Pre eComm conference interview on TeleMedia Futures: lubricating the ecosystem is the biggest opportunity!
I will be speaking at Lee Dryburgh's Emerging Communications (eComm) Europe conference in Amsterdam on October 28-30. Prior to this date, and to preview what I will be talking about in my presentation (last year's video is here, btw), Lee conducted an interview with me which turned out to be quite informative (if I may so so, myself). I have pasted some of the 'best' snippets below, and added the MP3 version if you want to just listen to it. A big part of this interview is about what I call 'The Politics of Content' i.e. the 3 Strikes debate. The full version can be found on the eComm Europe blog. Lastly, if you want a discount code for this event... please ping me.
Lee: ...there is this political push in the U.K. for three strikes, and you're cut off by your ISP or slowed down if you've been caught by your ISP for downloading "illegal" files. Have you got any comments to make there in this sudden ISP liability for content, which seems very crazy?
Gerd: I think there are a lot of more or less unfortunate things coming together on this. Basically, the content industry starting with music is rightfully worried about distribution becoming free. This is a global phenomenon. The more broadband we have the better devices, the more the push towards sharing and trading stuff without payment is clearly there. On the other hand, the content industry has, to a very large degree, refused to license the content in so many new ways that are being asked for, starting with imeem and YouTube, and MySpace originally. The refusal to license has essentially created a vacuum to where everyone rightly then also says if we can't actually do it legally, we have two choices which is to quit or to do it without permission. Then you have companies like imeem and MySpace and YouTube initially doing it without permission.
That in return has created a need for the content industry to lobby the governments and industry organizations around the world to get the ISP to pick up the responsibility, which of course, is a rather ludicrous thought, given you could easily expand that to PDFs and JPEGs and what have you. That thought of deep package inspection for the sake of shoring up a specific business model is obviously not going to happen in Europe... I think that anybody who believes that technology exists, that you can solve this problem, is mistaken on this. It's basically not a technology problem. It's a structural and licensing problem. It's basically a business problem. Whenever you try to solve a business problem with technology, like we have with DVD region coding, and those kinds of things, you end up really going against the consumer and sacrificing things that otherwise the consumer will hate you for.
Lee: So you feel that this motion, this three strikes push to have your ISP do policing is actually pulling value out of the system instead of adding value to the system as a whole?
Gerd: It's a fig leaf discussion. It's as simple as that. The discussion about solving this problem with technology is nothing but a fig leaf because it will never work. In a democracy, it's not actually technically feasible. If you imagine this, then I get disconnected from the web for downloading and I go to my neighbor and use his Wi-Fi. He also gets disconnected. Where do we go? We go to the Internet café and we'll do the same thing. It goes on from there and sooner or later, somebody will ask for his JPEGs to be prevented, and Murdock is going to ask for people who copy and paste from the Financial Times or The Wall Street Journal to also be disconnected. It's a whole chain reaction of issues. That is just not going to happen in Europe. That could happen in China and it is happening in China, but not in Europe.
Lee: So you don't see policing of every file format?
Gerd: The key question really is this; does any of this make any money for anyone? Does kicking people off the web because they have downloaded without permission make any money for anyone? The whole idea behind this is to say, "Well, we've got legal offerings that you should be using rather than downloading for free." If the legal offerings are so technology stupid, like using DRM, or they are so far priced out that kids can't afford it, like iTunes, then where are you going to point them to? In other words, if there is no commercial possibility to be legal, why am I being forced into those channels that I don't want to use? That is against every possible logic, if there ever was one...
You have numerous efforts around the world of creating what I call a private license, like Virgin Media and Universal, like Orange in France and the record labels, and so on. Most of that doesn't work because it's too expensive and it has technology problems. Therefore, if you think about this, think ultimately; we have roughly two billion users on mobile and regular Internets. All of these users have providers. What if two billion people were able to have legal access to music and pay $1 a week, and if that payment was bundled, i.e. hidden with advertising, with subsidies like the cell phone hardware and so on; that would be a fantastic solution to everyone. I think telecoms are thinking, "Well, if we can make this happen, we don't just solve a huge problem which is content liability; we also create a next generation platform for the generation of new businesses, including virtual venues, virtual goods, and premium products." It's not really rocket science to think that far; that's why I was alluding earlier to imagination.
Lee: Great, and I am really happy that we got in contact last year and you've been pushing, not just pushing, but highlighting what is taking place. You did so at the last conference and you'll be speaking again next month. I think you're doing a 20 minute keynote. Do you want to finish this off, since we've been on this call for some time, by giving some idea of how you see the future of advertising? We've covered content, policies, where money is, but do you really think that advertising is going to "pay" for everything? What is the future role of advertising?
Gerd: I think Fred Wilson from Union Square Ventures said that the age of one-way communication from an unwanted or uncertified brand is over. That is what advertising used to be. You get one-way stuff dumped on you from somebody where you don't like them or don't know who they are and you don't care. The business of advertising as disruption, interruption, or a nuisance that is unavoidable is over. On the web, we're not going to take anything like this. We're completely going to punish people that do this to us. For example email, any PR company that emails me with their pitch goes into the black list. I dump them. I punish them. Any PR company that follows me on Twitter and gets involved in a conversation and looks at what I read and what I like, and then sends me a meaningful link; they go on the white list.
...read more here.