Fresh & New(er)

discussion of issues around digital media and museums by Seb Chan

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How to fix big media

March 23rd, 2006 by Seb Chan

Here’s some interesting discussion on audience co-creation, but Haque’s concept of the ‘competence trap’ is perhaps even more interesting in terms of what is going on in the socio-cultural shift that is taking place.

“That is because most companies undergoing massive disruptions in their industries fall into what Haque calls a “competence trap.” They keep trying to do what they do best and insisting that it is still valuable, even though the changing environment calls for a new set of skills. A company suffering from a competence trap is like a fish trying to swim on land by flapping its fins in the air, when what it should be doing is trying to use its fins to drag itself through the mud.”

From How To Fix Time Warner:

The competence trap Time Warner must avoid is the notion that media content is something that is made by professionals, instead of a catalyst for the creation of more content by the amateurs in the audience. Comparing the quality of this consumer-generated content to the content made by the professionals is beside the point. The value of content is increasingly coming from the fact that it allows people to express themselves and create relationships with other like-minded spirits. Rather than resist this emerging consumer behavior, Time Warner should embrace it and encourage it.

Beyond that, Time Warner should give the army of amateur video directors out there access to sophisticated Web-based video editing tools to help raise the bar (and potential audience) of all the amateur video out there. The best stuff could be repackaged as regular DVDs or streamed over the Web with ads, with the amateur directors getting a cut of the revenues. One good thing about the audience creating its own content is that the production costs all but disappear.

Any media executive reading this might be scratching his head right now and wondering how he is supposed to charge for his content if he is going to give it away for free. But that kind of thinking just leads to another competence trap. It is the old product mentality coming through. Remember, this is now a relationship business, and relationships are usually two-way things. What that means is that increasingly, the content itself will have less value than what people can do with it. “In the very near future,” predicts Haque, “the content will only be valuable if it can be bundled in new ways.”

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