January 30, 2005

Business Models in the DIgital Age [5:44 pm]

Having attended a WEF in Davos once, I expect that the real talking is unlikely to have made it to the press, but Executives’ Thoughts on Financing Content in a Digital Age gives at least a sense of what might have been the basis for the discussions:

Imagine a future in which media consumers, empowered by new technology, demand everything for free. What they can’t get legitimately, they show no qualms about pirating. August names of film studios, television networks and newspapers lose their aura of trust and authority. TV viewers turn off advertising with nifty digital devices - or simply tune out apathetically, leaving marketers powerless and media companies with no way to finance their content.

Some media industries, particularly the music business, have already had to come to terms with such dystopian visions. Others may never have to, as new technologies offer more opportunities than threats.

The spread of broadband, for instance, provides video and interactive experiences of a quality unimagined a few years ago. Digital distribution of music and other media via the Internet creates a whole new business model, not just a vehicle for runaway piracy.

In public at least, some of the media chiefs who gathered here last week at the World Economic Forum dismissed talk of dangers to their businesses as overblown angst, like the paranoia of Hans Castorp, who sequestered himself in a Davos sanitarium in “The Magic Mountain” by Thomas Mann. In closed-door sessions, however, the executives also examined darker scenarios, participants said.

See also Taking the Pulse of Technology at Davos

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