Commentary

The Declining Value of Content?

At SXSW, filmmakers, brand representatives, advertising agency employees, and digital creatives of all types were talking about one topic: the market value of content is plummeting -- fast. This trend is being pushed by such factors as the affordability of professional equipment, the growing number of people (often amateurs) who are capable of doing the work, and the general acceptance online of lower-quality video content. There's an increase in available content, which is driving up the value of the distribution channel.

On Sunday, about halfway through the conference, there was a fantastic panel on branded content, which brought together folks from Youtube, VBS.tv, IFC and Babelgum Film. The crowd was split between filmmakers and brand representatives from both agency and client side, inspiring one of the most audience- active sessions I attended all week, with a lively debate among panel and audience members. Eddy Moretti, co-founder of VBS.tv, brought a fascinating perspective: VBS has been able to turn a gritty offbeat style into a well-known entertainment brand and has developed a relationship with many internal and contracted creatives (directors, animators, etc.), who create branded shows for VBS, like one that was just announced: :Motherboard" (sponsored by Dell). VBS brings the brand relationships and a site that offers distribution to viewers.

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Moretti said, using this method, the company was able to produce content that was low-cost enough to be fully underwritten by brand sponsorship and still allow VBS to own the videos. Moretti said that guaranteeing distribution on vbs.tv was integral to building deals like this, which takes the guesswork out because the company knows many of its viewers will watch any branded series they put out. Being able to promise brands that they can solve this distribution problem is what's helped VBS retain ownership of the value of its content, avoiding the fate of many other video producers.

Jess Search, Moderator of the Panel and CEO of The Channel 4 Britdoc Foundation, said very directly that she's watching the value of content plummet, and recommended that filmmakers find a partner they can work with to handle the problem of distribution. She doesn't think it's necessary to be an expert at distribution, as she put it: "There are experts in getting content out; filmmakers shouldn't worry about solving distribution." Still, she was quick to add, if you're trying to produce marketing content, you should "make friends with people at agencies. Learn how they think, buy them drinks, find out what they read and subscribe to the same -- just talk to them about their world."

It makes sense -- when 60,000 videos are uploaded to Youtube everyday, it becomes really hard to stand out based on content alone. Anyone trying to surface their video content today has to solve a very difficult problem with distribution, and should have a strategy, budget, and partnerships to do so.

10 comments about "The Declining Value of Content?".
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  1. The digital Hobo from TheDigitalHobo.com, March 18, 2009 at 6:21 p.m.

    You could also make the argument - especially if you are a targeting technology provider - that the content is irrelevant to begin with. It is simply the access point to your audience.

    The value of the content may be slipping, but that doesn't necessarily change the value of the audience watching.

  2. Barry Morgan from Comus Capital, March 18, 2009 at 6:36 p.m.

    We deal mostly in the "publicly traded company" segment of the marketplace. Although public company's tend to have pretty good video content, they too have problems with distribution.

    We've partnered with www.InvestmentPitch.com, which does an excellent job of using video content to assist potential investors in their search for investment opportunities.

    Their site is not bogged down with the "cat on skateboard" type of video content, as NBC Universal's Jeff Zucker likes to describe YouTube content. Nor does the site remain full of last week's news stories.

  3. Ruth Barrett from EarthSayers.tv, March 18, 2009 at 6:57 p.m.

    We aggregate video content on a specific topic and add value by reviewing for relevancy and quality. We have learned a lot about the value of content coming from a variety of channels, including YouTube. What people don't seem to want or believe is slick, processed information produced and written by people who have no idea what they are writing or talking about...

  4. Mark Arnold from Mark Arnold, March 19, 2009 at 6:53 a.m.

    I don't necessarily agree with everything said in Tyler's piece.

    Yes distribution is the heavyweight right now, but history tells me, having survived several bubbles and blow outs in the last 12 years, that the market generally corrects itself, and there will be winners and losers in the distribution game.

    If I had a euro (exchange rate is better at the mo!) for every time I heard "Content is King", or "Content is Dead" then I'd be as rich as Madoff, er, I mean Bill Gates.

    If you have a great product, be that distribution model or a well written, acted and directed film, then you have a good chance of being a success, and I think that has always been, and will continue to be the case.

    What the current situation offers today is a huge opportunity, especially to content creators, to access an industry that their talents would have been excluded.

    As has been mentioned, the drop in cost to make films and also set up distribution channels has widened the pool of talent dramatically, and so there are more opportunities for those excluded from the industry in the past.

    Let's face it, if you come up with the next Simpsons, CSi, Slumdog Millionaire your content IS king!

    And that can only be of benefit to the end user in my opinion, as well.

    The only advantage the big players have had, and will continue for a while yet (despite the recession) - e.g. AOL, News Int., Yahoo in the past 5 years - are the dollars to stay in the game, buying up cool start-ups, and re-organising.

  5. Corby Fine from Rogers Media, March 19, 2009 at 11:17 a.m.

    Just remember, Obamagirl was shot in one day, with two camera people found on the same day through Craigslist. Quality content can be developed on the cheap, or with high budgets. The relevancy of it, to personal likes and preferences, to political or social issues, to family and lifestyle situations...that is what will drive audience and ultimately revenues by access to the right audience.

  6. Jim Courtright from Big Thinking By The Hour, March 19, 2009 at 12:18 p.m.

    In our upcoming book "Become Your Own Broadcaster", we discuss the same topic, but end up at a different conclusion. Our premise is that the value of distribution has been reduced to next to nothing through the Internet. Anyone can broadcast to the world from their own website for very little overall cost. Conversely, content's value will increase, because we'll need more and more customized content developed as individual brands begin broadcasting their own audience-attracting content from their own websites. However, content creators might not be able to charge as much for that content, as the audiences will be smaller and more narrowly focused.

    Jim Courtright
    Partner
    Big Thinking By The Hour, Inc

  7. Pinaki Saha from Me!Box Media Inc., March 19, 2009 at 1:29 p.m.

    I think the entire article is presented from the lenses of a media distributor and a brand manager - as if the entire value in the ecosystem is captured because of them! Then the argument is justified by the fact that discoverability is the biggest challenge for the media producer and hence he should bow down to these gatekeepers to make their hardwork of some worth!!

    Wow.. I think its high time that the industry take a note of the fact that if there is no quality of the content, your superior distribution and million page views will still land the content in a deep long-tail bucket in less than few days if not less.

    The solution matrix should be crafted keeping the media creator at the center of the model. They are the drivers who dictate the nature of story telling and the category of interest that generates from it. The model of monetization is also tied to the aspiration index that is generated after watching the content. So, a model that cultivates the tremendous volume of properties produced over time and connects them seamlessly between the paradigms of celluloid and Internet will be able to reward the producers, the consumers, and obviously the brands. But again, the heart of the model lies in the quality .. not the quantity (number of views) alone.

  8. Tyler Willis from Involver, March 20, 2009 at 3:18 a.m.

    Hey All,

    Great conversation around this, thanks! I'm not surprised the topic is controversial, it's definitely something that has a big effect on many of our livelihoods.

    I certainly didn't mean to imply that content had no value, rather that their are market trends that make creating good content cheaper, which in turn is making the content discoverable a much harder proposition.

    Again, thanks for your comments, and I welcome further discussion on the topic here, or directly at tyler@involver.com

  9. Mitchell Posada from MitchellPosada, March 20, 2009 at 8:41 a.m.

    I agree a lot with the article which is why I'm trying to solve the distribution problem for Latino themed or written and produced by Latinos. Without the eyeballs I can't help filmmakers connect with sponsors which is required to get the eyeballs in the first place.

    Currently distributing a Mio.tv Widget aimed at Bi-lingual Latinos in the event there are website publishers...we're paying per video view + click-through.

    Warm regards,

    Mitch

  10. Joe Pulizzi from Junta42, March 25, 2009 at 2:32 p.m.

    I think this has been said but it's worth saying again, content is more powerful than ever. A company with no brand and no following can develop a relevant piece of industry content that can spread like crazy. We are all publishers today...whether you are the times or a startup.

    I believe Pinaka said this - but the real issue here is the distribution of power/attention as it relates to content. Non-media companies, especially those that start to understand social media distribution, are the ones reaping the benefits, and growing their businesses through content marketing. Definitely a content revolution going on - which is probably bad for most media companies that monetize only with online display.

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