A couple of things came up this week that have made me reevaluate my web site design and start reconsidering how I present my business. One was a cover article from The Economist “Planet of the phones” and the other was some news about how Google is tweaking its algorithm.
A question I received this week was, “What is the single most important thing to do so the Internet works best for your company?”
Image via CrunchBase
Analyst Laura Martin needs to lighten up. In assessing the evolution of content from TV-only to TV/Web mix (face it, my mother will NEVER watch her soaps on her laptop…) it is easy to see that the demand for quality content remains, regardless of device. The top-end owners of Hulu content (ABC=Disney, Fox=News Corp., NBC=GE…for now) are all invested in seeing profit from the venture. If they don’t, they are quite likely to pull their content, which is unlikely as they can sense the moving of the tectonic plates of media consumption and will not be caught off-guard.
And then there’s Comcast….
Image via Wikipedia
Bill Wasik, senior editor at Harper’s magazine, makes several interesting and interlacing points in his talk (seen here). I feel that his assertion that “short stuff” will never be monetized is essentially correct. Short posts by an author or organization are too much like Twitter, and most of these same authors Tweet their short stuff, so why would I pay for that?
In the battle and discussion around Free (using Chris Anderson’s capitalization), I have felt that a missing component has been whether the Free stuff in and of itself has value to the consumer. Sometimes maybe and sometimes maybe not.
I work in an organization in which we run across something like this: another business unit inside the company has created some technical training content aimed at consultants and systems integration firms. Many times it takes the form of “<Name of technology goes here>-Brain-Dump-in-a-Box” which is duly posted for broadest possible distribution on the Web. Great! Lots of folks go there, download and/or watch it (if it happens to have webcasts that aren’t downloadable) and get whatever assistance the content by itself can offer.
Then, this internal group will approach my team and ask us to make it available to our training channel. For various niggling reasons, a cost/price becomes associated with this training content in the process. So the question is, will a training company be able to sell this same course to corporate customers despite the fact that they can get it “for Free off the Web”?
The answer is Yes.
The reason is value. When this corporate student attends an instantiation of this class, she or he will not be staring at a monitor for five days. They will be taught by an experienced technology trainer. There is the value! It’s not just the content (or whatever other IP you might think of) by itself. It is the context and the “value-add” that make it worth paying for. The value-add also adds cost, but the Value scenario still comes out looking good.
Will some companies still opt to go to the site, download the content and point their employees at it, telling them to “get up to speed” on their own? Sure. There will always be takers for Just Free. However, context and extra value can make the difference.
The challenge is to discover the context and extra value the potential consumers of your currently Free Stuff would be willing to pay for.
I am consistently drawn to the central point of the conversation as I read all of our assigned articles, books and collateral material. One of the standout articles that has brought a new perspective to my work and analysis of what I’m doing is the Christensen HBR article (Bower, Joseph L. & Christensen, Clayton M. (1995). “Disruptive Technologies: Catching the Wave” Harvard Business Review, January-February 1995). His analysis on how competent companies miss disruptive technologies by listening closely to their existing customers describes a business problem I am working with.
I read the article cited here:
Williams, F., Strover, S. and Grant, A. E. (1994). Social aspects of new media technologies. In J. Bryant J. & D. Zillmann (Eds.), Media effects: Advances in theory and research (pp. 463-482). Hillsdale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
I have substituted their phrase “new media” for “social media”.