Business Insider Research Morning Call 9/20/11

 

What To Expect From Facebook’s Big F8 Conference Thursday: Media And Mobile
Based on preliminary reports, two major themes are to be expected: media, and mobile.

On the media front, this is what to expect:

  • An ambitious music service. This is the big announcement. Facebook is partnering with basically every music service under the sun, like Spotify, to provide them a framework to let people use their service and share information through Facebook. This could be a boon for the services by allowing them to boost virality and engagement. Down the line, however, Facebook might expect to take a cut of their business.
  • Movies and TV shows. Facebook has already experimented with movie rentals through Facebook, and Netflix has said that they would be integrated with Facebook in some way. 
  • Publishing. Facebook is working with publishing outlets like CNN and The Daily to create special editions of their titles for Facebook. The WSJ is already doing something like this.
  • Perhaps a content store and/or an expansion of Facebook Credits. Perhaps this will all be part of a broader media platform for Facebook that might include a content store a la iTunes, through Facebook Credits, which would allow Facebook to take a cut of the media consumption on its network. The company is using the unofficial motto “Read. Write. Listen.” to describe those changes and might even introduce a “Want” button for content users want, which would then be spread virally in their social graph.

How to read Facebook’s moves in media. At the eG8 Forum in Paris this year and in other venues, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has spelled out his strategic vision for Facebook very clearly: he believes that Facebook’s mission is to insinuate its social sauce into every possible industry, thereby transforming it. And once it does that, Facebook can charge a toll on those industries. The example for this is games: Zynga and others have reinvented gaming on Facebook as a service paid for through virtual goods. Zuckerberg has also clearly stated that, based on current sharing patterns on Facebook, the industry that’s “next” after gaming is media, and particularly music (indeed, games are a form of media). 

On the mobile front: 

  • A new photo-sharing app. TechCrunch uncovered detailed plans and screenshots for a mobile photo sharing app, which is something Facebook must do. Photo sharing is the biggest activity on Facebook, and mobile photo sharing apps are throwing tremendous success, even as we are moving to a mobile-first world. For young consumers, mobile photo-sharing platforms have the potential to become the social sharing platform of choice before Facebook. This is an important battleground.
  • Perhaps an improved mobile app and an iPad app. Some speculate that Facebook might introduce new mobile apps, as its existing apps are starting to feel stale, and an iPad app, which still doesn’t exist, despite the success of unofficial third-party apps. 

The WSJ is creating a “Social” edition that lives on Facebook. It’s a smart idea: follow particular streams and see content based on what your friends like and are sharing, and then share with your friends. And it looks like the kind of things we can expect on media consumption and sharing from Facebook’s big conference this week.

The anecdotal evidence is piling up that people aren’t using Google+. Two columnists referred to it as a “ghost town.” While it’s possible to triangulate data on signups, which are apparently growing impressively, it’s much harder to get data on usage. And while it’s trivial for Google to get millions of people to sign up something if they put it on their homepage as they’ve done for G+, what matters is whether people actually use it.

The Hulu sale might not happen after all. Culprits: uncertainty over the rights to the shows on Hulu, owners asking for too much, and one big bidder, Yahoo, being taken out of the running by its own internal vicissitudes.

Netflix is currently in discussions with the SEC regarding its plans to stop reporting metrics like subscriber churn and acquisition costs. The SEC doesn’t agree that this is a good idea and given the company’s missteps of late (the stock is down about 30% in the last week), many investors are questioning why they would even consider pursuing such a move at this time.

Viacom is suing its spinoff and ‘Rock Band’ maker Harmonix for $131 million. It’s trying to recover earnouts it paid out after buying Harmonix at the top of the market for music-based video games. Now that the market has crashed as fast as it surged, things are turning ugly.

Is Apple suing Samsung left and right because it’s afraid it might catch up in terms of design? That’s at least one view argued by this columnist, who thinks Apple wants to put IP restrictions on what Samsung can do because it’s afraid its latest handsets are becoming as appealing as the iPhone.

Microsoft is getting its act together when it comes to Windows 8 and the cloud, McAdams Wright Ragen analyst Sid Parakh writes. Its “Metro” interface for tablets is very well received, and it is finally pushing the cloud. It’s true that Microsoft has stepped up its game in these markets, but it is still behind the competition, and it remains to be seen whether it’s enough.

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