Tuesday, November 11, 2003

"Content" may go a progress through the guts of a worm...

...but otherwise it is none-too-kinglike. A couple of years ago it was fashionable in "new media" circles to proclaim that "Content is King" --- i.e., that the Internet would be dominated by big media companies that owned the music, movies, and other stuff that people wanted to download.

More recently, people like Jack Valenti are going up in front of Congress and making noise about how piracy is stifling the growth of broadband. The argument goes like this: broadband can only grow if there's demand; only Big Media (music, movies) can produce that demand; Big Media won't provide Content unless they can be sure it won't be pirated. Valenti and his cohort would therefore have us all hand control of our computers and networks over to Big Media. Or, in other words: "Kill the Internet to save broadband!"

The lynchpin of this whole argument is, again, that Content is King.

Well, let AT&T Labs researcher A. Odlyzko disabuse you of these notions. Interpersonal communication, not broadcast, has always been the primary bandwidth consumer of communication networks, even before the Internet. When given networks that are capable of point-to-point communication, people want to communicate with other people, far more than they want to passively consume content. AT&T's old ad campaign had it right: what people really want is to "reach out and touch someone."

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