This is the fifth of five posts about saleable content management.
In our previous post, we looked at how content is being produced for sale in multiple formats, but in this post we’re going to look at how people then buy it.
It’s worth noting that many new business models aren’t based on people buying content in the traditional sense of taking it away and owning it. Rather than always having the content, you’re effectively buying access to it for a set period of time. This is true of music over Spotify and its various competitors, the vast majority of newspaper paywalls, satellite and cable TV subscriptions and Kindle lending through Amazon in the US. Effectively we’re leasing content rather than buying it, as we don’t think it really retains its value.
One effect of this leasing is to create something of a distribution oligopoly as a few key providers try to corner the market for selling or leasing content produced by others. This creates a serious problem for content producers: the smaller ones can’t afford to fight back by establishing credible director to consumer channels, while the larger ones often don’t have a strong enough brand to compete. That last point is serious: do you know whether the book you’re reading is part of Hachette, or whether the music you’re listening to or the movie you’ll watch this evening were produced by Time Warner? For music, books and film the brand is based on the product, the author or the star, not the publisher.
I believe that a second effect of this oligopoly is to encourage piracy. If distribution appears limited and pricing controlled – whether by the publisher or distributor – people are going to look elsewhere to get hold of content. And that is compounded by the lack of brand loyalty. Now, I’m not going to comment at all on the SOPA / PIPA issue, as many more knowledgeable people have written about this already and I’m based in the UK anyway. But people who create content for sale really do need to consider a few key issues if they want people to buy it rather than steal it.
One person’s piracy is another person’s viral. Susan Boyle sold over 700,000 copies of her first album in the US largely due to a clip of her on YouTube. It was in breach of copyright but of massive benefit to SYCO music. Content producers need to “stop treating the customers as users, and start treating them as fans”, as Rovio CEO Mikael Hed puts it.
Fundamentally, however, “Companies don’t rise and fall due to piracy, but they do based on the quality of the products they release.”. If you want to sell your content, you need to create good quality content in the first place. This means finding the best creatives, acquiring rights based on all the formats you’re going to deliver to and developing brand loyalty that extends beyond a single title or artist.
Content producers need to convince us that they frequently find music, TV or books that interest and adhere to that fundamental tenet of sales: it’s easier to farm repeat business than hunt for new business. But they also need to keep their content separate from its presentation so we return to buy it in whatever format happens to suit us. That is how to manage saleable content.