Remixing Audience Participation

It’s an interesting time – as it always is when business models are in flux.

 You can’t give up on the old model – because it pays the bills – but it’s hard to believe it’s a winning strategy. To make matters worse the new model conflicts with tenants designed to protect the old model.

So it is with audience participation and remix culture.  You can embrace it, try to stop it – or do a bit of both.

danah boyd has just released her speaking notes from her Cannes presentation – “Cinema: The Audiences of Tomorrow”. Really interesting stuff! She outlines the changing cultural and social factors that are driving teens online (towards social software and digital media) and then delves into online profiles and role media / remix play in communicating identity. The motivation is not financial – it’s personal. In most cases all teens gain by remixing is “street cred and kudos”.

While she (and I) would argue that this type of engagement should be a marketer’s nirvana. Often it’s not – likely because legally it’s so difficult to discriminate between fans use and use for profit. Partly it’s the result of a legal framework where failure to enforce can be used to broaden permitted uses – and partly it a result a failure of imagination and a fear of not knowing what uses are out there.

It may have just gotten easier to track those uses. Erick Schonfeld reviews Attributor – a company that scours the web for fingerprints of any publisher’s content. Even here the role of re-mix as a promotional tool is highlighted – as the software claims to be able to sort out “commercial versus non-commercial uses”.  The goal of the company is to allow media to be able to set content free – separating uses that are promotion from uses that are infringement. Erick isn’t so sure that’s how it will be used – and neither am I – but it’s a step in the right direction – as it allows content owners to track use making it possible for them to be more comfortable taking a softer approach to re-mix.

Hopefully that’s the case as it apparent from reading Joseph Thornley’s review of “The Future of Entertainment” session at Mesh that even the record industry is starting to think about content in new ways. Ethan Kaplan, the Head of Technology at Warner Bros. Records says it best when he said something similar to

We’re to the point where we have to embrace the notion that the duplicability of the content and the ready availability of the content has made it necessary to think creatively about how to market the content.

Not an endorsement of re-mix to be sure but recognition is the first step to a new business model and relationship to the audience.

Just in time for tomorrow’s teens.