Posts tagged ‘content’

changing behaviors

We’ll make a movie, you’ll play the staring role
and I’ll direct you on where to go
We’ll make a movie, up & down and roun’ & roun’
baby just you follow I’ll show you what to do

Before the advent of digital content production, files were limited to dog-eared manila folders filled with copious production notes. And long before videotape, everything was about film, and many of the same workflows remained in place.

Enter digital workflows.

Actually, digitizing the content value chain has started at different points, depending upon the media type. Print was a direct function of the desktop capabilities resulting from the mac platform and the Apple Laserwriter. It was not until later that print facilities moved from film to ‘direct to plate’, or on-demand printing. Radio focused on automating the play out facility, leveraging digital audio files to files integrated with playlist management. Studios digitized their raw film footage, and enhanced the available digital video desktop technologies for editing, and edited the content before mastering back to film. Today, they have moved to capturing digitally, and now distributing to digitally enabled cinemas. What a good colleague of mine calls “Glass to Glass. Forever”. More on that in a subsequent blog.

But the behaviors of content creation have really changed beyond just folks working out how to manage digital content files and integrate them into their current business workflows.

Consider the following.

The economics of a film shoot was centered originally on the cost of the film (the celluloid) itself. In the early days, cameras, film and subsequent processing were more expensive than actors’ time – at least when actors were owned by the studios. At that time, the practice of a clapboard was instantiated, as was the stereotypical “action”. The emphasis was on minimizing the wastage of film. The camera was already a sunk cost. Consumers demanded more interesting perspectives, and eventually cameras and film became more affordable, and so multi-camera shoots prevailed.

When Videotape came along, the clapper’s role was less focused on saving film (or videotape), but more on ensuring the documentation of scenes for subsequent editing. Tape was cheap, make more shots, keep doing it again and again because ‘video’ actors were generally paid less than ‘film’ actors. Film still held premium production qualities that audiences craved but by the 80’s video was ‘best’ for TV.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to digital cameras… with the introduction of 2K/4K cameras that rivaled film quality, finally the clapper truly became a mechanism for scene/take separation. In fact, anecdotally, I have heard that due to the relative low-cost of digital compared to actors and production, the camera in many instances was just left running. This practice captures ‘behind the scenes’ content, notes, exchanges between actors, directors, writers and bloopers etc. This content used to end up on the cutting room floor, now it can be valuable extra content on a DVD or a Blue-ray.

Economics driven by technology has changed the behavior of how stuff is made. Apart from the time used to plan content and shoots, the time to turn around rushes has shrunk along with the behaviors, which have become the typical unintended consequences.

Now managing that digital content from glass (at the camera) to glass (at the consumer device) faces another problem… how do we handle, tag and forever secure this content? Not very well I’d say.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

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May 6, 2010 at 10:00 am Leave a comment

the business edge

I walk along a thin line darling
Dark shadows follow me
Here’s where life’s dream lies disillusioned
The edge of reality

Over the past decade or so, ever since the cost of streaming from a video server became just as, or more affordable than, playing content from tape, asset management has come to the fore.

I’ve covered asset management before in a few posts, most notably in digital asset management, but I sense two new paradigms emerging.

Indulge me.

Paradigm shift #1 – archive everything – and worry about it later… this is problematic, simply delaying the inevitable. A problem awaiting solution.

One of the first directives in moving to a digital world, is the management of ingest – the digitization of content and capturing its metadata. The emphasis is on transformation. Very quickly follows the stewardship and protection of the content and metadata, followed by utilization and transformation to other formats.

Unsurprisingly, this leads to a proliferation of content. And correspondingly, the need to develop efficient usage strategies employing the disciplines of IT economics as encompassed by the time, space, bandwidth tradeoff. Just like analog magnetic signals need rusty ribbon, bits require spinning rust, or rusty ribbon. But bits can be compressed…

Now comes the paradox. What do you keep, what do you toss? What has value today, what could have value tomorrow? How do you know?

Because the answers are not clear – the future never is – most is archived, just in case.

Paradigm shift #2 – manufacture and scaling – because content is digital I can provide my customers with whatever format they want… the computer does the work anyway.

Not quite. There comes a time when the cost of the infrastructure to create and maintain the content needs to be considered as a manufacturing process – creativity not withstanding. You see, once the creative process has developed the ‘master’, just as in a good design, the process hands over to the replication for monetization.

Correspondingly, one needs to start looking at the manufacturing plant, the place where the masters are stored, where the grid is located, its capabilities and how it is utilized, where the distribution points are located and the size of the transports leaving the factory etc. This starts to look very much like a process optimization and inventory management exercise, further complicated by consumer demand cycles and on-demand manufacturing and distribution.

Here’s the contention. Asset management used to be the nexus between business systems and the technical/operations infrastructure, because the currency was ‘digital content’. We’ve moved beyond asset management into a world where the currency is on-demand manufacture and delivery of content, and so the new tool is process orchestration and flexible infrastructure integration. What is that tool? Middleware. Media-enabled of course.

The edge of business influence in media operations has shifted closer to operations.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

March 25, 2010 at 1:00 am 1 comment

who’s getting it?

Someone who gets me
Someone who lets me be who I am, not who I’m not
And never gonna be
Who won’t misdirect me
Someone who gets me

Who in the world would ever have thought that one day Google would give the keynote address at Mobile World Congress?

It’s not just about apps.

Recently it has become very clear to me that the core of the Telco’s SDP infrastructure is becoming very IT-centric. It is also being integrated very effectively into the business and marketing functions of the enterprise. This is a radical departure from the days where internal communication was via job-tickets etc. It is almost getting to the point where Telco’s are becoming very large IT-network infrastructures that are exposing their capabilities for other organizations to use. Telco’s have embraced IP and IT and are searching for ways to increase their value. They’re doing it with an integrated business infrastructure that increasingly controls the underlying network core. And their business models are moving to realtime bandwidth and topology arbitrage. As I have long said, it’s not just about the cornflakes, but it’s about getting them to the customer in the cheapest manner possible. It would appear that retail distribution is coming to telco in more ways than originally expected.

Now Google is trying to create an industry wide infrastructure, which is almost the next generation of abstraction beyond the efforts of the telcos.

And as the cost of IP content delivery approaches parity with multicast RF distribution schemes – game over.

Contrast this to the newsprint, cable, satellite and broadcasters. What many call the ‘traditional’ mediums. Many are still debating the fine line which separates IT from the ‘content’ side of the business. Their obsession with control seems to be inhibiting the innate desire for bits to flow seamlessly through the business. Why the difference? More importantly, how are these entities going to compete in a world where the primary game in town is a mobile-oriented, increasingly cash-rich generation of audience. Of the media-types previously listed, it would appear as though the print industry may have just been given a reprieve – a gateway into that mobile audience.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

March 11, 2010 at 9:13 am Leave a comment

information density

Food, glorious food!
Eat right through the menu.
Just loosen your belt
Two inches and then you
Work up a new appetite.
In this interlude —
The food,
Once again, food
Fabulous food,
Glorious food.

Back in generational differences I wrote

“Even though I am not a fan of monkeying around with food, it did on average increase life expectancies from the baseline of old. So it is with information. Let us just hope that we’ll be smart enough to not allow information to become too fast, over processed and too preserved. Imagine suffering information obesity in the coming days!”

I was discussing early American History with a colleague and good friend of mine and we fast forwarded to the present-day political landscape. What struck us both was the parallel between fast food and availability of information. Perhaps its a glib and tenuous connection, but maybe there is something to this on a few different levels.

Nutritional Density in the context of information intersects quite readily with the current trend toward huge data-centers, their efficiency and management. If we were to parallel the increasing density of information that can be stored and processed in these facilities, there is an obvious parallel to the amount of nutrition produced per parcel of land and mono-cultures in general.  But are we talking nutritionally dense data, or energy dense data? As we look across the broad expanse of processing, it is easy to see that digital media, especially video, consumes vast amounts of storage. It is  visually rich to a consumer, but is the content itself valuable? In other words, we know it is energy dense, but is it nutritionally dense? Is the information we store and process in these data-centers useful for anything else other than to generate media revenues? How much actually feeds positively useful information for our society with factually relevant information? Or has it been processed, and subsequently prepared and packaged by a franchise for quick consumption? Has information really become a fast-food, ready for snacking with twitter or an on-the-go handheld? Has information crossed into entertainment along with the likes of toy laden packaged happy meals? Clearly discussions such as these counter the concept of a free-market information economy and tread dangerously closely to subjective evaluations and censorship. I am not advocating either. However, I do miss the days of relevant insightful journalism, slower yes, but based upon fact. The day that the newsroom became a profit center and not a cost center, was the day that media organizations started their downward spirals into irrelevancy and created opportunities for new technologies to fragment audiences and break the current business models. ‘Slow food’, what about a ‘slow information’ movement?

Information Overload, a term coined by Alvin Toffler refers to an excess amount of information being provided, which makes processing and absorbing tasks very difficult for the individual because sometimes we cannot see the validity behind the information. Consider this in the same context as willingly going to the buffet we call the internet, and loading ourselves with the excess calories of knowledge because it is available on an all you can consume basis. Have we willingly become gluttons of information? Just as food without exercise, have we stopped turning information into useful actionable knowledge?

Perhaps it was all best summarized in the following “As long as the centuries continue to unfold, the number of books will grow continually, and one can predict that a time will come when it will be almost as difficult to learn anything from books as from the direct study of the whole universe. It will be almost as convenient to search for some bit of truth concealed in nature as it will be to find it hidden away in an immense multitude of bound volumes.” –Denis Diderot, “Encyclopédie” (1755)

The paradox of choice provides a good counterweight to the freedom of choice. As technology makes media more accessible, we have a responsibility to ensure that our energy and resources are not wasted on junk. Food or information alike. Working out how will be our greatest challenge.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

December 3, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

simplify and go back to paper

I won’t tell your secrets
Your secrets are safe with me
I will keep your secrets
Just think of me as the pages in your diary

Everyone has a Luddite moment. Be honest with yourself, even you.

How many business plans have been sketched out on a napkin? Have not some of the most powerful and personal presentations you’ve ever witnessed been done on a whiteboard?

Why is that?

With all of the rumors about a new mac iTablet, the releases of Kindles, new Nooks etc. one would naturally expect that we’ll all soon be sporting communications tablets that have all of our media, our documents, our communications in one simple form factor. As long as we keep them charged up, we’ll have access to our data. As long as we back them up, and keep those backups up-to-date, we’ll have access to that ever-growing personally duplicated library of stuff forever.

Yet somehow paper and pens do not seem to go away.

Surely everyone has an electronic diary? …and surely all our diaries talk to each other and help schedules our daily lives in perfect digital harmony and sync with our other devices and personal variables and variabilities?

PIC-0012How many of you still jot stuff down on good old-fashioned, environmentally unfriendly paper pulp? You know, the kind that uses less power and employs the most humanly evolved stream of consciousness indexing system? The kind that if stored reasonably well, will last hundreds of years without power, and will retain that memory as it was produced and laid-out by the original author cum publisher?

How many hard drives, flash drives, CDs and DVDs will last that long? How many software packages will last that long? And more importantly, how many will be compatible with future technologies? To be a little more specific, how many of you can still read your original WordStar documents? Or those original MSMail messages? Or…? My guess is that most has been tossed away (or lost) years ago. At some point we inevitably, intentionally or accidentally, de-clutter our lives. Much like an evolutionary process for information brought about by external environmental factors.

The digital archiving dilemma ensures that we’ll be forced to keep converting our ever-increasing digital content to constantly changing new technologies. Each iteration of such new technology will consume new resources and energy to be manufactured, but to also to convert bits to new formats, only to repeat the cycle again and again. Brings a whole new meaning to recycling doesn’t it? Meanwhile, paper and film still stay the same, in the same underground limestone vaults, stored without laying claim to increased resource utilization.

Are old analog formats less convenient? Usually, they take more time to handle and search. Are they less accessible? Generally. Are they more personal or authentic? Always. Are they more secure? Generally so, because it takes more work to copy millions until they’re digitized.

And the quality, generational loss etc… perhaps it’s not worth saving giving the resources it will waste over its lifetime?

I think I’ll start investigating the comparison of archival costs for documents on paper vs. electronic for say the next 250 years. No, I do not hope to live that long…! My guess is that paper (and its analog cohorts) will still win.

Oh, and by the way, I don’t need a touch tablet to draw and write freehand. Paper works for that too.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening!

November 19, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

why is identity important?

…I don’t know, I don’t know.
Stick around, and it may show,
But I don’t know, I don’t know.

Identity management in media has been largely related to implementations of digital rights management, and that has been primarily driven by a need to protect, track or otherwise contain content.

This largely makes sense. In a world where consumers acquired media from distributers, the role of rights was to equate ‘distribution rights’ in its many varied forms with contractual rights and specifically with money. In fact, I have often argued that Digital Asset Management was really a digital manifestation of linking virtual content to metadata, and what really defined ‘Asset’ in this equation was not the concept of bits as the asset, but rather the idea for really treating it (the content) as a financial asset i.e. it had to have rights and usage very carefully built into the system.

But I digress.

As consumers started to acquire content, the need to track rights became ever so much more important. Those in the industry know that many large content producers used to track distribution rights in spreadsheets. Often those sheets were out of sync with the reality of their filed paper contracts. Try doing that with millions of users, instead of scores of distributors… and you see why identity starts getting real important, real fast.

As the IT bods started playing up the importance of identity management for all things security-wise and finance-wise, things like single sign-on became increasingly in vogue. Correspondingly, other uses for identity became quite apparent.

What of all of the media properties and websites where people log-in for access or opt-out for contact?

Think of all the disparate databases…

What if you could aggregate that information and target some ads to the same person regardless of screen?

Identity Management suddenly seems really attractive.

But is it really necessary?

Sorry, but at this juncture, not really. If you’re laying down the infrastructure for a purely digital media experience, then sure, but if you’re trying to put the toothpaste back into your corporate tube – probably too late – unless of course you want to indulge in personally targeted advertising services… but then, who’d buy them?

While it may be the dream of marketers, the science of understanding how to sell personalized ads is yet to be defined, and the scalability is currently beyond comprehension, pricing, measurability and valuation.

At this stage, most media companies still have difficulty in targeting by geographic, by demographic, by psychometric and defining their audience valuations in all but the simplest terms. When the marketing community really needs to sell specific items of garbage to me, at my identity address, then these issues will be solved. Oh wait… what was that latest spam for working from home? You mean its already happening?

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

September 3, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

content begets data begets bland

A billion people died on the news tonight
But not so many cried at the terrible sight
Well mama said
It’s just make believe
You can’t believe everything you see
So baby close your eyes to the lullabies
On the news tonight

Many in the business still distinguish between long-form and short form content; between ads, advertorial, editorial and content; and between scheduled, non-linear and live. There are differences. However on a few levels I would suggest that they have become the same, specifically intent and technology.

From a technology perspective, the argument is quite simple, and yet with extremely profound implications. It’s all bits. Simple? Not quite so. The moment that every piece of content becomes a bit, a mysterious transformations occurs… Those bits become data. As such several things emerge:

  • You need data to describe data – metadata. If that is used effectively, then you can automate much of your process and scale incredibly.
  • With that data, you can automate how that content is consumed, and to whom it is directed.
  • Data, if used correctly, can provide information, which, if used correctly, can get you even smarter about how to use your content (data). Recursive.
  • Better get yourself a search engine. Indexed databases are just not enough – there’s a lot of unstructured stuff you need to now catalog.
  • Better connect to other data sources, because you cannot possibly type in all of the stuff you’ll need to manage this content going forward. Data begets data.
  • Content becomes less sensitive to its actual ‘content’, the differentiation between mediums blurs, and not longer matters (read Negroponte’s seminal ‘Being Digital’). The consumer’s client drives presentation.
  • Business and workflows necessarily change – this is not optional. Managing content is different – no discussion. Sorry video guys, face the change.

All of this brings me to my second point. As content becomes data, and data begets more data, it starts to become very abstract, almost ethereal. Add a piece of automation, throw in some analytics and before long you lose intimate knowledge of your content library and the look’n’feel of your medium. Strange things start to happen… content becomes its own entity. Attach some monetization to the process and you risk getting a very ‘corporate’ media complete with formulaic template radio channels, stock cable channels and bland programming. All of a sudden sterile data, drives correspondingly sterile intent. If that intent is just maximizing revenue and optimizing resources for which media computer systems are designed, you get “News is something someone wants suppressed. Everything else is just advertising.” – Alfred Harmsworth (Lord Northcliff), publisher, Times of London.

Ask yourself, what is the intent of your media business? You may be surpised at the answer. The more digital your business becomes, the stranger the answer will become.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

August 20, 2009 at 1:00 am Leave a comment

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