One thing we are fairly certain of is that old forms of media distribution are dead. I do not know when they started dying—was it when Wal-Mart and other big-box stores took over music sales and dedicated stores started going out of business, or maybe when Napster showed that some people were only tangentially concered with supporting anything like an artist—and I am not really sure when the new forms of distributions will actually mature, but I imagine it is a matter of time.
Two of the key pieces of the "new model" are digital music and news/info browsing. Digital music, and its cousin, digital video, are proofs that people will spend a good amount of media if it is cheap and if it increases their ability to watch the show. One of the big problems with them, though, is the loss of the positive benefits of packaging. Though Magnatune.com—where I get over half of my digital music—does include "pdf artwork" to go with the album, but it seems variable between one album and the next. Some will just have a cover, some will have liner notes. Amazon.com's MP3 section does not include that information at all. In both cases, you are getting the album for as much as half off (and Magnatune's membership levels and such can actually make for bigger savings if you are inclined), so nitpicking a loss of information is a little whiney, but at the same time, sometimes the liner notes can be a big part of the experience. Poe's Haunted has little visual shout-outs and maybe a hidden series of clues in the liner notes. Losing that seems to cut a little from the album, at least.
Not quite what I am talking about, but I read earlier this morning about Danger Mouse's protest against EMI deciding to shelve his new CD. What Danger Mouse is going to do is release the liner notes and CD case for the album, along with a blank CD-R. Then the buyer can go and torrent the album, or what have you, and then he or she can burn the album to the CD-R and have the whole package. I think that is kind of neat. In fact, I almost wish other artists would do something like this, include a cheap mail-order copy of the liner notes as part of the potential package. Maybe you opt-in for the liner notes if you want them. I don't know.
Another nibblet to chew on while thinking of the new distribution model that the New York Times might try: charging for use over a specific word count, or over a specific number of page views. Note that this is, presumably, on top of the advertisement that nets the NYT website lots of money and, of course, with which more money is generated by those viewers who look at the most pages. That means the users that are most profitable, are going to get charged again. Why not just charge a set fee and allow those users to see no advertisements, or allow free users to view a set number of pages per day with advertisment? I am ok with the idea of the paid web. I would rather pay a few bucks a month (and few is the key word there) rather than sit through dozens of stupid flash animation. I dig that the most popular websites cost more to maintain and so make obvious choices for needing adverts, but trying to double fleece the lamb that feeds you feels crappy.
Si Vales, Valeo
Written by Doug Bolden
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