Monday, October 08, 2007

Yahoo! context and hubris

Ian Rogers has worked in both what we still call 'new' media and for record companies in the past; he was with WinAmp; he's currently with Yahoo! Music and has just posted a presentation he gave to some "friends in the music industry" in which threw down an interesting new policy.

First, he illustrated that convenience will always win out over hubris (or, rather, the perception that better makes people happy to pay and jump through hoops):

History tells us: convenience wins, hubris loses. “Who is going to want a shitty quality LP when these 78s sound so good? Who wants a hissy cassette when they have an awesome quadrophonic system? Who wants digitized music on discs now that we have Dolby on our cassettes? Who wants to listen to compressed audio on their computers?” ANSWER: EVERYONE. Convenience wins, hubris loses.

Then, he extrapolated what this will mean for Yahoo!Music in future:
I’m here to tell you today that I for one am no longer going to fall into this trap. If the licensing labels offer their content to Yahoo! put more barriers in front of the users, I’m not interested. Do what you feel you need to do for your business, I’ll be polite, say thank you, and decline to sign. I won’t let Yahoo! invest any more money in consumer inconvenience. I will tell Yahoo! to give the money they were going to give me to build awesome media applications to Yahoo! Mail or Answers or some other deserving endeavor. I personally don’t have any more time to give and can’t bear to see any more money spent on pathetic attempts for control instead of building consumer value. Life’s too short. I want to delight consumers, not bum them out.

If, on the other hand, you’ve seen the light too, there’s a very fun road ahead for us all. Lets get beyond talking about how you get the music and into building context: reasons and ways to experience the music. The opportunity is in the chasm between the way we experience the content and the incredible user-created context of the Web.

So, what does this mean for Yahoo, then, besides a firm rejection of DRM? Rogers believes that Y! can offer something which iTunes - "a spreadsheet which plays music" - can't, and that's context to the music. By a strange coincidence, the 'context' is what Yahoo is kind of good at - or at least, should be.

Here's where we start to disagree with him - to be frank, although we're quite curious about matters musical, we've never once thought "if only iTunes could tell us what the drummer on this track ate for breakfast the day he played" and tapping the questions that we do have into a browser has never proved too onerous; indeed, we've got iTunes plugged into Firefox anyway thanks to FoxyTunes.

But convenience? That can only be a good thing.


ian said...

If once, just once, Yahoo had ever built an "awesome media application", instead of their long and distinguished history of buying awesome websites and turning them to shit, or building their own towers of crap from scratch, then I might believe him. However, as he's just one small cog in the mighty shitfactory that is Yahoo, I'm going to hold my nose, not my breath, while waiting to see what they churn out this time.

Anonymous said...

I take his point, but it's kind of ironic that he ended a piece on industry hubris by describing iTunes as 'a spreadsheet that plays music'. Given that Apple are probably the only people who have actually made money out of selling music online* makes me think that in this case, context isn't everything.

*Yes, money which they then handed over to the record companies, I know.

angel lipa said...

Thank you, your article is very good

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