Tuesday, February 02, 2010

A Fix For Publishing Business Model

I've hit on a new twist for fixing the Fiction Delivery System, and I don't think anyone has yet proposed this.

With imagination and dedication this idea could fix the broken business model of the freelance writer, artist, musician etc.

I also think that the USA would be the very last place it would be applied.

But I think this is the right concept to kick off a brainstorming session.

It would require inventing a totally new business and maybe inventing some professions and possibly some math, too. But the tools to do it all are "on the shelf" being ignored.

Business Model Problem

Let's start with an analysis of the problem as I see it (probably nobody else sees it this way, though).

I call the pipeline that brings us novels on bookstore shelves (or web pages), on paper or by download, on Kindle, Nook, or iPad, and films, TV shows, comics, animation, webisodes, and even fan fiction, the Fiction Delivery System.

Any method of delivering the storyteller's story to the mind of the fiction consumer is part of The Fiction Delivery System.

I have discussed on this blog various tech based developments and social evolutions that are bending, warping and re-inventing the Fiction Delivery System.

Web 2.0
http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/12/worldbuilding-by-committee.html

And other topics a writer must pay attention to, such as the advent of Print on Demand, or Zero-Inventory, or Just In Time inventory, tax laws about inventory, ebook publishing, self-publishing, and all the rest you are familiar with because you read blogs.

If you've been following my analysis of changes in publishing, you are probably bored with it already. And everywhere you turn on the web, someone is bemoaning or embracing the changes which many young people just entering the field don't even see.

Publishers are going bankrupt (still). Distributors are going bankrupt. WRITERS are going bankrupt from "piracy" (iTunes, music torrents etc).

Recently, an article revealed that CD's are for sale on eBay containing ADVANCE REVIEW COPIES of books only in the submission or editing stage at major publishers. Pirated ARCs!

Amazon is fighting for control of ebook pricing, and just publically conceded to MacMillan -- yet, who knows where that will lead?

Meanwhile, at conventions around the country, I've been on many panels about the entire philosophical issue of Intellectual Property Rights.

This is a serious generation-gap abstract philosophical (maybe even Religious) issue that has financial repercussions, and worse reaches into the very foundation of the concept "business model."

Bewilderment and panic set in at the top of the Music Industry when pirated downloads via peer-to-peer networks first appeared.

The film industry soon followed as videos of pre-release or award-nominated films appeared everywhere. People recorded films off movie theater screens and hawked them on street corners. The Chinese and other countries grabbed feeds and distributed not just music and films, but software, complete with fancy imitation labels!

Some other countries do not share the USA's worship of Intellectual Property Rights (copyright, trademark, patent).

The older generations in the USA see "piracy" of books, DVD's, hardware, software as a crime.

Younger people and people in start-up countries with different philosophies see it as their Inalienable Right.

It's not "piracy" to them. It's "just business" and they are bewildered how anyone could object to what they do.

Worse yet, they are offended, horrified, repulsed, by the very impulse that makes us object to their behavior. How dare anyone restrict access to the product of anyone's imagination?

Really, philosophy does work like that. Emotionally, non-verbally. It really does.

A "philosophy" is not something you just espouse or learn. A philosophy is the very root of your personal Identity. It operates your emotions, motivates your actions, and provides the satisfaction when you achieve a concrete result.

Philosophy is what life is all about. But it only works when it's unconscious. Hence it is magically warded by a wall of boredom. You literally can not pay attention to a discussion of a philosophy that actually resides in your unconscious and does operate you.

Most Religions are Philosophies. What they teach you overtly is not necessarily what the religion is actually powered by. The real power (as in film scripts and books) is the subtext.

When the subtext is made into surface text, it becomes boring or ridiculous. Few people can focus the spotlight of consciousness on their personal philosophy and still espouse it consciously and subconsciously. Those few are generally regarded as "Philosophers."

After all the muttering and chattering I've done on this blog about the mechanisms within the Fiction Delivery System and about what the impact of technology and the social-networking phenomenon are changing, you can see that I like philosophy, I use it, and I inject it into fiction both on purpose and subconsciously.

If boredom didn't drive you away from all my posts on the Writer's Business Model, you should be able to see where I'm headed with this post. I didn't see it though until just last night.

We have the elements in place, we have the tools on the shelf, and we have the answer to what's wrong with the Fiction Delivery System and the writer's business model.

Pieces of this solution have been discussed all over the web on blogs, especially by Agents and publishers and writers. But pieces are now turning up in the major media (like Business Week, Forbes, The New York Times, and on and on).

Here is one article you should force your way through if you possibly can. The boredom wards are immense on this one, and I barely made it myself. Everything in me screams NO NO NO!!! But actually, this is a priceless opportunity to solve the real problem with the writer's business model.

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/01/ff_newrevolution

That's the top of a long feature article in Wired Magazine.

Skim fast through to page 5 of this article,

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2010/01/ff_newrevolution/5/

then dig in and think hard as you read the part that starts thusly:

---Quote from Wired---------
In the mid-1930s, Ronald Coase, then a recent London School of Economics graduate, was musing over what to many people might have seemed a silly question: Why do companies exist? Why do we pledge our allegiance to an institution and gather in the same building to get things done? His answer: to minimize “transaction costs.” When people share a purpose and have established roles, responsibilities, and modes of communication, it’s easy to make things happen. You simply turn to the person in the next cubicle and ask them to do their job.

But several years ago, Bill Joy, one of the cofounders of Sun Microsystems, revealed the flaw in Coase’s model. “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else,” he rightly observed. Of course, that had always been true, but before, it hardly mattered if you were in Detroit and someone better was in Dakar; you were here and they were there, and that was the end of it. But Joy’s point was that this was changing. With the Internet, you didn’t have to settle for the next cubicle. You could tap the best person out there, even if they were in Dakar.

---End Quote From Wired--------

This is the SOLUTION to the writer's business model problem, and to the publisher's problem, and to the Cable TV Operator's problem, and to Film Studio's problem, and even the Music Publisher's problem. This is the solution to structuring the advertising supported business model to apply to FICTION, but it doesn't look like it on the surface.

If you've read all my previous columns, you may be able to get ahead of me here and see the solution instantly.

Read carefully down to where it says:

---Quote from Wired--------

Let me tell you my own story. Three years ago, out on a run, I started thinking about how cheap gyroscope sensors were getting. What could you do with them? For starters, I realized, you could turn a radio-controlled model airplane into an autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle, or drone. It turned out that there were plenty of commercial autopilot units you could buy, all based on this principle, but the more I looked into them, the worse they appeared. They were expensive ($800 to $5,000), hard to use, and proprietary. It was clear that this was a market desperate for competition and democratization — Moore’s law was at work, making all the components dirt cheap. The hardware for a good autopilot shouldn’t cost more than $300, even including a healthy profit. Everything else was intellectual property, and it seemed the time had come to open that up, trading high margins for open innovation.

----End Quote from Wired-----

Now you have to read very very carefully all the way to the end of the article, then scan the comments (look at how many and how vehement those comments are. The emotion expressed betrays the existence of a philosophical sore point).

The Philosophical Argument in our society is OVER.

Any futurologist worth her salt will see that instantly, and the best futurologists today work in Paranormal Romance, (believe it or not).

INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

All fiction is nothing but intellectual property. It has no substance. There is nobody in the next cubicle. Physical location does not matter. Couple that to the idea that intellectual property is of no value in the marketplace, and you have your solution to the business model problem posed by loss of control of copying.

A long time ago, Fred Pohl and John Campbell, two Science Fiction magazine editors of gigantic intellect and far-ranging abilities, taught us a problem solving technique to use in plotting stories. Take two insoluble problems. Put them in the same story. Let them solve each other.

The principle comes from Engineering, not fiction, and is one of those patterns you see reflected between reality and fiction that makes fiction believable.

Engineering creates concrete objects, things you can sell. Fiction does not, and therein lies the problem with the writer's business model.

Fiction is ideas. Emotions. Philosophy. Fiction is reality fabricated, warp and woof, into a rich, deep but imaginary construct that can have the power of philosophy (or even Religion) to bend and shape people's real lives.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/01/worldbuilding-for-science-fiction.html
is the post where I describe theme, philosophy, and the warp and woof fabric of fiction.

Worse yet, what the writer imagines and crafts into that fabric, can't even be proprietary because it's constructed "off the shelf" -- out of archetypes that can be unshelved and used by anyone, out of philosophies, pantheons, and cosmologies rooted in the ancient histories of all peoples around the world.

That's why film producers will not and can not read unsolicited manuscripts.
Ideas can't be copyrighted. Even the details can't be owned, the whole construct can't be owned. Any well trained writer could have created exactly the novel you created. And if you admit to the mystical view of the universe, it's even likely you lifted your construct out of someone else's imagination on the astral plane.

I've explained how that works in previous columns. It does work. It's happened to me. It's real. The stuff we feel so proprietary about actually drifts around in some non-material dimension, a shelf, where anyone can access it.

In fact, the most lucrative fictional fabrics are the ones MORE people have already accessed, and have possession of in their dreams and imagination. Popularity happens because more people recognize their own dreams within the fiction being offered.

I've explained that Marion Zimmer Bradley taught me that the book the reader reads is not the book the writer wrote (which she learned from her forebears). Everyone who reads just uses the story as a template to enjoy themselves in their own dreamscape.

Not only is fiction nothing but "intellectual property" (which this article in Wired has declared worthless in monetary terms), it is not now and never has been proprietary.

Seen that way, from a mystical dimension of archetypes and human spiriit, the entire idea that your dreams already belong to me and therefore I don't have to pay you for them makes perfect sense.

So how can we, as writers, publishers, artists, musicians, film producers, duplicate what this man has done with his drone-piloting circuit board business?

For a couple of decades (long enough for a whole generation of entreprenuers to grow up and start businesses) we have seen "open source" software leading the way. You give away free the intellectual property component.

How can we do that if the intellectual property isn't a component but the entire creation?

Newspapers led the way giving away intellectual property, radio blazed the trail, TV followed, today Newspapers are trailing the pack getting onto the web with "editions."

It's the advertising model.

But remember BBC? It was tax revenue supported, not advertising supported for decades. The ultra-conservative British are only now edging into advertising.

The world doesn't move in lockstep, but though the USA led in the advertising-supported business model, it very well may trail in the Open Source business model.

Unless, that is, the right person or persons read this blog and grab my idea of how it can be done. (I freely give it to anyone who wants to make the world safe for fiction creators!)

Now that you've read that entire article in Wired, stop and think of all the other things about "e-book piracy" you've read lately (there's been a lot of discussion on the EPIC Lists recently, too).

We're fighting to stop piracy. Theft offends our philosophy-bone.

Look again what this fellow in Wired, Chris Anderson, accomplished.

You give away the intellectual property, but you SELL the "thing itself" - a physical object.

That's how you make money in the new world. Selling physical objects cleverly assembled from off the shelf bits and open source intellectual property.

Physical objects add value to the Annual Gross Human Product.

Intellectual inventions and ideas are no longer valuable in trade, no longer add to the quality of human life and therefore have no intrinsic value.

How can a writer apply that concept?

We don't make things; we make ideas. We just arrange "off-the-shelf" components known as words using public domain templates known as archetypes.

The Advertising Model

That's it. That's the solution. But the current method is backwards.

Currently, someone has a physical object to sell. They use fiction to attract eyes to their product pitch known as a commercial or web-advertisement.

"I Love Lucy" sells toothpaste, not laughs.

Like all TV shows, it was invented to glue eyeballs to the screen during commercials, to deliver an audience to toothpaste advertisers. That's what radio and TV fiction is for, and the tradition goes back to Charles Dickens with novels serialized in newspapers to glue subscribers to a newsfeed sold at a profit.

Now look at ad supported TV fiction and think "reverse video" (like what happens when you use your mouse to highlight some text and the background and text color switch places).

It becomes fiction-supported TV ads.

Now we're getting close to applying the thinking behind that Wired Magazine article.

At present, the bits of story are almost smaller than the commercial breaks.

It's getting so hard to follow a TV episode, what with all the long breaks, that people are willing to wait and buy the DVD of the whole season, sans commercials.

People willingly pay for premium channels - but those channels are in financial difficulty as are the cable operators.

People want whole movies, not sliced and diced to fit in commercials.

Already you can buy TV's and Blu-ray boxes that are internet ready and configured to deliver a specific brand of streaming movie service (Netflix, Blockbuster -- proprietary lock on the hardware just like phone companies and cell phones!) Read about it in Consumer Reports:

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/electronics-computers/tvs-services/tvs/index.htm

The October 2010 issue of Consumer Reports features BEST TVS, and has instructions how to connect your TV to the Internet.

This proprietary-lock business model is at odds with the Open Source business model, and a major armageddon is in progress right over our heads. Just let the problems solve each other, and don't forget "Love Conquers All" is always the solution to fear.

Just look at the magnitude of the storm of change and resistance to change sweeping through the fabric of our world when it comes to advertising.

A recent Federal Supreme Court ruling struck down a law preventing corporations from spending unlimited amounts of money in support of a political candidate or policy. That'll be fixed by a new law, but look at the TERROR that ruling evoked and remember philosophy drives our emotions.
You've never seen the like of this much terror at a Horror film's first showing!

Why? Because politicians know that the target of advertising is under 40, that we have a demographic bulge of voting age young people, and that those people will do whatever the most ads say they should. (they WILL).

The obvious solution escapes the politicians because it would prevent them from selling their own messages to those voters by being the most prevalent voice.

So nobody is even talking about training kids in how to make commercials, thereby immunizing them to flimflammery.

I know this works because I trained my children that way. Kids can be trained to be commercial-immune by age 7 or 8.

But that panic among politicians is very real. They'll make a law to fix the ridiculous imbalance again, don't worry about that. Our interest here is the whole advertising process, and especially the business model of fiction supported advertising. (not advertising supported fiction, you see?)

Look at the degree of panic among those politicians and you can see the whole philosophy-driven panic means more than is apparent on the surface.

Something is at the breaking point in advertising business model.

Politicians can see we've got an emergency on our hands and you should never waste a good emergency.

Already, it's been proven by scientific research and admitted by major advertisers and advertising creation firms that people over 40 don't change their behavior as a result of seeing an ad (no matter how many repetitions).

You can't "sell" to older people, but they're the ones with money (and credit). This even holds true online. I've filled out surveys time and again only to get to the last web page and be told they have nothing to advertise to me. Hard scientific research shows its a waste of money to advertise to a certain cut of the demographic (basically readers).

Suppose advertising could sell your product to over and under 40 demographic?

If we turn the advertising model to "reverse video" - or "negative" - we might see the solution, provided we understand the problem.

Think fiction supported advertising.

Reverse the business model. Get out of the way and let the problems solve each other. Love Conquers All.

That reversal makes our intellectual property of monetary value again.

But you'll understand this only if you understand "what" fiction is and what a person does when imbibing fiction.

Fiction is usually regarded as a luxury. It's not.

Fiction is a necessity of life.

Why is fiction a necessity?

Because fiction is the food that philosophy feeds upon. And as mentioned above and in other blog posts here, philosophy is the life's blood of fiction as it forms and shapes the theme of any story.

People need fiction to keep them in touch with their own philosophy and to keep their philosophy in touch with reality.

Fiction keeps you sane.

Fiction is never "escapist" as it is so often dismissed as. Many readers feel they are reading to "escape" but once you understand what you are escaping to, the exercise of reading a novel takes on a whole new meaning.

Life without fiction is like sleep without dreaming.

Dreaming is not an "escape" from sleeping.

Fiction is not an "escape" from life.

Dreaming completes the exercise of sleep just as fiction completes the exercise of living.

Fiction leads you to an operational and usable model of reality you can live by (or die by). Fiction does that by taking you far, far outside your own reality so you can look back on it and see it as a whole. Fiction can never let you "escape" your reality. It rubs your nose in your reality by revealing a truth you could never see while walking in your own moccasins.

However, the "advertising supported fiction" business model has distorted that process of fiction imbibing.

The very point of imbibing fiction has been blunted by the INTERRUPTIONS for ad pitches, and those ad pitches can only be worth the money it costs to deliver them if the audience is young, so TV fiction is watered down.

Films get watered down, too, because eventually they must be shown on TV with commercial interruptions.

Interruptions and distractions cause people to make mistakes.

Texting while driving can be fatal, remember, and recent studies show that making laws against it don't prevent accidents.

Studies have shown that multi-tasking workers are less efficient than those who do one thing at a time, concentrating. (I've lost the link to the most recent study but I recall that I did place it in one of my previous blog posts here.)

Distracted drivers kill themselves and others via mistakes.

Consider the psychological condition of people who are awakened from sleep each time they enter a REM sleep cycle. (Sleep apnea can do that to you.)

As you must not be distracted from your work or your dreams, likewise you must not be distracted from your fiction.

With distractions, you miss the nutrient value of the philosophy. And you miss the pleasure of imbibing your fiction.

What if you could come up with an advertising model that does not distract viewers or readers from the fiction?

What if you give up the idea of using fiction as bait for eyeballs?

What would you replace the advertising supported model with in order to prevent distractions?

What if you could train young people to be immune to commercials (so we don't need laws restricting the amounts anyone can spend on political ads -- more money circulating is good for the economy, more points argued is good for democracy) and still move product to consumers efficiently?

What if you abolished commercials totally?

How could people who create material products induce people to buy their products without commercials? Without web-ads? Without animations on YouTube? Without distracting drivers with billboards. Without intruding on one activity to induce people to engage in another activity?

Note that film producers who are swimming in pitches thrown at them from every direction become so pitch-deaf they hire interns out of school to read pitches and the interns soon become too jaded to see a great script among the dross.

Commercials are pitches. They are desperate, frantic attempts to make you do something you aren't of a mind to do, at the moment anyway.

What if pitching was to become obsolete?

The film industry is moving in that direction with online websites that vet film scripts and provide a marketplace for producers to go find the exact script they want to produce without being bombarded with irrelevant pitches.

What could possibly replace pitching toothpaste? How could the world of commerce function without commercials?

Turn that question around. Why are industries still clinging hysterically to the commercials model of advertising, even though the world has changed and advertising is less and less effective simply because people get used to it and tune it out? When was the last time you were reading a news story and clicked on a banner ad for makeup?

That frantic battering consumers are taking is why congress was considering a law to prevent cable stations and TV stations from raising the volume on the sound when commercials come on. It annoys and distracts -- but they need to raise the volume to retain your attention as everyone in the room moves and talks during the distraction of a commercial break. People just totally dismiss the commercials. But those commercial breaks are still distractions, interruptions to be endured with an ever-increasing pricetag on our health and well being.

Why are these companies with good things to sell, things we need and want, so insistent on alienating their customers?

And Here It Is -- A New Business Model

If manufacturers of goods to sell can understand that fiction is also a product, a commodity, of value to a customer only when properly assembled (as a car is of more value when all assembled than it is as a stack of boxes of parts), then they will adopt this model.

Fiction imbibing is all about emotion. Writers work hard to get the rhythm of variance of emotional pitch paced just right. Suppose you had to endure six commercial breaks during the hour you reserve for sex with your partner? There's a reason the highest praise for a book is "I couldn't put it down" or "It kept me up past bedtime."

Continuity is absolutely essential to a good fictional experience.

It's all about building an emotional reaction with depth and texture, and you can't achieve that with interruption.

Think what it's like to be adding a long column of numbers in your head, only to be interrupted by a phone call, and have to start over, to be interrupted by the doorbell, and start over, to be interrupted by having to go to the bathroom. Maybe you'll get that column of numbers added, true, but how much less time and effort would it take if there were no interruptions?

Commercial breaks cost our society more than they are worth.

Think about how "the arts" functioned before commercialization. Artists (painters, musicians, actors) had Patrons who supported them with room and board etc., then presented their Artistic Product to their closest friends, as a prestige point.

Use that old idea, together with new technology, and think about what the Wired article said that I quoted above. Here it is again:
----------Wired Quote--------
But several years ago, Bill Joy, one of the co-founders of Sun Microsystems, revealed the flaw in Coase’s model. “No matter who you are, most of the smartest people work for someone else,” he rightly observed. Of course, that had always been true, but before, it hardly mattered if you were in Detroit and someone better was in Dakar; you were here and they were there, and that was the end of it. But Joy’s point was that this was changing. With the Internet, you didn’t have to settle for the next cubicle. You could tap the best person out there, even if they were in Dakar.
--------END QUOTE-------------

Proximity no longer is an issue.

That is such a startling idea. Think about it.

In Radio, and at the beginning of TV broadcast, one company would sponsor an entire show and become identified with that show.

Today "product placement" is starting to retread that concept. A Hero would drive a certain type of car, use a brand of telephone, eat a certain breakfast food.

Proximity doesn't count any more. You don't have to have your commercial inserted between scenes of a TV show. You don't even have to have your product be seen onscreen with The Hero.

Look at how people actually shop for things they need and want.

People focus on getting the shopping done NOW, and reading a book LATER.

When you're ready to buy something, you go to the store or website, use a search engine to find the best price or read the comments to find the best brands. You survey all the alternatives on the supermarket shelf, and pick a package that is either familiar (a replacement for what you used up) or pick something that looks interesting (an alternative to what you used up).

Or you have a problem in your house, and go to Home Depot to search for a solution, not even knowing if one exists. At that moment, your mind is open to suggestions, and that's when you want to see pitches for products, but only for products that address your problem.

When you want to buy something, you want to buy it. Either enjoying a leisurly shopping spree or dash in and out to get the boring chore of buying over with.

When you want to "buy" fiction, you sit down in your favorite chair and flip on the TV, DVD, DVR, or pick up a book, or flip on your Kindle and download the latest in a series you're following - whatever source, doesn't matter. Your mindset is the same. "I need a good story."

SHOPPING: "let's see what they've got" --- or "get me out of here fast."

FICTION TIME: "Now, what's been going on with my favorite character" or "Now I get to read this new vampire novel all the TWILIGHT fans are raving about."

When you're shopping, you're shopping.

When you're imbibing, you're imbibing.

Distracting you from your purpose will not win your approval, loyalty, or public support.

When you are young, and just being socialized, the first thing your parents teach you after you learn to talk is "don't interrupt your elders" -- which eventually becomes the teenager's skill of joining a knot of kids standing around the recess yard and just talking. You have to learn to join that conversation without interrupting, without diverting attention to yourself, without distracting them from the subject, without changing the subject.

What advertisers on TV do today is CHANGE THE SUBJECT.

That shows a lack of basic socialization.

Here's a blog entry I did on what business people do wrong when they try to adopt a social networking strategy, and why they do it wrong.

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2009/09/marketing-via-social-networking.html

Even netizens learn, first and foremost, when you join a List, you lurk for a while and find out who's who and what they're talking about. You don't post off-topic without profuse apology and explanation of why this item is important to these people.

Good grief, Romance Writers have been exemplifying this technique of how to open an acquaintance with a stranger you've fallen in love with at first sight for generations! You'd think advertisers would have learned that by now.

Don't interrupt. Don't distract. Don't change the subject.

There are some fancy multi-syllabic names for the kinds of mental abberations that cause people to be unable to learn those simple rules of behavior.

But to date, advertisers have steadfastly ignored those rules because it seems to make them a profit. Suppose they could make a bigger profit by obeying those basic social rules?

How could they possibly do it, though?

You can't answer that question. You can't solve that puzzle. There is no answer. Now. Yet.

There's no way to solve that problem now because we are missing an entire profession, an entire industry actually.

The reason we're missing this industry (that would connect fiction imbibers with companies who have concrete products to sell) is a basic American attitude -- the one the Supreme Court highlighted with the decision to allow unlimited advertising dollars to flow from corporate coffers in political campaigns.

Free Speech.

Why is Free Speech such a core value it had to be in the Bill of Rights?

Free Speech is one of the results of the dual-valued philosophy behind the Constitution -- The Majority Rules, but The Individual Has Rights that the majority can not take away.

You can say anything you want. But you can't exercise that right in my house, my private domain, without my permission.

PRIVACY is a right which manifests in the prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure of property, and the protection of intellectual property under the exact same terms as that of personal property (house, land, possessions).

That attitude toward individual privacy (no wiretapping etc), make the solution to the Fiction Writer's Business Model Problem totally impossible to think, nevermind actually do.

The solution requires invasion of privacy and something akin to wiretapping your phone.

But it's already happening in the inexorable push to make a profit in an internet based, Open Source world.

Everyone you deal with has electronic records on you, and the prospects for "Big Brother Is Watching You" are not looming ahead of us any more -- they are far behind in what seems Ancient History to today's 20 year olds.

Traffic cameras, security cameras, Airport Security screening, Google, medical records, court records, media outlet file tape, ATM transaction records, bank records, cell phone records, gps on cell phones, -- you are always under surveillance and it's getting tighter and more public.

Anonymity in public and personal privacy have not existed for decades already, and a whole generation has grown up with this technology. Younger people don't see it as a problem, so it's inevitable that this solution will be implemented at some point fairly soon, when enough old folks have died off.

And here it is.

Connect the grocery checkout counter record of what you bought, of your buying patterns assembled every time you use the store discount card tab on your key chain, or make a website purchase, to your TV set or Cable Box or Sat box, or e-reading device (Kindle, Smartphone, Nook, whatever).

That's it, the whole problem is solved.

One more link in our chain of electronic records, and BOOM - no more distractions, no more interruptions.

How does it work to sell product?

Simple.

When you're ready to buy something, you are "in a place" mentally and physically where you are receptive to suggestions and ads would not be interruptions or distractions.

You walk into a brick and mortar store or click into a website. There you search for products and actively pay attention to what's pitched at you. The data gathered on you in the past allows the ads pitched at you to be chosen by characteristics you've evidenced in the past.

Already Google and especially BING customize ads and re-arrange what choices are offered to you in answer to a query according to other websites you've visited (Google is now using what sites you click on via twitter to customize responses to you).

It's getting harder, but you can still break out of your mold and explore other options. We may need laws to prevent shutting you into too small a box.

Using this fiction supported advertising model, when you are receptive to finding products that solve your problem, you are presented with options that would actually be useful to you. No distractions. No pitches. Just solid, reliable, true information about the products that solve your problem "what's for dinner?" "what sort of shoes can I afford to wear with this dress?"

As you troll through the supermarket, local mall, or websites, you choose products that suit you at prices you agree to, and you know all the alternatives.

A record is kept of what you buy, from whom, when, at what intervals.

With each product you purchase, you earn "points." (like frequent flyer miles, or credit card points -- an account is kept of what you've earned).

These points are TV SHOW POINTS (or streaming, dvd, dvr, ebook, Kindle, or even hardcopy book points).

They are worth such-and-so-many hours of commercial free viewing or reading.

Your life is totally changed from it is today -- when you're shopping, you're shopping. When you're viewing, you're viewing.

Watching the Shopping Network on TV or internet would probably count as shopping - and what you buy adds points to your Fiction Points account.

I can see two ways for this to work.

Either large companies like Proctor and Gamble, Johnson and Johnson, Heinz, etc would award points for buying their products that you can use to see only certain TV shows that they sponsor by paying for production (or buy certain novels from certain publishers that they sponsor by paying for production).

Or a new kind of business would be founded to award points no matter what you buy -- but maybe apportion more points today for Tide than for Arm&Hammer depending on deals with sponsors?

The new business would be a clearing house. It would contract with Proctor and Gamble (etc) to get money, apportion money to fiction-creators, and contract with consumers who establish an account, like a credit-card account, and keep track of what you buy so it can award you access to fiction via points you earn by buying certain brands.

Both these concepts would probably fight it out in the marketplace, likely with other more "proprietary" based concepts.

The stand-alone (off the shelf) technologies to do this already exist. They just have to be linked up (as the fellow made new circuit boards to create his drone controllers).

a) Data about your buying habits from credit card, online sites, supermarket, mall, etc purchases, is all electronicized now.

b)Data about your viewing habits is available to your cable, sat, etc data supplier. Smartphone surfing, computer surfing, etc -- your IP address ID's you, as on social networks. You are tracked.

c) Companies that produce advertising (political organizations too) know how masses of people move -- they get that from a lot of data about individuals.

Connect the purchase-point activity to the DVR attached to your TV (or whatever new architecture we adopt).

Turn on your TV to watch, say SANCTUARY (as discussed last week

http://aliendjinnromances.blogspot.com/2010/01/religion-in-science-fiction-romance.html )

..and you see it without commercials if you bought Tide, shopped a Toyota showroom, had your BMW serviced, or bought a Big Mac.

If you didn't buy the right product or brand of product, I'd guess you'd be interrupted with even more pitching commercials than now.

After enough of that punishment, you would start to pay attention to what brands provided you with commercial free versions of your favorite shows.

Since most of us time-shift using a recorder of some sort, the shows would be delivered to your automated recording device (or online library of shows) commercial free.

If you're reading ebooks (or even hardcover books) you would not pay money for them. You'd pay with points earned by buying whatever brands are connected to the fiction you want. The writers and publishers would be paid by the brand that sponsors the fiction.

It's not so different from the way film and TV gets produced. Production companies contract with networks and get money to create the show which the networks broadcast and sell commercial time during. Except, this way, there are no commercial breaks and no waste of money by advertisers.

Now how would you know, standing in the breakfast cereal aisle, which brand of cereal to buy to get the show you want commercial free?

Each package would carry a symbol showing what points you get for buying it.

That's why I think a new business is needed.

This would be an IT business that awards and redeems your purchase-points so seamlessly and automatically you don't know it's there.

You wouldn't have to know which show you want when choosing laundry detergent. You get points no matter what you buy, then you spend them to see whatever you want to see.

There might be several such competing IT businesses, each for a type of show (non-fiction, news, Science shows, Education shows you get college credit for, whatever categories shows fall into).

There might be several icons on a package indicating what credit you get for purchasing the product.

Commercials and pitches for products would be presented to you only while you're in the store, and could contain info on what shows you get for buying the product.

But they would be pitching at you while you're paying attention and deliberating over what to buy. They don't waste their money; you don't waste your time, and Congress doesn't need a law to prevent raising the sound volume during commercials.

TV channels, Cable providers, Sat providers, airwaves providers, even maybe production companies like Disney, would contract with these IT services to get money to make shows and deliver them to you. The IT service would get money from product makers that the product makers now waste on advertising to rooms full of people who went to the bathroom or hit fast-forward.

You buy your fiction (uninterrupted delivery) by buying a product.

Now there are two big holes in this idea.
1) Disparity of income creates disparity in buying habits
2) Niche fiction, things that aren't aimed at a mass market, might not get sponsored well enough to be cheap enough. Popularity would still govern availability of fiction.

The higher your income, the more you buy.

The people lower on the economic scale don't spend as much money. So they'd have less access to the very thing they need most to get higher on the economic scale -- fiction that inspires, non-fiction that instructs etc.

Those who spend a lot would have more viewing-credits than they need.

Those who spend little would have too few.

Free market forces would create a trading marketplace for these viewing-credits.

I would suggest the Free Public Library system should be the place to handle the trading since they already deal in fiction.

Most libraries are set up online already -- you can order or renew a book online at my library and the whole library system catalog is online so you can reserve a book your branch doesn't have. And most libraries now have computers set up for internet access via your library card (those that don't will soon have).

So a virtual or real visit to your local library could let you buy the viewing credits you didn't earn by purchasing advertised products.

So if you have no money, what would you buy viewing credits with?

What would people who have a lot of money, profligate spending habits, and a surplus of viewing credits want from you?

For that matter, what would advertisers want from you if you don't buy much?

Maybe some profligate spenders would donate their points to the library, as they now donate once-read books that are nearly new. The library would charge a few cents, as they now sell donated $30 books for $1.50 to sell them to you.

Or maybe the Library would use the points to provide you with access to the fiction of your choice (on-demand style).

Or other things might be bartered -- like filling out a survey, participating in a product trial, etc. I'm sure imagination will supply bartering tokens we could not possibly think of today. (maybe you could pay college tuition with viewing credits one day).

Uninterrupted viewing of the Superbowl could be worth something (though I know lots of people watch for the commercials).

This is a half-baked idea. But it could be applied to solve the publisher's problem, the warehouser's problem, the distributor's problem, the retail-bookstore's problem, the self-publisher's problem.

Writers, publishers, bookstores, etc are selling uninterrupted fictional experiences more than they are "intellectual property licenses".

Piracy is a problem only if your business model is to create and sell intellectual property.

If you get rid of the idea that intellectual property is personal property or proprietary property which you have a right to license (or not) as you choose, the whole picture shifts markedly.

If books, novels, e-books, stories of all sorts in all media could adapt to a "story-supported-advertising" business model, we might survive as writers.

A self-publisher could contract with one of these IT organizations so that people who buy manufactured products could use their fiction points to buy e-books, Print on Demand hardcopy, or other formats just as they would to view a TV show uninterrupted.

Writers wouldn't be selling their "intellectual property" at all. They'd give away their stories, and get paid for giving them away by manufacturers who see their products being bought in order to get access to the story.

The IT business wouldn't have to denominate the points in US$. The points would be like frequent flyer points, just points until you redeem them for Southwest flights or American Airlines flights. Thus they would become a de-facto international currency, and e-books in any language could be obtained using points earned buying groceries in any country.

Like the Wired article said, location doesn't matter any more.

The key points to this concept:

1) Intellectual Property is not personal or proprietary and is worthless

2) People want to do what they want to do when they want to do it and no distractions (sort of like courtship or even like sex). In other words, the driving is the distraction to the texting, so we need cars that drive themselves, which we almost have.

3) Fiction is a necessary nutrient, as vital as food, clothing, shelter, water, air, R.E.M. sleep, to sustaining life and sanity. Satisfaction requires no-distraction time-blocks.

4) Fiction is nothing but intellectual property and is therefore worthless

5) Uninterrupted TIME BLOCKS are of actual monetary value.

6) Given today's Information Technology based civilization, a lifestyle composed of uninterrupted time blocks is a commodity that can be monetized.

7) Connect point of sale information with point of fiction imbibing information and create a business model like the kind of "circuit boards" the fellow in the Wired article created -- don't charge for the intellectual property of fiction, but for the lack of distraction while imbibing it (i.e. charge for the circuit board not what it contains).

8) A new generation won't mind the violation of the basic notion upon which the USA was founded -- personal privacy and individual freedom. The new 40-year-olds in twenty years will be as vulnerable to this marketing technique as the 18 year olds are vulnerable to today's commercial-driven airwaves. But you won't need laws restricting how much money can be spent advocating a political position -- political ads belong in stores, not in stories.

I think that would fix the fiction delivery system and everything I see as wrong with it thusly:

a) it would provide a monetary base to produce and purvey fiction

b) it would provide direct feedback between fiction-imbiber and investor (manufacturer with something to sell).

c) it would stop the fragmentation of fiction into tiny chunks, forcing themes to be simpler and less satisfying than they could be. Thus fiction could become more effective as a lift to the spirits.

d) it would foster long-attention-span instead of the short-attention-span fostered in children who grew up on Sesame Street which has segments structured like commercials (or the TV Show HEROES).

but it would of course create new problems.

a) how do writers get readers to choose to read their books, spending points on them?

b) how do writers with a tiny audience survive the forces of mass marketing?

c) how do niche products attract sponsoring and keep their prices down since they can only reach a small market? How do you create these small markets? (social networking is the current best answer).

A host of other problems are inherent in this concept, but the current method is likewise fraught with flaws.

As Wired points out, this new economy is already revving up to full speed right alongside the old fogies clinging to the old economy.

My question is, "Has the old anything ever won out over the new anything?"

Jacqueline Lichtenberg
http://jacquelinelichtenberg.com

3 comments:

  1. The Center for Media Research has released a study by Vertical Response that shows just where many of these ‘Main Street’ players are going with their online dollars. The big winners: e-mail and social media. With only 3.8% of small business folks NOT planning on using e-mail marketing and with social media carrying the perception of being free (which they so rudely discover it is far from free) this should make some in the banner and search crowd a little wary.


    www.onlineuniversalwork.com

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  2. Wow! ... this article/concept is incredible "coal" -- raw, rich (and good for starting "fires"! haha) -- which will, one day through the compound of mass consciousness, become a diamond we treasure unequivocally...

    It's also the first article of this length I have read from start to finish online ... if it was late at night, I'm sure it would have kept me from my welcoming bed until the very end.

    Thanks for sharing -- please keep me updated (contact through www.makeithuman.com) with any future articles of such genius!

    -Matt

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  3. Just some more thoughts...

    1. People could still choose to buy books (etc) which irradicates the problem of "poor" people not having enough points to buy fiction, as well as the issue of niche fiction not being sponsored ... Search engines and especially social media does a great job already of disseminating the "news" about niche items.

    2. If our bank account details (transaction details and income but not "access" details of course) were part of the system, advertising could be targeted to specific socio-economic groups and so there wouldn't necessarily be "too many" ads being served to people in the lower socio-economic zone, as many of the ads would be filtered out as being "inappropriate" or basically pointless.

    3. Uber-Brands that became absolute in their 360 degree approach would end up being the "winners" in this system as they could have all types of products AND fiction under the one umbrella and then encourage spending "points" within their own brand-group via "discounts" (points only so it doesn't really lose anything in dollar terms) if the consumer uses points on one of their own fiction outlets/channels etc. Those internal fiction channels would in turn support the further purchase of this uber-brand's other products through clever product-placement ... surely this concept is in use in some way already?

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