Archive for October, 2007

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The economics of user-generated content & attention


The current set of Web app firms have valuations based on the generous contributions of users like you. The platforms, in and of themselves, aren’t worth the valuations that VCs, or acquiring firms, are attributing to them. It’s never about the software, it’s about the community, the audience, the users. In fact, the most interesting developments are the most simple. Think about blogging software, RSS, Twitter, podcatchers— it’s not the software it’s what is enabled for the users.

Audiences used to be aggregated so that you could sell their eyeballs to advertisers. Now, to a large extent, the audience creates the product. Jason Calacanis was criticized for wanting to pay the audience at Netscape. But if the user contributes to the value of a platform, shouldn’t the platform owner pass some of the revenue through? The economics of “user-generated” content will be similar to the economics of user attention data. The user will want to retain, or be compensated for, the value of both their raw attention and the content they’ve created.

What we mean when we dream about Hamlet

Wooster Group’s Hamlet

Kills me I’m going to miss this. From what I hear, it’s sold out even though the run was extended two weeks. It’s the Wooster Group’s Hamlet at the Public Theater in New York. The piece was performed last year in Barcelona. Elizabeth LaCompte calls it an archeological excursion into the film version of Hamlet starring Richard Burton.

The Wooster Group’s Hamlet continues their experiment with what counts as a source text in the theater. They may have done this with other pieces, but the last performance I saw was “Poor Theater,” based on the work of Jerzy Grotowski. Generally plays are created based on scripts, the work of playwrights. The Wooster Group has created performance pieces based on movies, documentary film, a series of still photos or stories they’ve heard. This Hamlet is based on the film, not the playscript. To some extent performances are always based on previous performances, in addition to the script.

Hamlet holds a unique place in English language theater, it’s a difficult role, usually tackled by our finest actors. A constellation of images, sounds, faces, voices and souls orbit around the playscript. There’s no finer experience in the theater than watching the Wooster Group perform Hamlet, and showing us what we mean when we dream about Hamlet.

Attention economy and the economy of attention


With Hulu entering beta the decentralization of television continues. Kara Swisher thinks it might actually work. Broadcast television can still create a mass audience around particular programs, but the model of showing a episode once at a fixed time is rapidly breaking down. Of course it started with multiple cable channels, but has been excelerated by services like “OnDemand,” iTunes downloads and soon, Hulu. The economics of the business are still based on aggregating an audience’s attention, selling that attention, and showing them commercial messages. Payment for downloads or views is still a secondary revenue stream.

The other side of the coin is the economy of the user’s attention— human beings don’t scale. Just because there are more and more programming and activities available doesn’t mean that an individual can consume them all. Google became important when the internet became too large to easily find what you were looking for. Look for the emergence of channel editors, this blog edits YouTube, and other video sites, and picks out a few interesting videos for your entertainment. I can see this happening at sites like Dogster and Catster, car enthusiast sites, and any community website. I need to be able to program my own channel, and view edited channels of content editors I like. Oh, and it’s about multiple media types, not just video.

In Purgatory, heads protruding from urns telling the stories of their tangled lives

Play” by Samuel Beckett. I directed this play in college and must have read it a thousand times. This version is directed by Anthony Minghella, and is performed by Juliet Stevenson, Kristen Scott-Thomas and Alan Rickman.

It begins the trend toward minimal or no movement in Beckett’s plays. He imagined his performance pieces as living paintings. When he had a hand in them, they were specified very exactly. He didn’t view them as open to interpretation.

It’s a “love” triangle that plays out into eternity. Three souls tied together in pain and obsession. It’s the internal dialogue that stops time and space and supercedes the physical world. Some take the visuals to be literal, and therefore “absurd.” I view them as literal, or rather very exact, in their depiction of an emotional landscape.

Part 2

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