Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dogs on a skateboard

God I just love that dog on a skateboard. Hang on baby, Friday's coming.

My current favorite blog, The Business Insider, has been providing an ongoing analysis of the current state of (the lack of) monetizing online content. It looks at Google/YouTube, Hulu, et al. using real numbers to give the state of the art. The bad news? No one, including the big boys, are making money off of content. And the heralded democratization of content creation brought about by online distribution? It says, "content creation is expensive, it takes talent, and lowering barriers for the creation of crap only provides you with more crap." So, professional content isn't making money and we are sinking in a sea of crap made by amateur (or amateurish) content creators, what hope is there? According to the article, "whatever golden tomorrow video may acheive, it won't be driven by the major media companies, at least not in the foreseeable future." Hmmmm, wait a minute. Where's the money going to come from to create the new paradigm, if not from deep pockets or inspired individuals?

The article is deja vu, all over again. It could have been written a few years ago, verbatim. So, why does it seem like we're going nowhere, fast? No one, including a lot of really smart (and well-paid) people, seem to be able to answer that question. The article, while flawed, does raise some good points and is definitely worth a read. For me, another question is, are we starting to approach the end of "free?" Today, Rupert Murdoch announced that all of his publications worldwide will begin charging for certain content. I expect other major online content providers will follow in kind.

Will they succeed? A couple of things seem apparent. First, people don't seem willing to pay for online content alone. They expect some kind of added value. Content creators who can come to terms with that in a big way (and figure out what is the "added value" that people are willing to pay for) will at least survive until this is all sorted out. The other thing, which I repeat over and over again, is that somebody has to pay something somewhere for the content we create. I know it sounds obvious but there are armies of people out there working for free, or close to it, to create content that is not innovative or particularly interesting. Emulating what exists already may be gratifying, "Look, I can do that too," but ultimately is slow death. Unless, you are willing to have another job to subsidize your creativity. But, if you're footing your own bill, why make watered down garbage that emulates TV?

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