Hulu just pulled a Netflix, in a good way. Battleground is a Hulu original series that premiered this past February on the online video streaming service. According to the New York Times, this past Thursday Hulu pitched more original programming at the advertising upfronts presentation in New York. This is a first, as traditionally the upfronts are usually reserved for network and cable television programming. More and more we are seeing television migrating away from cable and towards online, where it can be accessed from home, work or on mobile devices.

Also this week, Hulu released a report that claims their number of paid subscribers just hit the 2 million marker. This may not mean much, but time will tell. Before Netflix created the ultimate blunder of splitting its online streaming and DVD services, it had been seeing subscriber growth of 1 million consumers every three months.

The demand for high-quality, original programming is apparent – no matter where it comes from. Earlier this year, Alloy Entertainment Media, creators of tween-targeted television shows like The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl, demonstrated that web-only shows can indeed become popular. “Dating Rules From My Future Self” is Alloy’s first web-only mini-series (episodes 3-7 minutes in length) has captured the attention of millions (nearly per week). We are certainly in an experimental age of television programming, where audience, advertisers and creators alike are finding original and innovative ways to create high-quality content.

Good television programming can be hard to come by in an era where cheap-to-make and high profit reality television takes up the majority of television’s image. If cable is where the bad shows can be found, good television finds a happy home on in the Internet, where niche programs like NBC’s “Community” or FOX‘s “Fringe” can be ready and available for audiences – and advertisers – to find them, sooner or later.  Hulu also licensed 13 television shows that will appear exclusively online. Are we going to be seeing this “Firefly effect” more and more with this coming wave of original programming?

Regardless, we are bound to see more and more high-quality content as the experiments continue. Maybe one day television programming will be like music! Some shows will be mainstream, some more obscure while others are niche, yet unknown. The future is bright for the future of television.

Until next time… Stay tuned!

If you’re in the market for a new camera, I highly recommend you check out the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300. It comes with the standard, excellent picture-taking qualities that most cameras have these days. It also has something new that I think is really cool. The PowerShot ELPH has a feature called Movie Capture mode. In this setting, not only can you take great pictures, but the camera will take a short video clip before every picture you take. This can come in really handy if you want to remember a long weekend with the family, or if some friends come in from out of town and you want to make memories a little more interesting.

New York City’s International Pillow Fight was this past weekend. Obviously, my friends and I went to check it out. Sometimes, pictures don’t really capture the real feeling of events like this. After that we decided to hit up the New York Water Taxi’s Statue of Liberty Express tour aboard the Zephyr. Again, pictures are fun and cute, but the real captured moments were taken with the Movie Capture mode. Good thing I was taking pictures all day, because when I got home and watched the video clips all together, they really paint a full picture of the day and how much fun we had together. Throw in a little Black Eyed Peas, and we got a music video of a long, exciting day in Washington Square Park and the South Street Seaport with my friends from out of town.

We’re seeing a big trend towards customization in media. It wasn’t too long ago that people simply wanted their entertainment all the time and everywhere. Now it’s over and we want more. We want customized media. Digital customized radio stations are the solution to finding new music without paying for individual songs. Musical DNA, for instance, helps listeners discover new music based on their current taste. This model can extend to enhance film, television, gaming and other media.

Individual targeting, as opposed to traditional methods, makes discovering new music much easier. Unlike broadcast radio, Pandora has found a way to deliver media that isn’t limited to the Top 100 anything. Soon Pandora and other like-minded companies, will have the means to change the landscape of media consumption. In this projected universe (in my head at least) there is something more interesting that arises in culture as a result of customized media.

It could mean a less established pop culture. In a future based on customization, meeting the high demands of a customized music culture creates a need for more musicians, or more music at least. In this kind of future, we will likely see a sharp increase of independent artists, who represent the remaining 80% of music industry revenue, ready for their fifteen minutes of fame. Further down the road, there will be far less difficult for musicians to find people who like their music. If a song is good and someone likes a specific musical DNA, it doesn’t matter who produced the song, so long as someone may want to listen. This is the major benefit of a customized culture.

The question I pose is this, if we’re migrating towards a customized, targeted future, what does the world of pop culture look like fifteen, twenty years from now? Different regions of the country have different, broken-in tastes in music culture, but what would radio sound like when there is no nationally acclaimed band or solo artist because we’re satisfied with our customized playlists? Will there be room for the, big-bucks solo male or female music solo artist, or will they become displaced by emerging artists to meet the needs for tailors tuned?

This is nothing to say about the other components of pop culture: fashion, film, television, and more. If music proves the customization model works, other industries be persuaded to find their own way of tailoring to consumers. Pop culture in a future culture focused on customized media will be richer, more meaningful, yet obscure. Artists in media will be discovered much like people today are discovered on YouTube, or bloggers are discovered online. Doesn’t the future look bright?

Cambodian Threads

One of my New Year’s Resolutions is to pay more attention to where my products come from and to make an effort to buy more fair trade products. There’s a huge word-of-mouth factor when it comes to discovering these small, obscure fair-trade organizations, but its worth it. You can find products you wouldn’t normally find from places you wouldn’t normally consider. There’s a lot out there, and considering that the landscape of fair trade sales is very niche, there is also an authenticity that cannot be replicated by the traditional methods of consumer spending. Instead of buying products from big companies, whose manufacturing processes may not be up to an ethical standard, you can discover smaller, more familial companies whose goals are more acutely good natured.

This past Thanksgiving, I reconnected with a cousin of mine who has a company called Cambodian Threads, which sells fair trade scarves, neckties and bags. For the past few years he’s been working in Cambodia and, among other thing, working with a family in Cambodia. The result is a great, new apparel company that specialized in fair-trade products. This brings me to my next point, how much do you know about the clothes your wearing? Threads products are all handcrafted by the Hengs, a family of artisans from Prek Bongkong, a rural village in Cambodia. This fun fact aside, isn’t also nice to discover new types of apparel from around the world? Isn’t it the point of fashion and design to establish meaning or identity? I happen to love my Cambodian Threads scarves and plan to give some to family and friends for the holiday.

Slavery Footprint

Fair trade has been in my mind for a long time, but it wasn’t until this summer when I heard on WNYC Radio about a website called Slavery Footprint that my mind’s gears started turning. It’s a website that asks eleven questions about your lifestyle and determines, through varying answering options, the amount of human slaves around the world involved in maintaining your current lifestyle. This is very relevant in today’s economic climate; people are raving mad about creating American jobs but pay little attention to making a different when it comes to personal spending. People want those flat screen TVs! Just like there are simple ways to cut your electricity bill in half and save the world at the same time, by buying special light bulbs that use less power, buying either Fair Trade or domestic products is one way to take your power as a consumer into your own hands.

We’re at a point in the development of communications where we can learn how to take responsibility for one’s impact on illegal slave trade, among other international issues. We can also make efforts, thanks to the innovation of the Internet, to buy clothes from Cambodia. In a big world, each of these organizations is playing a small role for the greater good: to make the world a better place. Often we forget that it is simple to make a contribution towards this goal. Anyway, it’s the holidays. This is as good a time as ever to give thanks to the people around the world that keep our world in orbit. Check out these sites and make some mental notes for when you draft your new year’s resolutions.

More to come soon.. stay tuned!

Cambodian Threads

More and more often, I find myself using my phone’s camera to communicate more effective messages. Attitudes towards communication are changing. More and more people are opening themselves up to alternative methods of communication. Skype is not the only way to keep in touch with people when distance becomes a factor. You know how when you do something fun, you might take pictures and put them on Facebook to people could see? It’s a method of communicating with people. The problem with Facebook is that it is becoming so cluttered.

My computer, tablet and cell phone have all become conduits through which I receive the most meaningful messages. Facebook has become bland, unfocused and confusing. Why not switch back to the old mediums of messages. Why do you think it is that in the professional world, email is still utilized? Why do you think there aren’t social media platforms specifically designed for agencies, firms and small businesses across the country, across the world? It’s because there is a working system in place for meaningful, targeted communication and its called Email. There is value is taking the time to put everything aside, which you can’t do when messaging on social media, and put together an organized and thoughtful message. This is more effective because when an email is received, it is understood that it was written with one purpose, to communicate with another person. This is the dividing line between social media and meaningful, specific communication.

There are better ways of communicating with friends and family than using an overly cluttered communication medium. It seems people’s attitudes towards email are more welcoming than those associated with Facebook. When it comes to personal email, people are more inclined to check messages, because they know what to expect. Amid all the changes that has accompanied growing digital communication platforms, email has stayed the same, and something tells me it will stay that way. Personal email is private and protected, and thus cannot be subject to advertising. This is especially true when the four primary components of using email are “to, from, subject and body message.” It is my recommendation that people of all ages should really embrace the power of email above those of other social media platforms.

This reminds me of a book I read earlier this year called The Naked Sun. As the story goes, Earth has colonized other planets in the galaxy and one of them has a tightly controlled population of 20,000 citizens and is called Solaria. For two centuries, this planet developed a culture based on communicating through technology, because their world is big and despite their effective transportation, they sought a method that was both meaningful and practical. Over time, they developed holographic telepresence technology and this took the place of physical presence. Communicating through technology was seen in this 1957 novel to someday be fully integrated in technology.

This is baffling to me because not only is that the world we live in now, but its the world we’ve been living in since Friendster and Myspace. Where we’re at now is finally catching up with ourselves. With the new year and the new Timeline feature on Facebook, people’s attitudes towards social media are going to shift. This could mean grappling onto the new Facebook communication techniques and embracing the change, but it could also may push people to start looking for alternative means of communication. It is my supposition that email is going become the primary communication platform to be utilized by those users alienated from the inconsistent, ever-changing nature of traditional social media.

My parents have always been a great source of inspiration for me because my mother is a computer engineer and my father doesn’t care for emerging digital trends, but their lifestyle and attitudes towards communication are very much on the same frequency. They figure things out together, with their contrasting attitudes towards technology and the result is interesting. Get this, my parents went on vacation and had no cell phone connection and very little wireless Internet. Despite this, they kept finding ways to say hello…

Remember when on demand first came out? I do. Back then, you could tune into feature films at certain times, but you didn’t have the option to play from the beginning. Now, if you have any of a number of cable or satellite television providers, you can pick from any number of TV shows and movies from a variety of studios and networks. Now, you don’t have to subscribe to television services to get the programming you want, when you want.

If you haven’t heard of it, Amazon has an on demand video service called Amazon Instant Video, and boy is it cool. You can buy or rent television seasons or episodes and also feature films. It really is fantastic. There are a lot of ways to access this service. You can sign into your Amazon account using a number of televisions, set-top TV boxes or mobile devices, including the new Kindle Fire. For a complete list of supported devices, click here. Personally, I use the Roku Player. It’s not exclusive to one device either. You can rent a video at the office, start watching it on your lunch hour and then continue watching where you left off when you get home, all within seconds and with the simple click of a button. Better yet, the amount of available content is impressive. You can find anything from the big-budget blockbusters plus all the niche film festival favorites that you can’t find on Netflix and Hulu Plus. This is a sign of greater things to come.

This really does make DVDs a thing of the past. Much like Apple’s disruptive iPod and iTunes, there is no longer the need to have tangible media anymore, it’s all online. Remember DVD/CD racks? It was like a pissing contest and the bigger one wins – not anymore. It’s right there on your TV, when you want and where you want. Hundreds of thousands of movies and TV shows in your living room, no external storage needed, accessible from any computer and any of several dozen digital set-top boxes and televisions. I highly recommend you give it a shot. Rent something either new, niche or familiar. The simplicity of this service and the plethora of content may make you reconsider your current personal or home entertainment set-up.

Amazon Instant Video

Bigger picture: Amazon has, yet again, found a market to extend its digital tendrils of influence and make innovative services affordable. On demand has never been this easy. Not only that, but now its affordable. You don’t have to break the bank by enrolling in a month package provided by the dominant television services to get access to your favorite movies and shows. Amazon Instant Video has enabled forward-thinking consumers around the world to have a taste of the future of television program and feature film distribution. I’ve even heard of situations where movies are released in theaters and no Amazon Instant Video at the same time. This is, without a doubt, an innovative solution to the decline of interest in attending movie theaters. This seems like only the first step in a long chain of events that will result in the massive digital migration; changing the landscape of the media industry as we know it.

What will they think of next? I’ll keep an eye out! Until next time… stay tuned!

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