Saturday, December 05, 2009

Apple buys Lala

It's been confirmed that Apple has purchased Lala and rumors are flying about why they did that. Lala stores music in the cloud and streams it to a user's computer (kind of reminds me, in a way, of what was up to before they got sued); as part of the deal, Apple gets the not only the Lala engineers, but also the founder of the company.

This acquisition is not uncommon for Apple -- they buy a lot of small companies and really never disclose the purpose of the acquisition, though it usually becomes obvious 6-18 months later when the integrated technology gets released as a feature, component, etc. Why is Lala getting so much attention?

I don't mind storing my music locally. Broadband speeds to my house are at the point where it just doesn't take all that long for me to download a track or album from iTunes; storage is cheap and gets continually cheaper, so there's not much overhead in storing it. All of my music gets (and everything else on my computer, for that matter) gets backed up for around $4 per month. My music does not necessarily need to be available to me everywhere -- I've got all the music that I want to listen to on my iPhone (it's still got half of its storage empty) and even more music on my laptop (still 60gb free at last count); I'm not sure that I necessarily need to be able to stream music to my laptop and there are places I want music where there is not an internet connection.

But maybe I'm wrong.

The model of needing to own music is probably fundamentally flawed. Subscribing to music is likely going to need to be the model of the future. All of the platforms that I mentioned above -- my home computer, my laptop, my iPhone -- are all platforms that could receive a stream of music, especially as broadband gets more pervasive, and its probably worthwhile to note that all of my platforms carry that little Apple logo and all my current consumption is through iTunes. I've currently got over 30,000 individual songs in my collection, which is a lot, but will never hold a candle to the over 8 million songs currently available on Lala.

And what about the obscure music that Lala doesn't have? Well, they have their "Music Mover" utility for that. I'm not going to claim that I fully understand the technology behind it, but I'm going to guess that just as's (pre-lawsuit) utility used to scan the zero track of a CD for identification information and would match against tracks already in their database to give you a 30 second virtual "upload", the Music Mover probably scans ID3 tags, compares them to music in the database, and gives you access to what is already on the Lala servers, actually uploading only what is not already there. Music Mover solves the problem of what to do my entire music collection that I've already got, which is probably my biggest hesitation of moving to an on-demand, streaming model.

Let's go back for a second to my statement about pervasive broadband because that infrastructure is what will ultimately be the reason that streaming succeeds (or fails). AT&T is the current data provider for iPhones in the United States and we've all seen the "map for that" Verizon ads that contrast high-speed data coverage between their networks. If you're like me, one of my big frustrations with satellite radio is when it doesn't work, which, even on Verizon's network, is still a possibility. With physical audio tracks existing on my laptop, iPhone, etc. it does not matter if the data network is reliable; my limiting factor is simply battery life. The big question/challenge for streaming right now is whether or not the technology is adaptable enough to deal with network outages without me knowing about it.

But then again, maybe Apple is simply after something more simplistic.

Maybe the Lala purchase is just to add additional value to an iTunes store purchase -- buy the track for $0.99 and you can download it, buy it for $1.19 without DRM, or buy it for $1.50 and you can download it and stream it as much as you want on the web.

That sounds pretty boring though.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Book review: It's Not Who You Know -- It's Who Knows You

FULL DISCLOSURE: I'm honored to say that I know the author, David Avrin, and that it is my pleasure to review his book. I purchased my review copy (i.e., no galley or comp copy for review) and I think that anyone that knows me, David included, knows that I'm always tougher on people that I know.

This book is about promotion. About tactics and techniques to leverage your brand, your company's brand, yourself to the top of people's minds. David Avrin, the author, says it best: "This book is an unapologetic homage to the power of using creative promotion to attract customers, build your business, and support your families." Ok, he said it better than me.

If you do not have a PR strategy for yourself or your business, this is likely the book for you. However, I will warn you that it is not a comprehensive, step-by-step, spoon-fed, detailed PR strategy guide; I'm sure there are other books for that. What you get with Avrin's book is an easily read, easily consumed strategic basis for a workable PR and marketing strategy.

Avrin covers topics that I found interesting such as representing yourself during air travel (I'm totally guilty of having gone the extremely casual comfort, stick my earphones in my ears immediately route), doing memorable things during conferences and tradeshows, and some interesting tactics for positioning yourself as an expert to the media (did you know that proactive could be a wrong strategy when dealing with the media?). Additionally, for those of you that are unfamiliar with effective web and social networking strategies for promoting yourself or your business and for tracking your web presence, you will find the information in Avrin's book extraordinarily useful.

The idea point breaks in Avrin's book are not big -- I like that. Many business authors feel as though they absolutely have to cram in as much supporting material as possible in between idea points, creating extremely long chapters and, while that is sometimes effective, depending on the subject matter, by keeping the breaks short and the ideas succinct, Avrin's book is easy to read, easy to skip around in, and very easy to use for future reference.

Be visible. That's a big, overriding point in the book and, indeed, why Avrin likely brands himself as "The Visibility Coach". Examples of this range from ideas as simple to producing a large banner to advertise the re-opening of a restaurant to ensuring that you're the one person that actually stands up and asks a question at the end of a presentation/speech when everyone else is sitting, staring at their feet. As Avrin says: "The greatest enemy of success in business is anonymity. Speak up . . . In a flat sea of competitors, it takes very little to stand out and be noticed. Stand out. Be noticed."

There are numerous real-world examples that Avrin ties in throughout the book, but not so many as to be overwhelming -- a few examples to drive the point home and then he moves on to the next point. For those of you that are fans of skipping to the ends of chapters or idea points in the hopes that there is a summary sentence or two, you will be happy to know that each idea point ends with a "The Visibility Coach says:" followed by a short idea point summary.

Thankfully all books are not equally (read the book for more on "All things being equal") and so I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in promoting themselves and their business.

Kindle version available.

Link -- Amazon

Link -- Kindle version

Link -- Visibility Coach main page

PS -- I went to buy some copies of this for some folks today at Barnes and Noble and have come to find that it is mostly sold out in Denver; it is the #1 business book this week in Denver.

PPS -- I'm a proud member of the Homecoming Project and have been for years without actually having a name for it; read the book and join the Project.