I came across a classic again the other day on Youtube – reporter Chris Kamara, or Kammy as they call him, missing a red card while reporting from an English Premier League match.
If you haven’t seen it before, you must do it now (and if you have seen it before you probably won’t mind seeing it again), because a) it’s necessary if you want to understand the rest of this post and b) because it’s just awfully funny. So check out the short video here.
I could watch this over and over again, and actually I did. While doing so, I started to reflect on the format of the TV show, “Soccer Saturday” on Sky Sports News in the UK. There was no coverage of the Premier League on Free TV while Sky News was a free-TV channel back when this scene happened. The show did not give any live pictures of the game, instead field reporters in the stadium – like Chris Kamara – talked about what was going on right next to them.
That’s a pretty clever approach: Present soccer matches without having bought the rights to broadcast them on free TV (actually Sky Sports News’ Pay TV sister channels did broadcast the live matches). A form of “piggybacking”, which literally means riding on someone else’s back. And just like the equivalent in advertising – ambush marketing – someone who has not paid for building up the value of e.g. an event, an information or a brand, profits from those that did.
There’s a Chinese proverb which says that when storm comes, some build higher walls while others build wind mills. Usually when what I explained above happens, those that paid for the exclusivity try to build higher walls. The problem is that today storms are stronger than they used to be.
My opinion is that in most industries, maintaining exclusivity during a long time span is simply not possible anymore. Especially in those industries that are built on information. When information is there, it will be available. The public will gain access to information, information will basically become public. The reason for this: Information is digital and can be copied for free – you all know that story by now.
Let’s look at our example again: It doesn’t need a show like Soccer Saturday to break the exclusivity of soccer broadcasting rights. All Pay TV matches will be on the internet for free on (probably) illegal streaming pages, or watched from foreign satellite TV stations (coincidentally, just last week the European Court of Justice decided that pubs in the UK are allowed to show Premier League coverage from e.g. Greek TV stations instead of subscribing to local Pay TV channels). It happened to the music industry, it happened to the movie industry, it happens to TV, it will happen elsewhere, too.
Information cannot be properly protected. Wikileaks, anybody? With zero cost of copying and technical abilities everywhere, the speed of copying or following those with a good idea is getting faster and faster. The storms are getting stronger.
But how to build a wind mill?
Some might decide to create the storm first. When information spreads faster quickly, the phenomenon of “hypes” plays an important role. Things become very important in the public opinion very quickly, but then the perceived importance fades very quickly, too. These hypes are loud. If you are not creating a hype, you will not be heard because of all the noise. Create hypes, produce what you have to say it, put it on stage rather than just saying it, build communities that spread the word that what you created is extremely important, and from there move on to the next topic quickly so that the crowd follows you.
No, this is not funny. Especially if you’re used to more traditional models that look for depth in information, for a deep quality of products and services. Personally, I leave this job to others. To those that find it easier to do.
But there’s also another way: Let’s look at what a wind mill is. It is something that creates energy out of the wind. The wind is there. There’s an awful lot of information out there. There are many that try to create a storm, to create a hype. But not many that guide us through the storm. If information is accessible anywhere, where do you go?
The key is not to create more media, create more information, create more wind. The key is to help to digest it. Helping people to convert it into energy means guiding people through the storm. The winners will be those that offer the capabilities to find the information a certain individual can use.
It’s not a coincidence that Google has been more successful than record companies over the past few years. Google does exactly this: They offer the infrastructure to find the information that helps you. The same with Facebook, if we presume that information your peers like is information you may like, too.
We still worry too much about creating the wind. We want to create information.
Let’s more worry about guiding other through the storm. That’s a wind mill, something that creates energy.
This brings us back to Chris Kamara. The video of him missing the red card has been watched more than 2.2 million times. Not on Sky Sports News, who created it. On Youtube, another one of those sites that create the infrastructure to find information. Remember what I said at the beginning of this post when talking about piggybacking and ambush marketing: “Someone who has not paid for building up the value of e.g. an event, an information or a brand, profits from those that did”. Still sounds like a pretty clever approach to me.