On October 31 last year Edo Segal wrote an article on TechCrunch with the title For The Future Of The Media Industry, Look In The App Store. The article is definitely worth a read but this jumped out at me:
But the entertainment industry has a vested interest in the success of this new type of convergence, as within it lies the secret to its continuing prosperity. The only way to block the incredible ease of pirating any content a media company can generate is to couple said experiences with extensions that live in the cloud and enhance that experience for consumers. Not just for some fancy DRM but for real value creation. They must begin to create a product that is not simply a static digital file that can be easily copied and distributed, but rather view media as a dynamic “application” with extensions via the web. This howl is the future evolution of the media industry.
It brings together some of the thinking I’ve been doing on how to challenge the loss of revenue from direct consumption or from advertising revenue when digital files of programming and music are so easily shared and copied. Techdirt.com like to summarize their approach as CwF + RtB = financial success: Connect with Fans and give them a Reason to Buy some scarce goods. Many musicians are already doing this and the results are summarized in the article The Future of Music Business Models (and those who are already there).
I agree that CwF + RtB is part of the future: we can’t charge for infinitely distributable digital goods but we can charge for scare goods (or services) promoted by the music.
But I’m not as sure that will work in the same way for the “television” business, which I define as being “television style programming professionally produced” even if it’s never broadcast on a network on cable. Certainly it will be possible to sell merchandising around programming, and everyone is encouraged to do that.
I’ve also written and presented – as long ago as my Nov 2006 keynote presentation for the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences – that producers and viewers have to be more connected, even to the extent of allowing fan contributions.
Well, last night I had something of an epiphany that bought together Edo Segal’s thoughts and my own as I contemplated the implications of the recently announced Apple iPad.
As a brief aside, I find the iPad to be pretty much exactly what I was expecting (although I thought maybe a webcam for video chat) and interesting. Although I don’t see where it would fit in an iPhone/Laptop world, I can see plenty of uses particularly for media consumption. (For example a family shares an iMac but each of the older children have their own iPad for general computing, only using the iMac for essays etc.)
But the iPad doesn’t really lend itself to static media consumption as it has been: where the producer sends stories fully finished and complete to viewers who passively consume. That’s when the import of Edo’s comment struck: there is more of a future in media consumption for those producers who create the whole environment. This has definitely been done by many movies and shows but usually with more of a consumption-of-information about the show, rather than a rich interactive experience where fans of the show are as important as the producers.
The future of independent production and media consumption is an immersive environment (website, or better yet and iPad app) with:
- Community (forums, competitions)
- Access to the wider story, side stories or “back story” in various media formats
- Character blogs
- Cast and crew blogs
- Fan contributions and remixes.
Such an experience would be almost a cross between a typical television program and a video game environment. Sure programming is part of what can be consumed on the site; but there are competitions, games, back stories; additional visual material edited out of the program source, with additional shooting, using technologies like Assisted Editing.
Any unauthorized distribution of content will only be distribution the content, not the experience of the program in its full glory.
Now, there’s no particular reason why this couldn’t be largely done on a website, but it is as an immersive iPad app that I think it will really be fantastic. The iPad is very immersive and tactile. It presents no “border” (i.e. browser window and other computer screen elements) to distract from the programming. It begs to be interacted with because holding it in place to watch a 22 or 44 minute show doesn’t appear to be going to be all that great.
There’s one more selling point for the iPad: it allows in-app sales, so some of the “reasons to buy” can be sold very transparently without even leaving the app’s environment. Avatars, screen savers, certain games or activities might carry a small charge. Yes, even the media itself (or some of it) could carry a small transaction charge. Smooth, frictionless sales in an environment optimized to engage people in the story of the show.
Apple’s iTunesLP format is a very small start in this direction by building a micro-site for the album artwork. This is very powerful because it supports most modern web technologies in a tight package and interactive features (all, b.t.w., without Flash but looking a lot like Flash).
Edo has some further good ideas and I recommend reading the article at the top of this post.