It’s no secret that the future of media is – how shall we put it – uncertain, at best. Despite DRM and law suits and copy protection, media of every type is going digital and being distributed on the internet. Bigger players, like the record labels and television networks, are trying their hardest to figure out a scalable distribution model that will allow both them and content-producers to earn money off of digital content, but at the end of the day, anything digital can very easily be shared for free. And when something’s available for free, most people aren’t going to shell out for it, no matter how ethical they are. But I digress…
Content creation isn’t any easier than before – people still need talent of some kind in order to create work worth reading/listening to/watching. Distribution is the easy part. And it’s getting easier everyday.
Exhibit 1: CreateSpace. This Amazon-owned company allows content-creators (I’ll call them authors, for simplicity’s sake) to upload work for production and distribution through Amazon.com and its affiliate sites. Basically, CreateSpace allows me to write a book, upload the manuscript, design a cover, format and edit online, and list the book in Amazon’s store alongside books published by Harvard Business School and McGraw Hill. Even better, the book is printed on-demand each time someone orders it, so there’s no pesky inventory lying around, and no warehouse or overhead to worry about. Better still, I can create CDs, DVDs, and other digital files for distribution through my very own Amazon storefront. So I, the author, don’t need an agent or an editor, or even a publicist. I can handle it all by myself, and become a published author the second someone (my mother, perhaps?) places an order for my work. Sure, I’ll split my revenues with Amazon, and will pay a few cents for each book that gets printed, but it’s far easier than trying to get published the old fashioned way.
And CreateSpace isn’t alone – other sites such as Lulu.com and Blurb.com offer a similar service to budding authors and their yet-to-be-established fan bases.
Which brings me to Exhibit 2 – Apple. I’m admittedly smitten with Apple, and Mr. Jobs, and all the shiny gadgetry they produce – but let’s put this fact aside for a moment. An oft-overlooked announcement of Steve’s latest Macworld keynote is the fact that Apple TV “Take 2″ has podcast support and offers access to over 50 Million YouTube videos. This means that some of the best aspects of the Internet-programming will now be available on Apple TV owners’ televisions. Why watch ad-laden regular programing when I can catch up on my favorite video podcasts? Sure, I’ve always had the option to watch podcasts over television, but now I can enjoy the content I want from the comfort of my sofa, and not in front of the 13” monitor on my yet-to-be-purchased Macbook Air (that I’ve likely spent 12-odd hours in front of already).
The beauty of all this is that anyone can create a video podcast. Anyone can shoot a video and post it to YouTube. I can use these channels to market my new book, for example. And as long as the content I create is good, and meaningful to a few people, I can make some money. That’s money that would have previously been earmarked for the big guys – the TV networks and big publishing firms. Wow.
So what’s going to happen? It’s a bit too early to say – but it’s not hard to imagine a time in the not-so-distant future where more people are creating more content for more audiences. Each audience will probably be pretty “specialized” or niche, meaning there’s still room for marketers to get a message across in a very targeted, non-invasive way. But marketers are going to have to learn to work with more people – with 12-year-olds who shoot talk shows from their basements, perhaps. Scary? Sure. But exciting too.
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