The UpStream

YouTube's Co-Founder Fully Stands Behind Paid Subscription for Service

posted Sunday Jul 26, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

YouTube's Co-Founder Fully Stands Behind Paid Subscription for Service

Last November, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki spoke candidly on the potential of paid subscriptions coming to the platform. Then just a few months ago, we saw that idea come to pass in a cryptic letter from YouTube. Now, YouTube's cofounder Chad Hurley has come out in full support of an ad-free, subscription-based model.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Hurley said that YouTube will continue to amass a powerful set of tools, resources and creators for the platform, even if that might involve charging its customers. He added that there are "different forms" of video-on-demand, hinting that some content could be charged for while others could remain free. He did say that he thought it was an option when asked if viewers could necessarily be charged for specific content.

This should come as no surprise, as YouTube has been locking up content creators with lucrative and exclusive contracts over the past year in order to keep them on the platform. However with a rumored price of $10 per month for the ad-free service, it would be more fitting if the company simply charged the monthly fee for the ability to not see ads before, during and after the videos.

Google's recent quarterly statement showed just how much the company relies on YouTube for revenue. YouTube's advertiser spending saw a jump of over 60 percent from last year, and with that much money riding on the success of the video service, it's time for YouTube to reinvent itself and generate more revenue or it may end up being usurped by an up-and-comer.

Either way, the success of a potential ad-free option relies solely on how many users would pay for that service. With Google's own browser having such an easy way to block ads, creators are already struggling to get their ads seen with their videos. What would entice a viewer to toss out the ad-block and pay $10 per month instead? I know that the web is free because of advertisers, but not everyone does, nor do they care. How do we make them care? Is it by charging for premium content?

BlackBerry's Turnaround Plan Revolves Around Security Software

posted Sunday Jul 26, 2015 by Nicholas DiMeo

BlackBerry's Turnaround Plan Revolves Around Security Software

After a series of layoffs and quarterly losses, BlackBerry hopes its darkest days are behind it. Key executives have left the company and Jabil Circuit stopped making BlackBerry devices. So what happens now? BlackBerry has started to get the wheels moving behind its turnaround plan in an effort to bring the company back from its dismal past two years.

So what's the plan? Security. BlackBerry laid out the roadmap of the next few years and the majority of it has to do with security software and other products that protect dozens of different devices. Blackberry's CEO John Chen said that the company can protect medical records, movie scripts and other sensitive data through its offerings.

I'm pretty satisfied with the progress on the turnaround so far. I laid out the $500 million software revenue target and I'm still comfortable with that commitment for this fiscal year, it looks good.

The fact that Chen has put out a goal of $500 million in software revenue is a bold move coming from a company who has been stuck in releasing unpopular handset devices over the past five years. This surely ties in with the turnaround plan, however that's now going to take longer than initially anticipated. At first, Chen said BlackBerry would be levelled out in 6 months, however last week he said that may look more like 12 to 18 months.

Still, Chen is confident in the ability of BlackBerry to make a full recovery, despite analysts' concerns.

We're patiently building the product pipeline and the sales channel. There is still a lot of work to do, I'd love for everything to move faster, but I caution people to be a bit patient because we can't rebound in a very short period of time, no company can. We are doing all the right things for the long term and the company is definitely out of financial trouble.

While the BlackBerry CEO has solved the rapid decline of the company's profits and revenue, the stock price is still gloating around where it was over a year ago, only solidifying investors' worry over the brand. The bright side is that the last year also showed BlackBerry acquiring a handful of software companies, which brought us full circle to the security software offerings we saw this week. Is it enough to save the company? Again, BlackBerry's biggest trouble will be adoption rate and competing against tough adversaries. The switch to software might work, but the challenges remain the same.

AT&T and DirecTV Receive Approval to Complete Merger

posted Saturday Jul 25, 2015 by Scott Ertz

AT&T and DirecTV Receive Approval to Complete Merger

See ya, Comcast - there's a new paid television king in town and its name is AT&T. This week, AT&T and DirecTV's $48.5 billion merger was approved by the Federal Communications Commission and Department of Justice. This massive combination will result in the largest television service in the country, as well as an absolute powerhouse in content distribution in general.

As part of the purchase, AT&T will gain access to DirecTV's content contracts, most notably DirecTV's expensive exclusive NFL Sunday Ticket, the driving force behind the service's sales numbers. AT&T will also gain access to the company's satellite network and a major expansion of the AT&T television brand, which is currently only available in a few states. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson said of the merger,

We're now a fundamentally different company with a diversified set of capabilities and businesses that set us apart from the competition.

This comes at a time when the wireless industry has become more interested in content, and content companies have become more interested in wireless. Verizon recently purchased AOL, giving them ownership of brands like Engadget and Huffington Post, while DISH Network has been in talks to purchase T-Mobile USA, which would result in the same concept.

As part of this deal's approval, AT&T agreed to Net Neutrality rules stricter than current regulations layout. As far as the FCC is concerned, this is a big win for their expanding power-grab, as AT&T has been one of the loudest opponents to even the existing regulations. This does not mean they won't continue to fight against the legality of the FCC issuing these regulations, or requiring this agreement for the merger, but for now it does give the FCC a little more ground to stand on.

In addition, AT&T agreed to expand its fiber service, something Verizon has ended not once but twice. The company had proposed the fiber agreement themselves, with the 12.5 million customer count being just slightly larger than their existing build-out plans currently called for. They will also work with low income families to provide more affordable services.

Google to Purge Some Google+ Pages Next Week

posted Saturday Jul 25, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Google to Purge Some Google+ Pages Next Week

Next week will see the end of a lot of content on Google's mostly abandoned social network Google+. Since mostly only Google employees seem to use the site, Friday will see the last day for of Google+ Photos, being replaced by Google Photos, a disconnected service more similar to Picasa than Google+. This is good news for people who actually want to use Google to store photos without having to deal with all of the annoyances of Google+.

This isn't the only content that will evaporate within the week, however. Google announced to many regular content creators that they intend to remove a large collection of Google+ Local business pages. In a desperate attempt to make people care about Google+, the company began creating Google+ Local business pages for every company in their database. Most of these pages were never used, as most of the pages were never actually claimed by the business owners.

Dear photographers and agencies,

In the past few months, you may have seen some changes in the look of Google+ pages that have been associated with Google My Business (GMB) accounts. These changes, including how we treat business pages without owners, are part of Google's ongoing effort to simplify people's experience with our tools. We are constantly working to provide only valuable and rich content to our users.

On July 28th, Google will begin shutting down those GMB-associated Google+ pages that have not been associated with user accounts and are also not verified. You may find that some of your Business View tours also sit on such pages, but note that after their removal of unverified Google+ pages, the Business View tours will still remain available on Google Maps and Google Search.

What this means is that, if you are one of the few people who use Google+ to find local companies, the only ones you will discover are those who are active on the network. Instead, to discover local business, Google recommends its official local search capabilities, mostly Google Maps. This is the final step in Google's separation of Local and Google+, which has been in progress as long as Photos. It also likely signs the death certificate for the social network.

As of now, the only features that remain in Google+ are the feed, which would be useful if people posted things there, and the groups capability, which is better implemented through Google Groups than it ever was in Google+ anyway.

Unsurprisingly: Keyboard and Mouse Coming to Xbox One

posted Saturday Jul 25, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Unsurprisingly: Keyboard and Mouse Coming to Xbox One

As Microsoft's One Microsoft philosophy continues to show its face to the public, expected features continue to reveal themselves as well. This week, speaking on Twitter Xbox head Phil Spencer semi-announced that keyboard and mouse support are coming to the Xbox One soon. Now, if you think about it, this should be no surprise to anyone. The Xbox One will soon be running on Windows 10, which is introducing keyboard and mouse support to Windows Phones, so naturally a migration to the Xbox was the next step.

Now, what we do not know is how useful keyboard and mouse input will be. It could be as simple as replicating Kinect hand pointing with the mouse pointer, or it could migrate its way into gameplay capabilities. Once the console supports the input, it would likely be up to game developers to put the input device to use, though, meaning not every game would support the input initially (or ever, really). There might be a plan, however, to map one control system to the other, allowing either input scheme to work on any game, which would be pretty great.

The capability would definitely give the console an interesting migration path for games. Pushing Xbox games to the PC is a pretty natural migration, as a game could always require a paired Xbox 360 or Xbox One controller, or support third parties, like Logitech. Moving a PC title to the console, however, could be less natural. If the game is complex and requires more buttons than a controller supports, a keyboard and mouse would be the only option for a port.

In addition to gaming implications, this could bring some really interesting new options for apps to the console. Making the browser experience better is just the beginning. Apps like TeamViewer, which already support Windows and Windows Phone, could allow you to stream your PC to the Xbox, making the concept of a fully-functional living room PC experience far easier than what currently exists.

Uber: A Highly Funded Company With No Direction

posted Saturday Jul 25, 2015 by Scott Ertz

Uber: A Highly Funded Company With No Direction

Uber is an interesting company. They are, in theory, a taxi service that doesn't want to be considered a taxi service for a variety of reasons, including regulation and licensing. It has caused them no end of trouble, with cities and countries worldwide working to shut them down. In New York, until this week, the city had been building a case to ban the service from its streets. In France recently, Uber drivers had their cars damaged, totaled or even impounded as part of a systematic crackdown by the government and other taxi companies. In some countries, such as South Korea, the executives are considered criminals and have arrest warrants issued.

With all of this, you would expect the company would be focusing on its lobbying or legal efforts to try and get these governments to come around to their way of seeing the world. Unfortunately, this is not really the case. In fact, the company seems to be completely unaware of their legal issues around the world. Instead, it seems that every week we see another press release from the company or a new partner introducing a new service or feature coming.

This week might have been the weirdest yet. Chinese up-and-coming smartphone maker Xiaomi has partnered with Uber to deliver their Mi Note phone "within a few minutes" using the ridesharing drivers. The courier service will initially be available only in Singapore and Kuala Lumpur, but it seems like this is a feature that would be coming worldwide, though not necessarily with Xiaomi. The feature seems fairly simple to use:

Ordering a Mi Note follows the exact same process as calling for an Uber - users simply open the Uber app, use the slider at the bottom of the screen to select 'Xiaomi.' Payment will be charged directly to the credit card tied to a rider's Uber account and a Mi Note will be delivered to the user within a few minutes.

While easy to use, it does seem like a feature that had to be developed specifically for this purpose. It is unlikely that the company would have spent the time and money to build a feature like this for just a single provider in 2 small countries, so expect to see courier services arrive in more places in the future. The move does, however, bring up questions about why the company is getting into this business with Xiaomi. Is the company unfocused or is it an attempt to find a similar yet unrelated business model?

If it is the latter, the company obviously did not research courier services worldwide any better than they research taxi services before launching. Courier services in many places are regulated similarly to taxi or limousine services, meaning they might have actually opened themselves up to more legal troubles rather than trying to find a less obtrusive business.

Personally, I believe this move to indicate a company with a lot of money and no business model. In 2010 we wrote about a similar problem at Twitter. While Twitter has resolved the problem somewhat, it still exists in the culture, with little chance of ever going away entirely. This is one of the problems when an industry sees an investment bubble like technology is seeing again right now.

While investors can argue there is no bubble all they want, it is clear that we're in the end-phases of too much money for too little value. Billion-dollar buyouts from companies like Facebook/Instagram show too much money in the industry, not success. In reality, no investor would have put money into Uber with all of the legal action, yet it seems that they get whatever money they ask for. With no plan for that money, however, you see floundering and business jumps that make no sense and ultimately damage the brand. Will this move close their doors? No. But it could indicate a problem with the culture inside the company.

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