What I have observed over the past year is that the more influential long-tail creators -- be they bloggers, podcasters, video enthusiasts, mash-up artists -- are extremely giving year-round. Not only do they pump out lots of great content (often without asking anything in return), but they are also giving when it comes to links and their time. They make their content freely available in whatever formats their audience craves.
Rocketboom, one of my favorite video blogs, is a great example. Come rain or shine you can bank on a new video to appear in your iTunes inbox every day by 9 a.m. EST. Every video clip is professional and interesting, no matter the subject. Rocketboom is platform agnostic; it makes its content available in a myriad of formats -- everything from Quicktime to Windows Media and even the esoteric open-source Democracy player.
The media, however, tend to be greedy. Every single mainstream outlet syndicates headlines and summaries rather than publishing full-text RSS feeds -- even for paid subscribers. They often don't credit or link to bloggers who break stories first. And don't get me started on the nuisance of interruptions such as interstitial ads and video pre-rolls.
So what about the marketers? Are they naughty or nice? One of the big trends we've seen emerge over the past couple of years is that brands are increasingly bypassing media and going direct to audiences. For example, big marketers such as Budweiser are creating their own video and distributing it online for free. Every marketer now can be its own media company.
Although some marketers are more blatant than others, most are not nearly as greedy as the media. In fact, they're emulating the long-tail content creators with whom they are trying to bond. Sure the brand is always part of the message, but the generosity is there.
As consumers become more sophisticated, they're going to tune out interruption in favor of getting access to compelling content. They won't care who it comes from, as long as it entertains or informs. The media need to emulate the long tail and branded-entertainment content creators if they hope to thrive in the online world. The early signs are there. CBS is getting a great return from posting ad-free clips on YouTube. Hopefully we'll see the media become more generous in the coming year.
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Steve Rubel is a marketing strategist and blogger. He is senior VP in Edelman's Me2Revolution practice.