Thursday, May 14, 2009

How do content producers make money in the future?

A post on slashdot got me to thinking about how creators of content will make money of their creations in the future. The most popular stuff is very easy to find pirated online. And what if the copyfighters get their way, and "information" becomes free? One thing I see happening is that technical content will be produced primarily by academics, as publications are one of the measures of academic success. Even if you make no money from your books and articles, as an academic you publish or perish. Or one would need some other means of getting a livelihood, and write for personal, not monetary, reasons. Author would cease to be a primary occupation. Certainly, it would cut down on pandering.

What about music? One century of making money off recorded music. I suppose musicians would go back to making a living the same way they did before records, by charging for live performances, and finding rich patrons.

Movies? For the time being, people still pay for the experience of seeing a movie in the theater. How long before the experience with pirated content can duplicate the in-theater experience? I think the route to keep bringing in money there is to make the in theater experience impossible to replicate at home. But I think that sales of DVDs are probably going to shrink.

Micropayments seem never to have caught on.

I used to think that "information wants to be free" was more of a rallying cry, or a justification for piracy of copyrighted content. But observation points to this as a statement of fact in the digital age, rather than a philosophical tenet. Mass-produced information will either stop havign any market value altogether, or only have value to the extent that it is very timely and very specific. We will move to a world where only custom content, which has value to only a specific person or small group, with resources to pay for it, will have value.

Advertisers will continue to pay for our attention. But we won't buy information, for the most part. We will pay for things and experiences. But not bits.

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