Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Why Big Media's Anti-Google Counter-Revolution Will Fail

Why Big Media's Anti-Google Counter-Revolution Will Fail: "

The Empire always strikes back. Every revolution inspires a counter-revolution. Luke Skywalker and the Rebel Alliance didn't win independence overnight — and neither, it seems, will the www.

Microsoft is negotiating with News Corp to pay it to remove its content from Google's index. Uh-oh: the Empire — industrial-era business as usual — is striking back. Will the rebels be crushed?

Not a chance. Blocking Google is about as smart as eating a pound of plutonium. Here's why MicroFox is making a big mistake.

Substitution. The simplest flaw in the MicroFox's strategic logic? MicroFox is trying to create artificial scarcity instead of value. That might have worked in the 20th century, but in a hyperconnected world, creating artificial scarcity kills orthodox businesses dead. That's because though MicroFox can block Google, there's no way to block people from using Google to find stuff that doesn't suck. Artificial scarcity is usually a one-way ticket to oblivion, as people simply defect to better alternatives.

Network economics. Search engines live or die by network effects. Murdoch's challenge isn't "de-indexing" the stuff of the newspaper — but de-indexing all the viral and network effects that flow from newspapers. If MicroFox could remove all the tweets, links, and blog posts that flow from newspapers, their threat would begin to be credible. But they can't — and so the threat is limited in value.

Conflict. I spent a couple of days discussing MicroFox's move with investors, entrepreneuers, and media bigwigs. Many said: "a little competition in search? Isn't that great"? It would be — but this ain't competition. It's what I've termed conflict: the opposite of competition, or anti-competitive behaviour. MicroFox's goal isn't to offer a better alternative to consumers. It's explicitly, simply, to deny Google. It's what regulators call "exclusive dealing."

Unnovation. Isn't, I said to one notable investor, real competition about building a better search engine — not just cornering the market on content? That competition and conflict are so easily confused by those at the very pinnacle of the economy speaks volumes about why our economy's in a mess. The fundamental challenge of the 21st century is learning to make radically better stuff, because for the last several decades, most industries have been unnovating. MicroFox is just deal-making — not making a radically better search engine, or better news media. And for that simple reason, Google will always outcompete it.

Scarcity. As I point out in my recent IdeaCast, the challenge for newspapers is scarcity — real scarcity, not artificial. Can newspapers offer distinctive perspectives, rich with knowledge, expanded into topics, that make readers authentically better off? That's what scarce, distinctive news might look like.

Thick value. The real challenge for every industry today is learning to create thick value — value that makes society smarter, healthier, authentically better off. Yet, MicroFox, as ever, illustrates the shortcomings of 1.0 strategy perfectly. Murdoch's move is a page straight out of the thin value playbook: bluff, threaten, withhold. Yet, if Murdoch "wins," society is worse off. Readers lose, because choice in news is limited, and prices inevitably jacked up, without better news having been created.

At the end of the day, what MicroFox is missing is the big picture. The future of advantage is fair, not unfair.

Every Constructive Capitalist knows that Google's revolution wasn't just about search. It was about learning to not engage in unfair tactics like these. Google's far from perfect — but it strives to be less evil, less unfair, less, well, 20th century, than rivals. Its next great challenge? To get even more radically fair. Google's big flaw is that it hasn't kept exploding the boundaries of fairness in recent years, leaving its suppliers beggared. Today, Google must find radically innovative ways to share a portion of the thick value it has created with content guys, without the exclusive dealing that MicroFox uses. There's no reason that sharing value has to involve kickbacks and side deals.

What kind of publishers are likely to seek these sorts of exclusive deals? Those whose content isn't competitive on a level playing field to begin with. The same is true for search engines. That's classic adverse selection — uncompetitive players falling into each others' arms. And it's why this strategy is easily dominated.

Let me try and put it even more simply. FairTrade is turning food upside down through the power of a fair advantage. Who will create a FairTrade for media? That's every media player's next great challenge. MicroFox, still trapped in the confines of strategy 1.0, can't take it on. But somewhere out there is a Constructive Capitalist who will — and when they do, kiss big media goodbye.

Empires always strike back, but the Force is with the fair. It's awesomeness that gives you the power to, like Google, create real value. So how unfair is your business? Is the force with you?

* * *

NB — Here's some more basic econ for those who are interested:

How much will Bing will be willing to pay News Corp? The value of the advertising revenue that marginal traffic generates for Bing. But that value depends first on how valuable Bing ads are. If Bing ads were maximally relevant, no exclusive deal would need to be struck in the first place. The fee is an admission that ads aren't valuable enough to publishers alone. When Google's ads are valuable enough to offset the marginal gains from fees to publishers, exclusivity will fall apart. Conversely, Google will always be able to offer greater exclusivity fees than Microsoft, should it choose to do so.


More American Homes Play WoW Than You Probably Think [Christmas]

More American Homes Play WoW Than You Probably Think [Christmas]: "

Terrifying statistic incoming. According to research performed by the NPD Group, 14% of American homes have an online game subscription. Not 14% of homes connected to the internet. 14% of homes.

That figure covers any and all games requiring a subscription, so don't go laying all the blame at World of Warcraft's feet. Spare a little for EVE, Age of Conan and LOTRO as well.

'Despite concerns that the recession would cause consumers to reduce spending on entertainment subscription services, most forms of subscription entertainment are doing just fine,' NPD's Russ Crupnick said in a press release. 'Consumers are clearly looking to the value offered by entertainment subscriptions and like what they get for their money.'


New NASA Game Gets Kids to Map Mars for Space Agency

New NASA Game Gets Kids to Map Mars for Space Agency: "

Child labor or science education. You be the judge.

For just about ten years, between 1997 and 2006, the Mars Global Surveyor was in a perpetual state of free fall around the Red Planet. Its mission — snapping pics of the planet and taking laser altimeter and emission spectrometer readings from a height of 250 miles. Since the craft orbited Mars about 45,000 times and took more than 240,000 images during it's ten-year stint, NASA has more than just a little data to deal with. So it's started recruiting kids.

Working with Microsoft, NASA has created the Be a Martian website, where kids are crowdsourced into helping the space agency knit all of those Surveyor images into a single, coherent 3D map of Mars.

The site offers two games. In one, players are given three images from the Martian surface and must line them up with the background. NASA says the players' efforts will help them build more accurate models of the planet.

Another game asks kids to lasso Martian craters in the images. The results are used to estimate the relative ages of different regions of the planet, which provides clues to whether Mars was once habitable.

In exchange, kids are awarded 100 'reptuation' points for each task they complete. Achievement 'badges' can also be earned.

Games with a purpose — see Foldit and Louis von Ahn's work for other examples — are easily the most interesting genre of 'serious game.' Harnessing human cognition to our intense love of play has enormous potential...

"Not now, Mom, I'm raiding Kil'jaeden...oh and I'm curing cancer, too."

Laugh while you can.

[via The Register]


Curt Bonk's Flat Classroom Keynote

Curt Bonk's Flat Classroom Keynote: "I've mentioned how much I like Professor Curtis Bonk's new book The World Is Open a couple of times in the past. You can read those posts here and here. Today, on YouTube I found a video of Curt Bonk in which he gives a quick and entertaining overview of the concepts and people discussed in his book. If you've been considering purchasing his book, watch this video and decide for yourself if you want to read the book. After watching the video I think you will want to read it.

FTC Disclosure: I did receive a free copy of Professor Bonk's book 'The World Is Open' and a copy of his book 'Empowering Online Learning.' That said, even if I had paid for the books, I would still be recommending them.


Educational Video Games Mix Cool With Purpose

Educational Video Games Mix Cool With Purpose: "One of KC Phillips’s favorite video games is the Xbox shoot-’em-up Halo, because, he says, his dad taught him how to play it when he was younger. Now 15 and a high school sophomore in Madison, Wis., KC views the game with a more discerning eye. Last year, he played Gamestar Mechanic, an educational video game that asks players to solve a set of puzzles in order to win enough power to design and create their own video games.
“Now every single time I play video games, I really ..."

When Teachers Are the Experts. From Tradtional to Collaborative Pro. D.

This article from Ian Jukes' blog is a great summary of where I think professional development is heading. It's exciting to think of the equal access that the internet will provide for schools that haven't traditionally been able to afford the high-cost programs we've grown accustomed to.

When Teachers Are the Experts. From Tradtional to Collaborative Pro. D.: "I think I’m going to miss the coffee and Danish most of all. I won’t miss staring at the clock with my politely disengaged colleagues. And I won’t miss the guy up front, some former principal or ace teacher, who’s going to teach us about some topic that has been deemed important for the entire staff. These whole-school workshop sessions that many of us have experienced are what I’ll call “old PD”: professional development in the form of an expert up ..."

Empire of the Word to examine the last 5000 years of reading

Empire of the Word to examine the last 5000 years of reading: "

The written word: in prehistoric times, it took the form of drawings in caves. Today it speeds past on the screens of our electronic devices at the touch of a finger. How did the simple act of reading come to be? How has it shaped our lives? And what role does a modern society play in providing and protecting literacy for all?

The Canadian network TVO will be broadcasting the world premiere of Empire of the Word, a fascinating four-hour documentary series chronicling the origins of reading and writing and its impact on 5,000 years of human history.

Hosted by renowned Canadian-Argentine author Alberto Manguel and based on his A History of Reading, Empire of the Word explores how reading and writing were born; how we learn to read; who or what might prevent us from reading; and the future of reading.

Eight years in the making and shot in 15 countries, the series journeys from prehistory to present day and beyond, illustrating how reading and writing are inextricably linked to human evolution and existence.

We witness some of the people and events that create the story of the written word: the genesis of the alphabet; the earliest forms of portable reading; Alexander the Great’s dream of the first universal library; the role of Irish monks in saving reading during the Early Middle Ages; the groundbreaking concept of interpreting your own meaning from a text; the printing press; and the challenges and opportunities for reading in a digital world. At the heart of the series is the question of why reading has survived throughout the ages despite poverty, resistance by organized religion, authoritarian rule, censorship, learning or health impediments and interactive media.

While the invention of the Gutenberg press some 500 years ago made reading a universal possibility, the ability – and freedom – to read and write is not as universal as we may think, even in the 21st century.

After the series has premiered in Canada, it will screen in Australia, Ireland and France. It will also be available to the rest of the world online, along with a series of interactive features.

Click here to go to the Empire of the Word website.

Click here to go the Empire of the Word Facebook page

Virtual Classrooms Could Create a Marketplace for Knowledge

A really interesting article from the NY Times that poses some thoughtful questions about the potential benefits and risks of online education.

Virtual Classrooms Could Create a Marketplace for Knowledge

Virtual iPhone Phrasebook Brings Us Closer to the 'Babel Fish'

Virtual iPhone Phrasebook Brings Us Closer to the 'Babel Fish': "In Douglas Adams's best-selling novel The Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy, a space traveler could stick the Babel fish right into his ear, making it so he could understand speakers in any language. Emirates airlines' iLingual iPhone app doesn't exactly realize his dream, but it's a step in the right direction."