On Hiatus

For those of you who pay attention, there was no new episode.  This is because we are doing some work on switching to a new format.  We haven’t put together a solid plan, but Chuck and I have some interesting ideas for moving forward.  For the coming weeks, we will be testing out some ideas and planning out the improved podcast.  Until we publish the new format, we will not be putting out any new episodes (unless it’s outtake episodes).  We hope you enjoy the new format and stay tuned for new episodes!

Netflix CEO Addresses Customer Response

We’ve been following the plummet of Netflix over the last few months that started with the division of Netflix’s DVD service from it’s streaming service.  Last night Reed Hastings, co-founder and CEO of Netflix, sent out an email to those customers who still remain with the service giving a long-delayed and well-deserved explanation about the plans for Netflix services.

Dear Adrian,

 

I messed up. I owe you an explanation.

It is clear from the feedback over the past two months that many members felt we lacked respect and humility in the way we announced the separation of DVD and streaming and the price changes. That was certainly not our intent, and I offer my sincere apology. Let me explain what we are doing.

 

For the past five years, my greatest fear at Netflix has been that we wouldn’t make the leap from success in DVDs to success in streaming. Most companies that are great at something – like AOL dialup or Borders bookstores – do not become great at new things people want (streaming for us). So we moved quickly into streaming, but I should have personally given you a full explanation of why we are splitting the services and thereby increasing prices. It wouldn’t have changed the price increase, but it would have been the right thing to do.

 

So here is what we are doing and why.

Many members love our DVD service, as I do, because nearly every movie ever made is published on DVD. DVD is a great option for those who want the huge and comprehensive selection of movies.

 

I also love our streaming service because it is integrated into my TV, and I can watch anytime I want. The benefits of our streaming service are really quite different from the benefits of DVD by mail. We need to focus on rapid improvement as streaming technology and the market evolves, without maintaining compatibility with our DVD by mail service.

 

So we realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.

 

It’s hard to write this after over 10 years of mailing DVDs with pride, but we think it is necessary: In a few weeks, we will rename our DVD by mail service to “Qwikster”. We chose the name Qwikster because it refers to quick delivery. We will keep the name “Netflix” for streaming.

 

Qwikster will be the same website and DVD service that everyone is used to. It is just a new name, and DVD members will go to qwikster.com to access their DVD queues and choose movies. One improvement we will make at launch is to add a video games upgrade option, similar to our upgrade option for Blu-ray, for those who want to rent Wii, PS3 and Xbox 360 games. Members have been asking for video games for many years, but now that DVD by mail has its own team, we are finally getting it done. Other improvements will follow. A negative of the renaming and separation is that the Qwikster.com and Netflix.com websites will not be integrated.

 

There are no pricing changes (we’re done with that!). If you subscribe to both services you will have two entries on your credit card statement, one for Qwikster and one for Netflix. The total will be the same as your current charges. We will let you know in a few weeks when the Qwikster.com website is up and ready.

 

For me the Netflix red envelope has always been a source of joy. The new envelope is still that lovely red, but now it will have a Qwikster logo. I know that logo will grow on me over time, but still, it is hard. I imagine it will be similar for many of you.

 

I want to acknowledge and thank you for sticking with us, and to apologize again to those members, both current and former, who felt we treated them thoughtlessly.

 

Both the Qwikster and Netflix teams will work hard to regain your trust. We know it will not be overnight. Actions speak louder than words. But words help people to understand actions.

 

Respectfully yours,

 

-Reed Hastings, Co-Founder and CEO, Netflix

 

p.s. I have a slightly longer explanation along with a video posted on our blog, where you can also post comments.

 So what do you guys think?  “Appropriate and heartfelt” or “Too little, too late?”

Libyan Rebels Hijack Cellular Network

We try to avoid talking too much about politics, but one piece of news this week caught my eye.  The Libyan rebels, with the help of some Middle Eastern and Libyan-American friends, were able to hijack Gadhafi’s Libyana cellular network.

In the early days of the rebellion, Gadhafi shut off cell phones and internet to stem the flow of information out of Libya.  Since then the rebels have had to communicate via semaphore, and while flag signals are kind of a bad ass way of communicating, it sucks as a primary communication tool. 

Ousama Abushagar, a Libyan-American telecom executive, got together a few childhood friends and raised funding in order to infiltrate Libyana and pirate their cellular signal.  The United Arab Emirates and Qatar both provided the millions of dollars worth of equipment needed to make this plan work, showing their support of the rebel government.  Etisalat, a UAE cellular service, provided use of one of their satellites for the pirate cell phone network.  Eventually the plan rolled out and Free Libyana was born.  International calls are extremely limited currently, but hey… who can complain when all domestic calls are free.  Beat that AT&T!

Fail of the Week: Police Pepper Spray Unruly 8 Year Old At School

In Lakewood, CO. an 8 year old was pepper sprayed by local police when they were called to the school to handle the unruly boy.

It’s one of those incidents that makes you double take and say “LOL WUT?” and to be honest, after reading the article, I’m not sure who failed worse: the police or the kid.

I know what you’re thinking: The teachers should have been able to handle an unruly kid.  However, the kid was throwing the a tantrum worthy of Dust Head Hall of Fame.  According to reports, the kid was climbing on teacher carts, spitting and cursing at teachers, and ripped molding of the walls and attempted to stake anybody who came near him.  When approached by the officers he brandished a sharpened stick and yelled “get away from me you fuckers!”

Still not convinced this kid is a whack job?  How about if I told you this was the third time the police had been called to the school about his behavior?

The police fail because they had to use pepper spray on a kid, the kid fails because he’s a dust head without the PCP, he experts fail because they’re blaming TV and video game violence, the mom fails because she thinks the cops were being fascist, and the state of Colorado fails for containing all of the above.

Police Pepper Spray Unruly 8 Year Old At School from The Consumerist

April Fools Day 2011 Wrap Up

If you’re like me, you have a love/hate relationship with April Fools Day.  Every April 1st, the internet is abuzz with new products, news, and speculation.  Some of these are funny, so are a little too serious, and some of them you can’t tell whether they’re joking or not.  Sometimes, a poor company just happens to make a press release on April 1st about something serious and nobody takes it seriously.  This year showed us some doozies:

  • Youtube’s 1911 Mode – Youtube made on option available to its users on April first where you could watch all their content in black and white with no sound… like a classic silent film from 1911.
  • Gmail Motion – A concept that follows in the footsteps of the Kinect, users can now control they’re inbox using body motions.
  • Grooveshark’s 3D Shark theme – Grooveshark introduced a new theme for their site, hopping on the 3D bandwagon.  Now (assuming you have so old school one-red-lense-one-blue-lense 3D glasses) Grooveshark will now pop out of your screen at you while you listen to your favorite tunes.
  • Friday or Die – Funny or Die changed their site to be Rebecca-Black-centric, flooding the site with videos pertaining to the pop star everyone wishes they’d never heard of.
  • Apple Store Playset – Every year, Thinkgeek showcases a handful of “new” products.  This years highlight was the Apple Store playset (minifigs included!)
  • RFC-5984 – Every year people submit RFCs to the IETF, my favorite this year was RFC-5984: Increasing Throughput in IP Networks with ESP-Based Forwarding which basically outlines a protocol using Extra Sensory Perception to create a zero latency network.

A Short Break

We’re taking a short break until Adrian’s microphone situation is remedied.  Hopefully we won’t be gone too long, but until then here’s a bunny with a pancake on his head.

Old Media vs. New Media – A Fight Neither Side Can Win

I think the best way to explain it would be to say that Old Media is aristocratic, while New Media is democratic.

I think the best way to explain it would be to say that Old Media is aristocratic, while New Media is democratic. Old Media is about people who are trained in finding, filtering, and delivering something to the general public.  For example, a newspaper reporter has to hunt for a story, find it, determine whether it is truely newsworthy, then write it up, and submit it to an editor.  Then the editor has to review it, edit it (duh), and decide if it will get published.  These people are not experts (arguably) in what they are reporting on; instead they are experts on reporting.  There is a huge distinction here.  A reporter might not know the difference between their ass and a hole in the ground, but they know how to tell whether that difference is something worth telling other people about.  New Media is grass-roots.  People create their own content, then put it somewhere where other people can find it and decide for themselves if it is worthy.  Using the same example of a news story, if a person writes about something that is happening, they can put it on twitter, or digg.com and if enough people retweet it or digg it, then it has been voted on to be relevant for more people to see.  Are these people experts?  Maybe, but not necessarily.  A youtube clip might get 100,000 views even though it is some dude that happened to have a camera with him when something funny happened.  Or, it might be people who worked in television, then created their own network of internet videos to post on their website (Revision3).

Old Media vs New Media is not about where the media is delivered.  For example, a news article on CNN.com is still Old Media, and a TV show on public access is still New Media.  The one is just diguised in the form that traditionally belongs to the other.  I love Hulu.com, but it is Old Media.  iTunes has sold millions of songs, but it is still Old Media music created for a record label in a fancy music studio.  Find a song on MySpace that was recorded in some guy’s basement, who doesn’t have a record contract of any kind, and you are getting to this fancy New Media stuff.

But then, by that definition, a lot of old (chronologically) media could be considered New Media.  Well, I would say yes.  Which is why I say that Old Media vs New Media doesn’t really matter.  New Media isn’t new, its just easier to find now than it used to be.  At the end of the day, I would probably rather watch a movie that was made by a movie studio than by a guy in his back yard.  Of course, there are exceptions, like Film Riot.  I would rather listen to an album that sounds professionally produced than an album that sounds like it was recorded in the lead singer’s garage.  But I am ever-thankful that the band has the ability to put that poorly recorded album up where people can find it, then tell their friends about it.  With enough word of mouth, they can get gigs where they can make some money to spend more time on their next record so they can book more gigs and get more word of mouth, and eventually, if they are good enough, they will be able to remaster that first raw album into something that you can actually listen to without your ears bleeding from the technical mistakes.

We are told that New Media is the next big thing, but that stuff was always there, it was just harder to find.  Of course, the fact that there are more New Media success stories means that other normal people are realizing that they can make stuff, too, which means that the number of New people creating Media is getting bigger and bigger.  Proponents of New Media are starting this Old Media New Media war so that they can draw more attention to it, because attention is what they don’t have.  Old Media has already established a consumer base, so attention is something they already have plenty of.  It doesn’t benefit them to draw attention to the fight.

Will Old Media always exist? Yes. Will New Media always exist? Yes. It will get easier to find New Media, and it will get harder to justify the costs of Old Media because of it, but neither will ever really win.