No. This post isn’t about the actual physical TV. Whether your should get an LCD or a Plasma or a 3D set-although I could write one and get away with sounding halfway intelligent.
This post is about the fun stuff. The content. The shows, the sitcoms, the made for TV movies. Content so engaging that the actual TV becomes secondary. And here’s the rub. How do you discover such content? Sifting through individual shows to find that one gem is an impracticality or near impossibility given our daily time constraints.
Don’t despair future TV buff. There are ways to overcome the evil of infinite choices and finite time.
Ratings are the lowest hanging fruit in terms of figuring out quickly whats good or bad. The trick here is not to rely one on source. Instead, scan through multiple sources until a pattern emerges. For example, here’s a listing of popular shows from TV.COM
Although this list tells you whats popular on big networks, it excludes shows on cable and premium channels such as HBO or Showtime, where an overwhelming majority of good shows come from.
Lets look at another source that I really like: Metacritic curates and combines the individual scores of many respected critics around the world and comes up with a weighted average, called a metascore. It works really well. Now lets take a look at metacritics top 10 list for TV shows for the last 90 days:
While we’re on metacritic, let me use the opportunity to prove (scientifically) why ‘Breaking Bad’ is a much better show than the cult favorite ‘The Walking Dead’. The screenshot below is a list of all time high scores in metacritic history.
Not only is Season 5 of Breaking Bad the highest rated show of all time with a score of 99, Season 4 was not too shabby either with a rating of 96. Did you see the The Walking Dead on this top 10 list?
It seems that while researching for this post, I’ve come across a show “Enlightened” on HBO that I haven’t watched and which has a super high rating of 96. I’ve read the description and it sounds intriguing. I am almost certainly going to give this a try.
I’m a big fan of three shows on this list including Breaking Bad, Homeland, and Sopranos. I have also watched the pilot episodes of The Wire and Louie.
iTunes is also a good indicator of trending TV shows based on purchase frequency. Take a look at the screenshot below:
Another interesting datapoint is Nielsen. Consider the two screenshots below:
Just by eyeballing all of the above screeenshots, you start to see a pattern:
Downton Abbey is pretty much on all lists. And deservedly so. If you haven’t seen this excellent period piece yet, shame on you.
Big Bang Theory is the best rated comedy show in the country followed by Modern Family and How I Met your Mother.
It seems like shows like Elementary, Hawai Five O, Person of Interest, and The Mentalist have some good traction with the audience as well.
You can’t be a TV buff and not follow the Emmy’s, which is American TV’s biggest night of recognition and awards. Go take a look at last years complete list of winners:
See the previous patterns hold true? The last page of this document lists the crème de la crème i.e. shows that have won multiple awards.
Here, some new insights can be gained:
Game of Thrones, Homeland, Game Change and Modern Family won big. (I watched all 4).
History Channels first ever scripted show “Hatfields & McCoys”, starring Kevin Costner and Bill Paxton also ended up winning multiple awards.
When Netflix announced their second Original Series “House of Cards”, I was sold without watching a single episode. Why?
A) Kevin Spacey (no intro needed here)
B) David Fincher: Responsible for directing hits such as the “The Fight Club”, “The Social Network” and the “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”.
What “House of Cards” offered was simple. Pedigree.
When HBO announced that they were going to adapt for TV, the epic fantasy series”Game of Thrones”, I was sold. Why?
A) George R. R. Martin (arguably the best fantasy author of our time)
B) David Benioff (involved with hits such as Troy, The Kite Runner, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, 25th Hour)
What HBO’s “Game of Thrones” offered was simple. Pedigree.
A similar argument can me made for HBO’s “The Newsroom” written by Aaron Sorkin (of The West Wing, A Few Good Men, The Social Network fame).
I rest my case and hope that some of these tips can help people who are hungry for good TV. Happy hunting!
In the 1975 Bollywood classic “Deewar”, there is great scene (one of many great scenes) where a smuggler named Daawar is getting his shoe polished by a kid on the street (who grows up to be the indomitable, albeit misguided Amitabh Bachan). After the shoes are shined, Dawar throws a couple of rupees to the kid, but the ‘angry young kid’ refuses to accept it saying “may phainke hoay paisay nahee uthata”. This is roughly translated to “I refuse to accept money that is thrown”.
Daavar is super impressed, hands the money to the kid and comments to his smuggler companion “ye larka lambi race ka ghoda hay”. This is loosely translated to “Watch out for this kid. He’s in it for the long-haul and he’s going to be super successful”. Now that I’ve butchered the translation, let me make clear that this post is not about the movie, the dynamic Big Bachan (who does become super successful in the movie and otherwise) or the smuggler.
This post is about Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon. And he in my opinion is our modern day “lambi race ka ghoda”.
One of the few survivors of the .com bust, Jeff has led Amazon to amazing success. Starting with just selling books online, it has become the online retailer of choice for almost everything under the sun. Consider this, I’ve bought by TV from Amazon as well as Carbon’s famous Waffle flour. Amazon also facilitates customer-to-customer transactions, is one of the top 3 web services providers, and over the past couple of years, is an emerging force in the consumer hardware space. Kindles are the best selling e-readers in the market and Amazon is really to be credited with exploding adoption of e-books.
A lot of companies are now mimicking Apple’s strategy with respect to product announcements but fall short of the fit and finish of a Cupertino staged event. The message is either all over the place and more ofthen than not, there are mum on pricing and or availability. But if there is one company really doing a kick-ass job of building anticipation for its events and delivering a compelling and cohesive message in its presentation, its Amazon. Four weeks ago, while I was watching the most recent Amazon event where Jeff was unveiling the new Kindle Fire, my wife happened to walk by and asked if Apple had just unveiled the much rumored iPad mini. I made fun of her for not knowing the difference between the Kindle and the iPad mini and not recognizing Jeff.
Later, I realized that she had unknowingly cemented my opinion about the event being Apple-esque in its execution. It was in all seriousness, a very honest mistake.
One of my favorite bloggers, John Gruber had an excellent post about the event and Amazon’s strategy compared to Apple.
Another great piece on Amazon’s long term strategy is a NYT article published in Dec 2011 (see excerpt below):
In 1997, the year Amazon.com went public, its chief executive, Jeff Bezos, issued a manifesto: “It’s all about the long term,” he said. He warned shareholders “we may make decisions and weigh tradeoffs differently than some companies” and urged them to make sure that a long-term approach “is consistent with your investment policy.” Amazon’s management and employees “are working to build something important, something that matters to our customers, something that we can tell our grandchildren about,”
Here’s a beauty of a post from Farhad Manjoo discussing Amazon’s aggressive distribution strategy.
Parting thought to nervous Amazon shareholders and tech pundits who are bearish on Amazon.
You don’t wanna bet against Jeff Bezos…
I talked about the superiority of the Kindle platform in my last post and forgot to add the number one feature on my wish list.
I guess you’ll just have to take my word for it.
So what happened? Well, last Thursday Amazon held their press event and announced a bunch of new Kindles-a pretty decent line-up. We’ll know more once the reviews come out. But that’s not what got me excited.
Buried deep in their presentation was this little gem:
Perhaps their promo video explains this better:
Doesn’t she look like Natalie Portman?
This development totally wrecked the last day of DNC for me as I tried to figure out what book to test this new feature on. I also wasn’t sure whether this was a kindle device exclusive or available to the Kindle app ecosystem (iOS , Android etc). I put in a quick call to Audible and a very helpful customer service rep confirmed that I could indeed take advantage of this on my iPhone. The rep also set my expectations that only 15,000 books supported this feature at launch-a respectable number.
Luckily, the book I was currently reading “The Enchantress: Book 6 of the Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel” series was compatible.
I then proceeded to Audible.com and used a precious credit to download the Audio version of the same book. Notice how it says “Whispersync for Voice: Enabled” towards the bottom of the screenshot:
So now I have the e-book:
And the audio version of the same book:
When I read from the Kindle book and switch to the Audible app, I get this notification:
And when I switch to the Kindle book from the Audible app, I get a similar notification informing that I am further ahead on the audiobook:
The only small hiccup at this point is that the Audible app does not always force the pop-up to appear automatically, which can be manually adjusted by switching to “My Library” and hitting refresh:
I am assuming Audible will fix this with an update to make the cloud syncing more consistent with the Kindle app.
This has been a long time coming and a brilliant strategy from Amazon. It will especially be useful when listening to long books. God, I wish this was available when I was listening to the fifth installment of the “Game of Throne” series or Stephen Kings excellent “11-22-63“. It also completely blurs the line between and reading or listening. Now you truly are “consuming” the book. Its a much richer experience.
It seemed to me from the promo video, that if you had a Kindle Fire, you could order the audioversion for paying a couple of bucks over the cost of the book. In my case, I had a choice between buying the audible version of enchantress for $24.50 (reduced from $35) or use my monthly credit (I chose the latter). I suspect most people won’t be willing to pay twice (once for the kindle book and once for the audiobook-irrespective of its slightly discounted price), so a price point that is slightly more then the Kindle version and ‘considerably’ less than the Audible version will likely be the way to go. Amazon needs to offer this bundle pricing on its website and once somebody selects and buys the bundle, enable the respective Audible library to be automatically updated. Its a bit cumbersome to first buy the e-book via Amazon and then switch over to Audible’s website and go through the buying cycle again. I’m sure that will also get tweaked over time.
Regardless, Amazon continues to impress. Stay tuned for a future post on the company itself.
Update (Sep 10, 2012): A birdie told me earlier today that the audible app will be updated in the near future to fix having to “manually refresh” to sync your place in the book.
Paper is dying…
And I’m all in.
Jan 22, 2012
Chapter 1: Access
You can access Kindle books via the following:
iBooks only supports iOS devices. iPhone-iTouch-iPad. And unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past four years, you have seen hundreds (if not thousands) of images of these iconic “i” devices. So forgive me but I’ll skip on posting the images. You know what they look like.
Chapter 2: Whisepersync
Question: What is a bookmark on steroids?
Answer: Amazon Whispersync
Yes. The mind numbingly awesome sync tech that enables you to pick up where you left off regardless of what device (see above) you’re using.
iOS has the same syncing tech but I find the kindle implementation better because it offers more data. It notifies the user about the current page as well as the furthest page read on whatever device. In the screenshot below, the iPhone Kindle app is notifying me that I’m further along in this book when I last accessed the book via the iPad 2. Do I want to sync to furthest page? I like this granularity and level of control. iBooks just syncs to the most recent page. There’s no context. Bleh.
Chapter 3: Kindle Public Lending
Last year, Amazon made an arrangement with public libraries. Instead of using a proprietary app to read a digital book loaned from your public library, why not read them on your Kindle app/reader? Use whispersync, takes notes, and highlight with abandon. In case you didn’t get to finish the book in the allotted period of days, you could just purchase the digital title from Amazon. All your notes and highlights would be retained. Here’s a link to the Amazon website describing the program:
Sounds too good to be true right? It is…
With everyone and their mothers receiving tablets/ereaders over the past year and change, demand for digital titles at public libraries is dramatically out of proportion with supply. The reasons for that imbalance is beyond the scope of this post. What it boils down to is that you have to wait a long time to borrow a kindle friendly book from your local library. Longer for popular titles. And some titles are just aren’t available to begin with.
Where do you access and search for digital titles? I don’t know about other states, but in NJ, you go to www.listennj.com to search for digital books and audiobooks.
Below is an example of a popular title. Notice the number of copies available and the number of patrons on the waiting list:
You place a book on hold and once its available, an e-mail is sent notifying that the digital loan is available and will be on hold for 72 hours. Once you check it out, you will have the option to select from 7, 10, and 14 day loans. Below is an example I recorded earlier today:
Chapter 4: Kindle Owners Lending Library
This program sounded cool until I discovered that it was only for Kindle hardware owners. Basically, if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you get access to one free ebook per month. Cool deal for folks who are already paying for prime and happen to have a dedicated kindle reader. For everyone else, its perhaps not that compelling. For more information on this program:
Chapter 5: Kindle Lending
Before any lending, there was Kindle lending. Last year, my sis-in-law loaned me all three books of the Hunger Games series, which she had bought from the kindle store. Its a pretty cool feature, when its available. Not all titles are lendable and even if they are, you can only lend them once, which is bizarre since I can loan my paper book unlimited # of times. Its probably the work of some overzealous publishing lawyer. But when it works, its sweet.
There are also some third party sites that have created a business from kindle lending where readers gather together to lend and borrow lendable books. One such site is Book Lending dot com
Chapter 6: Usability
This is my final point and probably more subjective compared to the above.
iBooks default view is heavy on animation. While the faux bookshelf does look super cute, the faux book (or book metaphor) complete with page turning animation is a distraction and a complete waste of time-literally. I prefer the Kindle app’s sparse look with just the black text on white background and no distracting animations. You tap on the screen to flip. Done. On some level, I find the iBooks layout insulting. I know I’m reading a book and don’t need nor appreciate having it wrapped for me in a “book like” format.
Apple did fix this issue (almost half heartedly) with an update late 2011, which gives you the option to view the book in Full Screen. The option is still buried beneath two settings menu taps and it does not do away with the page turning animation.
The tappable area on iBooks seems to be smaller compared to kindle or just not optimized enough, because sometimes, the taps just don’t register. Regardless, page turns are not as immediate compared to the Kindle. Don’t take my word for it. Do your own testing.
I guess I’ve wasted enough time making a point that nobody really cares about.
And I’ve two public library Kindle books to finish. Time’s a-ticking.
Time for the Media Stats blog post for 2011. So how did I do?
Although I watched 9 more movies in 2011 (compared to 2010), the Bollywood genre went down drastically (for reasons I don’t want to get in to). My Cinema consumption more or less stayed flat compared to 2010 when I had watched 9 movies on the big screen. I rented 21 movies in 2011, which is also pretty much consistent with 23 rentals in 2010. The real uptick in my movie consumption was a result of subscribing to Netflix and HBO/Showtime. Of this, I watched 8 movies on Netflix, and the rest on premium TV channels. I also made it a point to rate every movie on Flixster for my Facebook friends.
I watched three new shows this year, which are at the top of the list. Here, Netflix shines as I watched multiple seasons of Breaking Bad, and Weeds. The $7.99/month streaming plan is money (more than) well spent. I had HBO for a couple of months and watched Game of Thrones and used HBO Go to watch season 1 of Entourage.
Advice to HBO: Unlink HBO Go from the $16.99 TV subscription and price it separately, similar to Netflix and Hulu Plus ($7.99). Considering HBO Go is available on iOS, the web, and X-BOX live, there is not doubt in my mind that this will add to the subscriber base.
Thanks to my iPad/iPhone and Amazon Kindle app, I doubled my consumption to a dozen books this year. Unfortunately, my non-fiction consumption dropped from 50% in 2010 to 31% in 2011. Hopefully, I can bring it up in 2012.
I highly recommend the kindle library lending program (USA only). You can borrow up to 5 kindle books from your local library. To setup, go to your local library and get your electronic pin. Then go to your state specific URL to access the digital library. For example, in NJ it is http://listennj.com The only downside is that you have to wait a while for popular books. Libraries have limited copies and there is a almost always a lot of patrons in line for the same book.
13 audiobooks in 2011 versus 12 in 2010 seems flat until you dig in to the total hours listened. In 2010, it was just over 100 hours. In 2011, thanks to a couple of “longggg” books, I ended up logging 300 hours and change. That is just colossal. If it isn’t painfully obvious, I’m somewhat of a fantasy fiction nut (we all have our vanities). However this year, I also dabbled in Science Fiction with the critically acclamaied Dune and Ender’s Game. I didn’t enjoy either. Perhaps scifi isn’t my thang.
If you’re a fantasy fiction fan and you havn’t read George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice & Fire series, then you are nuts. No ifs or buts.
If you’re a fantasy fiction fan and have read the above, and looking for something fresh, check Patrick Rothfuss’s KingKiller Chronicles trilogy. Two books of the trilogy have been released so far and they’re pretty good.
RSS & Podcasts
Google Reader only gives me a 30 day history. So if I were to extrapolate the results (while staying uber conservative) for 12 months, I combed through over 30,00 articles (combing includes just reading the headline) and actually read 4% or 1200 articles in 2011. Unfortunately, I didn’t track results in 2010 so I have nothing to compare it with.
There are tons and tons of interesting podcasts available and hardly anytime to consume it. I pre-dominantly listen to one podcast on a regular (can’t miss it) basis and depending on the discussion, to some others. In 2011, I listened to 49 episodes of the Talk Show with John Gruber, 2 episodes of HyperCritical with John Siracusa, couple episodes of Leo Laporte’s MacBreak Weakly and couple episodes of Gillmor Gang with Steve Gillmor and gang. So a tad over 50 podcasts. Again, I’ve nothing to compare it to, so can’t say what these numbers mean in a vacuum.
So I’m a data nut. Sue me. I find it fascinating to log and chart my media consumption and I wish I’d been doing it way before 2010. It would have made for some very interesting analysis. I guess you gotta start somewhere.
Happy New Year!
Both Mr. Lazaridis and co-CEO Jim Balsillie said they were disappointed with the BlackBerry’s precipitous drop in popularity in the United States, the company’s most important market, and blamed much of the failure on marketing and advertising – which they promised to overhaul with a “comprehensive” blitz to drive sales of its latest batch of BlackBerrys
RIM is failing not because their “marketing” sucks. It’s because their products do. Abbot & Costello continue to remain out of touch with reality. How long can this show possibly go on?
Strangely befitting Job’s legacy, I read about his demise on my iPhone.
I then continued to post articles, tributes via my Macbook Pro.
And while in bed, I read some more tributes on my iPad.
I thought that I’d remember Steve by sharing some of the tributes I really liked.
Walt Mossberg (the most interesting story Walt shared was when Gates and Jobs shared the stage at the fifth D conference)
Stephen Levy: Wired (Steve happens to be author of In the Plex-an excellent book on the history and success of Google)
Stephen Wolfram (Wolfram Alpha is now integrated with Siri-the new voice AI debuting on the iPhone 4s)
Eric Schmidt (This was an interesting read considering the fallout between the two)
Job’s official biography has now been pushed up a second time-slated to launch on October 24th. I can’t wait to read it.