Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Revised: Industries Transform

Alright, I've been called out for yesterday's lazy rant. Most of the time, industries don't die, they transform.

Railroads are obviously still around, they're just not the primary mode of long-distance travel in the United States, like they once were. Stagecoaches, I think I can safely say, are dead.

Clovis and Achulean toolmaking were two of the first technologies known to humans. They're not completely dead, but we have much more useful tools now. (Knives.)

Regarding the News

It's not news that newspapers are suffering. More and more, people choose to read their news online (for free) instead of in a paper (they pay for). Classified ads, which offset much of the cost of producing a newspaper, are fewer (thanks to Craigslist and other online services). The newspaper industry is going to need to adapt.

That's not to say that journalism is at risk. No, I think journalism will and must survive. From the American Revolution, journalism (via pamphlets) has played an important role in our country's democracy, reporting on injustices and keeping tabs on the government.

But we're used to getting our news free or almost free (via newspapers, radio, TV, or internet). It's foolish to think we're going to start paying for it now. Because the truth is, were we to pay per story, the most lucrative stories would be the best covered, and we'd have Lady Gaga news all day, every day. No, we need to first acknowledge that primary, unbiased journalism is of value, second, identify its source, and third, support it.

I listen to NPR. It's my favorite source for national and international news. Sometimes I visit their website, but mostly I listen to podcasts. I think they have a good system going, where when I support my local NPR station (by becoming a member), I also support the umbrella organization that does more expensive news coverage. Therefore, I pay for it.

There's a website that covers state and local news. I subscribe to their feed, and once I feel like I really depend on them, I'll probably make a donation. They do a great job covering local events, like providing updates on the governor's race (which was settled a week after the election) and tomorrow's hearing on Anthem wanting to raise health insurance premiums by 47% on people like me.

Regarding TV

My real gripe was with the cable/TV companies, the ones who keep blocking internet TV when accessed from particular internet TV applications (like Google TV, Boxee, etc.). It's not a fight they're going to win. There's enough piracy (and TiVo) that people are going to watch what they want, when they want, with or without commercials.

Aside: TiVo is awesome. I loved TiVo when I had it, and I couldn't imagine going back. But it costs a monthly fee, and that puts it on my shit list. It went out with the cable bill. Thanks to TiVo and DVRs (a technology cable companies have embraced), viewers can FF through commercials and watch shows whenever they want. Except for the bandwidth cost of streaming, I don't see the difference between this and watching online. That's what makes the resistance stupid.

Here's my solution: Allow whatever box/app to access your content. Provide shows in the following contexts (always streaming):

  1. Free, with commercials, at the time of broadcast.

  2. Free, with commercials, until the next episode is released. (Or maybe open it up to the last 5 episodes, like Hulu does now. That's nice.)

  3. Paid per episode, without commercials, until the next episode is released. (Or, again, open it up to more episodes.)

  4. Paid per season, without commercials, all episodes in a season, until the next season begins.

  5. Paid access to a library of past seasons (this is like Netflix).

Also, all pilot episodes (and maybe the next four) should be free always, so viewers can decide if they like it. This way, they get paid for every show that's viewed, either from the viewer directly or through commercials. Depending on the price scale, there's a reasonable solution for both the casual or occasional viewer and the dedicated one. This isn't a far reach from the current setups, like Hulu Plus and Netflix. It just requires more of a commitment from the channels.

And that's the issue: This would be a setup from the channels themselves, not the cable companies. Like the difference between newspapers and journalism, cable companies (the ones who aggregate and re-sell the content) stand to lose, where channels (the ones that actually produce the content) can adapt and survive. That's why cable companies are fighting this. For so long they've been our only source for much of the TV content, and they've had a monopoly or oligopoly in that market. Once they lose control of the channels, they lose their income, and they become merely infrastructure.

Along those lines, I wonder if record companies are hurting? I think many musicians are able to find an audience through the internet, and sell self-produced CDs through sites like CDBaby and Amazon, but are the record companies (music aggregators of yore) suffering much from the internet? I almost doubt it, though they claim to be. Popular music is still very much defined by record companies, perhaps because iTunes owns so much of the mp3 market. Hmm. Something to think about.

1 comment:

  1. Erica5:16 AM

    Incidentally, a recent This Week in Google discussed this topic, but I only heard it today. The discussion is in the middle of the 1 1/2 hour show, so FF to about 30 minutes in, if that's all you want to hear.