A new development in the Amazon vs. Macmillan fiasco. Amazon just posted an announcement indicating that it will be “capitulating” to Macmillan by selling the publishers’ books for their desired prices.
Macmillan is trying to price their e-books at $15, while Amazon prices e-books at $9.99. Macmillan’s CEO John Sargent said that unless Amazon sets the price of new e-books to $15, the publisher will not distribute new books to Amazon when they are released. On Friday, Amazon basically banned titles, both paper and digital, published by Macmillan by refusing to directly sell them. And Macmillan took out an ad in the Publishers Marketplace magazine protesting the tactics being used by Amazon regarding pricing.
Amazon is now giving into Macmillan’s demands because of the publisher’s monopoly over its titles. In a passive aggressive manner, Amazon says that readers will decide whether it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for e-books. And that other publishers will compete by offering their books and lower prices.
Apple CEO Steve Jobs said last week that publishers were unhappy with Amazon’s pricing mode, foreshadowing this disagreement with Macmillan. Jobs revealed that publishers are withholding their titles from Amazon because of Amazon’s pricing model. Jobs also said that prices for books on Apple’s new tablet device, the iPad, will be the same as Amazon’s pricing.
Here is Amazon’s announcement:
Macmillan, one of the “big six” publishers, has clearly communicated to us that, regardless of our viewpoint, they are committed to switching to an agency model and charging $12.99 to $14.99 for e-book versions of bestsellers and most hardcover releases.
We have expressed our strong disagreement and the seriousness of our disagreement by temporarily ceasing the sale of all Macmillan titles. We want you to know that ultimately, however, we will have to capitulate and accept Macmillan’s terms because Macmillan has a monopoly over their own titles, and we will want to offer them to you even at prices we believe are needlessly high for e-books. Amazon customers will at that point decide for themselves whether they believe it’s reasonable to pay $14.99 for a bestselling e-book. We don’t believe that all of the major publishers will take the same route as Macmillan. And we know for sure that many independent presses and self-published authors will see this as an opportunity to provide attractively priced e-books as an alternative.
Kindle is a business for Amazon, and it is also a mission. We never expected it to be easy!
I sat down with Brightcove CEO Jeremy Allaire at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland last week to talk about his business.
Brightcove isn’t the sexiest startup out there. They’re a video platform – giving websites the tools they need to host and stream video, for a fee ranging from $100/month to “six figures per year” for the largest customers. For the most part users never see the Brightcove brand. And Allaire is just fine with that. He just wants happy customers.
The company launched in 2005, has raised just over $90 million in venture capital, and is approaching profitability, he says. Allaire says he wants to build a public company, and is happy being based in Boston.
Brightcove competes with newer upstarts like Ooyala, although Allaire says Brightcove remains the strongest company in its space. Another competitor, Maven Networks, was acquired by Yahoo in 2008 for around $160 million. The product was unceremoniously shut down by Yahoo a year later. Allaire says they picked up most of Maven’s customers.
You can see the full interview above. And don’t miss the outtake at the end of the video where Allaire gives some free tech support to a customer. Time Inc. reporter Barbara Kiviat was having some issues uploading a video.
The transcript of the interview is pasted below.
MICHAEL ARRINGTON : Jeremy Allaire is the founder and CEO of Brightcove. You’re the founder, the sole founder, right?
JEREMY ALLAIRE: I am the founder and CEO, yeah.
ARRINGTON: You’ve been around since ‘04, ‘05? When did you found…
ALLAIRE: 2005, yeah.
ARRINGTON: And you help companies get their video up on the internet.
ALLAIRE: That’s right, yeah.
ARRINGTON: We’ve known you forever.
ARRINGTON: And so we’ve been following you from the earliest days of TechCrunch, but every once in a while it’s always good to check in and just hear what’s going on with your business. So what’s going on with your business? How much money have you raised to date? How many customers do you have? What’s the revenue?
ALLAIRE: Yeah, absolutely. So well, we’ve raised about 90 million in capital over the last five years.
ARRINGTON: How much of that is left?
ALLAIRE: Quite a bit, actually. The last time we raised money was three years ago, a little over three years ago.
ARRINGTON: Are you profitable now?
ALLAIRE: We started generating cash in 2009.
ALLAIRE: And we still have a very, very healthy balance sheet, so we’re in a very good place on that front.
ARRINGTON: Yeah. What’s your cash position right now?
ALLAIRE: We’re not gonna tell you what the cash position is, but it’s quite substantial around this until the last…
ARRINGTON: Sometimes start-ups will say how much money they have left in the bank though. I mean…
ARRINGTON: It’s not crazy to do that.
ALLAIRE: No. We have a lot of cash that’s letting us invest and look at acquisitions, things like that, but…
ARRINGTON: So your customers are paying you…
ARRINGTON: To basically host their video, give them the tools for the player, all the tools for that.
ARRINGTON: Ad advertising.
ALLAIRE: Yeah, all the – everything that you need in an online video, basically.
ALLAIRE: From publishing and content management, advertising, analytics, social media integration, making a great experience.
ARRINGTON: And how do you charge? – do you charge for bandwidth, do you charge for the set up, do you…
ARRINGTON: What’s your relation with the…
ALLAIRE: It’s a software subscription model.
ALLAIRE: And we have – actually, the last couple months ago, we launched the Brightcove Express.
ALLAIRE: Which is a $99 product.
ALLAIRE: And it’s doing extremely well. So there’s – it appears to be a really sizable market of smaller projects and small, medium businesses that also want to do this. We have a lot of customers.
ARRINGTON: What do they get for the $99?
ALLAIRE: They get basically the full tool set that, you know, maybe three years ago, people would have spent $30,000 on, so it’s – we’re really trying to, you know, in some ways, commoditize the market.
ALLAIRE: And that’s going well, but they get the full tool set and they get a certain amount of capacity so they can have like a library of videos of a certain size. If they need more, they can move up to $199 and $499.
ALLAIRE: And then included capacity for delivering that to people. And then you know, it goes up to people who spend, you know, more than seven figures a year with us.
ARRINGTON: OK. And so Time magazine – we’re sitting here with the Time writer, Barbara. They’re one of your customers.
ALLAIRE: Time Inc. Yeah.
ARRINGTON: Time Inc., they do all of their video through you.
ALLAIRE: Yes. So a lot of magazine companies work with us. Time Inc., People , and Time and InStyle and major brands – producing more and more video and have an integrated experience on their site and that’s…
ARRINGTON: And how do you charge them? Is that a six, seven-figure deal a year?
ALLAIRE: Most medium to large media companies are six-figure per year licenses.
ARRINGTON: And what do they get for that? Just because they’ll pay, you charge them more or do you…
ALLAIRE: No, no. Pricing is a lot like – you know, the pricing on the service is like Omniture or Double Click where it’s really based on the scale of traffic usage.
ALLAIRE: So there’s an annual fee, which is sort of the features you get and there’s a capacity that people pay for. So you know, someone who is doing, you know, hundreds of millions of video views needs more capacity and is getting more value out of our services as well. So we have the pricing that moves up for that.
ARRINGTON: Are you going to get out of Boston at some point? Because not many startups are left there, right? You are one of the only ones.
ALLAIRE: Well, we’re trying to build a great company in Boston, actually.
ARRINGTON: You like Boston?
ALLAIRE: I do, yeah. It’s actually proven to be a very good place for us to recruit and – I mean, we have offices all over…
ARRINGTON: Have you finished that whatever thing they’re building?
ALLAIRE: The Big Dig. Yeah, totally.
ARRINGTON: I mean, that’s done now?
ALLAIRE: It’s done. Life is good.
ARRINGTON: And so traffic is a little easier now.
ALLAIRE: That’s kind of the key.
ARRINGTON: And there’s a good month or two here, the weather is reasonable, right?
ARRINGTON: I guess people work harder if they don’t have anything to do outside.
ALLAIRE: That’s pretty good.
ARRINGTON: So what happens to your company? Are you going to go public at some point or possibly…
ALLAIRE: We’re definitely focused on being global, independent, and that’s the path we’re on.
ARRINGTON: What happened to Maven? Yahoo! bought them and then just…
ALLAIRE: It’s gone. Yeah.
ARRINGTON: What was that all about? They paid about a hundred something.
ALLAIRE: Yeah. 160, 170 million.
ARRINGTON: And then – and then Maven was a competitor, right?
ALLAIRE: Yeah, yeah.
ARRINGTON: And they just shut it down.
ALLAIRE: Yeah. Well, I think…
ARRINGTON: Did you get any of their customers?
ALLAIRE: Most of them, yes.
ARRINGTON: And then what about Ooyala? They’re like an upstart, they do things -how do they do things that are different from you? They charge only for bandwidth. Is that right?
ALLAIRE: No. I think they’re pricing is a little bit different. They try and charge for both software and bandwidth, kind of mix those together. I think, you know, they’re – I think they have good products. They’re definitely a good business in this market.
ALLAIRE: You know, they’ve grown over the last year.
ARRINGTON: But you’re going to crush them.
ALLAIRE: I think we’re doing a very good job remaining the top company in this market.
ARRINGTON: And then who else… didn’t Juice say they were going to get into this business?
ALLAIRE: There’s a lot of failed companies that have tried to morph into technology services businesses, not with much success at all. So I don’t see a lot of them, but yeah.
ARRINGTON: Anything else you want to tell me that’s, you know, news worthy coming up. You’re done raising money for now…
ARRINGTON: You bought anyone, you’re buying someone…
ALLAIRE: Well, I’ll tell you. The online video ecosystem, there’s a lot of interesting stuff happening. And as we look at what we do as a very horizontal platform, we’re always looking to say and see, you know, what are the natural things that will be part of it, so we’re definitely looking at opportunities to expand into new products and possibly do acquisitions as well.
Back in October, Google changed the mobile navigation space when it launched Google Maps Navigation for Android. While the product itself is solid it also has one killer feature: it’s free. This has forced the makers of other non-free navigation tools to scramble to convince users their products are still worth paying for. Verizon is the latest to do so with its VZ Navigator 5, launching tomorrow.
So what would make it worth paying for? Verizon has a few new features in this latest update, but one of the ones they are touting the most is social media integration. Specifically, you can now update your Facebook status by way of VZ Navigator. This in and of itself isn’t that interesting, but you can also send out your location to Facebook with this feature, apparently.
While Facebook has yet to launch any major location functionality itself, a few third parties including Yahoo’s Fire Eagle and Nokia have leveraged the network for their location-based products. But VZ Navigator’s Facebook integration might be the most meaningful yet, as we could actually see people who use the service sending their location to their friends on Facebook. In other words, customers could start using this integration to make Facebook more like the popular location services such as Foursquare.
Of course, unlike the popular location services, VZ Navigator isn’t free. Using it will cost you $9.99 a month or $2.99 for 24-hours of usage. But with that price you also get other features, namely turn-by-turn navigation. With this new version, Verizon has also added new “enhanced” points of interest that show up on their maps with details about the place. There is also now crowd-sourced traffic information that Verizon claims will make traffic reports more timely and accurate. Overall, the look and feel of the application has been updated as well.
Another nice feature is that if you need roadside assistance, you can send your location and number with the click of a button.
VZ Navigator 5 will be available tomorrow for the BlackBerry Curve 8530, the LG enV Touch, the HTC Touch Pro2, and the Samsung Omnia. The plan it to roll it out to other smartphones on Verizon’s network in the coming weeks, we’re told. Verizon builds VZ Navigator in association with TeleCommunication Systems.
Last September, YourVersion took the stage at TechCrunch50 as the DemoPit People’s Choice winner, after receiving the most votes from conference attendees. The startup’s goal is fairly simple: to help you find content that you’re interested in, in real time. And now it’s bringing its application to the iPhone. You can download the free app here.
The app is pretty straightforward. First, you enter some topics that you’re interested in. Every time you launch the app, you’ll be presented with a list of these topics. Clicking on one will bring you to a list of recent blog posts, tweets, and other content that contains those topic keywords. You can also filter through this content by source, allowing you to see only content from Twitter, news sites, and so on. If you’ve already set up an account on the YourVersion website, you can sync that with the app (any items you bookmark or share from the app will be reflected on the site as well).
Of course, there are plenty of other applications out there that let you search for news stories by keyword. YourVersion tries to go a step further than basic keyword matching by adding some intelligence to its story recommendations. In the current version, the app will track all of its users’ attention data, which includes the stories they’ve click on, shared, given thumbs up/down to, and a handful of other metrics. YourVersion then uses this data to generate a weekly Email digest, which includes the week’s top stories from each of your YourVersion topics (it will omit any stories that you’ve already read).
This is only the first step, though. In the next month or so, the site plans to roll out a feature to both its website and the iPhone application that will use this attention data to enhance the “Discover page” (the section of the app that presents you with recent stories), so that you don’t have to wait til the end of the week to get smarter recommendations.
YourVersion still has a lot of work to do — in its current form, there isn’t much to differentiate it from the countless feed readers and news apps already out there. The app needs to implement more robust algorithms that can provide story recommendations that are both more timely and accurate than its competitors’.
Entelligence is a column by technology strategist and author Michael Gartenberg, a man whose desire for a delicious cup of coffee and a quality New York bagel is dwarfed only by his passion for tech. In these articles, he'll explore where our industry is and where it's going -- on both micro and macro levels -- with the unique wit and insight only he can provide.
It was quite the week for Apple, first with its best-ever earnings and then the launch of the iPad. While Apple didn't create this category of device, it did answer the fundamental question of why this form factor needs to exist. The meta lesson is that the story told is as important as the hardware, software and services being sold -- and while everyone may not be convinced, I do think Apple will win over the majority of a skeptical audience with high expectations. But there's also four important lessons that Apple taught the market this week, as it enters a space that's been mostly a failure.
1. Define what your product does. The first thing Apple did was answer that question immediately and then define what the product needed to do. Apple explained what capabilities need to be in the this class of device and then went on to show how each of those features not only worked but were optimized for the iPad. That's something we've seen lacking in this category to date.
2. Leverage what you've done before. I believe the iPad is likely to do well with consumers as it leverages Apple's previous successes with the iPod and the iPhone. At the base level, that's compatibility and synchronization with iTunes as well as backward compatibility with existing applications. That's important -- as a user I can use my existing content library and my application collection. It also means that iPad has 140,000-plus applications at launch. But it's more than that. Apple is not only leveraging its ecosystem of devices and software, it's leveraging the lessons it spent a decade teaching consumers. Apple taught its market about MP3 players, digital music, smartphones, capacitive multitouch screens and mobile apps. It can now go directly to selling the form factor, as well as new features such as productivity and e-books.
Um, okay? Just days after Apple introduced its exceedingly underwhelming iPad while simultaneously attempting to convince that masses that said product was the portable gaming device they had been waiting their whole lives for, Sony's own hardware marketing honcho has come forward and extolled Cupertino's decision to finally make the gaming leap. In a recent interview, John stated the following:
"Apple's entrance into the portable gaming space has been a net positive for Sony. When people want a deeper, richer console, they start playing on a PSP."
While we can't seem to shake the suspicion that Mr. Koller is drawing links that probably don't exist (at least fully) in reality, research firm NPD does show that sales of the PSP have "nearly tripled since the iPhone went on sale in June 2007." Of course, it's not like the PSP has gained functionality, become the home of more than a few killer titles and spawned a UMD-less sibling since the heydays of '07, but hey -- who are we to question the suit?
According to a report in Wired (and a source whom the publication says "could not be named"), Steve Jobs spoke to an audience of Apple employees at a town hall in Cupertino and... pulled zero punches. If you believe what you read, Jobs tackled a handful of major issues that have been buzzing the company lately, namely its run-ins with Google on a number of topics, and the lack of Flash support in its mobile devices (most notably in the upcoming iPad). On Google, Jobs had this to say: "We did not enter the search business. They entered the phone business. Make no mistake they want to kill the iPhone. We won't let them." According to the attendee, another topic was brought up but Steve wouldn't let the Google issue go, stating his thoughts on the company's famous 'Don't be evil' line. In Steve's words? "It's bullshit."
Furthermore Jobs had a handful of choice words for Adobe, calling the company "lazy" and claiming that "Apple does not support Flash because it is so buggy. Whenever a Mac crashes more often than not it's because of Flash. No one will be using Flash. The world is moving to HTML5." Of course, these amazing nuggets of wisdom come from a source which Engadget cannot verify, so it's possible there are misquotes or items taken out of context, though from the sounds of things, this kind of talk falls right in line with what we'd expect from the man who said Microsoft "had no taste" and makes "really third-rate products." We eagerly await Eric Schmidt's response.
Orli Yakuel noticed that Google has quietly added a new icon in the ‘Compose Mail’ window of its free webmail service Gmail, enabling users to run search queries from within the interface and insert results and URLs straight into drafted e-mails or open chat conversations.
The first iteration of the labs feature added a ‘Web Search’ box next to the main column (left side on the screenshot) that provides much of the same functionality, only you needed to remember to go to the side column to run a search. Now, enabling the feature also adds an icon to the top toolbar in the ‘Compose Mail’ window, where you can also customize colors and fonts for your message, add links and emoticons and more.
It’s unclear when the icon was added, but we can’t retrieve any mention about this on the Gmail blog and today marks the first time we’ve seen it.
The icon opens up a search box at the bottom of your screen and lets you run a search like you would using the regular Google search interface. A small arrow opens up a limited menu where you can paste results, paste URL and send by e-mail (which is kind of redundant in this case, since you’re already in a new e-mail). If you have a chat conversation open in Gmail, you’ll also get an extra option to send search results to your contact.
Obviously, this isn’t a ground-breaking feature, but if you’re a Gmail user you might want to (re-)enable the Labs feature in Settings. Guaranteed to save you quite some time.
Not sure if you've heard, but PMA is just around the corner. You know -- that camera show? At any rate, Photo Rumors has a trio of new leaks to swoon over this fine evening, starting with black and white (saywha?) shots of Olympus' supposedly forthcoming SP800 (or SP-800UZ, if we're talking specifics). The megazoom shooter is said to boast a 30x optical zoom, 14 megapixel sensor and image stabilization, though no further details have been let loose just let. Moving on, Fujifilm seems to have a whole gaggle of new cams planned for release this week, including a megazoom of its own and a whole host of point-and-shoot offerings. Finally, Hasselblad is expected to one-up the H3D by introducing the H4D, which we fully suspect will have a 489 megapixel sensor and a price tag that far exceeds 93 percent of salaries here in America. Hit the links below for the goods, and hang tight -- PMA kicks off in earnest in just a few weeks.
It used to be that Twitter followers were worth something, or at least people thought they were worth something, which is the same thing. It was only about a year ago when Jason Calacanis was offering $250,000 to buy a spot on Twitter’s Suggested User List, which would have guaranteed him perhaps a million followers before Twitter ended up revamping the SUL to be less monolithic. He never got on the list, but if his offer would have come to roughly $0.25 per follower.
Today, you can “buy” followers on eBay for less than a penny each. Some of the Buy-It-Now listings include 5,000 followers for $20 (which comes to 0.4 penny/follower), $5,500 for $40 (0.7 penny/follower), $1,100 for $10 (0.9 penny/follower). You are not actually buying followers outright (Twitter doesn’t allow people to transfer their followers), but rather services which “guarantee” getting your account up to the promised number of followers through “proven and safe methods.” Some even only count reciprocal followers (followers who follow back).
How do they do this? Well, there are automated bots, of course. But another method we’ve heard about anecdotally uses cheap labor in China to create Twitter Follower farms (similar to the gold farms that grew around online games like World of Warcraft). Online laborers in China essentially create thousands of Twitter accounts which can then follow other accounts. Yes, people are actually paying for this worthless service. The sellers on eBay may very well use different methods. But the fact that these types of followers are worthless shows in the plummeting rate for Twitter followers from a quarter each a year ago to less than a penny now.
So are Twitter followers simply worthless as many people have suspected all along? I think you have to distinguish between real followers and fake followers (maybe Twitter could start a Verified Follower service), and how engaged those followers are. Do they retweet a lot and engage in conversation, or never tune in at all? Follower counts don’t tell you that. Just as all Website visitors are not worth the same, neither are all Twitter followers. But you can’t buy real followers. They come to you.