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WORKING WEEKEND: Attention! Another Top 10 List

4 Jan, 2002 By: Bruce Apar

Oh no, you're thinking, not yet another Top 10 of 2001 list. That's right. No. It's not. Exactly. More like a Top 10 List of 2002-2006. And at this point, it's not Top 10, since we already counted down the first three items on the list way back in 2001.

When last we met on this screen -- a fortnight ago -- the subject was an Executive Summary from management consultants PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC). Produced by its Entertainment & Media practice, it is titled, Vying for Attention: The Future of Competing in Entertainment and Media -- Our Industry Perspective 2001-2005. (For information on the full length report, visit www.pwcglobal.com.)

There's a section on "Top Ten Ways to Survive in the Attention Economy." Let's join our Top Ten list, then, already in progress, as we pick up where we left it, starting with No. 4.

That would be, "Don't Pay Attention, Pay for Attention!" PWC observes that "Companies will demand measurements of advertising's worth." What a concept, that. Blame it on the one-to-one relationship marketing popularized on the Internet. With data-rich, individualized responses and transactions emanating from email and Web sites, marketers are fast becoming spoiled into expecting quantifiable returns on their media investments. No longer will the famous quip by legendary Philadelphia merchant Wanamaker that "Half of all advertising works; we just don't know which half" seem quaint. It will just seem antiquated.

"Dynamic Pricing" marks down the halfway point of PWC's list, at No. 5. The eyebrow-raising concept here is that "One important revenue tool will be selling the same concept at different prices to different consumers in different places at different times -- even at the same time -- for a variety of strategic reasons." The example used, believe it or not, is that "Satisfied filmgoers exiting a blockbuster [lower-case, as in theater, not store] might pay as much as $99 for the DVD if it is sold in the lobby on the first day of theatrical release." … and if the theater happens to be in a typical middle-class burb like Beverly Hills, Shaker Heights, Ohio, Chappaqua, N.Y. or Grosse Point, Mich.

Now, for one of my favorites, if for no other reason than I posited an almost identical scenario in a column many months ago: No. 6 is "Compress Your Windows." Digital media, which has a bad habit of respecting no copyright owner, threatens to make the time-honored Hollywood economic structure of sequential distribution as sturdy as a house of cards. Instead of the serial pattern of release -- where a film's run in theaters must end before reaching video, then play out there before PPV and so on -- we're headed toward parallel windows, running simultaneously. The alternative is digital piracy so pervasive it easily could render the very assets of the major entertainment players virtually worthless. PWC thinks so too. "In a global market, digital content flows faster and farther, is easier to copy or pirate, and declines rapidly in value as it flows."

"Create Standards That Work" is No. 7. MP3, says PWC, "is a prime example of a ‘standard that works.'" Such a standard is defined by Pricewaterhouse as one that "should satisfy the ‘person in the street,' not the techno elites." I have my own version of that: no matter how simple the maker believes its new technology to be, it has to be yet another notch simpler for the average consumer. The mind-numbing example is the gag about nobody being able to set the timer on a VCR. The mental laziness implied in that paradigm is too pathetic to ponder. MP3, by the way, says PWC, was "originally developed for feature films."

Weighing in at No. 8 is "Share the Investment Risk," something that the major studios' video divisions figured out a long time ago. "Brand-owning companies should leverage capital and focus on core competencies by outsourcing non-core functions across the supply and demand chains." Sound familiar? In the rental biz, they call it distribution.

"Learn from Others' Mistakes" would be numero nuevo. Here, it's projected that companies will move cautiously in entertainment media. "They will aim to be first on creative, but ‘fast second' on technology. First movers take the brunt; ‘best movers' will succeed in the long run." Napster is a first mover; the record labels are best movers. And for the capper, #10 is "Focus Your Attention as Companies Converge and Diverge." In plainer language, that's amplified with "major entertainment and media conglomerates will continue to acquire; others will break themselves into multiple businesses." PWC concludes, "Do not become too invested in any one idea -- there is no One Answer."

Ah, but there is only One Question: Do we shape the future, or does the future shape us?

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