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Posted at 11:35 AM ET, 04/ 2/2007

No Beatles on iTunes

So, there are probably plenty of people excited about the joint Apple-EMI announcement in London this morning -- that Apple's iTunes will begin selling songs that are not burdened with digital-rights management (DRM) restrictions.

The DRM-free tracks will cost $1.29. You can still buy EMI tracks with DRM for $.99. EMI says the non-DRM tracks will sound better.

Also, the DRM-free tracks will let consumers play the songs on more devices and copy more freely.

Still, it's not the announcement that many music fans were probably hoping for when word came out of a big London presser between Apple and EMI -- home label of the Beatles.

The Beatles remain probably the biggest, most conspicuous hole in the legitimate online music world.

EMI and Apple said they are working to get the Beatles catalog online, saying, essentially, "We Can Work It Out."


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Posted at 9:04 PM ET, 04/ 1/2007

Beatles to iTunes?

There's an intriguing announcement this evening out of EMI, one of the Big Four music companies and, more importantly, home of the Beatles catalog.

At 8 a.m. Monday, EDT, EMI and Apple Inc. topper Steve Jobs will reveal an "exciting digital offering" at EMI's London headquarters.

Could the Beatles finally be coming to iTunes? Beatles fans are no doubt hoping: Let it be.

EMI spokesfolk are being close-mouthed about the announcement, unwilling even to give "guidance," an on-background term for steering reporters one way or the other. This most likely is because Jobs is involved. He loves him some curtain-raising spectacle and it's easier to get leaks out of the White House than Cupertino.

But let's play connect-the-dots: One of the biggest, most conspicuous holes in all online music stores -- not just iTunes -- is the Beatles. No one has been able to get the living Beatles (Sir Paul and Ringo) and the descendants of the dead Beatles (Lennon and Harrison) to agree on a compensation package for digital sale.

Consequently, online music services have been missing arguably the most important rock band ever and one that certainly is still a commercial success. Not to mention a personal fave of Jobs'.

There has been some legal bad blood between Apple and the Beatles, going back even to the 1978 launch of Apple Computers. See, Apple was the name of the Beatles label, and they jealously guard the name. The Beatles's Apple sued Jobs's Apple in 2003 over the launch of iTunes because of the link between Apple and music.

However, the two Apples recently settled their legal disputes, possibly clearing the way for the Beatles to jump to iTunes.

There is one piece of the announcement that raises doubt as to whether it will be about the Beatles: there is promised a "special live performance." Well, that could mean Sir Paul and Ringo. Or Sir Paul and Ringo singing along to a recording of Lennon's voice and Harrison's guitar.

Or it could be a live performance by some other EMI band that Jobs is rolling out on iTunes. In which case, the press corps summoned to EMI HQ in London is likely act like the title of the Beatles hit song: "Hello Goodbye."

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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 03/28/2007

FiOS To Launch Washington TV Channel

Two years ago, Verizon began rolling out its fiber-optic service, or FiOS, in the Washington area and across the country.

Now, FiOS is launching some original programming.

FiOS combines consumers' telephone, television and high-speed Internet services in a "triple-play" competitive counter to cable and satellite television providers and phone companies.

On Friday, Verizon will launch FiOS1, a television channel devoted to "hyper-local" coverage of the Washington area, the company said. The 24/7 channel will include local news from WUSA-9 TV and a traffic and weather service.

Verizon will hire a "handful" of videographers to produce pieces about local events and items of interest.

Also in the offing: Northern Virginia high school and some local college sports, including games from Georgetown and George Mason. And the channel will carry some Major League Baseball games.

Now: Who will actually see FiOS1? The channel will be available in parts of suburban Maryland and Northern Virginia, but not yet in the District.

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Posted at 6:00 AM ET, 03/27/2007

R.E.M. and Net Neutrality

It's hard to make net neutrality sexy. Sure, it affects everyone -- will access to the Internet remain free or will companies be allowed to erect toll booths for entry? It's important stuff and the minute that the 'Net no longer is free, and users wonder why their favorite Web page is loading slowly and it's because it hasn't paid a fee to the Internet service provider for faster access, boy howdy, will people start to care.

But right now, when such a scenario seems vague and far away, and people actually are using phrases like "net neutrality" in Congress, then zzzzzz.....

So to get folks riled up about the issue, the Future of Music Coalition -- an advocacy group of musicians that fought radio consolidation -- is assembling a lineup of name bands, such as R.E.M. and Death Cab for Cutie, to join the fight to keep the net neutral.

The group will join net neutrality advocate Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) for a teleconference today to kick off the campaign, which is called "Rock the Net ." The campaign will include a petition and a series of concerts. The coalition fears that if companies are allowed to charge for faster access to the Internet, it will hurt the ability of musicians to get their music out to their fans, especially small, indie bands.

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Posted at 3:52 PM ET, 03/ 9/2007

Giveaway mp3 Players

It is a rule of consumer electronics that early adopters pay a higher price for gadgets than latecomers and, in fact, the early adopters probably pay for the lower prices enjoyed by latecomers.

Now, apparently, mp3 players are so cheap, companies are giving them away as vehicles for video press releases.

I got a box recently from the company that owns and The former is a site with music videos and the second has movie trailers and interviews.

The company sent its press release in the form of a 1 minute 11 second video on a Zvue 250 mp3 player.

Amazon has the Zvue 250 used for $99.55. Quite a bit cheaper than a used 30gig video iPod for 197.99 Or a used 30gig Zune for $210.19.

Obviously, the iPod and Zune can do more things than the Zvue (how do you pronounce that, anyway?), and the Zvue is bigger (about the size of an old BlackBerry) and it feels cheaper. But, then again, it is cheaper.

Cheap enough to be a press release.

(Per The Post's policy on gifts, I donated the Zvue.)

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Celebrity Magazine 'Premiere' Goes All-Digi

Premiere magazine, which for 20 years applied some rigorous journalism to celebrity and entertainment reporting, will stop publishing an ink-on-paper copy and move entirely to the Web and mobile devices, the mag's publisher said this week. Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. , which also publishes Car and Driver, Elle and Shock,...

By Frank Ahrens | March 7, 2007; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Digital 'Fair Use' Bill Introduced In Congress

Today, Reps. Rich Boucher (D-Va.) and John Dolittle (R-Calif.) introduced what they call the "Freedom and Innovation Revitalizing U.S. Entrepreneurship" (or FAIR USE) Act they say will make it easier for digital media consumers to use the content they buy. The lawmakers seek to amend the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright...

By Frank Ahrens | February 27, 2007; 11:40 AM ET | Comments (25)

Univision: Media Gigante Put On Notice

Over the weekend, I wrote that the Federal Communications Commission is readying to slap Spanish-language media giant Univision with a record $24 million fine for trying to pass off telenovelas as kids' programming. Two things about this: a) Univision's growing reach and potential influence over Spanish-speaking media consumers is unmatched...

By Frank Ahrens | February 26, 2007; 12:10 PM ET | Comments (6)

From JetBlue To You -- YouTube, That Is

JetBlue founder and chief executive David Neeleman has taken his apology directly to consumers on this YouTube video called "Our promise to you." Jet Blue founder David Neeleman The 2 minute 51 second video is an informal mea culpa and a promise to never let the airline's troubles of the...

By Frank Ahrens | February 21, 2007; 11:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

XM-Sirius Merger: Why?

I have subscribed to XM Satellite Radio since December 2001, three months after the service launched. I have written that I am a fan of the service, but have always been skeptical about its survival as a business. Comes now this proposed merger with rival Sirius Satellite Radio. I understand...

By Frank Ahrens | February 20, 2007; 12:34 PM ET | Comments (121)

Protecting Kids On the Internet: Impossible?

I'm not a parent but yesterday's discussion on the MySpace vs. parents of the child assaulted by a MySpace predator case brought up some fascinating points from a parenting vs. technology standpoint. One person left this comment on the posting, which I found really got to the nub of the...

By Frank Ahrens | February 16, 2007; 01:37 PM ET | Comments (0)

Judge: MySpace Guiltless In Child Assault

Yesterday, a Texas judge tossed out a lawsuit against MySpace, the world's biggest social-networking site brought by the family of a 13-year-old girl assaulted by a man who found her through her MySpace page. The man, 19-year-old Pete Solis of Texas, lied about himself on his MySpace page to gain...

By Frank Ahrens | February 15, 2007; 11:37 AM ET | Comments (0)

Bronfman Preaches Gospel of Mobile Music

Today in Barcelona, Warner Music Group President Edgar Bronfman Jr. addressed a meeting of mobile operators, tech vendors and content companies about downloading music to your cell phone. Bronfman is an interesting cat. He comes from a long, wealthy line of Canadian liquor moguls. But he got the entertainment bug....

By Frank Ahrens | February 14, 2007; 12:38 PM ET | Comments (0)

Crackdown on Fake Blogs, Astroturf

In the world of p.r. and marketing, "astroturfing" is not a new term. It is the practice of creating a fake grassroots movement, or buzz. Companies will hire "influencers" in specific demographics to spread the word about a product or service, hoping to give it some street cred among consumers...

By Frank Ahrens | February 12, 2007; 10:54 AM ET | Comments (5)

Wal-Mart's Video Download Service

Wal-Mart launched a beta-version of its video-download service this week, entering a rapidly growing space. By one account, the system leaves a lot to be desired. But beta is beta; that's why it's called that. Kinks get worked out. The real story here is what the presence -- finally --...

By Frank Ahrens | February 9, 2007; 02:25 PM ET | Comments (0)

CBS Goin' Mobile

CBS Corp. has created a new mobile division, splitting it off from its interactive division, and has placed German wunderkind Cyriac Roeding in charge. I met Roeding last summer in L.A., where CBS Interactive is based. I found him tall, young, blond and engaging. At only 33, he had already...

By Frank Ahrens | February 7, 2007; 04:42 PM ET | Comments (3)

MySpace vs. Creeps, Cont.

MySpace brass will be in Florida today to tailcoat on a bill the state's governor is introducing: the Cybercrimes Against Children Act, which would beef up the Sunshine State's efforts against online predators. MySpace, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp, has been working at the state and organization level...

By Frank Ahrens | February 7, 2007; 11:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

$13 Super Bowl Ad Wins Contest, Airs In First Quarter

Only a few months ago, Wes Phillips was a 22-year-old audio-visual equipment installer in North Carolina who had a vague idea about starting an advertising agency. So he formed a partnership with his best buddy, Dale Backus, 21. A few minutes ago, they got their first real ad seen by...

By Frank Ahrens | February 4, 2007; 06:43 PM ET | Comments (10)

Super Bowl Ad Nauseum

Super Bowl ads: We can't get enough of 'em! Or so Adweek thinks. Adweek, one of the bigger trade papers that covers the advertising industry, has signed up a roster of advertising gurus to critique the ads as they appear during the game. Why? Because the circus-like production of the...

By Frank Ahrens | February 2, 2007; 11:01 AM ET | Comments (2)

Watching What You Watch, Listen To

Today, the two biggest and most important audience-counting companies--Arbitron and Nielsen--are launching a new project designed to track what you watch and listen to wherever you go. Nielsen records TV viewing and Arbitron (based in Columbia in Howard County) records radio use. For years, the system they used required viewers...

By Frank Ahrens | February 1, 2007; 11:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Bad Times At the New York Times

This morning, the New York Times Co. announced its fourth-quarter and total 2006 financial results. They aren't pretty. And they cap a year of downer financial news from the parent company of the Gray Lady. The big headline out of today's news is a $648 million loss in the fourth...

By Frank Ahrens | January 31, 2007; 03:12 PM ET | Comments (0)

Vista Launches Today

Microsoft Inc. rolls out its much-anticipated, frequently delayed Vista operating system today. The global hype is impressive, writes my colleague Alan Sipress. There's a laser display along the waterfront in Shanghai and a huge interactive laptop in Germany. It's a big push for Microsoft, because desktop operating systems, like Vista,...

By Frank Ahrens | January 30, 2007; 11:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

L.A. Times Tries To Get Webby

Last week, the Los Angeles Times skewered its own Web site in a major new plan to make itself more relevent to 21st-century news readers. You can read a story about the details here, including some shocking facts, such as: The L.A Times, which is the nation's fourth-largest newspaper by...

By Frank Ahrens | January 29, 2007; 12:07 PM ET | Comments (4)

The Joy of Text

Last night, my beloved West Virginia University Mountaineers men's basketball team played hated in-state rival, Marshall University, in my hometown of Charleston, W.Va. They had beaten us---inexplicably, I might add---the past couple of years, so we fans were jonesing for some payback. Unfortunately, the game was not on TV here...

By Frank Ahrens | January 25, 2007; 10:51 AM ET | Comments (3)

MySpace's State of the $*%@#! Union

MySpace, the world's most popular social-network site that boasts 100 million profiles and that is owned by Rupert Murdoch's NewsCorp Inc., had a nifty idea for last night's State of the Union address. Why not let MySpace users post their own State of the Union address? In fact, why not...

By Frank Ahrens | January 23, 2007; 11:12 PM ET | Comments (5)

The YouTube Election

By now, you've probably watched Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) "I'm in" presidential campaign announcement video. It's a conversation-starter for a number of reasons. First, based on its setting and what she says, Clinton sounds less like she's running for president and more like she's auditioning for a host spot on...

By Frank Ahrens | January 23, 2007; 02:07 PM ET | Comments (11)

Just Browsing, Thanks

Okay, prepare to go full-metal geek: We're going to talk about Internet browsers. Amsterdam's, a research firm that tracks Web use, has tossed out a study on Internet browser usage around the world, ranking them by popularity in some individual nations. Most people, I bet, don't even think about...

By Frank Ahrens | January 23, 2007; 11:52 AM ET | Comments (25)

HDTVs and the Super Bowl

This is what you get for playing a game of chicken with that HDTV you've been eyeing: You lose. An analyst report says that if you were banking on big pre-Super Bowl sales on HDTVs at big-box retailers such as Best Buy and Circuit City -- like they've had in...

By Frank Ahrens | January 22, 2007; 12:38 PM ET | Comments (9)

"Newsweekly:" Contradictory Term?

Today's news is about the massive layoffs at Time Inc.'s big magazines, Time, People, Sports Illustrated and other marquee nameplates. "The layoffs are about the restructuring of our editorial staffs as we move quickly into a future of flexible, multiplatform content creation," John Huey, Time Inc.'s editor in chief, e-mailed...

By Frank Ahrens | January 19, 2007; 11:56 AM ET | Comments (9)

Bloggin', Bloggin', Bloggin, Keep Those Papers Bloggin'

Here's some rare good news for the newspaper industry: People are reading newspaper blogs. A report out today from Nielsen/NetRatings, which monitors online use, shows that traffic to blogs at the 10 busiest online papers more than tripled in December 2006 compared to December 2005, from 1.2 million unique users...

By Frank Ahrens | January 17, 2007; 12:04 PM ET | Comments (0)

It's Tech Tuesday In The Post

A plethora of tech stories for you to read in Today's Business section: * Check out Ellen Nakashima's Day In Our Digital Lives story and multimedia package, which tracks the life of one Kitty Bernard and the digital eyes that track her through her day. Also, Ellen has a discussion...

By Frank Ahrens | January 16, 2007; 12:19 PM ET | Comments (0)

Fox Responds To Broadcast of Profanity

Today I got an e-mail from Fox spokesman Lou D'Ermilio said that the network did broadcast the "f-word" profanity printed on the t-shirt of a fan during Saturday's NFC playoff game between the Philadelpia Eagles and New Orleans Saints. D'Ermilio also said the scene was not live -- it was...

By Frank Ahrens | January 14, 2007; 03:28 PM ET | Comments (36)

Fox Airs Profanity During Eagles-Saints Game

It's Saturday night and I'm watching the NFC playoff game between the New Orleans Saints and the Philadelphia Eagles. At the 8:37 mark in the first quarter, New Orleans defenders broke up a pass intended for a Philly wide receiver. After the replay, the Fox cameras cut to the stands,...

By Frank Ahrens | January 13, 2007; 08:36 PM ET | Comments (0)

Star Trek XI: The Search for Box Office

So, William Shatner confirmed the rumors swirling around the next "Star Trek" movie, to be directed by "Lost" creator J.J. Abrams and due out next year: The next film installment of the venerated franchise will focus on the early years of Capt. James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, set before...

By Frank Ahrens | January 12, 2007; 03:41 PM ET | Comments (0)

Howard $tern's Big Payday

The King of All Media can book another $83 million to his net worth. Howard Stern's employer, Sirius Satellite Radio, announced today that it has rewarded its star shock jock with 22 million shares of company stock for bringing listeners with him from FM radio when he moved to satellite...

By Frank Ahrens | January 9, 2007; 01:45 PM ET | Comments (6)

Why Can't I...? (Episode No. 317)

UPDATED: See below. Last year, my beloved West Virginia University Mountaineers shocked the college football world with a Sugar Bowl victory over the University of Georgia. Of course, I TiVo'd the game. The game was broadcast on Disney's ABC and, shortly after its conclusion, a 15-minute version of the game...

By Frank Ahrens | January 4, 2007; 06:20 PM ET | Comments (1)

Merry Christmas From Channel 4, Sort Of

My Christmas present from Washington's NBC affiliate (WRC-4) was an HD signal. Channel 4 has been broadcasting its over-the-air signal in high-definition for some time now, but I -- and others around the Washington area -- could not receive it. Until today, apparently. At my house in Northeast D.C., I...

By Frank Ahrens | December 25, 2006; 05:42 PM ET | Comments (0)

Happy Holidays: Have a Database

One of the goals of this blog, Post I.T., is to create more than a collection of quick hits on tech, gadgets and media, which often evaporate almost as soon as you read them, like digital cotton candy. To be a real User's Guide to the 21st Century, we need...

By Frank Ahrens | December 24, 2006; 01:32 PM ET | Comments (0)

Name Your Present!

What do you want for the holidays? Sure, we all want peace on Earth and goodwill to our fellow meat-puppets, that's a given. We're good people. We like that kind of stuff. What thing do you want? What gadget or service are you spoiling for, and why? And here's another...

By Frank Ahrens | December 21, 2006; 01:29 PM ET | Comments (0)

Killer Technology

I have been reading "The Devil In the White City," a non-fiction account of the 1893 Chicago world's fair and the bizarro serial killer who set up shop only a few blocks away from the massive exposition, nicknamed the White City. One thing that struck me about the book by...

By Frank Ahrens | December 20, 2006; 11:38 AM ET | Comments (0)

How's This Whole NBC 2.0 Thing Working Out?

Today, NBC Universal crowed about a "ground breaking year" in interactive television. The entertainment company, whose NBC television network is still searching for consistent ratings success, launched what it called NBC 2.0 earlier this fall, involving deep cuts in personnel and budget to pay for the move into the digital...

By Frank Ahrens | December 19, 2006; 11:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

California (Tech) Dreamin'

It's good to be back. I was out in Southern California last week working on a story that will probably appear later this week. Aside from the obvious delights of SoCal (basically, it's paradise -- sunny and 79 every day I was there), I've noticed that the market is an...

By Frank Ahrens | December 18, 2006; 12:59 PM ET | Comments (0)

Morgan Freeman's Movie Biz Lands Big Fish

Today, ClickStar -- the movie-download business started by Morgan Freeman and his partner, Lori McCreary and that I wrote about recently -- announced it has landed three big Hollywood studios. This is a crucial early get for the fledgling company. ClickStar's main early competitor in this space -- buying movies...

By Frank Ahrens | December 11, 2006; 01:41 PM ET | Comments (2)

Being a Smart Gadgeteer

My buddy Gene Weingarten told me over the weekend that his daughter, Molly, wants an iPod. He, raging technophile that he is, asked me what kind he should buy her. "Will she use it to watch video?" I asked. "You can watch video on it?" he responded, amazed. Sigh. Part...

By Frank Ahrens | December 11, 2006; 12:14 PM ET | Comments (4)

XM - Sirius Merger?

UPDATED: See below. Today, Chris Kirkham writes about merger buzz between the two satellite radio companies, New York's Sirius and Washington's XM. Note that the buzz is coming largely from one side: Sirius. It started a year ago when Sirius lured Mel Karmazin away from Viacom to handle Howard Stern....

By Frank Ahrens | December 8, 2006; 12:09 PM ET | Comments (5)

Music Industry Wants to Cut Artist Royalties

UPDATED: See below. So, let's get this straight: My buddy Brooks Boliek at the Hollywood Reporter writes that the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) -- the music industry's lobby and cop, responsible for suing music pirates, including the occasional 12-year-old -- now wants the federal government to slash how...

By Frank Ahrens | December 7, 2006; 11:22 AM ET | Comments (6)

Arrr! Movie Pirates Busted

Yesterday, the Motion Picture Industry of America (MPAA) -- the trade group and lobbying arm of the major Hollywood studios -- announced the arrest of two L.A. 20-something cousins accused of stealing movies and uploading them to the Internet. The movies in question are "screeners." Screeners are DVD copies of...

By Frank Ahrens | December 6, 2006; 04:10 PM ET | Comments (7)

MySpace vs. Creeps

Today, MySpace announced that it is building a new technology designed to block convicted sex offenders from joining the popular social-network site. MySpace boasts more than 100 million profiles. Many of those are minors. As such, sites such as MySpace and Facebook have been hunting grounds for sexual predators. This...

By Frank Ahrens | December 5, 2006; 11:21 AM ET | Comments (0)

Deck Chairs On The Titanic

Today, the Wall Street Journal unveiled a bold, new design for its paper that looks, well, quite a lot like the current Wall Street Journal. Oh, purists will notice that the "A-head" feature -- the usually quirky story in the middle of the front page underneath the line that looks...

By Frank Ahrens | December 4, 2006; 04:13 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Future Of Newspapering?

Today, I wrote about the eye-opening and eye-popping things the Fort Myers News-Press is doing to fight the newspaper industry's ongoing trend of declining circulation and ad revenue. At Fort Myers, it's all about the Web and hyper-local coverage. It's all about the go, go, go! Get fresh stuff up...

By Frank Ahrens | December 4, 2006; 02:21 PM ET | Comments (0)

CBS Nukes Ambitious 'Jericho' Digital Plan

CBS's Wednesday night show, "Jericho," new this fall, is about life in small town after a nuclear attack. Last spring, when CBS was shopping the story to advertisers, the network's head of advertising, Jo Ann Ross, said "Jericho" would have something CBS was calling a "D storyline." The idea was...

By Frank Ahrens | December 4, 2006; 12:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Cyber Monday? Yeah, Right

Okay, given that Cyber Monday is a bogus day, just like Black Friday (not really the year's biggest in-store shopping day), Nielsen/NetRatings, which tracks Web traffic, reports on what people were buying online last Monday. Even if Cyber Monday is not the biggest online shopping day, merely a flimsy promotion...

By Frank Ahrens | December 1, 2006; 12:11 PM ET | Comments (0)

Viewers to Late-Night News: Later

Today in Style, John Maynard reports that all three local TV stations showed precipitous drops in viewership for their 11 p.m. newscasts, compared to last year. At least one station manager repeated the typical excuse: Bad "lead-in," or lightly watched shows in the 10 p.m. to 11 p.m. slot. Yeah,...

By Frank Ahrens | November 30, 2006; 10:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

Wireless Mobile Live TV

You can watch episodes of TV shows online as soon as the closing credits roll. Or on your iPod. With a Slingbox , you can watch your recorded TV anywhere there's Internet access, on your laptop or handheld device. If you have the right mobile device, Slingbox lets you watch...

By Frank Ahrens | November 29, 2006; 05:16 PM ET | Comments (0)

Movie Downloads: Would You Do It?

Today, I wrote about Morgan Freeman, of all people, starting a movie-download business called ClickStar . The idea is: Pay to download a movie off the Web, like you would a song, and watch it on your computer or, if you have the right hookup, on your TV. With the...

By Frank Ahrens | November 29, 2006; 11:49 AM ET | Comments (0)

Tough Times At The New York Times

Bad news for the New York Times Co. stock this morning. Citigroup investment research group has downgraded Times Co. stock from "hold" to "sell." After the report's release this morning, Times Co. stock (NYT) opened down. UPDATE: As of 2:20 p.m., Times Co. stock was down nearly 3 percent on...

By Frank Ahrens | November 28, 2006; 11:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

Gadget Overload

How many gadgets is too many? The television commercial for the new Samsung BlackJack smartphone got me thinking about this question. The BlackJack looks like a BlackBerry but skinnier. The commercial is a slick one, and it shows a pair of hands digitally shuffling a half-dozen small electronic devices --...

By Frank Ahrens | November 27, 2006; 11:03 AM ET | Comments (9)

Kramer Helps Seinfeld DVD Marketing. Not.

Today, Sony -- which owns the digital distribution rights to "Seinfeld" -- launched a MySpace page to promote the show's Season 7 DVDs, on sale now. In addition to the usual bells and whistles, the page lets you paste some memorable "Seinfeld" video onto your MySpace page. One more example...

By Frank Ahrens | November 24, 2006; 11:10 AM ET | Comments (3)

Hollywood Chiefs Take on New Role: Lobbyists

Today, the Motion Picture Association of America -- the trade group and lobbying arm of the major Hollywood studios -- will announce an all-star summit of studio heads set for Feb. 6 at the Smithsonian in Washington, D.C. The aim is to get the studios' issues -- chiefly, piracy, both...

By Frank Ahrens | November 20, 2006; 01:00 PM ET | Comments (2)

Web Watch, R.I.P.

If you wondered why Web Watch was missing from Sunday's paper, and even if you weren't, we've decided to end it. Web Watch's history describes the recent history of the Web. It was created to serve as a TV guide for the Internet -- to tell you what's on, what...

By Frank Ahrens | November 20, 2006; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (2)

Universal Music Sues MySpace

Universal Music Group -- the world's largest music company, with acts ranging from Eminem to Elvis Costello -- is suing MySpace, the world's largest social networking site. The issue: Copyright infringement. Universal claims that MySpace users are posting copyrighted songs and videos by Universal artists, who are not getting paid...

By Frank Ahrens | November 17, 2006; 05:33 PM ET | Comments (20)

Listeners Send Clear Channel Clear Signals

Today, I wrote about the radical overhaul at radio giant Clear Channel, which just sold itself to some private-equity firms but, more to the point, is also selling off more than one-third of its stations. After the sale, it will still be the radio industry's biggest player, but it will...

By Frank Ahrens | November 17, 2006; 11:18 AM ET | Comments (0)


A great and vigorous discussion here yesterday on Microsoft's Zune vs. Apple's iPod. Right now, I'm crashing on the big buyout of Clear Channel, but later -- hopefully today -- I'm going to go through all the comments (more than 160 so far) and commit a little journalism on them....

By Frank Ahrens | November 16, 2006; 01:21 PM ET | Comments (2)

Who's Zuning? Are You Zuning?

So, Microsoft's iPod-killer, the Zune mp3 player, went on sale yesterday. Apple's iPod has 75 percent of the mp3 market; Microsoft is trying to make a dent in it. Some recent research shows that 30 million of about 110 million U.S. households own at least one iPod. That's penetration. Microsoft...

By Frank Ahrens | November 15, 2006; 01:00 PM ET | Comments (204)

The Return of Rocketboom Girl

Video blogger Amanda Congdon , who rose to Internet fame with her daily video blog (vlog) on Rocketboom, is taking her act to, owned by Disney. Former Rocketboom star Amanda Congdon is headed to (AP Photo) The quirky-cute Congdon, whose irreverant vlog captured tons of viewers, left Rocketboom...

By Frank Ahrens | November 14, 2006; 01:30 PM ET | Comments (2)

Online Gambling Craps Out, At Least For Now

Not surprisingly, online gambling took a big hit last month, following the passage of a new law that prohibits financial institutions from letting gamblers place or settle debts using checks, credit cards or other forms of e-currency. According to Nielsen/NetRatings, which tracks Web use, traffic to the top 10 Internet...

By Frank Ahrens | November 14, 2006; 11:19 AM ET | Comments (0)

No, We Don't Take Cash

Have you seen the new Visa check card commercial that shows lunchtime in the fast-moving deli? If you haven't, take a look at it here. A clockwork-operation comes to a crashing halt when some schlub pays for his lunch with actual cash -- horrors! -- instead of a Visa check...

By Frank Ahrens | November 13, 2006; 12:34 PM ET | Comments (0)

Women and Tech Shopping: Shocker!

Can this be true? Big-box retailer Best Buy -- which makes a lot of its scratch selling electronics -- has discovered that women spend more than men on electronics. Citing research from the Consumer Electronics Association, Best Buy says women outspend men by about a 60/40 ratio when it comes...

By Frank Ahrens | November 10, 2006; 11:26 AM ET | Comments (0)

20th Century Fox Movies Next To iTunes?

I just got around to listening to the third-quarter earnings call from Rupert Murdoch's News Corp that came out on Wednesday. What can I say? I've spent the whole week chronicling the demise of my industry. I'm backlogged on my earnings Webcasts. At any rate, NewsCorp president Peter Chernin dropped...

By Frank Ahrens | November 10, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Field Guide To Digital TV

Soon, thanks to the federal government, you will have to buy a digital television if you want to watch TV. (See the detailed explanation of this in the Comments section below.) Congress has mandated a switchover from analog TV -- which is what TVs have been since their invention --...

By Frank Ahrens | November 9, 2006; 04:15 PM ET | Comments (0)

Rummy On Technology. Sort Of.

This blog has a philosophy much like that of the outgoing Defense secretary. As he once said : There are known knowns... There are known unknowns... But there are also unknown unknowns. Genius. What it means is, there's plenty of stuff we don't know we don't know. Some of that...

By Frank Ahrens | November 9, 2006; 10:54 AM ET | Comments (0)

Now You Know the Rest Of the Song

Television advertisers love catchy tunes. They used to make up their own jingles, like the Chicken of the Sea tuna tune. Now, they like to license pop songs to look hipper. Mostly, companies just focus on the hook of a song or its feel (happy, contemplative, in-the-mood-to-buy-a-Hummer, that sort of...

By Frank Ahrens | November 8, 2006; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Internal L.A. Times e-mail About Baquet's Firing

This e-mail was passed along to me by an L.A. Times source yesterday after editor Dean Baquet announced in the newsroom that he was fired for refusing to make more staff cuts that parent company Tribune Co. demanded. It came from managing editor Leo Wolinsky and it enumerates a number...

By Frank Ahrens | November 7, 2006; 11:11 PM ET | Comments (0)

Election Technology: Maddeningly 20th Century

Today being election day, I am forced to wonder: Why cannot the United States come up with a voting system that's more reliable, easy-to-use and verifiable than the Iraqi blue-ink-on-the-finger method? An Iraqi woman displays her ink-stained finger indicating she voted. (Majid Saeedi - Getty Images) Here's yet another story...

By Frank Ahrens | November 7, 2006; 11:02 AM ET | Comments (0)

Lunchtime Briefing: XM Finally Achieving Orbit?

XM Satellite Radio may be on the brink of its long-promised goal of not hemorrhaging ghastly amounts of cash every quarter. Satellite radio is an expensive business -- hey, you're launching satellites into space. Sometimes they blow up or otherwise fail and you have to launch a new one. It's...

By Frank Ahrens | November 6, 2006; 12:28 PM ET | Comments (3)

CBS's New Digital Dealmaker

Today, CBS will announce the hiring of Silicon Valley dealmaker Quincy Smith to its L.A. digital headquarters, hoping that he's the guy who will find and buy the next YouTube before it's as big as YouTube, as CBS president Leslie Moonves has said. Quincy Smith is CBS's new digital dealmaker....

By Frank Ahrens | November 6, 2006; 12:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

Lunchtime Briefing: Why the Tribune Sale Affects You

Tribune Co., one of the nation's oldest and largest newspaper companies is up for sale. Why should you care? Unless you're a sports-style fan of business -- who's up, who's down, which deal is happening, who's the big player -- you have little reason to care. Switch the name "Tribune"...

By Frank Ahrens | November 3, 2006; 10:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

Tech Anxiety Stalks Dreamscape

Remember that classic anxiety dream? You're in high school and you oversleep for the SAT. You run to the testing site and burst in with five minutes left, but your future is already ruined. Maybe you still have that dream, or a version of it: First day of class and...

By Frank Ahrens | November 2, 2006; 11:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

Lunchtime Briefing: Media (Heart) Borat

If it were not for the media, it's hard to imagine you would have ever heard of Borat. A quick backgrounder for those of you unfamiliar with Borat, whose movie opens on Friday: He is a character created by Brit television comic Sacha Cohen, who gained fame in England via...

By Frank Ahrens | November 1, 2006; 12:12 PM ET | Comments (6)

Lunchtime Briefing: Halloween Edition

Boo! Today is Halloween, so let's talk about some scary stuff. As we survey the media/tech/culture landscape, let's take a look at who is (or should be) having the wits scared out of them: -- Microsoft: Rolls out its iPod-killer, the Zune, next month. That's a lot of eggs in...

By Frank Ahrens | October 31, 2006; 10:54 AM ET | Comments (0)

Readers to Papers: Drop Dead

As it has done since 1987, newspaper circulation continued to slide, according to fresh data out today. The most recent numbers from the Audit Bureau of Circulations--the Nielsens of newspapering -- paint a grim picture at most of the nation's largest newspapers. Overall, average national newspaper daily circulation was down...

By Frank Ahrens | October 30, 2006; 06:54 PM ET | Comments (43)

Lunchtime Briefing: Howard Stern In Your Bentley

Sirius satellite radio announced this morning that, starting with 2007 models, car-buyers who purchase select models of the world's most expensive luxury auto will be able to get Sirius and its biggest star, Howard Stern. The Bentley is for the Got Bucks among us for whom Rolls Royce says "down-market,"...

By Frank Ahrens | October 30, 2006; 11:50 AM ET | Comments (14)

Lunchtime Briefing: Sony Baloney

I've been meaning to do a What's Wrong With Sony? piece for some time. Props to the New York Times for sorta beating me to it today, taking a look at the company pegged to the Great Flaming Battery Recall. I have a bigger question, though, on Sony, and I'd...

By Frank Ahrens | October 27, 2006; 11:34 AM ET | Comments (20)

Lunchtime Briefing: Q & A with NBC Chief Jeff Zucker

Last week, NBC Universal announced some sweeping staff and budget cuts, saying it needed to reduce costs as it headed into the digital age. This morning, I talked to NBCU topper Jeff Zucker, who's headed the network's prime-time schedule since 2000 and has since brought news, sports and cable under...

By Frank Ahrens | October 26, 2006; 10:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

Lunchtime Briefing: Ads In Espanol

Today, my Post colleague and bud Paul Farhi writes about the flack Chevy is taking for its "Our Country" Silverado ads, which feature historical footage of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, the New York memorial of the 9/11 attacks and so forth. (Here's a YouTube parody of the...

By Frank Ahrens | October 25, 2006; 10:04 AM ET | Comments (1)

Housekeeping: Search for I.T., Sony Batteries and Screen Magnifiers

A few items: -- You can now punch " Post I.T. " into the search box atop the main home page and you'll be directed right to the blog. Assuming, of course, you haven't already bookmarked us. Also, you can type any of our names into Google, and the...

By Frank Ahrens | October 24, 2006; 02:14 PM ET | Comments (7)

Maybe They Should Call It

That's what I get for setting my expectations too high. No big bombshells from Wal-Mart in its morning Webcast announcement. The big news, from the company's perspective, is that it has redesigned its Web site. Wal-Mart said it heard from customers who said they wanted a cleaner, easier-to-use site that...

By Frank Ahrens | October 24, 2006; 12:56 PM ET | Comments (9)

Lunchtime Briefing: What's Up Wal-Mart's Sleeve?, the online component of the ubiquitous big-box store, has scheduled a live Webcast today at 11:30 a.m. EDT. The press release reads: " to Change the Way Millions of Customers Shop the Online Store of the World's Largest Retailer." I'll be listening in and trying to ask a couple...

By Frank Ahrens | October 24, 2006; 09:58 AM ET | Comments (0)

Great Tech Movies

I saw "The Prestige" last night, which my colleague and Post reviewer Ann Hornaday called this year's best magic-at-the-turn-of-the-century movie. Surprisingly, given the esoteric nature of the film, moviegoers agree. "The Prestige" (which refers to the third act of a magician's routine) won last weekend's box office. It's also the...

By Frank Ahrens | October 23, 2006; 04:11 PM ET | Comments (0)

Lunchtime Briefing: Howard Stern Online

Earlier this year, self-proclaimed King Of All Media Howard Stern left over-the-air radio for Sirius satellite radio, becoming the first mega-star to abandon Old Media for New Media. Now, he's taking his act global by going online: Keep the kids away from the PC! Sirius is offering a free, two-day...

By Frank Ahrens | October 23, 2006; 10:04 AM ET | Comments (0)

What's Hebrew For 'Oops?'

This one was too tasty to let pass unnoticed over the weekend. Consider it a little Friday afternoon gift from your buds here at the Ugi. So, you may have heard that Microsoft plans to roll out an iPod-killer Nov. 14. Apple's iPod has about 75 percent of the digital-music...

By Frank Ahrens | October 20, 2006; 05:06 PM ET | Comments (0)

Lunchtime Briefing: Plucking the Peacock

After I filed my story last night, I kept thinking about NBC Universal's big news yesterday. The company, which is owned by General Electric and includes the NBC TV network, Universal Studios, cable channels such as Sci-Fi and some theme parks, announced a $750 million budget cut and said it...

By Frank Ahrens | October 20, 2006; 11:01 AM ET | Comments (0)

Lunchtime Briefing: Apple's Hipster Strategy colleague and security genius Brian Krebs writes about the worm nesting inside some of Apple's new iPods. Also, Yuki Noguchi and Mike Musgrove take a look at Apple's and eBay's earnings that came out yesterday. As you might imagine, Apple's earnings are strong, thanks to continued strong sales of...

By Frank Ahrens | October 19, 2006; 12:15 PM ET | Comments (15)

I.T. Begins Now

Used to be, technology and culture wouldn't be seen with each other. Consider a big broadcast television network, like CBS. For years, it was a pretty low-tech, low-brow operation -- over-the-air signal to your TV. Ed Sullivan and game shows. Culture was opera; it looked down on the "idiot box."...

By Editors | October 19, 2006; 05:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Blogger Profile: Frank Ahrens

Frank Ahrens came to media and technology at an early age during his childhood in West Virginia (state flower: the satellite dish). He snuck into The Washington Post in 1992 and spent four years as an editor in the Sports section, followed by five years as a feature writer in...

By Editors | October 18, 2006; 12:42 PM ET | Comments (0)


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