Netflix, Starz Battle Ends with Netflix Down Disney and Sony Content on February 28, 2012

Netflix, Starz Battle Ends with Netflix Down Disney and Sony Content on February 28, 2012 | 40Tech

Recently, Netflix angered a large amount of its US subscriber-base by announcing changes to its pricing model. It used to be that, if you wanted to do the Neflix videos-by-mail thing and stream content as well, it would only cost you an extra couple of bucks per month. Now (as of two days ago, in fact), if you want both, you need to pay double — $7.99 for each service. While the Netflix move may be understandable, and part of a potentially larger plan to phase out physical delivery altogether, the customer backlash was also unsurprising — and significant.

To make matters worse for Netflix, on the very day that the new pricing came into effect, Starz, the distributor of Sony and Disney content decided not to renew their contract with Netflix. This is probably going to hurt Netflix customer relationships even more, but believe it or not, it happened as a result of Netflix attempting to preserve their pricing model, and, presumably, to keep their customers from imploding.

Netflix has been doing well, business-wise, of late. They opened up content streaming in Canada — which I use all the time, even though we don’t get the coolest content up this way — and they have plans for world internet-streaming domination that could be very viable. Unfortunately, their content and entire business is dependent on their relationship with content license owners. Starz Entertainment apparently insisted that Netflix put their content behind an additional pay-wall, making customers pay more to access it. Netflix offered them in excess of $300 million per year for the content, but that wasn’t good enough for Big Media, who initially asked for more than 10 times what Netflix paid them in 2008, according to the Wall Street Journal.

In a press release, Starz cited the usual spiel regarding “protecting the premium nature” of their brand and “preserving the appropriate pricing” of their “exclusive and valuable content.” The bottom line here, however, is that Starz holds all of the cards here. Disney and Sony content is good content. It is sought after. In a statement to Business Insider, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings maintains that it only marks 8% of their overall audience views, and that the content would have likely gone down to 5-6% of domestic views by Q1 2012 anyway, but as we all know, it takes less than 8% of pissed off people who perceive that they’ve lost something they felt they paid for to make 80%-sized noise about it.

One also has to wonder if other Big Media groups will follow Starz lead. To many of them, Netflix is likely more of an experiment that they tolerate to see if it will pay out big in the long run. Now that the dollars are coming in, naturally, they are going to want a bigger cut — one that makes them feel more like they are returning to their original business model that made them a money hand over fist — you know, before the advent of broadband and the explosion of extremely easy content piracy.

Speaking of piracy… it has been proven that consumers, by and large, are willing to pay a subscription price for content. If they weren’t, Netflix would never work; neither would Hulu Plus, Rdio, Sirius, pay-to-play MMORPGs, or any of the other premium-based multimedia providers out there. However, those prices need to be reflective of the general feel of pricing online — pricing that Apple was the baseline for with iTunes and apps taking over the online world as we know it. That is to say, the pricing needs to be low-ish. If all of the major license holders start clamouring “premium subscriptions for our content or else,” Netflix and their sizeable customer base will be threatened. When a media consuming customer base is threatened, they jump ship — and they have a tendency to land in a submarine that stealths its way into a dialect punctuated with “yo ho ho’s” and the occasional “Aaargh!” Not to beat the pirate metaphor to death or anything…

So what do you think of Starz demands for a Netflix pay-wall for their content? What about their decision to pull out? Should Netflix have given in?

Summify Cuts Through the Chatter, Helps You Get The Real Goods From Your Social Streams

Summify Cuts through the Chatter, Helps You Get The Real Goods From Your Social Streams | 40Tech

Summify has been acquired by Twitter and will be shutting down. See this post for more detail.

I’d like to take a moment to step away from the general worship and awe of Google+, and circle back (hehe) to our old friend Twitter. Actually, I plan to talk about Summify, and how it can take the often-overwhelming amount of information that is travelling through your Twitter stream at any given time, and sort it into a “highlight reel” that can be shared as a whole and as individual posts. It’s easy, it’s effective, and maybe just a little bit brilliant — and I have no doubt it will save you time and make your online reading much less hectic.

Multiple Accounts

Summify isn’t just about Twitter, either. Sure, it can connect to as many Twitter accounts as you like, but it also connects with Facebook and Google Reader. In fact, the more accounts you add, the better your summary will be.

Control

You get to decide how often you get a summary, how many stories it contains, when it gets delivered to you, how it gets delivered, who gets to look at it, and whether or not it gets published to your accounts. For example: my Summify is set up to deliver a new summary of 10 stories, twice per day (at 8:30am and 8:30pm), to my email inbox. Others can view it, and I automatically publish a link to the summary on my main Twitter and Facebook accounts. I could have allowed Summify to send me a Twitter DM notification as well, but between email and the recently released iPhone app, I’m covered.

summify-1 Summify-2

summify-2a summify-3

When you select a link in Summify (from email or your main summary), the article opens up with a handy toolbar on top (which you can close, if you want) that allows you to share the post on one or all of your connected networks. You can also see the avatars of the people who shared the article with you in the centre of the toolbar, and hover over them to view the originating tweet and click through to their account.

summify-5

If you don’t like the article and think it shouldn’t have been in your summary, you can click the little thumbs-down button to add it to your Filters list. This is a nice and easy way to weed out spammers and other annoying sites that occasionally sneak through. In fact, when you are in the Summify web app, itself, you can thumb an offending article down right then and there, without ever opening it. You can also filter by contributor, allowing you to block specific people from contributing to your summary. All you have to do is hover over one of the avatars below any given article, and then move your mouse over the little “x” that appears in the top right, and click it. This, and the thumbs-down functionality aren’t available in the email, of course, but they are also missing from the iPhone app; something that I hope changes, soon. Thankfully, though, Summify is smart enough that it gets it right about 98% of the time. And the iPhone app is pretty, and so is easily forgiven.

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People-Friendly Messages

When Summify sends out a summary message it takes great care to do two things: 1) It mentions some of the people who provided you with the information in the first place; which makes for nice Twitter etiquette. 2) It varies the messages so they aren’t always the same boring words with a new link. As an example, take a look below at three recent tweets (not clickable) that Summify sent out on my behalf.

tweet1tweet2tweet3

It should also be noted that mentions are automatically included in share of single posts, as well, and that you can edit the content of single-post shares before posting.

Easy, Good Looking, and Smart

Take the section-title anyway you like, but understand that it’s true, and it’s awesome! The apps (and even the emails) are easy on the eyes and easier to work with, and the service is smart enough to not only consistently deliver articles that you like, but it also will list out several other stories from websites that post multiple posts. This makes sure that you get all the highlights from Mashable and other large sites without having to visit them directly or open up another app.

I’ve been using Summify for a month or two now, and I’ve lost count of the number of hours I’ve saved by not scanning through the muck that is sometimes Twitter, and by not chasing down every shiny post in my 49 or so RSS feeds. Summify helps keep things clear and easy to manage, and has even kept me relevant on Twitter while I play with Google +. Speaking of Google +, I’m hoping that we’ll see it integrated into Summify soon (they already have the +1 button). Even better, Summify should be integrated into the Sparks feature! Now, that would be sweet! * pokes Google *

Note: For those interested, Summify is located right here in my (rarely) sunny home-city of Vancouver, and they have had the benefit of advising from the CEO of another little local social app called HootSuite. Maybe you’ve heard of it? :D

Give Summify a try and tell us what you think!

UPDATE: Summify has recently updated its look (pretty much the day after this post went up). It was pretty before, but now it’s awesome! It also includes Instapaper integration.

Summify-new.

The Top Five Web Apps I Use the Most — What Are Yours?

The Top Five Web Apps I Use the Most -- What Are Yours? | 40Tech

The more I work on the computer, the more I realize that Google is probably right about the Cloud being our future. In fact, other than Photoshop and friends, the occasional game, and the desktop version of Evernote, I pretty much live in Web App Land. Outside of the obvious like Facebook, Twitter (plus related apps), and Gmail, there are approximately 30 web apps that I use or visit on a semi-regular basis — and that’s not including the Chrome extensions that are direct links to yet other web apps.

Here are the five that I use the most:

 

Producteev, Springpad, and Evernote

Okay, so I’m actually cheating a little bit and making my first web app a combination of three. If you’ve read 40Tech before, and especially if you’ve read me, you already know that these three apps are a huge part of my personal productivity system. I had to include them in my list, but I didn’t want them to take up more than half of it! Besides, all three are practically indispensable to me: Evernote for writing and quick ideas, Springpad for bookmarking and research, and Producteev for GTD task management and overall organization. I could do (and have done) all of those things with each one of those apps, but decided to play to their strengths and combine them for the best results.

Feedly

This is another app I’ve covered before. Feedly is probably the best RSS/Google Reader client that I have ever used. The visual presentation of all of my feeds in a magazine format that learns what I like is utterly fantastic. I love it!

Netflix

I don’t get a lot of time to watch TV or movies, but when I do sneak some in, I usually wind up on Netflix. The streaming movie and TV show catalogue is not nearly as well-stocked up here in Canada, but there is still a lot of great content, especially for $8/month.

Mint

Since Mint.com merged with Intuit and finally started offering its finance management awesome in Canada, it has lived in my browser. There’s still a lot of work I need to do with it to get the most out of the array of tools and resources it offers, but Mint is definitely a web app that is here to stay for me.

Dropbox

Dropbox is my main cloud storage service. I also use SugarSync, Box.net, iDrive Backup, MiMedia, and a few others, but Dropbox is the most developed — or at least the most supported by other services. I use it to backup files, to get them on to my iPhone and iPad easily, and to share files with friends, family, and business colleagues. That’s hard to beat.

 

There are, as I mentioned, a multitude of other apps that I use, and there are even a few that are threatening the hold of some of my current list. I’ll be reviewing those few soon, so stay tuned!

Now it’s your turn: what are your top five web apps?

Find Updates, Files, Connections Quickly: Search Your Personal Cloud with Greplin

Greplin: Find Updates, Files, Connections Quickly: Search Your Personal Cloud | 40Tech

With all of the information, files and, well… stuff we have stored online, it can be a bit complicated to sift through it all when you need to go back and find something. Greplin makes that sort of search a whole lot easier. It indexes several of your online accounts, not the least of which are Facebook, Dropbox, and Gmail, and works like your own personal Google.

Greplin Using the Twitter Search Filter | 40Tech

Greplin has been around since the latter part of 2010, and entered public beta in February of this year. Since then, they have been adding more and more services, and have even developed a Chrome extension that plugs them right into your Gmail — for a search experience that is arguably better than Google’s built in functionality.

Greplin is free to use for the most part, indexing up to 10GB worth of data from services like Twitter, Gmail, and other personal Google services like Gcal, Docs and Contacts, as well as Facebook, LinkedIn, and Dropbox. If you want to index accounts like Evernote, Google Apps, and business-related services like Basecamp and Salesforce, however, you will need a premium subscription — which is only $4.99 per month ($49.99/year). There are also a few services that are unlockable via recommendations to friends, such as Tumblr, Google Reader, and Del.icio.us.

Greplin Indexes, Searches Gmail, Facebook, Twitter, Dropbox, and More | 40Tech

If you have a need to search through your online files and life in general, it doesn’t get better than Greplin. The interface is fantastic, the instant search feature saves time, and it actually performs better and faster than Google even in the search giant’s own services. The Chrome extension is a nice touch, as well, as it also plugs into the Omnibar, allowing you to search your data by simply typing the letter g, followed by a space and your search term.

Check it out here.

Want to help me unlock the unlockables? Get Greplin via this link.

What do you think of Greplin?

Timer Tab Turns Your Browser Into a Simple and Beautiful Timer, Alarm Clock, and Stopwatch

Timer Tab Turns Your Browser Into a Simple and Beautiful Timer, Alarm Clock, and Stopwatch | 40Tech

Chrome’s Web Store houses all manner of apps — but they don’t have to be complex to be effective. Timer Tab is really nothing more than a simple countdown timer, alarm, and stopwatch built into a web page (accessible in any browser, including mobile Safari) — but the integration it enjoys with Google Chrome makes it incredibly useful. Time is a commodity that we’re all a little short on, and Timer Tab helps you manage it simply and easily.

The interface of Timer Tab is a minimalist’s dream. It’s uncluttered, functional, and oddly pretty as it basks in its own emptiness. The functionality speaks for itself: enter a time to count down, or an alarm time, and press the start button. The stopwatch doesn’t require any entry at all, just a press of the button, followed by a click on the pause/resume button as needed. Even the options are simple — there are only three, and you get to them by rolling the mouse over the the “more” link on the bottom of the page.

Timer Browser StopwatchTimer Tab Browser Alarm Clock

Timer Tab’s Chrome integrations allow for two important functions: desktop notifications and the flashing of the mini-version of the time that hangs out in the title area of the browser tab. This is a fantastic way to make sure your attention is brought to the alarm you set, and is especially helpful if you are trying to keep track of how much time you spend doing something on your computer, or to remind yourself to take a break. Notifications can be enabled or disabled with a single click in the options area, and if you want to, you can add a link to an image or a YouTube video as your alarm.

Theoretically, you should be able to add a YouTube video at a particular time index by adding something like &t=2m18s to the end of the link. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to get that to work properly. If you have better luck, let me know!

Timer Tab is a simple, effective, and completely free/good looking way to keep track of time sensitivities when you are in the browser or just on the computer — which is often for so many of us these days. I recommend using it with any browser, but install it in Chrome to get the most out of it.

Timer Tab was created by Romuald Brillout, who also made Time Tab (a minimalist clock and calendar app), dooity.com (a light and simple list manager), and inboxn.com (a light hub for social communications).

What do you think of Timer Tab?

BitCoin Digital Currency: Financial Revolution or Doomed to Fail?

BitCoin Digital Currency: Financial Revolution or Doomed to Fail?  | 40Tech

I recently read a Gizmodo article about BitCoin, a new digital currency that is peer-exchanged — and generated — and aims to “revolutionize global finance.” It’s a nice idea, really, and some stores and services have already adopted it. According to Gizmodo, you can already trade BitCoin tokens for web designers, games, guns, and even drugs — yep… drugs. This sounds like the makings of real money to me, but how far will it — or can it — go?

Money is many things: the root of all evil, maker of spinning worlds, an absolute necessity to live in our society, yada yada. It also has a basis on which to trade — generally gold and silver repositories that give the coins and paper some degree of relative worth. Even our debit and credit cards, which are the primary ways of buying things digitally, are tied up in the worldwide economy of shiny valuable metals. This has been going on for thousands of years, ever since a few people decided that hoarding pretty things was a good way to live — and other people decided they wanted those same pretty things too. In a nutshell, anyway.

Can BitCoin stack up against all of that? It creates itself out of nothing! It’s an app on your computer that uses your machine to crowdsource the power to facilitate the currency’s transactions, all the while generating tiny bits of BitCoins for you. The creators have put some thought into it, sure, putting a cap on the creation of BitCoins (21 million in total) that will introduce scarcity, and therefore a basis for value, but what kind of potential does this new currency have against thousands of years of history? Not to mention that the wheels that turn the economy, like credit card companies, might have a thing or two to say on the matter – especially about the lower of fees, transaction limits, country walls, and other things that provide financial control over users.

I think BitCoin is a nice idea. I think it even has potential — at least to gain some sort of reasonable adoption over the long term. It will probably be a very long term, though, before any real revolution is seen. Everything we do is too tied up in regular currency. There are those out there who believe in BitCoin now, however — and they are trading the online currency at one BitCoin for $7.50. That’s virtual coins for real money — and not bought by someone who is looking to get a new castle or set of armour in their favourite MMORPG.

Think about it.

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Is BitCoin revolutionary? Doomed to failure? Ahead of its time? — Or maybe all of the above? Let us know what you think in the comments.

What is BitCoin [Gizmodo]