Few executives can muster the financial punching power of tech super heavyweights like Tim Cook or Larry Page. But we can learn something about the present and future of technology by watching their footwork, as they dance around content and distribution.
Right now the champs are in camp, training for a revolution in technology and sparring with regulators. We should watch them closely and train alongside them, so we can understand just what it is they are getting read for.
Lesson #1 for Contenders: Maybe we can’t punch as hard as the champs, but that doesn’t mean we can’t watch their footwork. If we’re smart and attentive, we can contend in our own style.
Copyright will weaken, but content will pack a punch.
Businesses that rely on intellectual property protections are going to get hit hard, if they don’t protect themselves at all times. Between Google’s in-house activities and its acquisitions of companies including YouTube, they have aggregated the majority of the world’s copyrighted content. They may not be using it or displaying it publicly at any given time, but it resides on their servers, indexed and ready for distribution. Notions about who owns what content are about to become as quaint as bareknuckle matches, just like the notion that citizens could enjoy personal privacy disappeared with the advent of social media.
That doesn’t mean content will become meaningless, but its protections will come from innate strengths like quality, quantity, and freshness – not from regulations. To get ready to compete when all the content is freely transmitted without boundaries, tech companies at the top of the market are beefing up their content production and sharing strengths. They are trying to make sure their content will have fresh legs moving forward by acquiring content producers or joining in alliances. The announcement that Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Netflix, and other companies would join in the new Open-Source Alliance for Open Media is a great example of an anticipatory move. In their blog announcing the partnership, Mozilla detailed the plan to move toward royalty-free video, an arena in which “things are moving fast.”
Lesson #2 for Contenders: If you don’t already have a plan for creating great content and distributing it effectively, get to work!
Distribution will become more complicated, but less important.
Have you ever stopped to wonder why Google’s Street View cars have been riding around mapping WiFi hotspots, and its balloons flying WiFi into the sky? Why T-Mobile tried to merge with Spring or why AT&T and Verizon bid a combined $28.6 billion in last year’s AWS-3 spectrum auction?
Because those tech and telecom giants are getting ready to unleash or parry a flurry of technological advancements unlike any we have seen before. Specifically, they’re seeing that the old, centralized model for telecom providers controlling content distribution is past its prime. The future model will feature a decentralized, global mesh of billions of interconnected devices with relatively secure and very convenient data transmission. It is not yet clear which technological standards will win the next round, but it is a sure thing that the change will happen faster than the rise of social media, the World Wide Web, or telephony.
Regulators are well aware of this too, and have picked up their work rate to try and keep up with emerging technologies. Witness last year’s net neut debate, quickly followed by this year’s bout between the FBI and Apple. It’s getting harder to keep up and figure out where the next one is coming from. Organizations with enough resources have large teams of engineers or technocrats to pay attention to this in-house; smaller organizations will need trusted, knowledgeable advisors and will need to stick to a good plan.
Lesson #3 for Contenders: It almost doesn’t matter which technology or regulations prevail – and it’s nearly impossible to plan based on that variable. Go in with a plan, and keep your eyes up to be ready to roll with the punches. Clear vision is a must and so is good, experienced coaching!
By watching the super heavyweights, we can pick up a few of their moves and adapt them to make our small- and mid-sized businesses more successful. If we want to be ready to answer the bell, we’ll need to pay attention to the bigs, have great content, and go into the contest of the future with a great plan and trusted coaching.