Is the Internet a religion?

I had the pleasure of having a conversation today with a very intelligent and insightful computer science professor. We were discussing the long term feasibility of the Gulp Media project.

We spoke of content being free, creative expression and artistry, privacy, data mining, marketing and anything else I could get his take on. He is undeniably super smart.

I asked him if he thought content in the future will always be free and whether or not true artists deserved to be credited and rewarded. He responded by saying that he did not want to talk about religion. I think it’s funny that he used that term.

Does the opinion of the masses, expressed through the use and application of the Internet and the beliefs of how it should best operate, constitute a religion? I guess I’ve just answered my own question…beliefs. I’m sure one could argue that hope and faith are much more anchored in the definition of religion but let’s stick with beliefs.

Do the masses truly believe that an individual’s creativity, most often expressed through unique skills (artwork, music, film, writing, etc.), is worthless and undeserving of financial compensation?

Do the masses really want personalized news and content as I saw quoted today? Isn’t that awfully dangerous for a society? Haven’t we seen that movie before? If I recall, it did not end well.

Do the masses think that creative expression can be crowd sourced? If so, where in society is there a place for individuality? More importantly, where is there a place for differences of opinion and contrariety?

Do the masses act like physics particles or inanimate objects always following the path of least resistance?

Does spending hours checking friends updates, uploading damaging videos, spreading malicious rumors, bullying individuals and playing fart games constitute productivity or advancement for a society or species?

I am no student of history, but if we look back at some of the most influential people of all time, were they not mavericks? Contrarians? Individuals expressing very unique ideas, opinions, and thoughts?

If this is “your” religion, I want no part of it. Unfortunately, I do not have an alternative. Like gum on the bottom of my shoe, on a hot day, I’m stuck with it. How grand!

I guess I need to start my own religion, one with hope and faith that the Internet will morph into something better over time.

I don’t want personalized news or opinion, I want an individual’s. I don’t want to make it financially unfeasible for artists to entertain and express, they should be justly compensated. I am not lazy, following the path of least resistance, I embrace challenges. I certainly do not want to harm others. Hard work, ingenuity, entrepreneurship, talent and sacrifice should benefit those who have the tenacity to persevere. If I take the risk, do I not deserve the reward? Or consequence?

Most of all, by definition, you CAN NOT crowd source uniqueness. Isn’t that what makes us human? Makes us individuals?

I guess there’s always hope, something apparently missing from the religion of the Internet.

Gotta go. Need to pray.

p.s. You know what’s even funnier, I’m not a religious man!

DSP’s “Demand Side Platform?”

I am constantly reading about Demand Side Platforms.

Forgive me for sounding stupid but, whose “demand”.

Everyone I ask has the same response, the publisher.

Huh?

The publisher doesn’t have the demand, he/she has the need.

According to one of several Merriam-Webster definitions:

a : willingness and ability to purchase a commodity or service <the demand for quality day care> b : the quantity of a commodity or service wanted at a specified price and time <supply and demand>
So I ask once again, whose demand?
You see, as a consumer, I am the demand. I demand content, articles, books, movies, music, everything. The publisher, if successful, has created the demand, but it’s not their demand. If they choose to, they have a need; payment.
Which leads me right back to where I wanted to be, professing the efficiencies of our patent application.
SYSTEM AND METHOD FOR DISTRIBUTING AND PRICING DIGITAL MEDIA BASED UPON THE MARKET FORCES OF SUPPLY AND DEMAND

This is not a bad joke. The three “A’s”.

20 people walk into a conference room…

Three executives from the media industry including video, music and publications. They are group “A” for Artists.

Three executives from the marketing, creative and advertising industries. They are group “A” for Advertisers.

Fourteen consumers including Internet users, music fans, readers, etc. They are group “A” for Audience.

No this isn’t a bad joke.

First order of business…

“What does everyone want?”

The Artists immediately shout out “We want to get paid for our hard work! We don’t think we’re being fairly compensated for all of our content. It takes time and money to create this stuff. How do we know what our creativity and hard labor is worth? We want to know how our fans feel.”

The Advertisers proclaim, “We want to sell more stuff! We want to reach potential customers and send them a very specific message. Our goal is to drive sales of our products or services. In this economy it’s imperative that we do it efficiently and know that it’s working. We have a reputation to preserve.”

All the members of the Audience start talking at once…

“I want music for free. I want to play anything I want, wherever I want.”

“I want my favorite TV shows for free. On-demand on any device.”

“I hate ads. I’ll pay for the things I want on the Web.”

“I’m an eager, young entrepreneur. Tell me what other young entrepreneurs are reading.”

“Stop tracking me. It’s creeping me out. I don’t like you collecting data about me.”

“The ads I see all day long mean nothing to me. Why don’t you show stuff that I like?”

“I want to share a list of all the stuff I read, watch and listen to with my friends.”

“Why can’t you give me a list of songs that other people like me are listening to?”

“I’m not paying another ten dollars a month to read five or six articles. That’s insane!”

“I’ll pay for some things, but certainly not everything.”

“Cable, satellite, cell phone bills. Enough already!”

“Can you give me a way to search for things I might like?”

“I don’t get it. Can you explain?”

“Why do I now have to pay for something I used to get for free?”

Can you make everyone in the room happy?

Gulp Media can.

Advertising Is Becoming A Consumer Choice by Joe Marchese

Featurization of Data?

Sorry Jules Polonetsky, I have to steal a term you recently used…”featurizing data”.

Gulp Media users volunteer their anonymous profile data, well aware it is going to be used to show targeted advertising. In exchange they gain access to content they might otherwise have to pay for.

So instead of user data lurking in the background, surreptitiously being collected and used, it’s right out in front, transparently.

Users retain full control of their data, editing, deleting and adding to it. There are no names, cookies or IP addresses associated with it, so users can feel safe providing any kinds of details about themselves.

As a user, here’s why I tangibly benefit by the featurization of data:

1. I gain free access to content that I might otherwise have to pay for.

2. I get to leverage my data, supporting my favorite artists (music, books, film, bloggers, etc.) with higher ad revenue.

3. I get to see and use everyone’s data to find out what other people are reading, watching or listening to.

4. I can filter recommendations to people who are more like me.

5. I can safely communicate and socialize with people in a very open and honest way.

6. I can pretend.

7. I can disappear without a trace.

Data IS the feature.

Battling data privacy with more data?

http://youtu.be/CYDhCiSuPq8

Jules Polonetsky must be reading my mind (or blog).

The fabric of social is data (I’ve said it before). The democratization of the Web is data (I’ve said that before.) Transparency is key (Ditto). Share the data with users (definitely part of Gulp Media).

Damn. He is a mind reader.

The ultimate contrarian play?

"I’ve been thinking a lot about what a contrarian would do in web investing right now."

- Fred Wilson

Here’s the ultimate contrarian challenge. I want to take on the “establishment.” By that I mean I want to go after Google, Facebook, iTunes, Hulu and Twitter.

Think about what has worked recently. What do 4Square and Groupon have in common? Their users have chosen to “opt-in.” They are gaining a tangible benefit from joining in.

What powers their business models? Marketing.

If a user voluntarily and transparently becomes a part of the process, the ability to send any kind of marketing message becomes exponentially more powerful.

Consider ad-supported websites. So much of what is being done in the online advertising realm is dependent on data collection. But by surreptitiously collecting data about users online behaviors, you’re failing to acknowledge the users role.

Here’s a simple solution….simply ask. 4Square and Groupon are dependent on having their users volunteer to be involved and it works.

So let’s stop trying to figure out what online users are all about. Let’s just ask them.

Just joined Quextit, the Ultimate Twitter based Q&A - Sign up at http://quextit.com ….funny, that’s been part of our platform for two years!
fredwilson
Data. The fabric of social?

I get a lot of questions surrounding the “social function” of the Gulp Media platform.  I try not to focus on it because of the 800 lb. gorilla Facebook. I’m not a user of Facebook. I figure if I want to find friends I can pick up the telephone, otherwise I don’t necessarily need people I may or may not like “finding” me…

but I am a big believer in the Internet and its ability to connect people. There have been numerous, successful attempts at socialization and networking; Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, MySpace, etc. They are all dependent on your existing connections (or those of friends) or the context of your conversations such as Twitter, blogs and forums.

Funny that until now, no one thought to use that valuable Internet commodity “DATA” to connect people.

Take a moment and think about how many “friends” you could effectively socialize with. You are dependent on your friends and friends of friends, an exponential factorial, but still limiting. Context works a little better, allowing us to find like minded individuals, but based on our limited online activities.

Ahh, but DATA. We could choose as many or as few data-points as we wanted to find and connect with individuals. The same data that marketers and advertisers crave and buy.

Let me put it another way. Imagine Google took all of the data they had on users and made it “anonymously public.” You could look up and connect with anyone in the world and in any language based upon your common “data-points.”

This would remove, what I think, are the two barriers to current social networks; friends and context.

Now you can explore AND discover, regardless of your number of friends or what you already read, watch or listen to.

Yes, Gulp Media is a content consumption platform designed to monetize digital media, but it is so much more…necessarily anonymous, joining like minded individuals on an infinite amount of data.

Why will transparent work?

So I just surfed on over to dictionary.com to look up the definition of transparent. Not only did they have a very limited definition (which I ended up finding the old fashioned way….Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, Copyright 1966), they were nice enough to plant some cookies on my computer with a total lack of being transparent…

among other definitions:

2 a: free from pretense or deceit : OPEN, FRANK, GUILELESS b: easily detected or seen through : OBVIOUS c: readily understood : PERSPICUOUS, CLEAR

I want to explore the term transparent as it relates to the web, marketing, privacy and media. The Wall Street Journal’s “What they Know”, PII2010 and the launch of Facebook’s Places have been fodder for all of us, leading to numerous discussions and articles focusing on public versus private, data collection, privacy and marketing.

My focus is on the very specific triangular relationship between the Audience, the Artist and the Advertiser (or the three A’s).

The introduction of services such as Facebook and MySpace, fostered a revolution of Socialization on the web and an explosion of transparency among its users, the Audience. This mountain of data is currently being mined by those same services to target advertising and monetize content.

But why aren’t the other two players being similarly transparent? What are they afraid of? Advertisers and their ilk continue to surreptitiously collect data (yeah, yeah I know, I can “opt-out” right?) while Artists (and content owners) erect Walled Gardens hoping to find monetization answers. I’m sure their argument for obscurity relates to business models and retaining their position in the commerce food chain. After all, they are in the business of profiting.

The media and marketing industries are missing a grand opportunity. Instead of playing the usual, deceitful games with consumers, media owners and marketers should be talking to us head on, in a fully transparent way. If they don’t volunteer to do it, the government will probably force them to anyway.

Allow me to give you an example of how transparency has already worked for everyone. I am not an academic. I am using first hand experience, so please forgive me if I am short on details.

Prior to the mid 1980’s, if you wanted to purchase a new car, your options were to buy it outright, finance it with a traditional bank loan or, if you were lucky enough to be a professional, lease it. Leases were little understood pieces of financing back then and were reserved for a very small percentage of the population. They were known as “non-disclosure” contracts. This meant that the consumer was unaware of the capitalized cost of the vehicle. The buyer knew what their monthly payment and buyback were going to be, but had no clue what they were actually being charged. The dealerships and finance companies loved this. They could actually over-charge for the car and get away with it. At the same time the auto industry was struggling to survive (remember…this isn’t the first time Chrysler has been bailed out).

Cars became more expensive and automakers needed to find alternative ways to finance these large purchases. They looked to leasing. Just as consumers were being lead to utilize this relatively little understood financing method, states became increasingly suspect of these non-disclosure leases, eventually forcing financial institutions to adapt “full-disclosure” contracts. The banks attempted to resist, the dealers complained and the manufacturers balked, suggesting it would inhibit their ability to sell cars.

The result…

New cars became affordable again. The manufacturers and dealers sold more cars with higher profit margins, while the banks that provided the financing took in record revenue.

So here’s my thought…

As an artist, I recognize that content is not free, contrary to what many may believe. Time, effort and capital are expended to create. Utilizing advertising and marketing dollars to supplant these costs has been generally accepted for decades. Why not do it transparently?

How much does the content cost? What do the marketers want to know? How many advertising dollars will be generated? Who will benefit?

I believe that by utilizing consumer (Audience) demand for media/entertainment while Advertisers transparently ask consumers to be a part of the ad-supported process, all forms of the media and marketing industries (Artists) will benefit. It will create a sustainable business model for monetizing any type of digital content.

Through transparency, “ad-supported” will work for everyone.