Archives for February 2008

Food fight: a (sort of) history of war

BoingBoing TV is cranking out some amazing stuff, and this one has to be among the best. It’s by Stefan Nadelman and gives a history of war through the foods of the countries fighting. Don’t forget to stick around for Nadelman’s drunk dog at the end.

This is textbook web video, IMO, and the images will be with me for a long time. Well done.

(Hat tip to John Battelle for the video)

Quote du Jour

Your favorite network executive and mine, NBC’s Jeff Zucker, on print reporters:

“The thing they want is for the [TV-news] business to die faster [than the newspaper business], because that’s what makes them feel better.”

Yup. That’s what they want. Deep, huh? Now you know.

“Free” is the future of business

The cover of the latest Chris Anderson is one of the most influential new media thinkers in the world. His book The Long Tail has transformed the way we look at the economics of media distribution, and now he’s working on a new book that will certainly get everybody’s attention: “Free! Why $0.00 Is the Future of Business.” As he did with The Long Tail, Chris has begun this project with a 6,000-word article in the magazine he edits, Wired.

In addition to being a compelling title, it’s also another longtailesque concept that media companies everywhere need to understand. Anderson told me by email that media types certainly should.

I think the message to media executives should be clear: the business model you already understand better than anyone has become the dominant business model of the digital economy, from software to services. The world has come your way!

But do we really understand it? I’m not so sure.

If Viacom understood the concept, it would not be suing Google/YouTube. If NBC understood the concept, it would never have pulled its early content from YouTube. HBO announced this week that it is creating a YouTube channel. Confused yet?

If the networks understood it, they’d follow the advice of a new white paper from market research firm Parks Associates and the Entertainment Technology Center at USC titled “How Hollywood Can Out-Apple Apple.” The paper suggests that the studios and TV networks should offer free content for cell phones as a way to prime the pump for tomorrow. “In the end, ‘advertainment’ becomes content in and of itself,” the report says, “and a profitable way to provide consumers something to watch when they find themselves in situations where a little diversion is welcomed,”

Free is a strategy, not a business model.

The problem with “free” is when it runs into the bottom line, and this is especially true in the world of traditional media. Our content has value to us, but that value is directly tied to the economic laws of scarcity, whether we’re asking people to pay for it or using scarcity to create a mass that our advertisers seek. In the world about which Anderson writes, however, abundance replaces scarcity, so a business strategy based on the latter falls flat on its face. What is the real value of “content” in a world of abundance? This is what mass media executives can’t or won’t understand, because we automatically — and in an old media sense, rightly — assume that the only currency involving content is money.

So Anderson is right in saying that we “should” understand the new model, but the truth is we don’t. This has to change or we’re going to continue to fall behind smart people who really do understand.

(Originally published in this week’s newsletter)

Will affiliates have to pay for programming?

Lin TV’s CEO Vincent Sadusky said on a conference call this week that he expects the networks will begin doing just that. According to Media Daily News, Sadusky referred to the NFL as the logical starting point:

“If you want the NFL or incremental NFL games, this is a pretty pricey thing for the network. We’d like you guys to help us out with that.”

It may not be cash–a more typical type of reverse compensation–but requests for more spots in the game for the networks to sell themselves, he said.

Among others, I’ve been predicting this for years, and it’s been pretty obvious since ABC first started selling its programs online two years ago. The network/affiliate relationship — as we’ve known it from the beginning — is history.

Distributed commenting is another MSM killer

Mike Butcher at TechCrunch writes that RSS reader has launched in beta. No big deal there, huh? Just another RSS reader (sung to the tune of “Just another manic Monday”).

Not so. Here’s Mike:

With you can make comments on blog posts from within its reader – no need to click into a browser to the original post.

I’m guessing publishers will need to use a distributed commenting system for this to work, but that’s not the point.

Many traditional news outlets have been slow to adapt to RSS, because the concept itself is contrary to mass creation (they think) and control. I think it’s safe to say that most — if not all — mainstream news organizations use RSS as a way to drive traffic back to their “sites,” where users can be exposed to display advertising. I honestly can’t point to one publisher who distributes full content feeds via RSS.

So distributed commenting extends the disconnect to a publisher’s ad ecosystem by further separating readers/users. Hell, if I can’t even get people to commit to my “site” to leave comments, why should I even have comments in the first place?

The real problem here is the reluctance of institutional media to play in the world of RSS advertising, and this mystifies me. Whether we distribute ads as RSS items or embed ads in the feeds themselves, there’s money to be made in the distributed world. may or may not be a winner, but the idea of moving all media content to a user’s “home” is a horse that has already left the barn.

Oh boy, another social net

Variety has decided it wants in on the social network frenzy, so it has created “The Biz.” Puh-LEEZE.

The Biz logo

You know, here’s the deal. Variety may provide a unique way for people in — I hate myself for this — “the biz” to connect, but I doubt it. We already have social sites aplenty, and I don’t know about you, but I’m getting sick of joining walled gardens.

The inevitable killer social app will be the one that allows me to put all of my connections in one place. There are many folks trying to do this, but they all fall short, because MySpace and Facebook don’t want to have anything to do with them.

But until there is such an animal, I’m just not going to join. Fair enough?