I assumed streaming royalties were paid by the “Subscriber Share” method. Apparently not. The big challenges I can see to implementing it:
What do you do with someone’s money if they don’t listen to anything in a month? I assumed the service would just keep all of the money in this case. But one of the inconvenient realities of auto-billing subscription services is that a lot of people keep paying long after they stop using them, and Subscriber Share might give people on the outside a way to deduce how many people aren’t actively using a given service.
You need to know exactly how much each person paid each month. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. You need to account for credit-card processing fees, currency exchange-rate fluctuations, fraud, chargebacks, and middlemen like Apple’s App Store that don’t give precise enough reporting to guarantee that you actually received a certain amount of money from a given user for a given time period.
But I doubt these problems are as problematic as clickfraud and a bunch of musicians who hate you, starve, and pull their catalogs.
Good analysis by Dan Moren at Six Colors. (See also.) It’s also interesting that Google’s establishing a new “On” brand for connected-home gear, rather than making it part of Nest.
But I don’t see a strong future for a $200 wireless router in 2015, especially from a company with almost no retail presence. How many of your non-geek friends and relatives are using a router that their ISP didn’t give them? If the answer is greater than zero, how many of those were bought for anywhere near $200?
Much like the challenges facing TiVo, most of the home-router market just uses an integrated modem-router box provided by their ISP. (This is even worse than TiVo’s situation: buying your own router costs relatively little, and there’s almost no differentiation between brands.)
Apple’s AirPort Extreme faces the same challenges, and despite being a good product overall, I can’t imagine it sells well enough to matter. At least Apple’s strong retail presence can help its sales, especially as an attachment sale when someone’s buying a Mac or iPad. Google won’t have that advantage.
Even the idea that people are more likely to keep this router out on a shelf or table with nothing around it is pretty optimistic. Notice how none of the OnHub photos show any wires? No matter how pretty you make it, it still needs at least two cables plugged into it, and one of those needs to be connected to your ISP’s ugly modem, so it’s probably going on the dusty floor behind your desk or hidden with the rest of your ugly networking equipment.
(Personally, I’ve left the consumer-router world entirely, as I found even the best consumer routers flaked out and needed to be rebooted every so often. My Ubiquiti EdgeRouter Lite 3 and UAP-AC have served me very well so far, with zero hiccups or issues since I bought them nearly a year ago, and the N-only but inexpensive UAP-LR has brought insane range to my in-laws’ house.)
This part really captures why Relay is so great to work with:
But you can feel that all of these hosts want to be part of Relay FM as they interact with each other — on their podcasts, they reference other Relay FM shows. In many ways, Relay FM works like a comic book universe. If you want to know the entire story line, you need to listen to multiple shows.
But wanting to be part of a family isn’t enough if the numbers don’t add up. If Relay FM takes too big a cut, chances are many of these hosts would want to make a podcast on their own. “Our revenue is going up every month, which is great because it means that there is more money for our hosts, which is what I care about the most,” Hurley said. “Our number one thing is that everybody enjoys working with us and is happy with us and is well compensated for the work that they do. Our business is based on the people we work with.”
“Of all the money that comes into Relay, about three quarters of it goes out to hosts. Then the rest we use it to pay expenses and we take profits as owners — we are very lean,” Hurley said. While the number of shows has tripled during Relay FM’s first year, monthly revenue has quadrupled over the same period. Yet, the team doesn’t want to take any outside investment to fuel its growth.
Working with a close-knit group of old and new friends and doing conversational shows about your geeky interests and having enough listeners to make money and getting paid such a large portion of the gross revenue is almost completely unheard of in the rest of the podcast world.
That’s why Relay has such a bright future: they keep talent happy and attract new talent easily, so they’ll keep publishing great shows with ever-increasing audiences, and everyone wins.
Relay just launched two new podcasts, and one of them, Top Four, is my wife and me having semi-random conversations about our favorite things. I have no idea if you’ll like it, but we sure have fun with it.
More than fifteen years ago, in response to decreasing ad rates and banner blindness, web advertisers and publishers adopted pop-up ads.
People hated pop-up ads. We tolerated in-page banners as an acceptable cost of browsing free websites, but pop-ups were over the line: they were too annoying and intrusive. Many website publishers claimed helplessness in serving them — the ads came from somewhere else that they had little control over, they said. They really needed the money from pop-ups to stay afloat, they said.
The future didn’t work out well for pop-ups. Pop-up-blocking software boomed, and within a few years, every modern web browser blocked almost all pop-ups by default.
A line had been crossed, and people fought back.
People often argue that running ad-blocking software is violating an implied contract between the reader and the publisher: the publisher offers the page content to the reader for free, in exchange for the reader seeing the publisher’s ads. And that’s a nice, simple theory, but it’s a blurry line in reality.
By that implied-contract theory, readers should not only permit their browsers to load the ads, but they should actually read each one, giving themselves a chance to develop an interest for the advertised product or service and maybe even click on it and make a purchase. That’s also a nice theory, but of course, it’s ridiculous to expect anyone to actually do that. Publishers are lucky if people even read the content with any real attention today, let alone the ads around it.
Ads have always been a hopeful gamble, not required consumption. Before the web, people changed channels or got up during TV commercials, or skipped right over ads in newspapers and magazines. Pragmatic advertisers and publishers know that their job is to try to show you an ad and hope you see and care about it. They know that the vast majority of people won’t, and the ads are priced accordingly. The burden is on the advertisers and publishers to create ads that you’ll care about and present them in a way that you’ll tolerate.
Web ads are dramatically different from prior ad media, though — rather than just being printed on paper or inserted into a broadcast, web ads are software. They run arbitrary code on your computer, which can (and usually does) collect and send data about you and your behavior back to the advertisers and publishers. And there’s so much consolidation amongst ad networks and analytics providers that they can easily track your behavior across multiple sites, building a creepily accurate and deep profile of your personal information and private business.
All of that tracking and data collection is done without your knowledge, and — critically — without your consent. Because of how the web and web browsers work, the involuntary data collection starts if you simply follow a link. There’s no opportunity for disclosure, negotiation, or reconsideration. By following any link, you unwittingly opt into whatever the target site, and any number of embedded scripts from other sites and tracking networks, wants to collect, track, analyze, and sell about you.
That’s why the implied-contract theory is invalid: people aren’t agreeing to write a blank check and give up reasonable expectations of privacy by clicking a link. They can’t even know what the cost of visiting a page will be until they’ve already visited it and paid the price.
And it’s all getting so much worse, so quickly.
I’ve never been tempted to run ad-blocking software before — I make most of my living from ads, as do many of my friends and colleagues, and I’ve always wanted to support the free media I consume. But in the last few years, possibly due to the dominance of low-quality ad networks and the increased share of mobile browsing (which is far less lucrative for ads, and more sensitive to ad intrusiveness, than PC browsing), web ad quality and tolerability have plummeted, and annoyance, abuse, misdirection, and tracking have skyrocketed.
Publishers don’t have an easy job trying to stay in business today, but that simply doesn’t justify the rampant abuse, privacy invasion, sleaziness, and creepiness that many of them are forcing upon their readers, regardless of whether the publishers feel they had much choice in the matter.
Modern web ads and trackers are far over the line for many people today, and they’ve finally crossed the line for me, too. Just as when pop-ups crossed the line fifteen years ago, technical countermeasures are warranted.
Web publishers and advertisers cannot be trusted with the amount of access that today’s browsers give them by default, and people are not obligated to permit their web browsers to load all resources or execute all code that they’re given.
I recently started using Ghostery on my computers, and a simple homemade iOS content blocker that I may release for iOS 9’s launch. The web performance improvements with these are staggering, and the reports of quite how much Ghostery is blocking on most pages is shocking and disgusting.
Web publishers had things pretty nice for a while. Monetization was usually as simple as dropping a <script> tag from an ad service into your template. Want to add stats and analytics? Just drop in another <script> tag from another service. The bizdev people made a deal to integrate another analytics service for another few pennies? Go ahead, drop in yet another <script> tag.
Those days are over. It won’t be easy for many to move on, and not everyone will make it.
But publishers, advertisers, and browser vendors are all partly responsible for the situation we’re all in. Nobody could blame the users of yesteryear for killing pop-up ad rates, and nobody should blame the users of 2015 for blocking abusive, intrusive, misleading, and privacy-stealing ads and trackers, even if it’s inconvenient for publishers and web developers.
Fortunately, better monetization methods exist. It has never been easier to collect small direct payments online, cutting out the advertising middlemen and selling directly to your true customers. For publishers who want to remain ad-supported, ethically and tastefully presented native advertising, such as sponsoredpostsinfeeds and ourcommunity’spodcastads, has proven to be more effective, more profitable, and less user-hostile by far compared to awful network <script> embeds.
In a few years, after the dust has settled, we’re all going to look back at today’s web’s excesses and abuses as an almost unbelievable embarrassment. Hopefully, the worst is behind us. And it’s time to stop demonizing people who use tools to bring that sanity to their web browsers today.
Kirk McElhearn has updated his post, many hours after it got a lot of attention yesterday:
Update: I’ve been unable to reproduce this issue, and my guess is that there was a glitch with Apple’s servers that has since been corrected. If you only subscribe to Apple Music, or are using it on a free trial, then your songs are matched using metadata only. If you subscribe to both iTunes Match and Apple Music, then iTunes matches your songs using digital fingerprinting.
It’s interesting that we keep seeing reports of severe or outrageous problems with Apple Music that spread quickly among Apple bloggers, then a short time later, they’re updated to more softly blame bugs or server issues.
Most of you reading this, I hope, keep all of your own original music files locally on a computer you own, with your own backups, and never rely on iTunes Match or Apple Music’s iCloud Music Library as the primary storage of your music collection. But cloud storage platforms promise that you can do this, and many people, including some of us geeks, use them that way. That’s a big part of their appeal to owners of laptops or phones with limited storage.
So I suppose some may consider “it was a bug” as less-bad PR than “it has a major inherent flaw”, but I don’t see random “glitches” that can cause data loss as acceptable for a cloud storage platform.
Anyway, I got some very angry people yelling at me on Twitter while I was sleeping last night that I need to post a retraction on my link because Kirk had retracted his article. But that’s only partly true, and for a narrow and almost inconsequential part: the part where Apple Music’s metadata-only matching seems to override iTunes Match if you have it.
That this happened at all (and I got reports from many other people who were affected) means that iTunes Match is less trustworthy as primary storage, and it never really was trustworthy as primary storage because it has always been buggy and inconsistent, so my recommendations remain to avoid letting these features integrate with your music collection.
This is embarrassing. No wonder people have had so many problems and so much data loss with Apple Music’s cloud-library features.
It’s as if nobody who made this implementation decision had ever encountered remasters, re-recordings, clean versions, live performances, or the many other extremely common reasons why two very different audio recordings might have the same artist and title.
What’s even more puzzling is that iTunes Match did this much more correctly using acoustic fingerprinting, and for whatever reason, Apple Music chose not to. And if you’ve activated Apple Music, it seems to override iTunes Match similarly. (Update: This may have been “a glitch”.)
I highly recommend disabling iCloud Music Library and migrating away from any reliance you have on iTunes Match. You can still listen to Apple Music without them. Don’t let these cloud-matching “features” anywhere near your music collection.
We’ve all heard (or said) the blanket statement that Apple isn’t good at cloud services, but that’s not universally true.
I’ve been using Apple’s services to sync contacts and calendars since they were called .Mac, with very few issues and zero data loss over the years.
As both a user and developer, I’ve never had a single issue with push notifications, probably Apple’s largest-scale and largest-volume web service. It’s rock-solid, fast, and reliable.
Even the new Photos app and iCloud Photo Library have been rock-solid not only for me, but for everyone I’ve talked to. The sole complaint I’ve heard is slow performance with very large libraries. I’ve had no issues with sync performance, data loss or duplication, or any confusion about what’s where.
But the iTunes Store back-end is a toxic hellstew of unreliability. Everything that touches the iTunes Store has a spotty record for me and almost every Mac owner I know.
And the iTunes app itself is the toxic hellstew. iTunes has an impossible combination of tasks on its plate that cannot be done well. iTunes is the definition of cruft and technical debt. It was an early version of iTunes that demonstrated the first software bugs to Grace Hopper in 1946.
Probably not coincidentally, some of iTunes’ least reliable features are reliant on the iTunes Store back-end, including Genius from forever ago, iTunes Match more recently, and now, Apple Music.
iTunes’ UI design is horrible for similar reasons: not because it has bad designers, but because they’ve been given an impossible task: cramming way too much functionality into a single app while also making it look “clean”.
iTunes is designed by the Junk Drawer Method: when enough cruft has built up that somebody tells the team to redesign it, while also adding and heavily promoting these great new features in the UI that are really important to the company’s other interests and are absolutely non-negotiable, the only thing they can really do is hide all of the old complexity in new places.
With the introduction of Apple Music, Apple confusingly introduced a confusing service backed by the iTunes Store that’s confusingly integrated into iTunes and the iOS Music app (don’t even get me started on that) and partially, maybe, mostly replaces the also very confusing and historically unreliable iTunes Match.
So iTunes is a toxic hellstew of technical cruft and a toxic hellstew of UI design, in the middle of a transition between two partly redundant cloud services, both of which are confusing and vague to most people about which songs of theirs are in the cloud, which are safe to delete, and which ones they actually have.
Even Jim’s follow-up piece, after meeting privately with Apple in PR-damage-control mode, is confusing at best about what actually might have happened, which is completely understandable because it sounds like even Apple isn’t sure.
I have plenty of plausible theories on why iTunes didn’t get the iCloud Photos treatment — why Apple Music was bolted onto this ancient, crufty, legacy app instead of discontinuing iTunes, dropping its obsolete functions, and starting fresh with a new app and a CloudKit-based service. (Engineering resources, time to market, iPods, Windows, and people with slow internet connections.)
But that doesn’t make iTunes better or less confusing, and Jim’s still missing those Ozzy tracks.
The safest, most sensible course of action for users is to just keep their music libraries away from iTunes Match and Apple Music. We’ll all just know not to order that fish, and many of us won’t use Apple Music at all because its integration into our local libraries feels too unsafe.
And that’s too bad for everyone, because Apple Music is pretty great when everything works and you can figure out where everything is.
Did you know that The Verge delivers you to around 20 companies for advertising & tracking purposes? I didn’t. That might foul up your mobile web experience a little bit. Maybe we should try something different.
The Verge is an especially egregious example, but this is incredibly commonplace.
I’m interested in running a content blocker not because I don’t want to see ads, but because I feel the need to fight back against being opted in, without my knowledge or consent, to third-party collecting, tracking, and selling of my personal data just by following a link.
And if such blocking becomes a big problem for publishers, it’s up to them to switch to ad delivery methods without these privacy invasions.