Tag Archives: ITunes

User Generated Discontent

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I know in my previous post it sounded like user-generated content isn’t the be-all and end-all, but it has its place. Like this one, from iTunes Store, where Ricky Gervais’ new show is available as an audiobook for 10 quid. The description is the usual blurb-like drivel written by an intern and proof-read by someone on their toilet break:

Ricky delivers hilarious and insightful observations on the nature of fame, and in the process displays his talent as Britain’s foremost comedian to the fullest extent yet.

I’ll leave copywriters and editors to paw over that particular bit of prose. But what I love is the Customer Review below:

Ricky Gervais seems to have convinced the majority of the British and American public he is some sort of genius. Take away that stupid dance [and] the inane grin and what are you left with? An average …. More

I know the More … bit is just part of the way the web page truncates the review, but it seems somehow apt.

I’m not knocking Gervais, who did exhibit some genius with The Office (the UK version), but I find it amusing that the iTunes store, such prime real estate and so carefully designed, allows such prominently displayed counteropinion.

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That’s the true power of user generated content, in my view: A counterblast, a breath of fresh air, a guy standing at the counter when you’re about to part with your cash who nods towards the DVD clutched in your hand and murmurs in your ear, “load of crap, that. Waste of money, frankly.”

The Slow Death of the iPod

Jupiter Research has come up with figures [BBC] suggesting that only 20% of the tracks found on an iPod will have been bought from iTunes. The conclusion: “Digital music purchasing has not yet fundamentally changed the way in which digital music customers buy music.”

Paul Thurrot reckons that for Apple things are the other way around to what was expected (where the iPod was the razor, iTunes was the blades they made their money off): Apple has to sell more hardware for its business to thrive. He also reckons that Apple has got to come up with something neat to keep the circus rolling: “As iPod moves from gotta-have-it fashion accessory to all-too-common electronics device, it will be interesting to see if Apple can keep the momentum going.”

There are plenty of folk heralding the doom of the iPod. The Observer last week: “Sales are declining at an unprecedented rate. Industry experts talk of a ‘backlash’ and of the iPod ‘wilting away before our eyes’. Most disastrously, Apple’s signature pocket device with white earphones may simply have become too common to be cool.” One of its main sources: Tomi Ahonen, author of Communities Dominate Brands. (Check out these two posts for more discussion of this.)

This kind of talk infuriates fans of the iPod, Apple and Jobs. A piece on Arstechnica’s Infinite Loop points out that given CDs have been around for 20 years, and iTunes for only three, the idea that there are more CD tracks on iPods than from the Apple store isn’t overly surprising. (The article and the comments below, however, convey some intriguing vitriol against iPod-doom merchants specifically, and technology journalists more generally.)

A lot of this, I suspect, is down to the differing experiences across the globe. U.S. cellphones have long been woeful, but online commerce cheap and highly efficient, so it’s not surprising the iPod/iTunes model would work well. Europe is a little trickier: great cellphones, but at least in the case of the UK, overpriced iTunes content is apparently driving users legally dubious music download sites like AllofMP3.com (which overtook Napster.com in traffic about a year ago, according to Alexa). Asia is a different kettle of fish: cheap, small, generic MP3 players are so ubiquitous here, as are cellphones, it’s a tough call. But most people are going to prefer one device to two, so as music on phones gets better and easier, expect to see music shift.

That said, Apple are now so much more visible in Asia because of the iPod and there’s no reason they can’t be a part of that although if the iPod becomes commoditized, it’s hard to imagine Apple keeping pace with the already commoditized cellphone. I guess the final point here is the shift from music as a product to a service: It makes a lot of sense to listen to music on your phone if your collection is somehow fed to you by your cellphone operator. Subscribe to songs and they are on your music phone when and where you need them, and the whole ripping/syncing thing is going to seem pretty antiquated. Think ringtones, a market 12 times the size of iTunes.

Podcast: Escape Your Gadgets

Here’s something I recorded for the BBC on how to escape from your gadgets by climbing a volcano. Not an option for everyone, but it worked for me. If you want to subscribe to an RSS feed of this podcast you can do so here, or it can be found on iTunes. My Loose Wire column for The Wall Street Journal Asia and WSJ.com, on which this piece is based, can be found

here (subscription only; sorry.)

Thanks for listening, and comments, as ever, welcome.

Podcast: Backing Up I

Here’s something I recorded for the BBC on backing up (a topic I revisit in later columns and broadcasts.)

If you want to subscribe to an RSS feed of this podcast you can do so here, or it can be found on iTunes. My Loose Wire column for The Wall Street Journal Asia and WSJ.com, on which this piece is based, can be found here (subscription only; sorry.)

Thanks for listening, and comments, as ever, welcome.

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Podcast: Instant Messaging

Here’s a podcast of a piece I did for the BBC World Service on instant messaging, based on a blog posting I made here. If you want to subscribe to an RSS feed of this podcast you can do so here, or it can be found on iTunes.

Thanks for listening, and comments, as ever, welcome.

Podcasting Is Big, Led By Mac Lovers

Podcasting is big. Well, not as big as paying bills online, but almost as big as blogs. According to Nielsen//NetRatings (PDF file), 6.6 percent of the U.S. adult online population are downloading audio podcasts. That’s more than 9 million people. But in case you get all excited about that, compare it with viewing and paying bills online (51.6 percent) or online job hunting, (24.6 percent). Still it’s bigger than I thought. Videocasting is also popular, at about 4 percent of the population, which is slightly less than the blogging population (4.8 percent) and a touch larger than the online dating population (3.9 percent).

Most of these folk are, unsurprisingly, young. They’re also Apple fans — and not just in terms of using iPods. Audio and video podcasters (i.e. the folk producing the stuff) are more than three times as likely to be using a Mac (known by the fact they’re using Safari). Given that they’re also two times as likely to be using Firefox, this Mac figure could be higher. Macworld is also the largest visited podcast site by some margin. This is interesting, and perhaps another sign, if one were needed, that the iPod is having a huge impact on the sales of other Apple products.

Getting a Lock on Your iPod

A sign of the times: what are billed as the first mobile security locks for iPods. According to a press release (not yet available online):

Featuring a keyless, user-settable three-digit combination for added convenience and protection, the new Targus security locks are designed for use with iPods configured with a dock connector, including the 5G, nano, iPod Photo, 4G, iPod mini and 3G.

The Mobile Security Lock for iPod is “a compact case that houses the retractable cable and combination lock. Users simply loop the cable around the strap of a backpack, purse or briefcase, or other stationary object, insert the combination lock through the opening in the case, and then attach the lock to their iPod.” Cost: $40.

The Desktop Security Lock secures the iPod to any stationary object, while the Eyelet Security Lock for iPod (pictured above) “is designed for use with any notebook cable lock to secure the iPod and notebook together” by attaching to the iPod’s dock connector and then threading the cable from the notebook lock through the Eyelet Lock’s pass-through loop and then fastened to the notebook. Cost: $20.

Actually, I’m kinda surprised this kind of thing hasn’t emerged already. (Actually it has, but not the mobile element, I guess) I always feel horribly vulnerable walking around with my iPod, even though I’m actually still in the apartment. There seem to be plenty of thefts reported, hype aside: Dianne Wiest’s daughter pleaded guilty to lifting one in New York last month.

If Your Computer Won’t Acknowledge Your iPod

For anyone who can’t get their computer to recognise an iPod plugged into a USB port, the likeliest solution is to reset the iPod. This won’t remove any files from the iPod, though some settings may be lost. Here from the Apple website is how to do it, although the title, Resetting iPod if it appears frozen or doesn’t respond, is misleading as your iPod may actually be working fine. Anyway:

    • Toggle the Hold switch on and off. (Slide it to Hold, then turn it off again.)
    • Press and hold the Menu and Select buttons until the Apple logo appears, about 6 to 10 seconds. You may need to repeat this step.

That should do it.

Indonesia’s Slice of the Long Tail

It’ll be interesting to see how this kind of thing pans out: An Indonesian publishing company run by an expat American has launched a catalogue of Indonesian pop music on iTunes (declaration of interest: the guy, Mark Hanusz, is a friend of mine). Could this kind of thing change the way this kind of music is distributed, and, perhaps more interestingly, define a musician’s fan base and therefore their definition of success?

There are plenty of examples of music already crossing boundaries. But moves like Equinox Publishing, which claims its “catalog forms Southeast Asia’s largest selection of music to arrive on the digital music landscape”, represent a significant step forward. Until now it would have been nigh impossible for Indonesians living outside Indonesia, or anyone else for that matter, to get their hands on anything other than a CD of gamelan music. Now they can zip their way through 30–second previews of dozens of Indonesian artists on iTunes. Perhaps more significantly, it levels the playing field a bit: Now anyone browsing iTunes is as likely to stumble on an Indonesian band as they are to find a U.S. or European act.

Already Western bands make their way to a place like Indonesia — from Deep Purple and Procul Harem to more, er, contemporary acts like Foo Fighters, Mariah Carey, Alanis Morissette. With a potential audience of 200 million people, it pays for itself. But maybe the tide could change. Mark likes to see himself as slicing off a thin wedge of the Long Tail, catering to a small but significant market. But what may prove just as intriguing is the possibility that an Indonesian band, via something like iTunes, could become just popular enough in certain places overseas to justify a tour or two. Could we be seeing the likes of Homogenic, Netral and Dewi Lestari playing Boston or Bristol?

Why Does Apple Take So Long to Bite?

Apple is again protecting itself, as Wired News reports: E-Tailers Get Apple Nastygrams

Apple is ordering several online iPod accessory vendors to stop using the word “iPod” in their names or URLs. Apple has sent legal notices to accessory vendors everythingipod.co.uk and iPodlife. “I’m very nervous that this whole affair will hurt our business financially,” said Barry Mann, director of everythingipod.

In August, Apple threatened legal action against iPod Essentials, which changed its name to mp3Essentials and handed ownership of the iPodEssentials.co.uk domain name to Apple.

Apple has my sympathy for this, and it makes sense to protect consumers from rubbish products that might to the untutored eye look like an Apple creation. But a couple of things confuse me. First off, why does it take them so long to get around to warning these guys? Everythingipod.com as a domain was first registered in December 2001: It takes Apple lawyers four years to track them down? What were they using? Snow shoes?

The cynic might be forgiven for thinking that Apple waits for these accessory businesses to get successful and then dumps on them. After all, as Wired News points out, Apple has its own Made for iPod program, which requires manufacturers to comply with set standards, use certain manufacturers for some components and pay a percentage of wholesale earnings to Apple.

So, the cynic would argue, there’s no point in crushing these third party web sites until they’re up and running. Wait until they’re successful and then start milking them. After all, these third party vendors and manufacturers are useful since they enhance the product, encourage retailers to give over more space to the whole iPod thing, and keep users interested. I’m sure there’s no truth to such a cynical view but it does leave some questions unanswered.

For instance: You might argue it’s hard for Apple to keep tabs on these third party websites. But I find that hard to believe. One short DNS search throws up literally hundreds of websites registered with ipod somewhere in the name, many of them more than a year old. (Just out of interest, what is planned at www.ipod-dating.com and http://www.ipod-porn.co.uk/?) This is easy stuff to keep an eye on. Either Apple’s lawyers are not doing their job or else there’s something else afoot here.