Tag Archives: New Media

Digital Media Revolution: Disparate Infrastructure Is The Enemy

I was scanning my Twitter feed and came across this tweet from @AllenChou;

“40% of broadband households watch full-length TV shows over Internet yet TV/Film Distribs not making $”

So I checked out the article Allen linked to. In part it says…

DIGITAL: Study shows industry needs to find better business model By Susanne Ault — Video Business, 11/11/2009

“NOV. 11 | DIGITAL: U.S. broadband households watching TV shows and movies online has doubled over 2008, according to a Parks Associates study.

More than 25 million U.S. households regularly watch full-length TV shows online, and more than 20 million watch movies. Parks singled out free, ad-supported online video-on-demand site Hulu.com as driving people to watch such programming on the Web…”

DigitalDelemaWhile this article focuses on distributor’s need to modify their business model to better monetize internet distribution, it brings something more to the table in my eyes.

At a time when media content is produced for many distribution mediums, the question has been how to distribute across platforms. The solution is not more, it is less. The aging infrastructure in America has become a collection of disparate distribution platforms; broadcast television and radio, cable, satellite, internet, and telephone. All of them use different protocols and systems, but they don’t have to.

In the last decade some of the large communications conglomerates have made some headway in providing multiple services over their primary medium. The problem is that all of them are continuing to provide services to the end user on the same disparate and aging infrastructure they started with. Making it even more interesting, all of them use the same data between distribution points, the disparity is in the head-end to user segment.

The answers to monetizing media exists in a wide range of solutions via the internet, pay-per-view, subscription, and more. The best way to get to greater profit margins is to kill off the antiquated mediums and eliminate the expenses in using them. IP based distribution of broadcast television, radio, cable, satellite, and telephone is available via the internet. What needs to happen is a standardization of infrastructure. The user end is simple: provide an Ethernet connection and all of the services are available with little or no changes on the consumer’s end. By choosing a unified and standardized infrastructure media producers/distributors can focus on making the media available and increasing margins.

A simple example is HBO or Showtime. They don’t need cable TV or satellite providers to get their media to market. A simple login to a subscription-based service can grant access to all the media. The advantage to the consumer is lower prices and the ability to select exactly what media they want access to. No intermediate contract obligations to keep the consumer tied to “licensed channels” on a carrier and the benefits of time shifted media; see what you want, when you want it. Media producers have significant advantages, too. The inherent demographic and statistical data, active and accurate viewership data. Quantifiable data for advertisers.

Another example is broadcast media. If a TV station stopped broadcasting its outbound only signal and focused its resources on providing free WiFi for an area, distributed its media via the internet, its programing made available world wide, it would be a greater value to its viewers and its advertisers. It would also reduce its own operating costs and free up the radio frequency spectrum.

Main stream media and large media producers hold the key. It is up to them to make things happen. It requires them to change the way they look at their content, it requires thinking in an Open Source mindset. The larger the number of potential viewers the better. Things like DRM don’t help protect your media, it makes the media less accessible. Likewise proprietary viewers or binding to specific players make your media less accessible, and thereby less attractive to consumers. I purchased the movie UP with the “Digital Copy” disk from Disney. I don’t have an iPod or iPhone, I have a BlackBerry. Because the iTunes/Windows Media Player is only options for viewing the DRM’d movie, it is completely useless to me. So why would I buy a DVD with this “bonus?”

There is nothing wrong with charging for your content and the public recognizes that. If HBO stopped selling its programing to cable and satellite and distributed consumer direct via internet only the content they produce would reach more viewers and provide them with more feedback and data from their viewers with no intermediaries. How would they fare financially? With the die-hard fans of many HBO programs, I think they would exceed current margins in 2 years or less and recoup any costs of the change in business model in less than 5 years.

These kinds of changes would also create new distribution channels for independent media producers. Without the constraints of programing time slots and the possibility of infinite catalogs, channels could purchase or license indi productions directly. It even provides the opportunity to list the property and pay content producers on a residual basis. The possibilities are endless.

Overall, a high quality broadband internet connection should be freely available to everyone, a network of regulated free WiFi and hard line solutions, provided by a consortium of fed, state, and local governments, service providers, media providers, and businesses. Contributors to the national WiFi network get a tax break for being a part of the infrastructure. It’s green, it reduces consumer cost, it reduces provider cost, and it enhances viable infrastructure while removing old disparate technologies. It really is a win win for everyone, but it starts with content providers and infrastructure.

If a cell phone can connect, you should be able to get it all.

Making Media Magic

reels-bl-2 copyIn the media producing world these days, it seems as though there are only the two extremes of thought. “Art for Art’s sake” or “be as creative as you want, as long as it makes money”, kind of like Henry Ford’s “You can have any color car you want, as long as it’s black”.

An Art Zealot I am not, a money grubbing fiend… maybe a little, but no. I do want to produce something I am proud of artistically and at the same time have it be commercially successful.

The measure of pride in an artistic endeavor is relatively easy for the artist to gauge, ether you are satisfied or you are not. Defining “commercially successful” on the other hand can be a difficult task.

In the “professional” production world, commercial success is all about having a good profit margin. If it cost you $1,500 to produce the media, you want to be paid at least $3,000. Let’s face it, we don’t work for free right? A 100% margin is, in business parlance, an acceptable margin. Anything below 25%, and its more like a hobby, at least from a business perspective.

As an artist, paying the bills to produce the project, getting by personally, and having a little extra to fund the next project is usually sufficient to consider your self commercially successful. This is of course the typical “art for arts sake” artist and not the person employed to make a living on there artistic skills; who is by the way no less the artist. Frequently the two coexist within the same person; the daily trudge side and the high art side. Producing TV spots by day and personal projects by night.

I believe most people who make a living from there artistic talents, have an idealistic streak within themselves that wants to do nothing more than their art and just not have to worry about the day to day needs for subsistence. I know I certainly do. The freedom to make movies when the creative iron is hot, having all of the hardware and technology needed for production at hand all of the time, it would be a wonderful thing. But for most of us that is not the case.

For me, the goal is a balancing of the two extremes, produce something that I am artistically satisfied with that also keeps the bill collectors away, and provides for a growing collection of the equipment, materials, and technology to keep moving my art to new levels. Along the way it would be nice to help others on the same path.

So where’s the magic? The magic is when you can achieve artistic and commercial success in one project. Regardless of who the media is produced for, a TV spot, a documentary, a slasher film, a corporate piece. If you the producer is satisfied internally with the work, and you actually made a dime, you have made media magic.

I guess after all of that, it comes down to this…
Only you can make your art magic.


Adventure or Obsession

cropped-800px-film_reel_closeup_by_bubbelsAs you may have guessed by now, I am involved in independent filmmaking. Not in the “I’ve got screen credit” sense, but in the “I’m a self educated film school student” sense. Sound peculiar? It is. Since 2004 I have been meeting with indi producers, directors, and writers, studying the art and science of filmmaking. Along this journey I have discovered a few things.

Indi producers, even the ones who graduated film school, don’t know the industry as well as they think they do. There is a lot, and I do mean a LOT, of business behind making a movie. This is where most of these producers are weakest. It becomes clear when you ask questions about the guilds and all you get is a blank stare; Do you have a marketing plan? Do you maintain your budget? Do you have below the line stakeholders? Are your crew and talent on deferral? Is your production “cleared” for distribution, and can you document it? These are all important considerations in the process.

Another thing I learned is that knowing all of the business is very important, but… there’s always a but, knowing what you can sidestep under the right conditions is even more important. Many of the books in print on filmmaking cover the technical hurdles and how to work around them. Some of the books cover a small part of the legal obligations a filmmaker has to protect his or her work; not from infringers, but from being one. Making a movie requires documenting EVERYTHING; and knowing what documentation you can sidestep.

With all of this in mind, I am a Producer. I document, catalog, budget, plot, plan, create forms (up until after midnight creating some production forms spurred this post) and do the minutiae that goes on behind the scenes. I spent a considerable amount of time working on several screenplays ether as a co-writer or clean-up, and time in concept sessions, and I spent more that a few hours co-directing and as an AD on several commercial productions. Now I need to start flexing my Writer and Director muscles on my own.

There is a small project I thought of a couple of years ago. It is a mockumentary short that should be fun. I have done the basics, concept sheet, and production design elements, now I need to do the script. With that in hand I can start the shoot. I don’t have a completion date yet (I have been stuck on the script for a while) but I will be done before the summer is up.

classLooking at the near term, I need to start networking with other local filmmakers to collaborate with; writers, directors, producers, department heads and talent. Come one, come all.

If you are interested in participating or collaborating on indi projects send me an email.


New Media

NewMedia_BannerAs New Media begins to make serious headway in mainstream business, it is becoming clear that not all implementations are a good idea. Many small businesses have been hanging back to let the “big boys” pioneer the new stuff much like they did when the web was still a newborn. The World Wide Web as a whole has been a grand experiment with some mixed results. By in large, it is rare to find a successful business without some kind of web presence. New media is bringing a whole new set of tools to the table.

What do you mean by New Media?

New Media encompasses a collection of tools based on traditional media like video and audio, that are presented in interesting, interactive formats through social networking tools and environments. Wow! That sounds like a lot of double talk even to me. Here is a simpler breakdown; A typical audio or video program that is distributed through a blog or social site by one-time visits or by subscription. I suppose that is a little clearer. That is a part of the confusion though, many people have varying ideas as to what social networking and New Media are, let alone how to use them.

By now, most daily web users are familiar with Social Networking sites like Facebook, MySpace, Spaces, Blogger, and tons of others. There are also micro-bloging sites like Twitter and others. Include user media sites like YouTube, Flickr, PhotoBucket and a host of others along this line. Now add in podcasting sites to host or analyze your traffic and you have quite a confusing collection.

Lots of businesses hear repeatedly “you need a website” or worse yet “you need to be on ‘xyz’ website”. While there are very few businesses and organizations I would say don’t need some kind of presence online, most don’t take the time to look at what they do need. A business needs to know who its customer base is and what the extent of there internet activities are, what sites do they use, and how. Do your customers blog? That is an important question.

Most businesses would benefit from simple Social Networking sites like Facebook for better indexing in search engines and provide point of contact information. The micro blogging can be beneficial as well. But do you need a blog? Should you podcast? Maybe. A simple blog under your own domain name could replace a basic website and provide you with an online venue for future expansions.

Each business has its own needs and eccentricities, some businesses and organizations could greatly benefit from a Wiki based site, or a Wiki in addition to the regular site. Any companies website plans should be determined by company needs, client base needs, vendor needs, and the internet culture of all three.

One thing that comes up in consultations all the time is the desire for custom applications. Often there are off the shelf solutions that can be applied at a much lower cost, or free. Usually adaptive solutions do require more effort to implement initially, but in the long run, that time is well spent when the time comes to make more changes. When an off the shelf solution requires a lot of adaptations or incorporates a lot of unneeded features or complex interfaces, a custom application may actually be cheaper. Another consideration is, if you want to use a specific application but it is expensive and you just can’t do it now, there might be a simpler low/no cost solution that the expensive application can import at a later date when you can afford it.

How does this apply to New Media? Integration. When you are building an online presence it should be consistent in appearance and function. There are times when the over all functionality of the web presence determines the applications used for the presentation.

In the long run, a consultant who is familiar with a broad range of internet applications, e-commerce, New Media, and Social Networking, you will most likely save you thousands on the first implementation and much more over time by tactically planning future upgrades. These savings are after the consultants fees by the way.