The Speed of Technology

SXSW 2000 Interactive Festival

Syndication of Content

Bill Childs (Hole City), Thomas Lakeman (DNA Studio), Ali Muney (Epicenter)

"It's hard for writers to make money on the Web right now." ... Bill Childs, Hole City

Confusion reigned at the "Syndication of Content" panel, where three unlikely experts fought to discover why they were behind the dais and why the rest of us were listening. Evident skill and undoubted success aside, only one panelist actually stayed on topic as advertised in the program schedule. And as you can see from the leading quote, there was little to stem the flood of exit strategists once this bottom line was reached.

After half the audience left, the remainder was evidently suffering from politeness. Ahem. Lakeman cleared his throat, ceasing the wayward discussion that seemed to center on "how to be a syndicate," or at least, "how great it is to be a syndicate." He asked a question: "How many of you out there want to be syndicated?" The hands shot up. (Um, yeah, where's that panel description? Oh yeah, "Syndication of Content: Increasing your exposure by getting your original Internet content re-printed on multiple sites, both online and offline." Right.) "Well," Lakeman continued, "let's figure out how to focus our discussion around the needs of the audience." Good idea.

However, a query from a blatant freelancer ... "What do you look for in content?" ... was met with the somewhat obvious answer from all three: regular, original ideas within the deadline. There was also the lingering suggestion behind the dais that writers should be willing to offer their goods for free. ("Only a fool writes for free," a fellow writer reminded me after the seminar.) But another query directed at the panelists, "Do you see yourselves as talent liaisons?," resulted in the most provocative, and somewhat creepy, prospect for writers in the future: the resurrection of the major studio model to solve the problem of talent dilution. Lakeman was the respondent and cited two pertinent examples:

1. Disney. "In the early days of animation there were a lot of different studios out there because everybody liked cartoons. At a certain point, Disney raised the price of being an animator ... raised the standards by making it harder to become an animator. They started a school to teach people and give them expertise so they can consistently use their potential."

2. Herbalife (Amway). "When you become an Herbalife salesman, you are part of those who make it all the way through the program, and you are true believers.

"If you combine these two ideas," Lakeman concluded, "you give someone something to believe in and the tools to become it, then you have a winning combination."

Now, as long as you can tap dance and sing to a jingle, you're all set.

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