The end of content ownership?

Following on from my earlier post on going digital and what content we’ve gone digital with , I want to go back to the thorny subject of ownership.  Do you ever own content?  Do you need to own content?  What does it matter?

Over the last few years I’ve been reading a series of books called “50 xxx Ideas You Really Need To Know.” – where the “xxx” is not something pornographic but a specific topic or area.  Like Digital, Economics, World History, Physics, Maths, Genetics, Management, Philosophy and more.  They’re all great books, at a bargain price and very very readable.  A little plug here to where you can get them on Amazon – do take a look…

One of these books is aptly titled, “50 Digital Ideas You Really Need To Know”, written by Tom Chatfield (British author, writer and commentator) and is well worth a read.  It covers all digital and technology topics in this space, including:

  • Internet service provision
  • Web 2.0
  • Blogging
  • Aggregation
  • Privacy
  • Hacking
  • Cyberwar
  • Games consoles
  • Mashups
  • Culture jamming
  • E-commerce
  • Location-based services
  • Virtual goods
  • eGovernment
  • Crowdsourcing
  • Free software movement
  • Digital distribution
  • Cloud computing
  • Net neutrality
  • Semantic web
  • Augmented reality
  • Convergence
  • The internet of things
  • Distraction

Quite an extensive list and all in nice chunks of a few pages long.  Under the section on Digital Distribution, Tom talks about the end of ownership and covers many of the points I wrote about before…

Why are we worried about ownership?  Does physical ownership matter?  No it doesn’t.  The content never really was ours and we’ve simply been granted rights to use it – through payment (by whatever means that was agreed etc).  What does physical ownership give us?  Something to put on the shelf and look pretty?  It’s more from an technical era gone by where physical media was the only way to consume the content – that’s it.  Very simple.  We’re now in the digital age and we’re making the – sometimes painful – transition from physical to digital.

It is a transition and as I said before, we’re not talking a big bang approach here where one day everything becomes digital.  No, we need to make a controlled change that suits us, when the technology is right, at the right price and when it works well (with a nice user experience to it).  Some areas aren’t ready yet (e.g. newspapers) and some have been ready for a while (e.g. music).

My on-going experiment with digital newspapers is interesting and the current front runner is the Metro (the free London morning newspaper).  It’s available in the Apple Newstand and is fantastic.  It’s not just a digital scanned version of the paper (as some other digital newspapers are) but a fully interactive version with great ads that are fun, videos, hi-res photos that you can zoom in on and scan around and lots more.  And it’s free every weekday.  Interestingly I’m not alone in my high ratings for this app – it actually won the Newspaper App of the Year Award (at the 2012 Newspaper Industry Awards).

The subject of content ownership is one that’s being actively debated and discussed online and elsewhere.  Here’s a link to an interesting article by PCMag.com from mid-2011.  A few changes since mid-2011 but still relevant…

The Future of Entertainment Summit 2012 was held this week in London, with some great speakers from across the content, entertainment, digital and broadcast space and some great discussions.  I wasn’t able to attend this year but was watching Twitter closely for the updates on what was being said.  See a few of the Tweets from the day below all around content and consumption…

It isn’t about ownership anymore and it doesn’t need to be.  It’s now about consumption and access to content, and yes now the digital consumer!  The next challenge is guaranteeing that access – keeping your internet connection (as it is now) up and running and what happens when it goes down.

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