Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Convergence 2.0 - Content is King

I attended the Convergence 2.0 conference hosted by The Deal a couple of weeks ago.  After a full day of listening and talking to experts and practitioners in new media, old media, and telecomm, I came to the following conclusions:
  1. Content is king - the ability to capture value is shifting from distributors to content producers.
  2. The networks (at least the representitives I heard) still don't get how tenuous their position is.
Content is king
Without a doubt - this was the theme of the day.  As the number of different channels available to reach consumers increases (Cable, IPTV, mobile, portal, search, etc), distribution as a concept starts to become commoditized, even if a particular type of distribution is a monopoly or duopoly.  Pretty much all the players agreed on this, the carriers with resignation, and the networks with glee.

The one exception to this I think, is in connecting end users to one another.  It's in this area that distribution channels have a great chance to differentiate themselves from one another.  While watching a music video on a cell phone vs. a computer sceen vs a plasma TV might be a difference in degree, the way we communicate with others over those channels is a difference in kind.

What does this mean for start-ups targeting this space?  I think it means that if you are a business bringing content to users through a new channel, you need to focus more on differentiating your content, not your delivery.  I have actually seen a couple of companies that are pitching mobile services, and they are all focused on their delivery technology.  They considered the content they are delivering a mere afterthought.  When talking about their competition, they focus on others in the same distribution space.  But in the end, I think they should worry more about the incumbents in older channels with higher quality content (be that a more thorough database, better user-generated or professional content, or even more relevant search results).  The barriers to expanding good content to a new channel are much lower than the barriers to accumulating that good content in the first place.