There are many sites recommending all sorts of things these days: music;  movies; places to visit, eat and stay;  fashion… and, of course, there is Amazon that recommends anything.

How about TV shows, though?  Frequently I find myself helpless in front of the TV with too much choice and yet nothing worth seeing only to find out the next day that I missed something great or, worse, that there is some amazing show on Season X that I’ve overlooked for years.

So far, I’ve found three recommendation services aimed at me (B2C), the bloke on the sofa, and a fourth serving multi-channel cable/satellite players (B2B).

SocialGuide
B2C. A real-time social guide for TV and social TV platform that makes every show across every network instantly social.
US-based.
Founded 2010
Beta release in the Spring of 2011
SocialGuide Raises $1.5 Million For Social TV Guide
SocialGuide debuts daily social TV rankings

Matcha
B2C. Bringing the social graph to movie and TV recommendations and aggregating the millions of movies, TV shows, and clips floating around the Web for an enhanced search and discovery experience.
US-based.
Founded Sept 2010
Beta release June 2011
Matcha: A Social TV Guide And Movie Recommendation Engine That Doesn’t Suck
– Matcha’s social TV guide connects with Netflix, Hulu

beeTV
Originally B2B; branched into B2C. A social TV service that is a real-time, cross-platform hub for all consumers’ activity around TV.
Israeli with offices in Italy and the US.
Founded Aug 2007
– beeTV gets in your head, tells you what to watch
– beeTV Raises $8 Million For Stunning Personal TV Recommendation System
– beeTV integrates social TV into new apps

TVGenius
B2B. A software company that has specialised in TV content discovery through recommendations, search, and interactive TV guides.
UK-based
Founded in 2005
TVGenius TV trends blog

What other ones have I missed?

UPDATE

There are two services that I’d classify as “intelligent remotes” (as explained to me by Michel Cassius).  However, I feel that once we being accepting these services, others like Tivo need also be considered.

BuddyTV
Started as an an online TV guide and discussion center but, with it’s upcoming smartphone app that includes recommendation, it becomes an interesting player in this space.
US-based
Founded 2007
–  BuddyTV turns your iPhone into a smarter viewing guide and remote

Peel
It’s one part application, one part hardware.  It will keep track of your favorite shows and, after a few days, start recommending other shows that you might like.
US-based
Founded 2009
–  Peel Universal Control

This post by Edward Vielmetti suggests that Google+ is to Twitter as Usenet is to IRC

It got me thinking about what “web social tool” I need and whether Google+ is what I am waiting for.

For the last week I’ve been a light Google+ user.  I’ve “circled” a couple dozen people; I’ve post one or two things; I scan the feeds.  I must confess I don’t get it yet.  I haven’t figured out what role it plays among RSS feeds (I’m an avid Reader user), emails, Twitter, Facebook (and increasingly, LinkedIn).

Google+ is people centric.  I don’t want more people centric services–I have enough of that.  I want topic centric.  If I read a good post about social TV on a “friends” feed–be that Twitter, FB or Google+–I want (immediately!) to get plugged into the ‘social TV topic stream” independently of who posted it.

Maybe, what I want is already fulfilled by Google.  All I have to do search for “social TV” and I will get all I wanted to know but was afraid to ask.  But that’s not how it works; we all know the problem with noise and spam.  Ultimately, the best quality filter is experts.

This is why I think Klout and/or PeerIndex could be revolutionary.  As far as I can tell, they are the only ones who are trying to tell me “look at this post from this person because they are the de facto experts in the topic that interests you.”

All in all, either I haven’t figured out how to use Google+ or it’s not what I’ve been waiting for.

(adapted from my answer on Quora)

With the mass adoption of social networks, I’ve been thinking about the use cases that benefit from analyses of multiple degrees of separation

For sake of clarification, I consider the “social graph” to be one where the nodes are people as opposed to documents (eg, pages).  The connection between the nodes do not have to be friends or explicit.  They can be links between people due to a common interest (eg, people who follow the same topic on Quora) or implicit connections like the ones Color Labs is trying to create.

The main business cases will be one where you can reasonably infer an answer from related data points.

I think the primary use of the social graph is recommendation. I can’t count how many start-ups promise to suggest to me what films, restaurants, hotels, books, clothes, music and other stuff my friends like.

I think these startups are currently, overly dependent on explicit connections (“friends”).  An emerging business case–an important one in my view–is reputation. Klout and PeerIndex are the two players I know in this space.

Brainstorming, other business cases might include: management of contagious diseases; polling; political repression.

(adapted from my answer in Quora)

I am fascinated by Klout‘s and PeerIndex‘s efforts to plot the Interest Graph.

I see them fulfilling uses cases such as:

– I search for “Rush” to find what Twitterers are the most authoritative about this awesome Canadian band;

– Rush management wants to promote their new tour and need to find who are the super fans to spread the word.

When people talk about PageRank; about figuring out that Page A is important because loads of other pages are linked to it (I know other signals are considered); they take for granted that Google knows what topic Page A covers. So when you search for “Rush” you get a result of the most authoritative page about the band.

In the page-centric web world, where the node is the page, we’ve all been trained to write super topic-focussed, use key words and provide meta-tags.  Even if the page refreshes a bit, which it should to preserve it’s SEO ranking, we will keep it on topic.

When it comes to the people-centric world, where the node can be a Twitter account (usually a person) we are a mess. It’s easy to determine that an account has more followers (and other signals of popularity) but it’s nigh impossible, so far, to figure out why. The regular account will not only tweet about a topic they are authoritative but also about sports results, good movies, funny YouTube clips and many other subject matters that interest them.  The same applies to Facebook updates, Google+ postings, etc.

PeerIndex is trying to figure what a Twitter account is authoritative about by analysing the content of their tweets (and other social media content). In my personal experience it doesn’t work (yet)–what they think of me is completely incoherent.

Klout appears to have opted for a crowd sourced solution with +K. They identify what an account might be about but then let loyal registered users (those that login at least once a day) to vote up their best guesses.

Prediction: I think these two players will be snapped up by one of the big boys: Twitter, Microsoft, Google or LinkedIn within two years.

(adapted from my answer on Quora that has over 100 votes)

There is something very interesting, and potentially game-changing, in what Color, the much maligned photo sharing app,  is trying to do.

I subscribe to the view that one is better served by different groupings of people (who might not even be your friends) for different use cases–this is the social circles problem. An example is where you don’t want to share the same information with your personal and professional friends.

The solution is being referred to as the implicit social network.  It’s not a new idea.  Fred Wilson points out that “this sort of implicit social graph came almost six years ago via my musical neighbors graph at last.fm.”  But it’s an idea that appears to have become eclipsed by Facebook over the last three to four years.

Now, it’s worth remembering out that Zuckerberg himself has raised the social circles problem. However, he has also stated that “most people don’t want to create lists of things.” [UPDATE: this is an interesting point in like of Google+ Circles]

So, in the end, we are left, in the majority of cases with this single, large Facebook social graph of all your friends.

If the user won’t define the implicit social networks who will? Enter Color.

Color is developing the first service that tries to dynamically create a transitory grouping of people. What is the killer use case and how to monetise it is, in my opinion, secondary at this stage. They are a day old! It’s like asking a child what they want to be when they grow up. It doesn’t make sense. Give them time. Think Twitter. Color has got the talent and has raised sufficient funds to figure it out. It will take a few months for things to start making sense.

For additional reading I recommend:
– In TechCrunch, MG Siegler suggests that Color might be “the next phase of the web, a location-based phase that creates implicit social graphs and blurs the line of online and offline.”
– Jason Calacanis explains how “truly game-changing (and personal) an implicit social network could be if it reached scale”
– John Battelle thinks that “the service’s approach to location (…) has the opportunity to be the first breakout application fueled by the concept of “augmented reality.”

The talk of a broadband music tax is quite old, at least here in Europe.  It goes back to the Fall of 2006.

As I mentioned back then, it also isn’t a new thing.  Many of us already pay something akin to a music tax in the form of a “rights tax” on reproduction media such as blank cassettes and blank CDs.  There isn’t any difference between a blank CD and a blank Flash drive–both store data.

I think the discussion should be about

  • standardising the rules (eg, should all blank media have a rights tax?). [NB: I’m ok if the answer is that there is no rights tax on any blank media]
  • discussing how this tax would go to *artists* (instead of the bureaucratic music companies and opaque rights collecting agencies that keep the money for years and, when they finally distribute the money, have allocation rules that are biased towards “mega acts”).

I want quality music to persist.  I want to pay for it.  I just want it to be fairly priced (eg, how ridiculous is it that a a legal download has the same cost as a physical single) and fairly distributed (eg, to the hands of musicians).

What I don’t like about this debate is that the music labels are leading it.  After all, in their dying days the are surely just trying to protect their interests and not those of the artists, those of the music.

The discussion of a music tax should be used to open the debate on how to build a new music industry, not protect the old one; one where the (smaller) artists have a lot more rights and keep more of the revenues.

All the blogs I follow, once in a while, take a reflective step back to comment about blogging or the blogosphere. Here I am doing the same.

This week I had a great discussion with a technology company about the merits of starting a blog for their CEO or a collective blog for the executive team.

We had the classic traditional marketing (control) vs. new marketing (no control) debate. Points discussed included the risk of sending the wrong message; exposure to litigation; discomfort with the fact that, upfront, we wouldn’t know who the readers are; concern about being sucked into a slanderous debate; risk of hacking.

I suggested the following three criteria to decide whether to do it or not:

1. The company accepts that the blog must be from the individual(s)-that it’s not a company blog.

2. The individual(s) is passionate about discussing industry trends

3. The individual(s) will share and discuss their thoughts (aka blog) on their own accord-have the time; wouldn’t need much prodding; would not be expecting to have entries written by ghost writers.

NB: I was asked how many of the top senior executive blogs where ghost written. Without fear of sounding naive, I said I didn’t think any of them were ghost written.

We concluded that, at this time, blogging wasn’t right for the company.

To support the conversation I pulled together some manifestos, pros, cons and ROI frameworks from the likes of Scoble, Seth Godin and Hugh MacLeod which I thought others might find useful. It’s all in a Google Notebook that I made public.

Clue Score = How well an industry has embraced the potential of the Internet.
– Press (newspapers and magazines) A+
– Movie (Hollywood) B
– TV (broadcaster) B-
– Radio C
– Music F

I have been helping media companies think through and execute their media strategies since 1998.

This month I began work on a detailed 8-year forecast of the global market for recorded music. The hardest factor to predict (and I am still struggling with it) is the contribution of digital sales. All the research firms’, consultancies; and music companies’ estimates I have seen say ‘yes’ – they have global music sales recovering as early as 2007 with sales anywhere between 2010 and 2012 exceeding 2006 values.

I began my analyses with this same hypothesis. Alas I am coming to the conclusion it won’t happen. The reason is that the music industry have resisted embracing potential of the Internet.

Music has been visibly online since 1998 when eMusic launched. We are at the end of 2007 and all the music industry has managed to do little. They focussed on minimising the down-side of the Internet (ie, illegal file sharing) instead of maximising the upside (eg, greater ease of sampling and buying, selling back catalogue). Today they are wrestling with iTunes, DRM and, because of market failures, illegal file sharing.  It’s not evident how they can remedy things in the short term.

It made me think that, compared with all the media industries I’d worked with, the music industry has done the least necessary to profit from the Internet.

The press has tried hard. They were quick to put their content online. It took them a while to learn to publish for the web, but most figured out. Of course some titles gave too much away (eg, TIME to AOL) but that’s down to execution. My point is that just about every publisher quickly develop some sort of “web strategy”. They weren’t in denial. Some publishers even bought dotcoms in classified and local directories. Many have embraced blogs. And, recently, some titles are beginning to develop social networks. I give them an ‘A+’.

The movie industry realized early on that they’d be in the same hot water the music business was in unless they did something about it. Viant (my favourite work place) was working with movie studios as far back as 1999 to develop Internet business models. Today there are a variety of ways that you can buy movies — not all ideal but proof that they are experimenting. And, they sure know how to use the web to market their fare. That’s a ‘B+’ in my view (I’d give them a A- if they weren’t still enamoured to DRM).

TV has been a bit of a sleeper but has moved fast this year. Broadcasters used the web to put out loads of program information and, generally, did that well. They even offered show-related chat rooms and forums. And, this year, all the US broadcasters developed broadband portals built around their real asset: video. That earns them a ‘B-’.

Radio has been ignoring the Internet. Stations have little to show other than streaming shows and creating email addresses for their DJs. Most stations, until recently, have been dissing podcasting. I give them a ‘C’ because they were quick to offer streaming but have done nothing of note since.

Brands shouldn’t ask customers what they want.

One of the worst things I can do is ask my wife what she wants – whether it’s an innocuous question about what we should have for dinner or a request for a hint as to what she might consider a good Christmas present. I have been, repeatedly, told that if I had paid better attention to her I’d know exactly what she wants.

Customers think like my wife. Few are willing to answer street questionnaires, take calls at home; fill online questionnaires or participate in focus groups – unless they are paid.

And yet, companies keep insisting. They rather ask than listen. If companies really cared about the customers they should know what they want!

Everyday, all day long, customers are expressing what they want and what they’d like to have improved. All it takes is listening and observation: see how happy the customer is by the time they get to the front of the queue to pay; how much time they spend with the product; how wide they smile then consuming it.

Social media (social networks, blogs, et al.) provides ample opportunities for companies to listen to what customers are saying about their products and services; uninhibited and unaffected by facilitators and stimulus material.

A friend of mine at a leading consumer goods company told me that a sweeping review of blogs, forums and notice boards led to the surprising knowledge that one of their soap bars was used for onanistic practices. My friend dismissed it as an indication of the folly of a few. To make a point I pushed back and suggested they should have launched a bar specially designed for these people’s interests. I argued that, of all the product extensions the consumer goods company had launched over the years, this was one which, at least, had a proven market.

On a similar note, Coke famously chose not to listen to customers, over the summer, as a wave of videos showing Diet Coke bottles spouting geysers when mixed with Mentos began to appear on YouTube (today there are over 6,040 videos with the top 25 having registered over 15.5 million views) and other video sharing sites. At the peak of the craze, Coke’s response was to say “we want people to drink our soda, not play with it.” Mentos on the other hand, embraced it. Belatedly, in October, Coke commissioned the EepyBird Guys, the producers of the most spectacular Coke/Mentos videos, and announced a competition. Alas, they have only attracted 5 entries so far. Read B.L. Ochman’s blog for an analyses of this fiasco.

Listen, participate.

Should the EU raise a “music tax” to be paid by broadband and mobile phone users to compensate music labels (akin to the TV license paid in many European countries)?

Earlier in the month, The Register published an article titled “Big labels are f*cked, and DRM is dead — Peter Jenner” .

Peter Jenner is a music industry old-timer (who was Pink Floyd’s first manager and has also looked after T.Rex and The Clash among others), and is Secretary General of the International Music Managers Forum. His voice is as authoritative as it’s brash.

Jenner says the major music labels “raped their whole business model” to cover profit shortfalls and haven’t got the “got the time or energy” to think about the future of their business.

His analysis of the current situation is accurate:
– “digital music pricing has been a scam where the consumer pays for manufacturing, distribution, and does all the work”;
– “DRM, pay-per-download, and per-device restrictions force users to pay multiple times for a single song”.
(which, taken together, in my view, provide individuals an incentive to seek pirated music)

I also suggest that the RIAA (US), MCPS-PRS (UK) and other national rights bodies are shooting themselves in the foot. By punishing new bona-fide Internet-based business models that promote music with over-bearing the regulations and fees common to traditional media (TV, radio, etc.) they are preventing the emergence of legal alternatives and, in the process, helping the illegal outfits flourish.

Jenner’s recommendation is for EU countries to introduce a blanket broadband license of about €4/month to compensate music companies in exchange of them abandoning DRM and them accepting greater pricing regulation.

There hasn’t been enough debate as this recommendation warrants. The clearest thinking has come from Micheal Arrington of TechCrunch who was highly critical.

I think the idea of a broadband fee is quite sensible.

Competition is unlikely to create an environment without DRM and excessive pricing.
– iTunes controls more than 70% of the music download market and is unlikely to soon loose it’s strangle-hold on the market (over 70% of new US cars have iPod docks and six airlines are now talking about supporting it too).
– Microsoft’s has just introduced a new DRM, instead of the one it already had, for it’s new Zune MP3 player.
– Mobile operators are closed networks where there is no competition for like services.

This tax wouldn’t elimate innovation. Music labels would still compete for a larger share of the broadband license. And, anyway, it is already a tried and tested concept. Many countries (eg, Canada, Holland, Germany) charge a “rights tax” on reproduction media such as blank cassettes and blank CDs. This tax would be no different.

Germany and Sweden have already introduced similar taxes to pay for their public broadcasters.

The danger is that other rights holders would demand a similar tax. Movie studios? Book publishers? Phtographers? In the process they might over-tax individuals to the point of slowing down broadband penetration.