Tag Archives: internet

The failure of The Artist

Silent movie The Artist may have won five Oscars last night, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, but in Brazil – a country of almost 200m people – only 144,840 people in 51 theatres have paid to watch it (HT to @brazzil for the stats).

This may seem like a terrific failure in the cultural taste of Brazilian movie-goers. Language is no excuse, because the film has almost no dialogue. Many are asking the question why so few in Brazil have been to see the movie.

But surely the answer is obvious?

Walk down any major street in urban Brazil and there will be a guy on the corner selling DVDs. The going rate is usually three movies for R$10. That’s about USD $2 a movie. Now check out how much it costs to go and watch a movie at the cinema. I looked just now at the cinema inside the Bourbon shopping centre in Pompeia, São Paulo for a ticket for Hugo tonight – normal tickets are R$40 each.

To be fair, this is an IMAX movie and therefore a little more than a regular presentation, but even so it is a real ticket price for a movie that is on right here in Brazil in a theatre tonight.

So even a person who is fairly honest and doesn’t like supporting DVD piracy has to compare R$40 to watch one movie in the theatre with R$10 to watch three on DVD – twelve movies for the price of one.

This problem is also compounded by the legitimate DVD market, which is like the legitimate cinema, just overpriced.

The public in Brazil have voted with their feet. Water cannot run uphill… if pirate movies are a twelfth of the cost of the legal version then who will pay the “correct” price. Only those who want the full cinema experience, those who refuse to support piracy at any price, and those who managed to get a date with a girl and know that a pirate DVD will not impress.

I still go to the cinema myself and I like the communal, inclusive experience… being surrounded by that big Dolby sound and hundreds of other people all watching the same movie, but I don’t watch every single movie in the theatre. I bought a pirate copy of The Artist – and it was watermarked as a DVD that came from the Academy Award judging process… so one of those judges allowed their DVD to leak and be copied for millions around the world to watch almost for free.

The real answer to piracy is not to go out arresting the guys selling DVDs on the street, it is to make the legitimate route to enjoying a movie easier than buying a pirate – and good value. At present there is no incentive for anyone to keep supporting cinema tickets and legitimate DVDs when they are priced so much higher than the pirates.

Of course the argument goes that if everyone bought pirate films the movie industry would collapse – which is nonsense. It would just move from a model funded by tickets and DVDs to product placement and sponsorship – a process that is already developing anyway. Morgan Spurlock financed an entire film this way in 2011.

Services like Netflix are offering Brazilians unlimited movies for R$15 a month. Of course it depends on having good broadband, and many people don’t have the technical ability to hook up a computer to a TV, but Internet-enabled TVs are standard today. As this latest generation of TVs rolls out with tools like Netflix built-in and on the remote control, it will be easy to click a button to get any movie from a library of millions – easier than going out and selecting from a limited range of pirate DVDs.

And this model is affordable too… that monthly charge is less than half the price of one ticket to see Hugo tonight at the cinema.

The recorded music industry is finally seeing this, with services such as Spotify taking off and killing the illegal copying of music because the legal route is so much easier. But it took years for the record companies to ever understand that they need a new business model – not more litigation. Let’s just hope the movie business doesn’t make all the same mistakes they did…

Oscars 2007

Photo by Donna Grayson licensed under Creative Commons

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9/11 Memories

I don’t have a thrilling or exciting memory of 9/11. It fact the banality of the what happened to me is almost striking giving the significance of what happened.

I was working for the French bank Société Générale in London at the time. On that day I was out of the office in Knightsbridge at a hotel on a management training course. I remember thinking how useless the course was as I had asked questions of the trainer like ‘how do I improve teamwork when my team is based in 9 different countries on time-zones from Tokyo to New York?’ and the trainer was only qualified to train people who were working directly with their staff. None of the other managers on the training course had to manage anyone in another country, so I just sat there – bored – on a day away from the office.

By the afternoon, a few people were getting text messages to say that something was happening in New York. This was before anyone could access the Internet on phones. It was before wi-fi was available everywhere. We were locked in a training room with only a vague idea that something big was happening outside.

When someone got a text message saying one of the towers was down, our trainer said that we should carry on the course for the full afternoon because our companies had all invested a lot of money and would not want to waste it.

We carried on for a bit longer, but everyone wanted to leave early to find out what was going on. I really had no idea until I got home later in the afternoon and switched on the TV to watch the images of the attacks repeating on a loop.

Our trainer was being conscientious, but he had preferred we sit there talking about how to hire and fire people rather than witnessing one of the major events of the new century.

I had a team working for me in the WTC complex. Not in towers 1 or 2, but across the square from there. I was frantically calling them to find if they were all OK, but the phone lines in New York were overloaded and many cellular radio towers had been destroyed along with the twin towers – so cell phone coverage was very patchy.

I did eventually get through to the guy who ran our technology systems in New York. I had a bizarre conversation as I walked my dog in my local park in lovely evening sunshine and talked to him in New York about how he ran from the office to his home and wife… only a couple of miles, but in complete chaos.

We had very good disaster plans in place. My responsibility was the banks connection to the stock exchange. The next morning we had our systems up and running in another office. We were ready to trade, but the stock exchange had been closed.

It was a day when everything felt paralysed – even for those of us not in the USA. I had never imagined a mainland attack within the USA and the events that were created by that one day are still shaping our history now. It was hard to imagine such iconic buildings were there one morning and 90 minutes later were gone – I had been to the top of those towers several times and enjoyed a beer up there in a space that no longer existed.

For me though, it was a day of strange memories. Meaningless to most, but worth remembering here for my own sake. One day I might not remember the sheer terror in the voices I was talking to in New York that day and the paradox of me throwing a ball for the dog as I talked.

World Trade Center - New York City, New York / ニューヨークシティ (ニューヨーク)

Why no Wifi?

I’m at the Gartner outsourcing summit in São Paulo, Brazil today. I walked into the keynote session a little earlier this morning only to find that there is no Internet availability in the conference area of the hotel.

I asked the conference organisers why I can’t get online. They said that people at the conference are not allowed to get online.

Umm, so how is anyone supposed to blog the conference or make comments about what the speakers are saying?

I did ask them earlier what the hashtag for the event is, only to be greeted by blank stares… Come on Gartner, what’s going on? You can do a lot better than this in Brazil. At NASSCOM in Mumbai, bloggers are allowed seats at the front of the conference hall – with power sockets – so they can get unobstructed video and photo content out onto the web immediately.

This time it feels like I’m an imposition, asking constant questions and getting no answers.
Gartner Outsourcing Summit Brazil 2010

Is genealogy the only attraction for silver surfers?

My parents don’t use the Internet. They don’t need to use the Internet and they don’t really want to, though I know my father is tempted by news reports of family tree history being easy to research online.

Yet there are endless stories like this in the BBC of how much time everyone is spending online. It seems web use is 65% up in the UK, compared to three years ago. But a quarter of all that time is spent on social networks and blogs.

So what about the generation still thinks spam is a cheap tin of meat?

What will be the ‘killer app’ that encourages people to explore the Internet when they have spent their entire life not needing it? I suspect the government will use a carrot and stick approach to getting people online – free training, tax breaks for doing government business online (tax returns for example) – but ultimately, what will it be that convinces people they have to get online or miss out?
Spam

Geocities, RIP

So, GeoCities is about to be killed off.

This was one of the earliest places on the Internet that really encouraged users to create their own webpages and to contribute to the Internet. If you recall, back in the early days of the Internet and web, it was all pull. You read pages that were already online. It was like an online Argos catalogue, and yet think about your current interaction with the web – it’s all about contribution.

When GeoCities came along, it was suddenly possible to create personal homepages without too much technical expertise. It changed everything, and millions participated.

But, like many other sites, it was surpassed and now the social networks are themselves offering what Geocities used to in a simple way.

I hope the Internet Archive Foundation is storing enough of these sites and pages for the researchers of the future…

 

 

CompuServe is closed forever…

Before the ‘real’ web was launched, especially since 1994 when Netscape made it easy to go online, there was CompuServe. It was a walled community of users using dial-up Internet, paying Compuserve by the minute to be online and also paying the phone company by the minute for making a local call – at least for us in the UK as it was not common back then to have all-inclusive packages.

CompuServe offered much of the stuff you can find on the web today, gossip, chat, information, technical support… only it was all on their terms. You couldn’t build a web page and just put it out there, if you wanted to create an online group to support your product then you had to ask (and probably pay) them. I used to be a regular user of the music forums and the Sunday afternoon chat sessions where Brits and Americans would discuss the music news of the week were amazing – and very social. We used to get together for gigs and travellers were hosted when they were passing through London, just because they were regularly in the music chatroom.

Now it’s been shut down by AOL and a piece of history has been lost. Of course, it was pointless in the modern era of the web, but it’s still sad to see it go as that was a genuine online community long before the web grew to where it is now.