U.S. Postal Service Announces Free Email Service

Flagging Interest in First Class Mail Triggers Investment in Electronic Communication; Revenue Model Unclear

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Okay, never mind the headlines. I made that up.

But it didn't require much imagination. Right here on AdAge.com this week, a nearly identical story appeared. It was about Warner Bros. plans to get into the short-form video "business." Here's a quote from the story:

"We view this as a natural extension of what we do every day as content creators, and we're adapting to the digital environment," said Bruce Rosenblum, president of Warner Bros. Television Group.

Well, yes and no. The key sentence in our story wasn't in the lead, which invoked the word "landmark." It also wasn't in the second paragraph, or the third, fourth or fifth. The real lead was buried down in paragraph six:

There's no blueprint for how the partnerships will work, Mr. Rosenblum said, nor is there a business model for financing the programming, though it's expected marketers will help foot the bill through sponsorships, integration fees or co-financing.

Business model. Oh. That.

Hollywood makes money producing content. Hollywood has been losing audience to YouTube, et al, which offer free content. Ergo Hollywood will correspondingly lose revenue. Ergo: Hollywood must steal the audience back from the amateurs.

But with whose money??? Nobody -- least of all YouTube -- has figured out how to monetize the existing user-video audience. But at least that content comes in at no charge. What good does it do to give away very expensive Hollywood content through the same distribution mechanism if -- by your own admission -- you have no idea who will pay for it?

Ignore the vague muttering about "integration fees." Sixty-second videos "integrated" with brand messages are not a landmark adaptation to the realities of the new digital world. They are as old-world as can be.

They're called "commercials."

Please note the quotation marks also above, bracketing the word "business." If the Postal Service announced free email, the world would laugh itself silly. That's because at that pricepoint, the margins are a little thin.
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