador receives a mysterious DVD, and readers must click on an embedded video to learn what's on it. In another, kidnapper Jack ominously tells his hostage that he's going to prove that he means business.

"How are you going to do that?" Kate asks.

"Are you squeamish?" Jack replies.

Below that dialogue, a little box encourages readers to "SEE WHAT HAPPENED NEXT" by clicking the play button.

(What happened next, in a comically foreboding scene: Jack grabbed Kate's hand and threatened to chop off her fingers with a kitchen knife.)

It's a dizzying experience, reading Vooks. But they represent just a few examples of a new genre that has been alternatively dubbed v-books, digi-books, multimedia books and Cydecks, all with essentially the same concept: It's a book . . . but wait, there's more!

There will certainly be more of them. The first six books of text/Web hybrid "The 39 Clues" have nearly 5 million copies in print, and nearly 700,000 registered users for the site. A seventh book will be released in February. "The Amanda Project," released this fall, is set to be an eight-book series. Brad Inman, founder of Vook, said that his company will release as many as 200 titles next year -- a goal made more feasible by the relative cheapness of producing his online-only books. "It's very inexpensive in scale. We're talking thousands of dollars, not even tens of thousands of dollars" for each project.

Is a hybrid book our future? Maybe. "As discourse moves from printed pages to network screens, the dominant mode will be things that are multi-modal and multilayered," says Bob Stein, founder of the Institute for the Future of the Book. "The age of pure linear content is going to pass with the rise of digital network content."

Predicting the eventual death of the traditional novel sounds practically heretical. But keep in mind that the genre has actually existed in English for only about 300 years, and that experimentation and evolution have always been a part of the way we tell stories.

Perhaps the folly isn't in speculating that the book might change, but in assuming that it won't.
Choose your adventure

The bells and whistles in hybrid books are endless. In "The Sherlock Holmes Experience" -- one of six books, including "Embassy," published by Vook since the company launched in October -- two classic Arthur Conan Doyle stories are annotated with video clips of historians sharing Holmesian trivia. Hyperlinks pepper the text, sending readers to Wikipedia pages explaining old-fashioned terms.

In "The Amanda Project," a young-adult series launched earlier this fall, three teens investigate the disappearance of a mutual friend, primarily in a book but also on a companion Web site, where readers are encouraged to upload their own "clues" to Amanda's presence. Some contributions will be incorporated into the second book, due out in February.

In "Skeleton Creek," another work for tweens, the narrative alternates between the written diary of Ryan, a housebound teen trying to investigate strange occurrences in his home town, and the video missives of his best friend, Sarah. Ryan -- and the reader -- access Sarah's transmissions by logging onto a Web site with various passwords, provided at the end of each chapter.

Myebook, which helps users self-publish books online, is flexible with the definition of "book," allowing text to be mashed up with video and applications.

These hybrid books "truly [are] groundbreaking, and I don't use that word lightly," says David Levithan, a Scholastic editor who worked on "Skeleton Creek" as well as "The 39 Clues," a series involving an elaborate online game. "It's expanding the notion of what storytelling can be."

If readers visit every hyperlink, watch every video and play every game, it is possible for the experience of consuming a single book to become limitless -- a literal neverending story. It's also possible for the user to never read more than a few chapters in sequence, before excitedly scampering over to the next activity.

Hybrid books might be the perfect accessory for modern life. They allow immediate shortcuts to information. They feel like instant gratification and guided, packaged experiences. What they don't feel like, at least in certain examples, is reading.

Envision, for a moment, what it feels like to delve into your favorite book. Picture losing yourself in the fictional world for hours on end -- the way the characters sound in your mind, the way unfamiliar references give you pause. What is a nosegay, anyway?

If you could see the authoritative version of a character right away, without waiting for the movie version, would you?

If a floral dictionary were just a click away, would you interrupt your reading to visit it?

Would these abilities represent a breakthrough, the sort of enhanced involvement that book lovers have always dreamed of? Or would they tamper with our imaginations, completely changing the experience of reading?
Can you imagine?

It's not coincidence that many current hybrid books are aimed at kids -- the first generation of "digital natives" who, we're repeatedly told, feel stark naked without a cellphone, iPhone and a couple of laptops strapped to their persons.

"What they really love is staying in that world," says Lisa Holton of Fourth Story Media, which packaged "The Amanda Project." The non-text components "give them a way to dive even further. When you hang out with kids and you watch what they're doing, we as adults can't even begin to understand their relationships with technology." Holton left a job in traditional publishing to found Fourth Story and explore new forms of storytelling.

But what happens to the traditional reading experience, the one involving a fat novel, a fireplace and a cup of tea?

"It's very common for [a 15-year-old] to read, but have her phone there and her computer there," says Patrick Carman, who wrote "Skeleton Creek" and one volume of "The 39 Clues." "For her, having this multimedia experience is like sitting down with a cup of tea."

He directs me to his niece, an exceedingly generationally aware 14-year-old named Madison Wilcox. "The books with the videos, I think they keep our interest better," Madison says. "The generation we're in is always using technology. [Books like 'Skeleton Creek'] are easy to blend in with our lifestyles."

Inman of Vook says it would be a mistake to compare products like his with traditional texts, the two genres being independent entities.

"We don't pretend that it's a book because it's not." With the Vook, "there's an expectation that you're not gulping the text," as you would in a traditional novel. Instead, Inman says, "you're tasting the text," dipping in and out of it at will.

One wonders how this tasting affects the way we read -- that shortening of attention span we've read so much about.

"When you go from one task to another, your brain does slow down," says Earl Miller, a professor of neuroscience at MIT. "Your brain has to reconfigure its cognitive network. For the first few seconds [of the new activity] there's an increase in errors," in how well we comprehend what we're reading or viewing.

"The way the brain handles language is very different than the way it handles pictures," says Clifford Nass, a Stanford professor who studies multitasking. "One of the ways is pacing. You read a book and you stop whenever you'd like. When you watch a video, you can't do that. It goes on." It's active entertainment vs. passive.

Retention and comprehension are moot points when the narrative in question is, for example, "Embassy." Missing a paragraph or two won't affect a reader's understanding of the plot; missing a plot point or two isn't a life-or-death scenario.

In reading "Embassy," what concerned me wasn't that my brain was getting overworked but that my imagination wasn't.

The pleasure of reading has always been its uniquely transporting experience: the way a literary world might look completely different to two readers. One might picture the fictional heroine as a Natalie Portman type; the other might see her as Freida Pinto.

But when the "true" representation -- like clove cigarette guy -- is immediately provided to the reader, imaginary worlds could be squelched before they have a chance to be born. Reading Vooks made me feel a little like a creative slacker. Maybe there was no point in imagining what someone or something looked like, if I was going to be helped along anyway.

David Sousa is a consultant in educational neuroscience and author of "How the Brain Learns to Read." In his classroom research, he says, "we find that kids are not able to do imagining and imaging as exercises" as well as they once did, "because video's doing the work for them. . . . They still have the mental apparatus for that, the problem is they're not getting the exercise."

Reading has traditionally been one of imagination's personal trainers, and while skipping from medium to medium might provide other benefits (catering to a variety of learning styles rather than just the visual reader's), it might adversely affect the way we create our own worlds.

Of course, some hybrid books' companion activities seem designed to exercise creativity. Readers of "The Amanda Project," for example, are encouraged to contribute to the site's catalogue of reader-submitted stories in a sort of organized fan fiction compendium. Madison, the 14-year-old, says that though she's never been what you would call a bookworm, the multimedia aspects of her uncle's books have made her more willing to read other things.

And Stein of the Institute for the Future of the Book says that whatever assumptions we might make now about hybrid books, there's a good chance they won't hold true when the medium grows up. "Things like the Vook are trivial. We're going to see an explosion of experimentation before we see a dominant new format. We're at the very beginning stages" of figuring out what narrative might look like in the future. "The very, very beginning."

Monday, December 28, 2009

Editing film and sound to upload mixes to you tube

Add a soundtrack to your YouTube videos with AudioSwap

YouTube has rolled out a new feature called AudioSwap that allows users to add a music soundtrack to their videos after they've been uploaded to YouTube.

After you publish a video, click on the Replace Audio button on your My Videos page. From there it's a simple 2-step process of picking the song you like from YouTube's offerings (no worries about copyright infringement here), previewing it with your video, and publishing away. All of your previous audio will be lost (no huge problem if it's a computer demonstration or a noisy clip with bad audio to begin with), replaced by the soundtrack. I tried it out with a video I'm publishing later today, and it seemed to work without a hitch. — Adam Pash

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Apple TV-Service Proposal Gets Some Nibbles

Apple TV-Service Proposal Gets Some Nibbles


CBS Corp. and Walt Disney Co. are considering participating in Apple Inc.'s plan to offer television subscriptions over the Internet, according to people familiar with the matter, as Apple prepares a potential new competitor to cable and satellite TV.

The proposed service by the maker of iPhones and iPod music players could, in at least some scenarios, offer access to some TV shows from a selection of major U.S. television networks for a monthly fee, according to people familiar with the discussions. Apple is pushing to complete licensing deals and hopes to introduce the service in 2010, some of those people said. It is unclear whether any networks have signed on yet.

Spokespeople for Apple, CBS and Disney declined to comment.

If Apple signs up enough networks to launch a viable service—still a very big if—it could ultimately alter the economics of the television business. The service could undermine the big bundles of channels that cable, satellite and telecommunications companies, including Comcast Corp. and DirecTV Inc., have traditionally sold in packages to subscribers.

Comcast declined to comment. A spokesman for DirecTV said, "It's difficult to gauge how competitive they will be without seeing the packaging, presentation and execution."

Apple is dipping its toe into the cable subscription model, but still needs to sign up networks, Sam Schechner reports on the News Hub panel.

The video strategy is part of Apple's plan to overhaul its iTunes store. The store currently sells downloadable music, video and applications like games, entertainment and productivity tools for its touchscreen devices, like the iPhone and iPod Touch. Apple recently bought music-streaming service La La Media Inc. as part of its plan to offer consumers more ways to access and manage their music purchases, according to people familiar with the situation. Similarly, the TV subscription service would be in addition to the way Apple sells individual TV shows.

Apple is revamping iTunes as it finalizes its plans for a tablet device, which is meant to be a multimedia gadget, according to people briefed about the product. The multimedia tablet is expected to be larger than an iPhone but smaller than a laptop computer. People briefed by Apple say the company is aiming to launch it by the end of March.

Apple faces an uphill battle assembling a critical mass of TV networks to sign up, a factor that could delay or scuttle a launch. A broad swath of media companies—including News Corp., Viacom Inc., Time Warner's Turner Broadcasting and Discovery Communications Inc.—appear to be opposed to or leaning away from signing on, at least to Apple's initial proposals, according to people familiar with the matter. It is unclear if NBC Universal, in which Comcast is buying a controlling stake, is interested.

As part of the Apple service, CBS is considering offering programs from both the CBS and CW networks, according to people familiar with the matter. CW, a joint venture between CBS and Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros., airs shows like "Gossip Girl" and "Vampire Diaries" that are among the most popular purchases, per episode, on the iTunes video and music bazaar.

Disney is considering including programs from its ABC, Disney Channel and ABC Family networks, according to a person familiar with the matter. Disney has in the past been among the first to jump into online video, including on iTunes. Apple Chief Executive Steve Jobs is Disney's largest individual shareholder and sits on the company's board.

In at least some versions of the proposal, Apple would pay media companies about $2 to $4 a month per subscriber for a broadcast network like CBS or ABC, and about $1 to $2 a month per subscriber for a basic-cable network, people familiar with the proposals said. Those amounts are in some cases much higher than media companies receive from traditional distributors. The question is whether selling fewer networks at higher prices is better business.

Apple's TV proposal may be changing as the company woos networks, according to people familiar with the matter. An initial version of the proposal had envisioned selling access to advertising-free shows from a bundle of top cable and broadcast networks—the "best of television"—with a consumer price tag of $30 a month, according to people familiar with the talks.

Some media companies say the proposed Apple service could undermine the lucrative business of selling bundles of big and small cable networks to distributors like Comcast and Time Warner Cable Inc. That concern is less central to CBS, which owns few cable networks. But for companies with large cable-network portfolios, selling only some of those channels to Apple, even at inflated prices, could cut into revenue.

Some executives are also concerned that the Apple service wouldn't include advertising, at least in some of Apple's proposals. U.S. broadcast and cable networks sold $43.4 billion in ads in 2008, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

"You don't want to shoot a hole in the bucket to create another revenue stream," one media executive said.

It is also unclear how many shows from each network could be made available through the Apple service. Networks' rights to TV shows online are snarled in a tangle of licenses with the studios that produce them. It is possible some shows produced by outside studios for a network could end up left out of an Apple offering, according to people familiar with the discussions.

Apple's initial proposals were reported in November by the Web site All Things Digital, which like The Wall Street Journal is owned by News Corp.

Even if Apple is able to launch the new service, it faces a good deal of competition. Movie rental company Netflix Inc. is expanding its customer base for its streaming video servicethrough partnerships with consumer electronics manufacturers and videogame console makers such as Microsoft Corp. and Sony Corp. Video site Hulu, which offers TV shows from several networks over the Web, is also looking at the possibility of launching a subscription service. Hulu, which is owned by News Corp., NBC Universal and Disney, has become the second-most popular destination for online video, after Google Inc.'s YouTube, with 657 million video streams in November, according to Nielsen Co.

Meanwhile, cable companies are rolling out their own services that put cable-TV shows online for existing subscribers, giving them more reasons to keep their subscriptions. Comcast brought out its system nationwide on Dec. 15, offering its subscribers online access to some programs from 27 cable networks. Time Warner Cable and Verizon Communications Inc. are testing similar offerings.

According to Adams Media Research, Internet spending on movies and TV shows is expected to more than double to $1.14 billion in 2010 from $472 million in 2008.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

what do you use to capture the screen?

there are programs out there that will do it for you, but i do it the old fashioned way:

press and hold SHIFT, then press the Print Screen Key, (usually upper right hand corner of your keyboard)

open Windows Paint, (start, programs, accessories, Paint) i made a shortcut to paint on my start menu to save time.

once Paint is open, right click on the blank document and choose "Paste".

from there you can cut the area out you want to share using paint's little square edit thingy, cut and paste into a new document and save to your hard drive.

sounds complicated, but after you do it a few times, it's easy :-)