But enough about you

In dissecting Current.TV‘s relationship with its content contributors, Umair Haque at BuggleGeneration gets right to the heart of what’s wrong with most big-media attempts to interact with the citizens via citizens’ media. The big guys think it’s still about them. They don’t understand — and perhaps never will — that it’s not about speaking but listening, about blowing up their networks to take part in vastly bigger networks than they ever could have imagined.

This raises a very special problem for Current TV. Namely, that more Web 2.0 focused competitors can always and everywhere offer a superior value prop, because they can leverage complementarity. Put another way, Current TV, by tying itself heavily to cable and satellite distribution, may be foregoing the real opportunity. If you follow this analysis, Current will never be able to raise relative switching costs.

Is this a symptom of a deeper…uhhh…thing? Check this out:

“…Assignment: London

Okay: We want to put together a reflective piece on the London bombings and their implications. Get out a camera — a webcam will do — and start talking.”

Look, peer production is not about ordering prosumers around to meekly do your bidding. It’s about building a platform/community that does theirs.

Not to sound harsh, but perhaps Current has the whole dynamics of this stuff backwards.

In a sense, this is the same kind of mistake that 1.0 dot commers made – assuming that the www was just another distribution/mktg channel. Dot com 2.0 peer production plays like Current seem to be assuming more and more that the www is just another production channel (supply chain, if ya like). It’s emphatically not.

The deep economics of peer production are very different – they’re about supply-side network fx, strong complementarity, and increasing returns. All of which are very different from traditional media competitive dynamics, and create very different industry structures.

Right. It’s impossible for the big guys to think outside their networks. They can only think centralized; that was their core value, after all. They must learn how to think distributed: If they want to play in this new world at all, if they can, they must find out how they can help enable people to do what they want to do where they are already doing it.

This means sharing content. It means sharing promotion. It means sharing knowledge and training. And, most of all, it means sharing money. It means supporting citizens’ media in every way.

Think eBay: It lets people start new businesses. What is the media equivalent of that? How do you create the world’s biggest network by not tying it to a network, by even giving up your old network?

I haven’t seen many examples of this. I’ve seen big-media companies try to suck up content and cool from the new guys; that will expire like milk at a 7/11. I’ve seen new, little-media companies use the old, big-media models but make it work just because it’s so much cheaper. I haven’t seen many, if any, truly enable (and then exploit) the distributed universe. I’m working on my little corners of it, trying to push notions of the open-source infrastructure that become necessary if you’re going to enable a distributed model. But it’s not easy. Media always — always — existed thanks to its closed networks, thanks to controlling the means of distribution. When the advantage of distribution disappears — and, in fact, becomes just a cost that weighs you down vs. your new, Web. 2.0 competitors — these guys don’t know what to do. They want to impose the old models on the new instead of accepting that the old is gone and understanding the opportunities of the new.

Current.TV isn’t it, or doesn’t look like it’s going to be. Blog posts quoted in print or on TV isn’t it. Enabling the distributed world … now that’s it.

But enough about you

But enough about you

: In dissecting Current.TV‘s relationship with its content contributors, Umair Haque at BuggleGeneration gets right to the heart of what’s wrong with most big-media attempts to interact with the citizens via citizens’ media. The big guys think it’s still about them. They don’t understand — and perhaps never will — that it’s not about speaking but listening, about blowing up their networks to take part in vastly bigger networks than they ever could have imagined.

This raises a very special problem for Current TV. Namely, that more Web 2.0 focused competitors can always and everywhere offer a superior value prop, because they can leverage complementarity. Put another way, Current TV, by tying itself heavily to cable and satellite distribution, may be foregoing the real opportunity. If you follow this analysis, Current will never be able to raise relative switching costs.

Is this a symptom of a deeper…uhhh…thing? Check this out:

“…Assignment: London

Okay: We want to put together a reflective piece on the London bombings and their implications. Get out a camera — a webcam will do — and start talking.”

Look, peer production is not about ordering prosumers around to meekly do your bidding. It’s about building a platform/community that does theirs.

Not to sound harsh, but perhaps Current has the whole dynamics of this stuff backwards.

In a sense, this is the same kind of mistake that 1.0 dot commers made – assuming that the www was just another distribution/mktg channel. Dot com 2.0 peer production plays like Current seem to be assuming more and more that the www is just another production channel (supply chain, if ya like). It’s emphatically not.

The deep economics of peer production are very different – they’re about supply-side network fx, strong complementarity, and increasing returns. All of which are very different from traditional media competitive dynamics, and create very different industry structures.

Right. It’s impossible for the big guys to think outside their networks. They can only think centralized; that was their core value, after all. They must learn how to think distributed: If they want to play in this new world at all, if they can, they must find out how they can help enable people to do what they want to do where they are already doing it.

This means sharing content. It means sharing promotion. It means sharing knowledge and training. And, most of all, it means sharing money. It means supporting citizens’ media in every way.

Think eBay: It lets people start new businesses. What is the media equivalent of that? How do you create the world’s biggest network by not tying it to a network, by even giving up your old network?

I haven’t seen many examples of this. I’ve seen big-media companies try to suck up content and cool from the new guys; that will expire like milk at a 7/11. I’ve seen new, little-media companies use the old, big-media models but make it work just because it’s so much cheaper. I haven’t seen many, if any, truly enable (and then exploit) the distributed universe. I’m working on my little corners of it, trying to push notions of the open-source infrastructure that become necessary if you’re going to enable a distributed model. But it’s not easy. Media always — always — existed thanks to its closed networks, thanks to controlling the means of distribution. When the advantage of distribution disappears — and, in fact, becomes just a cost that weighs you down vs. your new, Web. 2.0 competitors — these guys don’t know what to do. They want to impose the old models on the new instead of accepting that the old is gone and understanding the opportunities of the new.

Current.TV isn’t it, or doesn’t look like it’s going to be. Blog posts quoted in print or on TV isn’t it. Enabling the distributed world … now that’s it.

  • http://donatacom.com/blog.shtml Terry Heaton

    You’ve captured the essence of the brick wall against which I beat my head nearly every time I speak with conventional media types, Jeff. The blogosphere, citizens media, podcasting, and all these cool things that are empowering the bottom don’t belong to the status quo, and efforts to make them belong will only result in disappointment and the subsequent dismissal of their validity. When that happens, it’s all over.
    Wait. Maybe that’s a GOOD thing…

  • http://jackieblogs.com/hole Jackie Danicki

    You helped me work something out that I’d been puzzling over with Adriana Cronin-Lukas earlier today. Marcomms also cannot accept that it’s not about them.

  • http://www.aidpage.com Emil Sotirov

    John Battelle had an article recently in AdAge with the self-explanatory title “ARE YOU BECOMING IRRELEVANT TO YOUR CUSTOMERS? Why Marketers, Agencies and Media Execs Need to Understand Disintermediation.”
    Among the many good points by John or as he calls them “ground rules for media in a Web-dominated world”: (1) join the ‘point-to’ economy, (2) make your living in the long tail, (3) creative no longer driver, (4) writers go directly to readers, (5) rise of the new middlemen – meaning Yahoo, Google, IAC, etc.
    I disagree though with something John says:

      “Publishers are born connectors, they bring like-minded people together. They are also conversationalists of the first order. They foster the interaction between the three key parties in commercial media: the audience, the author/creator and the marketer. This facilitation is still very much needed. And as much as the folks at Google would beg to differ, when it comes to true value, nothing beats human communication. Figure out a way to be part of the conversation, and you will always prosper.”

    I question a basic assumption underlying the discussion – the “author-audience” relationship – as a given… as something that still needs facilitation by marketers – even in a conversational framework.
    I would argue that – on a deeper cultural level – we live through (for quite some time already) a crisis of the idea of “creation” itself as a mode sustaining its terms: “author” and “audience”. Our culture is steadily re-telling the hierarchical “one-to-many” structures through “many-to-many” network models. In a conversation, we don’t really have a “teller” and an “audience.” Everybody is both “talking” and “listening” in a peer to peer environment.
    So, what kind of mediation such a conversation needs. “Moderating” comes to mind… which may be as good as Ted Koppel’s televised town square meetings, but is that the conversation John is having in mind? Ted will be retiring soon.
    Then, there is the “creative” in the “mediation” business itself. Once you are “creative”, you stop being “part of the conversation” – you try to take “the center” of it. And this, again, reminds me somewhat of Ted sitting pretty on a high chair.
    My point being… I am not sure that “authorship” and “mediation” are sustainable values in the context of a real non-moderated “conversation.”
    So, if John – with his Federated Media Publishing – doesn’t quite get this point, what can we expect from old media executives.