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March 06, 2007

Blast Off!

What do you get when you throw two high-powered media executives, two advertising executives, one general manager from a massive consumer goods company, two venture capitalists, three academics, a handful of startups, some bloggers and a couple of consumer advocates in a room together and set them loose on each other?

Everything. All at once. With very few breaths in between.

Clearly we put together the right group of people to hash out issues around the creation and consumption of media and content. Because the moment host Teri Riddle opened up the floor to our deep dive participants, the conversation took off and didn't slow down until the final bell. There was passion, well-reasoned arguments, serious disagreements, and some very insightful and forward looking insights.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I'll try to get it all down in these pages in more detail, but today I’ll just try to give you a general sense of what happened. First, the quick overview:

Viral marketing is not new.
Viral anti-marketing is new.
Politics is commerce.
Politics is viral.
Word of mouth is marketing.
Every conversation is marketing.
Kids crave authenticity.
Authenticity is the key to marketing.
This is the digital age.
This is the digital Marxist age.
All content is just raw material.
Consumers own the brand.
Companies own their brand.
Senior management owns the brand.
We need fewer brands.
We need more brands.
Piracy is the problem.
Digital rights management is the problem.
iTunes is the problem.
All quality is not created equal.
Privacy is dead.
Online image management is the next big thing.
Hollywood is dead.
Long live Hollywood.
Content requires a supply chain of one.
We need standards.
We need rules.
We need tracking.
Snakes on a Plane is not a very good movie.

That’s really just a smattering of what really went on at the meeting. But overall, there was a tremendous concern from the media folks about how to solve the problem of piracy, and a general lack of sympathy from all other quarters. In fact, one participant even suggested that entertainment content be distributed for free as a public service, like public parks, paid for through taxes.

Tomorrow we’ll be meeting with a group of students (both graduate and undergraduate) to discuss the same issues. My guess is that they won’t be quite as concerned about protecting copyrights. But maybe they’ll surprise us. 

Check back tomorrow for more specifics on all of the above later this week.

March 6, 2007 in Media and Content | Permalink


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It feels like a shift in value away from 'products' and towards 'tools'; therefore away from 'product owners' and towards 'skilled tool users'.

In a schoolroom, a textbook is a 'product'; an exercise book is a 'tool'. You actually need both to run a good schoolroom (and a teacher).

The textbook will have a commercial copyright; if you want another one, you go to the bookstore and buy one. The exercise book doesn't have a commercial copyright; if you want another one, you just drop it through the photocopier.

Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office are products. Linux and OpenOffice.org are tools.

Guess where I think the future lies.

Posted by: Chris Ward | Mar 9, 2007 6:45:21 AM

Are you saying that OpenOffice is a tool? Or the organization, OpenOffice.org is a tool?

If the writer or content creator of the exercise book (or materials) doesn't copyright their works, that is their potential loss.

As you indicate, both products and tools are needed, but I'm not sure your analogy is correct.

One might think that the results of using a product like Microsoft Office or OpenOffice Writer would be considered tools, much like the exercise book in your example.

Wouldn't the fact that licensed materals ARE used to develop the OpenOffice "product" (from their web site) push OpenOffice offerings into the product category?

And if the future is only tools, and those tools are expected to be free, then where does that leave most corporations?

Posted by: Ken Hutchins | Mar 9, 2007 10:55:28 AM

Re: Snakes on a Plane is not a very good movie.

Neither was Little Miss Sunshine.

Posted by: Ken Hutchins | Mar 9, 2007 10:57:37 AM

OpenOffice.org (that you can download from http://www.openoffice.org/ ) and Linux (that you can download from http://www.debian.org/ ) have very much the characteristics of 'tools', or 'exercise books'; collaboratively developed, duplicate at will, no price, no warranty. IBM sells warranties for them, of course, and if you buy an IBM warranty then IBM will guarantee that you can run your business on it. Rather like AIG selling auto insurance policies.

Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office (that you can buy from your friendly Microsoft salesman) have very much the characteristics of 'products', or 'textbooks'. Go to the store if you want to buy another.

No, I don't think the future is 'only tools'. I think that corporations (like IBM and Microsoft) will continue to invest to develop and market 'products', and provide warranty service for them. But equally, I don't think the future can be allowed to be 'only products'; in particular, scientists and engineers need 'tools' to enable them to make their progress.

In IBM's case, I know that IBM has sold all the copies of its OS/2 product that IBM will ever sell. I think that the IBM Lotus SmartSuite product is approaching that point; as far as I know, no salesmen are on quota to sell it. They were commoditised out of existence by the Linux and OpenOffice.org tools, respectively. There's minor sadness at the loss of the revenue stream, but life moves on.

I often wonder whether Microsoft are milking the last drops of profit out of Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office, because surely the same forces must be affecting them; but you'd have to go ask them about that, because I don't have a magic communication channel to ask. Their research investments are into things like IPTV, life sciences, and personal-care robotics; new markets.

But the IBM Lotus Notes product is 'growth' and profitable, so we think; as is IBM Websphere.

Posted by: Chris Ward | Mar 12, 2007 2:15:22 AM

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