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In the Online World, Distribution is King?

Guardian_unlimitedSo says this article today on The Guardian.  (The writer must have found a special version of Amazon's Kindle, btw, as he talks about its wifi capabilities...  I'm pretty sure the only model that currently exists uses cellular technology, not wifi.)

The article goes on to talk about how the real money is in distribution, not content.  He makes it sound like the telecoms and other providers are the place to be and will find themselves in a much more lucrative spot than the content providers.  While there are certainly plenty of free content providers out there, and that number will continue to grow, I tend to think the telecoms and other broadband providers are in more of a commodity business than the typical content creator.  At the very least I think it's safe to say there's likely to be more brand loyalty for a particular author than a cell phone provider, for example.

To be fair, taken as a whole, "free content" is one of my biggest and most challenging competitors.  I'd like to think the availability of free content forces me to come up with new and better ways to distinguish our products from the free alternatives which are often deemed "good enough."  Despite this challenge, I'd rather work on building memorable content and brands than fight to earn someone's broadband loyalties.  Then again, I know there's money in those pipes...I generally curse and scream every time I get my family's cable and cell phone bills!



:::note to self:::
Don't read articles by Charles Arthur.

Laura P.

Amen! Competing with free is probably one of the greatest challenges we traditional publishers face. I've worked in magazines and books and have seen jobs disappear because due to increasingly anemic revenue. Like you said, we need to be ready to show readers the value we bring to the table with high-quality content. And, I think the key word is "content". Publishers need to learn to be more nimble, thinking in terms of "content" rather than the form it takes.

I used to work with librarians, who had the same concerns about what Google would mean to their careers. Librarians are the ultimate searchers, but most library patrons find Google results "satisfice". Many library meetings were taken up with redefining the role of the librarian in the Google era.

Interesting, though. Librarians really organized around this concern. I don't know if it's because publishing folks are competitive and keep their cards closer to their vests, or if, with my admittedly limited budget, I can't make it to conferences and elsewhere where these discussions are happening, but I just don't hear as much "collective brainstorming." I"d love to, though!

Charles Arthur

Sure, I got it wrong about Wi-Fi. But assume a few years forward when you have Kindle-like devices for reading papers. Who do you pay? The newspaper sites? Or the owners of the networks?

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