Content versus Form

Watching you.

Content versus Form

The wave of the future.

I love walking into my local Borders. I can pick up three paperbacks, and they will all be priced $7.99 no matter if they are by best-selling authors or someone I’ve never heard of before. A book that is considered a bestseller costs the same as a book that doesn’t crack the bestseller list. It’s the same with paperbacks as well. We are buying form versus buying content. It’s simply the cost for book production plus a few extra dollars for profit, royalties, marketing, and overhead.

Content versus form is everywhere. Newspapers, magazines, movies, and music have the same problem. Are we paying for the content or the form? Also, what happens when users start acquiring these things online for free?

Newspapers like to pretend they provide news, but that would be false. A newspaper offers eyeballs for businesses wishing to advertise with articles, editorials, and pictures to bring in those eyeballs. Of course, most of those eyeballs want the articles and stories and care less about the advertising. Even worse for the poor newspapers is when those readers wish to see advertising, they don’t go to newspapers. Instead, they go to Craigslist, eBay, Facebook, or somewhere else. Craigslist and eBay destroyed the classifieds section of most major newspapers practically overnight, and remember, classifieds used to be a cash cow.

Watching you.

This brings us back to content. When users can find the content they desire for free, they rarely will pay for it. Unless it’s at a pricepoint they will tolerate, or there are value-added incentives. I could easily download any movie from that one shady website, but not the commentary tracks or the behind-the-scenes featurettes. Those are value-added. I love it when musicians add DVDs or other material to their releases because it brings something extra to the purchase. It also helps when they price their product correctly — $10–12 for new releases. Distribution is easy — Use Wal-Mart.

At the height of iTunes, Apple figured out the content/form equation perfectly. They didn’t overcharge for content that was basically created for iPods/iPhones. They were the perfect middleman. Once the bandwidth caught up with demand and everyone had access to the internet and streaming, iTunes fell by the wayside, and Spotify became the dominant way to get music. Streaming music for a reasonable monthly fee became the norm. Goodbye, record stores and downloading mp3s. Hello, streaming.

The same has happened with television and movies. Netflix, Hulu, and the rest of the streaming television services have taken over. In fact, with these streaming services, the era of appointment television is over. Unless you are watching a live sporting event or awards show, people flip to the Netflix show they are watching whenever is most convenient. It began with the arrival of DVRs and skipping over of commercials but has come into the forefront with the success of Netflix. The people who are watching a Hulu program or using a DVR like Tivo are not the same people who will watch a program during regularly scheduled times.

The networks are dinosaurs who, like record companies before them, are slow to pick up how this generation views entertainment and content. Every step is incredibly tentative, and they will continue to lose viewers, listeners, and money. To their credit, it has taken years, but now there are streaming options for a lot of the networks that used to only be found on cable packages and new ones popping up constantly.

Today, the viewing public is a diverse audience. Almost anyone who would buy a book to put on their Kindle is not the same person who wants a bookshelf full of books. The same can be said for binge-watching. Anything you want that can be digitized in some form or another is available online with a few clicks of a mouse and a high-speed internet connection.

It’s the content wanted, not the form. And people are tired of the old forms.

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