97 posts categorized "End of Control"
June 02, 2010
April 24, 2010
A must watch: full-length video of my talk on the Future of Communications and Social Media at NBS Brazil
March 12, 2010
Martyn Warwick from TelecomTV news has some very nice and succinct comments, as well as some recent stats, on the bizarreness of the French HADOPI law. The juiciest stuff is excerpted and commented below. Enjoy.
- A new study carried out by the University of Rennes and focused on the illegal downloading of online music and video in France reveals that it grew by three per cent between September and December 2009 - despite the noisy and bad-tempered passing of a contentious law designed to outlaw the practice.
- The report shows that 30.3 per cent of all Web users in France illegally downloaded content over the quarter. Over the period 1 July to 30 September it was 29.5 per cent.
- What the Rennes University work throws into stark relief is the feebleness and structural shortcomings of an ill-conceived piece of legislation that was foisted on the government by intense lobbying by vested interests within the content industry. It was conceived in a panic and rushed through without any real analysis or understanding on the part of the legislators of the way the Internet actually works. That's because Hadopi 2 only targets P2P file sharing networks and completely ignores streaming sites. (My comment on access versus copy is here)
- However, the numbers of people who watch and/or download video, film and music via streaming is growing rapidly, while the numbers who do so via P2P networks is in equally rapid decline.
- The Rennes Report shows that the percentage of French Internet users who favor streaming sites rose from 12.4 to 15.8 between September and December last year. At the same time the percentage of those using P2P networks declined from 17.1 to 14.6 over the same period.
- Even more interestingly, the study also shows that those who routinely and frequently buy and download content legally also use illegal platforms. It also comes to the conclusion that the suspension or permanent removal of an individual's Internet connection will be counterproductive as many who do pirate content also pay for stuff as well. Thus legal video and music sales would fall. My comment: I think this is the most important point: disconnecting those that are looking for content, those that are fans and interested in music, is a ludicrous idea if you actually want to sell to them! Protection is in the business model not in technology or the law. Regulatory capitalism will fail (quoting James Boyle here).
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February 25, 2010
Shifting to the Open Network Economy: my presentation at the Fundacao Dom Cabral CEO event in Sao Paulo
It was a great pleasure to be invited to contribute to the Sao Paulo / Brazil-based Fundacao Dom Cabral's innovative CEO leadership program, led by my colleague and Swiss-Brazilian collaborator and leadership guru Didier Marlier, as a visiting professor. Below is a fairly large and long (95 pages - do not print!!) slideshow with most of the important stuff I presented; needless to say this was not the usual 45-60 minute session but took pretty much the entire afternoon. I was extremely impressed with the organization and their hosts (FDC / Dalton Sandenberg) as well as with the fast and agile minds of the CEOs that attended - we had some very inspiring conversations. And Caipirinias, too;). Update: Low-res download of PDF here: PDF 11.5 MB Open Network Economy Gerd Leonhard FDC SP Low-res
Enjoy. Share. Retweet. And get my free iPhone app before it turns 'freemium'.
February 04, 2010
I wrote the first part (about attention) in my blog-book "The End of Control" in 2007 - and it's becoming even more true, today, so I figured I would collate some of my 2007 writings on this, below. The 2nd part (Data is the new Oil) is more recent but the 2 statements seem to make a perfect blend. Enjoy.
"Attention is the New Currency: Forget the Idea of “Controlling Distribution”. Let’s face it: In our increasingly networked world, the vast majority of media content simply cannot be kept away from its audience....in our world of Googles, Facebooks, YouTubes, and iPhones, all content is just zeros and ones, and trying to prevent its “leakage” is simply futile. There are countless potential points of leakage in the pipeline of production, packaging, distribution, marketing, and promotion – now, Friction is Fiction, indeed! Today, distribution (legal or not) is simply a given, and it is attention that is getting scarce. Today, the good old, safe and simple old way of charging by the unit (be it CDs, DVDs, a la carte downloads, or premium TV channels) feels seriously “illiquid.” To prosper in this new digital media economy, we must support a new ecosystem built on giving the users easy, cheap, and unfettered access to content. We need to woo the users, not barge in pitching pieces of fancy plastic or copy-protected media files. These Digital Natives are much more likely to first opt-in to a comprehensive digital service (yes, including wireless), and only then buy a physical product. Furthermore, packaged media isn’t off the table; it’s just not the first course anymore. If you don’t offer some free — or rather, feels like free — starters, they’ll eat elsewhere.
Image by gleonhard via FlickrTherefore, we must create media ecosystems that will simply give the “people formerly known as consumers” (i.e. those that no longer just consume but also interact and create, themselves) the official green light to do what they would do anyway — serve themselves from this wealth of content whenever they want, wherever they are, and in whatever manner suits them. Once they have paid attention in this way (note the word “paid”), a content creator or media provider can harvest a myriad of opportunities. The tollbooth has moved up the road a bit but this is now a trusted and reliable road that will inevitably lead to the monetization point. Put the tollbooth too early and 95% of digital travelers will turn around and look for other ways to get there!The rise of the Attention Economy in media does not just bring about The End of Control, it also brings light to what I like to call the twilight zone of content: those very large catalogs of music, films, TV shows, and books that have been out of distribution or out of print for a long time, and that languish in the archives as if they’d never been created in the first place. What better revival of their work can any content creator hope for? Soon, they will finally be able to harvest substantial and recurring revenues via these flat-fee subscriptions (be they voluntary or built-in via public levies), in addition to the revenues flowing from integrated, intelligent, and highly customized advertising formats..."
I just re-discovered a video of an interview with me (see below), during Picnic 2009; posted by the European Journalism Centre. There are a few important points from the video that I want to share with you:
- The new winners (with the possible exception of Apple;) are all pursuing open platforms; i.e. products and services that can easily yet deeply connect with others (I sometimes call this 'the cult[ure] of API'), companies that are ready to collaborate, co-create new business opportunities and share revenues (see Google, Skype, Twitter, SixApart, Wordpress, NPR, The Guardian, Salesforce.com, Amazon etc)
- The switch from 'The Network' to 'The Networked' and from Broadcasting to Conversation is a shift across entire societies and cultures, not just in business or technology; this is further amplified by the simultaneous move towards radical globalization and increased localization
- In an Open OS i.e. an interconnected Ecosystem (good examples include Google *for now, and the blogosphere) you don't compete with mere force or market-power, you compete on merit and trust. This is why I believe that once the system is more liquid and there are less hurdles to 'conversion from free', good artists / creators / producers / curators will indeed prosper more than ever before (call me an eternal optimist)
- Pretty much every creator already knows it's not (just) about selling copies of his/her work, rather, in a connected and interdependent ecosystem it is about selling the brand, the perception, the experience. This is why the content industry's tradition of over-emphasizing copyright as the sole guarantor of future revenues won't work (at least not if you want to actually increase revenues rather than just maintain an illusion of control)
- In an Open Content Ecosystem it won't really matter who copies what, but how much attention you get before and during the process, and how good you are in converting it into action and / or real monetary value (and this is as true for brands as it is for content creators)
- In a digitally networked society, the value isn't so much in the content, itself, as it is in the context (see my previous post on the same topic)
February 02, 2010
Content 2.0: 'protection' is in the business model not the technology (thoughts on the future of selling content)
Fueled by the music industry's ongoing turmoils and, finally, books going digital at a very rapid pace, there is a lot of debate on how to deal with the fact that many people habitually share i.e. redistribute digital content without any of the upstream users making their own payment. How can you monetize content when the copy is free?
This question is a key issue across the board, whether it's in music, eBooks, news, publishing, TV or movies. The fear is, of course, that once a digital item has been purchased by one person it can be easily forwarded to anyone else if it is in an open format, thus seriously reducing the possibility that someone else will actually pay real $ for it, as well (of course, the same is true for supposedly locked or protected digital content as well - it just takes a bit longer). No more control over distribution = no more money. Right?
Despite the plain fact that DRM has proven disastrous in digital music (and now is pretty much history), technical protection measures are still being investigated as a plausible method of securing payment, especially in the exploding eBook sector. This worries me greatly because technical protection measure are expensive, hinder or prevent mass-scale adoption, curtail or kill social sharing which defeats user-to-user marketing, often drastically limit fair use, and are by and large useless when trying to thwart the real pirates i.e. those that have malicious, criminal intentions of stealing content in order to sell it to others.
Not just content - Context! In my view, the thinking that the distribution of content must be controlled to achieve any kind of reasonable payment is fundamentally flawed because of this not-so-futuristic realization: in an open, digitally networked economy (note: I am talking about today, not tomorrow!) content publishers need to offer their goods in a way that no longer centers on distribution being the key factor. It should not (only) be the content that is sold (i.e. the mere 0s and 1s) but the context, the added values, the many others items around the content. Sell what can't be copied.
The irrefutable trend is that the window of opportunity of 'selling copies' (i.e. iTunes, eMusic, Kindle etc) is rapidly closing, at least in most developed countries. The next, and very much already-present opportunity is in selling access and added-value services, and in providing content-related experiences.
Once we embrace that the users -the people formerly known as consumers- can't be reduced to just being 'buyers of copies' we can investigate how they would want to pay for everything else, as well. For example, when buying an eBook users shouldn't merely pay for the authorized distribution i.e. the legitimate copy of the words but they could also gain access to highly curated commentary, known peers and friends that may also read this book, ratings, explanations, slide-shows, images, links, videos, cross-references, direct connections with the author or the publisher and so on. Yes: connect with fans + reasons to buy (as Mike Masnick of Techdirt has succinctly summarized many times before).
In this model, as a legitimate user, I would also get valuable context when I pay. I would get engagement, conversation, relevance, personalization, meaning... i.e. really valuable benefits to me as a person, not just a dumb, anonymous recipient of free zeros and ones. I don't get these benefits just because I get a free copy via email, Rapidshare, BitTorrent or some drop-box on the Net, because it is stripped bare of everything that really matters to me. This is the key to the future of monetizing content, and it will take many different shapes and forms depending on the content, and the culture that surrounds it.
For example, in music, it is very likely that streaming-on-demand (and the temporary buffering i.e. offline playing of those streams) will be 'free' i.e. bundled and packaged by 3rd parties, while the context and those many added values will not. If I want a high-definition version of my favorite opera or that Blue Note Jazz Club concert from last night I can buy a premium package that provides it. If I want to share my personal play-lists, ratings and comments with my Facebook friends, and get access to their content, I can add the 'social network option' to my package. If the price is right, I'll buy (btw: this relates directly to why people buy virtual items - perception of value, and purchase after deep engagement - see my Farmville/Facebook example: they sell 800.000 virtual tractors per day;).
As to pricing and making 'buying' irresistible: imagine if a download of a song would cost only $ 0.10 - would anyone still bother to scour the web to find badly ripped, virus-laced tracks for free? Yes, I know, that price point sounds ridiculous if you used to sell CDs for 20 Euros a pop but the argument for much cheaper access to digital content that is offered in open (i.e. copy-able) formats is really quite simple: if you can get 95% of the users to buy at a much lower price, and make them so happy they will do the marketing for you (i.e. share links;), instead of getting 5% of the market to buy an expensive product that they can't really share with anyone (i.e. iTunes music or Kindle eBooks), then you should be doing just fine. This has been my chief argument for proposing the music flat rate during the past 10+ years, and I think it still holds water (in fact, it seems to be proving itself with the recent developments at Spotify, MOG etc).
And yes: selling at a much lower price but much higher volume only makes sense if the low-priced (or flat-rated), access-based offerings actually connect directly to a multitude of up-selling possibilities, such as multimedia versions of eBooks, high-definition versions of radio shows, albums or concerts, in-depth analysis and audio/video commentary for news etc.
In most content industries, I think the key is to offer a wipe-out, ueber-attractive way to get started at an irresistible price-point, and then convert most of those happy users to other offerings at a much higher price.
Pricing and value: getting the new formulas right. It all comes down to pricing and values - and many decision makers in the incumbent content industry will need to accept who will set those prices i.e. who will be in charge of value perceptions: not them, but the users. Hard stop. Reality check.
If you agree that the sharing of content cannot really be stopped, and that therefore the value of a mere digital copy of content will invariably decline, we must urgently re-think how we address the issue monetizing sharing, and what we can do to create and nurture those new values - the New Generatives - that will replenish those that used to be derived from being able to control distribution.
Added values, all the time. The metrics of the content industries need to shift from getting a copy to rewarding engagement. As an example, let's assume I have just purchased and downloaded a movie in an open file format, and I have a hunch that 50 of my close friends would also enjoy it. I post the movie on my iDisk shared files folder (anyone on .mac can do this) and send the link to everyone. Now, if the only value of the movie is in having received a 'copy without paying', then my friends have received the movie's entire value 'for free'. But if the value of this movie is also in the user / viewer being part of something much larger than mere 0s and 1s, i.e. a conversation or another environment of added values that are available to each individual viewer because they actually purchased access to the movie, then the mere sharing of the file is not going to be very attractive, for the upstream users will not have access to all these other values.
Imagine, then, if a legitimate movie buyer (or more likely, bundled-access-user) would also receive access to a select group of fellow users - and, crucially, representatives of the creators, producers or distributors - that would provide a myriad of additional values such as viewing exclusive, movie-related pictures, slideshows and short clips with the actors, locations or props used in the film, or getting special offers for related products such as books, games, merchandise or even HD versions of the same film, or unlocking new features within the very same file that are otherwise hidden (something that could easily be done within a mobile application, for example)... that is where it starts getting interesting.
Combined with a no-brainer price point, having a constant flow of added values available to legitimate customers would turn file-sharing into a marketing vehicle, i.e. surely I could somehow watch the movie 'for free' but would be barred from all that other cool stuff that I would have access to if I only paid my $2, myself.
The crowd and the cloud: new monetization possibilities not based on Control. Content hosting is moving from my own computer and my hard-drives to the cloud - and indeed, this is very good news for content creators, publishers and rights-holders because if makes it easy to engage and up-sell to the new generatives. In addition, it is reasonable to expect that content files will get larger and larger over the next few years, since many devices are now capable to handle much better resolutions and many users are tiring of bad audio, video and image quality. The age of squashed-sounding MP3s is ending as high-end audio is becoming a reality even in the smallest devices. Assuming those 2 trends (people receiving bigger and better files as well as accessing those files in the cloud rather than storing it on any specific piece of hardware), the key question is what 'sharing' will look like in the near future and what can be done to monetize it rather than try to curtail it.
The answer is in the cloud: I think many people will soon stop sharing the actual media files (since they are getting larger and larger, and therefore more unwieldy) and will share only the links, the bookmarks, the metadata or the tags, if the result is the same, i.e. if the shared content is made fully available to the recipient, without further ado or unwieldy registration procedures, buy-now pitches etc. How could this work?
Imagine you have purchased an ebook for 10 Euros and you want to share it with your wife so that she can read it to you while you drive, or with your son because he really should know about this great book. With a good, old-fashioned printed, dead-tree book, this is certainly not an issue, so why should it be such a problem for the electronic version? Why not create and deploy many extra values around this book (such as video, audio, images, slideshows, dictionaries etc), make the file a lot larger, and then still allow a buyer to share the book via a simple link or bookmark that provides all recipients with the basic, 'words-only' version of the book but withholds the added values until they purchase it for a very low and attractive price, themselves? Once those added values become a significant part of the user experience most users will not want to miss them - protection will be in the business model, not the software!
The perfect testing scenario may unfold soon, exemplified by Apple's new iPad. Extending the concept mentioned above, rather than blocking my wife from sharing an eBook it would be much more reasonable if I could still read the book, 'for free', but all else would not be available without a micro-transaction on my end, i.e. I would not have instant access to videos, links, ratings... i.e. that valuable context. This would clearly drive me to purchase a 'copy' myself - if indeed I like the book enough - sounds like a fair deal to me.
Engagement, interactivity, conversation and a constant stream of added values that can be produced at very low cost is what will give content owners 'protection' from rampant free-loading - not DRM, region-coding or HADOPI laws.
Sharism and Money. When thinking about digital music (my original, futurist starting point), imagine an unlimited music service at a feels-like-free price, supported by advertising, brand sponsorships, ISPs / Telecoms and mobile operators. A service that allows me to stream or download the music, and enjoy it online or offline (pretty soon, a rather pointless distinction, anyway). A service that is basically cloud-based but that allows me to make temporary sub-clouds on my personal device so that I can always get to what I like the most, much like the gMail offline reader, mobile RSS readers, the Instapaper iPhone app etc. While I may be inclined to share some of the music files with my friends, I would be highly unlikely to publish the complete access details to my personal cloud via, say, Twitter - I would risk watering down my profile and messing up my entire personalization efforts. Avoiding profile and account 'pollution' can be a major driver of payment adoption, I think.
Similarly, in books: let's assume, as a publisher, you'd allow people to log-in and get digital access to 10s of 1000s of books, at a low price (such as O'Reilly's Safari Books already does, for all those hardcore programmers and geeks around the world) - what would keep people from just sharing the log-in details and only pay for one account but have 2000 people getting everything for free? The answer: once I am really involved with a platform I like, and use every day, I am not very likely to share the account details with everyone, because I don't want my profile to be polluted, and my own experience to be negatively effected.
This is similar to having your family members use your eBay account for bidding on stuff they want to buy: not a good idea, since it will be your rating (which is the real currency of eBay) that will be negatively effected if your 15 year old son does not live up to the buyer's expectation on his last transaction. The same is true for Amazon: share your log-in details with your 12 year old daughter and you will make a mess out of your recommendations - she may love SuBo (Susan Boyle) but you don't want to keep seeing pitches for stuff she may want, for the next 9 months.
The bottom line: content sharing isn't the real problem: high price points, outmoded toll-booth strategies, broken relationships and processes, low values, bad technology and service, and lack of conversation and engagement are.
Here is my message to publishers and content owners: lower the prices to the point of unanimous excitement, use open standards that work for everyone, everywhere; bundle and package as attractively as you can (then: repeat). Remove all reasons that your users may have to avoid the toll-booth, and thereby side-step the conversion to 'paid'. The lower the hurdle for legitimate usage and paid engagement, the less you will have to worry about 'competing with free free'.
And do it now so you don't have to win people back from routing around you.
Image below via Somaya on Flickr (thanks!!)
January 16, 2010
Another brilliant post by Umair Haque via the Harvard Business Review - he spells out a lot of stuff that keeps coming up in my presentations, as well; so here's a bit of a remix of this juicy post, my comments are [...]
"On one side is the old high ground of the industrial era capitalism; on the other, the new high(er) ground of next-generation capitalism. The yawning chasm in between them is the gap between the 20th century and the 21st" [I call this the EGOSystem vs the ECOsystem, see more here and here]
"Currency intervention, breaking Copenhagen, crackdowns , collusion, corruption, coercion, and censorship: China's ongoing bad behavior as global citizen is, when we connect the dots, the gigantic elephant in the world's boardroom. What's driving it? The quest for monopoly, monopsony, and control" [I wrote about something quite similar in my 2007/2008 blog-book "The End of Control", check out the free online chapters here, and a related presentation, here]
"That's yesterday's high ground, and China's focused like a laser beam on it. China's moves are the textbook stuff of b-school's blackest arts. Through larger distribution, fiercer litigation, greater exclusivity, cheaper and faster production, a bigger cash pile, advantage is gained. But the high ground has shifted. The new high ground is an ethical edge. It's not about having more; it's about doing better. It's not about protecting exports, pressuring buyers and suppliers, price discriminating against the powerless, and programming consumers to buy, buy, buy — it's about making people, communities, and society authentically better off. It's not about caring less — but caring more. It's not about ruthlessness. It's about mindfulness" [Couldn't have said it better, myself; here are just a few things I would add: in this new ecosystem that Umair is describing, we will need to develop web-native economic models and entirely new metrics for evaluating them, friction will indeed be fiction (to a very large degree) and the importance of control will be utterly eroded by the steadily increasing power of trust, engagement and transparency]
"The old high ground was built for 20th century economics: sell more junk, earn more profit, "grow" — and then crash. An ethical edge operates at a higher economic level. It is concerned with what we sell, how profits are earned, and which authentic, human benefits "grow." It's a concept built for the economics of an interdependent world" [A key term, imo: an interdependent world, i.e. not a broadcast world but a connected and networked world]
"An ethical edge just might be the ultimate cause of advantage. It's how better distribution, production, marketing, and pricing — all just proximate causes of advantage — ultimately happen. Jim Chanos's investment thesis says: without an ethical edge, new value cannot be created — old value can only be shuffled around (hi, Wall Street)....So here's the single question everyone should be asking. The old high ground is the new low ground. Yesterday's mountain is today's valley. Are you ascending to the new high ground?"
December 05, 2009
I have been very busy compiling my best essays, blog posts and other writings from the past 3 years, and have finally uploaded the most recent version to Lulu (my favorite print-on-demand book store). The new book is now called 'Friction is Fiction' and is available in 3 versions: 1) 158 pages, 6x9 inches / U.S. trade format, full-color, for $60.40, here (yes, it's quite pricey because of the cost of printing 4-color, on-demand) 2) the same dead-tree version, but in black & white only, for $19.98, here (much cheaper but a lot less cool;) 3) as a PDF, for a token price of $7.50, here.
I would be delighted if you would consider buying whatever works best for you - what better Christmas present could you possibly think of! Please note that this book will be updated every 3 months, to include my latest writings. If you want to share the book page please just send people to www.frictionisfiction.com - thanks.
As to giving away the free PDF, here is the deal: you can contact me anytime (via email, Facebook or Twitter) to request a free copy of the PDF if you just don't want to (or can't) spend the $7.50, and I will send you the download link. In return, what I ask from you is to pay me with attention, i.e. to write a review on Lulu, a blog-post, or a tweet about my book, with a link (all 3 is best;). Deal?
As to the title: I used to simply call this compilation 'The Best of Media Futurist' but while looking through all those posts - and spending a lot more time revising them - I found an important thread that goes through almost all of it and which therefore has become the new title: Friction is Fiction. So what does that mean? It means that if you are currently basing your success on maintaining or even constructing hurdles, difficulties or other bottlenecks somewhere in the system - i.e. if there is something that impedes the flow of information, or a transaction or purchase so that a higher price point or some other form of control over the can be obtained - then you are very likely to face diminishing revenues in the next few years. Building obstacles for users (fka consumers) used to work just fine but... no longer. Building walls is the fastest road to suicide in the digital economy.
The web has been utterly ruthless about finding these glaring points of friction, such as paying for eMail (remember that?), paying a ton of money for long-distance phone calls (remember those pre-skype days?), or consumers not having any access to travel booking systems, flight information or seating. These hurdles are being removed, one-by-one, and those 'people formerly known as consumers' are getting more powerful every single day. Banking on friction to increase your revenues has become like throwing matches into the river and asking it to stop - it's useless.
Friction was, of course, the main money-maker in the media, entertainment and content business, for a long time: certain CDs were only available in certain stores at certain times in certain countries, DVDs with those movies you really wanted were only available in certain countries and within certain 'windows', books had to be printed and shipped, and ring-tones could only be purchased from your operator. Basically, at every turn the consumer encountered have-to's and must's which essentially allowed a substantial level of control by the media and content companies - and thus, higher prices. In many cases, the more friction the higher the price you could ask for.
No longer. Read the book!
November 10, 2009
October 26, 2009
The Mobility Revolution and the Power of Social Media (presentation at the ACTE09 conference in Prague)
Here is my presentation from the ACTE09 event in Prague, today, where I also had the great pleasure of meeting a very interesting fellow speaker and like-minded 'change agent', Michael Jackson, from South Africa, who served as MC for the whole event.
The topics of my presentation: how mobile and social media trends impact business, in general, and the corporate travel industry, in particular; how the social media and mobile Internet explosion is resulting in unprecedented changes in communications and commerce. The need to reduce CONTROL to get more SHARE is evident... but how can this be done within large organizations? How can social media add value, and what are the risks?
October 25, 2009
October 12, 2009
Basel, Switzerland, October 12 2009 Gerd Leonhard, Media Futurist
Open Letter to Lord Mandelson, First Secretary of State, Secretary of State for Business, Innovation & Skills (UK)
The Digital Music License (DML) – why and how a new public license for the legal consumption of music on the Internet would provide a solid alternative to the proposed '3 strikes' legislation
Update: Greek Translation here
Dear Lord Mandelson,
The proposed "3 Strikes" legislation is flawed in many more ways than I could hope to outline in this letter, and many of these issues have already been addressed in many other places. Therefore I shall provide only a quick summary of some of the key issues, and then move on to describe what a fruitful, realistic and decidedly more pragmatic alternative could look like.
Unauthorized use of music on the Internet is not a technical problem but a business issue. The reasons why the global ‘free’ sharing of music via the Internet (whether streamed or downloaded) is growing exponentially cannot be nullified by technological means. Rather, the digital music (r)evolution clearly poses a myriad of business and socio-cultural problems that require us to devise a new social contract that legalizes what people actually do, and then build new business models around it.
Anyone that has attempted to innovate within the music industry (including me) will attest to the fact that the largest hurdle for the monetization of music on the Internet during the past 15 years has been the astounding absence of new licensing schemes that actually fit the 'Internet Generation' i.e. the digital natives, and the new ways of consumption that connected consumers are rapidly adopting. Bottom line: the problem is not what consumers are doing - the problem is that the music industry has not blessed it with a license yet!
Therefore, any attempt to solve these business issues with technological measures – such as the proposed 3-strikes legislation – would, with utter certainty, be very expensive, have serious social and political consequences and yet fail miserably to deliver tangible monetary results for the content industries or indeed the creators; just like Digital Rights Management (DRM) which was pushed very hard by the music industry for over a decade and has now finally been acknowledged as the snake-oil it really always was. The only outcome of the proposed 3 Strikes legislation would be to further criminalize every single consumer that is interested in music, every fan and every potential customer.
So, again, let me be pragmatic: this idea means no money for the creators, no new revenues for the industry (but even more rejection by the consumer), and still no satisfaction for the music consumers. In my view, the most pressing objective must be to solve the very real problem of how music (and then, other digital content) can indeed generate new revenues via the Internet - for the old revenue streams are the past, beyond a shadow of a doubt - just look at what is happening to newspapers and print publishing! Technology will not and cannot solve problems posed by seriously outmoded business practices.
I would argue that we are in fact trying to build a new business on top of the decidedly pre-Internet principle of total and exclusive copyright – a stark dilemma that has proven to create endless friction but produce very few new revenues. The very idea of being able to control the flow of files in order to extract earlier or possibly higher payments from the users is fundamentally flawed, and we must therefore look for ways to monetize it rather than to prevent it.
The value of music is no longer (just) in the copied file. We urgently need to understand and accept that the value of music is no longer (just) in the mere copies of the digital files. Our attention needs to shift from the old - and dying - business of ‘selling the copy’ to selling everything else i.e. the many other values around that copy (some people call that 'service' ;) but starting with providing very low-cost or flat-rated and bundled access, and then creating many new revenue generators on-top of the bundled, legalized access to music. Once legal and unlimited music distribution is build-into Internet access - when Access is Content - a revitalized music industry can focus on talent, curation and marketing, i.e. the attention-getting and the conversion of that attention into actual income. And yes, there is serious commercial value in the music industry once we regulate distribution (I call this Music 2.0 - if you care to read my free book on this... here it is)
The DML: the alternative to the proposed '3 Strikes' legislation. 80 years ago, the answer to the challenge of a then-new and vastly popular technology called 'Radio' was to legalize it and provide new licensing schemes to remunerate the content creators. The same thing happened with CableTV and with the copy-machine, and the very same logic needs to be applied to music on the Internet. A public, collective, standardized and open license for music on the Internet needs to be either voluntarily created by the music industry, or mandated i.e. enforced by the government - and the sooner the better for everyone. The DML would - similar to the existing radio & broadcasting licenses that are already in effect around the world - make music available on public, standardized terms and conditions, and therefore allow any and all businesses that want to use music to do so without the utterly crippling uncertainties that exist in the current marketplace.
Revenue shares and flat rates - not fixed license fees per song. The objective of the DML is to create a new, vast, and constantly replenishing ‘pool of money’ for music, i.e. to grow the revenue potential along with the growing number of users, as well as via the many new kinds of usages that will be spawned by the DML.
In my opinion, the most crucial component of the DML is this: the license fee needs to be calculated on a revenue-sharing basis rather than on a per-unit i.e. per song fee, whether streamed or downloaded. The current practice of a fixed per-track fee (usually amounting to about 1 cent U.S. per song, for the use of the master recording) for a stream and around 70 cents (U.S.) for a download has proven to be economically detrimental and utterly unrealistic for the market participants (such as Omnifone, Spotify, Rhapsody, Napster, We7 and Yahoo). Why is this? Because of the still-very-nascent stage of the digital music ecosystem, the fact that large-scale advertising revenues for new forms of media are always 2-3-5 years behind, and given that a very large number of users - potentially all UK consumers - are likely to listen to quite a bit of music in this way.
In its formative stage, this new market does not and will not bear license fees that are fixed in this manner and that are totally unrelated to actual incoming revenue streams. Instead, the DML would need to be calculated on a flat-rate or percentage-of-revenue basis, possibly combined with a minimum 'floor' that could prevent unfair and unintended use of 'free' music as a loss-leader (if needed).
Initial DML's reserved for ISPs, telecoms and operators. Since there are many different kinds of businesses that would benefit from having legalized music available (e.g. telecoms, operators, search engines, social networks and communities, blogs, web portals, online magazines etc) but their business objectives and parameters are so vastly different, I would propose to initially make the DML only available to ISPs, mobile network operators and telecommunications providers. This would have several important advantages: 1) once ISPs and operators are able i.e. licensed to offer music bundles and flat rates, they will have every incentive and reason to monitor (i.e. count not control!) which songs are used on their network, 2) they have very large user bases which will provide for a critical scale of payments to be obtained immediately (thus significantly lessening the perceived threat of revenue loss in the physical music market), 3) they have strong potential for the integration of next-generation, user-friendly advertising integration 4) and they already have build-in billing and payment mechanisms.
A flat fee license per user, generated in a multitude of ways. When licensing ISPs, mobile operators and other telecommunications companies it will be crucial to offer flat-rate licenses rather than to pursue revenue shares which are not going to be an acceptable way of generating music revenues from this process, at least initially. Rather, I believe that a fixed, flat-rate license fee per user, per week or month, would be the most suitable way provided that suitable 3rd parties (see below) will also engage to contribute to the funding of each user’s license fee. We must not simply declare the license fee payments to be the ISP’s problem - because it isn't, and because the solution is in the creation of a new Ecosystem, a new business logic, and not in creating tax-like burdens for individual industries.
Economic experts have already done a lot of work on the flat rate model. Far from being an economist myself, I would add that a payment of 1 GBP (in the UK) or 1 Euro (in Germany, France etc) per week per user seems to be economically feasible; however the exact price point will of course need to be negotiated with all involved parties, and possibly be adapted on a yearly basis until the market is more fully developed and each party’s ultimate value position can be determined. In any case -and this is crucial - the DML must clearly be so utterly affordable that every single ISP, operator and telecommunications company would immediately apply for a license.
In terms of the actual use of the music and the subsequent accounting for remuneration purposes, I propose that it should not make a difference if a song is downloaded or streamed (i.e. played on-demand while online), and - similar to CableTV - it should not make a difference if a user would use music 24 hours a day, every single day, or just download 3 songs every now and then. All music usage would need be counted, anonymized and reported, and artists would get paid fully proportional to the actual use of music i.e. according to their popularity (see below for details).
A calculation example: a pool of 2.6 Billion GBP per year for music, in the UK. As an example, a DSL provider and mobile network operator with 20 Million UK users would need to generate funds to pay for a DML of GBP 80 Million per month, i.e. 960 Million GBP per year.
Assuming, for mere calculation purposes, an average of 50 Million eligible UK residents i.e. a large percentage of the entire UK population (~ 61 Million) generating 1 GBP per week, the revenues for the music industry would amount to a very substantial 50 Million GBP per week i.e. 2.6 Billion GBP per year, which represents almost twice the UK's recorded music revenues in 2008 (1.36 Billion GBP). Any argument of ‘cannibalization’ of existing revenue streams such as CDs or iTunes would pale against this figure. And yes, iTunes would do just fine with and on-top of the flat-rate: remember they don't sell music, they sell iPods and iPhones!
How to fund a DML of 1 GBP per week per user. The key question is, of course, how exactly the ISPs and telecoms would raise the money to pay for the quite significant cost of the DML, every week, per user. This is a crucial issue since,a gain, under no circumstances should the ISPs, operators or telecoms be made solely responsible for the financial solution of this problem; it is absolutely crucial to position the DML as a business solution that will unlock strong new revenue opportunities and will be more than cost-neutral in a fairly short time. In my view, the job of building the financial support mechanisms i.e. the ecosystem that the DML will require should be handled by a mutually respected, knowledgeable and neutral advisory board whose mission would be to 'collate' this new ecosystem and to get device makers, advertisers, premium-service providers and other interested parties aboard as quickly as possible.
Advertising is only one of the many ways to fund the DML. Of course, as in television and radio, advertising is one of the key factors that will subsidize the DML fees. The concept of advertising-supported content is not new but what will be drastically different, going forward, is the type of advertising that we will see on digital networks in the very near future. Concepts such as advertising becoming content, itself (such as in mobile phone applications) and social advertising will blossom once permission for the legal use of music is given, creating much higher advertising revenues than we are currently seeing online.
The global advertising spend currently amounts to roughly $ 670 Billion USD, per year. The UK advertising & marketing spend is forecast at approx 25 Billion GBP in 2010 (eMarketer), with - by 2012 - an estimated 25% i.e. 6.25 Billion GBP going to digital and mobile advertising. Yet, digital and mobile advertising would only be one piece of this new puzzle: handset makers could pay subsidies to get preferred i.e. 'presented by' access to users (basically a network-centric variation of the existing ‘Nokia comes with Music’ concept), social networks could contribute subsidies to legally integrate ISP-hosted music into their own networks via the DMLs that operators and ISPs would already have; search engines and portals could do the same. Imagine if Google could sit on-top of this new system of fully legalized, feels-like-free music - this is similar to how Google has already made legal music (streaming and downloading) 'feels like free' in China.
After an initial set-up period, it would be crucial that an ISP or operator that makes use of the DML would be able to fully recover the DML costs through a multitude of new revenue streams, such as next-generation advertising, the sale of mobile applications based on the unlimited availability of music (such as social music and play list applications), subsidies by CE companies i.e. handset and device makers, data-mining and cross-selling (with careful consideration to consumers’ data protection and privacy, of course) and various forms of up-selling of other product and services (including music-related premiums) such as the games industry has been offering for the past decade, already, or even by re-packaging some of the license costs to their users.
The DML is NOT a tax. Any indication that the DML essentially amounts to a tax or is yet another compulsory payment scheme levied onto the consumer (such as the existing TV & Radio licenses) or a particular industry needs to be avoided, at least in the UK market where such a proposal would probably be politically unwise. The DML is simply a new license that is made available to businesses that want to use digital music, with the funding being generated from the market participants, themselves.
Monitoring of usage and fair payment to content owners. Every song that is performed i.e. streamed or downloaded on the Internet would need to be tracked and accounted for, using already available software solutions such as Gracenote or Shazam. This data would need to be made anonymous using a mathematical formula that would protect each user’s private data while still providing actuarial tracking of which song has been used how many times, on any given day, week or month.
Each artist and rights-holder would then receive a monthly payment that is proportional to the actuarial use of their music during each tracking period, e.g. if a given artist’s music was used 1.3% of the time (e.g. in any given month), he or she or their representatives (record labels and publishers) would receive 1.3% of the total pool of money collected. All participating creators (e.g. writers, lyricists, composers, producers etc) would get their proportional payment from the same pool. I am advocating a 50-50 split between the composer and the performer (i.e. recording and publishing), at this time. Overlaps with existing rights schemes (such as public performance on the Internet, and so-called web-casting and Internet-radio) would need to be investigated and addressed, as well.Existing examples: similar models to the proposed DML are already in place, or are being investigated in:
1) China, where Google is providing free and fully legal streams and downloads of music via their Top100.cn property, in return for a share of advertising revenues (and in full collaboration with all major labels) 2) Denmark, where the ISP and mobile network operator TDC has already made music ‘free’ to all of their subscribers, in return for paying a flat fee per year to the music rights organizations 3) The U.S., where Warner Music Group, via Jim Griffin and the his Choruss project, is rolling out a flat rate music license for universities and colleges 4) Korea, where SK Telecom’s MelOn service has been providing flat rate music access to most the population (11 Million subscribers at ~$ 5 USD per month) for a few years, already 5) Canada, where the Canadian songwriters are lobbying the government for a new flat for digital music 6) The Isle of Man Music Flat Rate project, headed by Ron Berry.
I look forward to discussing this with you.
Please note: this short letter cannot possibly answer every question that may arise if this proposal is further investigated or realized. Rather, I intend to make the case for why the DML would solve the pressing problem of legalizing and at the same time monetizing the many new ways that consumers use music on the Internet. Please keep in mind that most of the suggestions outlined above are still quite basic; prior to making any precise recommendations in regards to possible implementations a lot more research and input from all involved parties is required. Also, while my suggestions should be applied to digital music only, at this time, I do foresee similar developments within other digital content sectors such as motion pictures, TV and books - albeit within a wider timeframe (i.e. 3-5 years).
September 15, 2009
This is a video from a conversation I had with Arjan Postma and Joergen van der Sloot over at FreedomLab in Amsterdam, in July 2009. We touched on a variety of topics: the economics of the media industry and why they don't really work anymore, why and how the Internet is challenging most of our assumptions, extracting value vs adding value, egosystem vs ecosystem, Sellaband, crowd-sourcing and the future of media companies, the hit-economy and the longtail... and much more. Enjoy.
August 31, 2009
Bizarrely, the UK government, led by Lord Mandelson, the UK Business Secretary, seems to have done a 180-shift in the past 2 weeks by once again proposing to disconnect alleged file-sharers from the Internet. In other words: if the content industry can't get people to buy music or films, or other so-called content, by offering relevant, fair and affordable new ways to do so, maybe the government can help to force people back into buying the old-fashioned way, i.e. by the unit / copy? Rather than actually change the industry's business model, let's just change the consumers' habits - problem solved!
If you want to be puzzled, just read the UK government's announcement (PDF via Arstechnica). The Net is buzzing with news on this topic; see below. The FT has a good recent update called 'Claws & Effect' here; wherein I read (with little surprise): "Senior music industry figures, such as Lucian Grainge, head of Universal Music International, have been influential in mobilising Westminster to act". Lobbyists succeed again?
The bottom line can be summarized like this: "Let's just see if we can still force people to consume music in the way that suits us better". Never mind that the very similar French Sarkozy-'Bruni' proposal was just recently deemed illegal by the French Constitutional Law as well as by the European commission - maybe some good lobbyists can revert that, as well?
Here are a few quotes I have collected on this topic:
"John Kennedy, chief executive of IFPI, the organisation representing the recording industry worldwide, says: “It is not enshrined in any law anywhere that one has the right to steal music, films and books. There is a crisis in the economy, and as well as respecting rights we have to think about the economy and jobs” (FT) Related read: John Kennedy at RSA
“We welcome the government’s recognition that this problem needs to be addressed urgently, so today is a step forward that should help the legal digital market to grow for consumers,” the BPI, the music industry trade body, said. “The solution to the piracy problem must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive” (FT)
Those who don't like this idea
"Charles Dunstone, chief executive of Carphone Warehouse, one of the UK’s biggest providers, says: “We are going to fight [being forced to disconnect customers] as hard as we can. Our fundamental duty is to protect the rights of our subscribers” (FT)
"A Virgin Media spokesperson said: “We share the government’s commitment to addressing the piracy problem and recognise that new laws have an important role to play in this. But persuasion not coercion is the key to changing consumer behaviour as a heavy-handed, punitive regime will simply alienate mainstream consumers. The government should be ensuring a balance of action against repeat infringers and the rapid development of new legitimate services that provide a compelling alternative to illegal file-sharing" (FT)
"Internet provider TalkTalk said it would "strongly resist" government attempts to oblige Internet service providers to act as Internet police. TalkTalk said disconnecting alleged offenders "will be futile given that it is relatively easy for determined filesharers to mask their identity or their activity to avoid detection" (HuffPo)
One of my favorite quotes, via Labour MP Tom Watson: “Challenged by the revolutionary distribution mechanism that is the internet, big publishers with their expensive marketing and PR operations and big physical distribution networks, are seeing their power and profits diminish. Faced with the choice of accepting this and innovating, or attempting, King Canute-style, to stay the tide of change, they’re choosing the latter option, and looking to Parliament for help with some legislative sand bags” (FT)
Some important facts and other related snippets (quotes from various sources):
- Proposed EU telecommunications legislation includes a clause stating that internet access is a fundamental human right (FT)
- In Ireland, internet companies UPC and BT Ireland have refused to comply with music companies’ requests to cut off suspected pirates (FT)
- The Sunday Times claims that Lord Mandelson, the business secretary, has been persuaded that pirates should be deprived of internet access altogether after dining with “Hollywood mogul” David Geffen *via FT (no surprise here, either;)
- Petition (38degrees)
- OpenRightsGroup Statement
- UK Pirate Party comment.
I have been saying this since 1999: the solution to illegal filesharing is to legalize the way that people share content online, to create new, public, compulsory licenses for content, starting with music (yes, just like the Radio / Broadcasting license), to create fair and flexible licensing standards, and to reduce control in favor of compensation.
The UK's trend towards increased criminalization is just plain old wrong, technologically absurd and utter fantasy, culturally 500% retro, and socially unjustifiable. Techdirt's Mike Masnick sums it up nicely: "You may kick people off the internet, but does anyone honestly think that will actually get people to buy again?"
Here are some of my many contributions on this topic:
- Compensation not Control: Video, PDF on slideshare
- Music Like Water (essays)
- My comment on Paul McGuinness's version of the Internet (Midem 2008)