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The End of Control

My co-author Gerd Leonhard has just published a new work entitled “The End of Control”. Here is an excerpt from the introduction. Enjoy.

“This book is about the most important issue the media business is facing as it tries to move forward: control.

In my work as speaker and advisor, the tough issue of control emerges, again and again, as the key contention point within TV companies, publishers, record labels, and broadcasters: How can a commercial venture that is based on so-called “intellectual property” thrive and prosper in an environment that seems to continuously and progressively remove control from the creators/owners/providers of content, and hands it over to the people formerly known as consumers (aka the users), effectively making them more powerful every single day?

But the reality is that every click inadvertently makes another case for the consumer’s ever-increasing rise in importance. Within all the conversations I have had about things like commercial content versus shared content, about the read-only or the read-write web, and about copyright versus Fair Use, the crucial question always seems to boil down to WHERE IS THE CONTROL HERE, i.e., questions such as “Who will control this new media universe” and “How much control do I need to run a revenue-generating business?”

Network_to_networked

Ever more devices, ever faster broadband, more channels, more platforms, faster processors, endless storage, better search — and still, we have only 24 hours in a day. The real barrier is attention! For many content creators or providers, it may often seem that one’s power to monetize stands to be inadvertently diminished every time some geek in some garage publishes a new piece of code. Today, those digital natives (i.e., the 10–25 year olds who were born as the Net Generation) increasingly self-assemble or pull media, controlling and sharing their own collections — and thereby making the companies that usually purvey their mass-media less crucial in the process.

Seven years after the explosion of the dot-com bubble, the future of media once again seems to be up for grabs. Bloggers and Web 2.0 entrepreneurs; social media and UGC (user-generated content) startups; mobile filesharers and P2P software developers; teenage inventors; hungry telecoms; operators and cellcos; mobile phone makers; worried governments and industry organizations; exasperated venture capitalists and their latest and greatest offspring, search engines and online communities — they all want a nice, juicy piece of the anticipated $ 1.6 trillion entertainment economy of 2010. And they all are hell-bent to take control away from the people who used to have it: the studios, and the titans of content.

This book will offer a counter-intuitive theory of we will get there: Give Up on Control.

Old-media veterans, be they music moguls or newspaper, radio, or TV executives — those who have cherished and at all cost maintained their absolute control over the marketplace — are now howling with disgust as those People Formerly Known as Consumers are becoming their de-facto bosses. They have suddenly lost their Monopoly on Attention. Yes, it’s happening everywhere, in all industries, but it is in media where we are most awestruck by its implications: We will now have to work much harder at getting people’s attention, and to gain and keep trust, rather than just use distribution monopolies to send more stuff they should watch down the pipeline.

What’s more, convergence is no longer just an idea, or a PowerPoint tagline. It’s naked reality for every media company, discussed in every boardroom. And many convergent products are relying on a substantial loss of control by all involved parties. Can we offer converged media services without giving up control? Highly unlikely.

The bottom line is that in the future, we will need to learn how to live and prosper with relative control.

Let’s face it: in a world where digital content is ubiquitously created and made readily available to everyone, everywhere, anytime, we simply will not generate enough revenues by attempting to control the copies (or the access to those copies). Throttling distribution and monetizing scarcity — an operating mode that most media conglomerates have enjoyed since the invention of the printing press, the phonograph, the TV, and the CD — is no longer a viable option. Rather, access to media content will simply be a universal, default, built-in status — and therefore, media will first be a service and only then a product.

Value will be generated by being and remaining the trusted context (formerly known as being ‘the networks’ but now becoming known as ‘being networked’); by becoming the unique purveyor of a particular media experience; and by providing added values, again and again, every time the user shows up — real-life, virtually, or both.

Here and now, the people formerly known as consumers are becoming fully empowered Netizens, and it is the Net Generation that will quickly become the default audience for our content, rather than an aberration. The Digital Natives are taking over everywhere, and they will not play if they, in the aggregate, don’t feel like they control the game, or if they get even the slightest whiff that the game may be rigged.

Social networks are quickly becoming the new radio and stand to have more influence over music trends (and commerce) than MTV ever had; (digital) radio is fast turning into a music retailer and distributor; and smart, software-based taste-making agents are set to become a standard in digital music. Mobile phones are becoming powerful media players, and remix devices, and super-distribution nodes — by default. Ubiquitous Wi-Fi and Wimax will soon mean that online and offline cease to be meaningful terms of distinction.

All of this can be summarized in one conclusion: It is now becoming utterly impossible to control the people formerly known as consumers. Instead, they control the media purveyors — by virtue of millions of mouse-clicks and the power of their combined click-streams.”

End of Control

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