Friday, May 30, 2008


A month ago I had the occasion to attend a technology conference in Waterloo where various speakers, including the editor of Wired and Google’s former Chief Innovation Officer, discussed the evolution of the internet and where technology is headed. A major theme of the conference was the ‘nicheification’ of online content and the fact that with user-generated editing capability so firmly entrenched as a Web 2.0 best practice, the potential market of consumers is getting more and more fragmented.

However, another point brought up during the conference, and one that I wanted to elaborate on tonight, is the idea that all content is moving toward a free media model. Today at work I was reviewing creative and the phrase “free information” was used in our marketing copy. “Free information” I thought, was kinda redundant.

Isn’t all information free now? Shouldn’t all information be free?

Did you know that the cost of streaming ten hours of video from YouTube to one viewer only costs ¼ of 1 cent? So with technology that basically allows for nearly unlimited access to any media content at zero cost, how do marketers justify asking consumers to pay for information?

Prince provides an interesting corollary here. I consider Prince to be a musical genius and a marketing genius. Refer to the 2007 Superbowl Halftime Show for sufficient reason to tremble at his other-worldly skill with an axe. To promote a 2007 concert at Wembley Stadium in London, Prince gave away free copies of his latest CD in the London Daily Mail newspaper. Free content, huge publicity. Of course it helps that Prince owns his record company, NPG records, but it was still a very innovative move. At a time when the record industry is languishing from stronger content distribution competitors and an inherently flawed value proposition, Prince essentially broke ground on a new revenue model. At nearly $200 per seat, the money comes from concert ticket sales, not from CDs. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also concede that Prince recently sued fans for unlawfully distributing his music. Additionally it was difficult to find actual Prince videos that have not been removed or silenced on YouTube. Thankfully Songza came through. It seems that he’ll promote his music, but on his terms.

I’m about to tuck in for the night and watch an episode of the Sopranos that I downloaded from a torrent site. I did not pay for this content. If I bought DVDs of all six seasons of The Sopranos, I would have probably paid $300. Frankly, the concept of paying for media content is anathema to anyone under the age of 25.

So let’s get used to free content. Let’s demand more of it. Remember that as consumers and as marketers, we always have options.

1 comment:

Ana said...

Are you sure you want to be admitting having downloaded $300 worth of episodes of The Sopranos? ;) Brave move; you certainly practice what you preach.

In all honesty though, totally agreed with the post.