Why the Comcast-NBC merger is no reason to fear for Hulu’s future

December 10, 2009

Will Comcast take a bite out of Hulu?

Illustration by JPT

Ever since the rumors of Comcast’s now-impending acquisition of NBC-Universal began buzzing, so too have questions about whether the future of Hulu — the free video streaming site part-owned by NBC — is at stake.

After all, observers noted, much of the content made available for free on Hulu was previously only accessible via cable subscription, the necessity of which consumers have begun to question, thanks to the recession and the availability of free television content on the Internet. Will Comcast mess with Hulu?

I don’t think we should worry about losing Hulu as we know it anytime soon. Here’s why:

  1. Fancast. Comcast has already launched its own version of Hulu called Fancast. Same deal: Lots of TV shows and a smattering of movies. For free. Obviously, Comcast isn’t opposed to streaming TV content online for free. (To be fair, one counterargument could be: Exactly. Comcast may try to throttle Hulu’s success in favor of its own site. However… )
  2. If Comcast pulls NBC’s content out of Hulu, it will not only piss everybody off (okay, fine, you’re right, Comcast *is* used to doing that), but it will leave ABC and other content providers who will remain on Hulu– ie, Comcast’s new competitors — with an advantage.
  3. I don’t have cable. I watch all my TV shows online. But guess who I shell out $60 a month to for Internet access. That’s right: Comcast. Something tells me those bastards will find a way to leverage their ISP business to make up for lost cable subscribers and still end up being an obscenely profitable company.
  4. There’s still stuff you can only get (legally) from a cable subscription. While many – if not most – popular television shows are available to stream online for free, many are still only available via cable. Many sports broadcasts and new episodes of “premium” HBO shows can’t easily be found online to stream and thus, an incentive still exists for people to purchase a cable subscription. Besides…
  5. Most of the NBC-owned content currently on Hulu is network TV, and thus doesn’t require a cable subscription to view anyway. I can watch The Office and 30 Rock on TV without cable. Unless Comcast/NBC would pull these shows just to hurt Hulu’s traffic, I can’t see a compelling business reason for them to restrict access to them on Hulu.
  6. Of course, anything can happen. Many people just expect a negative outcome when Comcast is involved, which is not totally unjustified. Indeed, they may find a way to ruin or water-down Hulu. But there are plenty of good reasons for it not to.



    Related Posts: » How to save hundreds of dollars on cable; »Eliminating the cable bill, part deux: Boxee!

4) Mofuse: Launch a mobile version of your Website in minutes

October 8, 2009



It’s been 15 months since Neilsen declared that the mobile Web has reached “critical mass” and even longer since news publishers began scrambling to get on board.

Well, the numbers have only skyrocketed since then. There are plenty of providers of mobile Websites, apps and SMS marketing capabilities, but they aren’t all cheap. Vendors like Crisp, Advanced or iLoop Mobile offer really nice solutions, but each one will run you a couple grand to set up, plus monthly fees, revenue shares and SMS messaging costs.

That’s just for mobile (or “WAP”) Websites, SMS capabilities and some other bells and whistles. If you want a native application for iPhone, Blackberry or Android, you’ll have to go to a mobile app developer and fork over a few thousand more bucks.

The good news is that you can get started on the mobile Web without breaking the bank with free or cheap products. There are a few: Verve Wireless (newspapers only), Mobify and Mofuse, to name a few.

The one I found to be the easiest to get started with was Mofuse. In a few minutes, Mofuse lets you launch a mobile-friendly version of any blog or Website; All you need to do is plug in an RSS feed, pick some colors, upload some graphics (optional), and you’re off. One thing: Your RSS feed should contain the full content of each post or article, not just a snippet (You can often change this setting in your content management system, or you may need to contact a programmer to help you).

Mofuse's mobile Web site builder has an easy-to-use UI

Mofuse's backend site editor: Piece of cake.

Like so many great Web apps, Mofuse uses a “freemium” model, with a few tiers of pricing above the free version, each one with a more robust feature set. Mofuse for Blogs, the free version, is really all you need to get a decent-looking mobile site up and running. For more advanced features and customization, Mofuse Premium has three tiers of pricing, ranging from $40 to $200 per month.

Coolest features:

  • Auto-redirect mobile users.The ease-of-implementation will depend on what content management system your full-sized Website is running on, but Mofuse does give you the code snippets necessary to automatically redirect mobile users to the mobile version of your Website. (Note: You can always do this using a simple JavaScript redirect, but it won’t work for people on smaller, non-smart phones)
  • “Send-link-to-phone” widget.Another code snippet that lets you embed a “send link to my phone” widget in your full-sized Website, so a user can text themselves the URL to the mobile-friendly version.
  • Customization.Even without the CSS access that the $89/month “Small Business” version gives you, you can still modify the colors and graphics on your mobile site with ease. Cheaper CSS access would be sweet, though.

Limitations: I feel bad complaining about such an awesome free product, but it does have a few limitations; 1) Rather than redirecting *all* site users to the mobile version’s homepage, some method of relating mobile and desktop versions of each individual piece of content would be nice. That way, if a mobile user follows a link to a specific blog post or article, they’re not redirected to the homepage of the mobile version instead. 2) Although JavaScript is limited on most mobile devices, some means of integrating Google Analytics with Mofuse would be nice too.

Example: PW Style blog (mobile version)

2) Wufoo: Stupid-easy Web forms

June 9, 2009
Drag-and-drop form fields, make up some questions and hit 'save'.  That's all.

Drag-and-drop form fields, make up some questions and hit 'save'. That's all.

2. Wufoo


Wufoo is old news for some, but still one of the most handy Web publishing services I’ve come across in the last few years. HTML forms can be a hassle for even the most skilled Web designers and developers. With Wufoo, you can create attractive, extremely customizable HTML forms in a drag-and-drop WYSIWYG interface that even John McCain could use, I bet.

In addition to creating and publishing Web forms, Wufoo also serves as a management console for all your forms, providing rich statistics on usage and collecting all the data for you. Even the most stealthy of Web Ninjas will benefit from Wufoo’s timesaving form creation.

Coolest features:

  • Endlessly customizable: From questions and field types to the CSS that styles it all, practically every pixel can be adjusted to suit your needs.
  • Easy (or advanced, if you prefer) integration: Link to the Wufoo-hosted form directly, or embed it into any Webpage at the drop of a code snippet. Or download the form’s source files and upload it to your own Web server (server-side programming required)
  • SMS & email: in addition to storing responses in Wufoo’s web-based database, you can have it emailed or sent to you via SMS text message. (Hint: this is an easy way to make a clean, usable contact form with no programming required)

Limitations: Won’t make a turkey sandwich for you? Honestly, I can’t think of any.

How to get started: Head over to Wufoo.com and sign-up (free).

For more information: Check out this brief video tutorial on using Wufoo by Chris Coyier of CSS-Tricks.com.

1) Blip.tv: A free, state-of-the-art video platform

June 7, 2009
Blip.tv is a highly capable - and free - video delivery service that lets you cross-post to other media-sharing sites as well.

Blip.tv is a highly capable - and free - video delivery service that lets you cross-post to other media-sharing sites as well.

1. Blip.tv


For a free Web video delivery service, Blip.tv’s offering can’t be beat; It even rivals some paid platforms. Sure, you could upload your videos to YouTube, but Blip’s player has no mandatory branding (it’s effectively white-label) and gives you more options.

Coolest features:

  • Developer API to let your Web geeks build a fancy custom player (see MobLogic).
  • Cross-post everything you upload to MySpace, Flickr, Facebook and other media sharing sites automatically.
  • Upload videos via your Web browser, FTP, desktop application or mobile device.
  • Blip automatically publishes standard RSS feeds and feeds optimized for iTunes (among other services). So, all you have to do is upload an iPod-compatible video format to your Blip account and – wa-la! – you’re a video podcaster.
  • Viewership stats: How many people are watching?
  • Basic advertising options: third-party pre-rolls, post-rolls and overlay ads. Blip gives you 50% of the revenue.

Limitations: Advertising is delivered through third-party networks and, of course, you split the cash with Blip. If your organization sells advertising and/or wants to keep 100% of the advertising revenue, you’ll have to look to a paid platform like Brightcove or Twistage.

How to get started: Shoot and edit your video(s). Go to www.blip.tv and sign up. Developers, check out the Blip API developer documentation for more info on how to customize Blip.

Three reasons why it’s a mistake for Hulu to pull content from Boxee

March 15, 2009

In full disclosure, I am a total Boxee fanboy, which for anybody who hasn’t heard the buzz, is a slick, open source media center application that lets you watch online video (Hulu, YouTube, Joost, Netflix, ABC.com, CNN, etc.) from one clean, seamless interface. You can also plug in RSS feeds for just about any video site you can find an RSS feed for.

Boxee is TV without the cable bill, with a way more diverse selection of content.

A few weeks back, Hulu reluctantly announced on its blog that its being forced to pull its player from the Boxee application, due to complaints from the content providers (meaning the networks).

The move, quite expectedly, sent Boxee users – and many Hulu users – into a furor over what appeared to be another attempt by “old media” to forestall the Internet’s inevitable destruction of its business model.

Boxee and Hulu have been going back and forth ever since, while resourceful users have begun figuring out hacks to restore Hulu’s content to Boxee.

And that is just one reason out of many that this move is going to prove to be a huge mistake for the content providers:

1) Technology first adopters and Web geeks are resourceful. If they want your content, they’re going to get your content. The fact that you think you can stop them proves that you haven’t accepted the reality of the Internet and what it means for the future of your business.

2) Even if you succeed in building an impenetrable wall around your garden of content, guess what: Your competition is not. So, while the NBC and Fox shows are not available on Boxee, content from ABC, CBS, CNN, Comedy Central, BBC, MTV, Netflix, Revision3, YouTube, and literally any RSS-based video feed on the entire Internet are.

3) The advertisements on Hulu videos still play when the videos are consumed through Boxee. So in addition to agitating users and looking stodgy, the content providers are actually denying ad impressions and click-throughs, and, in the process, revenue.


And you thought your iPhone was neat.

March 15, 2009

From the MIT Media Lab, via TED, comes a look into the (near) future: Smart phones meet Microsoft Surface meets Mozilla’s Ubiquity. You’ll be able to media and information onto any surface and interact with it. Absolutely insane.

Are tweets news?

November 19, 2008

Editor and Publisher’s Steve Outing was kind enough to post on his blog some thoughts I e-mailed him a few weeks ago in response to one of his E&P columns.

The original column in Editor & Publisher discussed the need for news organization to revise their definition of news, which, Outing suggest, should include the status updates from one’s friends on sites like Twitter and Facebook.

As I read Outing’s column, I realized that I personally tap the “Twitteriffic” icon on my iPhone almost as much as I tap the “Google Reader” or “NPR” icon. Yes, the majority of ‘tweets’ that come across my screen consists of “news” about my friends’ daily lives, but isn’t it news nonetheless?

In addition to the fact that a handful of my friends happen to be journalists, I also follow a few local news organizations on Twitter, further solidifying the micro-blogging service as a source of “news” in the traditional sense.

Social media is not only one potential avenue for the future of content, but, according to Advertising Age, advertisers are looking in that direction as well.

Check out Steve Outing’s blog for more daily insight into the state of newspapers and journalism.