Archive for June, 2010

Looks like another jurisdiction is stepping up its efforts to communicate directly with citizens. That’s not a big surprise for anyone who has followed current events in the last 10 years or so, and certainly not for us at Interactive Defense, LLC. State and local law-enforcement agencies have implemented Amber Alerts, Reverse 911, and other systems with growing frequency. Many states have used “Silver Alerts” for a year or more when senior citizens or people with dementia go missing. Maryland State Police are introducing the latest alert system, “Blue Alert,” to warn police and citizens that a suspected cop killer is at large.

Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts use existing mass-media channels for communication, while several systems are based on new technology or software. The new system in Maryland will operate similarly to Amber Alerts and Silver Alerts, police spokesman Craig Shipley told me. It isn’t clear whether broadcasters will interrupt regular programming, like they do for Amber Alerts, or whether police will hope that news outlets will report on the alerts, as they do with Silver Alerts.

Maryland was already in the process of implementing the “Blue” system when a state trooper was shot in early June. In response to the shooting, the state’s governor ordered the rollout to be sped up.

It’s sad that a horrible tragedy has to occur before people take action. Amber Alerts are named for Amber Hagerman, a 9-year-old who was kidnapped and murdered near Dallas, Texas, in 1996. Most states now issue Amber Alerts for children believed to have been kidnapped, and each state develops its own criteria for putting one out, based on factors like the reliability of the information on the disappearance.

The upside is that most of these systems take a pro-active approach, with alerts being issued while a suspect is still at large. The one that F3 Technologies has co-developed is particularly pro-active in that it includes both an alert system and other social-netorking tools that can help police and citizens identify problem areas before an actual crime is committed. Our software, Interactive Defense System, features two-way alerts: Local residents — not just law-enforcement officers — can put out alerts, both to other residents and to police, and via e-mail and text-messages. Interactive Defense, LLC, our partnership with Noble Heroes Inc., expects to sign its first big client in the next few days.

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News from the road

Posted: June 24, 2010 by f3technologies in F3 Technologies, FargoTube

An update from our sales team’s three-day trip to Nashville late last week: They met with several country-music producers, representatives from record labels, a video-production company, and a couple of people from a country-music television channel (there are several such channels, so your first guess may not be correct). On Wednesday, we sat down with two gals from a public-relations firm who will probably be able to open a lot more doors for us. 

Best of all, FargoTube appears to have generated some buzz: “People are starting to already know who we are before we meet them,” our business-development manager, Stephanie Miller, told me on Monday. It may have a lot to do with the affiliate agreement that we signed a couple of weeks ago with Strange Celebrity Entertainment, LLC and its business-savvy president, Kendall Bard.

Our activities in the world of country music started with a single personal connection we had in Nashville. But it’s shaping up to be a very promising market for us, and we like to think that the momentum we’re building there will allow us to crack markets even without previously existing connections.

A nice little coup for FargoTube earlier this week. We got it linked from http://www.sagindie.org/directory/national-124-distribution-companies.html and listed in SAGIndie’s directory of distribution companies for independent filmmakers.

You’re probably aware that the Screen Actors Guild is the primary professional resource and labor union for actors, directors, key grips, and all the other talent in the U.S. film industry. The guild launched SAG Indie in 1997 as an additional resource for the growing number of filmmakers and television producers outside the major studios or, as SAG puts it, a “gentle and loving union between the hard working thespians of the world and the passionate filmmaking mavericks who buck the system.”

While FargoTube is a powerful tool for any sort of video content, it’s especially important for moviemakers who don’t have access to the vast distribution networks that large integrated studios have. Independents have to put in tremendous efforts to reach viewers, including aggressive networking within the industry, and submitting their works to film festivals from Tribeca to Telluride to Toronto. Big events often lead to distribution arrangements, but mainly for the relative handful of films that are screened there.

FargoTube is an entirely different way of doing business: It allows filmmakers to promote and sell their work at the same time instead of treating one as a step to the other. It puts the artists in direct contact with viewers.

FargoTube delivers videos in “tubes” – social networks set up and customized by filmmakers and other content owners. Fans can create profiles with pictures of themselves, e-mail other fans and set up their own networks of friends within each tube.

The service is free for filmmakers, who collect a significant portion of revenue from their films on FargoTube. A tube owner can set up a preview period or trailer for a video before the viewer is prompted to purchase the entire video or sign up for a subscription.

Tubes allow multiple revenue streams. One creator might charge for each viewing, while independent studios with multiple short films or webisodes might choose to allow access on a subscription basis. Owners can also allow advertising as an additional revenue source. They can announce upcoming releases and screenings in upcoming film festivals.

In short, FargoTube is a versatile tool that can either supplant or magnify existing distribution channels and marketing tools. We’re confident that independent filmmakers will start using it in significant numbers once they see what it can do for them.

A recent IBISWorld research report on the music publishing industry included plenty of reasons to be optimistic about FargoTube and other online entertainment services. IBISWorld expects overall revenue growth in music industries to accelerate to an average annual rate of 3.4 percent between now and 2015, with the strongest growth concentrated in music publishing. The rap on traditional media companies such as newspapers and recording studios is that the internet is killing them off, but IBIS says that’s not entirely true. Artists and entertainment companies that embrace new business models are likely to grow substantially, IBIS says. Musicians who can popularize themselves through concerts, digital downloads and online social networks can go on to reap big profits. IBIS predicted that licensing fees associated with advertisements will be one of several revenue streams that grows for musicians. 

Musicians and independent record labels represent only one of several markets that FargoTube will begin to target in the next few days, but its other markets are somewhat similar. The internet has put the film industry in a predicament similar to that of the music industry, albeit a less severe one.

In any case, the numerous musicians and indie labels who have exploited online channels for their music are starting to exploit FargoTube in the same way for their video content. And as the internet plays a role in the growth of more musicians, we believe more of them will turn to FargoTube.

More contacts in the country-music industry

Posted: June 19, 2010 by f3technologies in F3 Technologies, FargoTube

F3’s sales team is up in Nashville again today, this time to meet with a whole series of potential new partners for our FargoTube online-video service. COO Paul Campbell and Stephanie Miller are meeting this afternoon with a representative from a video-production company and a rep from a record label and production company that has some well known musicians in both country music and in other genres.

They’re also drumming up new business and getting ideas at the Summer 2010 NAMM conference this weekend. NAMM is the International Music Products Association; the acronym comes from its former name, the National Association of Music Merchants. For us, it’s hundreds of potential partners in the same room at the same time, so I don’t know whether Paul and Stephanie will have much time to listen to the live music. Nevertheless, they were able to drop in to Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge last night to hear Jacob Bryant, whose manager signed on as a FargoTube partner last week, and someone even managed to catch them on camera at some point…

The lefthand pic is Jacob with emerging country singer Hali Hicks and the center is Jacob performing solo. At right, Paul and Stephanie are with singer/songwriter Coles Whalen (left) and Kendall Bard of Strange Celebrity Entertainment, LLC. Hey, Paul! Stephanie! Maybe the F3 corporate blogger should be included in these trips!

The evolution of a revolution

Posted: June 17, 2010 by f3technologies in F3 Technologies, FargoTube

As we wrap up our customer pilot phase and prepare to launch FargoTube into the broader market next week, we thought it would be a good time to tell you how we’re incorporating the feedback we received these past few weeks.

We’ve expanded FargoTube’s upload capacity and its compatibility with a broader variety of operating systems, internet browsers and mobile devices. We’ve made FargoTube more versatile for users with especially fast and especially slow internet connections. And we’re expanding our partners’ ability to monetize audio files and still images through FargoTube.

As you may know by now, FargoTube is a revolutionary online service that delivers video and other media in a social-networking setting. Content owners can sell some videos while offering others free of charge, sell t-shirts and other fan paraphernalia, promote concerts and film releases, get fans’ feedback, and allow fans to share their enthusiasm with one another.

The feedback that we’ve gotten over the last few weeks is vital because FargoTube will be a primary means of communication between content owners (musicians, film production companies, etc.) and their fans. We want to make sure that our partners can deliver their video content seamlessly with the rest of their online presence, including their branding, their websites, and their use of third-party social-networking websites. We’re adding up to 10 new themes that content owners can incorporate into their tubes (by “themes,” I mean patterns and color schemes such as the tartan in the image below). Tubes can also be customized with a growing range of layouts.

The most significant improvement may be FargoTube’s improved compatibility with mobile devices. Starting this week, our uploader converts video files into .mp4 format, which is compatible with the video players in Apple’s iPhones and the new iPads. The Flash format that we’re dropping wasn’t compatible with the html5 technology on iPads.

We’ve recently improved FargoTube’s compatibility with Linux and Macintosh operating systems to match its high performance on Windows. We’ve also made it more compatible with Mozilla’s Firefox internet browser, Apple’s Safari browser, and Google Chrome. One minor glitch that we eliminated was the tendency of some browsers to render certain fonts awkwardly large.

We’re in partnership discussions with an art school that wants to use FargoTube as a way for students to submit assignments for review by instructors. As a result, we’re allowing videos, music and still images (including photos and graphic arts) to be bundled and sent over the same tube.

FargoTube can now handle files as large as a gigabyte, and up to 10 at a time. That means New Line Cinema, the studio behind the Lord of the Rings trilogy, could easily upload all three films if it wanted to stay in touch with fans of the movies via FargoTube. And it would be able to add seven outtakes or pieces of behind-the-scenes footage at the same time.

But we believe FargoTube’s greatest advantage is its ability to put independent studios and artists on the same playing field with the giants. FargoTube’s first significant partners, the country music label Strange Records and its four musicians, are pursuing an online-first strategy with their music and fan paraphernalia. “It’s pretty rare that you can go to Wal-Mart or Target and get placed,” Strange Celebrity Entertainment, LLC, President Kendall Bard told me yesterday.

We also increased FargoTube’s “time out” period, allowing partners with slower internet connections to upload large files.

We’d love for you to check out the new features for yourself at http://www.FargoTube.com.  The standard features are all available there, and we will continue working with partners to customize their “tubes” with the features they need.

The best listening tour ever

Posted: June 14, 2010 by f3technologies in F3 Technologies, FargoTube

F3’s management team had a great trip to Nashville last week, where it was demonstrating FargoTube, and getting musicians’ feedback about it. The Country Music Television Awards were Wednesday night – bringing along with it the 2010 CMA Fan Fair – and we got to stomp along indie singer/songwriters, including several with the Strange Celebrity independent label. 

Here’s our director of business development, Stephanie Miller (right), with Strange Celebrity President Kendall Bard (left) and musician Sherrie Austin (center). Stephanie’s in charge of forging new relationships with musicians, labels and other content owners. FargoTube is free for them: They upload their music and videos to our website and then split the fees that fans pay for views and downloads. 

FargoTube went live with a customer pilot in late May and we are working closely with various record labels and artists to upload their video content. We plan to ramp up our marketing efforts for FargoTube in a few weeks when we begin making contact with viewers, who will pay for video views, subscriptions, and downloads. 

Here’s a nice pic of Stephanie with Bridgette Tatum, who likes her cowboys dirty: Check out Bridgette’s website. It’s got a lot of her music and a featured video. Most of it is free, which is great for her fans. But we would also to see talented musicians like her to profit more directly. Ultimately, we think that will be good for fans, too, because it will support musicians and other creative types so they can put more of their music and videos in the hands of their fans.