My first reflex was to label this years edition of the SXSW Interactive as a step into a new dotcom bubble. Probably due to the rather absurd beginning of the show with it’s kilometer long badge queues, the sheer crowd of people, the vast amount of panels, the lack of orientation and close to 40,000 laptops and smartphones collectively killing the wi-fi.
Even more disturbing were the 30 second pitches, five sentence presentations offering no beta, no demo, no website but just an idea, when people were met by lawyers just outside the doors with a set of five credit cards. Insane. Which instantly went downstairs to the Hyatt bar and wasted the first credit card there. Insanity.
Two or three years ago businesses like Twitter and Foursquare have been launched at SxSW out of such. Now, where exactly these companies withdraw their money from the stock market it does makes sense to buy out competing ideas or just to silence any threat by a decent amount of money.
The there were this so called StartUp busses. Bunches of coders set out from various cities in the US traveling to Austin in busses asked to develop an app together on their way. App coders are the todays InterRail travelers, just that back then no one was offered 10.000 USD because he read all volumes of DUNE on his way from Berlin to Barcelona central station.
Oh, by the way, on of the apps being developed on board was called happster.com – geotagged service, tag where you’re happy and share this – if you’re unhappy, just check where others are happy – eventually go there. OMG.
dawn of the lemmings
SxSW proved a shift to short term businesses, that is what the app market is today, platforms build the landscape on which a herd of lemmings travels not without directions but certainly without destination. During SxSW the 3000th app for Facebook timeline has been launched. That’s 50 apps a day during the last 2 month, just for this one of many features Facebook does provide. Which clearly approves that quality content and a mid term strategy don’t fit into this field of business, the life span of such apps is too short, the competition too high. In this game, no developer will bother by even reading an agreement with a collecting society, label or publishing house.
Almost no one dares to develop their own platform or channel any more, StartUps prefer to fish in the backwater of the big channels – minus a 30% fee – and are content with that, as long as sufficient downloads are being generated to pay for the next app.
This kind of explains why user generated bullshit is still the fundament of most apps – not social interaction as a customers request, but a sheer necessity of the app business. I am here, I am happy – offer space, location and an arbitrary topic (cereals, jogging, buying melons, TV series) and make the customers do the rest.
This tends to become redundant and boring soon, but suffices for a couple of days until the next app is out. Apps are like candy at the supermarket checkout – a matter of impulse buying. If the app, the idea behind it, is too complex and does not hook on the instant, no buy. A piece of music is too complex, you’ve got to listen to it first, no buy. I don’t stare on my screen without twiddling away something.
So far the content industries tried to transform their products and (more or less successful) their business models in new media and social media, which failed. Now, existing media channels are glancing at content providers again in order to enhance their business.
to like is to delete
Spotify, rdio, deezer, all of them understood one thing. Customers, listeners are herded around a product by appreciation. And only appreciation makes customers pay, not the lower price, not the bigger catalogue, but an environment where peer groups can define themselves. That’s why they ad more and more complex features to their services, substituting the simple one-click-like. To like is the new delete, just more polite. Getting rid of this spam, like, like, like, …
Streaming services shift to involve their clients again, you have to listen, compile, vote, share, communicate, like doing a mix tape again, acting as a street marketing guy for the artist and thus for the service.
Now we hit the interesting point:
When will the first service start to gate it’s social spheres? You will only be allowed to access and listen to certain material if you became a premium marketeer by sharing and communicating. Best material you cannot buy, like pre releases, press demos, backstage incentives, etc.?
We must not forget, we all grew up with media where a device, program and airtime where fixed together, for our kids, this concept doesn’t even make any sense any longer. Anyone older than 10 started his media socialization by online based media, watching, listening, anything, anytime. Give them another 3-5 years, and this kids will be the premium target group of TV advertisement. And as soon as the bigger fraction moved to online channels to see their daily soap or sport or show, the marketing budgets will be switched faster than you can say ‘TV’. Ad money always follows the target group, and they already began to move next door.
No surprise – as many TV executives surely had this thought already too – media convergence is the big thing now. At least permeabilizing the boundaries of different media channels. Last CES or ifa, it was all about HD, 3D, larger displays, higher resolution, but I couldn’t find a single TV set with an USB port or receivers with an IP address. Consumer Electronics are very, very sensitive when it comes to new standards or formats or channels. But until now, they wait where the target group is heading to – and then will act accordingly. But nevertheless, content industries will be dealing with other media than today.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but music / the sale of music has always worked equally via the content itself and via aesthetic design of the entire product. From cover art to the singers hairdo, every element of the product was designed. Today, people spend money on well designed product like the iPhone rather than on silver plastic discs.
Apps do not sell designed product, but themselves. We can forget about competing with Apple or Samsung, as there was no point in competing with Sony when the CD was launched.
Till now it proved, that apps sucked up content and puked it out again, no matter the consequences. Now I see more complex services, based on the appreciation and diversity of content. Labels do not get money from streaming yet – true, but to avoid this services for good would be as wise as to maintain traditional TV formats without bothering where clients are consuming nowadays.