2007 Digital Media Winners

By Richard Menta 12/24/07

Who are the winners in the digital media space this year? Here are the top 10.

1. Apple
In a year that brought the iPhone and the iPod touch, even lackluster sales of Apple TV can't keep Apple out of the number one spot.

2. µTorrent
Last year Azureus and the BitTorrent client represented the BitTorrent technology on the winners list. In a single year µTorrent - a client that takes up minimal space and resources - passed them all to become the number one BitTorrent client by a wide margin. BitTorrent inc's acquisition of µTorrent last December is paying off high dividends.

3. Radiohead
Radiohead's name your own price for downloads of their new album In Rainbows caught huge press and millions of copies were downloaded. Naysayers pointed to the fact that buyers could pay as little as $0.00 and cackled when early guestimates said many did, but with a minimum 40p (around $0.75 US) expenditure to pay for distribution, everyone who downloaded from the Radiohead site contributed a little something. One projection stated that 1.2 million consumers bought the album in the first week. That's $900,000 US dollars in just a week to pay for an In Rainbows site that was clearly and intentionally (trendily?) a bare bones eCommerce site. Bandwidth ain't that expensive folks, the band did all right for itself. The band has kept the actual download and revenue figures to itself, fueling speculation on both extremes, but with a major label no longer playing middleman middling sales results would have still made them more money. Is this the new model for selling recorded music? Probably not for anyone other than superstar artists.

4. Prince
Sold 3 million copies of his latest release, Planet Earth, to London newspaper as part of a huge CD giveaway that also garnered Prince lots of good-for-ticket-sales press ink (though his suit against the Pirate Bay is alienating some fans). Like Radiohead he's blazing a path of self-sufficiency for superstar artists after their major label contract runs out. As for the remaining 99.9% of signed and unsigned artists the search for a more efficient model continues.

5. Digg DRM Revolt
When the Advanced Access Content System Licensing Administrator, the body that oversees the AACS encryption found on HD-DVD and Blu-ray, tried to suppress the publishing of a string of letters and numbers that break that encryption they stirred up the biggest hornet's nest seen in a while. The body sent legal threats across the Internet threatening suits if the AACS key wasn't removed from web sites. This included content aggregators like Digg who point to such sites. Digg capitulated and when their users realized what happened an uproar ensued.

Users commandeered the Digg headlines, a site that has always had a problem of keeping its user base from driving suspect, marginal stories to the front page via collusion and other methods. This time, users focused their efforts to spread their displeasure over the AACS matter and seized the entire site. Every time Digg took an AACS story down, users put it back up at a pace faster than Digg moderators could handle. Other users then voted these stories to the top of the home page, which soon contained nothing but AACS headlines. Digg founder Kevin Rose got the message and said the site won't bend so easily to such takedown requests in the future. Meanwhile, the attempt to suppress the AACS key had the same effect as the effort to suppress Napster several years back - it made it far more visible.

6. Limewire
By far the number one P2P application in US households, though BitTorrent is more efficient with movie files so a client like µTorrent may already be handling as much bandwidth.

7. AT&T
Now that the mobile phone industry is mature, providers like AT&T can only gain market share by stealing it from competitors. That's exactly what their exclusive deal to the iPhone is doing for them with 1 out of 4 iPhone buyers switching to AT&T to get it.

8. Sling Media
The makers of the Slingbox cashed out for a cool $380 million in December after being acquired by EchoStar.

9. LastFM
Received a $200 million infusion of cash from CBS this year. Not bad for an online radio company that is exempt from egregious US Internet radio royalty fees, because it is a UK company. This is a huge competitive advantage and why American Internet radio is in such trouble.

10. Marie Lindor
She beat the RIAA in court and got legal fees too.

Honorable Mention - Frostwire and Pando
Two new P2P clients (Pando is also its own network) mimic µTorrent's early quick adoption. Whether either can sustain this growth waits to be seen.

Other MP3 stories:
2007 Digital Media Losers


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