What do you do when the costs of creating, delivering and consumer content are wholly disaggregated? Is the system rational enough to transfer the economic benefits from the consumer to the creator? Or do all of the participants in the chain need to work together to ensure that an underlying economic rationale properly structured?
Let’s look at my media consumption this weekend and the relative economic benefits that were enjoyed as a result of that consumption.
I watched television. My two primary experiences were watching sports — NFL football and the NY Knicks basketball — and Nick Jr. (which is the sadly re-branded Noggin.) The programming was high quality and consistent.
Everyone involved was paid, one way or the other. I pay Cablevision for access, and Cablevision pays a fee to Nickelodeon and the networks. Advertisers and sponsors help to underwrite the cost of the production. I got exposed to ads. I noticed several. Brands were imprinted on my consciousness.
I read a lot this weekend too. On Sunday, I went through the newspapers. We get the NY Times, the Wall Street Journal, the NY Post and the Daily New delivered to the house. I skimmed through the papers, looked at some of the car advertising, noticed a couple of sales. The weekend is the only time during the week I read the papers in the morning; during the week I skim them at night.
We pay for the newspaper delivery. We all know what is happening to newspaper advertising.
I spent time catching up on a backlog of web reading — some New Yorker articles, some longer articles on different web sites I follow, some blogs, some not.
I also did some browsing for Christmas gifts and some specific searching for some web development tools.
All of the last two categories of activity, which accounted for the bulk of my media consumption, happened on my laptop or my iPhone.
My exposure to the direct source of the content was negligible.
Most of the the time on the laptop was spent using Feedly, a Firefox extension. On the iPhone I tend towards sources that have mobile interfaces.
Only occasionally did I turn into a unique visitor — someone who could be leveraged for the benefit of marketing purposes.
No one got paid anything for almost all of that media consumption.
I agree with much of the basic premises outlined in the argument that information is quickly unleashed on the web. What puzzled me over the weekend was how my interaction with the information could be turned into an economic benefit for anyone who is creating information.
When the web disrupts traditional business models and creates opportunities for entrepreneurs, that is a good thing. In the case of media creation, I don’t see the model where a individual is directly benefiting from my displaced consumption of content.
Aggregation tools that force individuals to access the content from the site of the content creator as potentially powered for creating economic benefit to the content creator. Aggregation tools that deliver the content wholesale to the individual are not.
I see this with the RSS subscribers to this site. I have elected to deliver all of the media — graphics, text and rich media — in the RSS feed. This obviates the need of anyone to come directly to my site.
Why do I do that? Because I want it to be as convenient as possible.
But how does a content creator — someone who makes their life work learning how to gather, organize and distribute high-quality information or entertainment — get paid?
Look again at this hypothesis about the future of the web site from Jeff Jarvis.
So imagine this future without pages and sites, this future that’s all built on process over product. If you’re what used to be a content-creation – if you’re Stephen Fry, post-media – you’re all about insinuating yourself into that stream. If you’re about content curation – formerly known as editing – then you’re all about prioritizing streams for people; that’s how you add value now.
There are only two ways to pay the bills with editorial content you create: Either people are going to give you money to use your content or people are going to give you money to talk to the audience you have for the content. In order to have a professional class of content creators, the system is going to have to provide for one of those two kinds of payments.