Media Insights Q&A With Tim Brooks

Tim Brooks is well known and respected in many areas of the media industry. Not only is he a leading researcher with a career in broadcast (CBS and NBC), agency (NW Ayer) and cable (Lifetime, USA Network), he is also deeply involved in music, especially early American music. His effort on behalf of lost early 20th-century African-American recordings has earned him a Grammy Award as well as the reputation as one of the leading voices in audio copyright. Tim is also a prolific author of seven books, including the reference book “The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows,”which he penned with fellow researcher Earle Marsh. In my interview with him, Tim talks about his background, the music industry, his work for the CRE, CTAM and offers some predictions for the next few years. 

The interview videos can be viewed here.  Below is a short excerpt:



CW: Tim, you have done significant work on copyright. Can you please describe your efforts and how copyright impacts the media landscape today?

TB: Copyright is something that we do not pay enough attention to. Obviously some lawyers do, but a lot of us who encounter the subject find it boring -- our eyes glaze over.

However, especially in the information age and the digital age, it is extremely important, and not in the ways you might think. The copyright that I have been deeply involved with has more to do with recordings, but there is a message for the television industry, and it is a message of what not to do as well as what to do.

The record industry, which was really the first to get hit by the digital age and the dispersal of their product willy-nilly, ran to Washington and tried to get tougher copyright laws and sued everybody in sight to try to preserve their basically outdated business model rather than adapt to the new realities of digital distribution. And they have been paying for it ever since.

The recording industry is down around -40% or -50% in revenues over the past decade despite all kinds of laws, all kinds of lawsuits, all sorts of banging on the table and insisting that people must buy things the way they[, the recording industry,] want to sell them.

The lesson is, of course, is that the public doesn’t consume the way you want them to consume. They tell YOU how they want to consume and you have to build a business model around that. The television industry, to its credit I think, in the early- to mid-2000s started looking for ways to adapt its business model to Internet distribution, while still having a business model, and tried things like walled gardens, it tried things like Hulu and things like TV Everywhere, which seems to be the leading candidate now -- the way to monetize other forms of distribution.

The lesson is that the public will pay for entertainment if it is convenient and offers some added value to them. They don’t want to steal for the sake of stealing. But if you insist that your product must be consumed on your own terms, the public will find another way to access it.

CW: Looking ahead, what are your predictions for social media?

TB: A prediction I have for social media comes from a deep-seated feeling that whatever is true today, will not be in five years. Some things will be, but some of the biggest and most obvious will not. In terms of social networking, which is becoming a major part of the Internet, it is having an impact on us and therefore on advertising. At the moment Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla in the room, but then MySpace once was, and before that Friendster, which a lot of people don’t even remember anymore, is road kill by the side of the road.

And what does that mean for us in five years? That means Facebook, watch your back. Maybe it will be Google+, which seems to be suddenly emerging from the shadows, or maybe it will be something else. But I think we have to get used to change even among things that are big and seem rooted in stone. They aren’t, in the digital age.

So my prediction is, I don’t know if it will be Google+, but there will be another big social network thing that will suddenly be in the center of everything in five years. 




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