Who owns those relationships?

The excitement about broadband and interactivity includes serious questions about the relationship between publisher and user, according to Discovery.com’s Bill Allman. He expressed this concern at the end of a wonderful interview conducted by The Washington Post Company’s Chris Schroeder and published in MediaDailyNews. Having been involved in interactive media since 1992, Allman is widely regarded as a pioneer, and his words carry considerable weight.

The elephant in the room in discussions about the next generation of interactive media is that, along with the new ways of getting broadband content — whether it’s broadband, wireless, PVRs or VOD — there are bound to be new relationships with the customer. Who owns those relationships? Who has the rights to monetize that relationship via advertising or other commerce? How will those models change with interactivity? The established models for making money in media — and there’s still a lot of money being made the old fashioned way, mind you — will eventually be eroded by the new ways. And that has the potential to change everything about our business.
In addition to the obvious questions of who makes money in the delivery chain, Mr. Allman understands what many of us have been saying for quite some time, that the user is in charge of this relationship, not the publisher. I wrote about this extensively yesterday, and this gives me a chance to repeat the theme: decentralized power is THE issue of the new millennium, and it’s already impacting the world of business. In the future, monetizing the relationship (I love MBA speak) will look a lot more like the old Golden Rule (Do unto others as you would have them do unto you) than the newer version (He who has the gold makes the rules).

I think Rishad Tobaccowala, ad giant Starcom MediaVest Group’s chief broadband strategist, nailed it best at DoubleClick’s annual Insight Conference last year. Here’s what MediaDailyNews wrote:

2004 ushers in an “empowered era” in which “humans are God,” because technology allows them to be godlike. The question Tobaccowala put to conference attendees is: “How will you engage God?”
You engage God as Job did. “I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I said, and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.” That’ll be the day, eh?

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