Welcome To The Content App Era

Good news! We’re starting a new epoch in the titanic shift technology has foisted upon content creation and consumption. No longer are we stuck under the thumb of huge behemoth companies like Spotify, Facebook, YouTube and Pandora. Those dinosaurs are on their way out.

Oh what’s that you say? ‘Jon, have you been sniffing glue again? YouTube is flexing its muscles and bossing around creators. Didn’t you see the headlines about how poor Zoe Keating is being so mistreated?’ Yep. I sure did. And I say good riddance. Because it is done. Kaput. Collapsing. Sure, maybe not today or in the next couple years. But when bullies like YouTube start dictating insane terms to artists, it forces creators to look at different ways to distribute their work and that creates new opportunities. And companies are already starting to sprout up to take advantage.

Just last week the startup Vessel announced a new model designed to provide a much larger percentage of revenue for content creators than YouTube offers. Of course Vessel must build audience to create big buckets of revenue, which is far from a simple task. But as Peter Kafka of Re/code reported, Vessel is offering a much better experience, including a new advertising product that might mean the end of the dreaded video ad pre-roll. Vessel’s CEO Jason Kilar has long wanted to improve the experience for both viewers and advertisers, which is way overdue.

And Vessel is just the start. We’re at the beginning of the Content App Era. Just like how industries have been affected by the tech boom, there will be a phalanx of highly focused content apps of all different kinds to take on the big guys. In music this phenomenon is already taking shape with the recent launch of the Christian focused Overflow app.

Are all the upstarts going to succeed? Absolutely not. Most will fail spectacular. But a few will find the right audience with the right content and product innovations. They’ll learn from their mistakes, get smarter, and start making more money for creators. There will be a healthy competition for best content and talent. So sure, we’ll still have the big guys, at least for some time. But all these small players will throw enough stones at these monsters until they become a shell of their former selves.

An example of how this might go? Take a gander at broadcast television. For decades, three players dominated ratings. Nearly all Americans watched CBS, ABC or NBC. Advertisers paid a massive premium to reach, well, everyone. And then the audience started to erode away as all kinds of options for casual time came on the scene. Nowadays consumers have the choice of cable, satellite, Call Of Duty, Netflix, Crunchyroll, and hundreds of other services.

So what can these Goliaths do? How about starting with fair policies? YouTube grew monstrously big by ripping off all the video content in the world and allowing their audience and creators to remix it. Its popularity built a massive reach. Now it’s taking that audience hostage by demanding creators grant the company most favored nation status in order to get access to Content ID, which–as a reminder—was first designed to allow creators get at least some compensation for the videos that YouTube users posted without paying creators in the first place. It’s like YouTube is saying: help stop us from stealing your life’s work by just giving us all your life’s work and get paid whatever we decide. That’s some Orwellian logic.

I’m sure as a business school case study you’d get an A+ for devising such a brilliant strategy. But in terms of real life business ethics, it is unconscionable.

More News About Bullies

Music Industry Blog Zoe Keating’s Experience Shows Us Why YouTube’ Attitudes To Its Creators Must Change

Stratechery Dear Zoe Keating: Tell YouTube to Take a Hike

Hulu Blog The Future of TV

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