Thursday, October 11, 2007

Net Neutrality, Consumerism and the Corporate Beast Fable

Net nuetrality, what is that? It's the idea that we dont run into areas on the Inter-web where "corporations" block access to other areas of the net. I'm for it. There's a big issue I see looming where if corporations are able to block, slow and grant special access to content from other places we're running into what is going to become another TV. Believe me, it only makes sense why they would. You control what you are pushing in to you "portal", you control the results you can expect from it. I.E. You can expect to make advertising, sponsorship deals, etc where you have an idea of how many eyeballs you will have, how much you can charge such-and-such partner, etc. The small guy gets stiffed, the end-viewer gets stiffed. And we have plain vanilla content, as seen on TV - oh, and the movies too.

This is a huge deal with the broadband companies - the guys we pay to get online. The AT&Ts and COMCASTs and Time Warners. Since they are our gateway online, if they get to control this stuff, we are seriously screwed. Their arguement? That content owners get free rides without having to pay broadband providers money for all the bandwidth they suck up. That is a load of crap. There are so many interchanges, unlit fiber runs (though shrinking SUPERFAST), and fat pipes that are shared, there isnt a noticable cost, in my opinion, to the providers. Rather, they have large margins in broadband that they DO NOT have in cable ect. $50/month for a cable router for a 8Mbps connection is largely profit. Their biggest cost is supporting the vast majority of customers that screw up their PC and need help rebooting their boxes. Guys like Google - and anyone else - they complain about, pay on the other side for the huge amounts of data they have to pass around. They pay huge amounts for the servers and DCs they have to maintain. So net nuetrality needs to be in place for reasons like this. I dont want to lose out on being able to self promote a film I spilled hundreds of hours into and thousands of dollars to get shut out because Im too small to have an agreement with the broadband providers. That's whats really at risk too by the way, the mom and pops here!

Now, there is also the arguement that content sites are starting to do the same things - only more so. Such as MySpace blocking Revver as one example. Let me tell you why this is one of the dumbest ideas I've heard and I dont think really needs regulated. There once was a company called Sears. Back in the 1980's, Sears was the end-all-be-all in consumerism. It got cocky, complacent. What happened? People left it in droves. Especially once a new player named Walmart started to show up. The same cycle is becoming apparent with the big WM right now if you look closely.

The perfect online example of a company thinking it has it all but really has nothing. AOL. AOL grew quickly, had a closed network and a large captive audience. It was able to get away with a lot of things that wouldnt happen in the physical service world because nobody at that point knew where else they could go, let alone how to move the bookmarks they've stacked up over the years to that thing called Firefox. AOL knew this, they also knew they had this captive audience and were able to push around ad agencies and media buyers with stiff demands, "if you want to work with our network, you have to work by our rules, no negotiating on CPMs" They got away with a lot of that with the smaller guys. They were notorious for being very slow, not being on the ball and not giving you reliable tracking data of your campaign. Hmm, then recently they had the brilliant idea that they would phase out the dialup service, go free, ad based. What has happened? Nobody outside of AOL and the agencies it is now clamouring over ever hear anything about it. Hardly anyone knows you can even go there for free. Nobody wants to, they think theyll have to install a bunch of stuff. Now a supposed 2nd year in a row huge round of layoffs is immenent. Why? Because of poor advertising sales and dropping page views. Hows that happen?

Look, you treat your customers - whatever side they are on - poorly and in the neutral net, they are going to leave. And it's not a slow burn like Sears or Walmart. It's instantaneous. Look at the climb Facebook is currently experiencing as MySpace is starting to become the grandmother everyone would rather have in the "home".

What does this have to do with film and video? I think plenty. Madonna, Radiohead, among a growing number of others are leaving their labels along with falling CD sales. At the same time, record labels are STILL moving slowly to find new ways (or cutting edge artists) to entice fans. The fans are leaving, seeing themselves get sued and becoming extremely wary. Not in todays world. I think we are trending towards small, where the 15 minutes of fame is really there online. This is the place where self promotion is king and not being aligned with any one giant is a safe bet. Especially if they continue on their quests for growing ever larger through what amount to greedy moves. Youll see them buried before they even get started.

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