Gerd Leonhard's is a bold title indeed, "The Future of Content". For me, implied within were answers to big questions: What will future content, successful media offerings look like? What is the media consumer/user looking for? How will the future internet operate? What will be the future business model? More specifically, "How can you make money with content when "the copy" is free and ubiquitously available (legally or not)? How can you generate strong and recurring revenues with digital content if you can't control who gets to access, read, view, watch, or share it?" GL
Leonhard wastes no time in getting to these weighty issues, dealt with in an easy informative voice, logical in his progression of thought. Seventy four essays left me first in wonder if there was some underlying theme, or whether a collection of observations useful only to confuse me more. After reading the first five, threads of a message began to weave together, a perspective of elements in relationship, not in the vacuum of subjective. Those labelled futurists, a descriptive so easily applied from Wells and Orwell to Rand and Toffler, have typically succeeded almost exclusively in disturbing me in dark visions. In contrast to Leonhard's low tone in his assessment of large media outlets attempts to monopolize content/rights/intellectual properties as misguided. There is no excitement, no alarm or arm waving from Leonhard. There's no reason to overreact, and he explains why.
To see what future content might look like, Leonard first touches on the traditional business model, argued as an ultimately unsustainable, one of selling static content, songs and books. The decline in the recording industry direct revenues in recent years stands as evidence. A strategy that Leonard argues as both practically and philosophically flawed, based on the "prevailing assumption...that less control over distribution equals declining revenues." GL A strategy he reasons can't work in the long run as "transactions are always a consequence of attention and attraction, interaction, communication, engagement, and trust. It is never the other way round." GL "Any plan to monetise content must start with first attracting faithful users and enamored followers (to use the Twitter moniker) by constantly providing a stream of attractive, relevant and timely, targeted values, and to then convert this attention into money." GL
Leonhard predicts the "feels like free" (GL) and selling up approach used by cable TV e.g., as a dead duck, "The time-honoured approach - `if you want this content you'll have to pay, first' - is collapsing and won't come back no matter how much we liked it." The novelty of it is wearing off and consumers/users more and more lament the pay wall distraction, and that "most of us will no longer tolerate interruptions, meaningless pitches, garish popups, Las Vegas-style skyscraper ads or junk email. We are looking for truly personalized offers, real meaning, solid relevance, timeliness, and yes, transparency and truthfulness." GL Leonhard's predictions are more than well argued, they are supported in a recent study of consumer preferences by Latitude.
Secondly is to consider the sheer volume of data, growing exponentially, and its' disembodiment, the largest part of new content - a mind boggling volume uncontrollable in practical terms. Security measures like the SOPA legislation (not specifically mentioned by GL, proposed as anecdotal evidence) argued as piracy prevention are veiled attempts to control rights, actions unenforceable and easily defeated by real pirates.
Just as the Cloud sells us on the ideals of collaboration, realization proves more difficult, and is desired to be as such by the major media players. But Leonhard gives an outline, a glimpse of what the world could look like, after the present hierarchies and myths are finally slayed. A virtual world open and honest in its' dealings. A positive experience targeted at the individual consumer/user satisfaction. Leonhard holds out hope to that world, not in a leap of faith, but in cool level argument.
I can't possibly cover the length and breadth of Gerd Leonard's proposals, but be safe in assuming The Future of Content is a very good book. One I think will prove prescient and important as such.
I have done several book reviews on line and in all cases the author was dead or so famous as to be unconcerned with what I might say. It is safe to assume neither is the case here. So here I am torn to post this, both welcome in the reward of author's reinforcement,I get it; or dreading of the risk of being that guy in Annie Hall who spouts on about McLuhan while standing in line for a movie, only to have Woody Allen pull McLuhan out of line to tell the guy he'd missed the point all together.