Jiva Technology

Where is this revolution in digital media taking us? Part 3.

Ok, it’s time to make some demands. If we’re going to map the brave new world of digital media, we need to be clear about what we want and like all good 3 year olds, we can be deliberately vague about how our demands will be met (we can leave that for later discussion). So here goes:

1. Access.

Robert Woodruff, President of The Coca-Cola Company in the 1920’s, best summed this up when he said he wanted his product, “within arm’s reach of desire”. I do too. I want ubiquity; to be able to ‘consume’ a book/music/film anywhere, at anytime and without restriction, so long as I’ve paid the relevant fee for access rights. Meaningless access restrictions based on the way things used to be done in the film/book/music industry are probably my biggest beef with the way media companies are handling the transition to digital. Territoriality (geographic lockout) in books and music, staggered release dates for films .. they all get in the way of me consuming media the way I want. There are numerous documented examples, like the time last summer when my daughters heard a song in France (Mika by the way) that they subsequently wanted to buy in the UK. Not available. How crazy is that? It represents lost revenue and encourages piracy.  Amazon and Apple have both reaped the benefits of making things quasi-easily available and purchasing as simple as possible, but they’ve done it in that walled garden, AOL-kind of way that’s typical of early markets but which never stands the test of time. The market is too big for one or two players to be sufficiently creative or powerful to control it.

2. Discovery.

This is the tricky bit. In a world of massive over-supply of art, books, music and film, it should be less about products ‘cutting through the noise’ and more about a sophisticated ecosystem of matchmaking: me to a product I might like. Don’t you have that nagging feeling that you’re missing out on something great (I hate missing out), but which may not appeal to everyone?It’s not a search problem, but a discovery or find problem. For the young, we have an easy answer – friends. They have the time and the inclination to spend hours listening to stuff, watching stuff, reading stuff. There’s kudos in finding something good first and then telling everyone else. But as we get older, tastes diverge and the time to ‘discover’ diminishes. The problem is further complicated, because depending on whether it’s a film, a song, a book or a piece of art, the time taken to ‘sample’ it can vary dramatically. Think of books versus music. I can listen to ten seconds of a song and decide if I like it. I can also listen to it whilst driving/running/changing a nappy. Try that with a book, even an ebook. Some things, by their very nature, take more effort to ‘consume’. It might take 5 seconds to look at a picture, 3 minutes to listen to a song, but Harry Potter novels range between 76,944 – 257,045 words and the average reader ‘consumes’ around 250 words a minute. Over 200,000 new books are published every year and that excludes self-publishing. Given that I have yet to see a reliable way to recommend art of music to me, what hope is there for books? Facebook tell me the answer is to let them record all the ‘likes’ etc; of my friends and they will help me. Amazon have a recommendation engine. My feedback to both of them – nah. In the short to medium term, I think the answer is some form of aggregated, active curation. You can’t actually choose the book for me, but you can certainly narrow it down and make some suggestions that I will take up (or not) that will allow you to improve your suggestions. The big bands, authors, film makers, those universally accepted to be good, will always find a decent audience. It’s hard to believe that The Beatles or Zeppelin or Adele or Shakespeare would ever struggle to find an audience; it’s the ones in the middle that struggle – those that ‘some’ people think are good. We need a massive burst of creativity to solve this problem – I love that my favourite bookshop, Mr B’s in Bath is now streaming real books to people on a monthly basis. Streaming, a digital concept, has changed direction and taken up home in the physical world. That’s what I call clever. And exciting.




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