What If Video Were Data?


Today’s thought experiment is going to help us visualize the future of commercial message management. Of course message management is just a way to describe the way content gets to a consumer. We have a bunch of other names for it: television, radio and newspapers, to name a few. Traditionally, these media have been used to manage messages to consumers and most of them (with the exception of broadcast network television and some of its affiliates) have been enjoying dual revenue models (advertising and subscription).

This idea of maintaining a dual revenue stream is the topic of all kinds of conversations around town. Everybody is interested in what’s going to happen when free content over the public Internet breaks the knees of the cable industry and cripples the broadcasters, etc. I can easily argue both sides of this, but for today, let’s try to imagine a profitable future. A future with real upside potential where technology helps us make money, not the other way around. Here we go!

Imagine that your video content is data. Not bits and bytes — data. How would you distribute it profitably? For example: The news anchor is reading a story to the camera. There are supporting graphics and text. What if all of it was in a database and all of it was made available all of the time via a feed to the outside world. Call it a broadcast feed, if that metaphor helps you. But imagine it not as video, but as packets of data.

Carry this metaphor as far as you can. All of the content you broadcast or print or distribute is now just packets of data that are being broadcast out to the world. This feed carries all of your branding, all of your unique filtering, all of the things that make your content yours … but instead of its normal form, it’s data.

OK, now let’s have some fun. Head over to the Apple Apps store (if you have an iPhone or an iPod Touch), or, if you don’t, go to the Facebook applications area and have a look at all of the things that third parties are doing with other-people’s data. There is an immense amount of value being created and quite a bit of currency changing hands in both places. Super smart (and not so smart) and super talented (and not so talented) companies and individuals are creating ways to assimilate, aggregate, utilized, synthesize and profit from other-people’s data. It is awe-inspiring. The Apple Apps store has some programs for $4.99 and then similar programs for $.99 and then hundreds of knock-offs that are free. Each is competing in an open marketplace for dominance — each with its own consumer value proposition — like I said, awe-inspiring.

Now, imagine your television, radio or print content, transformed into branded data and distributed throughout the universe as a trusted source of excellence. After all, that’s what your brand is. Imagine giving all of the third-party application makers and users a way to consume your content (data), while you concentrated on making it and feeding it out there. Imagine that your advertisers want their data associated with your data, because your data is trusted and stands for excellence. Of course, data is extremely measurable (because it actually is bits and bytes), and all of a sudden it becomes clear — we are now in the super-digital age. Here virtual DMA’s replace geographic ones. Third parties, who live inside these communities of interest, create applications for the hundreds of millions of registered social network users, not the other way around. We are remunerated because our data drives sales, enhances brand experience for our associated advertisers and our costs decrease with every entity that lends a helping hand. A pseudo-dual revenue stream is maintained because we can charge (or share revenue) with the programmers who use our data.

Does this model work for every type of content? No, of course not. But it’s perfect for emergent content such as news, weather, sports and live events or events that are topical and that audiences believe are live.

In very short order, we (in the traditional media business) are going to have to transform ourselves into massive branded data spigots; there is no other choice. We will have to adopt Tom Sawyer’s fence-painting paradigm, if only because it is too expensive to create all of the workflows and deliverables that a non-interoperable, consumer-driven world requires for scale.

I love this plan. It does require a whole bunch of stuff to change. But, the state of our economy has certainly accelerated that change. And, to that end, it has unburdened us with the need to preserve the status quo. It’s crunch-time and, no matter how much it hurts, we can all transition to the information age and keep our messages managed and sponsored. We just need to get everyone to help us paint the fence. Shelly Palmer


About Shelly Palmer

Shelly Palmer is the Professor of Advanced Media in Residence at Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications and CEO of The Palmer Group, a consulting practice that helps Fortune 500 companies with technology, media and marketing. Named LinkedIn’s “Top Voice in Technology,” he covers tech and business for Good Day New York, is a regular commentator on CNN and writes a popular daily business blog. He's a bestselling author, and the creator of the popular, free online course, Generative AI for Execs. Follow @shellypalmer or visit shellypalmer.com.



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