by Mike Masnick
Mon, Mar 8th 2010 6:12am
by Mike Masnick
Fri, Nov 6th 2009 4:10am
from the good-luck,-buddy dept
His ultimate goal -- to maintain or increase revenue for Comcast -- makes perfect sense, and is positively what a cable COO should be focused on. From there on out, though, he's off in the weeds. How about offering this new generation new and innovative services that are worth paying for? That's challenging, of course... but how challenging will it be to change the next generation's behavior "to respect subscription revenue." Yikes.
How many consumers, in any market, are focused on "respecting" vendors' revenue streams? How, exactly, does he propose to effect this sea change? And why not just develop products that consumers will willingly pay for, rather than trying to change consumer behavior in such a fundamental way?"
The quotes really are quite stunning. Burke basically seems to be saying the focus needs to be on figuring out ways to get consumers to change, rather than changing to match what customers want. A business model based on going against what consumers want doesn't seem likely to last that long.
by Mike Masnick
Tue, Aug 18th 2009 10:58am
from the except-when-they-don't dept
So everyone wants the product -- but too many don't want to pay for it. Hell, I don't want to pay for it. I would love it if I could get all the movies and music I want for free. And I would love it if I could get all the BMWs, houses in the hills, and meals at Urasawa I want for free as well. But of course I realize I can't. Just about everyone is with me on the BMWs and houses part. But too many think that movies and music should be free, and don't see anything wrong with taking them. I'm willing to say they're wrong.This is a myth. It's a popular myth, and I'm quite sure that Sheffner and lots of folks on both sides of the debate think its entirely accurate. But it's a myth. The nature of a good economic transaction is one in which both parties are better off after the exchange. That means the people "paying" don't mind paying. They're happy to pay because they believe that what they have received is better than the cost it took to acquire it. But basic economics plays into the situation here: if the same thing can be made available by others in a better way, it's only natural for people to ask why they should have to pay.
Everyone understands why they can't have all the physical goods they want for free. But they have a much harder time understanding that with intangible goods like movies and music. IP is just harder to understand, and to explain, than physical property. We need theories to undergird it, special laws to define it, and special classes at law school to learn how to fight over it -- not to mention eight-volume treatises to tell us what the law actually is. So when people commit copyright infringement, they may think they're causing no harm -- but they are. They're undermining a system that enables those big, bad companies that everyone loves to hate, to finance the movies and albums that we all love.
But if you want real proof that there's a lot more at work than the idea that consumers just want everything for free and think that if it's not free they should just take it, look no further than the countless examples we've shown of people paying lots of money to support those providers who don't treat their fans as criminals, who don't try to prevent what the technology allows and who actually work to connect with those fans and give them a true reason to buy.
Everyone wants a good deal, and a fair deal, but people are more than willing to pay if it makes economic sense. Whether consciously or not, there are an awful lot of people who inherently recognize that the economics don't make sense when a good is infinitely available. As much as people have trouble understanding explicit economic concepts like supply and demand, instinctively many do, in fact, understand the very nature of abundance and what it means for pricing. It's not some nefarious story of a bunch of immoral "thieves" wanting stuff for free. It's an inherent understanding of competitive markets.
On top of that, Sheffner takes the position that paying for these things is necessary, because not paying for them "undermines the system," he is once again being misleading. It may undermine one particular way that the system works, but the false statement is implicit in his argument: that this is the only way of funding such creation. That is demonstrably false, as we've shown time and time again. I have no doubt that Sheffner is sincere in his argument, but it's based on a false premise that because the system used to work one way, back before technology changed the basic economics it relied on, that somehow we should all suffer by limiting what the technology allows and by ignoring basic economics.
It would be nice if it were possible, but I cannot find a single example of a modern society being able to successfully hold back or ignore what technology allows when it comes to economics.
Finally, way back when I was in high school, I worked at a bagel shop, which also sold other baked goods. The boss's position was that "the customer is always right" except for one particular issue: the customer could only get the next piece of coffee cake in order. We had this giant sheet cake coffee cake, and many customers didn't want "end pieces," and would ask for middle pieces instead. On more than one occasion, this resulted in angry customers stomping out -- and even once resulted in a fist fight between a customer and the owner's son. Over time, as more competition entered the neighborhood (a Dunkin' Donuts across the street, another bagel shop a block away), we lost a lot of business for our baked goods.
The point, which should be clear, is that you can say the customer is wrong all you want. But, in the end, the market will decide that the customer is right. Always. If you don't provide what the customer wants (a fair transaction) and others are able to do so, you will suffer.
The movie industry and the music industry both have had numerous opportunities to embrace what the technology allows -- and to craft new business models that would be massive money makers in doing so. They have chosen not to do so. They have said that the customer is wrong, and, as Sheffner notes, they have no problem saying so. The problem is that, whether legal or not, the competition is springing up left and right. Sheffner and his former colleagues can stand on whatever principles they want. The market doesn't care. The market only cares for those who serve the customers' needs. Plenty of others are doing so (both legally and illegally). Those who want to survive in business would be smart to take lessons from those who are succeeding and looking to implement smart business models around them. Those who want to insist that "the customer can be wrong" may feel good when they look in the mirror, but they're going to have to contend with a rapidly diminishing customer base.
The customer can be wrong, but focusing on that doesn't get them to pay you.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Aug 13th 2009 7:32pm
from the good-for-them dept
In the 18 months I have worked at SitePoint, barely a week has gone by where I have not received at least a couple of emails from customers questioning the logic behind our password protection policy. My response, based on the SitePoint philosophy, was always that we were taking an ethical (if largely symbolic) stance on the piracy issue. But how long could we maintain that line while simultaneously placing primacy on the customer experience, as all the while more and more requests to remove password protection poured in.Kudos to another company recognizing that pissing off your best customers is hardly a way to run a business.
As a web development resource and learning centre, we know that we must embrace the state of flux -- not as a lofty ideal, but as a normative imperative. You can't claim to be all about the cutting edge when you're stubbornly clinging to old, outmoded processes -- especially when your own beloved customers are urging you to move on. And if we're not keeping pace with the constantly evolving face of web design and development, then we're neither a resource nor a learning centre -- we're a museum.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Aug 13th 2009 4:49am
from the this-is-not-a-good-idea dept
Compare that to the Premier League in the UK. It's been nearly five years since the league first started freaking out about people watching unauthorized streams online. But rather than trying to serve those underserved customers, the Premier League has repeatedly lashed out at anyone who might possibly enable these games to be seen online. For example, it's sued YouTube apparently unaware that the company is protected by the safe harbors of the DMCA, and (if anyone) it should be going after those who actually upload the games. It's also suing Justin.tv in the same misguided fashion.
Amazingly, the league seems proud of the fact that it's going after these companies, rather than the appropriate targets. Jeff T alerts us to an article in the Guardian which is basically a case study in what not to do about these things. It hypes up how the Premier League purposely goes after the platform providers, as if that's a good thing. It also (bizarrely) claims that these anti-fan maneuvers are somehow a different and better response than the way the music industry responded to unauthorized file sharing. But that's not true. While it's not suing fans directly, it's still suing to stop fans from doing what they want to do. It's the same exact mistake.
Rather than recognizing the simple fact that the reason fans watch these streams online is because the Premier League has failed to offer it up themselves, the Premier League seems to relish the fact that it makes it more difficult for fans to see its product. The article talks about the "Saturday blackouts" on video designed to get more fans to go to matches, without recognizing that such blackouts have been shown to be pointless. There used to be rules for baseball in the US that games that weren't sold out wouldn't be shown on TV, but eventually people realized that people weren't watching on TV as a substitute for going to the game, but because they love their favorite team and want to watch them however possible. The more they can watch them on TV, the more interested they are in seeing live games.
Jeff, who sent this story in, makes the point quite clearly, by noting that he watches poor quality streams of Premier League matches in Canada because the League refuses to make most of their matches available to watch online. Rather than going after the companies that run platforms that enable such things, there's a really simple solution: offer high quality online webcasts yourself, and actually serve the fans. But that seems far beyond the Premier League's strategic thinking.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jul 16th 2009 3:19pm
from the perhaps-by-not-suing-everyone dept
But... old habits die really hard, apparently. The company has been suing pretty much every innovative startup that comes along, often targeting execs personally in attempts to bankrupt them. Sometimes it's been going after hobbyists or investors beyond just the actual companies. Often times, the company seems to be negotiating with innovators on the one hand, while filing unexpected lawsuits at the same time. One of the key techies it hired, Doug Merrill from Google, left after less than a year. More recently, the company refused to agree to more reasonable (but still high) streaming rates to get music back on YouTube in the UK.
Basically, it appears that EMI said it wanted to do something new, but couldn't resist doing everything it could to snuff out innovation. It takes more than words to actually convince both consumers and musicians that you're really adapting. Is it any wonder that people aren't fans? EMI's CEO is now admitting that the company "lost touch" with consumers:
"Music is in demand and the demand is growing all the time, but we've clearly lost touch with our consumers. I passionately believe that if we listen to our consumers, this gap will become our opportunity."Ok, so start listening! STOP SUING INNOVATORS. Stop suing executives and investors in those innovators. Stop using lawsuits as a negotiation tactic. Start focusing on giving fans what they want. Start focusing on enabling new business models that work for artists. Stop thinking about getting a transaction on every piece of music played, but start looking at ways to use the music to create additional products people want to buy. Stop trying to limit users and limit musicians. Enable them both. Also, over a year ago, Topspin's Ian Rogers wrote a brilliant open letter to EMI execs suggesting a rather smart way it could leverage its existing artist relationships. It doesn't seem like EMI listened at all.
If EMI wants help in listening, why not contact some of us who have been presenting solutions and showing what works? We're not that hard to reach, and I'm sure plenty of folks in our community would be more than willing to provide some incredibly useful suggestions.
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jul 2nd 2009 10:16am
from the anti-fan-is-not-a-good-thing dept
"July 1 was the first day in the Sony era over at eMusic. Despite published interviews with eMusic executives, FAQs on the eMusic web site and messages from eMusic employees on the eMusic forums attempting to clarify the new pricing structure, there were quite a few surprises. Some of the changes I've noticed (or read about in the forums) include:This seems like an increasing disaster. Hopefully some of these changes are mistakes, rather than permanent. But the way this whole situation has been handled is going to make a terrific case study in how not to do PR. eMusic has turned from a company that customers really loved into one that many seem to hate... and it's happened in an incredibly short time frame. That's really unfortunate.
IMO, the fact that eMusic did such a poor job communicating these important changes suggests that they deliberately withheld (or downplayed) this information, possibly to keep from fueling the outrage generated from last month's Sony/pricing announcement."
- Certain tracks can only be downloaded with "paid" credits, not the free credits eMusic hands out for trial memberships.
- Individual track downloads disabled for tracks longer than 10 minutes - you must download the entire album
- Certain (popular) sub-10-minute tracks disabled for individual download
- No downloading individual discs in multi-disc sets
- Most new albums use 12-credit album pricing (very few reports of 6 or 9 credit album pricing)
- Many (a significant portion in the classical section at least) albums with fewer than 12 tracks cost 12 credits
- Many albums previously available on eMusic have been re-priced (in some cases, tracks available for 1 credit on June 30 now require 12 credits)
by Mike Masnick
Thu, Jun 4th 2009 11:11am
from the again-and-again-and-again dept
Fri, May 15th 2009 3:21am
from the blurring-the-lines dept
by Mike Masnick
Fri, May 1st 2009 6:35pm
from the exactly dept
This isn't new or surprising. It's what Stardock has always said. And it's the same sort of attitude that others who have found success with content these days have had, as well. It's never pleasant to find someone is copying content/software/whatever you've made, but you can't worry about them. It's a waste of time and effort. People will always make unauthorized copies, and any effort to stop them will only hurt those who actually want to give you money. So focus on providing real value for those who want to buy, and stop worrying so much about everyone else.
The reality that most PC game publishers ignore is that there are people who buy games and people who don't buy games. The focus of a business is to increase its sales. My job, as CEO of Stardock, is not to fight worldwide piracy no matter how much it aggravates me personally. My job is to maximize the sales of my product and service and I do that by focusing on the people who pay my salary -- our customers.You can waste an awful lot of energy and resources "fighting pirates" and losing, or you can focus on actually serving your customers and making money. Which seems more intelligent?