At the intersection of Business, Law & Entertainment
In entertainment, we like to talk about how we make “content”, and technically, that’s what we do. After all, content is a business word, and we’re in show business. The problem is that “content” is a totally non-emotional word, and emotion and connection are what make show business different from every other business.
Wrong. Emotion and connection are what makes the difference between success and failure in every business. (What motivates people to hire an accountant or stockbroker? Is it because they’re a great golfer? Nope. It’s because of that emotion known as the feeling of security that goes with knowing that somebody who you trust is minding your money.)
Here’s what makes showbiz different: most people don’t identify with their accountant. On the other hand, they tend to identify rather strongly with their favorite entertainers. Said differently, the emotional reaction you get from your financial adviser is focused on you – you feel secure because your money is safe or growing (at least you hope it is). The emotional reaction you get from entertainment is focused on the entertainer – you feel connected to that person, their performance and their, er, content.
It was interesting seeing this blog post from this prominent venture capitalist who is a partner at this firm. The summary of the post is this: citing Amazon Prime and YouTube Red, he notes that entertainment businesses are creating non-traditional bundles, meaning that, instead of bundles of cable channels (your local cable company/satellite provider), audiovisual content (Netflix, etc.), or music (Spotify, Pandora, etc.) we’re talking about different types of content rolled into one diverse package, er, bundle.
Down the road, he predicts that Amazon and YouTube will add things like games and live sports to the mix. He also believes that others will enter the market, particularly mobile phone carriers. (And actually, Verizon Wireless has already started down that road with Go90.) Let’s connect the rest of those dots with the two words that are driving the new bundling: media convergence.
If you like reading my thoughts on the future of media and entertainment, you’ll also be reasonably fond of the book I’ve written. Better still, you’ve got a few days to get it for free.
Yep, unlike my cousin Abbie Hoffman, who I’m not related to in any way that I’m aware of, you don’t have to steal my book. You can download it for the low, low cost of absolutely nothing through this Sunday, February 21st. (After that, it’s a wallet-draining $2.99, which is the price that Kindle Direct Publishing not-so-subtly suggested I attach to this world-changing tome, and who am I to argue with an algorithm created by Jeff Bezos’ minions?)
The bottom line is that, while I’m certainly looking forward to the tens of dollars that may well come my way thanks to this nifty creation, I’m a lot more interested in having you read what’s inside and, hopefully, pass it on to others as well.
You can find the book at http://goo.gl/dxnrLr.
Let’s talk about one of my favorite types of people: mad scientists.
In an era of massive change in entertainment and media, it is the crazed experimenters who will develop successful products, and you don’t have to be one solitary scientist sitting in your underground lair in order to cook up an exotic new compound that bubbles over into something powerful, though that’s often how great new ideas and products are developed.
In fact, you can be a big, presumably cumbersome corporate entity and still play mad scientist. Let’s talk about two of my favorite mad scientists of the moment.
I’d like to tell you a story about the sudden, complete transformation of a performer.
Once upon a time, I programmed a very personality-heavy radio station. While everyone else was shutting up and playing the music, we were aggressively getting in the audience’s faces with lots of personality. We also had record numbers for a radio station that had been around since the Johnson administration and we absolutely owned Men 25-54 in our market. Every talent on the radio station was very high-profile.
Except for my midday guy, who always said, “[My fans] don’t care about me.” He couldn’t have been more wrong, but I didn’t think he’d ever drop his defenses long enough to find out.
One sentence changed everything. Instantly. One day, he turned on the mic and said it.
It’s been amusing to see the meltdown over the alleged outing of Netflix’s closely-guarded audience metrics. As someone who programmed radio stations for over 20 years, living and dying with new ratings data every single week, I can tell you that in our new media world, ratings don’t matter. Not really. (For related reasons that you can figure out on your own, something similar can be said for box office, by the way.) Oh, and the other guy’s ratings really don’t matter.
To borrow from Randy Newman, it’s money that matters. Or, if you prefer Diddy, it’s all about the Benjamins. If you’re a broadcaster, ratings certainly help drive revenue, but in the end, the relationship between ratings and revenue is not, and will never be, linear. The relationship between revenue and profit isn’t linear either.
In that light, ratings are window dressing for the ego.
In 2016, the revolution is so far along already that you can watch it on “television” every single day. You can listen to it via “radio”. And, as (almost) always, there’s an app for that. You can read about the revolution on whatever digital doohickey your read news on instead of an old school newspaper.
The most amazing development to appear already in the new year comes from print. Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes is telling his next story, “Belgravia”, in serialized novel form…via an app. With the change in medium from printed page to digital app, “readers” will get a different experience, including audio, music, video, character portraits (including a character family tree) and maps of Belgravia.
For fans, that means they’ll receive a much more complex, and presumably engrossing, product than would come with a printed book. Do you realize what this means for professionals? It means jobs.
Things aren’t always what they seem on the surface, and sometimes we lose sight of the things that truly move the emotional needle – whether trends or people – until something dire happens. So it was at the end of 2015 when one Ian Fraser “Lemmy” Kilmister departed to wherever it is that Jimi, Janis, John, Kurt and far too many others are jamming.
When you’re busy thinking about the future of entertainment, don’t just look where the lights are shining brightest. Somewhere in a darkened corner of a legendary bar you’ll find someone – or perhaps several someones – who have a stunningly powerful emotional influence on both artists and fans. Watch this wildly entertaining video, and you’ll want to mock those fans, but rest assured that the kind of passion and commitment that an artist like Lemmy incites inspires a broader swath of audience than you see on the surface. In our digital future, you need that kind of passion in order to thrive. Lemmy Kilmister had just turned 70. If he were instead, say, 20, what kind of following do you think he’d have built both online and off? Here’s guessing it would be off the charts.
This week’s new leap across media boundaries is an Evel Knievel-sized jump. The New York Times is moving into virtual reality storytelling. I don’t know about you, but I’m both floored and not the least bit surprised.
For a while, I’ve been talking about how the walls dividing the three traditional types of media – audiovisual (television, film), audio only (radio, music, audiobooks), and print – are collapsing. It’s an inevitable part of The Jetsons Future, where all content is delivered via broadband, rather than broadcast or print. With that, the words of Marshall McLuhan come into play: the medium is the message. In other words, when you deliver content through an entirely new means, the content itself must inexorably change.
One of the leading changes is media convergence, where audiovisual, audio-only, and print become one.
On the off chance you like your payoff up front, here it is: ads are exactly like every other form of content. When your audience loves the content, all is ducky. When they don’t, they avoid that content like the plague.
The message in the Great Ad Blocking Freakout of ’15 is so obvious it’s painful. Here it is – are you ready? You can no longer force people to consume content how you want, where you want or when you want! Here’s another one: Recognize that the advertising content you make has to be just as good – and just as relevant – as the place where your ads are running.