Infrastructure // PC & Servers
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10/8/2008
01:11 AM
Thomas Claburn
Thomas Claburn
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Tomorrow's Content Ecosystem

The refrain I heard over and over again at Conteninople's Contentonmics conference this week in Los Angeles was that the online ad market hadn't matured enough to support Internet content distribution, at least in the form envisioned by large media companies.

The refrain I heard over and over again at Conteninople's Contentonmics conference this week in Los Angeles was that the online ad market hadn't matured enough to support Internet content distribution, at least in the form envisioned by large media companies.It's not that the technology isn't there. It's more that ad agencies still allocate ad budgets in a way that leaves online content as an afterthought. More money is moving online, but it's a slow process.

Like others at the conference, Ryan Kresser, CEO of Havoc Television, expressed the hope that more ad dollars would move online to support content.

On Tuesday afternoon, he made a presentation about his company, Havoc Television, a video-on-demand (VOD) and Internet network for independent music and action sports.

Havoc TV is available on DirecTV VOD and online and is frequented by the highly desirable (from an advertising standpoint) Gen X and Gen Y youth demographic. It takes music and sports content and wraps it in a social layer that allows viewers to interact via text message and online chat in real-time.

"It's a step beyond just watching TV," Kresser said.

Its business model is simple: Generate views across a variety of platforms and sell ads to monetize those views.

Is Havoc TV, with its "long tail" niche audience, the future? Or will it, too, like old media companies that focused on the mass audience, fragment and dissolve as content creators build direct rather than mediated relationships with consumers?

Traditional media companies want to believe that they have a future in the emerging digital content ecosystem. Some certainly will survive, but I wonder about the rest. Everyone wants to be a middleman, because that's a proven way to make money. That's the old way.

The walled garden is one form of this business model. People keep building walled gardens and they keep crumbling, with a few exceptions. Apple is one exception: Its iTunes walled garden is maintained by the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. (That perhaps explains the resentment of Apple that kept coming up in conversations.)

Social networks have tried to build walled gardens but they, too, have been pressed to open up. The social graph is becoming portable and all over, content creators are striking up direct relationships with consumers.

It's hard to imagine that middlemen, gatekeepers, and experts will be completely cut out of the value loop, but their role looks to me like it will be vastly diminished. Or perhaps very different -- perhaps tomorrow's mediators, rather than being aggregators and publishers, will focus on search and discovery technology, to empower people to connect with the content they want.

And they will be called Google.

Of course there's another possibility: Search will become so commoditized that Google will vanish into a white-label service for resurgent media companies that build direct relationships with their customers.

It could go either way.

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