If I owned a media company like a newspaper, my first plan of action would be to put a wall around my content.
A thick, brick wall, maybe topped with barbed wire. It wouldn’t keep out all of the pirates, but enough of them. Let me add that my wall would feature lots of doors. These doors would be welcoming, but you’d have to pay a toll to get through them.
Then I’d focus on developing quality content.
My mandate would be developing the type of multimedia content that people will pay for. So if I owned a newspaper, I’d invest in hiring the best writers, reporters and editors. I’d partner them with technology and design experts so the quality journalism we created would be presented in multimedia and interactive formats.
I’d aggressively utilize social media platforms – for promotions and marketing (enticing those outside the walls to come on in) and for listening and engaging with my readers and community.
But I would put my content on the web for free only sparingly.
There are lots of problems, of course, with my plan of action. But right now it may be the best model for any content producer. Wall up your content until a better solution arises. Develop your own delivery mechanism and don’t let the technology and web companies bully you.
No doubt many content producers – from newspapers to music labels – wish they had done this back in the early 1990s. But instead of protecting their content they listened to technology evangelists who conned and berated them into putting their content online for free.
And free is a crappy business model.
Back then the web was a place to promote content and no one ever thought users would replace print newspapers, movie theater visits and TV sets with it.
But that’s what’s happening.
And who is benefiting? Certainly not the artists, musicians and writers. And no longer the content producers who – despite all of their faults – at least pay to produce and promote the content.
No, the big winners have been technology companies that neither create the content nor pay for its creation. Companies like Google, Apple and Amazon. Companies like RapidShare, Megavideo, Boxee and the Huffington Post. All of these companies that make money by selling, displaying or distributing other people’s content.
These companies all want content producers and creators to make their content free. Because that’s their business model.
Take Apple. It’s primary business is to sell iPads, iPhones, and iPods at a premium. It uses cheap content to get you hooked. Apple doesn’t make money with iTunes (unfortunately, neither do many creators and producers).
People used to buy $15 CDs and now they cherry-pick through 99 cents songs. The money music companies used to earn has been slashed significantly and this means less opportunity to fund, produce and promote new acts. Apple doesn’t do this. It doesn’t discover, nourish, produce and promote musicians.
It manufacturers devices. Culture isn’t its business.
So here’s a reality for all of us who enjoy professional journalism, quality television programming like Mad Men, and blockbuster Hollywood movies:
Creating quality content costs lots of money.
And if no one wants to pay for it, well, then get used to watching YouTube videos like the Evolution of Dance.
Because that’s all that will be left.
The Evolution of Dance on YouTube.