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Will Auteur Brands destroy the Big Broadcasters?

Saturday, January 13th, 2007

This line of thinking was kicked off by John Rogers‘ blog post 4GM: Nobody gets Rich, Everybody Gets Paid and some of the comments on it.

The Auteur Brand has a long tradition in our society. Far older than those names. The cult of personality around creative people goes back to the emergence of the printing press if not before. As a wider phenomena the Me Brand of leaders, performers and sports stars is a well established phenomena in our culture.

Me brands can be good and can play well until the person behind them trips over our expectations of the person. They have the advantage of the getting the early popularity hump of the brand life cycle. Ultimately most Me brands are limited to their founders working life time at most. A few will last till they die. Most Me brands tend to rely on symbiosis with older/larger distribution Brands or sponsor Brands for the oxygen of publicity and the cash feed to their bank balance.

The WWW and the Internet provides an upsurge in opportunity for Me and Auteur brands. Thanks to the cheapness of web hosting and services like Lulu, Blogger and YouTube pretty much anyone can become an Internet Auteur in their chosen creative field if they have some talent. Maybe they’ll only ever play in a little nice market in their spare time but their chances, at least for the moment, of reaching a worldwide audience are far better than ten or twenty years ago.

Most of the big broadcaster and other media distributors are well past the peak of their brand’s life cycle. They are in the slow declining tail to infinity and zero awareness. However they have advantages of familiarity and trust to being in the tail. If you can avoid restricting your brand to those who are getting old with you and thus slow the decline rate so you don’t vanish into obscurity. A good example would be Monty Python who keep talking about their retirement fund growing with each project while the musical is drawing in 20 year old men who wouldn’t go to a musical and who are too young to have seen the shows when they were first on. Walnut Whips on the other hand are watching their sales decline with their aging markets demographic decline.

Will Auteurs be able to find the revenue streams to support their work or will they mostly be stuck in back bedrooms with a PC wishing they could get the money to make more than a dodgy video to show on YouTube? I don’t know. Maybe the current broadcasters won’t survive. Maybe they’ll find a new life supporting production distributed in new ways. Brand and distribution are related but they aren’t the same thing. Just different parts of the marketing mix. Their revenue models may pull in money through new advertising models, sponsorship, product placement, merchandise sales or any number of other possibilities.

I’ve been on the professional Internet ride for ten years this month. A lots changed in those ten years. A lot of things people told me would be the next big thing haven’t happened yet or worse still bombed. A lot of things no one ever suggested would happen have come out of nowhere. I’m looking forward to the next ten years and seeing what happens.

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