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Content is King

Content is King

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Published by T M Copeland
Essay relating to the importance of content to the evolving sale and distribution of creative content.
Essay relating to the importance of content to the evolving sale and distribution of creative content.

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Published by: T M Copeland on Feb 02, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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07/12/2013

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In today's
Wired.com
there is an article about the resolution to a struggle betweenAmazon and Macmillian and Company book publishers. The point of contention wasover which company would set the prices for digital copies of Macmillian books published for the Kindle, Amazon's e-reader.As most of you may know, Amazon's e-reader has been the break out hit of the digitaldevices allowing consumers to download and read books, magazines and newspapers.Publishers of all three types of print media have developed a love/hate relationship withthe online retailing giant. The love part relates to the ease and lack of expense related to publishing and distributing over the Kindle system. My in house publishing firm,viscerality.com, publishes over the Kindle system and it is very simple.The hate part of this relationship involves two primary issues. The first of these issues isimmediate and pressing. Amazon has always insisted on a set maximum price, $9.99, for copyright protected books, and a specified split of the resulting revenue between Amazonand the customer.The second issue rankling the publishers is the clear ability of Amazon and other online publishing systems, samashwords.com. Apple, Sony, etc., to offer authors a means of freeing themselves from the gatekeeper role publishers have played since the inception of  print media. It is this second, latent, matter hanging over publishers that is the mostworrisome, if not the most pressing.The
Wired.com
article analyzed Amazon's recent capitulation to Macmillian over the pricing issue and, perhaps, though details between the companies related to revenuesharing are not public information, the percentages shared by the parties to a sale. Thearticle declares that "content is king" in the book publishing business.The fact is, content has always been king and, the Monkies not withstanding, in all probability, always will be. Ted Turner, the Atlanta media mogul and billionaire,demonstrated this truth many decades ago when, against all advice to the contrary, hecontinually purchased content ownership to give his cable channels a leg up oncompetition. He began with purchasing pro sports teams, the Atlanta Hawks and Braves,and "selling" his stations exclusive broadcast rights to the games. In a huge gamble,Turner borrowed heavily at junk bond interest rates to purchase several movie studioarchives and formed exclusive movie channels showing old movies contained in theacquisitions' vaults.This last big gamble almost broke him before it catapulted him into such a strong positionof wealth he was able to invent the 24 hour news channel known as CNN. At first, thisgamble was derided, called the chicken noodle network, until the international political policy wonks became addicted to it. CNN, it is said, was the only clear winner of the firstGulf War.While Turner media empire is one clear example of content being king, the entire publishing industry made that point perfectly clear centuries before Ted came along.
 
Publishers took control away from printers early in the history of print media by the two pronged approach of, first, taking some of the front end risk away from the author who,in return, gratefully offered up some of his or her economic rights to the creative work.The second prong was the slow creation of the legal concept of "intellectual property."Prior to Johannes Gutenberg there was no such thing as intellectual property rights. Therewas no need for it. Any invention or other creative act immediately entered the publicdomain as soon as someone figured out how to copy it. Publishers invented intellectual property, not the creative property itself, but the legal concept of it.Publishers did this magnificent thing to protect their economic interest in investments in published works. The fact that it was a purely selfish act doesn't take away from the factthat it was the single greatest legal invention, rivaled only by the stock company, devised by the mind of man since Hamurabi. That single selfish impulse is the very thing that hasdriven the explosive outburst of creativity in western civilization. It is the primary driver that has now spread that creative explosion worldwide.How odd it is that the two parties in the Amazon/Macmillian dispute are both betting onthe same thing. Both are betting that content is and always will be king. All the e-reader companies are betting the same way. All the publishers are also betting the same way.The e-reader platforms/distributors, Amazon, Apple, etc., are all making nice to the publishers now but they all believe the day will come when publishers will fade intomarketing and/or editing companies and authors will no longer need them. The e-reader  platform companies believe the day will come when established media "stars," the DanBrowns and the Stephen Kings and the J. K. Rowlings of the world, will wake up and sayto themselves, "I don't need a publisher. My audience knows my work. If I just tell themwhere to look they will find me."And, it may not be limited to superstar novelists. What would a Maureen Dowd mean tothe market penetration of an online journal of opinion, such as www.likethedew.com?How about a Krugman or Friedman, well not Friedman, or Rich, now that the
 NY Times
 has made them famous? These guys, and many others besides could cut their own dealwith an online journal. Any one of these guys could wrangle huge percentages of ad andgimcrack revenue in return for the site visits they would generate.Hell, in return for the exposure, writers like myself might even pay, assuming I had anymoney, for the opportunity to be positioned on a page with one or more of theseestablished opinionators. How else am I going to have my stuff in front of millions of  potential readers on a regular basis?The same may become true of a Tina Fey. Why should she make payments on themortgage for a dead weight Harvard MBA type whose last original idea died in the wombof his constricted brain? Ms Fey has an audience. She could easily set up her own"network" sending signal directly to desktops, TVs and iPad like devices without the aidof any MBA of any linage.

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