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.

  • Jeff: Great stuff. eBay has made quite a bit of dough from the “connections business” but other’s haven’t. Where will the economic incentive come from to fuel a new generation of companies focusing on connecting people? Attracting advertisers to these communities is one obvious answer but are there others?

  • Alex Smith

    Boy that’s the bazillion dollar question isn’t it? I was in at the beginning of the Internet gold rush. I refused to charge companies to produce things I knew wouldn’t make any money. But I knew plenty of guys who could put on dog and pony shows and then get all this seed money and then couldn’t deliver and blame it on whatever!

    Still, I’m starting my own vlog with my buds just cuz we want to express ourselves…I heard that some people are offended by some content on some vlogs..I ask that there be a warning this contains offensive language or explicit or whatever..

    I work in big media so I know how oppressive it can be..still this is the birth of a new internet! (Let’s not screw this one up people!)

  • I am also starting to wonder that the whole idea of delivering content through a portable device may be dead (the bandwidth challenge is yet to be overcome). So how about being able to sync your iPod in any hotspot?

  • There are hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of talented little guys with great ideas all over the world. I’ve met some of them at various conferences and trade shows. The professional tools to bring their ideas to life are available, and have been for some time, whether it’s words, pictures, audio, video or a combination of all of them. What’s been missing is access to distribution. You can have the greatest idea, but if you can’t get it out there to people, you’ve really got nothing. Before, there’s been no alternative to dealing with middlemen – record companies, publishers, TV stations, radio stations, movie studios – to get whatever it is you have to say or show in front of a mass audience. That’s all changing and it’s very exciting.

    What it comes down to now is talent, whether that talent is for news reporting, song-writing, movie-making, whatever. If you’ve got that, a worldwide audience is for the first time realistically coming within your reach.

    Kudos to Apple for making it easy for all us little guys to produce professionaly finished material with their systems and software, and for providing an easy means of sharing it directly with other people.

  • Consumers don’t trust Digital Rights Management (DRM) because they’re used to getting content for free and because they’re weary of vendor lock in – imagine if Apple started charging $50 to install Itunes.

    The answer is Open Source DRM which is being pushed hard by Sun. That would solve the lock-in problem. Some people will lose out when everything goes pay per view but the quality of the content will probably improve as producers can tell them much more about their audience than Nielsen ever could.

    If Anderson’s longtail theory is right then creative commons licensed longtail content will fill the void left by the death of broadcast. The free stuff will be better than current basic cable and the pay per view stuff will be better than HBO.

  • Simon

    Creating a connection for the iPod is as simple as creating an accessory that connects into the base. The new iPod is another nail in the coffin of the idea of convergence around a connectivity devices (AKA mobile phones). iPods derivitives will become the device of choice and connection (whatever the standard) will be an add on useable between multiple consumption devices. Think ST:TNG comm badges.

    The convergence will be around the network. It is the network that enables the conversations.

  • Snarker

    Had you bothered to do 30 seconds of research, you’d know that the iPod will play MPEG-4/H.264 videos encoded by third parties, i.e. little guys, and that iTunes’ Podcast support already allows for video feeds (and has since the start).

  • You inspired a post of my own on the subject Jeff:

    Glimpse the Unthinkable

    Perhaps it will add some interesting views to the conversation.

  • /pd

    Whew this a very thought provocating post !!

    Hey Jeff, if this is a prototype don’t you think the next gen is going to some sort of mobile device that collects content across all digital streams and then permits you to watch what you want when youi want it ??

  • Jobs has already been connected to Disney via Pixar – but it’ll be interesting to see how this develops because it is still pretty niche and there is a very wide field that other tech companies can build on – you can bet Microsoft are still in the game.

  • Hi. The link attached to this comment is my blog, where I commented on this entry. Feel free to stop by and drop a line! Thanks.

  • Jeff: Finally you’re getting some perspective! That earlier stuff about announcing new models was a bit much matey! Glad you’re bringing this up (I think New Media Musings had something to say too). I’d love nothing more than the vPod to become a vessel for non corporate content and even better citizen journalism showing you news visuals that the TV wont.

  • Free iPod

    Nice Blog. Check this out, you can get a free iPod

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  • Dennis McGovern

    Hi Jeff,

    I also appreciated your simple summary, “Content is not king, Distribution is not king, Conversation is the kingdom.” The one word you use after this statement is the key to it all (trust). Most of us know the internet world is a fast and furious one. If integrity is not the main stay of any internet concept, my personal feeling is that death of that idea/business will come quicker and swifter as a result of the net.

    The development of trust leads to long term relationships and referrals to others when utilized to the max. The net – “The final frontier”

    Thanks,

    DM

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