Business modelling and interactive contexts Commercialization of share cultures: promotional role of
Music forms a prime case study for the analysis of the impact of online media. Music and text-centred forms of creative products, and to a lesser extent OLD multimedia content-driven forms (film is convergent, as is TV) such as broadcasting and film, set the scene for analysis of alternative and somewhat ‘oblique’ strategies discussed earlier in the text, were most affected by the transformation of supply processes (Graham et al. 2004). A delay caused by the fundamental structural issues of bandwidth and software development had given film and broadcast media additional time to adapt to the near identical threat from free sharing of creative produce and the challenges of participatory culture (Jenkins 2006a/b) to the centralized linear models of broadcasting or film distribution. Indeed, in this case the richness of multi-sensory content such as film or television, further enriched by experience of theatrical events and social media interaction, seems to have balanced out the threat from unsolicited content reach. Online narratives on media narratives such as the reportedly leaked episodes of a given trending television series create added interest in the licensed product obtainable through various media platforms and ‘verticals’ which are both user friendly and cost-effective. User-friendly nature of such services can be read in an inverse manner to define its position in value generation and supply: user-friendly content services are those which need to be highly integrated and supported by assets, both physical (digital and tangible alike) and knowledge-driven (content, skill). The multifaceted nature of an audiovisual media product involves several levels of narrative, each of which can be commercialized, especially if it is linked to related content genres and formats. Narratives include the impact of David Lynch and his experimental project Twin Peaks on recurrent and multilayered media narratives embodied in The Sopranos, as one respondent stated (interview with Carl Schoenfeld). In adapting to the new media environments and the fundamental changes to media and communications operations brought about by the internet, content-driven media organizations have somewhat reduced the risk to their core business propositions. They did
so by engaging the audience in different types of content and platforms (at least in the case of commercial broadcasters), anticipating the impact of digitization of all broadcast content delivery, diversifying and engaging in policy development during time lag in disruptive innovation of the kind that impacted on music and text media. The impact on text and music was felt and those two concepts of content delivery (Kindle, Google Books) remain challenged by the need to constantly adapt and develop new forms of value-generating mechanisms, including audience engagement and utilizing user-driven narratives in which process concessions had to be made regarding strict interpretation of IP principles. ‘Engage the fans’, says one highly influential artist manager, ‘and pay them for their work’, the work of promotion and user generated design, ‘but make sure you pay once’. Fan payment and fan thanking appears in different forms: music, rare recordings in box sets, tickets, names printed on sleeves, merchandising, public thanks, meeting their favourite artists etc. In most cases these are objects of symbolic value: reward the asset (active, connected, agile fan) with asset (content, event, product). Thus closing the value circuit also amplifies the publicity signal through media, both interactive and noninteractive, digital (any format) and human (word of mouth). Every user capable of influencing the marketing and publicity outcome of a product, brand or service campaign in entertainment, has the opportunity to earn Warhol’s 15 minutes of fame, which seldom captures any sustainable value or is monetized/commercialized to benefit the user who produces such value for the marketers, brands and content owners. ‘Star Wars’ fan content discussion groups and ‘Blair Witch’ clips for ‘documentary’ authenticity were the two key events in the relatively distant past that helped kick-start and define usergenerated and user-supported campaigns. Harnessing not fighting the chaotic mass of audience/user voices was a decision made multiple times ‘for the first time’ in different industries, sectors and segments. These important events in decision-making and policy reassessment were those moments where a producer, content owner or creator, marketer or media organization would decide to follow the chaotic flow of user information and communications, choosing to use its power rather than try to stem it, which proved costly, counterproductive and ineffective. Influence the influencers – a phrase coined by Edward Bernays, the founder of modern Public Relations contributes to promotion with added weight. Therefore, a highly positioned respondent refers to the ability to read and understand the behaviour of innovators and early adopters who move swiftly across the changes in digital platforms, and using such ability to communicate with them directly and entice them to endorse a campaign and therefore amplify it. The engagement of such key nodes in the online network of opinion formation requests immersion of the kind where the distinction between observer and participant becomes blurred. As stated elsewhere in this book, interactive media have that additional feature that is yet to be fully understood and effectively managed: the quantum-like blurring of boundaries
between observers, influencers and participants as previously postulated in Heisenberg-style notions in physics (Misra and Sudarshan 1977). Refined, light-touch involvement with deeper ‘expert’ layers of communication online seem to breed more reliable, ‘authentic’ results based on decisions to interact with influencers such as bloggers. (Other reasons why online communications resemble a chaotic system of particle movement are explored elsewhere in the text, with special reference to Stacey’s work and the emerging disciplines within Big Data concepts such as Cliodynamics (Turchin 2008; Gaddis 2011; West 2011)). Such decisions were not as widely publicized as their counterparts in the form of perceived threats of piracy, IP violations, and new business entrants epitomized in early peer to peer networks, whose actual contribution was overlooked by many. At a time when Lycos was one of the key search engines and mp3.com the big source of online music, the problem of searching for music and identifying similar tastes and audience patterns was near impossible. Napster and other peer to peer models changed that, by establishing a fan community that formed the conceptual precursor of contemporary social media, cloud services and streaming models. Before advanced search engines were developed, identifying subjects of interest and their connections with content were operations that most users could not perform. By bringing the threat of exponential growth of the use of piracy, Napster and others in its wake provided the future tools to marketers by revealing the structural nature and media amplification potential of culture-and concept-defined user networking. Contemporary curator services online are, in the words of a media respondent (C Price), not editorial, top-down or linear in nature. Curators of online media content take good care to manage the flow gently. The management of such curators’ online media workloads involves understanding, overseeing/monitoring and supervising chaotic cloudlike behaviour of large numbers of users across a large number of platforms discussing and exchanging information/content across a large number of topics. This is the precursor for the next, necessary step of guiding such flows through a combination of software and conceptual/content expertise. This is where Stacey’s work attains a new application (Stacey 1992a-d; Parker and Stacey 1995; Stacey 1996a/b; Stacey 2013). Managing the flow of chaotic particles of human-digital communication resembles identifying chaotic weather patterns and organizational patterns described by Stacey in his work. It is in this case true that less is more: management of flows of online information has to be subtle, therefore suggesting an equivalence in Stacey’s suggestion that systems are self-managed. Strategic means used by curators and virtual navigators do not, in such cases remain confined to strategy tools presented in business school literature (which may be used in any case to inform the discussion). Contemporary online curator-type services are conceptually close to social networks, search services, cloud content services and streamers. In each of those cases, a strategy is defined with the aid of analytics tools, whether own, proprietary, outsourced or free. The novelty and fundamental added value in such services
and tools they adopt or develop is that these are not speculative tools but evidence based, mixed methodology tools that overcome the crude divisions between quantitative and qualitative, positivistic and interpretive, scientifically-modelled and social-science-driven tools for data collection, analysis and interpretation. Emotive, cultural and cognitive aspects of user behaviour and content use are as important for the strategic management of such services, as are statistics on the frequency, place, time and volume of use, payment and impact. Overcoming the academic limitations, the models used for data analytics by any organization capable of harnessing such data, treat online information about human market behaviour in digitally-mediated communications, as a continuum of natural science and social science paradigms tested in practice. A truly multidisciplinary, cross-paradigm planning methodology exists beyond the scholastic arguments of academic schools of thought and its name varies from brand to brand: Google, Apple, Spotify, Netflix, Facebook, Twitter, etc. The changing nature of engagement with online media is one of the important factors influencing the market and management practices the same user can interchangeably be a fan, audience member, consumer, pirate, tourist, reporter, essayist, citizen, client, voter, learner or hedonist. Social media features are likely to spread to all online media. A balanced policing of IP rights means that many uses of content are tolerated and some encouraged. An intelligent (in an IT sense) licensing framework model such as Creative Commons enables mutually agreeable arrangements between multiple interests and parties without any, or with minimal mediation. Users create a patchwork of information, interpretations and conceptual content links between trends, discourses, forms and formats. Such a patchwork may be difficult to predict or keep under control but it can be influenced. The semiotics of ‘That Dress’ meme is an interesting example. The use of celebrities to amplify the signal and the creation of online celebrities of transitory but lucrative 15 minutes of fame are cases worth investigating as examples of a definitively postmodernist patchwork culture of user commercialization.