News that Sony is flipping the Grouper video service toward a more "professional" Web 2.0 model sounds like a move in the right direction. Videos will be shown in higher definition, and contributors will get the chance to win performing contracts and the like. Sony is calling the plan "fame partnerships."
Here's a crazy idea -- why not pay content creators cash?
I'm still waiting (as is everybody else -- go, Mark Cuban) for YouTube's long-promised copyright-checking software, which would be the backbone of a system that makes it possible for people to profit from investing sizable amounts of time and money into creating content that lots of people want to see.
Bloggers have long had the tools to monetize interest in their work via Google's AdSense and similar programs. Leading bloggers have used this revenue channel to support pretty intensive resourcing -- you know, like a business, except that they aren't backed by large corporations. Or employed by them. Now, many of these blogs are involved in networks like Federated Media and giving traditional publishers fits.
How great would it be if a similar content channel developed that financially supported talented entertainers and filmmakers who are not wired into the corporate morass that gives us Transformers and License to Wed?
Not only could new talents get seen -- and perhaps join the morass, if they so wish -- such a market-driven outlet would also put pressure on traditional media to get more for its $200 million movie budgets. Go ahead and support video sharing, as long as an ad or other revenue generator accompanies it.
Here's some plausible math for you: Assuming the rough equivalent of $10 in ad revenue per thousand page impressions (which is actually kind of low) and a 40 percent revenue share to the content creator, a weekly online sitcom that gets viewed 1 million times (here's a video of a green laser pen that's been viewed more than 1 million times since yesterday on YouTube, so it can happen) would generate $4,000 a week for the copyright holder. That's not going to buy you a weekend house in Malibu, but it might well allow a talented group of people to keep plugging away in Des Moines.
Sony seems like a poor proponent of this model, given that it is, in fact, the morass incarnate.
A Sony exec is quoted at Ars Technica as saying:
"We realized user-generated video is something everybody likes to watch, but it's not a great business. User-generated is dead to us. We are out of the user-generated video business."
Sounds more like spin than real change -- in fact, the skeptical might suggest Sony is trying to co-opt a competitive channel before it gets too competitive. Cash is better than "fame," particularly when fame is so quantifiable on the Net.