NY Times Tech Coverage Roundup

Here are some articles that appeared recently in the NY Times and that I’ve wanted to comment on but haven’t had time until now.

The Internet in the Living Room:

In Internet Meets Large Screen the Times discusses efforts to bring the PC into the living room and/or get the Internet onto TV. There’s nothing remarkable in the piece; it’s kind of a survey. However, the Internet in the living room will be in a way like the advent of mobile: creating new usability challenges, new opportunities and openings (potentially) for new competitors. I’ve argued in the past that search (a box producing links) won’t fly on TV. The movement toward multi-media search and “answers” by Google may be anticipate this.

Video and Verticals:

In Bob Tedeschi’s Web Videos Let Car Buyers Survey Their Many Choices, he discusses the growing importance of video on car sites and to prospective car buyers. AdMission, not mentioned in the piece, provides a provocative and unique ad unit that offers national “branded” video together with local dealer inventory. (Disclosure: I’m on the company’s board.)

Online Display Ads and Ad Networks:

Your Ad Goes Here is about the anticipated boom in online display advertising and the increasing ability to track those ads. The piece also discusses Right Media and its acquisition by Yahoo!. Internet Giants Vie to Snap Up Web Ad Firms is about the aQuantive acquisition and ad networks being rapidly gobbled up.

Display/brand advertising online is going to be a huge growth area and everyone anticipates this, which is part of what’s driving the M&A activity. But competition is probably a bigger driver.

PaidContent lists the remaining independent ad networks. They’ll either be gobbled up themselves, merge (or otherwise achieve larger scale) or be marginalized.

E-Commerce “Comes of Age”:

Less Risk Seen in Purchasing Clothes Online discusses how apparel has become a larger e-commerce category than consumer electronics. It wrongly indicates that e-commerce is 6% of total U.S. retail. E-commerce is just over 3% of total U.S. retail. Last week, the Kelsey Group’s Mike Boland did a post about an Accenture Survey showing that 69% of shoppers research online and most make purchases in local stores.

People continue to do these surveys are report the results as though they’d discovered something new and incredibly surprising. As I said before, people shop online but fundamentally will do most of their buying locally. What this means is that in a large majority of cases going forward the Internet will have influenced offline purchase behavior (the more “consideration” involved, the more this will be true).

The slow recognition of this is part of what’s starting to drive branding dollars online.

Publisher Liability for User-Generated Content:

Online publishers have been (some might argue artificially) insulated from liability for user-generated content/postings. Offline, traditional publications would be subject to libel and other liability for some of the stuff that appears online. However, in Web Site Is Held Liable for Some User Postings a federal appellate court found liability for Roomate.com for postings that violated the Fair Housing Act. Craigslist has similarly been sued under the act. But there are some specific facts here that might not mean a dramatic change in the law.

Online Privacy and Abuse of Information:

The Nation’s Borders, Now Guarded by the Net covers the incredibly disturbing story of Canadian psychotherapist Andrew Feldmar who was prevented from entering the U.S. because he had written an article on LSD and psychotherapy in the 1960s:

A guard typed Mr. Feldmar’s name into an Internet search engine, which revealed that he had written about using LSD in the 1960s in an interdisciplinary journal. Mr. Feldmar was turned back and is no longer welcome in the United States, where he has been active professionally and where both of his children live.

There’s a bit more to this story but this incident reveals how our histories are now preserved indefinitely online and how unscrupulous governments can use those histories to suit their own agendas and aims. But the longer-term concern is the potentially chilling effect that the Internet may have on free speech and even academic inquiry because of the fear of subsequent misuse of the information.

There’s a great deal more to say on this and related points, but “privacy” once again becomes a critical issue that must be tackled by the search engines and portals as a group.


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