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Bosco! and Big Media’s Galaxy-wide Blind Spot

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I was researching a future post this morning and ended up lost again in the bowels of a big media company. I wanted to reference a Seinfeld episode and link to a synopsis or clip. Sony owns the show and it remains, even today, a great cultural commentary on so many things. I have introduced it slowly to my kids (11, 10, 9), editing out episodes with obviously inappropriate content, as a way to understand narrative structure, character development and how to make people laugh without saying “fart”. I am hoping to build an intellectual wall between them and Adam Sandler.

So I first go to YouTube and find some short clips from the appropriate episode, but I can’t find the exact scene I want to link. I don’t spend a lot of time looking for episodes online, but I know that Sony owns the show, so I check their site. ¬†Surely they have some way to link to the episode, with some clip sampling as well. Not a chance. ¬†Instead they have an “official site” that is horrible and offers “today’s episodes” and then a way to search for other episodes or explore the DVD, whatever that means. They are using an eye-dropper to provide content to the masses rather than make that content open and widely available. The “official site” doesn’t work when I find the right episode, so I can’t see the synopsis. Why, I wonder, can’t Sony find a more creative way to give me access to something I really want? How many people randomly are looking for a Seinfeld reference from a specific episode to include in a blog post, Tweet or Facebook comment? How many of the downstream readers of those social media references have never even seen Seinfeld? It was on in the age before mobile phones and all that has followed, so lots of young people have only a passing notion of the show. They might get hooked and pay to view an episode, record it in syndication or order the box set. Another potential novelty to Sony would be the ability to pay on the site to watch an episode.

I’m sure that somewhere at Sony they’ve signed a contract for syndication or selling box sets at Borders or Tower Records that somehow constrains the content. Jerry himself might be holding things back. The problem for all big media is that their trove of content is like the Library at Alexandria before Julius Caesar burned it to the ground. If no one can access your content then eventually the amount of new content simply overwhelms the aging stockpile. Big media thinks they should still control the consumption cycle. They view content as a scarce resource and think they have asymmetric market power. But in the digital age old media content will soon represent such a tiny fraction of available content. ¬†Concurrently, consumers’ social/viral consumption habits will destroy big media’s market power. Scarcity and content control is wrong-headed in the extreme. We keep expecting this to change, but it’s glacial at best.

By the way, my quest ended when my next web search found a blog post on Esquire’s website describing exactly what I wanted. Of course, it was satirical. Oh, well, off to SxSW.

Written by Mike Venerable

March 9, 2012 at 11:33 am