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Scott Ertz iHeartMedia Warns It May Not Survive Year
(2017-04-22)
iHeartMedia Warns It May Not Survive Year Bob Pittman is a force in the media world. After helping create MTV and eventually become president of the organization, he found himself taking over Clear Channel. In the years since he became the CEO, a lot of changes have happened. The company is the largest terrestrial radio operator in the country, and acquired iHeartRadio to get more directly into the online streaming world.

The company was so happy with its iHeartRadio purchase that it later changed its name from Clear Channel to iHeartMedia, emphasizing the commitment to a new, more modern approach to broadcast. Now, all 850 radio stations are available for listening across the country on a variety of platforms, and programs like the iHeartRadio Music Festival help to promote the overall brand, not just online streaming.

Unfortunately, these changes have not helped the company in the way that Pittman had hoped. The company has $350 million in debt that will come due within the next year, which is leftover from the Clear Channel purchase by Bain Capitol in 2008. That debt alone could sink the company, but that is not all that is hanging over iHeartMedia's head. As advertisers have moved to more targeted platforms, such as Pandora, in an attempt to get the most out of their advertising dollars, they have moved away from traditional broadcast. That means that, in addition to large debt payments, the company's revenue has been sliding, making those payments more difficult.

As a result of all of these problems, Pittman will inform investors and shareholders that there is a possibility that the company may not survive the next 12 months. Yes, you read that right - iHeartMedia and Clear Channel Outdoor advertising may not be able to continue operations for 12 months. The end game could mean the disbursement of radio stations away from a central authority and back to local management. The other possibility, assuming that there is difficulty in acquiring owners for stations, is a massive collapse in broadcast radio.

This situation is different from a retailer that is struggling. You can't just shut down under performing stations because, in most markets, all stations broadcast out of a single location, so that would actually drive up the per-station costs, making it undesirable. No matter what happens, the face of radio as we know it is about to change, and not in a small way. Perhaps there is a way for Pittman and crew to change their operations, or even shake up the business model entirely, so that the company can continue to operate as a whole, but at this point it seems unlikely.
MarketWatch: iHeartRadio parent warns it may not survive another year
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Scott Ertz Facebook Announces Underwhelming Features at F8
(2017-04-22)
Facebook Announces Underwhelming Features at F8 This week, Facebook hosted it's annual F8 conference where it announces and demonstrates its newest and most important (to the company) features. This year, the company talked a total of nothing about Facebook the social network and, instead, talked about Facebook the company. From the most obvious implementation of the Oculus hardware to at attempt to compete with Slack and Microsoft, Facebook was all over the place, and mostly to underwhelming response.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Facebook Spaces[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
Facebook Spaces is the most predictable product out of Facebook following its purchase of Oculus: virtual Facebook. From within the virtual world you can use many of the traditional Facebook features, such as Messenger, photos and videos. In fact, while you can interact with 3 other Oculus users concurrently, you can also interact with people over traditional video via Messenger. You can explore 360 videos from the inside and you can, of course, take selfies, which is almost required at this point.

Spaces is not the first virtual social network. Applications like AltspaceVR, Bigscreen, Rec Room and vTime have been around for a little while, but the issue that those platforms have suffered is discoverability. A social network is not nearly as effective when there aren't a lot of people involved, no matter how good the platform might be. Spaces, on the other hand, has the power and scope of Facebook behind it, making it easy to find and already populated even before it launched.

It's interesting to note that, while other devices, such as Samsung Gear VR, are powered by Oculus, only the actual Rift hardware can take advantage of the new application. It is possible that, because Rift is a known piece of hardware from inside the company, it is currently limited while in Beta so that Facebook can test without the difficulty of hardware variation getting in the way.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Facebook Camera[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
While Spaces is Facebook's focus on virtual reality, Camera is their take on augmented reality. While the company is very excited about the new features, in reality, it is merely a mix of what Nintendo has on its 3DS portable console and what Snapchat has offered for ages. The upgraded capabilities include frames, like you see on Facebook profiles frequently, filters, integrated from Instagram, and virtual objects, a feature that Snapchat also made popular.

Facebook has had some success with stealing Snapchat features in the past. Instagram Stories, a direct copy of Snapchat Stories, has been such a popular feature that April Fools Day featured other products announcing the feature, obviously as a prank, but still. It is possible that Camera might make some inroads in some of these spaces, but it is difficult for a completely uninspired product to gain too much traction.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Messenger[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
With Messenger 2.0, Facebook has taken the Messenger you know and might love and made it easier to not talk to other people. The new version of the platform is all about making it easy for you to find and talk to bots instead. Whether you are looking for support from a company that doesn't involve a person, or want to order food without the inconvenience of a specialized interface designed specifically to accomplish the goal, Messenger can now do that.

Obviously the tone here is meant to emphasize the oddity of a messaging platform not focusing on messaging. That has been obvious for a while, with Messenger adding games, payments and other odd features, but a presentation about messaging that focused more on variable messenger codes and the ability for me chat bot to hand off to another than how it will benefit the end user shows that the platform is no longer about talking to other members.

[heading" class="UpStreamLink">Workplace[/heading" class="UpStreamLink">
The space for online collaborative tools has grown this year, with Slack finally adding threaded conversation and Microsoft Teams stealing some of their thunder. Facebook's entry into this space has been less than popular. Workplace has suffered from a number of issues, including a lack of trust in the integrity and safety of the data, but mostly the fact that it is from Facebook. Facebook and office life have never had a great relationship, since Facebook is often a time sink for employees while on the clock. The idea of using a nearly identical version of the platform within the office has raised a lot of flags for companies.

Facebook wants to deal with these issues. To deal with the concerns of data safety, with the help of data providers Disco, Netskope, Smarsh and Skyhigh. These services protect against data loss, making it easier to trust Workspace. To make it feel more like a business product and less like a time waster, Facebook has worked to integrate business essential services, such as Microsoft Office and Salesforce. Adding those features to groups, chat and more, it makes it a more valuable proposition. Workplace still fails to live up to the usefulness of Microsoft Teams or Slack, both of whom already have a hold on the market.
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Scott Ertz Twitch Wants to Expand Where YouTube is Failing: Monetization
(2017-04-22)
Twitch Wants to Expand Where YouTube is Failing: Monetization Currently, if you want to make money on Twitch from Twitch, you have to be part of a very select group of partnered streamers. Those streamers are few and far between, leaving most streamers to figure out their own ways to monetize their time. That is all about to change, however, as Amazon is about to add a new tier to their streaming service, allowing more streamers to generate revenue off of their streams.

In addition to the existing Partner tier, a new Affiliate tier will be coming, giving a subset of revenue options to a new collection of streamers. Not everyone will be eligible, but those who are will be able to receive money from Cheers, game sales and ads, while Affiliates will not get other benefits of Partners, such as priority support, extended storage, quicker payouts, etc.

This addition follows a new trend from Amazon, a renewed focus on advertising and revenue sharing. As Google has struggled with advertising lately, Amazon has stepped in to help those affected. Major advertisiers have pulled out of AdSense, and Amazon extended the commission for websites using Amazon advertising on their websites to encourage sites to switch. If you have seen an influx of Amazon ads online in the past month, that is why.

For a streamer to be considered for Affiliate status, they must meet a few criteria. In a 30 day period, the streamer must have 500 streaming minutes across at least 7 distinct sessions. You will also need at least 50 followers and an average of at least 3 streamers at all times during those 500+ minutes. This requirement is going to ensure that Twitch does not dedicate too much time or resources to streamers who are not driving engagement on the platform, which is what the platform is all about.

If you are interested in becoming a Twitch Affiliate, make sure that your account meets those criteria and look for an email from Twitch in the near future.
Twitch: And now, something for our non-partnered streamers!
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Scott Ertz Plastc: Another Warning About the Dangers of Crowd Funding
(2017-04-22)
Plastc: Another Warning About the Dangers of Crowd Funding One of the more successful preorder products that brought widespread attention to the concept of crowdfunding was Plastc. The company promised a smart credit card, but one that was a lot different. In addition to being able to attach a variety of cards into a single device, Plastic was to have a traditional mag strip, the newer smart chip, NFC, and RFID. But where they really wanted to differentiate themselves was with a touch-capable E-Ink display.

The overarching idea was that all of your cards, from credit and debit, to gift and security, would all be entered into the Plastc card, and with the swipe of your finger on the display, you could select which card Plastc would emulate. Need to use your business card? Swipe to it and go. Entering your office with NFC security? Same deal.

On the surface, this product sounds great, but it never stood a chance in the market. The product was based on the idea that you would still want to carry around a card that links to your phone, rather than simply use your phone. Apple, Google, Microsoft, Samsung and more have all talked about the idea of retiring the physical wallet and digitizing it, while Plastc would have required the continued usage of a specialized device for all of these features.

Despite this massive failure in concept, the company received $5 million in pre-orders in the first week, and more from private investment. After all of this money and not a single product shipped, Plastic has let all employees go and shut down operations. This leaves all paid pre-orders out in the cold, receiving nothing for their $155. A Chapter 7 bankruptcy is right around the corner, and the assets and liabilities of the company could end up in someone else's possession, meaning that there is a very small chance that a product could come to market, but not from this team.

It's been a long road with a lot of obstacles. The support of our amazing backers has been incredible, which makes this announcement even harder. We were so incredibly ready for production in order to hit our deadlines but without capital it is impossible for us to move forward and we will not be able to fulfill any pre-orders.

We are disappointed and emotionally distraught, and while we know this is extremely disappointing for you, we want our backers to know that we did everything we could to make Plastc Card a reality.

With more of these pre-order products failing to deliver lately, such as Lily Robotics and Skully, it should highlight the dangers of giving money to a company that does not yet have a product, but simply an idea. If the company has never successfully brought a product to market, it is very likely that they will underestimate the extreme cost and difficulty of that task. Before you back a project, either on a crowdfunding platform, or a company's website, look into their history to try and minimize your losses.
Plastc: Important Notice
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Scott Ertz Jay Z Abandons Spotify and Apple Music, Goes All-In on TIDAL
(2017-04-09)
Jay Z Abandons Spotify and Apple Music, Goes All-In on TIDAL If you are a fan of Jay Z's music and a subscriber of either Spotify or Apple Music, you might have noticed a lack of his music this weekend. That is because the artist's music was removed from those services at the request of the artist. The move was done without prior communication with either service, but has been confirmed as an active decision. At this point, the only music you will find from Jay Z are singles, mostly collaborations with other artists.

It is interesting to note that, as of this writing, his catalog is still fully available on both Groove Music and Google Play Music. It could be that no request was ever made to these services to remove his content, or that the services have simply not yet responded to the request.

The move comes at an interesting time for Jay Z, as his own music streaming service, TIDAL, has struggled since before he purchased it. The service has consistently struggled to find an audience, but has continued to stress its two major benefits: FLAC audio and exclusive content. With talk of Spotify implementing FLAC streaming, exclusives will remain as its benefit.

With a new investor in wireless carrier Sprint, the streaming service needs to demonstrate a confidence in themselves. Part of that outward show of confidence could be emphasizing that Jay Z himself is confident enough in the service to make his catalog exclusive, or even semi-exclusive, to TIDAL.
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