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Contact: Shelley Taylor, French cell: + 33 66 477 1861; email email@example.com
London, 24 March 2005… New research on the current practices in digital distribution and downloading will be published today by Shelley Taylor & Associates. Click-Here Commerce: Digital Downloading, an international study of the success factors in digital downloading services, finds that radio, film, tv, artist, and record label sites have not learned from the experience of their more mature ecommerce cousins.
Part 1 of the study, released in January, identified a disturbing new consumer disease: Digital Deficit Disorder. Symptoms of the disease, often contracted by users who try to download music online, are caused by poorly designed digital download sites. Part 2 of the research, released today, found that this musical maladie has mutated and has begun to infect other categories of digital downloaders – those trying to access content from radio, film, tv, artist and record label sites. The only known antidote can be provided by the very sites responsible for the disease and to do so they must borrow from the best. This research concludes that digital download sites must pirate the practices that work for traditional retailers and successful ecommerce companies such as Amazon, not from sites like iTunes which still have a lot to learn.
Click-Here Commerce: Digital Downloading Part 2 evaluates most of the big names in digital downloading, a total of 58 sites, and includes sites such as: Radio (10), live365, BBC Radio, Yahoo LAUNCHcast; P2P (6), Kazaa, eMule and Limewire; Artist & Record Labels (9) Prince, Robbie Williams, Universal, and EMI; Television (7), ABC (US), BBC, Canal +, CNN; and Film (5) Cinema Now, Movie Link and Fnac Video Downloads. Sites were analyzed according to more than 1000 proprietary evaluation criteria. Part 1 of Click-Here Commerce: Digital Downloading was published in January 2005 and included an evaluation of music Download Stores (15 ) and Media Player/Jukeboxes (6), from Europe and the US. It created a media furor by attacking format enslavement of digital downloaders by digital music stores.
“We had to really look hard to find sites worth analyzing, so it was a tremendous disappointment that the best and the brightest in the entertainment industry have yet to create a compelling experience for web site users, in spite of all of the hype,” according to Shelley Taylor, the publisher of Click-Here Commerce: Digital Downloading. “If music sites are only in their infancy compared to more mature cousins like Amazon, then film and television sites are at best embryonic. But worse still are the artist and record label sites that fail to offer even a fraction of the artist information and editorial content available in music download stores, and they are the source of that very content,” continues Taylor.
The Best (… and the Worst of the Best)
The sample of services represents an industry which is in its earliest stage of development so “best” can always be much, much better. But this is not a beauty contest. Our sample selection process was designed to evaluate sites worth learning from, not sites showing us specifically what to avoid, so it is difficult for us to present “worst offenders.” In other words, our sample was drawn from better than average sites. Clear winners do emerge (those with best practices in the industry) when we evaluate each site against its peers. Our ranking was done according to quantitative (over 1000 metrics) and qualitative measures and included system requirements, site navigation, the Home page, pre-sale assistance, the shopping path on commerce sites, as well as all of the medium-specific interface.
· Live365 Radio is the best radio site, and the overall best site in our sample (for having created the best user experience within a single category). Live365 is the little engine that could as it upstages most bigger, better, and brighter competitors.
· Warp Records is the best, yet probably least well known in our sample of record label sites.
· Prince, the original leader of the slave uprising in the music industry, has the best artist site.
· LCI (French) and BBC tie for 1st place in the television category, although LCI is our personal favorite as it offers free clips and subscription based continuous streaming of the channel.
· Movielink wins out over Cinema Now in our film category for having the most developed digital commerce features, although Cinema Now offers multiple business models (pay-per-view, pay-to-own/download and on demand).
· MTV, who should know better, has the worst radio site, failing to offer users access to the rich content found in the main site or to integrate the radio experience into the entire music experience (e.g. radio listeners cannot buy directly from the Now Playing indicator of the song but have to do so via another shopping path).
· The worst record label site is Warner Bros and the worst TV site is Fox.com – two of the biggest names in the entertainment industry have failed to profit from their position.
· CNN is the worst in the TV news category (although it does offer some best practices, such as being compatible with QuickTime Player for Macs).
Small is Beautiful
It appears that financial might and creative content are not the primary success factors in the creation of the best digital download sites. Live365, Warp Records and Bleep (Warp’s download music store) prove otherwise. They have tiny budgets compared to those of MTV, Warner Bros or Fox and yet they have delivered some of the best experiences in their respective categories. Digital download services need to learn what many dot.com companies found in the late 1990s, to their great disappointement – that the best user experiences are built on a foundation of understanding customer needs.
The State of Play
The best of television, film, artist and label sites are not generally as good as the worst of the download music stores. And the entire category has lots to learn from traditional retailers and more mature ecommerce companies. Radio has adapted itself to the internet very well, but TV channels have not; they look more like printed newspapers than a true broadband experience. Television services should seek to emulate the functionality and user interface of radio sites. TV doesn’t yet offer pay-to-own or pay-per-view; viewers cannot simply purchase or view an episode of their favorite sitcom or news program, the equivalent of burning a song or album in a music site.
We didn’t find any film sites that are international like iTunes. Film services should try to mirror the experiences in music download stores since it is purchased and appreciated in discrete units much like music. None of these sites provide extended information about artists and their work (actors and directors) and yet www.imdb.com (Internet Movie Database) has existed for many years and serves as a great model for this type of feature.
· While Fnac is the only major digital download service that provides full feature film downloads (digital quality costs about 8 euros and DVD quality is around 13 euros), they still offer no pay per view option, a more practical option for people who don’t want to own the film but just watch it. And their format handcuffs are even worse then those found in most music download sites – users can only download to one computer, as compared to the average of 5 computers in music stores.
Shelley Taylor & Associates is a management consulting and business publishing firm with offices in the United States and the United Kingdom.
The research was conducted in January 2005. The full study, which includes a service-by-service analysis and specific examples of best and worst practices, is available for purchase by phone from the London office (+44 (0)20 7243 3428), or US office (+1 650 473 6514) or by email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The Executive Summary will be available to staff reporters upon request. Interviews with Shelley Taylor can be scheduled by calling her French mobile
(+ 33 66 477 1861).