Perhaps it was the tryptophan in all the turkey kicking in. Or maybe the 4-day weekend. But whatever the reason, the Web seemed in for a bout of self-introspection about business models. Suddenly the signs were everywhere: Doug Kaye of IT Conversations asking for tips on how to monetize his terrific audio site-cum-podcasting network, Adam Curry talking about linking his favorite podcasts together to share OPML information across the Podsquad network, and Dave Winer rolling up his sleeves and going after the page-rank spam pirates.
Then there was this fascinating story from CNET's Stephanie Olsen, about Google, Microsoft, AOL, and Yahoo! all going after TV Search. Fascinating not because of the underlying technology, which seems to be various screen-scrapings of closed caption feeds and other extant metadata, but because of the notion that TV needs to be indexed and parceled out to viewers in byte-sized chunks. I've been lambastedfor my BloggerCon comments about transcripts by accessibility champions (justifiably so, I might add), but underlying my attitude is a belief (actually more of an instinct) that the key to the podcasting snowball is precisely the opposite of this needle-in-a-haystack scenario.
So while others are trying to figure out how to make money off the blogosphere, the podosphere, the TVsphere, and so on, I'm spending my time between feedings sleeping and dreaming about the future--the near future. To me, it's like the60's all over again, that moment in time where everything was possible and much of it came true, if only briefly.
That brief burst of creativity set the DRM cartel up for (so far) several generations of contractual lock-in. The Beatles just shipped their latest release -- the first four albums in their bastardized U.S. format, with extra reverb and sequencing that we grew up on. I'll buy it. Dylan continues to roam the world, performing and presumably recording his every reworked version of his catalogue as his years add anger and resignation and a graceful wisdom we intuited was already there in his twenties.
Hendrix continues to glisten in the numerous fragments he recorded in every room he strayed in over his brief but prophetic life. Miles retrospectives have reached the 60's, the In a Silent Way/Bitches Brew transition which alienated the Old Guard. But So What. Listen to the end of Adam Curry's Source Code for Andrew Grumet & Son's version off of Kind of Blue--one of my desert island jukebox picks.
So how do we index that? Do-do do-do-do-do-do doooh--dooo doo. Actually, yes. But it's not a segment of Adam Curry's show I'm pointed at; it's a wholly intact fragment of an Andrew Grumet session. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. And it serves a role in Adam's show, as an end but a beginning, the turning of the seasons, the warmth of the father and the son gathered around the hearth, the father singing (beautifully I might add) and transmitting Miles and Coltrane's podcast from the 50's to the next generation. It's a feeling, an emotion, something ephemeral but valuable that, even if excerpted, serves more to encourage full consumption than rapid absorption.
It's quality over quantity that people will pay for. In a world of all-you-can-eat, your consumption patterns change. Take me--I love Thanksgiving dinner, everything about it. I love turkey, I love stuffing, I love the sweet potatoes, I love the cranberry sauce (yes, the prefab kind), and my mother-in-laws strawberry jello, and on and on. It's like podcasting--there's too much too good too soon. So how do I work through it? I pace myself--I sample from all the usual suspects, build up an inventory, and then whittle down until it's at least somewhat appropriate to head for seconds.
So it is with podcasts--I grab all the Curry I can, mix in some Dave Winer, sample some Evil Genius and hope I have room for the IT Conversations backlog. My iPodderX directory is expanding with all sorts of goofy stuff, pushing me back from the iPod to the Mac to do some triage, needle-dropping on Endgadget, Geek News... and ooof, I'm stuffed. All the while, I'm grazing the blogosphere, multi-tasking in between bouts of "real" work.
So now I'm beached here on turkey sandwiches and podcasts, waiting for the tide to let out and reading about business models. I'm paraphrasing here: "Doug, you should charge for conferences but give away the Gillmor Gang for free." "I'd pay for some of those speeches, but not the Gillmor Gang." "That Gillmor Gang should have transcripts because I'm not gonna spend an hour on something I'm not interested in." Oh well, guess there's no business model here for me.
Well, there are only so many hours in the day, and only so many Thanksgivings, and I'm betting quality will out. That's why I do The Gillmor Gang. It gives me a chance to sit down with my heroes in the technology business--the Jon Udells and Doc Searls and Dana Gardners and Mike Vizards and Dan Farbers and Esther Dysons and Jonathan Schwartzs and Adam Bosworths and Brendan Eichs and Firesign Theatres and on and on, and talk turkey with them. Or I could read until my eyes bleed and still not find out what I can hear in a moment's hesitation or a cranky attitude or god knows what emerges from the conversation. It's the podosphere and the blogosphere and the mediasphere all rolled up and synthesized into an information meal.
So I should really be paying them for the privilege of sitting in with the band --and like Doug Kaye, I do. Perhaps some day we'll break the back of the DRM cartel and all get paid to do this--but for now we're going to keep doing it anyway, and get paid in respect and laughter and page rank and attention metadata. Oh, wait a minute, maybe there is a business model here after all.
In the meantime, thanks for the quotes and mini-transcripts of Gangcasts, and thanks to Adam and Dave for priming the flow of OPML metadata and the BitTorrent module. Me, I'm heading downstairs for another turkey sandwich. As one Gangster paraphrased my younger, smarter brother, thanks from the older, wider Gillmor.