Umair Haque / Bubblegeneration
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Design principles for 21st century companies, markets, and economies. Foreword by Gary Hamel. Coming January 4th. Pre-order at Amazon.

Monday, April 18, 2005

Is Content King?

The metaphor I use in thinking about Media 2.0/Micromedia/Peer Production often is underground art. The canonical example, for me at least, is the dynamics of electronic music over the last 30 years, from Kraftwerk, to house music, to clubs, labels, the rise of the DJ, and the new forms of commercialization these dynamics have created.

Another nice example is graffiti. The point is that 'content' alone isn't king - it's that the content/conduit distinction becomes meaningless as old ecosystems get disrupted.

What do I mean by this? Well, let's go back to music. The rise of the DJ didn't just make content king - it's gone on to disrupt the structure of the music industry, culminating in a scenario where iPods and connectivity are massively shifting the value drivers of both content and distribution.

Put another way, DJs unbundled content from distribution, and reconstructed it in ways that offered discontinuously more value to listeners. The iPod/iTunes value prop is an extension of the same economics. Now, in either case, new distribution mechanisms are required for this kind of value creation: for DJs, it was clubs, pitchshifting turntables, and decent soundsystems; for iPods, it's iTunes, connectivity, and eventually, 'social' or connected consumption (which squares the circle back to clubs and DJ's, only this time, connected to listeners).

So, I think a more thoughtful approach to the somewhat false notion of content vs distribution is understand that both are coevolving and interdependent. The real question isn't simply which one is king, but what the dynamics of the evolution will be.

For example, eroded barriers to production (viz laptop audio) mean micromedia atomizes traditional value chains, exploding the content network at the edges, and massively creating new value - and this fragmentation makes distribution (aggregation, reconstruction, or whatever we call the last stage of value chain) the place to capture value.

-- umair // 12:39 PM // 0 comments


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