Filed under: Digital Life
I’ve been pretty disappointed in CES this year — very few really exciting announcements. Now, just into the Adult Entertainment Expo, is something truly disruptive. It’s the FyreTV, a digital set-top box that promises to deliver streaming HD pornography to your living room for $10 a month. Well, not your living room, of course.
All prurience aside, though, think about the larger implications of this device for the future of the entertainment industry. Imagine if the NFL distributed a box that, for $20, would let you watch all NFL games live on your TV in HD, as well as archived classic games.
Or what if there were a box from HBO that cost $10 a month and had every show they’ve ever done on it available to stream, as well as their full library of studio movies. Who the hell would still get traditional cable service?
This could signal the start of ala carte entertainment for the living room that really makes sense. Genre-specific set-top boxes. I never thought I would see the day.
Filed under: Digital Life, Innovators, radiohead | Tags: disrupted markets, in rainbows, innovation, radiohead
Did you hear that? The music industry’s business just got disrupted. And this time, it’s going to stick. Radiohead, a multiplatinum band from Oxford just released its new album, “In Rainbows” to tens of thousands of fans over the Internet without a hitch, just 9 days after announcing its existence and with nary a record label to be seen. This war was won quietly. Radiohead came, saw and conquered.
This is a very big deal — and not just because “In Rainbows” is Radiohead’s best album in seven years. No, this matters because they have completely eliminated the middle men between themselves and their fans. Forget iTunes. Forget record stores. Forget promoters. Just log on and start listening. Artist to fans, in one click. Every penny of revenue, straight to the artist.
It’s quite common these days to discuss Business Model Innovation casually, as if it were an everyday occurrence. It actually almost never happens, as the record industry has shown. For example, the iTunes business model is exactly the same as the one found in physical record stores: Labels license recording rights from artists, then reproduce recordings and send them to direct marketers, who sell to consumers. Everyone gets a small cut. All that changes between the digital download market and the physical market is the method of distribution. Here’s the business model for “In Rainbows”: Artist makes recording and sells it to consumers. Notice anything missing?
Radiohead will likely pair up with a record label to release a CD edition of “In Rainbows” next year, but they already have the ultimate bargaining chip — they’re fine working in direct sales. What else does the record industry have to offer? If their terms aren’t met (and I imagine those terms will include absolute right to the master recordings), they can walk away happily. This is a small gunshot across the bow of the record industry, but it could turn out to be the shot heard ’round the world. Many popular artists, including Nine Inch Nails and David Bowie, are waiting in the wings to leave their labels and follow Radiohead’s example by releasing their music directly to fans and keeping all revenue. For an established artist with a loyal following but few radio hits, record labels have nothing to offer at this point. Distribution costs nothing. Promotion is meaningless. Mindshare is everything. This, then, is the real promise of YouTube and other social media. Not just for unknowns to make it big — but for the bigs to finally be on top on their own terms.
At a certain point, the question will become not why Radiohead left EMI Records when they did, but why they didn’t leave years ago. What does this mean beyond the record industry? That remains to be seen. But if I worked in any content business, I’d get thinking quickly about how to change my model to feel more like this — and a lot less like Top 40 radio.
By Pete Mortensen
Jessi Hempel wonders if there are any tools for destroying defunct social network profiles available. To the best of my knowledge, there aren’t yet, and this points to a real opportunity for someone if they can figure out how to take care of it.
Someone close to me has a similar trail of profiles greater than she could manage, and an ex-boyfriend of hers who wouldn’t accept the end of their relationship managed to hack into all such profiles. In many cases, she only found out about the profiles because she got harassed by one of them.
So there’s an annoyance need, and there’s also a security need here.
Interestingly enough, Douglas Coupland talked about this when I saw him speak at Powell’s Books in Portland last summer. As is typical for Coupland, he was ostensibly there to do a reading from his new book “jPod” but he mainly ended up musing on the way technology is causing us to live now. And one thing he noticed was the digital “Shadow” all of us who have been online for a long time have — reams and reams of data about ourselves we can’t get rid of. As reported in a Time article, Coupland said:
TIME: There’s a character in the novel named Douglas Coupland. Why is he such a jerk?
DC: Oh, the anti-Doug. He’s evil. Getting back to Google, in this world you stand in the sun and you have your shadow that follows you everywhere. Now you stand and Google casts a “shadow you” on you. You’ve got this thing that follows you no matter where you go. It’s going to survive your real shadow long after you’re dead. It’s composed of truth, half-truth, lies, vengeance, wishful thinking, accuracy, inaccuracy. It grows and grows and gets bigger. It’s you but it’s not you. Mine’s pretty large at the moment but I think in a few years, everyone’s is going to be huge. It won’t be just people in the public light any more. The anti-Doug is my creative response to all of that.
Some of this is in the form of abandoned or forgotten social-networking profiles, but it’s also your banking details, credit reports, shopping history, browsing history, e-mails, poorly thought-out rants and photos you wish you’d kept better control over.
We’re already starting to see a demand for products that give us no footprint on the Internet — there are plenty of privacy browsing services these days — but no one has yet found a way to begin going through to not just minimize harm now but go back and fix mistakes dating from the early 1990s. I know I would be interested in such a service: I mean, Amazon still has track of every address that I have shipped a package to, including the little dorm room in the New School where I lived for three months! And I don’t even want to think of some of the words ascribed to my name that exist on various comic book message boards over the years…not to mention on my blog at Wired…
We live in an era of digital shadows. Won’t someone help us shake them?