What do you do with the proverbial 800 pound gorilla, who is mightily shaking your tree and starting to take all your fruit? Do you negotiate, capitulate or pretend it is not there and hope that it just goes away. This is a serious problem for all the members of the media industry. There is a new Apple product announced this week called Apple TV, which is a revised Apple process to sell TV shows for 99 cents.
I noted industry pundit said "This is a plan that is designed to sell iPads, iPods and iPhones. It is not a plan that is designed to appropriately value content."
And that, I think, is great wisdom. Steve Jobs doesn't care about magazines, TV, books or any other content provider. He cares about selling hardware and making a profit in the transaction of getting someone else's content into his hardware. This is a formidable new business plan. In the old days when you bought a Sony TV, your arrangement and association with Sony ended when the TV got home. They didn't have a plan to make 30% on every show you watched.
Not so Mr. Jobs. He not only has a plan, he is succeeding in its implementation. Sell the hardware and make sure you get a profit on its use. From a publisher's perspective I think it is rather diabolical. He has created a business jig-saw with interrelated and profitable components.
We have all heard about Time Inc.'s battle for the right of subscription continuity. We have all read of book publishers being dictated to by Mr. Jobs about the price and value of their products. And now it is TV's turn. The world is, indeed, turned upside down when a content creator has to bandy business plans with a widget-maker. But he seems to have the sorcerer's stones, and that the powers of Disney, Time, and all the other magicians cannot deflect his ascendancy to attack and control their profitability.
What do we do? Join in and give Apple a cut of everything that passes their way from our companies or do we try and fight what appears on the surface to be an inevitable not-so-silent partner? Will the new competition now rising from other widget-makers stop this monopolized onslaught of content distribution? It is very hard to tell when Apple seems to have not only the near-perfect hardware platform but the adjacent and successful content sales tool known as iTunes.
"It is a paradox that every dictator has climbed to power on the ladder of free speech. Immediately on attaining power each dictator has suppressed all free speech except his own."
Herbert Hoover (American President, 1874-1964)