Wednesday, 5 November 2008

What Lawrence Lessig said in Auckland (plus notes from ANZA's Welcome to the Future event)

I was going to use a clever headline like "The future of marketing, media and intellectual property" but then realised most people will want to read this post to hear what Lawrence Lessig said in Auckland this Monday.

During the day on Monday I attended an event put on by the Association of New Zealand Advertisers, which had some pretty exciting - and overlapping - subject matter with Professor Lessig's talk.

If you only want to read what Lessig said, skip to the bottom of this post.

First up at the ANZA event, Professor Robert Lauterborn, coauthor of Integrated Marketing Communications (I interviewed the other coauthor back in 2003) presented the changed face of marketing. Not just changing - it's been changing since at least 1993 when the book was written - but it has changed.

Some gems from his session:

"The only source of competitive advantage is superior understanding of the consumer."

He did a before vs after comparison of a typical marketer's role and the standards they were held accountable to.

In the past, measurements were all around compliance and reach: readership scores, buying media by efficiency, absence of errors in advertisements, changes in awareness.

Now, marketers are expected to shift behaviour in a way that ties directly to business results.

To some, including myself, these are the words we've been hearing for years. But Lauterborn emphasises just how hard it is to actually do the new thinking, compared to just talking about it. I think that would apply to social media as well.

In fact, much of the work we're doing at iJump is not about the technology of social media, but about the mindset of getting really close to your customer. Not in an under-the-microscope kind of way, but in a sitting-next-to kind of way.

But I digress.

After Professor Lauterborn we had Russell Stanners, CEO of Vodafone presenting about the new mobile marketplace.

Again, stuff we've heard for years, but now it's actually happening. And it's happening mostly through social networking! In fact, he even mentioned Twitter, which I grinned at as I mentioned on (where else!) Twitter.

Interesting stat: 40+% of mobile internet traffic on Vodafone NZ's network is going to social networks.

Just for young folks? No. 24% of 25-64 year olds in New Zealand are into social networking on their mobiles. One out of every six minutes spent on the mobile internet is in a social networking community.

NZ Post's Chairman John Allen then took the stand, wearing his hat as head of the Australia/NZ leadership forum, strongly suggesting New Zealand needs to partner more with Australia. Great speaker, but not sure what it has to do with marketing.

Tim Flattery of Carat Engage then took the stand and pulled apart the media industry, piece by piece. It's not like he enjoys this - TV is his favourite form of media - but it's just that the foundations are crumbling. Strong resonance with both Prof Lauterborn's presentation, and Lessig's presentation. The system is broken. Who's coping well? Who's reinventing themselves?

Tim gave a few examples of what might be success for the media industry. Hulu, a mandarin word for "keeper of precious things" serves only a fraction of the number of videos that YouTube serves, yet manages to monetise them all. It's truly amazing that NBC, Universal and Fox could get it together on this one. Desperation sometimes leads to wisdom!

Major League Baseball in the states has also managed to win by turning themselves into a media company. Flattery points out that anyone can be a media company now (as the G33k Show guys will attest!), which helps you achieve competitive advantage (a la Professor Lauterborn) by being closest to your customer. It's game-changing disintermediation of the highest degree. Want some more buzzwords?

(To be fair, I'm coming up with these buzzwords as I write, Tim was very good in using human language.)

Finally, Tim shared how he got Baz Luhrmann to whip up some TVCs for Tourism Australia to tie in with the bigger-than-Ben-Hur (literally) epic film Australia. The ads are very good, despite being Australian. Got a round of applause from the audience, even!

Lots of lessons in the behind-the-scenes story, but most of all, according to Tim: "it's only through innovation that you can build a customer base to enjoy competitive advantage."

Innovation. It's important!

Okay, now the part you're all waiting for ... Lawrence Lessig's presentation!

The guy is gifted with storytelling and visual simplicity (as you can see from the photo above).

I missed the very beginning, but here are my notes:

Writing is democratic. A student writing an essay doesn't need to seek permission from the estates of those he quotes. To do so would be unreasonable.

Yet that's exactly the restraint current copyright law is putting on the 21st century form of writing - remixing.

He talked about stages of society and media, starting with the RO (Read Only) society which got the most efficient in around 2000 with the launch of iTunes. It was the nearest thing to the celestial jukebox, where you could access the world's culture for 99c (in the US).

About 2004 emerged the RW (Read-Write) society, where "the public" started talking back, as epitomised by Wikipedia.

YouTube et al just carried the movement along, turning the once specialised art of remixing and remastering into a conversational activity. Lessig talked about call and response creativity, where my lip-sync to a song triggers you and 40 others to try your own.

"It's the modern equivalent of young people getting together and singing a song, but it's not on the corner, not in the back yard, but over digital networks."

Some examples from the political sphere. (Best example, not referenced by Lessig but created here in NZ!)

Importance? It has nothing to do with technique. It has everything to do with how those techniques are now democratised.

In a nutshell, here's Lessig's argument:

  • Copyright law is legitimate. We need something to incentivise people to create and profit from their original works.
  • Current copyright law is too blunt an instrument for the technology we have. We currently have a Hollywood business model that doesn't allow for the shades of grey between professional content producer and amateur consumer.
A comparison: Alcohol Prohibition.

In 1919 the USA prohibited the sale of alcohol, as part of their war against dependence on alcohol. It didn't work. The costs outweighed the benefits. In the early 30s the US abandoned the war, but didn't abandon the fight against dependence. They just looked for other ways to do it.

In the same way, we have a copyright system the costs of which outweigh the benefits. All the current "copyright war" has done is make criminals out of children. As a father, Lessig sees this trend going either of two ways:

1. The kids decide not to do anything illegal (eg file sharing, swapping, remixing) - NOT LIKELY
2. The kids get used to being criminals. Is this a good thing for society? He doesn't think so.

What to do?

Public steps:
1. Change copyright law. Introduce something like Creative Commons to cover the wide varieties of use that don't fall into "Professional Content Distribution" or "Amateur, Not-for-profit Free Use".
2. Engage creativity - find out ways to return a fair compensation to artists without shutting down public discourse and sharing.
A possibility, suggested by Tim Hubbard and Janine Love in terms of the scientific community, that 0.2% of a country's GDP goes to royalties. A worldwide treaty, and how to collect that is up to each country. It's not perfect, but it's an idea to get things started.

Private steps:
This bit is important if you're in business.

Lessig talks about 3 kinds of economies: commercial (eg the supermarket), sharing (eg a friendship) and hybrid (a bit of both).

For example, Flickr is primarily a sharing community, but Yahoo! makes money from the result of that social interaction.

Other examples include Second Life, Yelp, and Wikia.

Amazon's a business coming from the other end of the equation - a commercial economy which is discovering the benefits and added value of a sharing economy. It's a hybrid.

Lessig quoted Steve Ballmer as saying "every successful internet business will be a hybrid."

There are 3 kinds of hybrid:

1. Darth Vader. (eg Star Wars Mashups) aka sharecropping - in other words, the creator/collaborator gets no benefit. "You create the content, we own it" (Star Wars Mashups appears to be no longer there, but TV3's terms and conditions for user-submitted content are another great example.

2. Ostrich. (eg Google, YouTube). "You create the content, you own it. We don't care, we'll just put ads around it. We're just here to serve."

3. Souza/Che ... Sousa wanted to ban "infernal talking machines" in the early 1900s because he feared they would take away our ability to create, instead just making us passive consumers. Che was a revolutionary. So what's a Sousa/Che business model? Something like Flickr that lets the creator own their own creation, and licence it.

In short, we need to find and use tools that help us respect creators of content AND value freedom.

Lessig ended with a question. If you were in the Soviet Union, when would be the right time to convince you that communism wasn't working. 1976? Too early, things are going ok. 1989? Too late, if you haven't seen it for yourself by then, you never will.

It's like that with copyright today. What stage are we at? How will legislators see that things need changing, and that solutions are at hand?

What can we in NZ do? Carry on the conversation. In the US the conversation has been captured by the Hollywood lobbyists. Unfortunately the interests of "the people" have no lobby group or PR agency. But together, maybe we can raise awareness of new possibilities with our own government, and lead by example.
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TSchwenke said...

Wow, either you used a recording device or your powers of recollection could compete with it. Thx for the summary, Lessigs lecture was ineed a very informative and inspiring. And I still wonder how he made the accurate words appear so fluently on the screen while he was speaking.

Simon said...

Thanks Thomas. I had a very sophisticated recording device consisting of a pen and paper. Even then he was going pretty fast a lot of the time.