Aereo, a service that streams over-the-air channels to its subscribers, has now spent more than a year serving residents of New York City. The service officially expands to Boston tomorrow and is coming to many more cities over the next few months, including Atlanta and Washington, DC. Aereo seems like a net-add for consumers, and the opposition has, so far, failed to mount a defense that sticks.
But the simple idea behind Aereo is so brilliant and precariously positioned that it seems like we need to simultaneously enjoy it as hard as we can and not at all. We have to appreciate it for exactly what it is, when it is, and expect nothing more. It seems so good that it cannot last. And tragically, there are more than a few reasons why it may not.
A little about how Aereo works: as a resident of the United States, you have access to a handful of TV channels broadcast over the air that you can watch for free with an antenna (or, two antennas, but we’ll get to that). A subscription to Aereo gets you, literally, your very own tiny antenna offsite in Aereo’s warehouse. The company streams this to you and attaches it to a DVR service, allowing you both live- and time-shifted viewing experiences.
To photograph mankind and explain man to man — that was how legendary photographer Wayne Miller described his decades-long drive to document the myriad subjects gracing his work. Miller passed away Wednesday at the age of 94 at his home in California.
Wayne Miller in 2001
Miller began pursuing photography while attending college at the University of Illinois, Urbana, shooting for the school’s yearbook. Following a two-year stint at the Art Center School of Los Angeles, Miller started working as a photographer for the U.S. Navy, serving in the Pacific Theater under Edward Steichen’s Naval Aviation Unit.
“We had Navy orders that allowed us to go any place we wanted to go and, when we got done, to go home,” Miller said in an interview with the American Society of Media Photographers. “It was fantastic.”
Miller’s reportage-style images of life and death aboard U.S. aircraft carriers provide a visual narrative for a field of battle largely unknown to the American public. Miller’s war-time photographs illustrate the tension and tragedy of bloodshed and destruction underneath the beautiful skies and billowing white clouds of the South Pacific.
And after Japan capitulated in September 1945, Miller was one of the first photographers to enter Hiroshima, documenting the unimaginable effects of the 20-kilton atomic bomb detonated over the city the previous month. Miller photographed victims suffering from acute radiation poisoning and severe shock in the ruins of a city reduced to rubble in one great flash.
Miller received two grants from the Guggenheim Foundation to photograph his next major project, a documentary look at the streets of Chicago’s South Side, his hometown. Shooting between 1946 and 1948, his work — a mix of portraits and environmental scenes — broke convictions for its look at the black communities living and working in postwar Chicago.
An alley between overcrowded tenements, with garbage thrown over the railings of the back porches. Most of the area's tenants were transient. Chicago, 1948.
“Up until that time, these [photographs] were considered snapshots by the public and by the commercial world,” he told ASMP. The visual weight of his work didn’t go unnoticed — the hope, worry, excitement, struggle and leisure pictured in ‘The Ways of Life of the Northern Negro’ remains striking even to modern viewers today.
After his Chicago body of work, Miller went on to work as a photographer for LIFE until 1953. He began collaborating with his old boss, Steichen, on a new project called the “Family of Man” — an ambitious look at the commonalities among humans around the world through the work of 273 photographers (including Miller). As an associate curator, Miller helped Steichen produce and organize the show’s exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1955. One of Miller’s photographs even graced the cover of LIFE that February.
Miller held the title of president of the prestigious Magnum photo agency from 1962-1968, leading the cooperative before beginning a career with the National Park Service and later, CBS. In the mid 1970s, Miller put down his camera to follow his passion for the environment, purchasing a small plot of redwood forest in Mendocino County. For the next several years, he worked to combat tax laws that favored clear cutting forests. He continued to push for sustainable practices through retirement.
Miller is survived by his wife Joan, four child, nine grandchildren and one great grandchild.
The film about Miller’s career, embedded above, is ‘The World is Young” by Theo Rigby, a photographer and filmmaker based in San Francisco.
Vaughn Wallace is the producer of LightBox. Follow him on Twitter @vaughnwallace.
Confidence, Opportunity, & Capacity Will Shape an Impactful Life: David Baker at TEDxNashville
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Aereo is trying to make live TV available over the Internet and yesterday the company got a step closer. The United States Second Circuit Court of Appeals declined a request by some of the country's largest television networks to issue a preliminary injunction against Aereo, which would have closed the service down. The broadcasters allege that Aereo violates their copyrights by distributing their shows without compensating them. Aereo says all it is doing is helping people watch freely available over-the-air broadcasts online, which they have a right to do. At stake is nothing less than control of the airwaves. To this point, it's been a complicated story and there's still more debate to come. Now is a good time to try to figure out...
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How can we make sense of it all?
A few weeks ago, I had dinner with Saumil and Sailesh, co-founders of LocBox.* Instagram had just been acquired by Facebook and there was speculation (later confirmed) about a big up round financing of Path. The recent large financing of Pinterest was still in the air, and the ongoing parlor game of when Facebook would go public and at what price was still being played. A couple of months prior, Zynga had acquired OMGPOP.
Sailesh wondered aloud, “How much time do we have for any of these?” “How many of them can coexist?” and “Do we really need them?” My answers were, respectively: “A lot.” “Many of them.” and “No, but we want them.” That dinner discussion prompted some observations that I am outlining here, and I invite you to share your own observations in the comments below.
In a nutshell, the Internet has evolved from being a need-driven utility medium with only a handful of winners to a discovery-driven entertainment medium with room for multiple winners. The necessary and sufficient conditions for this evolution are now in place — broadband, real names and tablets are the three horsemen of this New New Web. As consumers, entrepreneurs and investors, we should get used to the fact that the online economy is increasingly blurring with the offline economy, and in the limit, that distinction will disappear. As a result, just as in the real world, the Web of entertainment will be much bigger than the Web of utility.
A Theory of Human Motivation
One framework for understanding the consumer Internet is Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, which Abraham Maslow put forward as a way of explaining human behavior at large. The core premise is that once our basic needs of food, shelter, safety and belonging are satisfied, we tend to focus on things that are related to creativity, entertainment, education and self-improvement. A key aspect of this framework is that it’s sequential: Unless the basic needs are met, one cannot focus on other things. As an example, a study in 2011 showed that humans who are hungry will spend more on food and less on non-food items compared to those who are not hungry. Using this framework, we can see how consumer adoption of the Web has evolved over the last 20 years, and why all of the ingredients are only now in place for consumers to use the Web for what Maslow called “self-actualization” — a pursuit of one’s full potential, driven by desire, not by necessity.
1992-2012: Web of Need
Between the AOL IPO in 1992 and the Facebook IPO last month, the Internet has largely been in the business of satisfying basic consumer needs. In 1995, the year Netscape went public and made the internet accessible to the masses, I was a young product manager for a consumer Internet company called Global Village Communication. We were a newly minted public company and our hottest product was a “high speed” fax/modem with a speed of 33.6 kbps. Back then, using the Internet as a consumer or making a living off it as a business was rather difficult, and sometimes simply frustrating. In the subsequent years the basic needs of access, browser, email, search and identity were solved by companies such as AOL, Comcast, Netscape, Yahoo, Google, LinkedIn and Facebook.
2012-?: Web of Want
Today, the billion users on Facebook have reached the apex of Maslow’s hierarchy on the web. All of our basic needs have been satisfied. Now we are in pursuit of self-actualization. It is no surprise that on the Web, we are now open to playing games (Zynga, Angry Birds), watching video (YouTube, Hulu), listening to music (Pandora, Spotify), expressing our creativity (Instagram, Twitter, Draw Something), window shopping (Pinterest, Gojee*) and pursuing education (Khan Academy, Empowered*).
The Web Is Becoming Like TV
How do we make sense out of a Web where multiple providers coexist, serving groups of people who share a similar desire? Turns out we already have a very good model for understanding how this can work: Television. Specifically, cable television. The Web is becoming like TV, with hundreds of networks or “channels” that are programmed to serve content to an audience with similar desires and demographics. Pinterest, ShoeDazzle, Joyous and Alt12* programmed for young, affluent women; Machinima, Kixeye and Kabam programmed for mostly male gamers; Gojee* for food enthusiasts; Triposo* for travellers; GAINFitness* for fitness fans and so on.
In this new new Web, an important ingredient to success is a clear understanding of the identity of your users to ensure that you are programming to that user’s interests. The good news is that unlike TV, the Web has a feedback loop. Everything can be measured and as a result the path from concept to success can be more capital efficient by measuring what type of programming is working every step of the way — it’s unlikely that the new new Web will ever produce a Waterworld.
Why Now? Broadband, Real Names & Tablets
As my partner Doug Pepper recently wrote, a key question when evaluating a new opportunity is to ask “Why Now?” Certainly, companies like AOL, Yahoo and Myspace have tried before to program the Web to cater to interests of specific audiences. What’s different now? Three things: Broadband, real names and tablets.
The impact of broadband is obvious; we don’t need or want anything on a slow Web. With broadband penetration at 26 percent in industrialized countries and 3G penetration at about 15 percent of the world’s population, we are just reaching critical mass of nearly 1B users on the fast Web.
Real names are more interesting. In 1993, the New Yorker ran the now famous cartoon; “On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog.” This succinctly captured the state of the anonymous Web at the time. Reid Hoffman and Mark Zuckerberg changed that forever. Do we find Q&A on Quora to be more credible than Yahoo! Answers, celebrity profiles on Twitter more engaging than Myspace and pins on Pinterest more relevant than recommendations on early AOL chatrooms? I certainly do, and that is largely because Quora, Twitter and Pinterest take advantage of real names. Real names are blurring the distinction between online and offline behavior.
Finally, the tablet, the last necessary and sufficient piece that fuels the “Web of want.” The PC is perfect for the “Web of need” — when we need something, we can search for it, since we know what we are looking for. Searching is a “lean-forward” experience, typing into our PC, either at work or at the home office. The Web over the last decade has been optimized for this lean-forward search experience — everything from SEO to Web site design to keyword shortcuts in popular browsers makes that efficient. However, smartphones and tablets allow us to move to a “lean-back” experience, flipping through screens using our fingers, often in our living rooms and bedrooms, on the train or at the coffee shop. Tablets make discovery easy and fun, just like flipping channels on TV at leisure. These discoveries prompt us to want things we didn’t think we needed.
This thesis is easy to postulate, but is there any evidence that users are looking to the Web as anything more than a productivity platform? As has been reported, mobile devices now make up 20 percent of all U.S. Web traffic, and this usage peaks in the evening hours, presumably when people are away from their office. Analysis from Flurry* shows that cumulative time spent on mobile apps is closing in on TV. We certainly don’t seem to be using the Web only when we need something.
Economy of Need Versus Want
The economy of Want is different from the economy of Need. We humans tend to spend a lot more time and money on things we want compared to things we need. For example, Americans spend more than five hours a day on leisure and sports (including TV), compared to about three hours spent on eating, drinking and managing household activities. Another difference is that when it comes to satisfying our needs, we tend to settle on one provider and give that one all of our business. Think about how many companies provide us with electricity, water, milk, broadband access, search, email and identity. The Need economy is a winner-take-all market, with one or two companies dominating each need. However, when it comes to providing for our wants, we are open to being served by multiple providers. Think about how many different providers are behind the TV channels we watch, restaurants we visit, destinations we travel to and movies we watch. The Want economy can support multiple winners, each with a sizeable business. Instagram, Path, Pinterest, ShoeDazzle, BeachMint, Angry Birds, CityVille, Kixeye, Kabam, Machinima and Maker Studios can all coexist.
Investing in the Web of Want
The chart below shows that over a long term (including a global recession) an index of luxury stocks (companies such as LVMH, Burberry, BMW, Porsche, Nordstrom) outperforms an index of utility stocks (companies such as Con Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric that offer services we all need). The same applies to an index of media stocks (companies such as CBS, Comcast, News Corp., Time Warner, Viacom) which outperforms both the utilities and the broader stock market. Of course, higher returns come with higher volatility — Nordstrom’s beta is 1.6 and CBS’ beta is 2.2, compared to 0.29 for PG&E. It is this volatility that has cast investing in the Want business as a career-ending move in Silicon Valley for the past 20-plus years. As the Web evolves from serving our needs to satisfying our wants and, in turn, becomes a much larger economy, sitting on the sidelines of the Web of Want may not be an option.
Let’s Not Kill Hollywood
With a billion users looking for self-actualization and with the widespread adoption of broadband, real names and tablets, the Web is poised to become the medium for creativity, education, entertainment, fashion and the pursuit of happiness. As the offline world shows, large, profitable companies can be built that cater to these desires. Entrepreneurs and investors looking to succeed in the new new Web can learn quite a few lessons from our friends in the luxury and entertainment businesses, which have been managing profitable “want” businesses for decades. The fusion of computer science, design, data, low friction and the massive scale of the Internet can result in something that is better than what either Silicon Valley or Hollywood can do alone. It is no wonder that the team that came to this conclusion before anyone else is now managing the most valuable company in the world.
When we go see a movie or splurge on a resort vacation, we don’t stop using electricity, brushing our teeth or checking our email. The Web of Want is not a replacement for the Web of Need, it is an addition. Many of the Internet companies that satisfied our needs in the last 20 or more years of the Web are here to stay. In fact, they will become more entrenched and stable, with low beta, just like the utilities in the offline world. Microsoft has a beta of exactly 1.0 — it is no more volatile than the overall stock market. And for those longing for the days of “real computer science” on the Web, do not despair. Just keep an eye on Rocket Science and Google X Labs — there is plenty of hard-core engineering ahead.
Disclosures: * indicates an InterWest portfolio company. Google Finance was used for all of the stock charts and beta references.
Keval Desai is a Partner at InterWest, where he focuses on investments in early-stage companies that cater to the needs and wants of consumers. He started his career in Silicon Valley in 1991 as a software engineer. He has been a mentor and investor in AngelPad since inception. You can follow him @kevaldesai.
TEDxWaterloo - Taylor Jones - Dear Photograph
"Now and then you hear a story that restores your faith in the internet, both as a global sharing tool that can be used as a force for good and as a means by which a moment of serendipity and a good idea can bring fame and fortune to an individual," said the UK Huffington Post. That individual is Taylor Jones. As the 22-year-old founder of the worldwide phenomenon dearphotograph.com, he is responsible for a site that has, in just six short months, become a conduit for the memories and emotions of millions of people. CBS named Dear Photograph the #1 website in 2011, and TIME Magazine included it as their #7 pick of the top 50 websites favorites. Now Taylor has a book deal with HarperCollins for the first Dear Photograph book, with never-before-seen photos, to be published later this year. Taylor admits he is a "consummate idea guy" who has always been active in the digital world. His other passions? Music, being Canadian and hockey. A graduate of Conestoga College's advertising program, Taylor currently resides in Kitchener, Ontario. "Dear Photograph started off as a nice nostalgic blog with six pictures of old family snaps lined up in their original setting. Then it went viral." The Guardian. ---- In thespirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local <b>...</b>
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Richard Pyle, former Saigon bureau chief for the Associated Press, recalls the star of "that great AP Saigon bureau," Horst Faas, and their work in Vietnam.