As professional aggregators/filters, we’re both friendly to and suspicious of services that claim to be able to sort through tons of media options and find stuff we’ll like.
We like the idea, because finding good/interesting/important stuff is a big part of our job, and it’d be great to find services that make it easier. Of course that also means we may find ourselves out of work one day — if these things ever work.
Luckily (for us) none of them have figured it out yet. Vote-based systems, like Digg, tend to end up with a fairly rigid sense of what’s good/interesting/important and never swerve outside of those lines; automated engines are too…automated. Maybe there won’t ever be a real replacement for DJs/editors/friends with good taste.
That wouldn’t be the worst thing: We’d keep our jobs, and people would get to use the services as additional guides, not primary ones.
But plenty of people are trying to make it work. The latest is The Filter, from Exabre, a British company backed by Peter Gabriel and $8 million in funding; it wants to sort not just music but movies, videos, TV, etc. As best we can tell, The Filter lies somewhere between Pandora, which recommends music without regard to context or labels but based on the music’s “DNA”, and services like Last.fm and Amazon.com’s engine, which tells you that people who like x also like y. Proposed business model? A mix of ad-supported portal (one day) along with potential referral fees for the likes of Amazon and iTunes, as well as some licensing fees for other media companies.
The wild cards are that The Filter is supposed to eventually be able to connect multiple kinds of entertainment together: If you like this video clip you may also like this song and/or this movie. And, if you and the online retailer you like to buy your media from cooperate, it will also start to track not just music you own, but music you buy.
The main limitation we’ve seen so far is one common to some but not all recommendation engines: It can’t present you with an entire song, but just 30-second clips. Pandora and Last.fm, though, have gotten around this issue.
How’s the aggregator/recommendation engine itself work? Hard to say. We’ve played around for it a bit, primarily with the music engine, and it was a bit glitchy. The service is supposed to be able to autogenerate playlists for you based on individual iTunes (AAPL) songs you own, but that had a pre-launch bug. And we weren’t sure when were listening to stuff on the site that was selected based on our taste, or if we had the generic pre-launch mix. A few other features, like the music/movie finder, are in pretty crude form.
But we’re pretty forgiving about technical glitches leading up to a launch these days, and in any event The Filter can’t really work well until it has lots of folks registering their likes and dislikes into the engine. That’s where you folks come in: We’ve got 100 private beta invites to give away here; the link should be working by 1am eastern time Tuesday morning, but if you’ve got any problems give it a few hours and come back.
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