The Guy Who Bought the HD-DVD Player

Thankfully, it wasn’t me. I waited. And I was lucky.

This guy at Slate, not so much:

In three short months, I was screwed by every cog in the gadget-industrial complex. The tech blogs convinced me that the format war would drag on for years. Sony pulled sketchy backroom deals behind my back. Netflix cut off my HD disc rentals. Even Toshiba did me dirty. Remember those seven free discs? Two of them (The Bourne Identity and 300) came with the player, but I had to mail in a UPC code to collect the other five. Perhaps the cereal-boxlike nature of this giveaway should’ve tipped me off that HD-DVD was the Frank Stallone of high-definition disc technology. Or maybe the pathetic list of available titles—The Hulk, Aeon Flux, Darkman—should’ve alerted me to Blu-ray’s back-catalog advantage. Anyway, the relevant point here is that I still haven’t received any of these terrible movies. You can keep them, Toshiba. I’m sure there’s someone somewhere who collects unplayable copies of Black Rain.

Of course, there’s this refrain from those who threw support behind HD-DVD and not the winner, Blu-Ray, and pretty much everyone else who’s watching where media is headed in the next five years:

If there’s any consolation for us HD-DVD-buying losers, it’s that disc-shaped physical media won’t be around much longer. Once high-definition digital downloads, like those available through Apple TV, hit the mainstream, Blu-ray will be as dead as HD-DVD. Take that, Sony!

Amen.

And remember: Hillary Clinton knew it was over when warner bros pulled out.

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Zogby: Journalists Out of Touch; Half of Americans Get News from the Web

Another eye-opening survey by Zogby International on the state of journalism.

First, most people think traditional journalism is out of touch with what American’s want from their news, and two-thirds are dissatisfied with the quality of journalism in their communities.

Second, the radical change in how people are getting their news is evident. Forty-eight percent of respondents said the Internet is their primary source for news, up from 40 percent a year ago.

UTICA, New York Two thirds of Americans 67% believe traditional journalism is out of touch with what Americans want from their news, a new We Media/Zogby Interactive poll shows.

The survey also found that while most Americans (70%) think journalism is important to the quality of life in their communities, two thirds (64%) are dissatisfied with the quality of journalism in their communities.

Meanwhile, the online survey documented the shift away from traditional sources of news, such as newspapers and TV, to the Internet most dramatically among so-called digital natives people under 30 years old.

Nearly half of respondents (48%) said their primary source of news and information is the Internet, an increase from 40% who said the same a year ago. Younger adults were most likely to name the Internet as their top source 55% of those age 18 to 29 say they get most of their news and information online, compared to 35% of those age 65 and older. These oldest adults are the only age group to favor a primary news source other than the Internet, with 38% of these seniors who said they get most of their news from television. Overall, 29% said television is their main source of news, while fewer said they turn to radio (11%) and newspapers (10%) for most of their news and information. Just 7% of those age 18 to 29 said they get most of their news from newspapers, while more than twice as many (17%) of those age 65 and older list newspapers as their top source of news and information.

Web sites are regarded as a more important source of news and information than traditional media outlets 86% of Americans said Web sites were an important source of news, with more than half (56%) who view these sites as very important. Most also view television (77%), radio (74%), and newspapers (70%) as important sources of news, although fewer than say the same about blogs (38%).

The Zogby Interactive survey of 1,979 adults nationwide was conducted Feb. 20-21, 2008, and carries a margin of error of +/- 2.2 percentage points.

And check this out:

The survey finds the Internet not only outweighs television, radio, and newspapers as the most frequently used and important source for news and information, but Web sites were also cited as more trustworthy than more traditional media sources nearly a third (32%) said Internet sites are their most trusted source for news and information, followed by newspapers (22%), television (21%) and radio (15%).

More on the survey here.

It’s obvious that fundamental changes are taking place in journalism because of the Internet. Hopefully, in coping with the transition to an online news culture, journalists will also find a way to serve readers better, thereby reversing some of those unfavorables cited in Zogby.

Zogby International

Related: An analyst at journalism think tank Poynter quotes a study that offers a possible solution:

The report says newspaper companies will have to venture farther afield and become the indispensable guide to everything that anyone in their local community needs to know to live there. And provide all kinds of solutions for all kinds of needs for virtually every local business.

Oh. And they need to do it online.

The Atlantic: The Pendulum Swings Downtown

At Arkansas Business, we often marvel at all the condos going up in downtown Little Rock. Is the appetite for expensive downtown living really that big?

Well, if it isn’t now, it will be soon, according to the March edition of the Atlantic:

Arthur C. Nelson, director of the Metropolitan Institute at Virginia Tech, has looked carefully at trends in American demographics, construction, house prices, and consumer preferences. In 2006, using recent consumer research, housing supply data, and population growth rates, he modeled future demand for various types of housing. The results were bracing: Nelson forecasts a likely surplus of 22 million large-lot homes (houses built on a sixth of an acre or more) by 2025—that’s roughly 40 percent of the large-lot homes in existence today.

For 60 years, Americans have pushed steadily into the suburbs, transforming the landscape and (until recently) leaving cities behind. But today the pendulum is swinging back toward urban living, and there are many reasons to believe this swing will continue.

Why the swing? The article notes that people are being drawn “to the convenience and culture of walkable urban neighborhoods.” Also, people are having children later than they used to, giving couples more time to enjoy smaller living spaces and the downtown lifestyle. And of course, there’s high gas prices. Can we still afford that commute to the ‘burbs each day?

No doubt local developers have seen these trends coming.

An interesting side note to all this, which is the hook for the Atlantic article: once this shift takes place, the suburbs might “become what inner cities became in the 1960s and ’70s—slums characterized by poverty, crime, and decay.”

The McCain Story: News, Undercooked

Our policy is, we publish stories when they are ready. ‘Ready’ means the facts have been nailed down to our satisfaction, the subjects have all been given a full and fair chance to respond, and the reporting has been written up with all the proper context and caveats.

That’s New York Times executive editor Bill Keller, finally responding to The New Republic‘s request for comment on the Times’ Thursday piece on John McCain’s alleged inappropriate relationship with a woman lobbyist.

You can read the whole piece here, along with its 2,000 comments (and counting) from readers, many of whom question the Times’ decision to publish the piece.

Related: Looking for a McCain “scandal” story that’s a little more solid? Listen to this piece from NPR today on the G.O.P. presidential contender and a recent letter he received from the Federal Election Commission.

Update: Here, courtesy of MediaBistro, the latest commentary and questions surrounding the Times’ McCain story:

Aerospace in Arkansas

Factoid of the week: Products in aerospace are Arkansas’ No. 1 export. And Arkansas is ranked No. 11 in the country in aerospace exports.

So the aerospace industry is one of the state’s crown jewels, and Arkansas economic developers are working to make sure it stays nice and shiny. To that end, they’ve targeted the industry as one to pay careful attention to. Aerospace is going to need to fill 5,000 new jobs in Arkansas in the next 10 years, and state government wants to cultivate workers who are educated and ready to fill those posts.

I checked out the Arkansas Aerospace Summit for ArkansasBusiness.com today. Gov. Mike Beebe, U.S. Rep. Vic Synder and U.S. Sen. Mark Pryor (appearing via Webcast from northwest Arkansas), all made appearances. Representatives from the state’s aerospace industry were there too, all gathered at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock Bailey Center, to start planning ways to grow aerospace in Arkansas.

We’ve got coverage here, including video of remarks from Beebe and Bob East, a member of the Little Rock Airport Commission.

As Online Advertising Causes Headaches for Newspapers, Niche Publications Thrive

There’s lots of reasons for journalists to be stressed. Media jobs are apparently disappearing, according to Ad Age. There’s buyouts a major newspapers. The demands of online and multimedia are increasing the workload and requiring reports to enhance their skills. And there’s all the stuff David Simon’s miffed about. Those folks can vent here.

But it’s not all bad.  American Public Media’s Marketplace radio show reports that while online advertising and other factors are giving general newspapers much agita, niche publications are doing quite well, thank you, because the business of niche publications — serving a specific audience with very targeted information — translates well online:

Tom Rosenstiel directs the Project for Excellence in Journalism. He says magazines for niche interests like gourmet cooking and backpacking have exploded. And he says advertisers are gravitating to them more and more. They know they’ll reach an audience that is interested in their product.

What’s more, he says, niche publications are well positioned to leverage the Internet.

Rosenstiel: Readers of niche publications may be quite likely to fill out surveys, to have e-mail alerts sent to them. And the technology that is challenging print can be complimentary to a niche magazine rather than a threat.

Arkansas Business Publishing Group of Little Rock, which publishes Arkansas Business, Soiree, Little Rock Family and, of course, ArkansasBusiness.com and ArkansasSports360.com, is a niche publisher that continues to thrive even as advertising has migrated online. As a result, ArkansasBusiness.com, for example, is set to have one of its best advertising months ever this month. Blogs, requested e-newsletters, and free, daily news content aimed an affluent, Web-savvy audience are all keys to that strategy.

R.I.P, HD-DVD

Wal-Mart dealt the death blow to Toshiba’s high-definition DVD format, HD-DVD, last week when it declared it would only carry Sony’s competing Blu-Ray discs and Blu-Ray players. Wal-Mart had always been aware of its temendous influence in the battle, but waited awhile before making a decision.

Now Toshiba appears close to giving in:

Toshiba may pull the plug on its high-definition DVD format but no decision has been made, the Japanese electronics maker said in a statement Monday.

Toshiba Corp. has started a review of its HD DVD business, it said, amid reports by the Wall Street Journal and Kyodo News agency that Toshiba was considering pulling out after losing ground to the competing Blu-ray disc format.

The Journal, citing people familiar with the situation, reported Sunday that the company is likely to pull out early this week.

A Toshiba pullout would signal the almost certain defeat of HD DVD to Blu-ray, which is backed by Sony Corp., five major Hollywood movie studios and others.

Only one format has been expected to emerge as the winner, much like VHS trumped Sony’s Betamax in the video format battle of the 1980s.

This gives home theater buff the green-light to go whole-hog into the winning Blu-Ray format now, right? Wired magazine says not so fast:

This leaves Blu-Ray as the presumptive victor in the irrelevant optical disk format war. It now must face up to the real competition: the continuing success of DVD and the growing popularity of downloads, both on the internet and on-demand cable TV.

As a consumer, the Blu-Ray/HD-DVD war always bothered me. The competing formats could be confusing to shoppers already baffled by the emerging digital/hi-def landscape. (We’ve got Craig O’Neill having to explain it!)

So someone finally coming out on top (Sony or Toshiba, it really didn’t matter) is a good thing.

But Wired is right. The move to on-demand will one day make such physical media irrelevant. Comcast, the nation’s largest cable company, has already announced big upgrades to its HD on-demand offerings, and the satellite TV firms and IPTV providers are also making leaps. When you can access thousands of HD titles with the click of button via your cable, satellite or IPTV provider menu, renting or purchasing plastic discs becomes beside the point.

The new generation of high-definition discs will enjoy a successful run. But it won’t be as profitable as the big DVD boom, and it won’t last near as long.

HD-DVD Death Made Official. Downloads To Kill Blu-Ray Next. | Gadget Lab from Wired.com

(This post also appears on The Ladder.)