The Verge speaks to @BreakingNews

Nilay Patel for the Verge:

But few people know that Breaking News is actually owned by NBC, and operated as what general manager Cory Bergman calls an “internal startup.” I spoke to Cory about how that works, how his team runs @breakingnews, and how the site managed to be both fast and accurate as the chaos of the Boston Marathon bombing story unfolded.

Nilay provides an awesome taster of what goes on behind the scenes of a tool which millions of people rely on each day. It’s well worth a read.

Steven Soderbergh on why it costs so much to release a movie

It turns out that the movie studios basically have no idea how much money they’re going to make from a given release, so they just throw money at the problem. End result: more blockbusters with massive budgets and fewer “singles and doubles.”

So then there’s the expense of putting a movie out, which is a big problem. Point of entry for a mainstream, wide-release movie: $30 million. That’s where you start. Now you add another 30 for overseas. Now you’ve got to remember, the exhibitors pay half of the gross, so to make that 60 back you need to gross 120. So you don’t even know what your movie is yet, and you’re already looking at 120. That ended up being part of the reason why the Liberace movie didn’t happen at a studio. We only needed $5 million from a domestic partner, but when you add the cost of putting a movie out, now you’ve got to gross $75 million to get that 35 back, and the feeling amongst the studios was that this material was too “special” to gross $70 million. So the obstacle here isn’t just that special subject matter, but that nobody has figured out how to reduce the cost of putting a movie out. There have been some attempts to analyze it, but one of the mysteries is that this analysis doesn’t really reveal any kind of linear predictive behavior, it’s still mysterious the process whereby people decide if they’re either going to go to a movie or not go to a movie. Sometimes you don’t even know how you reach them. Like on Magic Mike for instance, the movie opened to $38 million, and the tracking said we were going to open to 19. So the tracking was 100% wrong. It’s really nice when the surprise goes in that direction, but it’s hard not to sit there and go how did we miss that? If this is our tracking, how do you miss by that much?

CNET puts words in the mouth of Intel CEO, then hides it

CNET, yesterday:

Intel CEO Paul Otellini last week said touchscreen PCs could debut at prices as low as $200 in the coming months. At the time, he didn’t specify what operating system those products would run.

But Dadi Perlmutter, Intel executive vice president and chief product officer, told CNET on Wednesday that notebooks priced at the $200 level will predominantly be Android products running on Intel’s Atom mobile processor. Whether Windows 8 PCs hit that price largely depends on Microsoft, he said.

CNET last week, originally:

Windows 8 touch laptop prices are headed south. Way south, according to Intel executives.

The price of Windows 8 touch devices, including laptops, will sink to price points that penetrate inexpensive tablet territory. These new “innovative” designs will be based on Intel’s upcoming quad-core “Bay Trail” chip, Intel executives said today during the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call.

CNET last week, updated:

Touch laptop prices are headed south. Way south, according to Intel executives.

The price of Intel-based touch devices, including laptops, will sink to price points that penetrate inexpensive tablet territory. These new “innovative” designs will be based on Intel’s Atom chip, Intel executives said today during the company’s first-quarter earnings conference call.

CNET’s update note on that article:

Updated on April 19 at 1:05 p.m. PST: adds discussion about inexpensive Android devices. Updated throughout.

The editors at CNET did a pretty good job of covering up that fact that their writer basically quoted the CEO of Intel saying something he totally didn’t say.

Zach Braff mines Kickstarter, adoring public for risk-free movie funding



[…]Zach Braff has turned to Kickstarter to finance Wish I Was Here, his directorial follow-up to Garden State. As he explains in his video appeal below, Braff just wants to make it okay to feel something again—namely the freedom from financers who demand things like input into casting or final cut or an actual return on their investment, when instead he could just seek out donors who will be happy just knowing he’s happy.

As Braff states in the promotional video on his Kickstarter page, the inspiration for this plan is the highly documented success of the Veronica Mars crowdsourcing campaign, a vanguard for what he considers to be an independent film revolution.

Braff had a major financial and critical success with Garden State, but that was nearly a decade ago, and he has worked minimally after Scrubs went off the air. His diminishing visibility and the failure of his last two attempts at being a leading man are significant red flags for any financier; the compromises Braff was offered seem reasonable, given that this film is not necessarily a safe investment. Granted, the forfeiture of final cut and casting are fairly severe drawbacks for any filmmaker with a vision, but that Braff was offered this money for a highly personal passion project at all is surprising.

My primary issue with Braff’s solicitation is the lack of accountability, though this burden falls less on Braff and more on Kickstarter. I have a hard time believing that someone who starred in a highly profitable sitcom for seven years, making up to $350,000 per episode in its twilight hours, doesn’t have the personal funds he needs to get what seems like a small movie off the ground on his own. Similarly, it is difficult to believe that there isn’t a studio that could have met Braff halfway to produce this movie to his specifications. Braff isn’t beholden to contribute his money to Wish I Was Here – again, he had at least one studio offer –  but the video is hardly shy about drawing parallels between the subject matter of the film and Braff’s own life. It’s hard not to look at this as outsourcing a vanity project to the public, soliciting no-questions-asked risk-free funding while retaining total creative control. Braff is partially funding the film, but there’s no way to tell what exactly this donation drive is paying for or what level of pre-established capital our donations are supplementing. Kickstarter’s opacity is fertile ground for manipulation, which is not to suggest that Braff is picking our pockets, but it draws further attention to potential abuse of the site. Your fans make your movie for you, and then drop ten more dollars to buoy its box office when it’s finally released.

Wish I Was Here will be funded. At this time, the project has earned over half of its $2 million goal with 29 days left to go. As with any Kickstarter baby, no promises can be made as to the results; what we end up with could be a classic of mid-30s suburban ennui, or it could be masturbatory detritus in an already overrepresented subgenre. The question remaining is whether or not Kickstarter can maintain its reputation as a trustworthy engine for creative growth. People may talk with their money, but who says Braff or any other beneficiary is going to listen to what they really want?

Drew Byrd-Smith –

When Everyone is an Eye-Witness, What is a Journalist?

Mark Little at Storyful: 

The frenzied debate about Boston and social media seems to have missed the central point. The greatest threat to ‘True Journalism’ is not social media but an outmoded concept of breaking news.

The anonymous Twitter user rushing to name a suspect or the TV reporter breathlessly quoting unnamed sources are cut from the same cloth. This is ‘Me First’ journalism, powered by vanity and self-importance, and it is the greatest threat to ‘True Journalism’.

In the wake of the Boston marathon bombings, there’s been a lot of discussion surrounding the role of journalism. I even wrote on this very website last week about the danger behind the internet taking the law into their own hands. Little, CEO at Storyful, provides an insightful and measured discussion of the sensitive issues surrounding the journalistic endeavours of the last two weeks.

AOL still working to move away from dial-up

AOL’s new publisher tool to compete with Google, Armstrong says it’s back in “ad tech game” — paidContent:

From a larger business context, the ad tech offerings are also part of Armstrong’s efforts to refashion AOL into a company that no longer has to rely on its legacy dial-up internet subscriptions. This has meant creating two other separate divisions: one dedicated to its media properties, and another dedicated to its ad technology. Recent earnings reports show the two newer divisions are performing well from a revenue standpoint but are still waiting for profits to roll in.

While I don’t want to diminish what AOL has done with its moves into digital media, the fact that it’s 2013 and AOL still earns so much of its revenue from dial-up service is ridiculous.

“Would You Tweet This Article if It Earned You Points?”

Would You Tweet This Article if It Earned You Points?:

Content, available in English, will initially be free. When readers log on to the site for the first time, they’ll receive a certain number of points—Chang calls them “karma points”—which will slowly be depleted as they click through articles. To restock on points and maintain access, they will have to share the site’s stories through social media outlets such as Facebook and Twitter. It’s a bit like multilevel marketing—the more readers spread articles, the greater their access. Those who bristle at being asked to share content can buy points; five points will cost 99¢. “I’m sort of riding off of a gaming model where, instead of pay to play, you can share to play,” Chang says.

Chang plans to pay contributors a competitive up-front fee but also give them a percentage of revenue generated by their articles. “We’ll know the click-through rates for every single article, so we can actually give you a cut for the advertising that goes through,” she says. “You won’t get paid once; you’ll get paid continuously.” Chang plans to bring in revenue by running the site as a data platform—a way of collecting reader data that can be shared with third parties—and deploying targeted advertising.

Take two things I hate: free-to-play gaming with in-app purchases/DLC and page view blogging that promotes eye-catching headlines and controversial stances. Mash them together. Congratulations, you have the first issue of Sasangge.

Gamification is a neat concept, but just because you can apply it to something doesn’t mean you should.

We’re stuck with bundled TV – for now

More Cracks In TV’s Business Model –

Susan Crawford, a professor at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law and the author of “Captive Audience,” says she thinks television bundles will be with us for a while — six to eight years — regardless of what the consumer wants.

“It’s like the picked-on kid who tries to get home to his front porch; he has to make it past all the bullies first,” she said. “We have a heavily defended, heavily concentrated programming industry and a monopoly in distribution, with none of the big players willing to act like a maverick. No one wants to break ranks because the current system has been so lucrative.”

Here’s how college students get video content, from most to least utilized:

  • Streaming sites
  • Netflix (usually family’s or a friend’s family’s account)
  • Hulu
  • YouTube
  • Torrents
  • Family cable/HBO Go account

The only people I know who have opted to get cable after graduating are sports fans. It they aren’t the kind that cares about March Madness, they aren’t paying for more than an Internet connection.

Six to eight years sounds about right for the amount of time it will take for the growing population of cable-cutters to disrupt the current TV business model. After all, it is a rather small portion of the total population, seeing as how there are over 100 million “households” in America and over 90% of them pay for some kind of television subscription.

Maybe that means we can get the last season of Game of Thrones all at once, House of Cards-style? *fingers crossed*