Tuesday, 3 July 2012

A Manifesto for the content Industry 10 - Free Your People

If you’re doing the other stuff right your people should have some pretty interesting jobs. I bet they’ve got interesting stuff to say. Do they blog? We do. Do they comment in chatrooms? We do. Let them join the conversation, it should be part of their job.

The entertainment industry is an aspirational business. I don’t know how many applicants you get for even the most minor role but I’ll bet the glamour of either the music of movie industries pull in a bunch more candidates than the equivalent roles in engineering or finance.
Journalism and writing are also aspirational jobs. Pretty much any industry where you’re paid to express yourself (or facilitate that expression) is going to be an attractive one to a lot of people.

Which is why seeing articles like this one is a bit depressing: Sky News clamps down on Twitter use
Basically, in implementing this ruling, each of their individual twitter feeds became less valuable. In fact, you might as well cancel the individual feeds and just link to the website.

If we go back to our old techdirt equation of Connect with Fans + Reason to Buy = $$$, this appears to be a clear case where the institutional instruction is reducing both of those factors; by restricting people to only tweeting about their field it makes it harder to make a connection with readers (fans) and by forcing everything through the central news desk it slows down the transmission of information and potentially reduces the value of their feed (reason to buy).

In a market where the legacy players are fighting to preserve both their reputations and their relevance the expertise of their staff remains one of their most powerful weapons. Restricting access to that expertise (or vice versa) undermines the business.

The entertainment industries in particular are suffering something of a crisis of perception as much as anything, contempt for the inherent imbalance in current copyright law, and the continued head-in-the-sand behaviour of the lobbying groups has meant that “the industry” is widely seen as “the bad guy”. Actually engaging with those disenfranchised fans (rather than suing them) is going to be necessary to rebuild the industries’ reputations* and the people on the ground are the ones to do this – not the CEOs or heads of the lobbying groups. Why? Because of Stephenson’s sixth law**:

I’ve recently discovered a blog run by a bunch of creators*** (mostly musicians) who appear to be trying to do something around that connecting with fans and, judging by some of the comments, they appear to be having some degree of success in terms of persuading people. Unfortunately they also appear to be trying to approach the whole debate from a moral standpoint (ignoring the underlying economics is rarely a good idea) and also by thinking of things in terms of a zero-sum game – they seem to be trying to attack pretty much every web-based service as not-paying-as-well-as-the-old-model rather than paying-better-than-nothing.

Additionally some of their writers have a tendency to embark on aggressive, expletive-fuelled rants about the people they’re trying to win over, which doesn’t seem a particularly good strategy.
But anyway, it’s a good example of trying to free up your people and helping them connect with their current & potential future fans – and they’re getting a lot of hits on their articles.
So whilst I may disagree with a lot of what they say, it’s a prime example of getting your message across without falling foul of the sixth law.

* Assuming that the industries update the rest of their business models as well. White-wash won’t work.
** This, of course, has absolutely no data to support it at all.
*** I’m told that there’s a rumour (could I be less specific?) that this site is in fact supported entirely by a major music label and is what is known as an “Astro-turfing” site, but I have seen no evidence on this and it’s largely irrelevant for the purposes of this instalment.

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