Paul Niederer linked to my post some time ago: “Is the future bright? Books, Digitisation and Evil!”
I have been meaning to deal with the post he did so with for some time!
While iTunes is talked about being a virtual monopoly MySpace should be seen as more of a threat to publishers. Given that companies like Lulu and Booksurge can produce physical books they can be marketed directly to the world by the author and delivered as an eBook or as hard copy.
I think he is right but he has the reason wrong! He is right in believing that Myspace is a threat to publishers but what publishers should really fear is not the Lulu or the Booksurge element of that but the reality that Myspace is a gigantic publisher already. Unlike iTunes who are really only distributors, MySpace provides the tools and the space for millions of users to publish their thoughts, opinions and ideas. That it looks primitive and has a mountain of inanities is really irrelevant or at least a distraction from its power.
Paul reflects this power when he says:
Most minor bands and artists in the world have MySpace accounts and sell their tracks from there. No record companies involved. Their community of fans visit their MySpace every day to check if anything is new. A whole new paradigm. The next step may be linking MySpace and iTunes so that there is a commercial market for even the one man band!
What I think this analysis misses is that an apparently simple service is providing a complex ability to millions of non-techie online users. The service therefore is a threat to publishers in that some authors who might have used their services and been successful print writers will be drawn into a profitable online world where their material is easily published for free by Myspace and open to all those who use it.
For more you could do worse then turn to this piece of thinking by Robert Young on Gigaom. Robert tries to take a wider view of what is happening and I think is successful in many ways. A taste:
Yet in all this craziness, it would behoove those looking into this space to step back for a moment, take a deep breath, and realize something fundamental… social networking is a micro-phenomenon of a much larger macro-trend that the Internet has spawned since its birth… digital self-expression. And today’s social networks (along with other forms of social media, like blogging and online video-sharing) are just the tip of iceberg when it comes to the long-term potential of digital self-expression.
Robert further reckons that:
people want to express themselves and the platforms that allow them to do so with the most creativity and production value, are the ones that people will flock to.
His analysis seems sound to me and supports much of what this post has tried to deal with.
But what neither post deals with is that Myspace and the like present an equally large opportunity for other publishers and media groups. Opportunities to exploit this new communication platform with authors MySpace pages as well as imprint and record label pages. In Ireland for instance one or two radio shows have bebo and MySpace pages linked from their websites. (What after are Myspace or bebo pages if not just less fluid and functional websites?). I am sure there are hundreds of thousands Harry potter fans on the Myspace pages who would lap up an official Myspace JK Rowling page. It will not be long before a website is not complete without its MySpace page listed or linked. Indeed eventually the pressure will lead to the walled garden opening up and the Myspace pages acting more and more like searchable webpage, though perhaps by then the current users will have graduated to more complex services or have found something better to do with their time.