illustration of the number five, representing the five subscription business topics for this column, Five-on-Friday

Five on Friday: Purchases, Podcasts and Permanent Shut Downs

Featuring Locast, YouTube, Microsoft, Twitter and Zoom

This week’s edition of Five on Friday features purchases, podcasts and permanent shut downs. Our first story focuses on streaming service Locast. A judge has ordered the permanent shut down of the service because of copyright violations. Next, YouTube tries podcasting (wait, what?), Microsoft will be available as a one-time purchase, and Twitter’s new Super Follows feature isn’t the big hit it hoped for, at least not yet. And finally, at this year’s Zoomtopia, the video conferencing company reveals exciting new features and innovations coming to a Zoom screen near you soon.

Judge Orders Locast to Permanently Shut Down

If you are wondering what happened to the Locast streaming service, you won’t see it again anytime soon. This streaming service, which allowed users to watch transmitted television programs over the internet, was ordered to be permanently shut down. This order comes two weeks after the lawsuit against Locast was decided. The battle from the lawsuit dates back to 2019, according to MediaPost.

In 2019, major broadcasters sued Locast for copyright infringement by transmitting programs without licenses. The streaming service was founded by the nonprofit Sports Fans Coalition NY, and it started as a simple operation. Locast would capture over-the-air broadcast signals from 13 different stations and  projected those signals to users in the New York City area. After their success in the New York metropolitan region, they were able to expand to other markets and captured feeds from more than 30 different markets.

Broadcasters involved in the lawsuit alleged that the company received a half million-dollar donation from AT&T, and the founder of Locast was a former Dish Network executive.  On the topic of donations, the service was marketed as a free service from a not-for-profit company. However, Locast solicited donations starting at $5 per month from its users. Users that didn’t donate were asked every fifteen minutes to make a donation, similar to watching an ad-supported streaming service. Yes, you can get it for free or a discounted rate, but you will be frequently interrupted.

One of the Locast’s main arguments was that, since the service was free, it was protected by a provision in the Copyright Act that allowed nonprofits to boost antenna signals. However, that provision only applied if Locast didn’t charge for its service. An acceptable workaround would be if Locast only charged fees that were necessary to cover their own costs.

At the company’s end, the service was almost entirely funded by its users and their donations. Locast allegedly took in $4.5 million in revenue in 2020 with more than $4 million of that coming from its users. Operating expenses for the streaming service were just $2.4 million last year, meaning they made a pretty penny just from donations. Judging by their message shown below, Locast did not agree with the decision to shut down by the complied. The term “suspension,” however, makes us wonder if they intend to fight the court ruling.

Screenshot from Locast website as of September 23, 2021.

YouTube Dips its Toes Into…Podcasting?

Podcasts and YouTube are different ways creators can earn money and monetize their earnings for their unique, creative contributions, mainly audio and video. YouTubers that have podcasts have expanded their reach by uploading video versions of their longform content onto the platform. By doing this, they are able to get two streams of revenue from one means of uploading. However, the video sharing platform has started to trend differently. They recently launched their own podcast.

In a September 15 press release, the company’s Chief Business Officer debuted the company’s first official podcast. The longform content will be called “The Upload: The Rise of the Creator Economy.” The media giant has paired with National Public Media to create NPM’s first custom podcast.

The podcast will be hosted by Brittany Luse, an award-winning journalist and podcast host. The series intends to introduce creators with different channel sizes, who are building dynamic and thriving businesses. The first episode will feature YouTube giant, turned late night host, Lilly Singh. Episodes teased in YouTube’s press release include pivoting a business during a pandemic, creating a job that works for you, and turning your passion into a profit.

Part of the goal with this podcast is to give people looking to become a creator a little more insight into the business, and helping them figure out what they need to know before they get started. YouTube is also hoping that it will provide some ideas for what different mega-creators have learned, as well as different things they have done in order to achieve internet fame, says Social Media Today.

The podcast will be released every Wednesday, starting September 22. This helps YouTube to further diversify their content, especially after their music platform hit 77 million subscribers. From the creator side, YouTube is adding value by helping serious creators learn from those who have been successful monetizing their content. The Upload is available wherever you get your podcasts.

YouTube is dipping its toe into podcasting with The Upload: The Rise of the Creator Economy.
Image credit: YouTube

Microsoft Now Available As a One-Time Purchase

It’s finally time for new version of Microsoft Office, and Microsoft is going old school. Microsoft Office users who don’t want to subscribe and pay a monthly subscription fee will be able to buy the latest edition of the software through a one-time purchase. We talked about Microsoft’s preview of their new version of Windows earlier this year, and it’s finally here! Office 2021 is available in two formats. Office LTSC (Long Term Servicing Channel) is generally available now, Microsoft said in a blog post last Thursday.

This version of Windows was previewed earlier this year, and a lot of consumers were excited. Microsoft came out with this version for specific scenarios: devices that cannot accept feature updates, specialty systems that couldn’t connect to the internet, and more. This creates a locked-in-time version of productivity tools like Word, Excel and PowerPoint. This edition of Office will not feature cloud-based capabilities that Microsoft 365 apps have, but it will offer performance improvements as well as expanded accessibility.

Those who are not ready to switch to the cloud but have access to the internet can also access online versions of Word, PowerPoint and Excel for free with limited capability. For full capability, a user would have to switch to a perpetual version of Office or a subscription to Windows 365.

Office 2021 will arrive for personal use on October 5, the same day Windows 11 will begin rolling out. Both versions of Office will be supported on Windows and OS operating systems, and will ship with the OneNote app. Office will also be supported in 32-bit and 64-bit options. Windows will support this software for five years and does not plan to change the price at the time of release.

The popularity of the Windows operating system continues to grow, and Microsoft recognizes that a one-size-fits-all-solution might work for the tech giant but not its users. After all, not all consumers are able, or even want, to switch over to something that is on the cloud. At the end of their second quarter in FY21, Microsoft reported an increase of 2.2 million subscribers from the last quarter. This new edition is not likely to reduce subscribers, but it could attract new users who have been holding off on Office upgrades.

“When we look to the future of work, it’s clear it will be built on and powered by the cloud. Microsoft is leading innovations that enable our customers to empower their people to work more collaboratively, effectively, and securely. As we move into a world where hybrid work is the new norm, the cloud provides unlimited potential for teams to connect and create immersive experiences that build connection and progress. Investing in these types of cloud-based solutions will continue to be our priority,” said Jared Spataro, Corporate Vice President for Microsoft 365.

“We also know some customers aren’t ready to move to the cloud. We remain committed to supporting our customers and these scenarios. Earlier this year, we previewed Microsoft Office Long Term Servicing Channel (LTSC) for Windows and macOS. Today, we’re announcing the general availability of this next perpetual version of Office for commercial and government customers,” Spataro added.

Microsoft Office LTSC is now generally available. Image courtesy of Microsoft.

Is Twitter Super Follows a Dud?

The numbers are in for Twitter’s new Super Follows subscription program, and they’re not looking promising. The revenue for the first two weeks is sitting at $6,000 in the US, and $600 in Canada, TechCrunch reports.

For those that haven’t been following Twitter’s road to subscription success, it all started with Twitter Blue. Twitter Blue was a subscription service that debuted in June of this year, in select markets. With Twitter Blue, users in Australia and Canada could bookmark folders to organize tweets, preview and revise tweets before they went live, use reader mode for long threads, and more. News about Twitter Blue has been pretty quiet since its initial launch, but the social media platform has different plans for users in the US.

Earlier this month, we discussed the launch Super Follows. This allows creators to be able to monetize their content at set increments for subscribers per month. A creator can make premium access to their content available for $2.99, $4.99 or $9.99 a month, depending on the scale they set. In the growing world of the creator economy, the search for different ways to be able to monetize their content is growing. A Super Follow can give a viewer access to subscriber-only content, previews and behind-the-scenes insight a standard consumer might not be able to get otherwise.

However, growth of Super Follows seems to have fallen short. Despite Twitter’s small cut of subscription fees at 3%, they still aren’t getting the momentum they thought they might be. They initially planned to debut Super Follows in February, but decided on a September launch instead. There are currently fewer than 100 creators who have access to Super Follows, which could explain the lack of revenue. To be fair, they are in a beta test mode, so these numbers are likely to pick up. The real question is whether this is a monetization tool and content platform Twitter influencers really want and that Twitter users are willing to pay for.

Image courtesy of Twitter

Zoomtopia Garners Excitement via Possible Projects

Zoom kicked off Zoomtopia 2021 on September 13, allowing them to reveal plans for innovations to come to the video communication platform. With the modern-day workplace becoming more of a hybrid experience since the pandemic began, innovation and communication are more critical than ever.

With strong competitors like Microsoft Teams and Slack, Zoom knew they had to do something great. During Zoomtopia, participants could join breakout sessions like creating custom Zoom meetings, cultivating company culture, preparing for classrooms, and more.

Innovations that were unveiled included Zoom Video Engagement Center, Zoom Whiteboard, as well as live transcription and translation. Zoom Video Engagement Center, or VEC, allows to connect experts with customers on video to create experiences where both parties are able to build trust, share their experience and expertise, and do so in an immersive virtual environment.

Zoom Whiteboard helps those working remotely create something on a digital canvas, much like Microsoft Teams has. This will allow for interactive collaboration, creating something similar to what is capable in an in-person meeting.

Live transcription and translation will help those that have had accessibility concerns over a quarantined period thrive. This allows the telecommunication platform to become more inclusive and connect people by breaking barriers and borders. While the platform already has live transcription, an increased effort is a bonus. This will help to bridge multiple communication gaps.

On the coattails of their privacy class action lawsuit this year, Zoom is also hoping to beef up security. They want to bring customers the means to provide and manage their own encryption keys and are hoping to beta test a Bring Your Own Key program this year. They are also hoping to extend their End-to-end encryption to Zoom Phone. These are exciting changes that will make hybrid and work from home environments more productive and maybe even more fun!

Image courtesy of Zoom

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