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    The Black Rider

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    Tuesday, June 23, 2009

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    ThisMoment.com is the newest social networking debutante

    Vince Broady insists his new site, Thismoment.com, isn't just another way for you to share videos and pictures with friends, and find out about their likes and dislikes.

    The site, which debuts today after six months in a private beta, is a place to create "moments," similar to what you might do on Facebook or Twitter, but also making use of the various media all over the Net.

    "I got really frustrated using the other services," says Broady, a former CNET and Yahoo executive. "One is oriented towards photos, another toward video. One is all about status updates, another is about friending. There hasn't been a service yet that lets you break out of the format, to share what's most important to you, and incorporate stuff from the Net to help tell your story."

    Broady raised $3.5 million to start the venture, with assistance from former CNET chief Shelby Bonnie, former MTV digital exec Mika Salmi and current MySpace exec Jason Hirshhorn.   Making it pay off will be a challenge, however.  The social networking market is notoriously crowded, and many sites are not profitable.

    At thismoment.com, you put video, pictures and web content (from Flickr, YouTube, Picassa Web Albums, the New York Times and Time Inc.) into a "moment," telling a story of, say, a recent vacation, night out at the movies, graduation or other event.

    "It's not a photo album, it's not a blog post, it's a moment," says Broady. "It gets to the essence of the human experience, which is emotion."

    Broady says he started the site because he found himself "wasting" so much time constantly updating his status, and uploading pictures to sites, "and having nothing to show for it. It was all going into a digital shoebox, no one was looking at them, and I knew I could create something richer and more meaningful than what Facebook and Twitter were doing."

    Broady has several personal "moments," on display. including one about taking his kids to see the old Mel Gibson film Mad Max, complete with YouTube clips from the film, Flickr photos of the movie theater and commentary about the Broady's  meal. 

    The amount of time to create these multimedia blog posts could be quite time-consuming, but Broady is convinced folks will put in the effort.  "They're doing it now," he says. "They put in the time everyday."

    He hopes to make money via advertising, and by selling promo content that can be used for moments. At launch, he's got stuff from the New York Times, Time and Road and Track magazine. The content will be free for the first 90 days.

    By Jefferson Graham

    Photo: Thismoment.com

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    Phanfare gives up on social networking

    Andrew Erlichson thought fans of his premium photo sharing site Phanfare would embrace social networking features like instant updates to friends whenever new pictures were posted, or news feeds about their pictures

    .

    Instead, his base of over 11,000 paying customers voted a resounding "no."

    They wanted their old Phanfare back.

    So Thursday, Phanfare goes "back to our roots," as pure photo sharing, says Erlichson. Phanfare users will once again be able to showcase their work with personalized URLs (such as http://jeff.phanfare.com) to share albums, with optional passwords instead of pesky registrations and notifications.

    The social networking features are still there -- if wanted -- "but we don't expect for them to be used much," nor will they promoted, says Erlichson.

    Phanfare competes with Smugmug for folks who want their photos presented online sans ads, in a more pleasing layout than at sites that exist just to sell prints.

    Mighty Smugmug -- which serves consumers and pro photographers as a place to also sell prints -- has over 100,000 paying customers. Phanfare has a little more than 11,000 subscribers, mostly folks with their first digital SLR who who are photo enthusiasts.

    So in a bid to increase market share, Phanfare began last year offering a free service, with storage of up to 1 gigabyte of photos -- hoping users would love the service so much they would sign up for the upgrade.

    It didn¹t happen.

    So now Phanfare is lowering its prices, to $49.99 yearly from $54.99 and heavily touting its acclaimed free iPhone app.  It lets you tap into your entire Phanfare photo library on your phone, even if offline (such as when you're on an airplane).

    Erlichson says he added social networking features before Facebook really took off, and that in the interim, he's learned that social networking is a "natural monopoly. You want to join a network where all your friends are, so the biggest one continues to get bigger."  Phanfare fans can still share their pictures instantly to Facebook and Twitter, he says, so there was no need to have social features on Phanfare.

    By Jefferson Graham

    Photo: Phanfare's new home page.

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    Napster creator tears down walls for social gaming

    A decade ago, Shawn Fanning gained fame and turned an industry upside down with his music-sharing service, Napster. His latest project aims to remake the video game world, connecting players not only with content but also with one another.

    Long before he began work on Napster, Fanning, now 28, was a gamer. And he was frustrated that he could not maintain contact with players outside of games like World of Warcraft. "You meet new people and friends and lose touch with them," Fanning says. "All these game platforms are walled gardens, and so you often only know someone you play with under their game alias."

    So Fanning began work on a network he called Rupture to connect players across various game systems, individual online PC games such as Warcraft and even some casual Web games, "breaking down those barriers," he says. "Once you are a part of Rupture, you can track your friends and what your friends are playing, and find new games."

    Electronic Arts acquired Rupture last year; Fanning remains general manager. "Shawn brought an entirely fresh, new way of thinking to our social gaming initiative," says EA CEO John Riccitiello. "It's exciting to see how his next venture, Rupture, applies his disruptive thinking to social gaming."

    Currently in public testing, Rupture collects game identities and tracks your career. Once a player creates a Rupture account, profiles can be expanded upon with in-depth information harvested, for instance, from across PC, console, and Web gaming platforms. And Electronic Arts plans to supply information from its games, which range from sports to casual, on all platforms.

    Game publishers could integrate Rupture to provide real-time updates. A Rupture desktop application meant to run while you are playing PC games lists friends' statuses (online or not).

    Rupture's website provides social networking features such as friends and followers, plus recent games and challenges issued by other gamers (such as "Survive in Zombie mode co-op to level 20" in Call of Duty: World at War). "You get all the stuff your friends are posting, plus all of (their) achievements, high scores, new weapons or items," Fanning says.

    Testing focuses on what data to publish automatically in the "feed" and what to leave for further searching. "You want to be able to digest that stuff really easily at a high level," he says. "Then, if you are interested in drilling down on a certain game or person, you have that ability."

    These challenges pale in comparison with those Fanning faced in the past. Napster kicked off the peer-to-peer music-swapping craze and spurred a landmark copyright infringement decision before shutting down in 2001. A subscription Napster service eventually went into bankruptcy; this year, Best Buy relaunched the fee-based service.

    Looking back, Fanning says, he was "completely blown away by the amount of interest and controversy. I wouldn't say I regret anything. It's easy in hindsight to look back at how such a complex situation unfolded and how you might have been able to make better decisions, but all in all, it was a great experience."

    He says that in the music industry, "it is really hard to do anything innovative. (You're) dealing with a lot of people who aren't jumping at the prospect of their business model changing." But the gaming world, he says, is "a hybrid of technology and media, and their success depends on them incorporating and evolving new technology. You find people are far more open-minded."

    Reuters - Springsteen, Ticketmaster battle escalates

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    Springsteen, Ticketmaster battle escalates

    Monday, Jun 22, 2009 10:32PM UTC

    By Ray Waddell

    NASHVILLE (Billboard) - Bruce Springsteen's manager has come out swinging against the Newark Star Ledger and Ticketmaster Chairman Barry Diller following a news report that the rocker's organization kept many of the best tickets to a recent show out of the public's hands.

    The Ledger reported last week that about 2,300 total tickets for a May 21 performance at the Izod Center in East Rutherford, N.J., were held back for "friends of the band, the record label and the New Jersey Sports and Exhibition Authority, which operates the venue."

    Diller was quoted in the New York Post as saying Springsteen "has been one of our most vocal critics on our ticketing policies and while he's more than entitled to his opinion, it seems minimally fair-minded to point out that in the concert that created the battle, where Ticketmaster apologized for making a technical mistake, it seems that Mr. Springsteen held back from his fans all but 108 of the 1,126 tickets closest to the stage," Diller said.

    The entire fracas dates back to February 6 Springsteen on-sale chaos for the Izod show, where the Springsteen camp claimed Ticketmaster directed fans to its in-house secondary site TicketsNow in a "bait-and-switch" maneuver.

    In his response, posted Monday on Springsteen's Web site, Landau says Springsteen's holds "had nothing to do at all with the breakdown of Ticketmaster's system. When fans were redirected to TicketsNow, "an undetermined but large amount of money flowed into TicketsNow (and eventually Ticketmaster) even though there were still tickets at normal prices yet to be made available on Ticketmaster. We perceived this to have been a major abuse of our fans, complained about it mightily, and added that because of behavior like this, the pending merger of the number one ticketing company and number one management company (both owned by Ticketmaster) with the number one venue owner and operator (Live Nation) might not be such a hot idea."

    Landau says a public apology from Ticketmaster CEO Irving Azoff "which apology we promptly and graciously posted on our site" substantiates the Springsteen camp's position when coupled with the volume of complaints received by New Jersey Attorney General Anne Milgram, whom "ultimately secured a consent degree from Ticketmaster, in which they promised that some of their practices ("glitches") with regard to its sister company TicketsNow will never be repeated."

    Landau calls the Ledger piece "the same article that the Star Ledger runs whenever we do a few indoor shows in New Jersey" and Diller's spin as "flatly untrue. He is merely using the time honored tradition of blowing smoke to distract attention away from Ticketmaster's already acknowledged responsibility for their "glitches" on February 6, the on-sale date of the two Izod Center shows."

    Regarding holds by Thrill Hill, Springsteen's touring division, "Perhaps the first thing to be said is that when we play New Jersey, our fans know that we are usually going to do more than two indoor shows in order to ensure, among other things, that during the course of a tour, Springsteen tickets will be plentiful so as many fans as possible will have a chance to get great seats (hence the five upcoming shows at Giants Stadium.) As our fans also know, we have kept all of our tickets under $100 and do all that we can to ensure that as many as possible are sold at face value."

    Landau admits to "significant holds" in New Jersey, as well as New York and Los Angeles" (which indeed is a common industry practice for major tours), saying the holds are for band members and their families, the Springsteen organization, the label, reviewers, radio stations, and charities.

    Then he offers the following charge: "Unlike some Ticketmaster managed artists, no tickets are held for high dollar resale on TicketsNow, or through any other means."

    Springsteen's ticketing practices have "evolved over more than 30 years of experience. Does anyone seriously imagine that any element of these practices caused Ticketmaster to redirect ticket requests to TicketsNow for the Izod Center shows? What would our incentive have been? It's not we who earned vastly larger sums when fans paid way over the face value of the tickets. It was Ticketmaster/TicketsNow."

    Landau admits such public airing of Springsteen's business is uncharacteristic of the organization. "But we do get upset when we see fans being taken advantage of, as they were on February 6," he says. "So, when that stuff stops happening (and the Ticketmaster/TicketsNow problems surrounding our recent show in Washington D.C. shows that these issues are far from resolved) we will stop complaining. And when the facts cease to be misrepresented, we will stop explaining."

    (Editing by Dean Gooodman at Reuters)

    Reuters - AT&T in deals with Motorola and Alcatel-Lucent

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    AT&T in deals with Motorola and Alcatel-Lucent

    Tuesday, Jun 23, 2009 2:37PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - AT&T Inc <T.N> said it extended a network equipment supply agreement with Alcatel-Lucent <ALUA.PA> and would soon start selling a cellphone from Motorola Inc <MOT.N>.

    AT&T, the second-biggest U.S. provider of mobile phone services, said on Tuesday it would start selling Motorola's Karma phone on June 28 for $79.99. The device, which has a miniature computer keyboard, is aimed at consumers looking to use their phones to send text messages or access social networks like Facebook.

    The device is based on a proprietary operating system from Motorola, which is struggling to regain share in the cellphone market after years of criticism of its phone line-up.

    AT&T also said it extended an agreement for Alcatel-Lucent to supply equipment used for AT&T's U-verse television and high-speed Internet service, which is being expanded around the country.

    Motorola shares were up 18 cents or 3 percent, at $6.21 in morning trade on New York Stock Exchange, where AT&T was up 12 cents at $24.27. Alcatel-Lucent U.S. shares were down a penny at $2.46.

    (Reporting by Sinead Carew; editing by John Wallace)

    Reuters - Sarah Jessica Parker has twins via surrogate

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    Sarah Jessica Parker has twins via surrogate

    Tuesday, Jun 23, 2009 8:17PM UTC

    NEW YORK (Reuters) - "Sex and the City" actress Sarah Jessica Parker and her actor husband Matthew Broderick had twin daughters via a surrogate mother, the couple's publicists said on Tuesday.

    Parker, 44, and Broderick, 47, who already have a six-year-old son said their daughters -- named Marion Loretta Elwell and Tabitha Hodge -- were born on Monday in Ohio.

    "The babies are doing beautifully and the entire family is over the moon," the couple said in a statement.

    Parker is expected to begin shooting a sequel later this year to the movie version of the TV series "Sex and the City" along with Cynthia Nixon, Kim Cattrall and Kristin Davis.

    Broderick, star of the Broadway musical and movie "The Producers," and Parker married in 1997.

    (Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Alan Elsner)

    CNN - Ed McMahon dies at 86

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    Ed McMahon dies at 86


    Ed McMahon, the longtime pitchman and Johnny Carson sidekick whose "Heeeeeeerre's Johnny!" became a part of the vernacular, has died.

    McMahon passed away peacefully shortly after midnight at the Ronald Reagan/UCLA Medical Center, his publicist, Howard Bragman, said Tuesday

    McMahon, 86, was hospitalized in February with pneumonia and other medical problems.

    He had suffered a number of health problems in recent years, including a neck injury caused by a 2007 fall. In 2002, he sued various insurance companies and contractors over mold in his house and later collected a $7 million settlement.

    Though he later hosted a variety of shows -- including "Star Search" and "TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes," McMahon's biggest fame came alongside Carson on "The Tonight Show," which Carson hosted from 1962 to 1992. The two met not long after Carson began hosting the game show "Who Do You Trust?" in 1957. iReport.com: Share your memories of Ed McMahon

    "Johnny didn't look as if he was dying to see me," McMahon, who was hosting a show on a Philadelphia TV station, told People magazine in 1980 about the pair's first meeting. "He was standing with his back to the door, staring at a couple of workmen putting letters on a theater marquee. I walked over and stood beside him. Finally the two guys finished, and Johnny asked, 'What have you been doing?' I told him. He said, 'Good to meet you, Ed,' shook my hand, and I was out of the office. The whole meeting was about as exciting as watching a traffic light change."

    Though McMahon was surprised to be offered the job as Carson's sidekick, the two soon proved to have a strong chemistry. Carson was, by nature, introverted and dry-witted; McMahon was the boisterous and outgoing second banana, content to give Carson straight lines or laugh uproariously at his jokes (a characteristic much-parodied by comedians).

    Carson made cracks about McMahon's weight, his drinking and the men's trouble with divorce. McMahon was married three times; Carson, who died in 2005, had four wives.

    McMahon was also the show's designated pitchman, a talent he honed to perfection during "Tonight's" 30-year run with Carson, even if sometimes the in-show commercial spots fell flat.

    For one of the show's regular sponsors, Alpo dog food, McMahon usually extolled the virtues of the product while a dog eagerly gobbled down a bowl. But one day the show's regular dog wasn't available, and the substitute pooch wasn't very hungry.

    McMahon recalled the incident in his 1998 memoir, "For Laughing Out Loud."

    "Then I saw Johnny come into my little commercial area. He got down on his hands and knees and came over to me. ... I started to pet Johnny. Nice boss, I was thinking as I pet him on the head, nice boss. By this point the audience was hysterical. ... I just kept going. I was going to get my commercial done.

    'The next time you're looking at the canned dog food ...' -- he rubbed his cheek against my leg -- ... reach for the can that contains real beef.' Johnny got up on his knees and started begging for more. I started petting him again ... and then he licked my hand."

    McMahon also promoted Budweiser, American Family Insurance and -- during the most recent Super Bowl -- Cash4Gold.com. Entertainment Weekly named him No. 1 on its list of TV's greatest sidekicks.

    Edward Leo Peter McMahon Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan, on March 6, 1923. His father was a promoter, and McMahon remembered moving a lot during his childhood.

    "I changed towns more often than a pickpocket," McMahon told People.

    He later joined the Marines and served in World War II and Korea.

    Though McMahon was well-rewarded by NBC -- the 1980 People article listed his salary between $600,000 and $1 million -- his divorces and some poor investments took their toll. In June 2008, The Wall Street Journal reported that McMahon was $644,000 in arrears on a $4.8 million loan for a home in Beverly Hills, California, and his lender had filed a notice of default.

    McMahon and his wife, Pamela, told CNN's Larry King that McMahon had gotten caught in a spate of financial problems.

    "If you spend more money than you make, you know what happens. And it can happen. You know, a couple of divorces thrown in, a few things like that," said McMahon, who added that he hadn't worked much since the neck injury.

    McMahon later struck a deal that allowed him to stay in the house.

    He is survived by his wife, Pamela, and five children. A sixth child, McMahon's son Michael, died in 1995.

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    If you know me then you know my name. I am The Black Rider and the world is my Flame. The rider writes, observes, creates, produces, and learns the world around him. Ride on. Ride on!

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