People are customers, not targets

Michael Arrington has a solid update on what’s taking place in the copyright lawsuits involving video upload sites. He does such a good job of laying out what’s happening, that I won’t try to reproduce it here. The basic thrust is that Viacom and NBC are now filing “friend of the court” briefs in other litigation.

The cases being litigated now are crucial in determining what level of freedom video sites have in letting their users upload and distribute content. Content owners are not happy with the protections provided under the DMCA — they want video sites to be far more proactive in stopping uploads in the first place. The outcome of these cases will guide how much freedom these video sites have to continue current practices, and ultimately determine the value of these companies down the road.

I want to add that these efforts by content owners are designed to preserve a business model that can’t be preserved. It isn’t about the value of their content or even the wish to get more from what they own. It’s about the customers of this content, those who are fleeing the grip of mass media — and the relentless pounding of unwanted marketing — on their lives. Even if the whole world agreed that this content should only be available at the content owner’s “site(s),” the model still wouldn’t work. People would simply find other ways to entertain themselves, because the personal media revolution makes that possible.

These companies would do well to find new ways to monetize their content in a truly distributed marketplace. Go with the flow, instead of against it. They might do well to band together and create one, giant portal for all professionally created stuff and charge people to view it or serve ad after ad to make their money. Wait a minute. Isn’t that what NBC and Fox are trying to do? Will people use such a site?

And what will happen to YouTube? Nothing. It’ll continue to prosper, because YouTube is an enabler, and people want to be enabled.

Another fascinating side of this traditional versus new battle is reported by Amy Gahran at Poynter. The issue here is RSS feeds, more specifically, full text feeds versus partial feeds. Go read the whole thing, because she makes an important (and similar) argument that media companies need to find ways to play in a truly distributed world.

Partial RSS feeds are popular and common with traditional media sources, because they think they drive traffic to their sites and, hence, their advertising. This is yet another “we don’t give a crap what people want” argument, and it is actually counterproductive. Here’s Amy.

Seems to me that, as media organizations learn to adapt their operations and business models to online media, they’d do well to learn how to make money from feeds (yes, you can put ads in feeds) as well as educating advertisers to make ad content more inherently valuable and engaging. Also, properly distributed full-text feeds make your content much more findable via all kinds of search engines and aggregators, potentially leading to increased page views well after initial publication.

As long as we keep trying to lure people to sites where they’re forced (or at least, more likely) to view ads that they’d rather avoid altogether, we’re fighting a losing battle. As the blog Techdirt put it recently, “Taking value away from users to try to force a specific action is almost always going to be less desirable than providing people what they want.”

Of the changes taking place with media these days, the most difficult are those that involve the generation of mass that can be monetized. What many companies don’t understand (or refuse to see) is that the herding of people into masses is exactly what people are rebelling against, and I honestly believe the people will win this one.

In a quote on another topic entirely, I read this from a marketing guru: “that’s part of what I think is driving penetration.” He’s referring to newspaper circulation, but think about that phrase, “driving penetration.” Used in another context, it’s not a very pleasant thought, and we would all do well to understand that our mediated world has produced an offspring that feels, well, quite penetrated.

And nobody ever says, “Thank you.”


  1. Hi, Terry. Glad my post resonated with you.

    although, IMHO, people are PEOPLE (incdividuals or communities), not customers or targets.

    Yeah, we’ve all been “penetrated” quite enough, thanks 🙂

    Incidentally, I’m blogging more about full-text feeds and related issues over at my personal blog,

    - Amy Gahran


  1. […] Terry Heaton’s PoMo Blog » Blog Archive » People are customers, not targets “Of today’s media biz changes, the most difficult involve generating mass to be monetized. Many media cos don’t understand (or refuse to see) that herding people into masses is exactly what people are rebelling against. The people will win this one.” (tags: community mycoverage AmyGahran media+evolution business advertising problems tidbits+fodder) […]

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