Saturday, April 16, 2011

Music, books and news from the web the power of digital intermediates

American for the Supreme Court the case is closed. The record giant Universal Music will return $ 17 million to the rapper Eminem. The highest judicial authority overseas has in fact rejected the appeal 2 against the decision of the multinational Court of Appeals had given him right to the company FBT Productions. The stable recording of the famous rapper from Detroit - says the ruling on appeal 4 - is entitled to collect 50% and no more than 12% of revenues generated by sales of digital music by Universal. Those who sell online, the Court states, it does give third parties a license to use the work, not selling copies of the work. Hence the difference in percentages. A real slap in the majors with five fingers, though, to many it seemed mainly an ultimatum for the music industry. And more generally yet another wake-up call for all those that manage content, be they publishers or record labels. That manage news, music, movies, games and more. As if to say, have changed the rules of the game. Now, at the table, sit down other players. I decide what the price, location, determine the pattern of market development, accepted or not content, application, article. More and more powerful. And more and more of the usual Note.

The affair between Eminem and Universal, in fact, is just the tip of the iceberg. Behind wears a war between old and new neighborhoods without distributors. Among the physical world of books and CDs and the liquid of mp3 and ebook. Among those who, until recently, enjoyed a de facto monopoly in the management and distribution of entertainment content such as corporations and who, today, has gathered a critical mass of online buyers that they can determine a new balance in the market. Among those who over the years has essentially committed to combating piracy, to close to file sharing sites like Napster or Kazaa, a sword to defend their safes packed with content, but which is now with fewer and fewer customers at the counter. And who has built online legal alternatives cheaper, simpler and faster. We are talking of new online intermediaries, they are called from time to time, Apple's iTunes, Amazon, Netflix, Spotify, Deezer or more to which today has the last word.

But it is not just a matter of revenues. The new intermediaries in the hands of the client records, sales statistics related to user profiles. Data that content managers no longer have. So they do not know anything about who buys their records, read their newspapers or watch their movies. The relationship between content management and reader or listener vanish, disappear, be safe - so to speak - in databases digital intermediary, and only partially revealed by aseptic statements. But not enough. There is also a question of censorship. There are hundreds of apps not approved by Apple's own iTunes store because they are considered offensive or politically incorrect. As in the case of the writer, comedian and cartoonist Mark Fiore the San Francisco Chronicle, Pulitzer Prize winner, who last December received a nasty surprise: "Dear Mr. Fiore - reads the letter in response to the request to make available sull'iTunes his app - we have studied the application NewsToons and we decided that we can not publish this version of his application for the iPhone App Store because it contains content that ridicule public figures in violation of Section 3.3.14 of the license agreement for the iPhone developer program. " Signed, Apple.
And what about the unilateral decision that Amazon, in July 2009, had removed some titles of books by the famous writer George Orwell - in particular "1984" and "Animal Farm" - from their ebook reader, Kindle. The company was then justified by saying that the texts in question were erroneously made available by a publisher who does not actually had the rights. Once the true holders of rights in the work of Orwell had made contact, Amazon could not do anything but delete them from its online catalog. With the result that those who had already purchased them disappear from your Kindle is seen all at once.

No longer isolated cases, then, but worrying signs that create a scenario in which light and dark are they, the new brokers, salespeople that guide the choice of the client, the shop of their reference, their bundling the music, which News from the pack "shoot", the ebook to promote the game not to be missed, the app to accept, to see the film and more. And they are always delivering the purchase within seconds directly into the computer or smartphone buyer. This time, however, sitting comfortably at home. And what of the rest of what happens upstream, know little or nothing. For now.

The initial model of reference is that the outlets, shopping centers now also known in Italy, initially specializing in the retail sale of products of famous brands or unsold out of print, but in this case adapted to the typical products of online widening drastically 'offer. It is no coincidence that in English the various Amazon or iTunes are also called "digital outlet". Aggregators, distributors, hypermarkets virtual entertainment. Evolution of the record store, the library, the video rental, which are passed from the store to the supermarket, then hyper, to the so-called mall, go to the outlet or turn into real shopping villages, but that only have online found enough space (ie, infinity) to accommodate a terabyte of storage did not more expensive (and finished) square feet. Some selling everything from music, applications, ebooks from the film, and most specialize in a particular area or genre. "Non-places" virtual, say anthropologist Marc Augé: closed as iTunes or Spotify, so you must install a specific application on your computer, or semi-open sites such as Amazon or Ibs available on the Web long before being recorded.

Model music. Not surprising then if, today, they often are the main source of revenue for the digital culture industry, especially the queen of the market: the music. iTunes, in particular, has achieved what no one had ever managed to do: to agree the major record labels to sell their catalogs all together on your platform, thereby gaining a position of undisputed dominance (following competitors such as Amazon and 7Digital , HMV and Tesco). Not to mention the fact that the goose that laid golden eggs out of the hat to Steve Jobs sells, in addition to music, even books, subscriptions to newspapers, videos, films, and in 2011 surpassed the record 10 million applications for iPhone and iPad download, totaling over 250 million dollars in revenues, of which 30% remains in the safe of Cupertino and 70% of the application is returned to producers sold.

It is they, the 400 digital music services authorized to handle such as the 13 million songs online licensed by record companies. A market - says the recent Digital Music Report 2011 edited by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry - in excess of € 3.2 billion, equivalent to 6% in 2010. Rising to 29% as the share of global record company revenues generated from digital channels. A succulent and double layer cake, a slice of which would even platforms like Spotify, Deezer, and Slacker we7 offering a free streaming service supported by advertising and a premium service to subscribers who pay a fee. Where Spotify has been able to collect a total of more than 750 thousand paying subscribers, so that has become the largest digital store in Norway and Sweden, and the second digital service in Europe after iTunes. Where Deezer has attracted 13% of active Internet users in France (The Nielsen Company, October 2010). While in North America, Slacker is one of two major radio subscription services, along with Pandora that counts but more than 75 million registered users and 500 thousand paying subscribers.

And what about the video market? Let's talk about YouTube (which recently launched the long awaited live platform), but also giants like Netflix or Hulu, able to offer subscription-based online movie in open competition by offering TV, iTunes or usual, in first place in the ranking of online services for downloading and watching movies in the United States, according to Screen Digest, the agency maintains the record in 2010 with 64.5% in the ranking for fuel users. Followed by Microsoft's Zune Video with 17.9%, Sony with 7.2%, and the promising newcomer, Vudu, launched by the supermarket chain Wal-Mart.

Books, on with the app. With the ebook still stuck in Italy to 0.25% of the general publishing market and just 9 thousand books available, the first to be confronted with new intermediaries were the newspapers. To do in competitions with each other to the sound of app, to catch new readers and new subscribers on the mobile platform of the iPhone, iPad, or Android, RIM and Windows which, however, are forced to leave a percentage for each subscription that roam around 30%. Someone then tried to escape on a solo abandoning the paper in favor of simpler, but virtual PDF. Others think a product exclusively for the tablet as the recent newspaper "The Daily" of the Australian magnate Rupert Murdoch. But all passionately in line for an important position on the shelves (virtual) offered by digital outlets, as long as we accept the dictates of technology and "political" for them to be admitted and continue to be on those shelves.

Not to mention, finally, the vast and lucrative world of video games which, according to John Riccitiello, CEO of Elettronic Arts (a company that, along with Zynga, creator of the games Farmville and Mafia Wars, and Walt Disney, owns more than half of the market ), the year of 2011 will be even overtaking the online. Which is associated with David Jaffe, founder of software company Eat Sleep Play and creator of the famous game "God of War," arguing that not many years, the distribution of the game "boxes" - bound to be clear to the PlayStation, Xbox and Wii - disappear to be replaced by a more efficient and less costly digital distribution. Such as services like Steam, but it is not inconceivable that the same Microsoft and Sony will launch cloud gaming platforms like those provided by the site OnLive. com.

But it's all gold that glitters? For someone who wins, somebody loses. Take for example the Prince creative industry sector: the music. The overall decline nell'offline between 2004 and 2010 is two digits, -31%, the drop in units sold between 2003 and 2010 the debut album that has been placed in the Top 50 worldwide marks a - 77%. But to fear the most are the 1.2 million jobs by 2015 that vaporisation eai almost € 170 billion of losses that the European creative industries could be between 2008 and 2015. Sign that cost the same or nearly so, the gains are moving into the digital outlet, but with one major difference: once the controls on the sale was the prerogative of old distributors, companies are often controlled by the same record, but now the broker final call Apple or Amazon, distribution platforms with its own autonomy. Or even "intermediary brokers" or as that promise to "place" their products on multiple digital outlets at once. With the result that "the new digital market has in fact forced record companies to review some solutions," says Gianluca Pojago, a member of the International Association of Entertainment Lawyers. Stating: "Today a user can choose to buy online only a few songs on an album. Once, on the basis of those two or three songs, they bought the entire album. This has forced record companies to increase quality." He adds: "There is no doubt that today the standard is dictated by well-known and some platforms that have a role in determining new economic balance. But it is the market." With some problemuccio, though. An example? The Association for Independent Music (Aim) in London announced in late March that its members receive over 94% of its revenues from digital three and only three outlets: iTunes, Amazon and Spotify. 51 more companies share the remaining 5.6%. Moral? "There are now a series of oligopolies - said Alison Wenham, chief executive of Aim - and it's really difficult for anyone to get a slice of the market."

Finally a voice in contrast, that of Internet BookShop Italy, the leader on the web for the sale of books, music, DVDs and more, including home video and even mp3. "What I can tell you is that there is a difference between selling physical products like CDs and online sell music as MP3 liquid," says Mauro Zerbini, CEO of IBS. "In the second case, the record companies provide authors (at least as far as we relate) higher rates, but recovered quickly by reducing the margins for us retailers."

The new deployment. Where the truth lies in the magical world of entertainment, once again, it is not known with precision. In fact, however, the new digital outlets have built an alternative to traditional distribution. Offering an escape, whether real or alleged, faced with the inexorable fate and woe that many experts ominous omen for publishers, TV, record companies, and even the same Hollywood. Reserving, however, the right to open and close the door at will, and anyone, including simple users. This, in a strange game where it seems backwards to address both supply and demand and not vice versa. Where is the catalog cut off the iTunes Store or Amazon to dictate the rule, only to realize that it is in the system of organization and endless supply of those same content that lies the secret of success.

Infinite Consciousness - publishers, artists, digital outlets but most people - on the one hand, at a distance of a click, there are other, P2P networks: ready to take off again as soon as the convenience of the outlet will be less and therefore to enable the free and illegal trading of movies, music and books among users. And second, the background, the very future of the Internet, the so-called "net neutrality" or "Net Neutrality". So today, who manages the flow of data (Internet service provider) can not decide what to send and what not, but tomorrow it could be put in a position to do so. A further duty, a sort of primary distributor of connection, with which we could all be forced to face sooner or later, including digital outlets.

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