Monday, August 11, 2008

What if copying was legal?

What if it was legal to make copies of our favorite movies, tv shows, music, games, books and more?

With almost half of the total Internet usage in the U.S. being peer to peer file sharing, it’s clear that users WANT to make copies, but why?

Do they like the ease of use? Do they like ‘having’ the files on their machines? Do they like being able to make a backup copy just in case? Do they like being able to move copies between their computers, phones, and DVRs? Do they like the efficiencies that systems like BitTorrent provide? Do they want what they want when they want it? Are they just sick of the often ridiculous DRM systems they’ve been subjected to in the past?

In my experience, the answer to ALL of these questions is YES.

In fact, they like it so much, otherwise law abiding citizens will even break the law to do it. Some break it blatantly, some rationalize with “I didn’t know” or “everyone’s doing it”, but break the law they do, because they want to be able to copy and share entertainment files.

So what if instead of (lamely) prosecuting these folks that copy and share, we flip the entertainment world on its head, and reward this behavior?

We know that all the users would love it. All the benefits of sharing files, with none of the guilt! But what of the entertainment companies that create all this content?

If no one watched ads or paid, we would be reduced to skateboarding bull-dog videos ( ) , (I had over 500 to choose from!) ), instead of professionally made movies, tv shows, music, games, books magazines, and more. All of these creative works are paid for with advertising dollars today, and will need to be paid for in the future if we expect them to continue to be produced.

So we need a system that’s as easy to use as a Google search, paid for with ads that are as innocuous as those on a Google search, and that is so inexpensive to distribute (no server farms, no fat bandwidth pipes, and no costs for customer acquisition).

Look, up in the Internet-- It’s a Bird. It’s a Plane. It’s SuperDistribution!

Superdistribution has been talked about since the early 90’s ( ) but until now, no one has been able to perfect a system that allows content owners to maintain the controls they need to succeed, while leveraging the low cost, high reach, best of both worlds solution originally envisioned.

All of that changes on Tuesday, the 12th of August, 2008.

Watch this space…

Monday, July 14, 2008

New and Improved Interfaces? Don't bother!


New and Improved?

Why is it that in an effort to be ‘fresh’ and ‘new’, companies always take the user interface that we’ve grown accustomed to, and flip it around?

Notice how Facebook cleverly moved my head shot from the left to the right? And my friends list from the – you guessed it—left to the right? And my network and vital stats from the – getting old yet? -- left to the right?


Do people get paid to make these changes? Wouldn’t a dime store mirror serve the same design purpose? I write this today, the 14th of July, because My.Yahoo home page has been warning me that today is the last day they will support their ‘old’ interface, but tomorrow they will be moving me onto the new version.

Maybe I should just get out a mirror and take a look!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I Found it!

As many of you know, after three years of getting Command Information up and running, I left for LA and the opportunities that exist helping to unlock the billions of dollars of unrealized value trapped within greatest content source in history-- Hollywood!

When I got here, I had 5 very straight-forward goals:
1) Find some truly disruptive technology, not simply a new area to ply old schemes.
2) Find a team of people that are evangelistic about their tech, and the markets it can help.
3) Find a business where I can personally add value, in the areas of operations, business development, fundraising, and more.
4) Find people that I liked working with, and that shared my passion for building a great company.
5) Find the specific niche in the digital media marketplace, where there is ample reward for the right solutions.

So far, I’ve met over 200 interesting players (according to my box of business cards on my desk), seen 20 corporate pitches, sat down with 5 interesting companies, and had to walk away from one promising deal due to diligence surprises.

I’m now very happy to report (in a blog-tease), that in less than three months in LA, I have found a company that meets all five of my goals!

This company has great technology, conceived and built by progressive geniuses over the past 10 years, for a digital media market that is just now ready to be monetized. Described by the few that have looked at it on my behalf as the ‘holy grail’ for the studios; in the proper hands, this technology will vastly extend the current ad-based revenue models, while opening up far greater monetization and distribution possibilities. After a couple of months of diligence, it really really works! All this, and they had the foresight to obtain patent protection for their role in digital media way back in the 1990’s!

The company was founded by, and is today managed by great people, that never lost faith in their invention or the value to the marketplace it could bring. While it’s easy today to think up new ways to monetize digital media-- after companies like Apple did it for music, studios are finally opening up their minds to digital distribution, and bandwidth is no longer much of a concern-- these folks had the idea over a decade ago, and never lost faith. Those are the types of people I like to hang out with.

After getting the technology ready for prime-time, and getting their full suite of patents awarded, and watching the market mature to its present state, they are ready to bring on a team of people that can deliver on their original promises. While all the skills I’ve learned in my career will be put to use, there is a good synergy between what is needed and what I’m good at doing.

Oh, and the market is Soooooo ready. Studios want to sell more ads, reach more people, open new monetized relationships, and lower costs. Software companies are delivering some fantastic packages like Air, Silverlight, and more, that can all be extended with ease. Search companies are starting to see the big business in finding just that right piece of content, as opposed to a list of web-sites that may have what you’re looking for. Even the telco’s, cable co’s, and mobile operators are desperately trying to grab their share of the digital media markets, and lock out their competitors.
So who is this wonder-company?

That will have to wait until my next post, as we’re just now working out the deal logistics, raising a small bridge round, and putting together the new core team.
As they say… watch this space.

P.S. I think my relaxing time at the beach has come to an end!

Adobe, Microsoft, Google-- SuperDistribution is the Answer!

I went to a breakfast at the Beverly Hills Hotel last week, and heard Tony Perkins (of AlwaysOn fame) talk about the digital media. In order to emphasize his point that Internet distribution is front of mind, he related a story about moderating a panel with one executive from ABC and another from FOX. In the panel, these two were discussing the various merits of Internet distribution—and their different takes on it. ABC drives all traffic to its web site, while Fox pushes traffic to its local affiliates. These two directions were being presented AS THE TOTAL DISCUSSION. How yesterday.

Now I’m the first to admit I tend to look toward the near future for business, having gotten into eCommerce in 1994 (when many told me it was illegal), and into IPv6 in 2005 (when many told me much worse!), but making people visit your website in order to see your content is not very forward thinking. In fact, it’s not how the next generation of Internet users will interact with content at all.

In order to fully utilize the Internet, content must be set free. Social Networks, Mobile computing, real peer to peer networks, texting-- this is how we use the net. Content must be able to flourish freely, while still maintaining metrics and monetization capabilities.

As we are starting to see peer to peer networks go from outlaw to mainstream, we cannot forget what makes them thrive. No, it’s not the elegant code of a BitTorrent, but rather it’s the users that choose to participate. In Peer to Peer networks, people are the key part of the chain. This leads me to SuperDistribution.

Superdistribution allows and indeed encourages digital products to be distributed freely in encrypted form, even as the product’s owner retains control over the ability to use and modify the product (WikiPedia) . This is the ideal, as long as content owners can retain control, while the content is passed around the net endlessly. Many have tried-- few have succeed.

Enter I just joined their board, but not just because they are singing the superdistribution song, because in 2008 there are a lot of startups that have now seen the light and are humming that tune. I joined the DigitalContainers board because they came up with this idea back in 1997, and did two very smart things about it. First, they patented the entire system flow. Second, they built the software so it actually works. Over these last 10 years, their patents have been awarded, and many have been successfully tested in court. These guys get superdistribution, and superdistribution will unlock the value in the digital media world.

As Microsoft’s Silverlight, Adobe’s MediaPlayer, and many more are searching for the latest new way to distribute valuable content on the Internet, little do they know that the answer is now 10 years old!

From East to West--- And LOVING IT.

I’ve just moved west-- from Virginia to the sands of Huntington Beach, and a beautiful commute to Santa Monica Blvd. I’ve come, not unlike our 49er forefathers searching for gold-- but this time it’s digital media gold.
Why come west you ask? Let me count the reasons.

First-- it’s pretty nice out here, with sun and sand and ocean breezes.Second-- People are relaxed and happy here (see number 1)Third-- The content people are, and always have been, here.Fourth-- The tech folks that want to play with the content people are moving here in droves (the nerd bird flies south too!).Fifth-- While several sectors are in the toilet (think housing, banking), the money matches the ideas out hereSixth—the m&a exits out here are phenomenal in size and speedSeventh-- I’m starting to lose my ‘ceo gut’, by walking or biking around the towns.

While there are more reasons (I’ve only been here a week so far), this answers the number one question i get asked these days-- Why did you leave Virginia?
Next up… I’ve hung out my shingle. What I’m working on so far!
Cheers! -Tom

Superdistribution at work!

If you'd like to see what I've been working on these past few months, feel free to go to: and try it out.

The concept is simple: A better way to distribute valuable content across the net. Simply put your movie, tv show, music, game, etc into a Digital Container, and then let it move peer to peer across the Internet. The content owner keeps control, gets revenue from either ads or purchase, and provides the end user with a richer experience, while leveraging the true peer to peer nature of the Internet (as opposed to "Peer to YOUTUBE to Peer" or "Peer to MYSPACE to Peer").

Go ahead and try it. We put Bono in the box (and yes, we got the rights), so you can grab it, play with it, send it on to friends, put in into BitTorrent, share it on your blog or social network (perhaps FB?). We've even made it easy by allowing a test credit card number to work (it's listed on the site).

Please let me know what you think of the experience. It comes down as an .exe file today, but the production version will live as an Adobe Air (.swf) file.

Take Bono home with you. Play with him. Share him with your friends! It's SuperDistribution, with metrics and revnue. It's Content Empowered -- Content Unleashed!

What YouTube Should Do To Generate More Revenue

YouTube Falls Short Of Expectations The Wall Street Journal, July 9th, 2008

Today’s WSJ reported that YouTube fell far short of their revenue expectations, with growing concern about the future.

To generate the additional revenue needed to exceed future expectations, YouTube must extend its model by allowing its content to leave their servers, and let users take copies of their favorite videos with them, save them on their hard drive, and share them directly with others using peer to peer services, social nets, email and instant messaging-- all while YouTube and related content owners retain control, metrics, and monetization. This simple extension will benefit their USERS, CONTENT OWNERS, YOUTUBE, GOOGLE, and the ENTIRE DIGITAL MEDIA SPACE.

The Benefits to Users: YouTube users want their videos. They want to play them over and over again. They want to be the first to find them. They want to be the first to share them. They want recognition and rewards for these actions. By being able to put their favorite videos into a secure digital container they get all of these benefits, can share in the enhanced revenue streams (content owners and influencers alike) while enhancing their user experience, and bringing their YouTube life into the other online circles including work, hobbies, social nets, and offline entertainment.

The Benefits to Content Owners: Content owners, whether professional or amateur, can now enjoy even greater viewership, and share in the additional revenue streams afforded by distribution in secure digital containers. Content owners get lower cost of distribution (less server farms and fat pipes), infinite distribution (files never die), intelligent distribution (within pre-existing groups), and trusted distribution (from a friend). Content owners also get greater revenue from increased views (online and off), higher CPM (based on enhanced user/path metrics), and tie-in merchandise transaction revenue.

The Benefits to YouTube: YouTube will better leverage its high resolution premium content and generate substantial new revenue streams for all content with additional views and viewers, along with increased CPM rates, while extending the reach and life of its content, engendering greater user loyalty, and attracting net-new users. New platforms for advertising, better brand penetration into social nets, off-line views, merchandising tie-ins, and transaction revenue all add to the bottom line.

The Benefits to Google: By sharing advertising and related monetization capabilities enabled by the superdistribution of their videos with the content owners, Google can begin to monetize the 96% of YouTube videos that it currently ignores. This system would provide Google additional platforms for selling advertising, additional inventory (now can include more licensed content), increased distribution, higher CPM rates, longer product life, and extension of the Google/YouTube brands into new avenues of distribution.

The Technology behind this EXISTS TODAY: This system could be deployed in Beta in less than 60 days, by leveraging existing software and services in the market today. By working with Digital Containers existing software, YouTube could provide all of the above results, and a platform for future growth. A Digital Container works by cryptographically sealing content, and linking it to onboard metrics and monetization engines. As a stand-alone file (.swf format), it then flows freely across the net to any device (computer or phone), by any means available (eMail, RSS, BitTorrent, LimeWire, thumb drive, IM, social network, etc.). As soon as a user begins to interact with it, the metrics engine kicks in allowing for dynamic advertising placement, and the onboard rules engine then determines what can be done with the content, based on the owners (YouTube and creators, jointly in this case) dynamic rule-base. When the container is passed along, the process starts anew, and the metrics engine remains aware of the path taken. This allows for ‘superdistribution’ revenue models, where recommenders are rewarded for success. The container has its own secure player, but first looks for user preferences, and then securely ‘serves’ the content to their player of choice.

With Google’s recent announcement teaming with Adobe regarding the indexing and discovery of .swf files via search, users will be able to find their videos when they are posted on other sites…again, always maintaining the Google/YouTube brands.

Instead of milking the old ad models until they run dry-- it’s time for more innovation and growth!