Archive for August, 2008

Twitter stops texting in Europe

Is this the end of the world as we know it? Twitter has announced that they’re no longer providing outbound SMS notifications in Europe – well, anywhere outside the US Canada and India actually.

To anyone with any knowledge of mobile operators’ pricing models and how they vary across continents, this will come as no surprise. Even though it’s capped at 250 messages per user per week, this service has been leaking money for Twitter since it started. You simply can’t terminate an SMS in Europe for free. Bulk pricing through any of the big aggregators will get you a little under $0.10 / £0.05 per message but no lower. So that’s $25 a week, or $1300 a year at the capped level. And in case you hadn’t noticed, Twitter gets no revenue from your tweets. They’re potentially writing a $1300 cheque every year for each SMS user. How could they possibly continue to fund this?

The Twitterverse will be up in arms about this. The Aussies have already made their presence felt on Twitter’s GetSatisfaction site. Whilst I’m sure they can weather the storm, the PR won’t be good. Many Twitter users depend on SMS as part of the social experience, and won’t be satisfied with Twitter’s suggestion to use a mobile Twitter client or the m.twitter.com interface.

What can be done? Premium-rate mobile-terminated SMS schemes are popular, alowing the recipient of the message to pay through their phone bill per message received, but setting one of these up is not for the faint hearted – blanket coverage of all the networks across a continent can take months or years to sort out; customer on-boarding and billing will be different wherever you go; regulatory issues may constrain the service in some countries. Hard work and very expensive. It’s something Twitter could consider, but I doubt they have the capability to do it in-house. They’re a social network, not a telco. And a premium service by subscription isn’t something they could set up overnight, either.

So again, Twitter is the victim of its own success. As they say in their blog

When we launched our free SMS service to the world, we set the clock ticking. As the service grew in popularity, so too would the price.

For some, this will mean Twitter’s no longer useful. Probably not for most, though – personally I’ll barely notice. But this is a setback in Twitter’s progress towards world domination. SMS is an insanely popular way of communicating, and they need to find a stable financial model to bring it back into the fold. If they don’t, someone else will.

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August 14, 2008 at 5:43 am 2 comments

Support your local blogger

This blogging lark can be a lonely old game. Writing stuff that you hope people will read, hope it will strike a chord, spark a conversation, suggesting more topics for more postings. But more often than not – nothing. Nada. Just a number on a WordPress graph, telling you that people have looked at the page.

I read a lot of other peoples’ blogs myself (note to self: must set up a blogroll here). Lately I’ve been making a point of giving back to bloggers whose posts I find interesting, by leaving a comment. This makes it feel more like a 2-way street.

Why don’t you do the same – you could start by leaving a comment here for me.

August 7, 2008 at 12:49 pm Leave a comment

On video filesharing

OK, hands up. I’ve downloaded TV shows. Before BBC iPlayer and itv.com got their act together, I used UKNova as a catch-up service (link omitted deliberately). But of course that’s all behind me. The broadcaster-provided services, along with 4OD, provide a legal version of the same thing, with no technological wizadry needed – I can even get iPlayer through the red button on my Virgin Media box. Which is way cool.

Charles Arthur writes an interesting piece on guardian.co.uk, arguing that the TV industry needs to get its act together to recognise that filesharing is here to stay. Parallels with the music industry abound.

But I believe there’s a fundamental difference with the way we enjoy video content vs the way we enjoy music – particularly TV shows. For me, I rarely re-watch a TV show. Maybe very occasionally, when I want to remind myself of how a previous series ended, but very rarely indeed. Music, on the other hand, is entirely different – I’ll hear the same track over and over, will choose a well-listened album to suit my mood, and pack the car and/or iPod full of familiar stuff ready for a trip.

TV shows, then, for me are ephemeral. Once watched, they can be deleted to make room for another show. So there’s only a miniscule chance I’d buy the DVD having watched the show already. I’d definitely not be a candidate for Charles’ proposal that TV production companies release low-quality downloads to promote sales of high-quality DVDs – once watched, it’s valueless.

Am I unusual in this? I guess to some extent I must be, because TV-series box sets top the DVD charts all the time. Are these bought by people who love the show so much they want to watch it over and over again? Sounds like Chinese water torture to me.

Which camp do you fit in? Serial repeat watcher or watch-and-delete like me?

August 1, 2008 at 2:54 pm 2 comments


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