Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Wowio 3.0?

One of the portal gadgets I have set up monitors tweets that mention the word "Wowio" (since Twitter has proven to the be the primary source of information about the company). A few hours ago, the following tweet popped up from Plantinum president and COO Brian Altounian...
1.0 gets the ball rolling, 2.0 shifts into high gear, but 3.0 blows it into outer space. Welcome to July 1, the launch of WOWIO 3.0!

"That's interesting," I thought. "I haven't looked at the site in several months; I'll go check out what exactly is going on with this re-launch." The last I'd really checked in at all was back in January when some creators were complaining that they still hadn't been paid from early 2008.

So I swang by Wowio.com but didn't see anything appreciably different. I logged in, thinking maybe their updates were more on the back end. It seemed like there were some more content than six months ago, but about what you might expect to accrue over that time. Other than that, I wasn't really seeing anything different. The interface hadn't changed, the pricing structure was about the same, I still had books in my download queue left over from a year ago...

So I checked their news area. There's one note from two weeks ago about a new book about Iranians using new media to tell stories that can't be told by journalists. The next most recent entry is from April, announcing some downloadable books that are available for free. Not exactly 3.0 material.

So I checked Plantinum's site. Sure enough, there's something on the home page about Wowio announcing a global relaunch and details can be found on their blog. Which, it turned out, hadn't been updated at all this year. The noted relaunch was from August 2008.

There's got to be something, right?

I called up everything Altounian has tweeted. There's a tweet from around midnight noting a "new non-profit initiative" and one from Monday that cites "Completed paperwork on a new non-profit initiative for WOWIO, helping groups raise funds and promote literacy at same time. July 1 start!" OK, so this literacy promotion thing must be the 3.0 that "blows it into outer space" I suppose.

Going back to Wowio.com, I did notice that some of the ad space on the home page plugging donations for the Hero Initiative. Evidently, consumers can now elect to donate to one of three charities when they purchase one of Wowio's ebooks as a gift for someone else. Ads for each of the three organizations (Hero Initative, YWCA Santa Monica and LIFT) circulate on the home page -- which is why I hadn't noticed the Hero Initiative ad earlier: it wasn't on the page at the time.

I'm left a little confused. I certainly think all three organizations are worthy causes, and kudos to Altounian/Wowio for giving them some attention. I think the only complaint anyone could possibly lodge there would just be that other causes are more worthwhile -- but that's a decidedly qualitative judgement and not really valid accordingly. That's not what confuses me.

I'm not confused by the Whys and Wherefores either. I can rattle off half a dozen reasons why they're choosing to do this, ranging from the absurdly cynical to the optimisitcally altruistic. I'm sure there were any number of rationales used, all of which make sense to me. And since the end result of supporting laudable organizations is the same, regardless of the motives, I'm not going to explore all those reasons here.

I guess I'm confused mostly around the promotion of the change. I grew up on Marvel comics, so I'm used to Stan Lee style hyperbole, but I think "3.0 blows it into outer space" is a bit much by any account. Especially in comparison to the 1.0 and 2.0 already cited. Furthermore, if it were really that momentous a change, why announce it ONLY through one Twitter account? True, there is the ad space on Wowio's home page, but the ads are taking up the same space that ads have always taken up on Wowio, effectively becoming a kind of visual white noise. The ads themselves are fine, but they just look like any other ads on Wowio's home page which I've learned to ignore. Just like I've learned to ignore all those banner ads with someone dancing because of low interest rates.

On June 11, Altounian tweeted about "an exploding initiative!" which I have to presume was this. A week later, he tweeted about 10 deals he was working on. Even if one assumes this counts as three separate deals, I think it's safe to presume he's still got several in some form of development. So this launch seems to be something less than what they intend to roll out.

I get the impression that Altounian is genuinely and honestly excited about this, and really does think it's a huge deal. Now I'll be the first to admit that I'm not omniscient, so it's likely I'm not seeing the whole picture here. But I'm at a loss on how this is anything more than kind of a "hey, that's nice" addition. It might provide a few tax breaks and increase the goodwill of the company a bit, but I don't see this moving the needle very much on either of those. I don't see people getting drawn TO the site in order to donate to any of those causes (those likely to do just that are going to go to the organization's own web sites). Not to mention that it only tangentially (at best) ties into their core mission.

Maybe I'm completely off-base here. Maybe the 3.0 is something I've altogether missed in some kind of mental myopia. Maybe there are some really huge implications for the company that I'm just not seeing, regardless of how blatant they are. Maybe I'm missing some really critical piece of information.

Insights/comments/reactions from any Wowio employees, or those more in the know on the subject, would be appreciated.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The site is the same it's always been, and I still haven't been paid from 2008. Not that it matters; when they switched to page views vs. downloads my revenue is about .05 percent of what it was. This entire operation has been running with the business savvy and efficiency of the keystone cops since it's inception, and believe me: since Platinum bought in it's gotten worse (they have their reputation for a reason, people) and will continue to deteriorate until they declare bankruptcy for the endeavor and the creators are left holding their dicks. I'll look forward to it.

If you are an independent publisher, I strong suggest you take your property elsewhere.