Break free of the shackles of your medium

Now some bigger questions on the implications of the Apple iPod video:

* Will vloggers and other independent producers of video bits, like podcasters, be able to use this as a channel of distribution, free or paid? I certainly hope so. That’s important because…

* Big, old media companies will be the most hampered when it comes to taking advantage of this new outlet. See Rafat Ali’s roundup of the hand-wringing among networks, network affiliates, talent, agents, lawyers, and all the people who stand in the way of growth and progress. They are all weighed down like Marley’s ghost.

If given the chance, new guys will be far more nimble and able to use this platform…. or rather, to ignore the prisons of platforms.

* Can the video iPod EVDO phone be too far behind? Once you’re there, then device and connectivity are irrelevant: You will get what you want when, where, and how you want it.

I harken back to Doc Searls saying in a podcast a year ago that the iPod is a prototype for the future of media delivery. My summary then:

Doc said that the transistor, as an enabler, and the transitor radio, as a platform, really created the medium of radio we know today. Similarly, he said, the iPod is the prototype for the next platform and the next medium.

Right. The iPod is just a prototype. It can be replaced, in time (not much of it), by spectrum: Rather than downloading a show while connected to hear while unconnected, we will always be connected and will get what we want when we want it. But it’s still the iPod that shows the potential and changes habits.

It’s not about downloading. It’s not about seeing video on tiny screens. It’s not about iPods.

It’s about breaking free from wires and schedules and devices and pipes and media.

* Which is what makes this Wall Street Journal story [via Paid Content] on Comcast’s rush to reinvent itself all the more relevant… or perhaps poignant.

To protect its turf, cable giant Comcast Corp. has 400 software engineers building what amounts to a TV version of the Internet, stocked with movies, archived television programs and other interactive features, including a search function. Now, to push into the online-video business, among other reasons, the company is in talks with Google Inc. about teaming up to buy a stake in the Web operations of Time Warner Inc.’s America Online. (See related article.)

Internet-based technologies loom as an enormous threat to cable. Phone giants SBC Communications Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc. for example, are planning to use them to offer consumers a cornucopia of movies and TV shows that can be watched at any time.

Program owners are also getting in on the act. ESPN, the sports network owned by Walt Disney Co., is talking to consumer-electronics manufacturers about developing a set-top box that would show college-football games not available on cable or satellite. As was announced yesterday, users of Apple Computer Inc.’s new video iPod will be able to watch five shows from Disney’s ABC unit, including “Desperate Housewives” and “Lost,” for $1.99 a pop. America Online is airing two original reality series, “The Biz” and “Project Freshman.” …

But advocates of new TV-distribution technologies question how long programmers will stay loyal to the cable giants. Offering programs and movies on the Web, which is open to all, will be “too compelling from a content owner’s perspective,” compared with being enclosed within Comcast’s proprietary system, argues Jeremy Allaire, founder of Brightcove Inc., a company that helps businesses put TV programs online.

Herein we see the irrelevant war of content vs. distribution. Some companies are trying to own as much content as they can… but that’s silly in a post-scarcity world, where content will be ever-more plentiful (and ever-better as a result). Other companies are trying to control as much of the distribution (and devices) as they can. But that’s equally silly in an open world, where any device can address any media anywhere anytime (especially once I have my choice of cable modem or Verizon fibre-to-the-house or Google free and ubiquitous wi-fi of the next generation). They’re all fighting in the closed world of scarcity. But we’re past that. I’ll say it again and again: Content is not king. Distribution is not king. Conversation is the kingdom.

If these guys were smart, they should see themselves in the connections business: connecting people to talent and people to information and people to each other and marketers to people. To do that, your asset must be trust, not copyrights or pipes.

SEE ALSO: Terry Heaton and [via Glenn Reynolds] Patrick Hynes.