Wednesday, March 30, 2011

2011 - the Year of the Audience

John McFetridge

So, we’re still talking about Barry Eisler and Amanda Hocking and self-publishing and traditional publishng (yes, “legacy publishing” is silly) and publicity and marketing and editing and writing a really good story. There’s an interesting conversation betwen Barry Eisler and Amanda Hocking moderated by literary agent Ted Weinstein here.

Now, here’s one more thing to throw into the mix – Netflix ordered its first original show (well, not entirely original, it’s going to be a remake of a British miniseries which was based on a novel by Michael Dobbs) last week.

I think this is significant for a number of reasons. Netflix isn’t just TV network, it’s a direct connection from “content providor” to customer. Netflix doesn’t have to worry about sponsors or ratings or scheduling or anything like that. This new show will be rolled out at a specific time but it’ll be available anytime you want to watch it.

But the most interesting thing about Netflix for me is the “Netflix Prize,” given in 2009 to BellKor’s Pragmatic Chaos team for coming up with the best collaborative filtering algorithm.

“If you like ____ then you might like ____”

So far it’s been used to make recommendations about movies and TV shows that have already been made but my guess is Netflix is going to use the data when deciding what new shows to make. Already Netflix have said that of the reasons they chose House of Cards (other than the fact they outbid HBO and AMC for the show) was that their subscribers are very interested in longer, more complicated series. This is somewhat similar to Amazon offering a contract to JA Konrath based on sales of his Kindle e-books.

Netflix is kind of like Amazon in other ways, too – the product is always in stock and while Netflix isn’t allowing anyone to “self-publish” yet, they are offering shows that started as webseries such as The Guild and I expect thats something we’ll start to see a lot more.

Intersting times, for sure.


Dana King said...

Oh, yeah. This has enormous potential. I hope they have a viable business model for it. My little Roku machine is wet with anticipation. Figuratively speaking.

seana graham said...

Very interesting piece. I had always wondered who the Netflix audience was. I mean, are there a lot of people with my tastes or only a few. Their rating algorithm does seem pretty good. It sounds like there must be more non-blockbuster subscribers than I would have thought.

Steve Weddle said...

'On Demand' makes a great deal of sense, doesn't it?

I think one thing to watch for is whether folks are willing to pay 99c per short story download.

John McFetridge said...

.99 cents doesn't seem too much, but a subscription service like Netflix might also work. A couple bucks a month for a huge library of short stories, new ones added all the time.

I have no idea how that would work, of course, but it seems to me that most of the cable TV and specialty channels came into being once a large library of material already existed - old movies, sci fi, comedy - whaever the specialty, first they offered what already existed and then moved into offering original material.

So, there are a huge number of short stories already published online, would it be possible for someone to collect them all (or an awful lot of them) into one place and charge a subscription rate?