Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Rant About The Poor Big Newspaper and Music Industries

This is an expanded rant to my comment over at paidcontent.org to a post titled, “Craig, Please Save the Newspapers; Here’s How” by Rafat Ali

Why should Craigslist even care about the problems at newspapers. If the Newspaper website want to become profitable they should invent their own, better classified sites (which despite Craigslist’s ubiquity may not be hard to do considering it ain’t perfect). Newspaper classified were a very profitable portion of their business but Google and eBay also portioned off the ad dollars from Newspapers. A consortium of newspapers can come up with a better Craigslist if they tried. The tools to disseminate information and advertising have never been easier and more relevant than today, why don’t they get it?

Ditto the music industry. People aren't stealing music to be profitable, they steal it because they can't see spending $1000s for back catalogues that essentially fit on a 250 gig harddrive. If I were Universal or one of these others, I'd be selling back catalogues with extras like old footage and images, newspaper write ups and liner notes, etc. at discount prices and add in the price of the hard drive storage for cheap and people would be clamoring. The Rolling Stones catalogue can be put on a small USB drive with all the extras, lyrics, album covers, interview, concert footage, archival info for a premium price and people would fall all over themselves to get it. Put it on a cool Rolling Stones looking drive and they'd be going nuts. What the record/newspaper/magazine/book industry is a new media marketing perspective not a litany of lawyers. Like I said, if you don't like how Craigslist is siphoning off your customers, invent your own or change the model to match the times, but don't cry like a baby!

Here is a company that is getting it: Netflix. They dominated the DVD by mail department with not a concept but a technological application that let's me list, re-list, browse and empowered me like never before. It's called the Queue. Now that they have gotten into the set top rental market they may just dominate again. What they realize is that for a subscription fee most people will pay to watch what they perceive as unlimited movies per month. Acusations of "throttling" aside, I feel that I can watch about as many movies as physically possible per month. Heck the Queue itself is worth half the price of the subscription, because of the fun I have managing it. And guess what, I'm not locked into any long term contract. If one month I choose to not watch so many moviews I just lower my membership for the next month, no questions asked. They even listen to their customers, seeing how they presevred the multiple Queue accounts after members cried foul when Netflix announced they were deleting multiple Queues per account.

Granted, newspapers and music are much different than movies but the concept is the same. Allow me to access media on a rolling subscription basis. With music there are even more possibilites, as pointed out above.

Many other options are available if they put some marketing thought into it. The industry seems to be lead around by the nose by attorneys and very old-school executives. The number of artists with the wherewithal to do it have begun their own labels, seing 360 degree control of their product and image as the only way to make any money int he industry these days. You can market, distribute, tour and sell merchandise all on your own. Who needs the big guys anymore?

Garage bands have been doing all that by themselves for years. It's only when the process gets too big to handle that they have to turn the reigns over to the big corporations. What is that doesn't have to be the case? Too late, it's already happening with companies like Live Nation seeing the light early on.

Radiohead, NIN and Lil Wayne have all lead the charge by offering free music on the internet. Letting fans pay what they thinkt he music is worth as Radiohead did, just emailing out a message saying come to the site to get your free music in multiple formats (ala NIN) or offering multiple mixed tape-type downloads on the web that garnered press and created a following before the release of a major album (Lil Wayne).

Just like the kids and teens of today who think that it is their god-given right to just download music rather than buy it, but shell out big bucks for concerts, t-shirts and ephemera add-ons to corporate tie-ins, we Generation X-ers feel that a newspaper is just information that I should and must be able to access for free, at least online. Subscriptions for magazine and newspaper services online seems redundant and wasteful, especially when a quick Google search or a decent news aggrigator will get me the same basic information I need.

Granted, I want to read the newspapers of record on the web, but if forced to pay, I'd forgo my favorite publication in favor of >GASP< bloggers. Here is someone who got it right int hat world, Huffington Post. Like or hate it, she's built one of the first Blog Empires. To my knowledge she's done it without classified ads. (Though I hear her bloggers are less than underpaid.) Still with success comes the eyeballs and with the eyeballs come the advertising and with the advertising comes the larger paychecks. That much is still true.

Of course this is all pie in the sky pinko, hippie, cyberpunk, information wants to be free, type of stuff.

Boots on the ground marketing is the only way to see if the new models work but thankfully, the Internet is a very forgiving medium.

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