Listening to Satellite Radio…

I was poking through the satellite radio stations on my Sirius radio when, whoa, Jason Calacanis’ voice was speaking at Maryam and I over Gillmor Gang. OK, that’s weird.

But then I switch over to NPR and, whoa, Chris Anderson is on talking about the Long Tail.

Hey, Chris, can you get the Wall Street Journal to say our book sucks too? ;-)

All your media are belong to us. Or, there’s snakes in the ************* plane. Or something like that.

Anyway, there is a serious (er, Sirius) point to all this.

The online (er “new”) media is starting to leak into the mainstream “old” media.

What I think everyone is missing in the “Digg” version of the world is that we’ve built a farm system for media now that anyone can make media.

I’ve been listening to a LOT of “anyone media” and I can tell you that the Long Tail will NOT roar here. Most video blogs and podcasts just aren’t high enough quality to get a large audience. But, don’t write them off cause of that. The Long Tail does have a huge positive aspect:

The Long Tail is a stair system to the head!

Someone who does have talent can use it to walk up the curve from where only family and friends will watch all the way up to main stream media where millions are listening.

If you think Ze Frank is gonna remain in the Long Tail for very long your latte is a lot stronger than mine is today — by the way, don’t miss the announcement that he made in today’s show, he’s building social software to let you do things with people near you. We all know that people who don’t blink are gonna take over the media world.

Now, if you’re content to have your video blog stay at #1309 out of the 1,400 on vlogmap, then that’s cool. But some really have dreams of being at the head of the tail. Why? Cause that’s where the money is.

I learned that in the book business. The books who are in the top 5 on Amazon make many times more than books that hang out around #1,000 to #5,000 as we’ve been doing lately. And, being at #5,000 is a great honor cause there’s more than one million books on Amazon.

I’m looking for people who are walking up the Long Tail. Are you? Give me a call.

Oh, and unlike other community sites I believe deeply that you should get paid for the value you’re creating for the company that you’re adding to (Leo Laporte makes a good case for the other point of view). There are ways to hand out goodies equally to all members, but to say “I ain’t paying anyone” seems to me to be the kind of capitalist who just wants free materials and huge profits. It’s why I hated the time I heard all the CEOs say “user generated content” at the Google Zeitgeist conference last year since they were all seeing huge profit possibilities by having users do the work and they just collect the profits.

Anyway, we’re here in Silicon Valley and I’m overwhelmed with email. So, I’m gonna take a few days off of blogging and catch up with that.

133 thoughts on “Listening to Satellite Radio…

  1. Brooke, you nailed the essence of where we are now: Embracing “other” media distribution channnels is happening when there is little to lose–underperforming content is a good example you point out.

    Frankly, I’ve seen more push back from new media and Web 2.0 companies in dealing with traditional mass media than vice versa. Mass media doesn’t understand monetizing new media, and that scares them and makes them tentative in investing the money. New media appears to have an outright distrust of mass media, despite an enormous opportunity to leverage its strengths.

    MySpace has 40+ million monthly users. That is one-fifth the reach of good old terrestrial radio.

  2. Brooke, you nailed the essence of where we are now: Embracing “other” media distribution channnels is happening when there is little to lose–underperforming content is a good example you point out.

    Frankly, I’ve seen more push back from new media and Web 2.0 companies in dealing with traditional mass media than vice versa. Mass media doesn’t understand monetizing new media, and that scares them and makes them tentative in investing the money. New media appears to have an outright distrust of mass media, despite an enormous opportunity to leverage its strengths.

    MySpace has 40+ million monthly users. That is one-fifth the reach of good old terrestrial radio.

  3. Jim Kerr,

    Your comment “Their businesses would be substantially stronger if they partnered with or embraced old media” is an excellent point.

    Recently Fox Entertainment’s television production group sold the syndication rights to canceled sitcom “Arrested Development” to MSN, establishing the first time a major Hollywood production studio has turned to the Internet as a bona fide buyer of syndicated shows. This was a creative solution for “Arrested,” a show which didn’t have enough episodes (53) to be sold into traditional domestic syndication.

    It appears that the entertainment industry–the “Old Media”– is more than willing to embrace the new media companies as–at the very least–a secondary platform for their under-performing content (See also the examples in my comments at #36 above).

    I look forward to the “new media’s” continued solutions at “bridging the divide” with the old media, especially if the bridge can be done in a manner that fairly compensates the original creator of the old media content (which would be the opposite of what Apple has done with its video IPOD streaming of episodic tv and–in the near future–film and books.)

  4. Jim Kerr,

    Your comment “Their businesses would be substantially stronger if they partnered with or embraced old media” is an excellent point.

    Recently Fox Entertainment’s television production group sold the syndication rights to canceled sitcom “Arrested Development” to MSN, establishing the first time a major Hollywood production studio has turned to the Internet as a bona fide buyer of syndicated shows. This was a creative solution for “Arrested,” a show which didn’t have enough episodes (53) to be sold into traditional domestic syndication.

    It appears that the entertainment industry–the “Old Media”– is more than willing to embrace the new media companies as–at the very least–a secondary platform for their under-performing content (See also the examples in my comments at #36 above).

    I look forward to the “new media’s” continued solutions at “bridging the divide” with the old media, especially if the bridge can be done in a manner that fairly compensates the original creator of the old media content (which would be the opposite of what Apple has done with its video IPOD streaming of episodic tv and–in the near future–film and books.)

  5. Robert,

    You’ve nailed the reality that a lot of new media and Web 2.0 professionals have a hard time dealing with: Their businesses would be substantially stronger if they partnered with or embraced old media.

    We work with old media stalwarts like CBS and National Geographic and new media companies like XM, Electronic Arts and even small companies in the mobile space, and the one constant I find is that when our clients are able to bridge the divide, great things happen.

    I wish it weren’t so damn hard to do that, though.

  6. Robert,

    You’ve nailed the reality that a lot of new media and Web 2.0 professionals have a hard time dealing with: Their businesses would be substantially stronger if they partnered with or embraced old media.

    We work with old media stalwarts like CBS and National Geographic and new media companies like XM, Electronic Arts and even small companies in the mobile space, and the one constant I find is that when our clients are able to bridge the divide, great things happen.

    I wish it weren’t so damn hard to do that, though.

  7. I dunno. things seemed to work out fine for “The Blair Witch Project”, and “The Passion of the Christ”.

    Still and all, I don’t thing PodTech will care as much about quality as they will about ad clicks.

  8. I dunno. things seemed to work out fine for “The Blair Witch Project”, and “The Passion of the Christ”.

    Still and all, I don’t thing PodTech will care as much about quality as they will about ad clicks.

  9. I’m not suggesting they think technology ensures success.

    Earlier, you said, “…a bunch of geeks thinking they can simply apply technology to everything and it will be a success.”

    But I rather doubt movie makers started making movies for the sake of solely using color, or Dolby when those technologies came out. I just seems many of the geeks are focusing on the technology first

    Kind of like George Lucas, when he decided to go all digital? ;-)

    The motivation (doing something “for the sake of” x) is irrelevant. In most cases you can’t know the motivation without mind reading, and half the time people don’t know their own motivation for doing things anyway. What counts is whether it’s a good product. If it’s a good product, it hardly matters whether you did it for love, for money, or because you were enamored of the technology that helped you make it.

    When new technology appears, there is an initial phase where people do use it “because they can.” When PCs first got 16 colors, every screen seemed to use all 16 colors. When people got mobile phones, you’d hear people gushing, “Guess where I’m calling from! My cellular phone!” Eventually people habituate and it settles down.

    Those in entertainment field I think do the opposite.

    Professionals are certainly highly motivated to produce high quality stuff, because if they don’t, they’ll be looking for a new job. But it’s no guarantee of quality. People whose only motivation is having fun can turn out things that are just as good (or bad) as professionals whose motivation is a fat paycheck. On the whole, restaurant food is probably better than home cooking; but the best home-cooked meal is far better than the worst restaurant meal.

    And what do people say to those who consistently cook great meals at home? “You should open a restaurant” (i.e. get paid for your work, become a professional)

    Produce quality content, then let the distribution method take care of itself.

    Well, that’s exactly what was wrong with the way things were — the distribution didn’t take care of itself. Distribution was concentrated in a handful of extremely powerful distribution companies, TV networks, record companies. Van Gogh never got a “distribution deal” and so he shot himself.

  10. I’m not suggesting they think technology ensures success.

    Earlier, you said, “…a bunch of geeks thinking they can simply apply technology to everything and it will be a success.”

    But I rather doubt movie makers started making movies for the sake of solely using color, or Dolby when those technologies came out. I just seems many of the geeks are focusing on the technology first

    Kind of like George Lucas, when he decided to go all digital? ;-)

    The motivation (doing something “for the sake of” x) is irrelevant. In most cases you can’t know the motivation without mind reading, and half the time people don’t know their own motivation for doing things anyway. What counts is whether it’s a good product. If it’s a good product, it hardly matters whether you did it for love, for money, or because you were enamored of the technology that helped you make it.

    When new technology appears, there is an initial phase where people do use it “because they can.” When PCs first got 16 colors, every screen seemed to use all 16 colors. When people got mobile phones, you’d hear people gushing, “Guess where I’m calling from! My cellular phone!” Eventually people habituate and it settles down.

    Those in entertainment field I think do the opposite.

    Professionals are certainly highly motivated to produce high quality stuff, because if they don’t, they’ll be looking for a new job. But it’s no guarantee of quality. People whose only motivation is having fun can turn out things that are just as good (or bad) as professionals whose motivation is a fat paycheck. On the whole, restaurant food is probably better than home cooking; but the best home-cooked meal is far better than the worst restaurant meal.

    And what do people say to those who consistently cook great meals at home? “You should open a restaurant” (i.e. get paid for your work, become a professional)

    Produce quality content, then let the distribution method take care of itself.

    Well, that’s exactly what was wrong with the way things were — the distribution didn’t take care of itself. Distribution was concentrated in a handful of extremely powerful distribution companies, TV networks, record companies. Van Gogh never got a “distribution deal” and so he shot himself.

  11. Karim, I’m not suggesting they think technology ensures success. But I rather doubt movie makers started making movies for the sake of solely using color, or Dolby when those technologies came out. I just seems many of the geeks are focusing on the technology first and foremost and hope the quality just happens. Those in entertainment field I think do the opposite. Produce quality content, then let the distribution method take care of itself.

  12. Karim, I’m not suggesting they think technology ensures success. But I rather doubt movie makers started making movies for the sake of solely using color, or Dolby when those technologies came out. I just seems many of the geeks are focusing on the technology first and foremost and hope the quality just happens. Those in entertainment field I think do the opposite. Produce quality content, then let the distribution method take care of itself.

  13. It does not validate the “long tail”. It’s always been the case has nothing to do with the “long tail”.

    Not sure what you mean exactly, but I didn’t read him as saying that there was some magical property of power law distributions or their Long Tails. Crap content is still crap content.

    What I assumed he meant is that because this particular Long Tail is on THE INTERNET, you get network effects (which are proportional to the size of the network). It’s those network effects that allow good, but unpopular stuff languishing in the Long Tail to get noticed and move toward the Head of the distribution.

    Van Gogh, for example, had good content, but low popularity while he was alive. He was in the Long Tail of the popularity distribution. His network was very small: a handful of close friends, art dealers, and art critics who happened to be geographically proximate. He sold one painting in his life, to the sister of one of his friends. Small network, small network effects, stuck in the Long Tail.

    Whereas if Van Gogh had put his paintings up on Flickr… or sold them on eBay… :-) Well, hopefully someone would have noticed and pulled him out of obscurity. Big network, big network effects, much easier for truly good stuff to float to the top. Or “walk up the tail” (of the snakes, on the m—–f—ing plane).

    There’s nothing magical about Long Tails. There is something magical about the Internet, which is where this particular Long Tail is located…. :-)

    The “long tail” has nothing to do with mainstreaming

    Well the keys to becoming popular don’t lie in being unpopular, if that’s what you mean. :-)

    I thought “mainstreaming” was when they took handicapped kids and put them in the same classes as normal kids? (Though at my school “mainstreaming” meant taking all the geniuses and putting them in with the normals….)

  14. It does not validate the “long tail”. It’s always been the case has nothing to do with the “long tail”.

    Not sure what you mean exactly, but I didn’t read him as saying that there was some magical property of power law distributions or their Long Tails. Crap content is still crap content.

    What I assumed he meant is that because this particular Long Tail is on THE INTERNET, you get network effects (which are proportional to the size of the network). It’s those network effects that allow good, but unpopular stuff languishing in the Long Tail to get noticed and move toward the Head of the distribution.

    Van Gogh, for example, had good content, but low popularity while he was alive. He was in the Long Tail of the popularity distribution. His network was very small: a handful of close friends, art dealers, and art critics who happened to be geographically proximate. He sold one painting in his life, to the sister of one of his friends. Small network, small network effects, stuck in the Long Tail.

    Whereas if Van Gogh had put his paintings up on Flickr… or sold them on eBay… :-) Well, hopefully someone would have noticed and pulled him out of obscurity. Big network, big network effects, much easier for truly good stuff to float to the top. Or “walk up the tail” (of the snakes, on the m—–f—ing plane).

    There’s nothing magical about Long Tails. There is something magical about the Internet, which is where this particular Long Tail is located…. :-)

    The “long tail” has nothing to do with mainstreaming

    Well the keys to becoming popular don’t lie in being unpopular, if that’s what you mean. :-)

    I thought “mainstreaming” was when they took handicapped kids and put them in the same classes as normal kids? (Though at my school “mainstreaming” meant taking all the geniuses and putting them in with the normals….)

  15. “Goebbels, lots of things start off “marginal” and then become popular, don’t they?”

    Certainly, they do. That does not change anything. It does not validate the “long tail”. It’s always been the case has nothing to do with the “long tail”. That’s my point.

    The “long tail” has nothing to do with mainstreaming, but Scoble apparently continues to get that wrong over and over again.

  16. “Goebbels, lots of things start off “marginal” and then become popular, don’t they?”

    Certainly, they do. That does not change anything. It does not validate the “long tail”. It’s always been the case has nothing to do with the “long tail”. That’s my point.

    The “long tail” has nothing to do with mainstreaming, but Scoble apparently continues to get that wrong over and over again.

  17. For the writers/(film & tv) I know (and I know quite a few), it takes years and years and years of hard work–honing their craft–to have the capacity to tell a compelling story.

    Granted, but not sure what that implies. Do you have to have a job as a writer before you learn how to write? Is a blog or a podcast a poor sharpening stone for honing one’s craft?

    but very few can make great, or even good– media.

    Isn’t that what Scoble meant by, “Most video blogs and podcasts just aren’t high enough quality to get a large audience?”

    How refreshing it is to have someone with some real insight into this market, rather than a bunch of geeks thinking they can simply apply technology to everything and it will be a success.

    Who said technology makes anything a success? All technology does is lower the barrier to entry. It means more people can play. If anyone can create media, isn’t that a good thing? Sure, the amount of crap goes up, but doesn’t the amount of good stuff go up too?

    Don’t we want to give crayons to all the kids, even the ones who have no artistic talent?

    Spike Lee once described himself as “blessed with the opportunity to express the views of Black people who otherwise don’t have access to power and the media.”

    What if you didn’t need a publishing house to publish a book?

    What if you didn’t need a record deal to make an album of music?

    What if you didn’t need a TV network to make a TV series?

    What if everyone had access to the media?

    More people creating stuff. More choices. Is this a bad thing? Is this somehow threatening, in the same way widespread literacy was once threatening to professional scribes?

  18. For the writers/(film & tv) I know (and I know quite a few), it takes years and years and years of hard work–honing their craft–to have the capacity to tell a compelling story.

    Granted, but not sure what that implies. Do you have to have a job as a writer before you learn how to write? Is a blog or a podcast a poor sharpening stone for honing one’s craft?

    but very few can make great, or even good– media.

    Isn’t that what Scoble meant by, “Most video blogs and podcasts just aren’t high enough quality to get a large audience?”

    How refreshing it is to have someone with some real insight into this market, rather than a bunch of geeks thinking they can simply apply technology to everything and it will be a success.

    Who said technology makes anything a success? All technology does is lower the barrier to entry. It means more people can play. If anyone can create media, isn’t that a good thing? Sure, the amount of crap goes up, but doesn’t the amount of good stuff go up too?

    Don’t we want to give crayons to all the kids, even the ones who have no artistic talent?

    Spike Lee once described himself as “blessed with the opportunity to express the views of Black people who otherwise don’t have access to power and the media.”

    What if you didn’t need a publishing house to publish a book?

    What if you didn’t need a record deal to make an album of music?

    What if you didn’t need a TV network to make a TV series?

    What if everyone had access to the media?

    More people creating stuff. More choices. Is this a bad thing? Is this somehow threatening, in the same way widespread literacy was once threatening to professional scribes?

  19. funny, i actually am walking up the long tail, with sirius as help. my show plays there now, every week. can’t say i’m complaining. want a call? :)

  20. funny, i actually am walking up the long tail, with sirius as help. my show plays there now, every week. can’t say i’m complaining. want a call? :)

  21. Yet another great point made by Brooke. How refreshing it is to have someone with some real insight into this market, rather than a bunch of geeks thinking they can simply apply technology to everything and it will be a success. (But its a PODCAST!!! And you can download it! And it’s searchable on the web!! Isn’t that compelling enough??? Oh! you mean I need to have talent, too)

    Robert saying you have built a farm system, is almost like saying I can start another professional basketball league and get more professional basketball players. At some point the talent gets diluted. Quick, name me the most popular CBA player? What’s the average attendance at a CBA game.

    Brooke is right. This is tough, dog-eat-dog business. You’d be surprised at how many movie scripts get purchased and buried just so some other studio won’t get it. And hell, even making the right descion on what sucks can cost you your job. Just ask Nina Jacobson. She said “Lady in Water” wasn’t good. Disney went with it anyway. Turns out she was right, but she takes the fall for it anyway

    And there are enough players out there to make it very difficult for one to start taking money off their table. For example, I think it won’t be long before YouTube goes the way of Napster. They have huge borderline copyright issues they have to deal with. And their fair use defense is weak at best.

    But I’m not sure Scoble is going to care as much about quality as he is about the number of ad clicks he gets.

  22. Yet another great point made by Brooke. How refreshing it is to have someone with some real insight into this market, rather than a bunch of geeks thinking they can simply apply technology to everything and it will be a success. (But its a PODCAST!!! And you can download it! And it’s searchable on the web!! Isn’t that compelling enough??? Oh! you mean I need to have talent, too)

    Robert saying you have built a farm system, is almost like saying I can start another professional basketball league and get more professional basketball players. At some point the talent gets diluted. Quick, name me the most popular CBA player? What’s the average attendance at a CBA game.

    Brooke is right. This is tough, dog-eat-dog business. You’d be surprised at how many movie scripts get purchased and buried just so some other studio won’t get it. And hell, even making the right descion on what sucks can cost you your job. Just ask Nina Jacobson. She said “Lady in Water” wasn’t good. Disney went with it anyway. Turns out she was right, but she takes the fall for it anyway

    And there are enough players out there to make it very difficult for one to start taking money off their table. For example, I think it won’t be long before YouTube goes the way of Napster. They have huge borderline copyright issues they have to deal with. And their fair use defense is weak at best.

    But I’m not sure Scoble is going to care as much about quality as he is about the number of ad clicks he gets.

  23. @51, Robert. Not denying there’s some money to be made in this proverbial “long tail”. I was simply commenting on Danny’s point about being selective about where one “wants to be”. If there is money in mass appeal and lowest common denominator and you have a product to sell to them, not wrong with chasing that market. Just ask Ron Popiel. If there is money in a more niche market, chase that too. The key is undertanding what your customers want, or will want. Agreed the possible potential of the cooking “shows” Probably is some upside there. Like Mark Cuban has been quotes as saying: “Don’t give customers what the do want, give them what the will want”

  24. @51, Robert. Not denying there’s some money to be made in this proverbial “long tail”. I was simply commenting on Danny’s point about being selective about where one “wants to be”. If there is money in mass appeal and lowest common denominator and you have a product to sell to them, not wrong with chasing that market. Just ask Ron Popiel. If there is money in a more niche market, chase that too. The key is undertanding what your customers want, or will want. Agreed the possible potential of the cooking “shows” Probably is some upside there. Like Mark Cuban has been quotes as saying: “Don’t give customers what the do want, give them what the will want”

  25. Robert:

    “we’ve built a farm system for media now that anyone can make media.”

    Here’s the point: For the writers/(film & tv) I know (and I know quite a few), it takes years and years and years of hard work–honing their craft–to have the capacity to tell a compelling story. And yes, we can all point to some junk in the industry and say “what about that?” but the reality is that the junk gets washed out quickly, and major hits (like tv shows that last 10 years) only happen because someone’s work is so compeling that it resonates with millions and millions of people.

    Yes, you’ve built a farm system so that anyone can make media . . . but very few can make great, or even good– media.

  26. Robert:

    “we’ve built a farm system for media now that anyone can make media.”

    Here’s the point: For the writers/(film & tv) I know (and I know quite a few), it takes years and years and years of hard work–honing their craft–to have the capacity to tell a compelling story. And yes, we can all point to some junk in the industry and say “what about that?” but the reality is that the junk gets washed out quickly, and major hits (like tv shows that last 10 years) only happen because someone’s work is so compeling that it resonates with millions and millions of people.

    Yes, you’ve built a farm system so that anyone can make media . . . but very few can make great, or even good– media.

  27. I’m confused (again) – if there’s a lot of money in the long tail, why do you want to find people who are marching up to the head?

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