I spent last week at the Monaco Media Forum, which was quite an event overall.
Of course, as with many such events, many of the most interesting and valuable parts happen outside of the main sessions in the conversations and meetings you have with people separate from the scheduled topics. The good thing that I took away from the event was a pretty wide sense of optimism about the vast media world that we’re heading into. Having attended plenty of entertainment industry conferences lately, which seem to be surrounded by doom & gloom predictions, this event was blissfully full of a pretty optimistic viewpoint, which was refreshing and a bit encouraging. Of course, as a caveat on that, there really weren’t that many actualmedia people at the event. Instead, there were lots of technology/infrastructure companies as well as ad and marketing firms — and all of those have plenty of incentives to be as optimistic as possible. Perhaps it’s the media folks who are depressed… but they stayed away.
One exception was James Murdoch, who was actually a “co-chair” of the event, and he gave aninterview discussing a wide range of things that are happening around News Corp. The entire video is about 37 minutes, but it’s quite interesting:
Having questioned many of James Murdoch’s recent statements on paywalls and copyright, I have to say that my initial impression was actually to be impressed. Here’s a guy who — without much experience — is running a huge swath of the media industry around the world, and seems to have a very strong working knowledge of what’s going on across the board, and can speak knowledgeably about them all. Many people I spoke with at the event felt the same way. On top of that, I actually agreed with many of the larger points he made about innovation, and the need to make bets on innovating, rather than just protecting their businesses and milking them for cash.
However, when he got down to the specifics, I went back to questioning many of his assumptions, and thinking that his world view may, in fact, be a bit skewed by his previous success (after, it should be noted… a string of failures, not mentioned at the interview) at BSkyB, a satellite TV provider in the UK. The more the interview went on, the more I realized that Murdoch appears to view much of the media world through that lens, and seems to saying that, in the end, the media world will end up like a giant pay TV system, with a big subscription. I think this is more wishful thinking, rather than where the internet is actually heading, and treating the internet that way will almost certainly result in failure — such as with his paywall experiments.
He talks up the various successes with pay television (satellite and cable) around the globe, including Italy, Germany and India, and again that seems to influence his views. He points out, repeatedly, that no one really thought that going into those markets would work, but News Corp. proved all the doubters wrong — as he no doubt believes the doubters on the internet will also be proven wrong. He gets into the discussion with the following statement, which got most of the attention (and a bunch of Twitter messages of support from those in the audience):
I think there’s a lot of talk about monetizing content and there was hand-wringing and for years and years… I remember in the late 90s I was in Singapore, and people were talking about mobile media and what is it going to be and what are the killer apps and all that sorta stuff… And I guess, I just look at it more simply.I think the first rule of is if you’re going to monetize something is that you should probably not give it away for free.