Monday, 6 April 2009

clash of the subscribers?

This article is bound to kick up a stink.  It’s coming from one side of a multi-faceted conversation. 

Here’s my view – and it’s not new – this debate is the clash of cultures.

For eighty years, BBC content has been paid for by what is basically a subscription.  How If y

ou live in the UK, every household with a television pays a licence fee that effectively pays for the non-commercial output from the BBC.  I get the BBC iPlayer, BBC TV, DAB, FM & AM Radio and of course the content-rich BBC web services.

This started at a time when the cost of producing content was very high, and there was a scarcity of independent, broadcast media.  I wasn’t around at the time and can’t comment on the populous view of the time, but let’s be honest it’s still happening, so the majority are not complaining about this model.  I think your man Robert Thomson is trying to defend this model

Now, things are a little different.  We are more aware of the type of content we can get, and from my point of view, what we are willing to pay for.

Okay anyone in the UK gets the BBC content.  If they pay a licence-fee or not.  Oh, and anyone can access the vast majority of the BBC online content no matter where they live.  And you can get the BBC TV & radio signals thru satellite, anywhere you can connect to it.  Oh yeah, legal or otherwise, you can also get all the content you like from a download service or ten.

And I think I am okay with that.  I like BBC content – not all of it, and not all the time, but in general, it’s good to have access to content and I’m happy that my household pay £142.50 to get it (I think I’d pay a third of that for In the Night Garden alone, given how much babyB enjoys it!). Funny, I have always shied away from “subscription” services, ‘cos I want it for free, but only just twigged that I am a subscriber to the BBC!

If I want different content, I will pay for it.  That may limit what content I consume, but I’m not going to steal content from other places just so I can say “I’ve got it”.  Do I think reading news on Digg, Techcrunch or other high-profile outlets it theft, erm not unless it’s ripping off copyrighted material or passing things off as your own.  That’s why I love Creative Commons.  I will read blogs and other content that gives me alternative comment on an event, I don’t need to by three newspapers for that.  Especially if the reporters all had the same vantage point (physical or otherwise), we won’t get that much of a different angle.

Let’s be real here, unless you are offering something different or unique, people won’t pay you for your product.  Interestingly, another of Mr Murchoch’s companies, Sky TV are doing their best to rival the BBC for content and by enabling their subscribers to get more, they prove that the subscription model works, if the content is valuable to the audience.

Back to the clash of cultures.  You have a business model that said “people need newspapers to get news”.  Not anymore.  Change is required.  Then the attention shifted to getting advertisers to pay (‘cos that’s worked for paper versions for years) but guess what, that’s not going to cover your expenses, so that won’t work any more either..  Change is required.

If insanity is doing the same thing expecting to get a different result, change means doing things differently, to get different results.

What are your views?  Do you think I am stuck in the past paying for the BBC?  Are you a subscriber who pays?  What value to you get?

Thursday, 2 April 2009

twenty years

Listening to Digital Planet on the way to work this morning (podcast available here) I was thinking about 20 years of the World Wide Web.

In just twenty years the way we catalogue and find data has been radically changed - and the way that people communicate is completely different.

So, here's my earliest memories of computing and communication.

An Olivetti 386SX, 33mHz desktop computer bought for Christmas one year (1993, maybe?) by my Dad as a *family* tool.  I got to use it to play games, create documents for school and all that jazz.

I remember when Dad got Compuserve  - dial-up internet, email and the internet.  I had NO IDEA how it worked, what it could do or what the point was, but hey, it was there.  If I'd paid more attention, maybe I'd be more of a geek than I am now.

I remember trying to use webpages that were full of text (bad layout, crummy images and generally hard to interact with) and simply not really getting the point.  Was only 15 or so... I guess others are more entrepreneurial and I think I can see potential better now than I could then. 

Anyway, I do remember using his email to send messages to people (his email address was a collection of numbers - and I think he paid a fee every month to have access as well as paying for the dial-up call time.  I remember making up flyers for my band using the PC and putting the email address on the contact details and then wondering if that was too geek-like?!

And how times have changed, and some things haven't.  Sure, Moore's Law has brought us the equivalent of 90's supercomputers in our pockets and we can buy most PC hardware for a fraction of the prices of the mid-90s (thank you, China), but we still pay for access.  Not sure that's a bad thing, but it does have limits.

I wonder what things might be like twenty years from now.  Will connectivity be included in the price of the device - pay £200 for an iPhone 10.0 and do as much as you like?  Will technology fail us and we get back to writing on dead trees?  Will we think that this text-based interface is so old-skool now that we use video to interact and do everything (ordering your shopping by leaving a voice mail?).

I quoted Heraclitus when editing content for David Thomson the other day: Change is the only constant.

What are your earliest memories of the World Wide Web? How has this technology changed your life? What do you think the future might lead to?