The Content Has Been Let Out Of The Box

In today’s ‘New York Times Sunday Magazine’, Nicholas Carr takes on the growing loss of profits resulting from the availability of free television and movie content on the web.

He discusses the growth of web-enabled technology, the ease of streaming content to a television, free content sources (Netflix, Hulu, You Tube, etc.), the F.C.C.’s embracement of “net neutrality” and the subsequent loss of communal viewing.

To his list of grievances, I would mention how the change in viewing habits resulting from the parsing of viewing platforms has resulted in a devaluation of the content. Because of its’ availability, the consumer has lowered their “respect” for the product. Technology has minimized television “Event” programming to live events. NBC’s long time Thursday night hold just doesn’t grab one when ’30 Rock’ and ‘The Office’ are quickly available online at no cost and sometimes with extra web-only content!

And it’s not just television and film that we see this in. The bloodletting in newspapers and magazines continues as their content is freely available online. Book publishers see their business models changing as Amazon reprices their product for its’ ‘Kindle’ digital reader. They need to learn the lessons of the recording industry.

Most egregious of all, has been the cheapening of content from the producers themselves. They are responsible for have freely releasing their product to the masses at no cost, with no profitable business model in place. On a variation of what Jay Leno once said to Hugh Grant — what in the hell were these guys thinking?

For a television network or film studio to promote a new release online at no cost, will always be an intelligent method of promotion, but allowing free tv and movie downloads is not promotion — it’s giving away expensive product to an audience already aware of its’ value and willing to spend the time to view it.

We all like free product and quickly become Pavlovian in our continued expectation of it. A lesson needs to be learned from the online version of the ‘Wall Street Journal,’ which continues to show profitability as premium subscription content. As for the free movies and TV shows that are already available on Netflix, Hulu, You Tube, etc., it’s too late. Technology has opened the Pandora’s box of content. Good luck getting it back in.

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