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Watching Michael Jackson's Memorial Service with CNN Live

Earlier today, I wrote about how Facebook Connect is being used by CNN during their televised and online broadcasts of the Michael Jackson memorial service. CNN Live's online coverage has officially kicked off and so to has the Facebook Connect integration / chat widget. Not as well done or interactive as the Youtube / Green Eyed World implementation (namely because CNN isn't filtering the Facebook discussion!). Also worth noting: if you watch the broadcast, they mention Facebook every few minutes and encourage people to interact via the CNN Live / Facebook integration. It is clearly a focus.

Here is a screenshot:

cnn-live-facebook

Facebook Connect, Michael Jackson's Memorial and CNN Live

Today's elaborate memorial for Michael Jackson at the Staples Center is expected to be viewed by one-billion people across the world. One major component of that viewing will be Facebook - both via Facebook.com and through Facebook Connect.

In starting a short series on this blog about ways that Facebook Connect is changing digital media and online marketing - we get a powerful glimpse of how Facebook and Facebook Connect are transforming media viewing. CNN's coverage of the Michael Jackson memorial is a prime example:

cnn-live-michael-jackson CNN has been promoting the event for days and throughout the morning. Facebook is a core element of their television and internet coverage.... and it makes total sense:

- CNN Live allows users to RSVP to the Michael Jackson Memorial, which is then shared through the Facebook feed. This allows CNN and fans to tap into the power of Facebook's graph and the resonance of Michael Jackson's name (the MJ fan page is now the largest Facebook Page with nearly seven millions fans)

- During the memorial, the conversation about the event and CNN's coverage allow are more targeted (across my Facebook social graph) and flows in two directions (to and from Facebook)... this is a more relevant, engaging experience for users and great viral marketing for CNN

- Finally, if you believe that conversation is the core underlying of how and where the social web is moving (and I firmly believe this), Facebook Connect can be the enabling force... changing CNN from a one-directional news broadcast to a multi-directional conversation relevant to the people, media and content surrounding it.

Michael Jackson Drives Perez Hilton to Record 2m Uniques in Day

Michael Jackson's death was remarkable in several ways - one of which was what it signified for news delivery and discovery. Like millions of others, I first found out through Facebook, Twitter, text messages... all of which led me to TMZ and Perez Hilton. The first major news source to break Jackson's death was the LA Times - and it is important to note that it was done first through their blog and not the homepage. Of course, that was discovered and then shared instantly via Twitter.

Hitwise today notes that TMZ experienced record traffic - catapulting into the 60th most trafficked website (and struggling to support the overwhelming growth).

But you can also look at Perez Hilton to give perspective on the traffic growth. PerezHilton.com is measured by Quantacst and we can therefore get a public, accurate representation of his traffic. Two million uniques visited PerezHilton.com on June 26th - a huge leap from the previous high of 1.6m. Those 2m visitors delivered 15.3m total page views for the day - which was his third biggest total but short of the April 22nd record of 17.7m.

perez-hilton To put this in perspective, we can compare it to Huffington Post's traffic for June 26th (also measured by Quantcast). Measured by uniques, HuffingtonPost is a far larger site: 19.5m monthly uniques vs. 13.1m. By pagviews, PerezHilton is far larger: ~300m monthly views vs. ~220m. But Perez dominated by any measurement and, regardless of the 'winner', these are huge numbers for nontraditional media sources and proof that 'breaking' news is being delivered - and read! - in nontraditional places.

PerezHilton.com: 15.3m pageviews and 2m uniques HuffingtonPost.com: 9m pageviews and 1.7m uniques

perez-hilton-huffington-post

Implications of Fast Rising, Falling Gas Prices

A month ago, it cost close to $100 to fill up my 20 gallon SUV. This weekend, it just under $40.00 (the same amount it cost back in 2003). Measured in either time or price - it's a stunning decline / change. A month ago, television commercials, marketing campaigns and sales were tailored around saving money on gas (a great Netflix example is here). Now, those promotions are based on savings and financing. Also a drastic, immediate change.

Falling Gas Prices

There is a great WSJ article describing the implications of the rising / falling gas prices: Americans Drive Less, Creating a Problem - Less Consumption Means Lower Gas Prices, Will We Go From 'Shock to Trance' Again?

When gasoline prices shot over $4 a gallon this summer, Americans didn't wait for Washington to respond with an energy policy. They took action on their own by driving less and switching to more fuel-efficient cars. The results are dramatic, but also problematic.

The good news is that gasoline consumption has fallen compared with a year earlier in every month from March through September of this year, according to data from the Energy Information Administration. Vehicle miles traveled -- the wonky term for how much we drive -- have dropped for 11 straight months, and fell 4.4% in September, according to the Department of Transportation....

In short, many Americans, by choice or by default, did what the people who worry about the climate and U.S. dependence on petroleum wanted them to do. They burned about 5% less gasoline in August than a year ago, according to Energy Information Administration data.

By jamming the brakes on driving, rediscovering mass transit and walking past Hummers to buy compact cars like the Honda Fit, American consumers caused big trouble for powerful interests. The question now is how will those interests respond?

The iPhone 3G is Game-Changing; Game-Ending for Google Android, Blackberry?

I'm likely not stating anything revolutionary here, but it is worth noting that what Jobs and Apple have built with the iPhone 3G is revolutionary. I traded my Blackberry in for the iPhone two days ago now (reactions are here) and the phone itself isn't the revolutionary aspect - it's the platform. I continue to be blown away by the Application platform and store that Apple released. The quality of content and innovation being put out by developers is remarkable (and we've just scratched the surface) - and both the developers and Apple's iPhone SDK / Dev Center are to thank for that. The available libraries are rich and developers are putting them to use effectively and rapidly.

And Apple's ability to leverage iTunes as a distribution lever for the App Store is immensely powerful. How can Google Android and Blackberry compete? Assume that their platform is equally robust and useful... there is a significant first mover advantage here and neither has the distribution platform that iTunes has. Will developers with already-hot iPhone apps choose to build on a new platform / library, or will they find ways to take advantage of their iPhone success with new versions and apps? And, considering their business focus, Blackberry will struggle with consumer applications... which happen to account for a large percentage of iPhone's current top paid and free apps. Meanwhile, it is yet to be seen what time of user Android will appeal to... and I don't expect that developers will dedicate resources without first understanding Android's size and type of userbase.

On a different note, I am not convinced consumers fully appreciate what Apple and the developers have put together... just two weeks after launch. Let's use the New York Times application as an example. It's a glossy, good-looking front-door to the New York Times that dynamically updates itself and allows readers to access news by category, popularity, photos, etc. And on the 3G network - it makes reading a (fast) joy.

It's the #1 'news' application and the 21st most popular free application. Oh yeah - it's 100% free. It has 239 reviews. The average rating is 2.5 stars.

Wait a second... The New York Times is giving away their newspaper in a gorgeous, routinely-updated application that sits on your phone's 'desktop' and is 100% free? And it can be downloaded over the AT&T network in a matter of seconds? And people are rating this a 2.5? Sure - the app can be improved and there are tweaks that should (and will) be made... but think about what was available two weeks ago. To read the NYT, you had to buy the paper, check your email or visit www.newyorktimes.com. Remarkable stuff is going on and the levels of innovation are eye-opening.

Trying to Keep the Microsoft, News Corp, AOL, Yahoo Gossip Straight

Nearly a week into the three-week Microsoft ultimatum, there are a sudden flurry of developments and rumors... enough activity that (I imagine) something significant will happen shortly:

- Microsoft gave Yahoo a three-week notice - Yahoo announces today that they will test ads with Google - Microsoft responds to the announcement with force and threat - Meanwhile, Yahoo is negotiating with AOL to merge... discussions are apparently quite far along - ... Enough so that Microsoft and News Corp might be joining forces to improve their Yahoo bid

AOL + Yahoo sounds like a mess.

I already like Microsoft + Yahoo - and adding MySpace (and News Corp's content properties / relationships) makes it even more attractive and powerful.

My Verizon Envy is Gone - AT&T Unveils $99.99 Unlimited Voice Plan!

When Verizon released their plans for a $99 all-you-can-talk plan, I instantly wrote that it was tempting enough to lure me away from AT&T. I concluded that I'd wait a little to see AT&T's reaction... and here it is: unlimited voice for $99.99.

I assume that it will be a lengthy, confusing call to AT&T customer service to get them to switch my account over - but the threat of leaving for Verizon should we powerful enough... right?

$99.99 unlimited voice + $20/$30/$40 data package $20 = unlimited data and 200 texts $30 = unlimited data and 1500 texts $40 = unlimited data and unlimited texts

SAN ANTONIO, Feb. 19, 2008 -- AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) announced today new unlimited voice plans targeted to wireless users who want the predictability of flat rate pricing for unlimited minutes. The plans will be available to new and existing wireless subscribers for $99.99 a month for unlimited U.S. calling on all devices with no domestic roaming or long distance charges. The plans can be combined with any current wireless data plan to give customers the ultimate in wireless freedom.

The new plans, available Feb. 22, can be ordered at one of AT&T's 2,200 company-owned retail stores and kiosks, at www.att.com, or at one of the thousands of authorized AT&T retail locations. Existing customers can choose unlimited calling without extending their contract. New customers have the option of a month-to-month, 12 or 24 month contract.

As with other voice calling plans, AT&T customers can choose from a variety of MEdia Net and messaging plans to meet their needs. For example, customers with standard wireless phones* can choose a data plan such as $5 for 200 text, picture, video and instant messages or $35 for unlimited messaging and MEdia Net access.

"We are pleased to offer our customers these great new plans that deliver value and simplified pricing," said Ralph de la Vega, president & CEO, AT&T Mobility. "This is a highly competitive market and we're committed to moving fast to meet customer needs."

AT&T customers benefit from the nation's largest digital voice and data network, with 3G broadband available in more than 260 major metropolitan markets. The company recently announced plans to expand its 3G network to 350 markets, including all of the top 100.

For the complete array of AT&T offerings, visit www.att.com

More reading: USAToday, Valleywag, BoyGenius