Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Going gold at 65

Bob Lefsetz suggests that Paul McCartney should have given away his recent album, Memory Almost Full, because it's only going to sell about 550,000 copies in the U.S. There could be some good arguments to support that view, but Lefsetz constructs a bizarre case for giving songs away. He says McCartney fans found the price of the album too high and that "everybody" would listen to it if it was free. The knowledge that "all [his] fans" would be listening would have motivated McCartney to put out a great record.

Okay, even if it was free, there's no reason to think people would be tripping over themselves to download the new album. Neil Young gave away all of Living With War. What percentage of people who consider themselves to be Neil Young fans downloaded those songs? (And Living With War turned out to be a pretty good album.) Memory Almost Full is available from eMusic for $3.50-$4.30, depending on your subscription level. That's less than $1 in 1973 dollars -- to use a frame of reference that most McCartney fans can identify with. You could buy the album for about what it cost to buy "My Love" as a single. Whatever McCartney's challenges are in selling his album, cost seems to be a minuscule factor.

And McCartney was perfectly capable of phoning it in even back in the days when "everybody" was listening. Remember Red Rose Speedway? Wild Life? Memory Almost Full was stronger than many of McCartney's albums from his commercial peak (post-Beatles), so -- for once -- we can't accuse him of being unmotivated.

And 550,000 units in the U.S. alone sounds pretty good for a 65-year-old pop musician. That probably translates to over a million albums sold, worldwide. The numbers for "Dance Tonight" -- the lead track on the album -- are very impressive, leading all other McCartney or Wings songs in number of listeners over the last six months.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Maybe it really is Web 2.0

Apparently, it was more than 14 months since I posted anything on my blog. Between writing a bunch of proposals, position papers, and funding pitches last year, as well as having the Waterloo Tech Digest and my column in Rex Magazine, the last thing I wanted to do in my spare time was write anything. Okay, not really the last thing, but it never came close to the top of the list (although I did seem to find time for a few thousand Wikipedia edits before moving on).

I didn't even read any blogs in that time, at least not any personal ones. I kept track of updates to a few websites through their RSS feeds, but that was about it. I can see that RSS has come a long way over the last year. Not the technology, but its use. When I posted through my blog a backlog of 10 Waterloo Tech Digest issues from the past year, the traffic to my website jumped nearly 500% that day. Two days later, it was still up about 300%. The extra traffic was all generated because the content of the Tech Digest issues had been distributed and discovered through various RSS-based tools (and, in some cases, shared through sites designed for that purpose). For people who worry that using RSS feeds will cannibalize your web traffic, my experience so far has been just the opposite. After seeing those numbers, "Web 2.0" feels like much less of a silly cliché than it did a year ago.

A lot of cool tools have sprung up that I'll have to look into. And some of the ones that were a big deal 14 months ago are museum pieces now. Does anyone still use Technorati? One of the big names 14 months ago, it looks like a search engine for spam these days.

Now comes the challenge of making use of these tools in my website, and in the site that I also oversee. Simon Woodside has been working to integrate Web 2.0 technology into the WatStart site -- look for a relaunch early in the fall -- and I've started getting back up to speed after a 14-month hiatus. (I never even thoroughly rewrote my site for CSS, let alone RSS. It still has some HTML code going back to 1996!) Should be fun, and make for some much better sites.

Can Windsor use a non-snub to energize a focus on innovation?

OMG, did you hear? There's a new $100 million "Innovation SuperCorridor" initiative from the province introduced in the budget...