Yesterday I attended South By Southwest (SXSW or “South By”) Interactive and Film for the first time and I have to say that it was a pretty overwhelming experience. My initial goal (since this shindig runs for almost a week) was to just figure out the lay of the land. My larger goal here is to do some networking and to find out what’s new and what may be next in internet technology.
So in no particular order here are my first impressions of SXSW.
I recently received an email from Blip.tv (one of the services that I use to host video on the web) reminding me that they are no longer supporting distribution to iTunes for videos uploaded to their service. It’s one of many changes that Blip has made in recent years to gain an advantage over competing video services by emphasizing their own site as a destination. I also recently noticed that Blip.tv (after being acquired by Maker Studios) closed their service to new accounts.
The advantage of having viewers watch video on a particular video host’s site (or at the very least via that video host’s player) lies in the fact that said video host can then insert advertisements that earn the host (and hopefully the video producer) revenue. So Blip’s recent change is very much about boosting engagement with ads by viewers. This also limits distribution options for content producers. This leads to the question: What business is Blip really in? Are they providing tools so that web video producers can build a following for their shows? Or are they a vehicle for brands to advertise? With the recent changes the answer is obviously the latter.
This week was a big one for those who aspire to “fix” news on the internet. Consider the following three developments.
- Ezra Klein, a well known writer formerly with Jeff Bezos’s Washington Post, announced that he is starting a new internet-based publication at Vox Media. His goal with the new publication is to improve how news delivers, “crucial context alongside information.” No launch date was mentioned
- Jason Calacanis, a well-known blog entrepreneur who sold Weblogs, Inc. to AOL, launched Inside.com. Inside.com essentially offers a stream of news that is curated by people and optimized for mobile devices. According to Calacanis’s launch blog post Inside.com aims to help people navigate, “this new world filled with social media, blogging and stories breaking in real time…”
- Facebook announced Paper. Paper is a standalone iPhone app that aims to help people, “explore and share stories from friends and the world around you.” Like Inside.com, Paper features curated content, but it also integrates a person’s Facebook News Feed and allows people to publish their own stories. The Paper app launches on February 3.
In the last few years LinkedIn has become an extremely important place for business focused social networking. That being the case the value of posting your business-to-business (B2B) related content on LinkedIn has increased significantly. One can always expect that as a social network grows in size, popularity and influence that changes will occur. As Facebook has grown they have made a number of important changes to their News Feed. Some of those changes have been welcome and helpful while others have been perceived as damaging to content publishers. LinkedIn has been changing too, but it hasn’t been until this week that I felt like a change they have made was a bad one.
As prevalent as having a website that is reachable at your own domain (as opposed to a subdomain like yoursite.something.com) has become in recent years I still come across sites whose address is on a subdomain. Besides being harder to remember, subdomain sites typically have ridiculously long URLs that are likely to get clipped off when shared on other websites. So there are definite benefits to moving to your own domain from a subdomain.
If you have an address at a subdomain it’s likely that you have built your website (or blog) using a hosted service such as WordPress.com, Blogger or Squarespace, to name a few popular services. There was a time not so long ago when using a hosted service meant that you were stuck at your subdomain. Thankfully those days are over. Just about all the key hosted site/blog services offer the ability to use your own domain, although a small (~$10 per year) fee is usually required. Fee or no fee, it’s worth it to have your own unique web address that is unencumbered by the name of the service that you are using.
Given the times we’re living in it’s not completely absurd to assume that the market for development and management of business websites is a very mature one without strong growth potential. After all, every major business that we deal with has a significant presence on the internet that likely includes points of presence on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Google+ (to name the most popular spots) in addition to their own corporate website(s). If you look a little closer though you’ll find that there are many smaller businesses that have either a limited web presence or they eschew the web altogether.
Consider the image above, which represents a bulletin board in community near me about thirty minutes away from Austin, TX. Right before I took the picture someone had walked up to it to place their flyer amongst the hoards of printed media, no doubt with the hope of catching someone’s eye so that the person might some day become one of their customers. To those of us that live on the web such an approach to business marketing seems awfully antiquated but the fact is that it is an approach that is still being used by more small businesses than we can imagine.
The recent guidance by the FAA that allowed fewer restrictions on the use of portable electronic devices during takeoff and landing has lead to speedy changes in the policies of (most, but unfortunately not yet all) major airlines in the United States. In short this means that smart phones and tablets can be used in airplane mode (i.e. no data connection) for the entire flight. I fly quite a bit and my rough estimate is that this gives each traveler at least an extra hour of possible device time per flight.