What we need is a good-better-best approach to digital content

Paramount is out with a new online service that lets customers purchase clips from films. As this New York Times article notes, it’s initially aimed at advertisers and marketers who want to use the clips in campaigns. Consumers will be…

Paramount is out with a new online service that lets customers purchase clips from films. As this New York Times article notes, it’s initially aimed at advertisers and marketers who want to use the clips in campaigns. Consumers will be let in on the action later.

I have a couple thoughts on this:

1. Kudos to Paramount for giving this a shot. It certainly can’t hurt, and we need all the experimentation we can get.

2. I think this is a fantastic opportunity to test good-better-best quality levels. I’ve long thought there’s a way to service different segments of the audience through resolution, features and convenience.

For example, writers, bloggers and others who simply want to reference a clip could grab a lower-resolution version for free (as many already do through YouTube). This boosts awareness and creates branding opportunities for the content provider.

One sidenote: The Times piece suggests folks on the low end — consumers, mostly — may have to pay a low per-clip fee. That’s the wrong move. These aren’t ringtones. Ringtones are a public expression of personality linked to an always-on, always-available device. Embeddable movie clips require placement within media forms, be it a website or a DVD. The all-important personality element is muted. I’m not going to shell out cash if that so-bad-it’s-good movie clip only broadcasts my ironic sense of humor to a limited audience. I need exposure, dammit!

But I digress …

Moving up the scale, companies that want to aggregate clips or make them available as part of another content product could pay a reasonable amount (likely a flat rate for a certain number of clips) and gain access to DVD-quality content. I can see utility here for the education world. A one-stop shop for clips could take a lot of the pain out of the copyright quagmire law-abiding teachers currently face.

On the high end, marketers and advertisers who need full-resolution (1080p, if available) and the absence of co-branding would pay a premium.

What won’t work is an “everyone must pay” declaration. I’m assuming that since this got written up in the Times, and given that a consumer option is part of the longer-term gameplan, Paramount wants this to be more than a back-channel marketers’ tool. Otherwise, why publicize it? This is clearly a public-facing product. As such, it needs to properly service the unique needs of all audience segments.

Amazon Resurrects Orwell Annotations and Opens a New Can of Worms

In an attempt to tie up the Orwell debacle, Amazon is offering affected customers replacement copies of “1984” or “Animal Farm” and the reinstatement of any personal annotations. From the New York Times: Amazon said in an e-mail message to…

In an attempt to tie up the Orwell debacle, Amazon is offering affected customers replacement copies of “1984” or “Animal Farm” and the reinstatement of any personal annotations. From the New York Times:

Amazon said in an e-mail message to those customers that if they chose to have their digital copies restored, they would be able to see any digital annotations they had made. [Emphasis added.]

It’s been more than a month since Amazon extracted the questionable Kindle editions, yet assumed-dead user notes now spring phoenix-like from the Orwellian ashes. Why the delay? Amazon, it would appear, claims jurisdiction over the saving, disassociation, and, if it’s feeling magnanimous or motivated, full reinstatement of user notes according to its own schedule.

Playing devil’s advocate, it may be that Amazon felt the controversy surrounding the Orwell deletions warranted back up of the notes, and perhaps the restoration delay was tied to a rights issue. But even with these (potential) explanations, a “surprise note resurrection” reeks of creepiness. If Amazon didn’t delete annotations associated with illegal books — an unfortunate but reasonable bit of collateral damage — then what does it delete? Are the mistakes and alterations in my shopping cart history burned into a permanent record? Can a deleted S3 file miraculously reanimate? I can’t help but raise an eyebrow toward all of Amazon’s services, which is a shame since I admire the company’s non-Kindle offerings.