Links of the Day, March 30, 2009

Job Market

More states see jobless rates top 10 percent - Michigan, South Carolina and Oregon currently have the highest jobless rates in the country, while the lowest one is in Wyoming. Not only is this a sobering reminder that we're not out of the recession woods yet, but it points out the reality that you may have to consider moving in order to pursue your career goals if you're in one of the areas hardest-hit.

The Five T's of the Workplace: An analysis of the ideal jobs for members of the creative class, which are, according to Creative, Talent, Tolerance, Technology, Territorial Assets, and Tension. The last one may not be one you'd expect to hear, especially in a vision of a "utopian" work environment, but it makes sense: A certain amount of tension is necessary as a motivator, to get people to deliver on time and to excel. It's only when the tension gets out of hand and becomes stressful that the workplace becomes undesirable. 


Funimation has cut a deal with Studio Gonzo for releasing its product in the U.S. – and it's telling that the above link extensively mentions streaming video and barely mentions DVDs. Japanese studios are probably going to be cutting more of these deals with American companies in the future, which will definitely serve to shore up the future of some of these stateside outfits. Funimation is also doing the right thing by extensively positioning itself as an online content provider, unlike some of its competitors, who may find themselves playing catch-up in the future.

Video Games

Sony says it's planning a big announcement for tomorrow, and rumors are flying the PS3 price cut may finally become a reality. If that's what it truly is, than it's been a long time coming, and it's the surest guarantee that they'll stay competitive in the industry as a whole. Sony has affirmed its commitment to gaming recently, so the price cut is a logical conclusion. (The other possiblity is a major overhaul of the PSP – our dark horse candidate for the content of the annoucement is the long-speculated-on PSP Phone, or some other major enhancement). 

Electronic Arts is serious about building its new Dante's Inferno game into a multimedia franchise. The company has commissioned an animated DVD that will be released at the same time as the game itself. Synergy is always the way to go in marketing a product nowadays, so Electronic Arts is on the right track with this one – and we all know that they're kind of in need of a new hit right now.

Are Video Games The New Literature? A British newspaper poses the question, pondering if Charles Dickens would be writing cut scenes for gaming if he were around today. We've often put forth the idea around here that geeks are the new literati, and The Guardian's article seems to bear that idea out. Today's games are very often well-written, compelling stories, and it's entirely possible that the person who may have sought a career in TV scriptwriting before might go for gaming instead. 


Skype, already a player in computer communications, has entered the phone software wars in a big way: they're launching an iPhone service tomorrow and a Blackberry one in May. The company already started targeting business. Smart move on Skype's part – the company originally started as a way for people to talk phone-style over desktop computers for no additional charge. With people increasingly moving away from desktops, this brings their service to the new, more mobile media and helps ensure their long-term future.

Netbooks continue to get more sophisticated: The next version of the EeePC will feature a DVD drive, which will probably tempt more people to get into the small-and-ultraportable technologyLack of removable media has been one of the few drawbacks of netbooks up until this point, so look for those other netbook manufacturers to do the same – and for these machines to increasingly penetrate the American mainstream. We may all have to think small when designing computing in the future.

Talks are continuing between Hulu and ABC to run Disney/ABC content on the NBC-owned streaming video network. Hulu is increasingly positioning itself as an alternative – or, rather, a supplement - to over-the-air television, and is even running ads featuring Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane on Fox's "Animation Domination" programming block. They are probably the streaming media company with the best odds of breaking out and becoming part of the American mainstream (with their ambition, Hulu-only exclusive content is a strong possiblity), so if you want to get in on the ground floor of a company on its way up, this is it.


The Huffington Post is doing its part to give work to investigative journalists who may have been left high and dry by the newspaper downturn: The political blog is bankrolling a venture in which journalists will be paid to investigate the economy. Other news outlets will then be able to run the piece after it appears on the post. What's interesting is this seems to be a move toward turning this blog into a true cyberpaper, and this may be the direction where journalism in general is going – toward political blogs with paid content. (AOL, by the way, is going a similar route, hiring sports journalists who lost their jobs to the industry collapse for its FanHouse site).

Why Hollywood's business model has to change: It's not just publishing which is finding itself stumbling in the age of new media. The traditional Hollywood distribution model is in trouble because of declining revenues from TV advertising and DVD sales thanks to Internet downloads – even Steven Spielberg is having trouble getting funding for his next round of movies. Like publishing, entertainment is going to have to learn to adopt to new methods of media if it is to survive – Hulu, mentioned above, may be one key to long-term success, if it becomes either a fully ad-supported or ad-free-by-subscription servce. But if you go into this industry expecting things to be as they were even five years ago, don't.

– Bonnie

Week in Review, 3/29/2009

The word for the week was competition. There were battles raging on several new media fronts, with everyone trying to be at the forefront of "the next big thing" – in at least one case, before the technology was even launched.

I speak, of course, of OnLive, the video gaming system that started creating a hubub as soon as it was announced. OnLine claims to have developed a video compression system that will allow gamers to play across a network without downloading the games. Almost instantly, there was at least one industry expert crying that the sky was falling and OnLive would spell the end of traditional boxed-game retailing.
Of course, it remains to be seen if the system is actually going to work – but that hasn't stopped at least one potential competitior springing up, from Acclaim.

The other big battleground was E-books, where Google's Kindle, at the risk of making an incredibly bad pun, has really started a fire. Samsung threw its hat in the ring with the Papyrus, a system it says will be less expensive than the Kindle and Sony's reader, while Barnes and Noble announced its Fictionwise unit will be handling an E-book reader for Blackberry. This has the potential to be a get-rich-quick arena full of bandwagon-jumpers, a fractured market with different publishers having exclusive deals with different readers, so tread carefully if you plan to enter this field.

Gaming continued to be a hugely profitable area – we found out that the PC games market was worth $11 billion this past year. The MMO market will be worth $2 billion by 2013, and the virtual goods sold within them are extremely profitable on their own. Nintendo's Wii passed the 50 million sold milestone.

As for streaming video, a couple of companies that have been rather down on their luck lately looked to this new technology to turn their fortunes around – Blockbuster struck a deal with TiVo to put streaming content on the DVR's boxes and Sony's Playstation 3 may be joining hands with Netflix.
Hulu, meanwhile, entered into a partnership with Disney and gained an astonishing 10 million viewers in one month, putting them at the forefront of the "throw your cable box out and watch TV on your computer" movement.

At least one traditional TV network seems to be adapting to this new media world, too – CBS's coverage of March Madness basketball turned out to be a big hit on computers (no statistics were available for the iPhone stream of the games).

The rush to do everything online was keenly felt in the anime publishing industry, with Anime Insider closing its doors. Given how much of anime fandom – both the content itself and fan discussion – is now in cyberspace, it was no surprise at all.

Perhaps the best news of the week for job-hunting geeks this week may have been that their services may be extremely in demand – creativity is increasingly valued in U.S. marketplaces. Furthermore, 85% of employers who value creativity say they have difficulty finding cretive people to work for them. So if you've been honing your talents on your fan projects, they may be about to pay off greater than you imagined.

Week in Review, 3/1/2009

These days, it seems, it's all about streaming video. Those of you who make AMVs and encode them for YouTube are in luck, as the value of your skills is only going to go up in the job market.

Netflix announced it was going to offer streaming-only service plans. The Hulu vs. YouTube battle kept rolling on, and China decided it was time to come up with its own YouTube competitor.
Crunchyroll made news again, participating in Global Shinaki Day by streaming three videos. The company – which, by the way, also has a Japan branch – even attracted the attention of Editor and Publisher, trade journal of the publishing industry.

Elsewhere in anime/manga, though, things weren't so bright, as Viz announced a restructuring, including layoffs – an unfortunate effect of the bad economy, though not completely catastrophic

American comics, meanwhile, were busy having an impact in mainstream Hollywood, which seems to be going geek in a big way. The success of the Iron Man movie resulted in increased profits for Marvel, while Heath Ledger scored a posthumous Oscar for playing the Joker in The Dark Knight and the upcoming release of Watchmen continued to grab mainstream attention, including a cover story in Entertainment Weekly.
Video games attracted moviemaking attention, with 50 Cent proclaiming that he wants to do a film based on Saints Row (apparently forgetting the fact that video games rarely make good films). And even board gaming got into the act, with an annoucement of a remake of Clue, which just had people asking, "WHY?"

Elsewhere in gaming, Electronic Arts was all over the place again, saying it was going to rethink its release schedule – a smart move considering that game sales may have been hurt in the past by numerous titles coming out at once. Details also emerged about the company's much-anticipated Dante's Inferno game, which sounds kind of like EA is trying to create its own God of War. They also mulled plans to develop their own music game (the company distributes Rock Band).

Sony announced a major management restructuring that seemed to include tighter integration of its game and media departments. It also announced big plans for the PSP, including the first-ever portable version of Rock Band and a Hanna Montana bundle that suggests Sony is reaching for a piece of Nintendo's non-tranditional-gamer audience. Rumors also surfaced of a new God of War game for the device.

But the biggest news in gaming was casual games – which may be a $1 billion industry by 2013 – and online MMOs. It was noted that the average player in Perfect World's free MMO spends $10 a month anyway, and gift card maker InCom reported strong growth in game currency cards.

Funcom was the exception to the online game boom, though, losing a lot of money due to the underperformance of Age of Conan, which may have forced the company's CEO to resign. Undaunted, however, they are introducing their game in Russia and Poland.

Things continued to be tough all over in publishing, with the Rocky Mountain News of Denver closing its doors and Computer Shopper going all-digital. Digital content was hot elsewhere in the industry, with talk of a Kindle 3 starting already shortly after the release of Kindle 2 (Hearst is already bringing out its own competitor to the device).

And finally, we leave you with a word to remember for the future: Netbooks. Small and cheap means big bucks on the computer market nowadays. So keep those Linux skills polished and downsize your thinking with computer screens, because these small wonders aren't going anywhere anytime soon.