Friday, October 24, 2008

Socializing Media (Stripping Down part two)

posted by: Victor

No, not THAT kind of socialization!  You hyper-sensitive Republicans... relax!

In part one, I talked about how I'm on the verge of transitioning over to an all-digital entertainment lifestyle.  Today, I posit the question of how it will affect those of us that aspire to create entertainment content (and hopefully make money at it one day).

Right now, we still live in a world that is mostly dominated by physical entertainment goods.  DVD's, books, magazines, CD's.  You can still go and purchase something and hold it in your hands and lend it to someone or eventually sell it in a garage sale for 50 cents.  We're still in a world where to be an author or a musician or a filmmaker, you are assumed to have produced some sort of tangible object that can be bought and sold.  But those days are quickly evaporating. 

Already, we don't think twice about music as a purely digital product.  When was the last time you purchased a CD and actually listened to that CD (as opposed to immediately digitizing it and burying the CD in a box with other CD's)?  The same is becoming more and more true with cable on-demand downloads, Netflix downloads, Hulu.com, Fancast.com (a great sites that collects all the free TV and movies that are available online) and on and on.  The only thing we're waiting on is the one uber-device that makes all of this seamless.

And when that device or technology arrives (in the next few years, at most), what's next for the content creators?

While the works you create will be instantly available to ANYONE in the world, how do you put your work in front of them?  And by the same token, EVERYONE's books and movies and music will be similarly available to everyone in the world.  How does one stand out in this new world of media democratization?  As many of us here on Humble Fiction Cafe have learned, it's HARD to make yourself heard when everyone else is squawking at roughly the same volume.  It's a lot of work.  And it's by no means foolproof.  It takes a lot to convince someone to part with their hard-earned money for whatever article of entertainment you have created.

One solution is pricing I think.  I think twice about purchasing something for three dollars.  Five dollars.  Twenty dollars.  The fifteen to twenty-five dollar range is reserved only for the best of the best.  Those authors or artists who I will buy sight unseen.  But how much am I willing to risk on someone I've never heard of or that doesn't have any sort of track record?  Ten dollars?  Nope.  Five dollars?  Still too risky.  A dollar?  Maaaaybe.  Fifty cents?  Now we're talking.  A quarter?  Sure!  At that price, even if it's the stinker of all time, I haven't made an investment that I'll regret.  I'm sure most people would fall into this category.

So with that in mind, how many of you would be willing to sell a digital copy of your book or song at ten cents?  A nickel? Who wouldn't be willing to buy a book for a nickel or a dime? What if selling it at that price point gets a million people to try it?   That's $50,000 or $100,000.  How many of us would be satisfied with $10,000?  That's selling your book for just a PENNY. Granted, you have to find a way to get your book in front of a million people, but with the internet, this sort of thing isn't impossible.

The record companies and movie studios are still hung up on the big price points for their products.  99 cents per song is a nice price point, but it's still only going to be songs that I WANT.  I'm still reluctant to just try out new music at that price.   But for a nickel per song?  I'd happily by a new band's album.  I'd buy a bunch of new artists albums. 

The key to all of this is the socializing of all this content.  We're already a good chunk of the way there, with the explosion of social websites like Facebook and Myspace.  There are tons of other niche social websites, like Goodreads, and Flickr and YouTube.  These are all great at what they do, but the sticking point is that for the most part, these sites still don't talk to each other.  It's not yet a seamless experience.  I have to leave Facebook (where I have dozens of friends) to go to Goodreads, where I have a much smaller circle of friends, who are unlikely to be on the site at the same time I am.  While I can post a review of a book on Goodreads, or attempt to start a discussion about it, it will usually go unseen for the most part by the vast majority of my online-capable friends.  Unless I post a link to my Goodreads review, no one on Facebook or Myspace even knows I did so. 

So the key is all of these sites talking to each other constantly.  When a friend posts something in Facebook, for instance, it shows up in my 'friendfeed' almost immediately.  Nearly every item is clickable or able to have a comment posted on it.  This feature makes a simple posting able to become a discussion thread.  And now, not just me and that one friend, but me and everyone else I know will be able to see that discussion and also contribute to it.  It's always fascinating when a friend from one of my social groups interacts with a friend from another group, such as when an old school friend from grade school in Canada responds to a comment that a recent filmmaking friend made. 

In the same vein, social networking will become the new shopping mall.  We are all influenced by the items our friends buy or recommend.  Things like postings and comments in Facebook will soon become (I believe) the greatest form of word-of-mouth advertising ever created. 

Already on Goodreads, it's possible to immediately click on any reviewed or recommended book and purchase it from Amazon.com.  But like I said earlier, at the current price points, I balk.  But if when reading that review, (and even if it only kind of sounded like something I might be interested in),  if it only cost a nickel or a dime or a quarter, I don't think I'd hesitate to click BUY.  I may never actually read it, but it didn't hurt my wallet to purchase it.  If it only cost me a quarter or so to immediately get in on whatever all my friends were suddenly talking about or downloading, I'd be crazy not to. 

We're still a few years away from the final seismic media shift, but it's coming.  The whole pricing and distribution structure for media will collapse on itself and then be reborn.  Instead of studios and publishers telling us what to watch or listen to or read, we'll be telling each other.  And the media we recommend to each other will be entirely different than what those corporations would be shilling.

And I believe that's when all of us will finally have a chance to be on equal ground with the 'big boys.'

3 comments:

turbochargeman said...

Nice post. Seeing as that there are now so many social networks catering to such a wide range of niches, my biggest problem is finding ones relevant to me and related to my specific interests or product niches. Google seems to be inefficient and returns alot of irrelevant results. A cool resource that I use is this search engine designed specifically to find social networking sites.

T.C. said...

Very well thought out, Vic. And, I think I agree, kind of, sort of, but this is coming from someone who still listens to the CD.

But I like your rationale about sellng things at a low, low price and touching a million people.

Hey, I've a got a book written. Wanna buy it for a penny?

Theresa

dave hambidge said...

I have stumbled upon this website via blogcatalog and wish that I lived in your town!!

The analysis you have given as to the future of self-publishing on the web is most stimulating and helped me to clarify some of my own ruminating on the thorny matter.

I am in the position of being able to offer 'free' novellas, short stories etc as my pension covers my daily needs. BUT do others view free as meaning 'likley to be crap' and not even bother to click onto my blogs?

Perhaps I do produce garbage?

Seasonal felicitations from Staffordshire, England.

dave