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I’m a subscriber to Netflix’s one-out-at-a-time, unlimited plan ($8.99/month) to keep costs down, yet still receive a physical DVD every week and have unlimited access to the Netflix online video streaming. Some who use the Roku or Xbox 360 might wonder why there isn’t a streaming-only plan for a little less money. According to an interview with Bloomberg News, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings is considering that very thing.

Hastings didn’t reveal how much they might charge for a streaming-only subscription with Netflix, but he did say that this type of play could arrive “late this year” or in 2010. The question then would be: How much are customers willing to pay for such a service? They have definitely upgraded their streaming movie collection, but it’s still full of older movies and TV shows. If Netflix offered a “premium” streaming service with newer movies and a larger collection, I’d be willing to pay more. Would you pay for an online-streaming-only service from Netflix?

Check out more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media at Geek Tonic.

Being Efficient With RSS

Dave Zatz —  February 19, 2009


As most of us probably know, RSS is set of XML-based protocols intended to make web content a bit more portable. The most common usage is aggregating blog/news content into feed readers. While RSS itself has made me more efficient in consuming information, it hasn’t been enough. And as I ponder a return to time consuming highway commute, I’m looking for ways to get things done (GTD) faster. (Which, ironically, is time consuming.)

A few months back, I migrated away from Google Reader when they refreshed the UI. I’m not quite sure what all the problems are, but the very white/bright look isn’t pleasant. Since then, I’ve been pleased with NewsGator’s free NetNewsWire (OS X) desktop software. Two features in particular are very useful, when used together: full screen mode and the built-in web rendering engine. The typical folders, post flagging, and keyboard shortcuts are present and appreciated. Subscription status is also synced back to for mobile access, although my experience hasn’t been flawless. (There’s also a NetNewsWire iPhone app… which I don’t care for.) Continue Reading…

Wonderwall is No Cooliris

Mari Silbey —  February 5, 2009

TechMeme is all atwitter this morning over Microsoft’s launch of Wonderwall, a weak attempt to emulate the Cooliris platform for scanning photos and video.

Continue Reading...

Every year Andy Baio does a very cool thing, he tracks how quickly Oscar-nominated films are leaked online to P2P networks. It’s interesting for a number of reasons, but primarily for demonstrating how unreliable the actual Academy members themselves are in keeping Hollywood’s goods off the Internet. The annual results are relatively similar: usually within a week, or sometimes a bit longer, after an Academy screener is released a version of the movie is available for download via BitTorrent (to say nothing of Usenet, Rapidshare, etc.). What would be interesting to see, however, is if the illegal downloading activity spiked after the nominations came out – is the file-sharing community as affected by the hype surround Oscar nominations as the box office often is. Alas, that would be very difficult to study with any great confidence since the data is not really available. In general, though, the most reliable and accessible analysis of Bittorrent behavior is provided by TorrentFreak in their weekly top 10 lists, which generally show a strong correlation between mainstream audience taste and downloaders’ preferences, with some notable exceptions, that is, pretty much anything Science Fiction.

A couple of categories get overlooked by Andy, however, including the documentary and foreign nominees, and also whether any of the nominated films are available in HD resolutions. The documentary and foreign films are easy to skip since they barely appear on the radar of most film-goers to begin with, and HD is not something that is too relevant to Andy’s study as all of the official screeners are standard definition DVD’s. As someone very interested in foreign and documentary films, however, I wanted to see what I could find out about their availability for download.  Read the rest of this entry »

Marketing the Verizon Hub

Dave Zatz —  February 3, 2009

Prior to delivery, we’ve definitely seen the potential in Verizon’s Internet widget station here at ZNF. But as release approached, with the implementation and contract details revealed, my enthusiasm has waned. In fact, I turned down a hands on briefing at Verizon’s HQ last week. However, that didn’t dissuade another PR flack from rebutting a few thoughts with a pitch. He says the Verizon Hub is a “great value,” which we’ll get to in a minute. He also says it “may not be for you.” And, on that point, he’s probably right.

I have no problem with the Verizon Hub tech and quite like the idea of a compact info and entertainment kiosk in the kitchen – remember, I’m the old school Audrey fan. However, this sort of solution may be less relevant in the age of iPhones, Chumbys, and netbooks. Which is why the VoIP services are prominently featured.

In fact, customers will never lose site of that – because the $200 Verizon Hub requires a $35/month subscription. (Bring your own Internet.) By itself and compared to other telecom and cable VoIP solutions, that’s not entirely unreasonable for unlimited calls. (Although, it’s no Ooma.) However, the two year contract really stings. Additionally, I have absolutely no idea why this home service requires a Verizon Wireless phone/plan. And these are my two main problems with the Hub initiative.

An unproven product category has enough marketing challenges in explaining what problem it solves and what is required. Why make it that much more difficult to seal the deal by requiring a contract and limiting your potential customer base to only Verizon Wireless subscribers? Increased barriers to entry result in s/lower consumer adoption.

Yup, This TiVo Tweets

Dave Zatz —  February 3, 2009

While we haven’t yet arrived at Todd’s (cybernetic) activity stream vision, mere days after our post, Darren Cloutier has answered the call:

I saw the post about this on Friday night and thought it would make a great weekend project! From my old PC in the basement, a PHP script logs into the web server on each TiVo box and grabs the XML file with everything that is currently on the box. This part was written by somebody on the community forums back when TiVo2Go was first released as a way to translate your now playing list to an HTML document. Since I already run this script every hour to update my website, I simply added some more code which looks for recordings that have a start time greater than one hour ago, format the text as a nice Tweet and then redirect these to Twitter via the Twitter API which is easily accessible in PHP.

A little imagination and some PHP elbow grease is all it took to give Darren’s TiVos a voice. Again, not quite as interactive as what Todd envisions. But a cool project, nonetheless. And, if you’re feeling voyeuristic, those TiVo recording tweets can be found here:

In other Twitter automation news, Macworld’s Jason Snell documents a variety of ways to script or filter tweets. But, wait. There’s more! The Twitter team recently documented the incubation and evolution of their 140 character service. Plus, yours truly has been anointed as a top tech tweeter by Jason Hiner of ZDNet.

The big day has arrived. And while many will be watching football, the advertising industry (and their clients) hope we’ll tune in for NBC’s big pay day ($206 million). Although much of the advertising action will be simulcast online… NewTeeVee’s put together a roundup of web destinations to catch Superbowl commercials. And, if 80s action figures, cartoons, and comics were your thing, the Transformers and G.I. Joe movie trailers have already landed on YouTube. (Thanks, Gizmodo!) Also online, startup Thummit will be tallying our feedback via Twitter: During the game, drop @thummit a message with an ad name and your micro-review. Back on the boob tube, we’ll see the reintroduction of some classic 3D tech for a pair of commercials tonight. Assuming you managed to find some glasses.