0 Soundtrack your life with Songza
Originally, the article was going to include a sub-title: “Why don’t you have Songza yet?”, because, really, why don’t you have Songza yet?
During a conversation in Episode 62, Matt Walstead mentioned that he was using Songza (www.songza.com) as one of his recent primary streaming services, and based on his description, I decided to investigate.
I had mentioned Songza on the show before, from a news story long past (most likely a launch story, or something of the like), but I had never played around with the iPhone app or the web site.
It’s AMAZING. It’s what a song discovery service SHOULD be. It’s the contextualizing of music into the rest of your life, based on “Playlists by Music Experts”, as the site claims, and, honestly, they are not giving the playlist generators enough credit.
For example, there are SEVEN different ways you access these playlists, including lists based on Genre, Activities, Moods, Decades, and Culture. After messing around with this app, I’ve determined my favorite playlist group is aptly named Record-Store Clerk, as its suggestions of playlist sub-groups include “Dance Music That’s Not Assaultive”, “Indie Music That’s Not Too Weird”, “Mustache Music (Or: Cool In The ’70s)”, and “This Will Piss Your Parents Off”. It really is that organization of music that you expect to find in the hipper realms of metropolitan areas, in the mostly deserted record shop where the staff knows exactly what you’re looking for, based on the two notes stuck in your head.
ON TOP OF THAT, there’s MORE. I know what you’re thinking: “But Dan, there are TOO many features already. This is too good to be true.” And you would be wrong, generic infomercial seeded audience member. For there’s the Concierge service. Based on time of day, with a dash of societal paradigms, the Concierge service will suggest genres FOR you. For example, I am writing this on a Friday night, and the Concierge is offering me the following options: “Bedtime”, “A Sweaty Dance Party”, “Pre-Gaming with Friends”, “Putting on Your Party Dress”, “Creating a Cool Atmosphere”, and “Unwinding”. Seeing as I already have my Party Dress on, in a manner of speaking, I went with the Cool Atmosphere one, and, as a result, it is narrowing down the tunes I should listen to into ANOTHER six categories, this time based on genre.
I spent the work day today bombing through the multitudes of dubstep available, to give it an honest chance, and I was really impressed by the volumes of music available in these playlists. But that’s the catch that I’ve mentioned a number of times: it’s a pre-set collection of playlists. You don’t experience the flexibility of Pandora’s lists, or the “control EXACTLY what you want to hear” of Spotify, but when used properly, it fits comfortably into most situations.
Like most streaming music sites these days, there is a social media aspect included, where everyone on Facebook knows you’re listening to the “Cry Yourself to Sleep” playlist, unless you disable the feature. It isn’t as invasive as Spotify’s “POST EVERY TRACK” setting, but it’s also not a feature I’d actively seek out.
There are also a few extra clock-related features, where you can set a specific playlist to start playing as an alarm at a certain time, and the ability to play music while displaying the app’s built in clock, but they aren’t anything to write home about. I imagine you could go through the Concierge service (which you can also set different days of the weeks, and times of day, kind of like looking at future traffic on Google Maps) and set certain appropriate playlists to pop up when you expect to be commuting to work, or doing housework, or what have you.
Right. So it’s great, right? Now let’s get down to brass tack. It’s available for iPhone, Android, Kindle, and computers for free (with clickable, but not audible, ads). So far, I’ve played with the iPhone app and the web site, and the user interface is nice. Not too complicated to navigate; not to noisy to sift through. “Nice” is really the most appropriate word for it. It also has the Pandora “You’ve Skipped Too Many Tracks For Now, But If You Switch Over To Another Playlist, You Can Keep Skipping” license restrictions, but with the number of playlists available, this shouldn’t hold you back.
I don’t think it’ll replace my iCloud use, or the occasional Spotify use, but I do think this may replace Pandora in my eyes, at least until I exhaust the playlists I am actually interested in hearing. I say it’s worth checking out to see how well the Concierge matches your moods, and to laugh at some of the playlists and categories. It’s not like it’ll cost you anything. I’m with the folks on the Apple App Store: 5 Stars for this one.
0 Netflix Max: The cure for our indecisiveness?
Have you ever had a time when you’re on Netflix and you can’t decide what to watch? It’s terrible, isn’t it?! You’re faced with a rather large library with plenty of perfectly acceptable TV and movie options to entertain you for a while, but first you have to pick one, and that requires making a decision and you’re feeling so “meh” that nothing is jumping out at you. Well, fear not – Max is here to save the day (maybe)!
Netflix’s Max service is an interactive game that uses several methods to help the viewer decide what to watch. With a style and attitude very much like the “You Don’t Know Jack” series complete with a snappy, idiosyncratic announcer and musical interludes, Max asks you to pick a genre and then rate movies in that genre that you may or may not have seen. After rating several movies, Max makes a recommendation. If you decline that option, Max will try something else to help you pick. Since its release, several new ways to play have been added to mix things up and add to the experience, such as picking a specific actor to find movies/TV for. Max also makes use of Netflix’s algorithms to find recommendations based on the ratings the user has given shows in the past. Max has been around for a few months now, available on the Playstation 3 platform (no word on if it’s coming out for other devices yet).
Tonight, I fired up Netflix Max and played “One Simple Question”: Max had me choose impulsively between suburban dysfunction or detectives. I chose detectives and it recommended, much to my chagrin, “Murder, She Wrote.” After Max’s 30-second pitch (not available for all titles) describing the merits of the show, I decided to give it a try. Forty-five minutes later, Angela Lansbury had won me over and I was seriously considering watching the next episode in spite of my previous reservations. Max won me over in this case, and this wasn’t the first time. Max and my own curiosity have led me to watch quite a few things I loved (if you haven’t watched “Black Books” yet, get on it), but probably would never have found out about otherwise. In that regard, Max is very good for separating the wheat from the chaff. Max doesn’t always get it right, though. There have been occasions when none of the recommendations have sounded appealing – at that point, Max says, “Thank you for playing!” and that’s the end of it.
Overall, even if it’s not always effective at recommending something to watch, Netflix Max is quite entertaining in itself. With further development and a presence on other platforms, Max has the potential to be a lot of fun and hopefully relieve us all of our streaming media indecision.
0 A&E titles disappear from Netflix
I really want to make some sort of quip about how Netflix is no longer hoarding A&E’s “Hoarders”, but nothing’s coming right now, so let’s just cut to the bad news: A&E has pulled roughly 800 hours of content from Netflix.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, “In all, about 800 hours of content is gone from A&E as well as its History channel, while 300 hours remain, at least until an agreement expires in about the middle of next year.” This means you’re losing “Hoarders”, “American Pickers”, “Pawn Stars”, and “Storage Wars”, among others, from Netflix Instant Streaming. Netflix and A&E are still reportedly in talks, and may potentially come to an agreement, but nothing is certain yet.
Thanks to boosted consumption of TV shows through streaming media content providers like Netflix and Hulu, it’s hard to forecast how partnerships between networks and providers will evolve. The AMC Network has been at war with DISH TV for more than two months now, leaving viewers without award-winning shows like “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad”, and there doesn’t seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel there, but, at the same time, AMC’s simultaneous $2.4 billion lawsuit against DISH may also be playing a large role in that agreement.
The Hollywood Reporter also mentions that the price tag isn’t necessarily completely to blame in halting A&E’s content on Netflix. THR’s unnamed sources say Netflix is seeking exclusivity for content, though it does not mention that which was included in Netflix’s proposition. After a few searches, I found a majority of A&E’s popular content available on Hulu, as well as for sale on iTunes and Amazon Instant Video, (plus full episodes available on A&E’s web site) so I can understand A&E’s concern with dropping multiple avenues of income.
I know that I have professed my appreciation for “Storage Wars” on a few of our episodes, but I’m not feeling a whole lot of emptiness from this loss. Yes, it’s bad news due to a level of inconvenience, but I just listed off a number of additional sources above (A&E’s web site and Hulu have full episodes posted for free) where you can find it. Plus, if you have yet to cut the cord from cable or satellite, they syndicate the Hell out of some of those shows, so you can just turn on the TV and play ‘A&E Roulette’.
I have no ill will for the programming A&E offers, but I see it as a great deal of guilty pleasure TV and filler TV. Why do people watch “Hoarders”? To make themselves feel better about themselves. That pile of dishes in the sink is NOTHING compared to this lady on “Hoarders”. Why do people watch “Pawn Stars”, “American Pickers” and “Storage Wars”? To make people think their old junk is worth some serious coin, turning them into hoarders, and generating additional subjects for “Hoarders”. That, or to create an “Antiques Roadshow” for an EXTREME generation. All I’m saying is I don’t see the loss of A&E’s content as a deal breaker between myself and Netflix.
In the grand scheme of things, not a lot of people are without A&E access, if you’re hankering for a fix … as long as you’re not using a gaming device without Internet browsing. Otherwise, you’re fine. And in case you’re wondering, yes, videos hosted on A&E’s web site work on both Android and iOS mobile devices.
0 Qwikster and the future of Netflix
I guess we told you so.
We talked about how Netflix would split up its streaming and DVD & Blu-ray distribution, but I guess it is here faster than we expected. If you haven’t seen it yet, Reed Hastings, CEO & co-founder of Netflix, posted a YouTube video apologizing for Netflix’s price hike, letting everyone know that Netflix would be splitting into two companies, where one would focus on Instant Streaming (Netflix) and the other would focus on disc-based entertainment distribution (Qwikster).
On top of this announcement, Qwikster CEO Andy Rendich let everyone know that Qwikster would also start to include Xbox360, PlayStation 3, and Wii game rentals at an additional price, much like the Blu-ray pricing.
No pricing has been released so far, but we’ll keep you up to date as we learn all that we can.
This announcement can be found at the link below:
0 FIRST EPISODE! … almost
Adam and I have our first guest list locked down! This is pretty exciting (as I’m sitting in the Frank Oz Memorial studio as I write this update)!
Our guests tomorrow will be Dave Wheeler (@davewheeler) and Steve “Frank” Frankenfield (#frankdoesnthavetwitter) talking to myself and Adam.
I’m trying not to give too much away before you actually get to hear the show, but make sure to listen all the way through, as I think we’re going to try to break out the Leonard Maltin game.