The media blog has a good post looking at how the TiVo ad meme grew from this site and kind of got out of hand. I feel bad about it -- on the one hand TiVo is a company and technology that changed my life and that I love, but I thought the original point of bigger ads while you avoid ads is a bad feature for customers. When I meant this was big news, I mean in terms of the TiVo UI, not in terms of how evil TiVo was being. Now that things kind of got nuts, I wanted to explain how it happened.
I was really surprised that my little teaser post started such a controversy. On Monday, a LA Times reporter called me, told me basically that TiVo was going to have huge banner ads whenever you hit fast forward, and asked what I thought of it. I was taken aback, since it didn't sound at all like the TiVo I loved, but that was all the info I had to go on.
I knew it would be big news and I still couldn't believe it, but I didn't want to scoop the reporter. I hadn't posted anything substantial at PVRblog in a while, so I thought I'd put a small teaser meant to be like "hey, big news coming tomorrow that will be kind of bad and people might flip out." It's tough to think about this stuff in hindsight, knowing what we now know, but I didn't think it'd be such a self-fulfilling prophecy. But on the other hand, I could tell it would be a big thing, much bigger than the gold star showcase ads that everyone freaked out about a couple years ago (which I thought people totally went overboard on -- I actually watch about 75% of them).
The "goldstar" ads on TiVo Central -- once thought to be the death of TiVo
A few hours later, the article came out and had a few more details, but still was short on particulars. What I didn't know was that the TiVo Community boards were all abuzz and well on the road to freakout before the rest of the web.
So when the article came out, I made the post. I didn't want to totally flip out about it, but I did want to make a point out of the fact it is pushing ads at the exact point where you're trying to skip them, and how that doesn't quite jibe with how TiVo has operated in the past (it never gets in the way of letting you get around ads). The image I made in five minutes probably didn't help matters, and my "no longer tivo your way, it's tivo their way" was me trying to write a bit too much drama. From there, it got taken up by a zillion other blogs including slashdot. I've been blogging on other sites for over five years now, and know how reactionary we bloggers can be. I should have considered that before I got the ball rolling.
Days later, we know quite a bit more than the original reporter's rumors. tivopony has cleared up a few misconceptions, and it'll likely be built upon a feature already present in TiVo, what they call IPreview, a way they let you know you can record a program while watching a commercial, like this:
Hit thumbs up to get more info about a commercial, as seen today in TiVo
Basically, it's going to be like the current feature, but instead of that thumbs up, you'll see something maybe 1/8th to 1/4 of the screen. Still kinda sucky, but I'm coming around to it being a necessary evil. I still wish TiVo wouldn't do this, but I know they have to make a buck to survive, so in the biggest picture sense, in a way this for users, so that TiVo will stick around. I'm not sure how many advertisers will adopt this, or how helpful it will be, but I'm curious what the final version looks like.
As much as I had a part in this whole mess, when I started noticing all the people saying they weren't going to buy a tivo, would think about selling their TiVos, and even trying to start a class action lawsuit against TiVo (for what exactly, I don't know), I knew things steamrolled out of control, and I'm kind of sad to know I was part of getting this backlash started. If I could do it all over again with a more level head to calm the troops, I certainly would, but I had so little info to go on and now that more has come to light it's not as bad as I once thought.
I'd hate to see blogs get known for reactionary authors (if it's not too late already), and I wish I had more interactions with TiVo HQ. I should have immediately contacted their PR folks after talking with the Times to get more backstory, because it was just too awful to believe. I hope TiVo and other companies embrace bloggers like me in the future, and don't keep us at arms length, or feel compelled to apease us to prevent future flameouts. We love the company and could have guessed the backlash was going to be big days ahead of its release. If you read this far, hopefully you understand why things got to where they are and it's my hope this whole thing blows over.
The bright side
TiVo ToGo is rumored to be coming out in December (I'd say it's almost for sure), and everything I'm hearing from testers is that it's fantastic and quite easy to use. I can't wait for it and hope it comes to my DirecTiVo, though I'm not holding my breath.
(Screenshots courtesy of the excellent PVR Comparisons site.)