Sport Reporters ‘Act’ Far From Super

Oh, the outrage! The National Sports Journalism Center took time out of its busy schedule of justifying conflict of interest from its ESPN brethren to condemn one Marshawn Lynch of the Seattle Seahawks. His crime? You might think it is Marshaw’s longstanding distaste for post game press conferences has upset these titans.

But that’s not it. The NSJC takes umbrage with Lynch mocking the crap out of sport reporters.

Lynch does make the job harder for the press. He has known to straight-up boycott the media, a big no-no in the NFL, who has fined Lynch big bucks for such transgressions.

His latest strategy is to talk to the press, but quotes the same non-answers repeatedly. Is that what has led to this press jihad? Nope. It’s not the famous clichés that athletes are famous for utilizing to say absolutely nothing. He just repeats the same thing over and over. Witness this one after a big win over the Arizona Cardinals this year.

https://vid.me/e/WwSx

Reporters know the deal. They ask the question. Marshawn doesn’t answer. All’s well. Until Wednesday. After Marshawn gave the “I’m here so I don’t get fined” answer during his required press appearance during Super Bowl week, he held an amazing media event that angered the press lords.

It’s all about Skittles. For those unfamiliar with the Seahawks, Lynch is a big fan of the Skittles candy and munches on them after every touchdown and particularly after ‘Beast Mode,’ his trademark combination of carrying the ball with the brute force of a Mack truck and the grace of a ballerina.

On Wednesday, Marshawn held a faux press conference with Skittles, where at long last, he talked. It wasn’t a soul revealing answers to actual questions. The queries were absurd and mocked the entire press conference format. And he had a lot of fun doing it. Marshawn twice was laughing out loud during the three-minute clip. It’s really the only thing you should watch from this week’s pre-Super Bowl festivities, which has become a parody of itself and should be cancelled.

Here’s my theory: the press was at peace as long as they thought Marshawn was a shy retiring type. When he showed that wasn’t the case and he could mess with the press, then the knives came out.

Longtime NFL reporter and current sport media blogger Ed Sherman called for a boycott of Skittles on the National Sports Journalism Center website after the Skittles press conference. Why? Well Sherman believes that his stance of not talking to the press became a ‘marketing opportunity.’

Bullshit.

Look, 99 percent of questions journalists ask post-game have the nutritional value of Skittles. The answers athletes provide are equivalent of candy-coated crap. Marshawn answering “thank you for asking” is just slightly less insightful than a quarterback who praises his offensive line, coach, preparation and, naturally, God. In fact Marshawn refusing to answer banal questions actually leads to more headlines than clichéd quotes, which makes more money for journalists’ employers. It peeves journalists that Marshawn won’t play along. But he is his own man.

During today’s mandatory five minutes of hell Marshawn had enough. He unloaded on the press during his required time at the podium. It’s the most emotion he has shown during one of these meetings in his entire time as an athlete.

Marshawn isn’t against talking to the media. He’s tight with veteran NFL reporter Michael Silver and has discussed at length about why he doesn’t like to talk to the press. His conversation with NFL Networks’ Deion Sanders last year during Super Bowl week was illuminating. In the past Marshawn sat down with NFL Films at length to discuss Beast Mode.

It’s just that Marshawn doesn’t seem to care for the scrum and the ridiculous questions asked while a gang bang of reporters crowd around his locker. I don’t blame him for a minute.

Journalists have done the impossible. It turned this 49er leaning fan (up until this year’s un-Harbaughing at least) into rooting for the Seahawks…actually just Beast Mode.

More Beastly Commentary

Marshawn Lynch Skittles ‘Press’ Conference

Marshawn: Everything About Oakland Is About Me

Deion Sanders Interviews Marshwan Lynch

Boycott Skittles: Marshawn Lynch monetizes mocking of media

I'm going to make you an offer you can't refuse

Welcome To The Content App Era

Good news! We’re starting a new epoch in the titanic shift technology has foisted upon content creation and consumption. No longer are we stuck under the thumb of huge behemoth companies like Spotify, Facebook, YouTube and Pandora. Those dinosaurs are on their way out.

Oh what’s that you say? ‘Jon, have you been sniffing glue again? YouTube is flexing its muscles and bossing around creators. Didn’t you see the headlines about how poor Zoe Keating is being so mistreated?’ Yep. I sure did. And I say good riddance. Because it is done. Kaput. Collapsing. Sure, maybe not today or in the next couple years. But when bullies like YouTube start dictating insane terms to artists, it forces creators to look at different ways to distribute their work and that creates new opportunities. And companies are already starting to sprout up to take advantage.

Just last week the startup Vessel announced a new model designed to provide a much larger percentage of revenue for content creators than YouTube offers. Of course Vessel must build audience to create big buckets of revenue, which is far from a simple task. But as Peter Kafka of Re/code reported, Vessel is offering a much better experience, including a new advertising product that might mean the end of the dreaded video ad pre-roll. Vessel’s CEO Jason Kilar has long wanted to improve the experience for both viewers and advertisers, which is way overdue.

And Vessel is just the start. We’re at the beginning of the Content App Era. Just like how industries have been affected by the tech boom, there will be a phalanx of highly focused content apps of all different kinds to take on the big guys. In music this phenomenon is already taking shape with the recent launch of the Christian focused Overflow app.

Are all the upstarts going to succeed? Absolutely not. Most will fail spectacular. But a few will find the right audience with the right content and product innovations. They’ll learn from their mistakes, get smarter, and start making more money for creators. There will be a healthy competition for best content and talent. So sure, we’ll still have the big guys, at least for some time. But all these small players will throw enough stones at these monsters until they become a shell of their former selves.

An example of how this might go? Take a gander at broadcast television. For decades, three players dominated ratings. Nearly all Americans watched CBS, ABC or NBC. Advertisers paid a massive premium to reach, well, everyone. And then the audience started to erode away as all kinds of options for casual time came on the scene. Nowadays consumers have the choice of cable, satellite, Call Of Duty, Netflix, Crunchyroll, and hundreds of other services.

So what can these Goliaths do? How about starting with fair policies? YouTube grew monstrously big by ripping off all the video content in the world and allowing their audience and creators to remix it. Its popularity built a massive reach. Now it’s taking that audience hostage by demanding creators grant the company most favored nation status in order to get access to Content ID, which–as a reminder—was first designed to allow creators get at least some compensation for the videos that YouTube users posted without paying creators in the first place. It’s like YouTube is saying: help stop us from stealing your life’s work by just giving us all your life’s work and get paid whatever we decide. That’s some Orwellian logic.

I’m sure as a business school case study you’d get an A+ for devising such a brilliant strategy. But in terms of real life business ethics, it is unconscionable.

More News About Bullies

Music Industry Blog Zoe Keating’s Experience Shows Us Why YouTube’ Attitudes To Its Creators Must Change

Stratechery Dear Zoe Keating: Tell YouTube to Take a Hike

Hulu Blog The Future of TV

The Price Is Wrong

Mark Mulligan posted a very perceptive blog post on what a price drop has done for Spotify’s premium numbers in the last quarter. The company featured three different initiatives: a family plan and student plan that cut the monthly cost in half, and a special that offered three months of service for a buck a month.

Price has always been a big issue for streaming services. When the first mobile apps were introduced, my company did consumer research about price for an on-demand streaming music service.  The takeaway: $5 a month was considered ideal, $8 a month was considered pricey, but still attractive and $10 a month and above was far too much to be considered by a majority of potential customers.

Instead of creating a huge pool of potential customers, full catalog on-demand streaming services have become services that only the most ardent music fans would consider. Labels have attempted to keep the premium tier at $10 to protect their current revenue, but unfortunately it has limited its mass appeal. The upshot: very few people subscribe to services. Even Spotify’s 15 million premium subs could be considered disappointing in comparison to other subscription companies like Netflix or Sirius XM.

But with Spotify showing significant growth in subs with lower prices and Apple pressuring labels to cut prices, expect 2015 to be the year that we have a significant shuffling in premium pricing.

Music Industry Blog: What Spotify’s December Growth Tells Us About Pricing

RockonomicWhy music service prices are falling and can’t get back up

Can Spotify Keep Growing?

Spotify today announced it had reached 15 million paying subscribers and 60 million total users. It continues to feed the same narrative that the company has been pitching to the industry recently:

  • The company is growing like a weed
  • The ratio of paid subscribers to free users remains stead at 25%
  • It provides enormous amounts of money to the industry that should be flowing to artists

Spotify’s growth is impressive. Outside of the year the company failed to update us on their sub numbers, the company is averaging 18.5 percent increase in both subs and users quarter over quarter. I’m assuming the company didn’t announce for a year as it appears the growth had slowed. But it has picked up again.

If the company can continue the momentum, it will hit its self-proclaimed goal of 30 million paid and around 120 million free users sometime early in 2016.

It is not clear how much Spotify’s growth is because of inroads in each market and how much is due to launching in new countries. The company recently expanded into Canada, which has been fairly barren when it comes to on-demand music services. The service is now available in 61 countries and their territories (hello unlimited free music Guam).

If the company is finding success launching new countries, it’s good news. There’s plenty more expansion to go if the company is to deliver on its promise in becoming a worldwide platform of music listening.  Unfortunately, the easy countries are out of the way.

Now comes the hard part.

Spotify will have to roll out in countries that might not want the competition (India or China), have yet to fully embrace digital (Japan), might not be able to afford the pricing model (most of Africa) or have a combination of all these factors and Vladimir Putin as president, ahem. How Spotify navigates these thorny issues, along with staving off new competitors like Apple and YouTube, will go a long ways toward determining its success.

Meanwhile, I’m sure these numbers mean Spotify’s IPO apparatus will start to crank up. Based on how hot the market is right now, I would expect the company to go out as soon as it can–before the bubble bursts.

2015 Digital Music Predictions

The past year was a doozy for digital music. We saw Beats Music come and go with a rush, Spotify grow significantly and digital track sales hit the skids as streaming continued to grow in popularity.

And for everything that happened, 2014 probably will be remembered as a transitional year. Big players like Apple and YouTube have yet to really show their cards. The impact of Spotify as a worldwide music platform has yet to really take hold. Many existing services still continue to solider on, despite significant changes that have impacted the marketplace.

The next 12 months will see a significant reshuffling of the deck of existing companies and new entries. We might also start to see the outlines of the future as the next generation of music companies start to debut. Because one thing that remains constant: there’s always someone who will invest in digital music, regardless of the financial results or past performance.

My picks for the top stories for 2015:

Say Goodbye: At Least Two Services Will Consolidate

We are moving quickly from a startup world into one where the big boys are playing. Apple and YouTube will join Amazon and Google Music Play All Access as the giants. While I have grave misgivings if their product offerings will be very good, it might not matter. With access to their digital stores, consumers might just activate the AppleStream or Music Key apps just because it’s simple.

Other companies will find themselves at risk, especially those who are forced to market their services directly to consumers. Rdio, Deezer, Wimp (Tidal in the US), Rhapsody, Slacker and a host of others will come under pressure to find alternative ways to market to customers, band together or go the way of other failed services.

YouTube Music Key Will Deliver A Flat Note

YouTube has the biggest opportunity to grow paid streaming products. YouTube has a massive audience, which is great. But their audience has been conditioned to consider the service free. There are signs that Spotify has already cannibalized YouTube’s consumers who want to pay for music, which might make it even more difficult for the company to get people to pay.

Because of this, YouTube’s paid subscribers will disappoint the industry during 2014. It might take a year or two for the company to perfect the product and find those who really want to pay for the service.

Apple’s streaming service will be a mess, and it won’t matter

The Cupertino geniuses do many things well. Streaming music has not been one of them. While it has the team from Beats Music to rely on, the company is known to ignore new talent acquired and turn it over to their internal team.

It wouldn’t be surprising to see their streaming service follow the iTunes Radio, which was supposed to be a Pandora killer, but just attracted those who use it because it’s already installed on their device. The company will get it right eventually, but streaming services are a completely different beast than anything it has tried. So expect some serious growing pains.

But because the service will be pre-installed on so many phones, it will sign up loads of customers through in-app purchase. Apple is also pressuring labels to lower the monthly cost of streaming, which could lead to solid growth.

Spotify Will IPO and More Artists Will Window

It is really difficult to judge how the public market operates and many things could happen that could affect Daniel Ek’s IPO prospects. We could see a downturn in the economy. Tech stocks could hit the skids again. The market might not like the prospects of the company’s future when it starts releasing business performance and data. But if Spotify overcomes all these hurdles, it will get its IPO out.

And regardless the stock price, a successful IPO will make many of its employees and early investors a lot of money. Expect to see a backlash from artists after this event, with more and more holding back new music on the service to give retail channels first shot at making money.

Pandora Will Become Musicians’ Most Hated Digital Service

Of all the companies in digital music today, none shows the most contempt for musicians and songwriters as Pandora. While the company has had some outreach, it also has tried to bend itself into a broadcast service to get a lower rate, decided to not pay a single dime for any song released before 1972 (as did XM Sirius), and then had the balls to countersue the ‘60s era group Turtles for violating its first amendment rights.

Pandora is already facing a firestorm for its exceptionally low payments to songwriters, but continues to aggressively lower royalty costs, regardless of how it affects its relationship with artists. While much of the money Pandora is trying to save goes to big corporate conglomerates, it’s the independent artists that always come to the forefront in these stories. Expect the hate to expand in 2015.

Amazon Will Continue To Play Its Game

Seattle’s commerce behemoth will focus on what it always does: keeping its customers buying more stuff. Many expected Amazon to offer a premium service in 2014, but instead the company created a back-catalog offering that kept customers in its Prime service longer.

The company had a rough 2014 with its failed Fire phone launch. While its nose is bloody from that setback, don’t expect that Jeff Bezos’ company will change its game plan. Focus on the customer buying: regardless if it’s a digital download, diapers or dishrags.

2014 In Review: Some of the best stories from the past year.

The Elephant In The Room: Another Cultural Landslide’s very complex and very loooong analysis of streaming music, discovery and the listener.

Streaming Report Card: Music industry analyst Mark Mulligan gives us a rundown on how streaming did in 2014.

Stop Blaming The Internet: Gang of Four’s Dave Allen gives a deep dive into the issues surrounding streaming and artists.

The Streaming Price Bible: David Lowrey’s in depth look at who’s paying what. While I might quibble with Lowrey about why those numbers are so low, the streaming rates on this post is illuminating and depressing.

The Album Cycle: Consequence Of Sound News Editor Chris Coplan looks at the nature of music promotion as the industry is changing.

Five Reasons The Music Industry Hates Pandora The Most: Music lawyer and blogger Jake London lays it out.

Spotify Has Six Years Of My Music Data, But Does It Understand My Tastes: Stuart Dredge digs into the taste profile.

Taylor Swift Announces A World Tour And Pulls Her Music From Spotify: Ben Sisario on everyone’s favorite spatting couple.

Jon Tiger

Into The Wild: A Year of Working Independently Teaches Lessons In Humility, Ego and Direction

I’ll remember 2014 as the year I started to get my stripes back.

The past year was one of enormous growth, as I started the journey of figuring out what was next, who I am and what I want to do. This comes on the heels of a 2013 that saw me leave the company I had determinedly worked at for almost a decade. I say determinedly because I stayed too long and gave up too much in the process. Don’t get me wrong. I got a lot out of it. But after a period of reflection, I began to awaken to what was lost in the bargain.

You see, when things go bad, I have a tendency to bury my head, grit my teeth and just get through it. I grew up in challenging situations and had to deal with whatever got thrown my way, so that’s just my general mode of being. When the end came I had invested so much of my time and effort in the company—and tied myself so closely to it—that I couldn’t discern where the company ended and I began.

The details of what happened were mildly shocking and yet exceedingly mundane. It’s your typical new-guy-cuts-you-out-while-presenting-your-work-as-his-and-positions-himself-as-the-future-while-a-new-investor-demands-big-changes type of thing. My company had a layoff and I was out, along with a whole management layer.

I knew it was coming months in advance. I was ready for it. Steeled even. But afterwards my emotions caught me by surprise. For about three months after the layoff I was confused. And then sad. And then exceptionally angry. And then even more exceptionally angry.

It started three years before the end. In typical fashion, I had thrown myself into a new job and was determined to make it work, regardless of the writing on the wall: the company where I was working at was not the company that I had joined.

You see, my company had to change its strategy because of the massive growth of mobile. It led to many more people using our products, which was awesome. It also became important that the company shored up its knowledge and connections in the cellular carrier business, as those partnerships would turn on an endless spigot of new customers.

Meanwhile since the day I started, the company had lost a long line of what I called the ‘true believers.’ Those who were inspired to change the music industry by creating an addictive experience for music fans and new revenue for musicians. A major turning point occurred when the company lost one of the longest-tenured and most influential of the true believers; perhaps the person who served as our musical soul.

Later, over lunch, he mentioned that he wished he left earlier. Like when it was obvious that things had changed. I made a mental note. I was absolutely sure my time would come, as it had for many of my former colleagues, and I wanted to act before that day. Instead, I took up the flag for the company. I doubled down in loyalty and effort, even as people left and were replaced by new employees with cellular carrier experience instead.

The fact is when the people changed, the place changed. The new direction made sense, but the company had a different feel. Instead of recognizing this, I tried to keep a culture alive that didn’t exist anymore. I even hired a career coach to help me through it. After sitting down the first time and describing my situation, she asked why I wanted to be at my company. Because I have to make it work, I said. But why, she asked.

Her point was that no matter how hard you try a company’s culture is the most important factor in determining your professional success. It might fit you. It might not. If it doesn’t, there is no reason to continue working there.

My coach pointed out that I was trying to fit into a company that seemed different from my values. I listened closely, knew what she said was true, and then quickly ignored the advice. It worked for a while. I got promoted and moved up. But in that exchange, I started to lose something important. My instincts.

I started to question if I really fit. And instead of hearing the words of my coach, I adapted to the new direction. Instead of just being me, it felt like I was playing the part of someone I wasn’t. Granted I learned much from the new regime: you can always learn if you pay attention. But if I’m being honest with myself, I was relying on the trappings of the new direction rather than just being myself and letting that be enough.

So after a couple months of processing and 2014 dawned, I was ready to reclaim me. My release back into the career wild has led me to rediscover my love for writing and analysis, choose who I want to work with and tackle problems that can potentially make a difference in our industry.

And it’s paying off. I’ve attracted a small but influential audience of readers. I worked with a handful of innovative clients. And have found time to consider and communicate new ways to approach the business.

It’s far from easy. There are tough days as assignments and income can be sporadic. Sometimes I lose the thread of what I’m doing. Some days my ego gets the best of me and I wonder if think I’m so good then why am I on the sidelines. Other days, I question my talents and abilities. And I have more work to do. Plus there’s the downside of being highly adaptable: I’ve done many jobs because I can do them instead doing what I really want to do. But instead of losing years trying to fit in, I’m now forced to examine what I stand for and who I am.

I trust myself more. I’m even getting better at introducing myself as Jon instead of somebody who does something at a company. I’ve stricken the ‘we’ when talking or thinking about my former employer and its challenges.

Steve Jobs famously said that getting fired from Apple freed him to have “the lightness of being a beginner.” Today let’s toast that lightness of seeing things from the beginning.

Happy New Year.