The Premium Upsell

Todd Sampson has a great take on publisher’s reaction to the text-to-speech feature on the new Amazon Kindle. Rather than view this feature as a threat to their existing Books on Tape business line, they should look at Amazon’s electronic distribution of their text as a potential channel for an upsell.

The quality of the voice is crappy.  It’s bearable, and a major improvement, but it’s still crappy.  It simply can’t compete with the quality of a professionally recorded audio book.

Ever the optimist, Todd challenges the book industry to charge extra to sell electronic versions of their books bundled with higher quality audio versions of their books as an alternative to the robot voice. Be confident of the quality of your goods and your true fans will support you. More simply, hold your chin up and stop whining if you want to run with the cool crowd.

Nine Inch Nails Ultra Deluxe

The band Phish has mastered the premium upsell on their site, In the tradition of all jambands, Phish allows their fans to tape their live concerts. They sell specially marked tickets for the tapers (as they are quaintly called) giving them access to a special section set up for them behind the soundboard where the sound is best. Despite the existence of high-quality audience recordings that are traded in a vibrant online trading ecosystem, Phish make available soundboard quality, non-DRM recordings of their concerts on their website as well.

The band is confident that their hardcore fans will spend extra to download high-quality FLAC recordings that come complete with pdf files of cover artwork formated to fit within the standard CD case. At a certain age, the $12.95 per show is easily worth it, especially if you went to that concert and want a memento of the evening. The Phish backoffice gets that too and now that they are back on tour, your online ticket purchase comes with a link to pre-purchase a recording of the show at a 15% discount. It’s like a futures bet on the quality of your evening.

Nine Inch Nails also understands the premium upsell. They are sold out of their $300 Ultra Deluxe Limited Edition version of their album Ghosts, an album that was available free for the download.

Then there’s Josh Freese who has taken the premium upsell and turned it into an artform for his album, Since 1972

$75,000 (limited edition of 1)
* Signed CD/DVD and digital download
* T-shirt
* Go on tour with Josh for a few days
* Have Josh write, record and release a 5-song EP
about you and your life story
* Take home any of his drum sets (only one, but
you can choose which one)
* Take shrooms and cruise Hollywood in Danny from
Tool’s Lamborghini OR play quarters and then hop on
the Ouija board for a while
* Josh will join your band for a month … play shows,
record, party with groupies, etc.
* If you don’t have a band he’ll be your personal
assistant for a month (4-day work weeks, 10 am to 4 pm)
* Take a limo down to Tijuana and he’ll show you how
it’s done (what that means exactly we can’t legally
get into here)
* If you don’t live in Southern California (but are a
U.S. resident) he’ll come to you and be your personal
assistant/cabana boy for 2 weeks
* Take a flying trapeze lesson with Josh and Robin
from NIN, go back to Robins place afterwards and his
wife will make you raw lasagna

For a more detailed and way more informed view into the premium upsell (complete with graphs!) check out Strauss on Crystal Ball for Studio Execs or WWJD?

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Up and to the Right

Up and to the Right

It was windy today so we flew a kite. More photos here.

Current Events

Calacanis on Value of twitter

twitter-logoJason Calacanis expands upon his offer to pay twitter to get his Mahalo account onto twitter’s suggested user page. It’s the distribution channel and potential click-thru traffic he’s looking for, and click-thrus to his site equals registered users and a lifetime relationship with Mahalo that can be monetized over time.

The top 20 slots on Twitter are actually worth–to some people–2-10x what I offered. If Southwest, Amazon, eBay or Zappos were to get their hands on one of these accounts, they could easily make one uber-compelling tweet a week. 50 tweets from Amazon with things like “Top 100 Science Fiction Movies of All Time–as rated by George Lucas” would garner a two to 10% CTR. A Zappos tweet with “Back to school: Buy two pairs of shoes get one free” would get a huge response on August 20th.

A JetBlue daily notice saying “The first 1,000 folks to respond to this alert get $25 off their next flight” would mean never having another empty seat.

The point is that Twitter has the ability to unleash a direct marketing business the likes of which the world has NEVER seen. I predict they will, and when they do, they will make the Twitter nay-sayers look like the donkeys they really are. (Note: you ever notice the folks who have the most to say about making money are the ones who’ve never made any? Exactly.)

Direct marketing by mail changed retail forever, as did the Web and email.

Twitter will take that to an entirely new level. Why? Because people *live* inside of Twitter like they have never lived inside of a product before. We have NBA stars twittering about their performance at half-time and a president who leveraged the service to get elected.

It doesn’t take a genius to understand that there is something disruptive going on here.

Wasn’t this the promise of SMS? A direct channel to which consumers could sign up and get notifications of local deals in their area?

Current Events

Dopplr City Colors

dopplr colors

Did you know that dopplr assigns a unique color to each city? Neither did I. It’s not just random either – there’s an algorithm at play here. From the dopplr blog:

We wanted a deterministic RGB colour value for each city. At first, we tried mapping the latitude and longitude of a city to a point in colour space, but we found that this made neighbouring cities too similar in colour. This means that people who travel frequently between Glasgow and Edinburgh wouldn’t clearly see the difference in colour between the two. Also, since so much of the Earth’s surface is covered in water rather than cities, it leads to a sparse use of the potential colour space. In the end, we went with a much simpler approach: we take the MD5 digest of the city’s name, convert it to hex and take the first 6 characters as a CSS RGB value.

So now you know why San Francisco is pink, Helsinki is brown, and Berlin is red.


Yahoo Developer Network, Points for Style

Dan Theurer, one of the original evangelists of the Yahoo Developer Network, gave a talk (which I unfortunately did not attend) about lessons learned from building YDN. His slides are well worth a glance for anyone interested in building a developer community around their APIs.

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Spokeo Repositioned as a Snitch

While it may be technically true, I’m not a big fan of Spokeo’s new positioning.

Uncover personal photos, videos, and secrets. . . GUARANTEED
Uncover personal photos, videos, and secrets. . . GUARANTEED
Current Events

Facebook Business Model – Public Profiles

With over 175M users, Facebook has famously opened up for distribution of marketing messages from businesses, brands, and celebrities. My wife Tivo’d an appearence by Mark Zuckerberg on Oprah introducing it to its mainstream audience and most surely to any brand marketer interested in reaching Oprah’s audience. If Jason Calcanis puts the value of a slot on twitter’s suggested users at $250,000, then a slot on any Facebook featured user page has got to be multiples of that.

If you hit Facebook in a logged out state, look for the, “To create a page for a celebrity, band or business, click here.” link and this is what you’ll see. No more fan pages – social influence is now officially reserved and will most likely be for sale.

Facebook Business Model

Current Events

Lenovo’s Fashionable Netbook

Lenovo Pocket Yoga

Although still in concept (UPDATE: Lenovo now saying this is a two year mockup), this is the closest thing I’ve seen to a netbook as fashion accessory (note the burled walnut finish). The belt clasp also acts as a mouse, or so says the caption the the photo on the Lenovo picture feed, and the screen also flips around so that you can write on it with a stylus.

It’s too big to really fit in your pocket or purse so it doesn’t really pass the test of a portable broadband device for me. It needs to be something I would take to the park with me when I go play with the kids. This is the size of the old Apple Newton which was just too big to be practical.

Current Events

The Family Gathering


While everyone was down in Austin for the annual gathering of the tribes, I sorted through an old box of photos trying to streamline my memories. I don’t have many prints anymore so most of what I found was from the last century (love saying that!). It was nice to actually hold the prints in your hand and put the best ones into a nicely bound album which is now in our living room.  A book full of memories on the living room coffee table? There’s a line that’s been crossed somewhere, somehow that sounds significant.

As I transformed a box full of random photos into piles that were roughly arranged by major life-events (pre-marriage, pre-first kid, pre-second kid), I noticed that at regular intervals there was a photo taken at my grandparent’s house in Yokohama where the family would gather for an annual feast. It’s cool to see how people have changed over time (check out my eraser-head hair doo in 1990!) and I love how we’re always hoisting the beers for the camera like we’re at a table in Munich.

Grandpa is always at the end of the table and would preside over everyone – always making sure my glass was full and telling stories of the old days. He worked hard through his life, the post-war Japanese econmy was built by his generation. He’s gone now, died almost three years ago to the day. My grandmother now lives in a nursing home so we don’t get together as a large group anymore.

Need to fix that next time I’m back home.

iPhone is internet 1997

One of the things that just seems crazy to me is that the iPhone cannot run applications in the background. The iPhone developer site explains:

If you are running an application such as AOL Instant Messenger on your iPhone, everytime you receive a call or browse away from the application you would be signed out, you would lose any unread messages, and your conversations would end.

Watching Stephen Colbert last night, it hit me. The iPhone is the internet in 1997!

The Colbert ReportMon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c

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