Why Is It So Hard to Give Customers Content They Want?

Are content producers turning us all into pirates?

Here’s a piece of advice I often unwrap and present to clients:

“We live in a multimedia, interactive online world – whether you like it or not.  People want to consume content on their terms and in the formats they prefer: text, video, audio, images, charts, etc…  So be a good communicator and give them what they want.”

Why simply write a press release when you can use the same “news” in various formats?  Write the release, but then provide the content as a video, as a Facebook status update, as a tweet, as an interactive map, as a customer poll, as a blog post, as a… well you get the picture.  You are limited only by your imagination.  Then distribute all of this content through the web and social networks.

This is content for today.  Give consumers the options of how to consume it, interact with it and then share it.

Yet despite this rather obvious observation – at least to many people – our greatest content producers (book publishers, movie makers and music producers) still don’t fully understand this concept.

It is one of the reasons why media and entertainment companies are plagued by piracy.  It is why they are in a constant battle with their most valuable asset: their own customers.

It is why many of their customers are in a constant state of discontent and frustration.

As New York Times writer Nick Bilton notes in his book “I Live in the Future And Here’s How it Works” piracy sites are thriving online.  Pirate Bay, where people can download books, TV shows and movies, gets 4.5 million visitors a day and Torrentz.com, which provides the same services as Pirate Bay, gets 2.6 million daily visitors.

These people are downloading content illegally – and for free.  And it isn’t just pimply-faced teenage geeks in their parents’ basements.  These are engineers, lawyers, businessmen and even other entertainers.

Why are they doing this?

Because most content producers are failing to provide them with content in the formats they want.  Or they are placing strict limits on the content. And as a result of these narrow-minded practices, the content producers are losing millions of dollars in sales.

Let me give you some examples:

  • In limited release only. Why doesn’t Hollywood release movies in all formats at the same time?  So that a film appears in theaters, on DVD and via pay for view on the day it comes out?  Why can’t consumers choose to watch the film on their iPhone or in their living room on an HD-TV on launch day?  Why are we forced to go to a movie theater at a specific time with a crowd of people we don’t know to experience the story?  Why can’t we watch it where we want and at a time that works best for us?  And why – if we like the movie – can’t we buy a copy of it the day it is released?
  • eBooks for me and only me. When I buy the latest bestselling suspense novel at the bookstore, I can read it and then lend it to my friends. Not so with most ebooks, which become trapped forever on our readers.  Why can’t I loan out my ebook?  Why can’t I sell it back or to someone else?
  • Albums and not songs. I’m a fan of the soundtrack to the movie “Man on Fire.”  There is a rather brutal torture scene where Denzel Washington is trying to get information from a Mexican police officer in a car overlooking Mexico City.  During the scene there is a wicked twangy guitar instrumental playing in the background.  Very heavy blues.  I really like the song.  So I wanted to buy it.  But when I got to iTunes I discovered that the song I want can’t be purchased alone.  It can only be bought with the purchase of the entire soundtrack.  Unfortunately, this is becoming a common practice.  So no sale.

These are all practices – and there are many more just like it – that punish or restrict customers who want to buy content.

People will pay for content.  They want quality and fair pricing, but they also want to experience it without limits in the formats that are most convenient for them.

What are your thoughts on this?  Do you “steal” content?  Do you feel limited by content providers?


Nick Bilton’s book “I Live in the Future And Here’s How it Works”

Photo by DeusXFlorida (via Flickr)

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