Some thoughts on content distribution

The other day I was looking through the Zune Marketplace and I found a listing for This American Life, which I promptly subscribed to. This American Life is simply the best radio show ever made.

But that's beside the point. Listed in both the Zune Marketplace and the iTunes store, one can easily find several NPR programs. The likes of Science Friday, Talk of the Nation, and All Things Considered are listed among several compilation (or aggregation) streams such as the Hourly News Summary.

In addition to their presence in the Zune and iTunes stores, NPR is also streaming live from their website. You can even setup the online player to manage a customized playlist for you. This is one of the most advanced approaches to content distribution that any major organization is doing today.

I think that NPR must have resisted this tooth-and-nail for a while, but the writing has been on the wall and they were able to read it before it's too late. You see, the way that NPR works (or worked?) is basically a franchise model, where the local stations put on fund drives to pay for their programming subscription dues to headquarters in Washington, DC every year. By going online the way that NPR is doing it, they are basically disintermediating the local affiliate stations and, consequently, shutting down that revenue stream.

I have to commend the people in charge at NPR for promoting this change. For one, it takes balls to do it. There are several organizations that would never compromise a revenue stream in this way. Someone up high in the NPR echelons must have said "sorry stations, but this is the future, it's gonna happen, so we're gonna do it."

I think that NPR is in the forefront of a fundamental change in how media and content is distributed.

This is a perfect example of a business (a non-profit business, but still a business) who's facing a fundamental change in the way that it operates and they are fully engaged and embracing this change. I wish more businesses had the foresight and intestinal fortitude to do what NPR is doing. Yes, newspapers and record companies, I am looking at you.

All in all, I am really glad to be living in a time where I get to see all of these technologies play out in the marketplace.

Am I on the right track? Let me know what you think below.


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