The New Media Economy

We had a presentation about recording professional development and presenting our work. A very good thing we can do is to have a website / blog which is regularly updated and presents who we are, what we do and what we are interested in.

Some people might be initially uncomfortable with the idea of putting content online for free, but if done right, it has more advantages than they might expect.

The media landscape is no longer populated by just publishers and broadcasters; there is a huge number of digital publishers and content providers, where the economic rules are different. As our lecturer Jonathan Worth pointed out, we can’t charge per pixel using the same concept as the former charging per page policy. First, the media objects are much cheaper to produce, second, they are much cheaper to distribute, and third, creating new identical copies is easy because the whole process is digitised (as Chris Anderson observed in The Long Tail).

Another aspect of the new media economy, as J. Worth further explained, is the difference between consumers and target audiences for free and paid content. When creating and distributing a free product, you are targeting the cash poor, time rich consumers – children, teenagers, students, people with a lot of free time but not enough resources to pay for content. The best case scenario is that these time rich consumers then refer your content to their cash rich, time poor friends (well-paid working professionals for example) who may find this or some other author’s work worth paying for. This process can be referred to as monetizing your online presence.

A good example J. Worth, a professional photographer himself, gave us:

He made an experiment and posted a high quality full size photo online for free. This attracted a lot of attention, online traffic to his site and as a result: improved awareness about him and his work. Then, he printed out 100 copies of the same photograph, signed them and put them on sale. The result: the print copies were immediately sold, and he generated more income than expected, and significantly more than if he had distributed his work in the traditional offline way.

Some aspects of this and similar examples:

  • The product (photograph) can be very specific, neither a “link-bait” nor part of a popular story. It doesn’t involve anyone famous, no big brands or events, it’s just a piece of art. It is a niche on its own, and in a traditional media market would probably struggle for audience, with a low chance of generating significant income for its author.
  • The target audience of the product is not capsulated in one geographic region – so the author can’t hope to reach them all with an exhibition in one gallery, and organizing more exhibitions would mean greater expences.
  • The costs of posting a digital file online are close to zero – but when done right, the impact can be monetized with a good response rate.
  • When posting content for free the author gains trust. He is actually giving away something for others to use and enjoy. People then have a choice – they can either use the generic free version or opt for the premium paid version.

There are already thousands of artists, musicians, creators, that are using this approach, combining low-cost production and distribution with the powerful impact of social media, posting free content with paid premium versions. Another way of embracing this “new world order” in media distribution is posting single tracks of an album for free and putting the whole album for sale, or releasing all the tracks for free download and then inviting the fans to paid concerts.

In Bulgaria for example, my country of origin, musicians don’t earn much from album sales, both because the fans can’t afford to pay and because of music piracy. So now they mostly count on their live performances for generating income, and use their internet sites as a platform for keeping in touch with their fans. Services such as MySpace, Last.fm, Grooveshark, SoundCloud, allow artists and fans to communicate, share the love for music and art and, as a result, be happier 🙂

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