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Links, 29 June 2007

Prince is giving away his new album, for free, with the Mail on Sunday. How awesome is that? Interesting not only from a Chris Anderson style perspective (that the future is free content, and paid-for experiences, i.e. gigs; see “Give away the music and sell the show“) but also because it is a totally new experiment in the distribution and pricing of content. You’ve got to admire the (diminutive, purple) man. Not only is he incredibly funky, but he’s always had it in for copyright fascists. Remember slave? All about copyright waaay before Larry Lessig got into it. (Probably wrong, but forgive me).

On the note of free, the beginning of this podcast from the BEA has Chris Anderson saying some interesting things about free and paid-for content. A word of warning though – the other guys are really boring.

While we’re at it, and at the risk of turning this into a Chris Anderson / Wired love-in, I found this interview (David Weinberger, author of the forthcoming Everything Is Miscellaneous, interviewing Richard Sambrook, Head of Global News at the BBC) rather relevant – in a horseradish kind of way.

Next – and by way of Mr Sambrook’s blog (as is the Second Life piece at the end of this), another comment on free, and the future of media:

Many readers and some journalists would have no difficulty accepting the argument that print and online really are complementary. But the real difficulty exists in the financial realm, where the economics of print and online are about as compatible as Evian and crude oil.

This is because of the web’s great secret – what economists like to describe as a marginal cost of production and distribution that tends to fall to zero.

In the online world, once media owners have written the necessary software code, added some content, and purchased some cheap web hosting, their potential to attract audiences is theoretically limitless.

The financial DNA of newspapers – and most forms of traditional media – is very different. As Pat McGovern, the American who runs both magazines and web sites at computer industry publisher IDG, says: “Without print, paper and postage, profit margins online are about 40 per cent.” Print magazines, McGovern suggests, make margins of up to 15 per cent.

Of course, there’s a catch. The problem with digital media is its tendency to radically shrink a publisher’s revenue base.

In the US, digital media consultant Vin Crosbie has calculated that each printed newspaper reader is worth between $500 and $1,200 a year in terms of reader revenues and advertising cash.

By contrast, Crosbie suggests that the average online newspaper reader is worth perhaps $8 a year.

read the whole piece: Blimey O’Reilly (Press Gazette) – and it’s nothing to do with the O’Reilly Tools Of Change conference. More on that soon.

Next: RIP FOPP. Another tipping point in the coffin of retail (and mixed metaphors). I used to like FOPP -when I started going, to the old Cockburn St store in Edinburgh 14 years ago, it was vinyl heaven, and they had represses of some amazing old deleted albums at silly prices. I used to spend a fortune there. Then something happened: they expanded, and lost that sheen of cool. Redesigned, more piled-high stock, and lots of emo kids hanging about outside. Don’t know why expansion and cool are mutually exclusive, maybe it coincided with the death of vinyl, but it went wrong for me. I heard that a couple of years ago, most of the founding partners left – somewhat acrimoniously, allegedly. And then last night, walking through Earlham Street in Covent Garden, the store was closed, with security guards outside – despite claiming to be open from 10am – 10pm. What a shame.

Might as well get it out of the way. The Long Tail has just won the Loeb prize for best business book of the year. Well done Chris!

Finally, the Edinburgh Book Festival really needs to sort out their ticketing. We (when Screenbase still existed) used to do the site, and the ticketing systems, for them, and never had a problem if ” demand surged far beyond what was expected”. We did the Book, Film , Childrens, and Science Festivals for a while. In fact, the Science Fest still uses the code and sells hundreds of tickets a day, sometimes in the thousands, through the site and the box office. What bothers me about this story is that it must be very embarrassing for both EIBF and their web company, seeing as they seem to trot out the same story – the Glastonbury-like spin that we’re so popular that all our systems crashed – every year. Surely systems total failure (and lots of frustrated punters) is no longer a way of defining popularity – if it ever was?

Posted by Peter Collingridge in Copyright, Design, Edinburgh, Long Tail, Publishing, Web.

The World is Horseradish // More Links, 29 June 2007

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