Why content delivery is the next big battle

The Olympics has been both fabulous and frustrating.  It’s been a great games with some fascinating stories of triumph and heartbreak but NBC has once gain contrived to make it near impossible for you to watch the games real time.  Sure you can watch a lot online but not everything.  It’s also frustrating to know that there are other content providers such as the BBC who have the content you want but to find you simply can’t access it because of rights issues.  Put another way, the content you want has been created but the ability to access it on demand doesn’t exist.  Yesterday’s mens 100m final was a great example.  This event wasn’t shown live, instead you had to wait until almost midnight to watch the tape delayed version.  CRAZY!!!!  Of course the Olympics are a rare event and the prices paid by people like NBC require them to find ways of getting their money back BUT their approach is the same as many other content owners – force people to either watch it when we want them to or access it later via tape delay or some on demand service.  There appears to be no other option.  You can’t even click a button that says: ‘watch live for $5’.  All this got me thinking about how much other content is out there that people would like to access but they don’t because it’s just too hard to get.  In these Google and youtube infused days it seems crazy to be struggling to access content but we do.  Some of the problem is that searching is still too dependent on our ability to describe what we are looking for and the other part is there aren’t always systems that allow us to see the content when we find it.  Madness.  What we need is the technology to find the right content AND the technology to allow you to access it.  Here in California I have access to a mass of TV content that I don’t consume and don’t even want to consume.  I’d gladly substitute 99% of the unwanted content for another few percent of content I do want.  This all reminds me a paper Theodore Levitt wrote where he mentioned that people don’t want to buy fuel for their cars, they simply want to be able to drive somewhere.  In other words they would never care if they saw the fuel.  Likewise I don’t care what content I am given access to, I simply want the content I want.   Of the hundreds of channels on my TV I could have three or four and be perfectly happy if those channels had just the stuff I want.  In other words I want someone to do to the TV what Spotify has done to music.  Now Netflix is trying to get there but even that has a long way to go.

I should be clear though, my argument is not just about TV content it’s about all manner of content that currently exists on the web that is either hard to find or restricted in terms of who can access it.  Hence my belief that we are now in an era where the content creators have done a great job of generating material but those responsible for enabling us to access it have a LONG way to go.  But when we get there we are going to experience events in a very different and even more exciting way.  Until then, I’ll just have to put up with Bob Costas and NBC for a bit longer.

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The media has been replaced

It used to be that we craved perspective and information from the media, largely because this was our only option (well apart from going to the pub with our loud mouthed friends I guess).  Anyway, it’s clear that the media got really good at influencing our behavior, likes and dislikes.  It’s also clear that it got awfully complacent. So when social media arrived it kind of ignored it.  Journalists often decried bloggers as amateurs.  How right they were.  If they’d thought about it a bit longer maybe they’d have realized that being an amateur can have its advantages.  The media was also slow to appreciate that people don’t care who gives them their news, their insight and perspective.  They just care that it is accurate and that it engages them.  We were loyal to media channels because our only choice was another media channel.  Given a completely different choice, many of us took it.  This isn’t to say the media is irrelevant and should become an historical footnote.  The media is potentially more relevant than ever.  Our world is becoming more and more complex and the expectations of the population ever more sophisticated.  We want to know, to be entertained and to be educated right now and in a way that we want.  We want live video and close up photos of the most obscure moments, not just the moments when presidents are shot.  We want to share our thoughts and hear the thoughts of others on what is happening.  We also want to act on the decisions this content may provoke.  All this and more is possible through the media, yet for some reason the media still chooses to limit the ways we participate in their process and they our lives.  So we turn to Facebook, Twitter and other social networks to learn, laugh and get stuff done.  As a result, the newspapers lie unread at the end of the driveway, the magazines in the dentist office curl at the edges and the TV stays turned off.  It’s not too late for the media but the media has to adapt to the new world.  It has to accept that it has competition for our attention.  Until it does, editorial teams will get smaller and magazines thinner.  Blame will of course be put on advertisers but we all know that advertisers are the effect and not the cause.  Come on media, get social, get engaged and show us what you’re made of.  And stop being so precious about the ‘role’ of the media.  Yes, you have a role but that role is to get us engaged, laughing, crying and doing not just listening to one point of view.


How to make people pay for media

We all consume media on a daily basis.  We love the stuff but we are paying less and less for it as our parents die and we all get our content online.  And as we all know, news online is almost all FREE.  Free isn’t a business model that really works for media.  Good journalism is expensive and tough to support through online advertising.  Rupert Murdoch has responded aggressively to this by putting a charge on many sites such as WSJ.com.  This hasn’t worked too well in part because you can still get to the content through a Google search for free.  He’s threatening to change all that though for the simple reason that they are struggling to make the economics work even with an online subscription model in place.

I have a suggestion for Mr Murdoch and other media moguls.  In the same way that we pay a cable fee in this country and even a TV license in the UK, why not charge a monthly media fee that would enable you to access all the media without having multiple subscriptions.  You’d need an aggregator such as Apple’s iTunes to get in to the mix but I’m pretty convinced that in the same way as people will pay $10 a month for satellite radio, they’d pay $10 a month to access the top 100 publications in the US.  Now there’d be a challenge figuring out which magazine or newspaper got what out of that $10 each month but I’m pretty sure it could be worked out.  It would also enable one player to take over the challenge of managing the online advertising for a host of publications, instead of having a fragmented model as they do today.   It would also mean as a user that you would only need one login.  I’d almost pay $10 a month just for that as I keep forgetting what username and password I have for various online titles.


Apple TV and YouTube challenge the norm

Years ago I sat in while a journalist interviewed Bill Gates. A PC was on the desk with Windows running. In most of the windows there were Microsoft applications but in one there was a TV show. I was spell bound. It was like I was watching TV for the first time. My awe struck state came crashing to earth moments later when Bill said: “We’ve finally been able to turn a $3000 machine into a $200 TV set.” His point was clear. Who really needed to have a window on their computer that could show TV channels when in most homes there was already a device that did it much better at a much lower price.

This of course was before the Internet took off and people decided they liked to spend a good portion of their previously allocated TV time surfing the Internet. Web based TV has been very slow in coming but thanks to YouTube efforts to bridge the gap between web surfer and TV watcher seem to be gaining pace. Enter the latest version of Apple TV which, along with all your iTunes and iPhoto content, has a YouTube option that allows you to search and select your favorite content. In effect this turns YouTube into another channel on your TV. Right now most of the content on YouTube is pretty grainy making it a poor relation in the channel stakes. My guess is that this will change. But it also occurs to me that if Apple can effectively turn YouTube into a TV channel, couldn’t they also become a natural home for a host of other channels? I’m pretty sure someone could come up with an Internet alternative TV network. One that uses the functionality of the web as well as its obvious distribution benefits. How long before there is an Apple TV Guide?