Who wants to own content?

Distribution is not king.

Content is not king.

Conversation is the kingdom.

The war is over and the army that wasn’t even fighting — the army of all of us, the ones who weren’t in charge, the ones without the arms — won. The big guys who owned the big guns still don’t know it. But they lost.

In our media 2.0, web 2.0, post-media, post-scarcity, small-is-the-new-big, open-source, gift-economy world of the empowered and connected individual, the value is no longer in maintaining an exclusive hold on things. The value is no longer in owning content or distribution.

The value is in relationships. The value is in trust.

::::

I’m writing this post — grappling with perhaps the most fundamental truth of my brief blogging career — because I still hear big-media colleagues insisting — or perhaps they’re praying — that content is king, that owning content is where the value is, that equity will still grow from exclusivity.

But no: Content is transient, its value perishable, its chance of success slight. You think your article or book or movie or song or show is worth a fortune and in a blockbuster economy, if you were insanely lucky, you could be right. But now anyone can create content. And thanks to the power of the link — and the trust it carries — anyone can get the world to see it. Is some of this new load of content crap? Sure. Lots of content in the old media world was crap, too. But don’t calculate the proportions. Look instead at the gross volume of quality: There’s simply more good stuff out there than there could be before. And it can be created at incredibly low or no cost.

There is no scarcity of good stuff. And when there is no scarcity, the value of owning a once-scarce commodity diminishes and then disappears. In fact, it’s worse than that: Owning the content factory only means that you have higher costs than the next guy: You own the high-priced talent or infrastructure while your new competitor owns just her own talent and a PC.

::::

Distribution? It was already dethroned — though, again, the old barons of bandwidth don’t know it. Owning the printing press, broadcast tower, cable plant, movie theater, or chain of stores is a cost burden when your competitors and customers can, without friction, effort or cost, bypass your distribution and even your marketing. You thought you “owned the customer.” But all you owned was the bill they didn’t want to pay — that and assets that cost you money. It just doesn’t pay to own the assets anymore. Oh, yes, you can still milk cash from them. But can you get growth?

Over and over, I hear old-industry guys arguing that you have to own these assets because that’s where the equity is, that’s where Wall Street puts the value. But since when was following Wall Street a strategy?

::::

So where is the value now? Is there value now? Of course, there is. The value is — thank you, Cluetrain — in the conversation, in the relationship. The value is in trust.

This is so hard for those of us trained in the old economy to get our heads around. That is why, like an ape on 2001, I keep poking at this obelisk to figure out what it is.

But in this new age, you don’t want to own the content or the pipe that delivers it. You want to participate in what people want to do on their own. You don’t want to extract value. You want to add value. You don’t want to build walls or fences or gardens to keep people from doing what they want to do without you. You want to enable them to do it. You want to join in.

And once you get your head around that, you will see that you can grow so much bigger so much faster with so much less cost and risk.

So don’t own the content. Help people make and find and remake and recommend and save the content they want. Don’t own the distribution. Gain the trust of the people to help them use whatever distribution and medium they like to find what they want.

In these new economics, you want to stand back and interfere and restrict as little as possible. You want to reduce costs to the minimum. You want to join in wherever you are welcome.

So in the content world, it is better help enable and be part of fluid networks of content than it is to create and own content (see: open-source ad networks, specialized search, remixing tools, sharing communities). It is better to find new efficiencies than new blockbusters (see: Lulu.com, the Redhat founder’s new on-demand book publishing enterprise). It is better to gather than create (see: hyperlocal citizens’ media vs. big, old, expensive, exclusionary newsrooms). It is better to share trust than to horde it.

In this model, newspapers have a problem: They want to control information and the means of sharing rather than enabling that sharing. Book publishers are inefficient as hell: They have to guess what the audience wants rather than helping questioners find answerers. Entertainment producers are doomed to support extravagant costs: They have raised the bar to success beyond their own reach. Cable companies and broadcasters are lost: They have no idea how to serve people, only masses. Marketers and their agencies are befuddled: They have evolved into beasts without ears. And — here’s my favorite — AOL has it utterly, completely, spectacularly wrong: It wanted to control content and distribution and controlled nothing at all.

I like to think that I live and work at the intersection of big, old media and small, new unmedia. But I may be wrong. I sometimes wonder whether there is an intersection after all. I hope there is. But I’m still looking for its exact coordinates. I wonder whether they are compatible, because their business models and worldviews and DNA are just so different. It’s hard for somone raised on the value of owning content and owning distribution to let go of exclusivity and instead value openness and participation.

If I have to pick sides, you can guess what side I pick: small, not big; open, not closed; shared, not owned; enabled, not excluded.

Yet once you think about it, this isn’t so new, really: Isn’t journalism supposed to be about building trust (so how did it become so untrusted?)? Aren’t brands supposed to be about communicating trust (so how did so many of them become so untrustworthy?)?

In the end, isn’t the only asset worth owning trust?

Content is not king.

Distribution is not king.

Trust is king in the kingdom of conversation.

  • http://www.paradox1x.org Karl

    Great, great, great post Jeff. Spot on.

  • http://robertdfeinman.com/society Robert Feinman

    Not to be too flippant, but where is the content in this entry?

    So far blogs are good for pontificating (I do it all the time, like right now) and for redistributing information found elsewhere.

    If I want conversation I’ll use my cell phone.

    Actually, Jeff, what I think you are describing is personal, community blogs, like livejournal. This is where a group of friends post to each other and the software helps them keep track of all the separate diaries. My son and his generation seem to use it a lot. If the information that is posted is about your own life or experiences then it is new content.

    The issue still remains with the blogosphere taking the financial revenue stream away from the major dailies and major TV networks. If this happens where is the news gathering going to come from?
    Is DOD going to mail me my personal daily briefing? How about each of the 2000+ companies listed on the NYSE?
    And where will I be without the nightly pictures of smashed automobiles provided by the local news?

  • http://spap-oop.blogspot.com Tish G

    I like to think that I live and work at the intersection of big, old media and small, new unmedia. But I may be wrong. I sometimes wonder whether there is an intersection after all. I hope there is. But I’m still looking for its exact coordinates

    Right now, it’s too soon to know where the coordinates are. Within new media, many are confused, don’t know what they’re doing, don’t understand the theories about the conversations they are participating in, sometimes don’t know how to have conversation at all. There are individuals who want to take the new media and direct it into old, controlled, money-making media. Like the Army Corps of Engineers correcting the Rio Grande…

    They don’t understand that the power is in the freedom of new media, not in the commodification of new media.

    Understanding that the key to new media is the conversation rather than the content is part of reaching understanding; but when there is much p.r. telling individuals who desire to participate that the currencey they must distribute is information–with, perhaps a pithy comment or two- the opportunity for conversation can easily be curtailed and fashioned as old-mediaspeak.

    When it is insisted that the new media is about information rather than conversation, we get individuals who do not stimulate conversation, do not necessarily form community, do not want to be anything more than a consultant in the world of electronic thought–not a conversant.

    We get alot of information that, as I have discovered thru interviews with individuals in the outside the blogosphere, discourages conversation. “What do I have to offer?” a former DNC blogger who is considering returning to blogging, recently asked me. There’s a belief that there is an overwhelming glut of information, not an abundance of community and conversation.

    Maybe there is not one intersection, but many; maybe it is not an intersection, but a paralell course. It is growing; but to value and nurture that growth, the empahsis should be on its value as conversation over information-gathering. Thanks, Jeff, for thinking about the value of conversation in the midst of all this information…

  • http://spap-oop.blogspot.com Tish G

    Mr Feinman…

    wow…you just don’t get it. There are many, many grown-up individuals who blog about many things, including the personal, who would not set foot in livejournal because lj is a medium of the young. There is no place for anyone over 40 in lj, but that does not mean that all of us over 40, who have had vast and interesting lives, should be silent because we were never part of old media.

    We have far more to share in the world than a simple conversation with our friends. We desire to reach out to others, convey the wisdom of our lives.

    I turn to blogs to exchange information and ideas and to converse about information and ideas. I do not read blogs to get some sort of inside scoop on politics or whatever. Perhaps the problem is that you just don’t read the *right* blogs.

    And, as far as conversation goes, how many men actually have them on cellphones? Isn’t that, too, the domain of the teen-ager?

  • http://www.dloye.com/myblog/bBlog-0.7.4.tar/blog/ DLoye

    Robert Feinman in a comment above has noted that the content is missing in the blog. I beg to differ. The ability to stand in an intersection and look voluably for the signposts is not as clueless as it sounds to someone who refuses to admit they are disoriented.
    I am just now retired from teaching in a community college because of a myriad of points of dissatisfaction. One of the major irritants was textbooks. The textbook publishing houses are trying with desperation to hold on to ownership of content. I suspect they need to be in some intersections asking questions.

  • http://www.thisisberry.com Berry

    Good article. Still, you are describing a potential – one that admittedly continues to grow into a reality, but a potential nonetheless. That potential is described in a vision, and I hope it’s not a tunnelvision. Prophets, futurologists and others are usually (at least in part) wrong, because they have such a clear picture, with really sensible internal logics, that they’re downplaying other developments that don’t fit in.
    The hyperlocal citizen’s media you mentioned still have some convincing to do. I wrote a small post on my own blog about this article:
    http://www.stronks.demon.nl/2005/08/jarvis-conversation-is-king.html

  • http://moveleft.com Eric Jaffa

    Why does it cost millions to buy a tv station? Hint: it’s not because owning tv stations has no value.

  • http://www.cerado.com Christopher Carfi

    Jeff, you smacked this one out of the park. And, agreed, trust is the cornerstone to moving even beyond relationships (i.e. a persistent series of conversations based on trust between two parties) and moving into communities (where all parties begin to trust each other). More thoughts on transactions, conversations, relationships, and communities here:
    http://www.socialcustomer.com/2005/08/from_transactio.html

  • http://www.marketanomaly.com Adam Saunders

    Yes, there is less value in owning content, but there is still a huge value in being able to consistently produce quality content. The trust that you talk about in your post is the trust readers have that a writer or publication will continue to produce quality content that stimulates conversation.

    Old media networks still have an advantage over individual bloggers, because they can more consistently deliver content. The organization as a whole does not get tired or have to take a vacation even if a few writer do. Today, bloggers working together can very quickly create a comprehensive network of high quality content that rivals our most respected publications, but bloggers still lack consistency.

    Given this fact, it seems that a network model might reemerge in new media as well. It only seems natural for teams of bloggers to get together under the umbrella of a larger organization, which can provide the structure needed to create consistency and the bargaining power needed to win big advertising dollars.

    We can see the beginnings of this trend with Gawker and Corante, which offer a select and high quality group of blogs that readers come back to again and again. It is my casual observation that most blog readers only read a very small group of blogs on any kind of a regular basis. If this is true, there is a huge possibility for consolidation in the blogsphere.

    Jeff, it seems that About.com is in a perfect position to take advantage of this trend. They have the structure and network that I’m talking about, but they are still held back in website mindset. You’ve got to get those “guides” blogging for real. Daily posts for every About.com writer, now that would be something.

  • http://www.mythusmageopines.com/mt Alan Kellogg
  • http://www.mythusmageopines.com/mt Alan Kellogg

    Yuk, I missed up two URLs.

    Steve Jackson Games

    Blog Hop

  • http://www.democracyguy.com Tim Russo
  • http://www.lostremote.com Safran

    A masterful lesson, Jeff. Bold predictions, eyeopening conclusions. That’s a conversation starter.

    Thank you.

  • http://www.mythusmageopines.com/mt Alan Kellogg

    Jeff,

    There’s a conversation going on over here regarding content ownership. The participants are commenting under the old content ownership is paramount trope, I thought I’d inform you of this and invite you to visit, register (free, painless, and no spam), and join in the conversation. I think they would profit from your insights regarding the matter.

  • Flynn

    Yeah, what an eyeopener. Jeff repeats himself for the millionth time in a giant meandering rehash of things said by him and the supposed A-list that incessantly link to each other for these type of posts. Maybe I’ll pop over to Fred Wilson’s or Susan Mernit’s blog to read him confirm what a genius post this is(which will it be??). Blegh.

    Oddly enough, I agree with virtually all of what Jeff puts forth above. I just can’t handle the repetitive mewling anymore. Can we also knock off the ‘old media doesn’t get it’ crapola? Yeah, some still don’t, yet some have read Cluetrain Manifesto and all the blogs and have new directions now. You don’t need to materialize a big, dumb, generalized enemy to get the point across anymore.

    The old blog guard are starting to resemble the old media types they ridicule.

  • Brent

    Flynn:

    If they’re starting to get it then why the heck are the pushing the HDCP content protection schemes for all hardware sold everywhere on both the players and the TVs and pushing the PC manufacturers to implement some form of DRM protection in the software and hardware (aka Palladium)?

    None of these schemes will do anything to really protect the content as the hardware will be in the hands of the consumer and as any good security analyst will tell you, “you can’t garuntee the security of an encryption based system if the hardware is in the hands of those you’re trying to protect it from”…

    All these things do is garuntee that Big Media will de facto strip you of your rights to legally make and use thier content for non profit personal use, and that Big Media can control distrabution methods (can’t release something unless you’ve got the OK from Big Media as it won’t play on any of those new BD ROM players with out the encrpytion keys…) thus estabilishing a oligopoly that’ll be firmly entrenched by support from Congress and the modified patent and copyright laws that Big Media has been pushing…

    I admit that Jeff can seem more than a little preachy after a while about some things, but this is one subject where I really don’t mind hearing it and if anything should be said more often…

    Personally I hope that all this push for “protecting” the content goes the way of the Prohibition of the 1920′s…

  • Brian

    And how exactly will this small world pay the bills? It sounds wonderful, but there is a motivation to extract something from creative pursuits in order to pay one’s way through life. It’s called “making a living”.

    And while I view blogs regularly, I make the time to do it. The Internet may bring the world to me, but it can be quite time-consuming to find what I like. An aggregator of information — a super-blog, if you will — could pull info to my attention just like a NYT does. People will still want content supplied to them, so there will still be “owners” of this content. Passive entertainment, another form of content, will always have a place.

  • http://unbeknownst.net KirkH

    Some things you can’t buy, like trust. If our economy runs on equity, assets, middlemen, etc. Then doesn’t it follow that these economic implosions predicted by the housing bubblers and peak oilers are secondary concerns? What happens when there’s nothing left to sell?

    Breaking windows is bad for the economy even though it creates jobs and boosts spending because there are better alternatives to spend on. What happens when there are no more alternatives? My only conclusion that the workweek will begin to contract in a totally organic, non French, way.

  • http://unbeknownst.net KirkH

    Let me restate that, if wealth is created by the (previously) slow deterioration of inefficency, AKA productivity, then doesn’t it follow that when we reach the peak of efficiency we’ll no longer be able to create wealth? That’s bad for business but not bad for consumers.

    This isn’t about longtail vs. the head or small vs. big it’s about the extinction of commerce. I like to call it “Bob Dylan on your couch, Top Ramen in your cupboard.”

  • http://www.weedshare.com Robert Young

    While it’s always interesting to debate such matters at an altitude 20,000 feet, I’d like to click down a bit to a more practical level to discuss Jeff’s media mantra.

    The reason why traditional media giants will continue to value ownership of content and distribution (particularly in the video biz) is because they know that the TV remote control is going to die as the UI, and that people will start using the web to self-program their daily video consumption. Given such a future scenario, the best way to “own” the viewer is to own the UI. And the best way to own the UI is to own the pipes and the set-top box (DVR).

    But the set-top box and the UI will be “closed”… limited to the content that the distributor selects/buys for availability. That said, the availability of content, even in such a closed system, will explode, simply by virtue of shifting viewing formats from linear programming (scarce) to on-demand (abundant). Their bet is that such content abundance will satisfy the vast majority of the market, even if the market is no longer mass and instead niched.

    The giants are also well aware that emerging alternative “open” platforms represent a serious challenge (particularly Microsoft’s Media Center PCs). In this case, they are relying on their ownership of quality content to limit the viability of such “open” offerings. And so far, judging from Microsoft’s and Apple’s moves towards trusted platforms (to appease Hollywood), the strategy seems to be working.

  • http://mistersnitch.blogspot.com/2005/07/podcasts-small-videos-big-profits.html Mr. Snitch!

    The importance of trust isn’t news. It’s what Ray Kroc understood when he developed the McDonald’s franchise. In Kroc’s day, there was no shortage of places selling burgers and fries. Kroc never competed on price (although he did) or taste (although he did that as well). He competed on trust. He wanted the trust of families that his fast food places offered a consistently (trust) clean, friendly, and safe experience. That’s why his early commercials began “Grab a bucket and mop…” instead of “53% of our customers said our fries were 67% better than…”

  • http://falseaxis.com Trip

    Tell Microsoft there’s no value in maintaining an exclusive hold on their operating system or on the licensing for Xbox games or on the format for Word documents. Tell Google there’s no value in preventing others from scraping their search results. Tell the RIAA there’s no value in preventing people from copying music. Tell the MPAA there’s no value in the market for selling DVDs. Tell AOL there’s no value in forcing customers to use their instant messenger client.

    It’s not that these companies don’t get it! They are making tons of money. They understand that quite well. They are not morons. Of course it’s natural to wish more content was free. Free content is great. For the consumer, especially. But it doesn’t mean that companies that refuse to give away their products are morons.

    the rest of my response is
    here

  • Steven

    I would argue that while you CAN find the streams of consciousness on different subject areas of interest, who the hell has the time to read all this stuff (unless your area of work/life/interests are neatly defined by a bog or three).

    I also rely on trusted sources who sort, sift and distill and add some interpretation and context. i.e. a good magazine and decent journalists.

    The world -even before blogs and certainly since – is full of raw information. The issue has often been not that the information wasn’t availiable (and given that the web has made that big time easier) The job of a good media has been to save me time in getting to the key issue.

    Any suggestion (Adriana this is for you) that blogs will replace that function and skill is a step into the future a few years beyond my crystal ball.

  • Lamont

    Lets shut down all of those old-media websites seeing that the blogosphere doesn’t need to link to their content. I’d much rather read the opinions of middle-class Americans sitting in their basements than I would about news from the rest of the world.

  • http://www.bigblogcompany.net Adriana

    Steven, there are tools that enable people to do that an extract the kind of value from what you call ‘streams of consciousness’ that is to my mind unbprecendented! And that is precisely what I am trying to teach your company to do… :-)

  • http://www.ericrice.com Eric Rice

    If content isn’t king, then what about brand + celebrity and the conversation surrounding that?

    I grew up a new media brat and am looking at certain elements of old media that might possibly work. With all this conversation, with all the umpteen million choices and sites, who is the filter? And if filters aren’t king, then why are some of the so-called top blogs the very sites that have few gatekeepers?

    I suppose that I could find all the stuff that BoingBoing posts, but honestly, the day is short, and my time is precious.

    I want the brands I like, and I want them on my schedule. They have to come to me, and that means someone has to make these things known, otherwise, it will be a giant blur, much like a dog wagging his very long tail–a tail which I can barely see because of the motion, much less focus in on the individual hairs.

  • http://www.mythusmageopines.com/mt Alan Kellogg

    Trip,

    What Microsoft deals with is not content, it deals with engines. Machines that run things and make it possible for people to produce content. The information that allows these engines to function is content, but content is not what Microsoft is primarily interested in.

    I write a story that is content. I write the mechanics for Myth20 (RPG in progress) I am writing the engine by which the Myth20 system runs. The engine relies on the content of the mechanics, but it is not those contents. The same for those programs Microsoft produces. The content of those programs is vital to the programs function, but the content is not the program.

  • http://thinkmedia.blogs.com Annette

    Jeff – Great post, and great site. Glad I finally found it!

    Distribution is certainly not king.

    I still think content is king, although very selectivity. There’s always going to be a need of niche, hard-to-find information; And I’d disagree that there’s no scarcity of good stuff – for one, there’s certainly scarcity of good TV programming.

    I believe we’re going through a phase; content is still king, but the gatekeepers have shifted. The gate is no longer controlled by large media corps, but rather, by popular votes.

    Hence, yes, conversation/community is the kingdom!

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com Jersey Exile

    Trust has indeed become an important factor in the new media, but to suggest that it somehow trumps content or distribution is a gross oversimplification. The truth of the matter is that trust, content, and distribution are now inextricably interlinked — trust is a form of content as well as a means of distribution in the blogosphere, just as content is a function of trust and distribution and distribution that of content and trust. Instead of arguing that any one of these is king, perhaps we should be referring to them as new media’s “Triumvirate”!

  • http://oodja.blogspot.com Jersey Exile

    P.S.,

    Doesn’t this argument undermine somewhat your previous assertions that you’re just a guy with a blog? Dunno if you’ve been paying attention, but Markos Moulitsas has recently gotten caught up in a similar debate on Daily Kos in the wake of a post which took a couple of cheap potshots at hippies and pacificists.

    If trust is such a critical commodity in the new media, do you not then have a responsibility to your readers that transcends your own personal identity as a blogger — i.e., what is the critical threshold between trust and leadership?

    I noticed that you demurred when asked by the Blogpulse interviewer to recommend a personal favorite blog. Wasn’t that at least an indirect admission on your part that your “trust” is worth something among the technorati and not to be squandered lightly?

    Great topic, btw.

  • http://www.platinax.co.uk Brian Turner

    It is a great article in that it recognises the social nature of the internet and its use – but as is worth pointing out, social networks are prone to infantile social politics, and just because a conversation is happening, doesn’t mean to say that it is actually interesting beyond the immediate speakers.

    2c.

  • TheDoggyBlog

    what a bunch of horse manure. Nobudy but nobudy searches for conversations. Tis why blogs rock and forums suck.

  • http://9rules.com/ Scrivs

    This sounds like the 9rules model of networking.

  • http://www.ericgoldman.org Eric Goldman

    I think I must be missing something. I don’t see trust and content as opposites; instead, I think content is the way to build trust. So if trust is king, content is the kingmaker. Eric.

  • http://www.psfk.com Piers Fawkes

    Re. Jersey Exile’s “perhaps we should be referring to them as new media’s “Triumvirate”!” Here, here! This starts to make better sense to me. Part of the reason why old media folk don’t understand what’s going on because we don’t make it accessible – we’re often too busy marvelling at some ‘secret we’ve discovered’ rather than share it in a way that our old media peers understand.

  • http://peterme.com/ peterme

    This, however, is not news.

    Long ago, before “Web 2.0″, Andrew Odlyzko wrote a brilliant and prescient essay, “Content is Not King.”

    http://www.firstmonday.org/issues/issue6_2/odlyzko/index.html

    Connectivity is.

  • http://www.customerworld.typepad.com S.Swaminathan

    I think getting the message in an “unmedia” format is the future of relationships for brands with customers. The more unmedia you are, the more truthful content and distribution can be. The more unwritten the relationship is, the more trustworthy it is. Then, it gets more believable.

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  • http://ondemandmedia.typepad.com/ On Demand Media

    Very interesting thread. From I wrote a comment about this in my blog:

    Perhaps what is happening with content is not that it is becoming less important. Perhaps the problem is that the concept of content is nearing the end of its useful lifetime.

    The idea that what audiences do is consume content is rooted in theories of consumer behavior according to which consumers make choices that maximize their utility. Without doubt, this is a fair description of what happens when I decide to go to the local video shop to get a movie. It could also be claimed to be what happens when, after browsing the newspaper’s headlines, I decide to read an article. But does it fully describe my experience of going over the newspaper as a whole as part of my commute? I think not.

    In summary: audiences don’t consume content: they dance through media, stepping on various pieces of content, but their main concern is to have a dance that is satisfactory overall. It is this that audiences pay for, not the content it relies on.

    Full version at
    http://ondemandmedia.typepad.com/odm/2005/09/is_content_a_us.html

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  • http://paulmiller.typepad.com/ Paul Miller

    An interesting and well-argued post, Jeff. I’ve used it to spark some thoughts of my own around how cultural institutions like museums and libraries might fit within your model, and would welcome your thoughts…

  • http://thenewgoo.blogspot.com Delia

    I’m a library science grad student writing a paper on archiving the blog the same way we archive periodicals, books, and other historically relevant mass media.

    I realize I’m a bit late stopping by, but I’ve read all of the commentary on this thread and would be interested to see what you think about preserving this electronic media transformation/revolution for generations to come, regardless of whether it’s a fleeting trend or staying power. Is it worth it?

    I understand if you’re bored by my thesis…but I’m an aspiring librarian, not a sensational PR rep. But, really, if you think about it, wouldn’t it be interesting to look back on the blog reactions to the news of our time, and have it all catalogued, comments and all?

  • http://www.viewmagazine.tv david dunkley gyimah

    I’m ambivalent and that’s hardly me. It is a profound point in this cult of the consumer era. I agree, yes I do. And with some of the other blogs I have read. “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick”, and so the light footed will win the initiative. I was recently a panelist at a conference in San Antonio, “Restoring the Trust” convened by the learned Leonard Witts and many others e.g. Dan Gilmore, Craig Newmark. That and this conversation is ripe, ready to be plucked for mass consumption. But perhaps it won’t because the elements raised threaten the a comfortable status quo form traditional sources e.g. let content go, open source, share, add don’t subtract. What, they cry. Traditional media was built on principles that are at odds with the now, and wrapping their heads around this provokes a tired, but, eeeek, neccessary clarion call”, “So where’s the business model?”
    Trust is implicitly required in return business, er trade. Some have it, some well known brands trade on it. But a discerning public c.f 44 circa percent of US folk have lost trust in the media, tells a different story. They will stay in a motel overnight if their brand doesn’t show respect. Content may certainly not be king, but it does stay close to his Highness. It boils down to the quality. Not always, but enough. TV viewers will tolerate fuzzy pics from a phone cam, but they’ll want their host to make sense, to offer food for thought, to offer qualilty at some point between the news and the next real life (sic) show. That’s why I’m responding to this blog – my third time only – i’m feeling the fibre.
    Imperceptibly or otherwise natural selection will demonstrate our penchant to share new spaces, which have deeper regions of value, trust, responsiveness. How long? And will the juggernauts be able to turn their vessels around fast enough before, and some might suggest rightly so, become irrelevant is a blog- in- the -waiting.
    Restoring the Trust interactive video can be seen on http://www.viewmagazine.tv

  • http://www.viewmagazine.tv david dunkley gyimah

    I’m ambivalent and that’s hardly me. It is a profound point in this cult of the consumer era. I agree, yes I do. And with some of the other blogs I have read. “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick”, and so the light footed will win the initiative. I was recently a panelist at a conference in San Antonio, “Restoring the Trust” convened by the learned Leonard Witts and many others e.g. Dan Gilmore, Craig Newmark. That and this conversation is ripe, ready to be plucked for mass consumption. But perhaps it won’t because the elements raised threaten the comfortable status quo of traditional sources e.g. let content go, open source, share, add don’t subtract. What, they cry. Traditional media was built on principles that are at odds with the now, and wrapping their heads around this provokes a tired, but, eeeek, neccessary clarion call”, “So where’s the business model?”
    Trust is implicitly required in return business, er trade. Some have it, some well known brands trade on it. But a discerning public c.f 44 circa percent of US folk have lost trust in the media, tells a different story. They will stay in a motel overnight if their brand doesn’t show respect. Content may certainly not be king, but it does stay close to his Highness. It boils down to the quality. Not always, but enough. TV viewers will tolerate fuzzy pics from a phone cam, but they’ll want their host to make sense, to offer food for thought, to offer qualilty at some point between the news and the next real life (sic) show. That’s why I’m responding to this blog – my third time only – i’m feeling the fibre.
    Imperceptibly or otherwise natural selection will demonstrate our penchant to share new spaces, which have deeper regions of value, trust, responsiveness. How long? And will the juggernauts be able to turn their vessels around fast enough before, and some might suggest rightly so, become irrelevant is a blog- in- the -waiting.
    Restoring the Trust interactive video can be seen on http://www.viewmagazine.tv

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  • Paul in NJ

    According to Jeff Jarvis, “The value is no longer in owning content or distribution. The value is in relationships. The value is in trust.” Commenter Alan Kellogg chimes in that “Those who consistently produce good content will garner a good reputation.”

    Yes to Alan; sorry, Jeff. The company I work for (and partly own) learned that lesson early in our 26-year existence. We produce good content, sell some of it, and give away much more. We have earned a GREAT rep; we’re trusted. And pre-Web, we made a good living.

    But ‘relationships’ and ‘trust’ don’t pay the bills in any company. Any way you slice it, you gotta make a buck along the way. If you don’t own the content (and/or the distribution rights), just what do you have to sell? You can’t sell your trust; if you try, you lose it.

    Say some more about _that_ and I’ll be listening.

    Sign me: new-media believer/cynic.

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  • hoffmanrandy

    Referring to “old media” is like referring to the “fashion industry.” What does either really mean? Dave Winer and Paris Hilton both buy clothes, so they’re both a part of the “fashion industry.” Yeah, right! Like “old media” it lacks context.

    In my opinion, a more practical discussion takes place with specificity. For example, primetime television programming. This “old media” application was always driven by consumers; remember ratings? Now, new technologies are allowing viewers/consumers to apply more control over primetime programs. And content creators/owners will respond. As peterme above referenced, it’s the connectivity. Some viewer communites will watch LOST with an antenna. Some viewer communities will watch on cable or satellite. Other viewer communities will choose a PVR, cell phone, mind implant…whatever. The point is, all these communites have a common connectivity, and as such have value. Value to advertisers and content makers/owners. That value can be monetized. “Old media” knows this and understands this. But like the smoker preparing to quit; you know where you’re going to end up, but the process and the pain to get there are still in front of you.

    How will this connectivity community evlove in the world of the written world. That’s more difficult to fully see at this point. But it will happen, and common connectivity communites will exist and be easy to monetize. But of course, there will be plenty of smoke along the way.

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  • J Duncan

    Careful Jeff, you sound like we are back in 2001 at the height of the last Internet boom “trust is the kingdom of conversation?”

    Distribution has been “dethroned???” I am also constantly amazed by Intenet “gurus” that ignore the simple fact that their is a massive hurdle blocking the way in the form of the only current pipe into the home that is capable of delivering the Internet of the future (read massive broadband speeds) the cable company. Even if the telcos get their act together and wire the U.S. with fiber, there are still only two fat pipes into the home a very rational structure from their perspective. Perhaps more importantly these two players are trying to offer many of the services that are envisioned by the likes of GOOG and YHOO. It seems fairly obvious long term that once they end up beating each other up over the next few years the cables and the telcos are much better off working together to force the Yahoo’s and the Google’s etc. to pay a toll to them to offer services to the consumers. You are right that the value is the relationships.. the relationships that both the telcos and the cables will control for the foreseeable future.

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  • http://thefelties.blogspot.com Andrew M

    First – great post. Really made me uncomfortable and spurred uncomfortable introspection. Very challenging to my world view. So great job.

    Now, can I ask a stupid question? (Yes, I know, I already did. Har har.)

    What the hell are we supposed to converse about if not content?

    And does not conversation itself become content?

    Okay, the gates have swung wide open and there’s no controlling the flow of information. People still must originate that information.

    I wouldn’t count out Big Media just yet. They still have deep pockets and a long reach. In the long run, Small Media can easily overtake Big Media in a “long tail” sort of way. But the key is still content. I think you’re right about one thing: The Small Media folks who will thrive (and make a living) in this new market will be the ones who can carry on a good conversation. But content is still king. It starts the conversation.

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  • http://global-netizen.blogspot.com/ Martie

    As I read this, I’m wondering if anyone has looked at what this shift in content will mean as it begins to take hold of the way we operate in society to the world of education? There are pieces of historical information that are still “content” that needs to be understood by students. For example: the Civil War, WWI, WWII, and other historical pieces of information.

    What concerns me though is that we will continue to teach students as though content is a fixed or finite piece of information only without realizing that the world and the way information is created and distributed has greatly changed.

    How do you teach this concept to teachers who have yet to learn how to use Power Point? If a teacher knows their “content” area but is not aware of the changes that are taking place in society as you have described, are they “bad” teachers or just “ineffective.”

    How important is it to teach students the new way to gather information or will they just learn it on their own?

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  • http://www.speedlayer.com Erinc Kuzu

    I’m ambivalent and that’s hardly me. It is a profound point in this cult of the consumer era. I agree, yes I do. And with some of the other blogs I have read. “Jack be nimble, Jack be quick”, and so the light footed will win the initiative. I was recently a panelist at a conference in San Antonio, “Restoring the Trust” convened by the learned Leonard Witts and many others e.g. Dan Gilmore, Craig Newmark. That and this conversation is ripe, ready to be plucked for mass consumption. But perhaps it won’t because the elements raised threaten the a comfortable status quo form traditional sources e.g. let content go, open source, share, add don’t subtract. What, they cry. Traditional media was built on principles that are at odds with the now, and wrapping their heads around this provokes a tired, but, eeeek, neccessary clarion call”, “So where’s the business model?”
    Trust is implicitly required in return business, er trade. Some have it, some well known brands trade on it. But a discerning public c.f 44 circa percent of US folk have lost trust in the media, tells a different story. They will stay in a motel overnight if their brand doesn’t show respect. Content may certainly not be king, but it does stay close to his Highness. It boils down to the quality. Not always, but enough. TV viewers will tolerate fuzzy pics from a phone cam, but they’ll want their host to make sense, to offer food for thought, to offer qualilty at some point between the news and the next real life (sic) show. That’s why I’m responding to this blog – my third time only – i’m feeling the fibre.
    Imperceptibly or otherwise natural selection will demonstrate our penchant to share new spaces, which have deeper regions of value, trust, responsiveness. How long? And will the juggernauts be able to turn their vessels around fast enough before, and some might suggest rightly so, become irrelevant is a blog- in- the -waiting.

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  • http://www.turkenter.com Angelo Markus

    Amen, brother. I said sometime ago that media is not about owning content or distribution. It is about relationships. And Locke is quite right: relationships are also not something to be owned. Sweney continues: Here we go, he has four rules/lessons/options for large media companies, this ought to be interesting. Hmmm, I seem to have come out of it with 5 – perhaps one is an example.
    http://www.turkenter.com

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  • DAR

    I agree with your points here. But I think that you don’t totally get the mindset of old media. I don’t believe that their fear is only just a knee-jerk “fear of change” reaction. I think what’s really going on is that they’re thinking “How on earth are we going to make money now?!?!?”

    Just look at your own words:

    “But in this new age, you don’t want to own the content or the pipe that delivers it. You want to participate in what people want to do on their own. You don’t want to extract value. You want to add value. You don’t want to build walls or fences or gardens to keep people from doing what they want to do without you. You want to enable them to do it. You want to join in.

    And once you get your head around that, you will see that you can grow so much bigger so much faster with so much less cost and risk.

    So don’t own the content. Help people make and find and remake and recommend and save the content they want. Don’t own the distribution. Gain the trust of the people to help them use whatever distribution and medium they like to find what they want.

    In these new economics, you want to stand back and interfere and restrict as little as possible. You want to reduce costs to the minimum. You want to join in wherever you are welcome. ”

    You’ve explained all the ways that they shouldn’t try to make revenue, and all the ways they should avoid high costs. But how are they supposed to *make* revenue off of new media?

    As someone who follows the scene, I’m guessing the answer is “advertising”, and surely there’s some companies that are making a killing off of that (i.e., Google). But can every company make strong revenue off of it? I doubt it. And even of those that do, I’m guessing the revenue will be lower than they’ve made off of print media. (See Henry Blodget’s recent analysis of the NYT’s financials at http://www.alleyinsider.com/2007/08/its-easy-to-say.html for an example.)

    You make it sound as if all they need to do is adapt to change and they will survive, and that they’re fools not to see that. But I think that’s not true at all – adapting won’t solve their problem. Their existing business model is ending and even the new business models won’t replace it. And THAT is what they’re scared of.

    Thoughts?

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  • http://www.endofcontrol.com Gerd Leonhard

    Jeff, it is amazing alike we think (and speak) – check out my latest, free online book on “The end of Control” http://www.endofcontrol.com :

    “This book is about the most important issue the media business is facing as it tries to move forward: control. …. In my work as speaker and advisor, the tough issue of control emerges, again and again, as the key contention point within TV companies, publishers, record labels, and broadcasters: How can a commercial venture that is based on so-called “intellectual property” thrive and prosper in an environment that seems to continuously and progressively remove control from the creators/owners/providers of content, and hands it over to the people formerly known as consumers (aka the users), effectively making them more powerful every single day? But the reality is that every click inadvertently makes another case for the consumer’s ever-increasing rise in importance. Within all the conversations I have had about things like commercial content versus shared content, about the read-only or the read-write web, and about copyright versus Fair Use, the crucial question always seems to boil down to WHERE IS THE CONTROL HERE, i.e., questions such as “Who will control this new media universe” and “How much control do I need to run a revenue-generating business?”

    …read on ;) Look forward to seeing you at LeWeb3 in Paris!!

  • http://www.jonathanmarks.com Jonathan Marks

    Gerd sent me to this blog – and I am glad I came. It fits research that I have been doing in West Africa, where community media are doing great deals with mobile companies, and where conversations have always been king in oral cultures. Radio, TV, phone have just extended the range of reach. The other great point is that content creation has become cheap, so that producers with a passion can now realise the story they want to tell. I don’t believe so much in UGC, but in user generation publication – where those with a story can make money – probably on merchanise or performance rather than the rights of the book/video/radio show.

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  • http://www.franglix.com Paul

    I think that however the relationship is built, the trust issue is king. I don’t think there is anyway to own a conversation – except temporarily rise to the top of search engines or social media quoted with a key-phrase. I like your conviction about the issue, and the passion that the post has raised. Good polarising tactic.

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    good post jeff but great content will always be king online!! tell me one site that has great content and is doing badly.

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