Friday, 5 February 2010

Electronic content and unexpected creativity

"The debate over the primacy of content is over ... Content is not just king ... it is the emperor of all things electronic ... But this [iPads, readers, etc.] clever technology is merely an empty vessel without any great content. Without content, the ever larger and flatter screens, the tablets, the e-readers and the increasingly sophisticated mobile phones would be lifeless."
Rupert Murdoch - Chairman and CEO News Corp.
One expects the leader of a large global media conglomerates to make such a statement. Still, the statement rings true. Whether we speak of movies, television shows, books, or websites, few will spend precious hours of their lives staring at screens unless the content is compelling.
Surely, the internet has revolutionized commerce and industry but its role as an entertainment medium is not in doubt. It will not be long before television streaming directly onto computer screens is a commercially viable proposition. Already many watch feature films on personal devices.
History tells us that technology will continually improve and adapt itself to what the people want. What the people really want is the billion dollar question. (A million dollars is not what it used to be – bailouts are now in billions and stimulus packages in trillions!)

The corporate executives at Disney studios or NBC can guess at what might sell. For a medium like movies, management can stack the odds in its favour through tools such as 'star power' and sustained marketing campaigns. However, there are no guarantees for success.
Consumers want what they want. Sometimes what people watch or read surprises the smartest of marketing gurus.
Little known independent films catapult into the blockbuster category. Books by hitherto unknown authors (Harry Potter) sell beyond a publisher's wildest dreams. A similar exercise weeds the successful television series and internet websites from their loser cousins.
Consumers are overwhelmed with choice. It gets tiring and confusing– too many websites, too many opinions, too many videos, too many shows and too many channels. Yet, it's the clutter that makes for adventure and excitement; the satisfaction of stumbling across a great movie or website.
Content may be king but the disorder and abundance of electronic content ensures that the consumer sets the agenda. Bizarre videos go viral, articles electronically wind their way across the globe; content which may have been viewed only by friends and family in the past is now (potentially) viewed by millions.
The world's creative energies are being unleashed by modern technology. More individuals are indulging in artistic activities than ever before. Historically, authors had trouble accessing a publisher. In 2010, authors become their own publishers. Recording artists can record demos in their bedrooms. And so on.

Nevertheless, a You Tube video watched a million times only makes a one hit wonder. The trick lies in converting temporary success into a more sustainable activity – often impossible without the help of traditional media executives!

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