What is needed to grow New Media into a true competitor?

This piece was written in response to an email discussion I am having with a friend who is working on a major new media project. Our discussion got me thinking, rather deeply about what new media projects need to do in order to compete with the traditional media behemoth.

By its very name, New Media is “new” and should make use of as many new ideas as possible. It includes equal parts online video (YouTube), podcasting (which provides a method for developing , monetizing and interacting with a audience of “subscribers”) and social media like Facebook, MySpace, etc.

Podcasting is a part of this equation as an alternative delivery method that allows content to be delivered automatically to the users computer/media center, much like the TiVo provides its “season pass” functionality. Online video sites, like YouTube, Hulu, etc don’t, as yet, provide any mechanism to automatically deliver this content. Viewers still have to go to the web site to view it. I am a firm believer that delivering content automatically is critical to drive adoption by your “average” entertainment viewer. Furthermore, such delivery allows for moving media files directly to iPods and other portable media players, where YouTube and others does not. This allows viewers to watch even when they are away from their television sets and Internet connections.

I am a firm believer that delivering content automatically is critical to drive adoption by your “average” entertainment viewer.

I have been preaching for the last several months that new media isn’t an either/or proposition. All three of these elements (and more) should be combined to fully realize the benefits of new media. Any one of them is useful, but it is in combination that they really provide a full-featured set of tools for developing large new media viewership.

One thought that jumps to mind is for new media producers to do a deal with Apple to provide Apple TV units for a wholesale price and get them in the hands of consumers, so that people can subscribe directly to the content they want and simply have it appear on their television, just as they are familiar with today. I have written a blog post on how new media need to get “On TV” — meaning, on the box that most people already have in their living rooms.

…so that people can subscribe directly to the content they want and simply have it appear on their television, just as they are familiar with today.

If you haven’t checked out an Apple TV, stop by the Apple store and take a look. Imagine any podcast, audio or video, automatically being available on your television via a small box and even smaller white, 4 button remote control. I think that this is definitely the future, even if Apple’s particular product doesn’t find market success. Others are coming and even Tivo has experimented with automatic download of podcasts directly to your Tivo.

On another note, I would also suggest working with Joost (http://joost.com) to get new media content on their system. They are a free Internet-delivered provider who use standard ads as well as integrated new media ads to support their services. I can imagine that they would be very grateful to content providers who could bring them high-quality content, along with the advertisers to support that content. It seems a powerful combination.

Finally, podcasting as a delivery method could provide a very high profile within the, already successful, iTunes store, where millions of people are already buying media. I could foresee a method where a podcast version, with advertising, was free for a given number of days and then would automatically roll over into the iTunes Store, where viewers could purchase the episodes, without commercials, for a standard fee.

I would urge you to do everything you can to prevent going down the “big money” route of building entire systems to deliver content. As an IT professional, I can tell you that no project is as easy as it might seem, especially when dealing with technology. It would be very easy to burn through millions of dollars, with very little to show for it, if you try to re-invent the wheel. Even worse, it could delay the launch of this new media content by months.

My advice is to start slowly, using systems already in place and working (YouTube, Blip.tv, Veoh, etc) to deliver material and place advertising to get started. These companies are all already doing what you need, albeit on a smaller scale. Then, as your content become more successful, you can develop your own systems and services in a slow, careful manner. There is no need to re-invent the wheel, at least not at the the beginning of it all. I think it is more a matter of connecting up these existing services with the advertisers you are courting and then using the early revenues to develop more complicated systems later.

Finally, I would advise you that new media requires new thinking. Simply applying the “rules” of old media to new media will not obtain the results you are looking for. The market has changed. What was once a scarce market of networks now must compete with every Tom, Dick and Harry on the Internet. (Myself included – SMILE) You have to go out and meet this audience on their terms and not think that simply providing traditional media through a new distribution method is going to be wildly successful. New deals, with new terms and new ideas are going to have to be crafted to cope with the new media challenge. Most important, everyone involved is going to expect to be rewarded appropriately for their contribution. Just as writers deserve a fair share of the revenues of their work, others will also expect a fair share as well.

If we truly want New Media to grow into a true competitor for traditional media, we must developed content, systems and business plans that deserve the name “new media.”

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