Posts from August 2002

The price of creativity: Greg

The price of creativity
: Greg Beato of Soundbitten.com sends a thoughtful reply to my obvious musings about the lowered cost of creating and distributing creativity — media and entertainment — today.

He says, quite rightly, that though it will be chaper for the creative to create and possible for them to distribute inexpensively, the problem remains: Getting people to pay for creativity.

and i don’t just mean because it’s so easy to copy and then

share digital content. that’s a problem content producers need to learn to live with, in my opinion, just like the software industry does. (of course, it’s probably going to have a bigger impact on content producers than it does on the software industry, because the content industry has fewer opportunities to sell to big institutions and fewer opportunities to sell high-cost service…) another obvious thing that makes online payment hard is a lack of transaction options, the failure to create viable micropayment solutions, etc. Eventually, they’ll figure that out, but the one problem that will always remain is how to make online payment efficient and convenient. People always talk about some coming utopia where fans will pay artists directly and cut out the middlemen, but when push comes to shove, how many listeners/viewers/readers are really going to pay that way? retail record stores may be broken in a number of ways, but imagine if you had to go to a different store each time you wanted to buy a CD or song — suddenly, the traditional retail store seems better than the digital future in at least one regard. obviously, the solution is bundling content — but bundling means middlemen, someone to aggregate the content, market the content, process the transactions….

I agree. There is still a need to sell — then, necessarily, a need to market — content and that is why God created middlemen. We may get new and different middlemen, but we will have middlemen nonetheless.

Still, the mere fact that content can be cheaper to produce means that more people can produce it without having to go through as many middlemen and that efficiency will change the marketplace in fundamental, even revolutionary ways.

I see new, inexpensive ways to produce magazines, online content, newspapers, movies, TV shows, music, books. That means that more people can produce it. That means that there will be more competition. That means that distributors will be able to acquire content less expensively. That means — maybe — that we the audience can acquire it less expensively.

There will still be editors (thank goodness) and distributors and there will still be stars who will still make big bucks (unlike the rest of us). But the fundamentals of the business will change in ways we can only begin to daydream about.

(Read Beato’s complete letter here.)

The creative class: I just

The creative class
: I just bought — but have not yet cracked open — The Rise of the Creative Class by Richard Florida.

The title alone captivates me. In media, entertainment, technology, and education, creativity is now a key raw resource and finished product of American industry. Florida says 38 million American now make their living creating.

And technology and the connected Internet will have a huge impact on this class and their industry: People with talent can create — and now distribute — their products with less expense, less risk, greater speed, greater ease. (People without talent will still be able to make dreck and it will still fail no matter how much it cost to produce.)

There is a new day coming across all media. Consider:

– In movies — Gary Winick made the movie Tadpole for a few hundred thousand bucks because he used digital cameras and avoided the bloated ways of Hollywood. Directors and writers will be able to make new movies for far less and the truth is that the bloated bosses of Hollywood will welcome this — once they wake up to it — because it will save them money and they will be able to fill theaters and all their sales channels with new entertainment.

– In TV — There is a huge and growing demand for product as digital TV and satellite TV spread across the land. Cheap and tawdry reality TV will help sate this hunger for awhile — and we’ll enjoy the tacky fun of it — but that will not last. TV distributors will need new, good product they can sell to us and they will welcome new ways to produce this product. Have an idea for a TV show? Make it as Gary Winick made his movie. If HBO doesn’t buy it, FX might. Someday, you’ll be able to distribute it yourself.

– In journalism — See Doc’s note below. As I regularly remind us all, webloggers are not reporters; they are not out there getting real facts. But still, weblogs and the web now allow talented writers and commentators to share what they have to say with the world at next-to-no expense.

– In books — eBooks are taking off so slowly you can’t even see the climb. But the moral is the same: A writer can produce a book with no more investment than his time and intelligence and talent. Bill Quick has done it and will tell you how. A great marketing newsletter I get just produced an eBook of its best tips and it is selling. Imagine a world without agents, publishers, bookstores, and printers — imagine the savings! Imagine, too, a world in which authors and their audience actually have a relationship — something that cannot happen in today’s book industry, where no one — not the author, not the agent, not the editor, not the publisher — has any relationship with the reader. This, too, will come.

– In music — Despite the best efforts of the RIAA and the music distributors to stop it, Internet distribution of digital music will win out and this means that for the price of a microphone and an Internet connection, any musician will be able to distribute his or her music to the world. What they will miss is marketing. But that’s always easy to add; all you need is money. What you don’t need anymore is agents and managers and executives.

Now I’m not proposing or hoping for a world of creative anarchy, where all creators are equal. The truth is that the system we have now, albeit bloated, does perform an important function: It tries to find quality. Sure, it often fails. But it tries.

What’s new about this new world of the connected Internet is that the audience can start to take over that function. Look at weblogs: We link to the good ones. Cream rises. Quality will out. Why trust what an agent or editor or producer or executive thinks might be good or popular or profitable when you can go right to the end-consumer, the audience? Wise entertainment and media executives will find a way to enlist the audience in this; it will make them rich.

There also will be a role for marketing even in this new world. The reason people are discovering, say, Eva Cassidy now, after her death, is that a big company is spending big money to market her and those who are discovering her are grateful. That kind of investment and return on investment will continue to drive entertainment.

The bottom line is that entertainment and media can build a new, more profitable and efficient bottom line if only they let the audience help them. They can eliminate many of the middlemen. They can produce creative product for far less. They can know what the audience wants and likes far faster. They can foster a new relationship among creators and consumers.

This is all about a new efficiency. And along the way, some companies and thus their employees will suffer. Some will die. Some companies will wise up and prosper. And many new companies and relationships will grow; I see huge opportunity in creating new collections of talent, new ways to produce, and new ways to distribute.

First came the industrial revolution.

Next: The creative revolution.

No harumphing here
: Doc Searls watches the blogalogue [blog dialogue … think it’ll stick?] regarding copyright and notes this about the chorus:

Note the complete absence of that harrumphy editorial style we’ve been getting in newspapers for two centuries. Also of the back-and-forth yelling we get from Crossfire and its clones on the cable news channels.

That shits over. Yes, it’ll still be around for another decade or two, but the undermining has begun. People are informing themselves and each other. They aren’t just consuming other people’s final opinions.

This is unlike anything we’ve seen in journalism before. And there’s no going back. The big periodical publishers can’t do a damn thing about it. Unlike the Big Five record companies, with the RIAA as their enforcement arm, the publishers’ army of “content producers” never got into the business with the intent to become blockbuster stars. They’re journalists. Like teachers, they never expected to make a lot of money. Also like teachers, they’re in the knowledge-spreading business. As more of them get into the knowledge-growing and knowledge-exchanging business that blogging’s all about, the business itself will change completely.

It’ll happen in entertainment eventually too. But right now the old star-maker machinery has too much power, and too many of the artists it mills are still too attached to that system and the big-money pay that goes to its most fortunate products.

Maybe. Maybe indeed.

We are all grappling with what this thing — this weblog, this web, this Internet, this connectivity thing — really means for the fate of media and entertainment and the truth is, it’s still too early to know.

Doc’s onto an important element of the change: the sharing, the dialogue.

This new medium is different, as I often say, because the audience owns it, not the publishers.

It is also different because, for the first time in any medium, the audience has a voice. They are being heard — by each other. This usually leads to socialization — civilization — such that, as Doc says, we don’t hear the typical Crossfire bile-tossing (outside of the now-passe flame wars of forums of olde).

And weblogs are different because they are quality publications; their creators put effort into creating them and quality is recognized by those who link to them.

Add it together and you do see the glimmer of a new generation.

I will disagree with only two things Doc says: Journalists may not always get into the business to get rich but some do and everyone wants to. And big-time publishers do not need to see all this as a threat, only the deaf ones. Wise publishers will embrace their audience and join in.

Time: Someone today suggested moving

Time
: Someone today suggested moving a business meeting to September 11.

I was appalled. I may be wacky on the topic, but that is like having a party on the Day of Atonement.

It will be a day for memories and memorials.

I have decided to take the day off from work and go to Manhattan. I will get as near to the memorial services downtown as I can. I will retrace my own steps. I will remember.

It has been a year..
: … and New York’s skyline still hurts.

Every day, I drive into work on the rusting Pulaski Skyway you see at the end of The Sopranos and every time, I still half expect to see the towers bragging to the sky but they are gone and now our skyline looks like one of those Ohio cities I can never keep straight.

It has been a year…
: … and I am still paranoid.

Yesterday, I was driving home and the local NPR station went off the air: silent. AM, too. My first thought: Somebody hit the Empire State Building. No, the power just went off in Washington for a few minutes.

This morning, I am driving to work and I see a jet coming in over the expressway. It looks to my ignorant eye as if it is coming in low and fast. I half expect to see smoke coming from New York; I think it’s going to hit the Empire State Building (again). No, it only landed at Liberty International Airport.

Three years and counting
: Dave Winer says today is the third birthday of Blogger. Already?

Mobile porn: I predict that

Mobile porn
: I predict that the secret killer ap of ultraportable digital cameras connected to the Internet and tiny digital cameras connected to cell phones will be porn: I’ll show you yours if you show me mine. It cannot be long before you see collections of autobiographical picture porn on web sites.And I’m sure someone somewhere is writing a business plan for anonymous phone chat and dating services with pictures added. Mark my words.

What, no news?
: Right now, Connie Chung is interviewing her husband about the reports that Bill Clinton will get a talk show like Maury’s.

Elvis calling
: My old friend and colleague Chet Flippo — the legendary writer from Rolling Stone veteran now editorial director at CMT — sent me the piece he wrote about Elvis on the anniversary. He had access to Graceland when he wrote an official book — later banned by the Colonel — and recalls:

The Meditation Garden, where Elvis, his mother and father and his grandmother Minnie are buried, is one of the most peaceful places I have ever known. I still miss those clear mornings when the dew sparkled on Elvis’ gravestone and birds darted and sang among the flowers.

One morning, I was writing there, sitting alone on the stone steps before the brick wall, with its 19th-century Spanish stained glass windows, that curves around the graves and the circular central fountain. I occasionally gazed over at Elvis’ grave. “What a wasted life,” I thought. A voice, that sounded very much like Elvis, spoke quietly to me. “What about your life, man? Take a close look at that, why don’t you? Then come back and tell me what’s a wasted life.”

I have never gone in much for the spiritual or the mystical. But that was a very real experience. And I have to tell you, I did sort of take a close look at my life. I won’t say that I did anything drastic, but I did start making a lot of corrections in things I was doing that I perhaps shouldn’t have been doing. And re-examining things that I hadn’t been doing that I perhaps ought to be doing. And now I realize that I’m a whole lot better off for it. I must go back and thank him some day.

Fly me: Just one woman’s

Fly me
: Just one woman’s story: Why airport security isn’t working; why airports aren’t working; why airlines aren’t working.