Friday, June 6, 2008

The End of Art?

Paul Krugman in today's New York Times discusses the trend of making all books, music, movies, and other creative content available in digital form on the Internet. The abundance and availability of content will push prices down to near zero, so most creative media work will be free or nearly so. This means that creators have to look for other ways to make money.

Krugman suggests tours, merchandise, and other ancillary sales could help make up the difference. He also hints at the subscription model, in which such work is essentially syndicated to paying customers, and some portion of the revenue goes back to the creator.

It all sounds pretty bleak for creators. Think about radio and TV in the days before cable. Programming was expensive to produce, so sponsors paid the costs, and got the advertising in return. This meant, of course, that the content had to appeal to the advertisers, and, more importantly, to their target demographic. This is what lead to TV's becoming what Newton Minow referred to as "a vast wasteland."

There are a couple of possible bright spots:

It used to be that you had to be mainstream enough, to appeal to a large enough audience, to get published, get recorded, get broadcast, etc. Now, almost anyone can produce a blog, a Web comic, a mini-animation, a video clip, or even a digital movie. Getting an audience is, of course, a problem, but people have found ways of finding content that interests them.

Relevance-based advertising means you can get advertisers even if your content is narrowly focused, offensive or subversive. Of course, your audience may not click on the ads, but at least there's the possibility.

Premium content might still be able to command some price. There have been a number of cases of authors turning their on-line content into traditionally published books, and successfully selling them. Publishing on-line may actually help you find a ready audience, as well as helping you hone your craftsmanship.

As Alvin Toffler predicted, the pace of change keeps accelerating, so people have to adjust to more and more changes in the space of a lifetime. This certainly creates opportunities for creative artists in terms of media to work in, subject matter, potential audiences, etc.

At least, that's what I'm hoping.

No comments: