This Week: Real Networks to spin off Rhapsody into a separate company, the CEO of Myspace Owen Van Natta steps down and the company starts to introduce pre-roll audio adverts, Tunewiki raises a new round of funding, the new Swrv music channel launches in the US and Apple is counting down to 10 billion track downloads.
Real networks has been on the digital music scene longer than most but it has so far failed to capitalize on its experience and the use of its products has definitely slipped over the last couple of years, I can hardly remember a time when a website has required me to use the RealPlayer plug-in. I do hope that this move helps them bring the company back in the game.
Just a few days ago it was announced that the company’s CEO Owen Van Natta stepped down and left, to be replaced by a co-presidency of the Chief Operating Officer Mike Jones and Chief Product Officer Jason Hirschhorn.
This is certainly a surprising move as i saw Mr Van Natta speak at Midem and his performance in Cannes – if he indeed was aware that something of this kind was even remotely possible – was that of a seasoned actor.
In the past couple of days there were many columns spent over the possible reason why he left or was made to leave with internal conflicts being at the top of the list. After all Rupert Murdoch had made it clear not so long ago that he was not happy with the performance of Myspace. I don’t want to join in the speculations as to why Mr Van Natta left, and I’m more interested in evaluating the effects this will have on the company itself.
First of all Myspace seemed to be on the right track, they had stepped up development, openness, band support and brand partnerships to provide an immersive experience. I wonder if this process will be at all disrupted by the change in leadership.
Second I have rarely seen a company that rumor has it is full of internal conflicts to fare well under a co-presidency – that’s likely to lead to a lot of half baked compromises that are no good to stir the group in a brave new direction.
Third, I think that the only way in which Myspace is likely to succeed is for Newscorp and Murdoch to leave the company alone to do its thing. Myspace is primarily a technology company, it does not work like a newspaper and if it is run as one there’s no chance that it will recover even a small slice of the market share it has lost to Facebook.
Indicative of Myspace’s problems is the departure of Stream Architect Monica Keller who decided to jump to Facebook, as reported by Jason Kincaid from TechCrunch. Tech Crunch quotes her as writing:
“But I have chosen to leave. While I was able to have some temporary creative freedom this is not the norm or part of what other engineers enjoy and I do not feel there is one cohesive push to deliver the best we can deliver anymore.
To my friends and colleagues at MySpace, some parting advice:
It is imperative that MySpace puts in place strong technical leadership who can attract good technical talent and make well-informed decisions. It is important that they stay connected to rest of the world and work on interoperable standards and solid products which benefit the end user. Many of my fellow engineers have fantastic ideas and a plan for phased delivery.”
It’s debatable whether this model works better than a shorter advert introduced more frequently and considering that a lot of Myspace users are very young 30 seconds could prove too long. The most important factor in my opinion for this model to be successful is the relevance and quality of the advert itself. If Myspace was to blanket users with car adverts that could be a disastrous move, but if the advertising was intelligent and tailored to the user according to their profile and interests then things could get much more engaging. After all, Myspace holds a great deal more personal information about its users than a Spotify or a We7, and therefore their targeted advertising could prove more valuable.
Swrv music channel resuscitates the on-demand format for video music television
In the very same week that MTV finally decided to drop “Music Television” from its logo a new channel was announced by Music Choice that puts music videos and user interactivity back a the centre of the attention. While MTV has decided to concentrate on reality TV programs at the expense of music videos Swrv is a channel focusing only on music videos that are chosen by the public. The channel aims at making the viewers feel in control of their experience and make them feel like real Vjs through a combination of video uploads, text based votes, website interaction and social media interaction through the likes of Facebook.
Of the two articles I found on this story the Multichannel.com one presents what Swrv does as a medium extensively whilst the Digital Music News article concentrates on the business model. Essentially the channel was created because CPMs in television are still much much higher than Online CPMs and the experience of SWRV aim at driving a huge amount of 12-24 year old viewers who will be actively engaging with the channel, a very important demographic for many advertisers. The channel would make money not only from advertising but also from licensing itself to other networks and providers across the country. The interesting part of the deal is that Swrv will play the labels both a percentage of the CPMs and a percentage of the licensing fees, although the amounts remain undisclosed.
Now the question is: will the tweenies version of Music Box succeed in a YouTube driven on-demand and always-on environment? We’ll have to wait and see…