Regular readers of this blog won't be surprised by many of the points made in this Bear Sterns report on The Long Tail: Why Aggregation & Context and Not (Necessarily) Content are King in Entertainment, although the report makes the case about as clearly as I've ever seen. The major take-aways from the analysis are:
- Advancing technology is increasing competition.
- This is "dissipating the distributions bottleneck."
- The balance of power is shifting from distributors (think TV stations, cable MSO's, and ISP's) to content owners.
- But the proliferation of user-generated content is changing what "content owner" means.
The analysis concludes with a discussion of the long tail and why it's relevant to the discussion. After a great case study on what happened to television over the last 50 years, the report talks about the future:
- The future hold infinite choice for "end users"
- And infinite choice means overwhelming confusion
- Leading to the conclusion that "filters" are required to "connect users to the content that appeals to their interests."
My first reaction was that "filters" meant technology, but in reality what we're talking about is what the report classifies as "content packaging." Traditionally this has meant broadcast networks and cable networks. The Bear Sterns (I almost abbreviated that to BS) report adds Google, Yahoo!, AOL, MySpace, Apple and others to that list.
That's where I think the report stops way too early. Why recognizing user-generated content as a viable option to content created by studios and independents, it doesn't understand the role of small-scale content packagers.
"Name one!" you say? IT Conversations (I'm the Executive Producer). IT Conversations isn't a podcast, per se. IT Conversations is a "content packager" in the terminology of this report. IT Conversations takes professionally and user-generated content, filters it according to our understanding of our listeners' desires and needs, and packages it for easy distribution using RSS over the Internet.
IT Conversations isn't the only one, of course, and it won't be the last. There will be thousands of niche podcast "packagers" just like there are thousands of bloggers providing similar "filtering" functions for textual content on the Web. I fear that the Bear Sterns report has large company myopia. Even with the evidence of user-generated content staring them in the face, they can't imagine anyone but a large company providing content packaging. I believe the next few years will not only demonstrate the viability of niche content packages, but their power in a long-tail world.