December 3, 2009

As media gets more democratic, it gets more feminine

The new Bing Maps geotargets Twitter tweets.

Supernova roundup: Media, real-time services — and ‘the end of the Web era’

JD LasicaI spent Wednesday at the Supernova conference in San Francisco, which has morphed over the years from a gathering about mobile and telephony into one that addresses the larger themes sweeping through society: Social media. The real-time Web. Public policy in a connected society. New technologies that rewire our culture.

Given the enormously impressive attendee list, Supernova may now have the highest signal to noise ratio of any conference in the tech galaxy. I’ve written about Supernova in 2004, 2005 (here’s Caterina Fake and a Flickr set), 2006, 2007, and have spoken there twice — and, indeed, it was at Supernova 2004 that Marc Canter and I hatched the plan for Ourmedia‘s launch in March 2005 as the first video hosting and sharing site.

But this year’s Supernova may be the best one yet. It concludes this afternoon.

Please read on — you can skip the next six months of conferences, saving thousands in registration fees, just by reading this blog entry. Some Supernova highlights:

Is media getting more … feminine?

The “Is There a Media Business?” panel provided a lively give and take with the 75 or so participants in the session, and it focused less on the travails of the news business than on the larger forces churning through the media landscape: music and movies as well as news. I found it interesting that I had profiled two of the three participants, Jim Griffin and Cory Ondrejka, in my book Darknet. (You can read the chapter on Griffin at Pho, Cole Porter and Tarzan economics.)

The highlight for me came when Jim Griffin alluded to traditional media as quintessentially male in nature — pushing out product through blunt force and “the need to consummate a relationship without even getting your name” — while Lisa Stone and the panelists agreed that there may be a “feminization of media” underway, where the value comes from creating a relationship that never ends. Lisa called it the “coopetition” model of media, mutually cooperative and competitive.

I think there’s something to this: Social media is all about relationship building, about giving more than taking, and women still top men in that department.

After Lisa cited news publishers’ criticism of Google and the Huffington Post as “technological tapeworms” of the Internet — a few hours earlier Google announced it would restrict access to fee-based news sites — Cory quipped: “Google is handing a gun to mainstream media, ‘Here, go shoot yourself.’ Do you want your customers not to find [your articles]? … Making your content more obscure does not seem like the right approach.”

Griffin said more companies were in effect becoming media entities — like J&J, which purchased and is running for new and expectant parents (I used to run its editorial department).

It will take 3 years for Google, the music companies and Hollywood to come to an arrangement that pays stakeholders a share of revenue derived from ads on YouTube.

Midway through I made the point that the music companies and Hollywood studios deserve some credit for not cracking down on the literally millions of copyright violations that are appearing on YouTube every day. And I argued that the marketplace — we, the people — have indeed moved the goal posts over the past three years without the need for Congress to act.

I predict that it will take another three years for Google, the music companies and Hollywood to come to an arrangement that pays the various stakeholders a share of revenue derived from ads on YouTube, some of which will go to the musicians, some to the songwriters, some to the studios and so on. But rights are an enormously thorny bramble bush, and the lawyers and suits will spend years trying to figure out the new rules of the road in the digital age.

Let’s hope that Google will map the way for creative mashup monetization, just as Apple pioneered the way for music companies to enter the digital era after Napster. One hopes that the mashup artist gets a slice of the pie, too. Continue reading

December 1, 2009

Chris Anderson on the democratization of manufacturing and distribution

David SparkEvery five or ten years, myself and my colleagues reflect on how much we used to pay for technology and how we’re able to do things we couldn’t do before because it was cost prohibitive.

• It used to be too costly to produce a video, then we got non-linear editing on the desktop.

• It used to be too costly to produce a live television program and distribute it, then we got tools like the TriCaster.

• It was unheard of for an individual to produce and broadcast a 24 hour video channel, but then we got a web tool like LiveStream.

These are just a few examples. There are tons more. Technology and the social web have lowered the barrier for so many things that simply weren’t possible without a huge cash investment. The net result is more people with more talent are able to create more products (e.g. music, games, movies, applications, Internet companies, etc.) just as long as they’re digital. The analog world hasn’t had a chance to see this kind of innovative renaissance, until now, said Chris Anderson, Editor of Wired, during a presentation at the Supernova conference in San Francisco.

We’ve created the model for distribution, now let’s use it

If the past decade was about finding new post-institutional social models on the web, then the next decade will be about applying those models to the real world, explained Anderson. In the video production examples above, cheap non-linear editing, video cameras, and online connectivity democratized video production and distribution, making it affordable to all. And as Anderson argues, when you democratize creation and distribution, you vastly change the world. And while we’ve seen this happen again and again in the digital world, we’re now seeing the trend bleed into the physical world, as Anderson demonstrates with a few examples:

  • 3D Printer

    3D Printer

    3D printers that can duplicate nearly any object, which used to cost thousands of dollars, are now available for $750. Anderson has one in his basement.

  • Access to manufacturers in China that companies like Sony use is now available to everyone using the manufacturer directory Alibaba along with its international real-time communications tool, TradeManager.
  • While it’s still expensive to open up a brick and mortar store, distribution is possible through ecommerce.

Continue reading