Digital Content and You

The direction everything seems to be going in today’s high paced media world, you are either in or you are out. You either offer digital content or you don’t. There is very little in between. As special interest groups work with government officials to make it harder for us to use media in a way that works for us, we as users are being left in the dust of extremely fast legislating that leaves us with very little rights when it comes to the media we listen to and watch.

Consider the fact that because of legislature like the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), it is illegal for you to circumvent any technology put in place to stop you from watching a DVD or listening to a CD in a manner that the movie and recording industry have deemed, wrong. The problem is that only about maybe 15% of the population needs to listen to music or watch a DVD in a non-standard way so laws like the DMCA go unnoticed expect by the computer elite. Sure you might find a normal person or two that have heard of the DMCA, but chances are they do not know much about it and it is something that their geeky friend(s) told them about.

The recording industry is the worst of the content providers. The recording industry and their special interest group, the RIAA, have made suing their customers a legitimate business. Though as more and more people begin to actually challenge this incredibly odd business practice, the recording industry is finally going to need to face the music (pun intended) and start giving into customer demands. The reason that the recording industry made the deals they had originally made with with Apple to sell their music in the iTunes store, was because they did not truly believe that no one would download music legally. Well, billions of songs later, the record companies want to raise the per song pricing of the songs on iTunes and they want a bigger share of the profits. The record companies proved they were nothing more than money hungry corporations who had very little idea about what their customers actually wanted.

The movie and television industries (who are kind of one in the same), took a different approach. Except for a very small handful of cases, these two content providers decided to prosecute the providers of downloadable movies, in other words the person who actually leaked the film, rather than sue the customers caught downloading. The television networks jumped at the chance to provide content in a digital downloadable format, some having to be paid for while others were free with minimal advertising. The ABC network (which is owned by Disney) released four of its top shows to the iTunes store in Apple’s first round of video releases. When viewership of those four shows spiked in the ratings, other networks almost trampled each other to get in door. Themovie industry was not far behind, you could download movies from Lions Gate’s own website and companies like CinemaNow paved the road for something better.

Apple, if nothing else, has proven that people are willing to download content and pay for it. There is a pretty standard rule in technology and it is the first person to make it easy for everyone to do, is the person who is going to make the most money off of it (or be the most popular). And this is why Apple with their iTunes store has been so successful in the digital download arena. They have provided an easy way for even the most computer illiterate to download digital content. As a result of this, they are extremely well known in this area now. Apple is practically synonymous with digital downloads.

Why would one set of content makers jump into new waters so quickly while another trudges along attempting to get legislation passed to hinder the customer’s digital rights? I firmly believe that the movie and television industries learned from the recording industries mistakes. Yes, they still make some of the same ones, but overall the movie industry has been more open to different and often better kinds of distribution. I think that the recording industry wants to hang on to the practice of telling the public what they should like by means of payola, MTV, and mass marketing. The record companies just can not accept the fact a person will listen to Dashboard Confessional and then two tracks later listen to Metallica or Prodigy. This is a foreign concept to the executives in the recording industry. Also, the recording industry has over the last two decades shifted their focus from quality artists who write real quality songs to the mass produced, easily marketable singles. There are artists from the 70’s and 80’s that released entire albums that were good not albums with 3 good songs and 7 fillers. This kind of consistency is almost unheard of today. If you do not have a song that can get millions of spins, the record companies want nothing to do with you. This is one of the reason’s iTunes was so popular. No longer were customers stuck buying a 12 song CD for thirteen dollars, they could simply buy the track they wanted for $0.99 ad skip the rest of the album. With the focus on singles rather thanentire albums of good songs and people only buying a single song instead of an entire album, the record industry would like to blame piracy for their ills, when really, it is their own current business strategies that is causing their bottom line hits.

The television industry has kind of had a resurgence lately. With shows like: Lost, Heros, Battlestar Galactica, and My Name is Earl; the people in television have learned that quality wins out every time. If you produce quality shows, people are going to flock to watch it. They have learned that having one good show after another spread out across 12-22 episodes will pull more viewers than a show that is hit and miss. This is one of the distinct differences between the recording industry and the other content makers. One refuses to change with the times while others work to find new ways to make the new technology benefit their bottom lines.

When you get right down to it, everything comes down to money. How many albums can you sell? How many tickets and DVDs can you sell? Or even, how many viewers can we get so can charge our advertisers more. I have no problem with the bottom line being what these content makers care about. It is in fact what keeps them in business. My concern is when they do not take well to change. If you as a business entity can not grow and change with the times and your customers’ wants then you will die out and bereplaced with some that will grow and change as well as meet the needs of the customers.

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