Friday, June 6, 2008

A New Media Marketplace

I broadly break up the media world into three major actors: Original Content Producers, Content Aggregators and Content Channel Distributors. As often the case with horizontal and vertical integration many, if not most actors have a stake in all three areas. One of the best examples is Current, which has Current TV and online (Distributor), gathering user submissions (Aggregator) and does its own news reports (Producer).

Through my work at One Economy we also play in all three roles; we create original content, we aggregate it in channels such as our media site 247townhall and distribute it over platforms like the forthcoming Public Internet Channel. But the interesting issues are not the pieces, but how we are evolving those pieces into a portfolio of media offerings that in turn, play a role in helping to reorganize our notions of public purpose media.

The Marketplace of Media

Imagine a bazaar in some dusty, far off city. It stretches from horizon to horizon and filled with colorful tents to cool, dim souks to high minarets where the people are called to prayer. And in this marketplace are thousands and thousands of buyers and sellers all frenetically calling out prices and wares, sorting through huge piles of products and negotiating for services. It is just a big, messy, crazy place, but it has a certain charm.

Now transpose that to the digital world. We have sellers and buyers all looking for each other. The buyers are looking for online content or services or products and trying the best way to discover the perfect thing at the best price. The sellers are putting up larger and louder websites jostling for real estate to catch the digital eye.

We love the marketplace and people get rich off of building a better map of the marketplace (Google), aggregating products and services into big box digital retailers (Amazon), creating unique products and distributing them ( or even organizing their own section of the bazaar into a mini-marketplace (eBay).

The Clean Room

Inside of this hectic, crazy, kinetic bazaar is one area that is orderly, quiet, clean, friendly if perhaps a bit bland and all of the content is "above average". The only problem is that the content produced is not terribly useful (i.e. almost everything in a high-end furniture store), and the other big problem is that there are really, really high walls with guards that surround the this oasis of a marketplace that only let in highest, but expensive digital goods.

This is the current state of the public purpose media marketplace.

If we dare to to venture out into the bazaar and poke around a bit we can find wonderful content. The revolution has put the tools of quality into the hands of everyone and people are using them to build information and services that are completely new and innovative. Then there is content created by the sellers themselves, rough, but exhibit characteristics what is most in demand, that it is "authentic" or true. There is a lot going on that is fantastic in the crazy bazaar, but it is hard to find amongst everything else and largely it is created for its own sake and not connected to anything else.

The Most Beautiful Vase Ever

Also these small artisans have no natural home, so they set up their own little tent, create the content and try to distribute it out into the world. Sometimes it goes viral thanks to You Tube or Digg (to mix analogies, the Roman forum of content), but generally it is more like Garden Girl TV.

Garden Girl is produced by Patti Moreno and her husband in Boston. The show is focused on "urban sustainable living" and it is a close rival to broadcast quality, but at a fraction of the cost. It is flexible, fun, inspiring and educational. And it was done without huge production houses, distribution deals and complex financing. It has value, it is useful and it is worthy.

However, in the bazaar there is the most ironic thing happening. The big sellers have trouble in finding the handcrafted authentic product to turn into money. The handcrafted product can't leverage the resources of the big boys to turn their authentic information into their goals of public purpose action. And the only place that has the current potential to organize the marketplace, the public broadcasting system, has built around itself an unassailable wall to ward off - rightly or wrongly - the taint of commercialism.

One Economy & Public Purpose Media: A New Marketplace

One Economy and its work represents the founding of a new association of sellers and buyers within the huge bazaar and we are going to do it in a whole new way. While we are going to have some walls (standards), they are going to be a lot lower than public broadcasting. We are going to revel in the craziness in our quest to find great content from the Original Content Producers and we are going to partner with our fellow Content Aggregators, but offer them something new by helping a) organize the OCP folks and b) add some value with our own "Take Action" content. And finally we are going to partner with the big box sellers in the bazaar, the Content Distributors to give them something that public broadcasting cannot, mainly organized, regular, actionable, discoverable content that can be monetized.

We are remaking the rules all the time, and while I cannot say what the future holds it is great fun and with great purpose that we hope we will acquit ourselves with great distinction. So stay tuned for the Public Internet Channel and the future.

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