Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Business Model for Digital Creators? 1

The digital world demands a new business model.  Information is meant to be free to all.  Knowledge, which is what changes us and expands our universe, should not be a commodity.  But then how will the creative community live?

For time and the world do not stand still. Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or the present are certain to miss the future.  John F. Kennedy
This issue is one which is still searching for an answer.  Media empires that ruled America and Europe for hundreds of years are crumbling.  They must change to survive.  This change will destroy some of them and place on the long list of former corporate monoliths that are now only found in history books, while the others will change and evolve in such a radical fashion that they will unrecognizable fifty years from now.

The Advent Of A New Age
What most do not understand about the Information Age we have entered is that for it to prosper and expand, information must be made freely available to all.  The Internet, by its nature, shares.  Once this essential quality is taken from it, the Internet loses all its appeal.  But even more, no matter how much business interests wish it, or, work for it, there is no turning back to the old days.  Newspapers are the first victims to this change.  In 2006, Kevin Kelly, wrote an article in the New York Times titled, Scan This Book.  This article was in our opinion prophetic.  It dealt with the new ways in which the world of print is being affected.  Print and words not synonymous.
Search opens up creations. It promotes the civic nature of publishing. Having searchable works is good for culture. It is so good, in fact, that we can now state a new covenant: Copyrights must be counterbalanced by copyduties...No search, no copyright. Kevin Kelly

As long as man has a mouth, words will have power.  Print served as a medium by which could increase their influence on society, even more than it had when it was merely spoken.  Spoken words were lost; print served as way to memorialize them.  With the advent of video and film, print is no longer necessary, but words will always remain.  Kelly eloquently explains,
Authors and publishers (including publishers of music and film) have relied for years on cheap mass-produced copies protected from counterfeits and pirates by a strong law based on the dominance of copies and on a public educated to respect the sanctity of a copy. This model has, in the last century or so, produced the greatest flowering of human achievement the world has ever seen, a magnificent golden age of creative works. Protected physical copies have enabled millions of people to earn a living directly from the sale of their art to the audience, without the weird dynamics of patronage. Not only did authors and artists benefit from this model, but the audience did, too. For the first time, billions of ordinary people were able to come in regular contact with a great work. In Mozart's day, few people ever heard one of his symphonies more than once. With the advent of cheap audio recordings, a barber in Java could listen to them all day long.
Kelly goes on to explain the present situation,
But a new regime of digital technology has now disrupted all business models based on mass-produced copies, including individual livelihoods of artists. The contours of the electronic economy are still emerging, but while they do, the wealth derived from the old business model is being spent to try to protect that old model, through legislation and enforcement. Laws based on the mass-produced copy artifact are being taken to the extreme, while desperate measures to outlaw new technologies in the marketplace "for our protection" are introduced in misguided righteousness. (This is to be expected. The fact is, entire industries and the fortunes of those working in them are threatened with demise. Newspapers and magazines, Hollywood, record labels, broadcasters and many hard-working and wonderful creative people in those fields have to change the model of how they earn money. Not all will make it.)
click to enlarge
Distribution, which had for many centuries, been the area of specialists (who gained power from it), is available to all.  Indeed, this article which you read now, is being read by people all around the earth of many different cultures, languages and views.  It is always available.  It can be copied endless number of times without loss of quality.  Indeed, we encourage it.  We wanted copied endlessly.  We do not want to be the distributors of it.  We want mankind to distribute it.  We echo Kelly's words.
The new model, of course, is based on the intangible assets of digital bits, where copies are no longer cheap but free. They freely flow everywhere. As computers retrieve images from the Web or display texts from a server, they make temporary internal copies of those works. In fact, every action you take on the Net or invoke on your computer requires a copy of something to be made. This peculiar superconductivity of copies spills out of the guts of computers into the culture of computers. Many methods have been employed to try to stop the indiscriminate spread of copies, including copy-protection schemes, hardware-crippling devices, education programs, even legislation, but all have proved ineffectual. The remedies are rejected by consumers and ignored by pirates.

We are writers, but really, and essentially, all people are writers.  They all have story to tell.  We may have creative gifts, but indeed all have such gifts. Not the same extent, but the day of people being spectators is over.  The Internet invites us, seduces us to involvement in ways which the world has yet to fully understand.
As copies have been dethroned, the economic model built on them is collapsing. In a regime of superabundant free copies, copies lose value. They are no longer the basis of wealth. Now relationships, links, connection and sharing are. Value has shifted away from a copy toward the many ways to recall, annotate, personalize, edit, authenticate, display, mark, transfer and engage a work. Authors and artists can make (and have made) their livings selling aspects of their works other than inexpensive copies of them. They can sell performances, access to the creator, personalization, add-on information, the scarcity of attention (via ads), sponsorship, periodic subscriptions — in short, all the many values that cannot be copied. The cheap copy becomes the "discovery tool" that markets these other intangible valuables. But selling things-that-cannot-be-copied is far from ideal for many creative people. The new model is rife with problems (or opportunities). For one thing, the laws governing creating and rewarding creators still revolve around the now-fragile model of valuable copies.1
Battle Between The Book & The Screen
In the clash between the conventions of the book and the protocols of the screen, the screen will prevail. On this screen, now visible to one billion people on earth, the technology of search will transform isolated books into the universal library of all human knowledge. Kevin Kelly
The screen, no matter in what form, whether it be e-ink technology, LED, etc., will triumph over the paper book.  This age is one of the eyes, those who do not have the gift of sight, will have to adapt (perhaps the onset of this screen dominance, will spur breakthroughs in cures for blindness).  No single medium will be dominant.  They will all merge into one digital soup to be consumed by all.  This is not intended to be an Orwellian dictatorship, quite the opposite.  All the media will have opportunity to fight for our attention.  In fact, our attention and focus will be the ultimate prize, in a world where so many voices compete for it.
...copies don't count any more. Copies of isolated books, bound between inert covers, soon won't mean much. Copies of their texts, however, will gain in meaning as they multiply by the millions and are flung around the world, indexed and copied again. What counts are the ways in which these common copies of a creative work can be linked, manipulated, annotated, tagged, highlighted, bookmarked, translated, enlivened by other media and sewn together into the universal library. Soon a book outside the library will be like a Web page outside the Web, gasping for air. Indeed, the only way for books to retain their waning authority in our culture is to wire their texts into the universal library.2
We include a short video by David Carson about print.  If you cannot see the embedded video, here is the link:

We shall pursue these ideas and their implications with the next installment in this series. 


SaraJoyM said...

I was distracted by this comment "This age is one of the eyes, those who do not have the gift of sight,
will have to adapt (perhaps the onset of this screen dominance, will
spur breakthroughs in cures for blindness)." While I agree with the parenthetical comment, the blind already have adapted to visual media online and continue to do so. Useability testing factors that into the outcome if it's important to their purpose to reach everyone. Thanks for the read. Great site.

Guillermo Santamaria said...

Excellent point.  I agree that they have adapted through other technologies.  What I meant to say is that the screen has become a primarily visual thing.  I am not sure that they would get the full impact to the parts of the brain if they did not have sight.  I think for the full impact to be absorbed they will have to "see" it in some form.  Thanks for reading and commenting!