Alistair for Hugh:Techcrunch recently covered a three-hour, candid discussion with Conan O’Brien in which he said of Big Media producers, ‘Those men behind the curtain — the great and powerful Oz — are scared shitless right now,’ adding that the chaos is so high that anyone in the audience could just as likely be running a major network in a few years. This is pretty simple economics: one-to-millions media was based on economies of scale, but an audience of one is based on economies of skill. While the Techcrunch piece is must-read for anyone interested in new media, that’s not what I want you to watch. Rather, you need to see this 7-part, 70-minute review of The Phantom Menace, by a serial killer. It’s brilliant, and it proves O’Brien’s point more than any celebutante or startup could ever do. So grab a beer or three and some friends, and watch this.”
Alistair for Mitch: “The Great Zucchini works 2 days a week, makes $100K a year. He’s scruffy and his trademark is putting a diaper on his head. This entertaining piece from The Washington Post looks inside the wacky economics of children’s entertainers. Beyond being a terrifying reminder to save all of my pennies, and the perils of living day to day, it’s actually an object lesson in marketing, supply, demand, branding, and the value of transparent innocence and customer empathy.”
Hugh for Alistair: In the start-up world we tend to think of Web technology living somehow on the edge of regulation – outside of the interference from the pesky officials who don’t get the Web. But we have some big debates ahead of us: about net neutrality, privacy, censorship and much more. Australia seems to have jumped off the deep end in efforts to bring censorship and government snooping to the Web. And, ironists that they are, the Australian government censored 90% of the policy document – drafted with industry consultation, but no citizen input – that will form the basis of their policy-making. Their rationale for expunging most of the document, according to Attorney-General’s Department legal officer, Claudia Hernandez, was to prevent ‘premature unnecessary debate and could potentially prejudice and impede government decision making.’ Which, if I understand the way democracy is supposed to function, is precisely the reason you allow debate.”
Hugh for Mitch: Editors and ‘old’-media people get a bad rap in these Interetish times. Paul Ford comes to the defense of the editor, arguing that in fact they have all the skills needed to rule our messy Web universe: seeing patterns, meeting deadlines, shipping product, separating wheat from chaff, evaluating what people like and don’t like. I’d never thought of it before, but editors as described by Ford are much like start-up product managers. Now, if only we can deal with that pervasive distrust of technology.”
Mitch for Alistair: First off, a huge congrats to Alistair on the birth of his first child. I know you’re an O’Reilly published author, but when I saw the title of this book, I just knew it had your name written all over it. You’re a Geek, you love to cook and now you’ll be home a whole lot more. I could not think of a more appropriate piece of content that you should be devouring right at this exact moment (pun intended). So, welcome to being a Dad (and with that, you should also be checking out Digital Dads and the Dad-O-Matic Blogs). Now, get cooking and help your wife out a little, will ya?
Mitch for Hugh: It was a big/historical week for the Publishing Industry. Amazon announced that digital books are now outselling hardcover books. This moment in time reminds me of when MP3 sales started to eclipse those of physical CDs. The digitization of any industry is never easy, and this transition for the publishing industry is going to be equally confusing and scary. Issues like rights management and what ‘distribution’ means is going to challenge the status quo. Just this week, I was told by my publisher that the rights to distribute my book, Six Pixels of Separation, on the Kindle format in Canada have not been secured (along with all books published by Hachette Book Group). Imagine that, you can’t get Malcolm Gladwell, the Twilight series or even Tony Hsieh‘s new book, Delivering Happiness, and thousands of other books in Canada via Kindle. What does that do for sales?”
This feature-length documentary introduces viewers to Ken Carter, a Montreal-born stunt driver who made a living by risking his life. The film shines a light on the intense preparation that led to Carter’s first attempt to jump a car across a mile-wide stretch of the St. Lawrence River – a 5-year period during which the dare-devil raised a million dollars, erected a 10-storey take-off ramp and built a rocket-powered car.
An, er, friend of mine heard an interview on Fresh Air with Scottish director Armando Iannucci about his new film In the Loop (IMDB). He’d never heard of Iannucci, or the movie, or the TV show upon which the movie is based. The audio clips from the movie were so great he then went to Youtube to see if he could find more clips. He could. The clips video looked even funnier than the audio.
The movie — it appears — “comes out” on August 14. In the old days, that meant my friend had two choices:
1. Wait two weeks to watch the movie in a theatre
2. Wait six months (?) to rent the movie and watch it at home
It always annoyed my friend that he had to wait to watch movies he wanted to see, because movie studios liked to release movies at different times in different cities; and then wait months after that to release the DVD for rental.
The studios did (and do) this not because they surveyed their customers, and found they preferred having to wait to watch movies they wanted to see in the way they wanted to see them. The studios did (and do) this for various business reasons, that have proved, over time, an effective way to increase revenues on a movie.
Times Are Changing
But these are not the old days, they are new days. And a few things have happened. My friend watches 95% of the movies he watches on his computer; he rents DVDs using zip.ca (Canada’s Netflix); and occasionally when he wants to watch a certain movie right now, he looks for it online.
The movie studios so far have decided that he should not watch movies online when he wants to watch them.
Which in the old days, meant he just had to wait, despite being more excited about this movie than any other movie he’d heard about in past year or so.
A Parable of the Present
But it turns out that other people (not studios) can get their hands on copies of movies as soon as they are available — often before they are released in theatre — and those people make them available online. This is especially true for movies that lots of people really really want to see, right now.
So my friend now has a third choice:
3. Watch the movie when & where he wants.
It turns out that my friend much prefers option 3. It also turns out that movie studios don’t want to give my friend option 3 – which makes my friend shrug a little when he hears them talking about piracy.
Not because he wants things for free, but because it seems to him that “digital” means studios and moviegoers no longer need be constrained by the two choices of the old days. Option 3 is easy and cheap, and that’s the option he wants.
He often says: If you, as providers of content, give me what I want, when I want it, at a reasonable price, I’ll be happy to pay for it. But if you don’t want to give me what I want, when I want it, I’ll be compelled – when I really want something – to find other ways to get it.
If there is demand, there will be supply.
In the digital world, media is infinitely copiable & distributable at rougly zero cost
Media companies have long built their business around a restricted supply
If demand exceeds restricted supply in the digital world, someone — not necessarily the owner of the good — will meet that demand by making & distributing infinite copies at zero cost
Trying to stop # 4 is like trying to stop water going down hill
If restricting supply is no longer a viable business, then something else must be
When supply is unlimited, other factors drive the choices people make
Those drivers include: ease, quality, curation, attention, service, connection
Media companies – including book publishers – should stop thinking about business based on phony restricted supply
Media companies – including book publishers – should start thinking about how to build business around the actual drivers that will bring their customers to them (see #9 above), instead of sending them to the pirates
It was one of the best movies my friend has seen in a long while; and he has urged me to urge you to watch it. You’ll love it (he says).
I went to see The Examined Life last night, a really, really good film about … philosophy. Wonderfully done. Interviews with eight philosophers (Zizek, Cornell West, Judith Butler and more) about their thoughts and work.
It’s no easy feat making an entertaining feature-length talking-head documentary, especially about philosophy, but Astra Taylor succeeds in this one. Not sure if/when it will be available online, or where you can see it, but here is the trailer:
My big question though is when are the action figures coming out? Cornell West vs. Peter Singer throwdown!