Clinging To The Past Is Not A Strategy
How do you feel about Viacom suing YouTube for a billion dollars?
How about the RIAA pushing ISPs to hand over user data?
What about the Wall Street Journal editor claiming Google devalues everything it touches?
And now Hulu Hollywood pulling content from Boxee?
In each of these cases (and throngs of others), these organizations only succeed in:
- Destroying their public image with an onslaught of negative publicity
- Demonstrating how out of touch they are with our world
- Positioning themselves as companies clinging to a past that is no longer a reality
- Slowing down progress in an ultimate, inevitable transition that can’t be legislated or sued away
- Turning their back on tools which enable a profitable and prolific future that can actually makes their users happy
- Branding themselves as draconian
- Standing on the wrong side of the future media crossroads
The future of content does not belong to those who try to lock it down, sue, or otherwise impede the direction of an open information society. We’re pretty much already that, and it’s a beautiful world for companies who organize around making content open and accessible.
Unfortunately those in the previous guard making the decisions can’t see beyond their myopic view of the past world they built empires on top of. That world doesn’t exist anymore, and no amount of lobbying can put the genie back in the bottle.
The never-ending parade of drama we see every day of battles between old media and technology are difficult to read because the new tools around us are so exciting and enable so much. Not in terms of piracy, in terms of possibility for everyone to have a voice. We have given birth to a long tail of influence, authority and content – which has been enabled to thrive due to technology that old media would be happy to see go away. The truth is, everyone can thrive here, but the problem is those with power have grown complacent and can’t view a world where they are not king.
This is creating much more than a PR nightmare. The music industry is in big trouble right now because they ignored the shift. Print media is suffering the same fate. Hollywood is making similar missteps. And, as history repeats itself, the reality is none of these industries are as permanent as you make them out to be in your mind. Media has always changed with technology, usually with a fight. Scribes were put out of work with the advent of the printing press, the telephone killed the telegraph, video killed the radio star. You know the story.
Allowing the natural flow of society to shift to the most efficient forms of media and communications due to advances in technology is the path we must take to improve our world at the macro level. Creating unnatural barriers in an attempt to block advancements in technology merely because it disrupts a business model is doomed for failure. Embracing the shifts and building businesses around them is the logical move.
Long term, the examples above won’t even matter. We’ve built a world of citizen-powered media, and many smart organizations within industries are diving in and providing professional level content in an open format and profiting quite well from it (it can be done). Right now it’s a bit disjointed but if you’re a part of this you can literally taste the future of communications. I’ve said this before and I stick with it: it has never been a better time to be a talented content producer of any type.
While equilibrium is reached and the big players take a scorched earth, ignore the past strategy – you have a tremendous opportunity to quietly build something amazing that thrives in an open-information economy.
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