Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

I just gave a keynote this morning and I initially felt right, but a bit bad. Milia is one of the oldest and leading interactive content conferences and MipTV is a place where content providers meet with people who want to buy content from them. The halls are full of telephone companies, TV networks, Hollywood content providers and DRM technology companies. So here I am asked to give a keynote. What am I going to say? I talked about the shift in value away from packaged content and towards context oriented things like location, presence and transactions. I talked about how DRM would make the user experience suck so bad that they would lose their customers, and I talked about how I didn't think the mobile content download business would work. Easy for Mr. "nothing to lose" Ito to say. ;-p I did throw out a olive branch by talking about Creative Commons and how we can have "some rights reserved" and try to protect their content selling business models. On the other hand, all of the smart people quickly figured out that the technical execution of protecting content while allowing sharing in certain cases requires them to trust their customers much more than they do now.

I also mentioned that the carriers and the content guys really didn't know their customers. In fact, most people don't know their customers. Most success has come from watching how the customer behaves and creating products for that behavior rather than trying to create products that change the customer's behavior, which most arrogant companies think they can do.

I did provide some helpful advice by talking about mobile device UI issues, talking about CPA and stuff.

So, I was prepared for a lot of hateful glares and wrath, but everyone was surprisingly thoughtful and the discussion after the session was really interesting. So just as publishing survived the copy machine and Hollywood movies survived the video tape, I'm sure the smart content guys will survive mobile devices and sharing whether they like it or not. Talking to all of the smart people (even the ones who's business models were screwed and didn't have any way out that I could see...) made me feel like there was a bit more hope in the content industry than I had originally envisioned.

Also, watching people from the big companies interact... I think there is a big company and "I love Hollywood stars/star-struck" aspect to why carriers and other folks want to work with the big studios. Having worked in Hollywood selling content to Japanese trading companies and having worked at NHK buying TV shows from Hollywood I know that Hollywood studios are skilled at making you feel good about working with them. There are many people who have lost a lot of money in Hollywood. Unlike Las Vegas, sometimes they often even don't let you win a single hand before they take all your money. Again, mileage may vary and there are A LOT of great people in Hollywood, but beware. People and companies in Hollywood are not famous because they're nice and give you their money.


the content of your keynote would certainly have put the cat amongst the pigeons at Milia Joi. But, I've observed that these things have an almost procedural quality to them; you've stood up and questioned the current thinking and made people consider their business plans. Some people are too far down the line probably, but there will be others who take what you say on board...

I predict that next year will be different; there'll be a lot of people considering the point of view you expressed between now and then... Fingers x'd anyway...

I was in the audience of listening the presentation. I think the reason why the audience did not respond was that the perspective you give was so new: so far many of the players in the mobile have been using content (apart from ringtones) as a marketing promotion, not really thinking about the DRM related issues. The notion of DRM mainly focusing on defending the current position rather than creating new opportunities and serving customer was spot on.
Moreover, the fact that we can not change behaviour with technology but the other way around is often forgotten in the industry.

Like Pete, I think next year will be different. The way you presented was so new for most of the people.

Everyone I discussed said 'Joi's presentation was the most inspirational so far...' --> let's hope we'll see action by the next Milia.

so how will dealing with the concept of memory prosthetic:

Or ho about a vision aid for the blind in the setting of visual impairment. bloging for the blind would be a way to test object recognition algorithims that run on multiple graphic cards.

i was in the audience too and even later discussing with u joi
think it was a great session..more stuff like that!or better, next year I wish i could find someone like joi in a match , a face to face debate, with a lady like lucy ms fox..that would be so hot!
i am now writing an article about the sussion for italian daily il manifesto, then post it here

I was also in the session and had a quick word with you at the end of it (thanks for mailing me so quickly btw).

As I said to you, I thought your keynote was very interesting and that you were certainly saying things that many in the audience might not want to hear. This is, of course, even more of a reason to confront them with the harsh reality.

It's only understandable that content producers are reluctant to give up control and take the big jump required in thinking up new business models for content in this digital age. DRM was mentioned very often in the conference but rarely was it tackled head on and not just as the wishful thinking that business can just go on as usual with a little technological tinkering.

It is clear that from a technical standpoint, piracy is a battle that cannot be won. Information is costly to produce and virtually free to duplicate in the digital era. Whatever DRM schemes are thought up, there will always be ways around them for the technically skilled who will promplty be able to distribute "free" versions of any content through P2P. Consumers willing to pay will only experience frustration at unwieldy DRM technologies and push them towards pirated content that will allow them to use it as they wish.

Companies cannot expect consumers to spend their money on content that is easily available for nothing and with none of the restrictions imposed by DRM. It will be necessary to rethink their models to offer some value added that acts as an incentive for the consumer; something like a service which the customer sees as a clear advantage on the hassle of using P2P. This might entail selling bundles of content: along with a music file comes regular information about an artist, potential discounts on merchandise or gigs, etc... Building communities of users that can create a powerful bonds with the distributor can be instrumental in getting consumers to use legitimate channels. This is already happening to a certain extent. I can think of independent record labels who use their internet forum as the means to create a community and de facto a significant customer base that will feel more inclined to go legit because of the positive feelings it has about the brand. Suing 12 year olds for using Kazaa is hardly going to be endearing to consumers who already tend to think content is too expensive.

Of course, there are no easy answers or quick fixes to the situation at hand but some radical thinking is going to be needed and so keynotes like yours are definitely a most welcome addition to business conferences.

My collegue and I were just talking about how inspiring we found your speech when you walked past us in the restaurant. As I told you yesterday I hope your speech inspires the leaders of the mobile market to finally see that consumers arent interested in the technology but how mobile devices add value to their personal lives.

Thanks for all of the positive feedback. That's encouraging. Maybe I will break my golden rule and start talking to the carriers. ;-)

This is a funny topic. You write about Hollywood vs. Internet, Japanese culture vs. what-to-do-if-you're-not-Japanese... your meme.

I have a father who's "old world" and he doesn't understand what I'm about. Well actually, we've made tremendous progress over the years, but...

We're still different people, (having) lived different lives... geesh, *his* grandfather didn't even know what a car was!!

Progress is painful, especially when Moore's Law enters and dictates that bits want don't want to be trapped... they want to be viral.

Art, music, movies, whatever will, inevitably go from person to person... from central vaults to distributed chaos. And when something like that happens, it's not about law, politics, technology... it's about business models. C'est la guerre.

BTW Joi, you are one of the greatest thinkers on this planet. Your brilliance balanced by humility is quite a scale of justice. Keep it up!

Likewise with my colleague Koen we were inspired by your keynote speech on the importance of understanding the relationships bewteen the consumer and their mobile media devices.

At .Bone we are proactively seeking unique long-term brand building relationships with the various mobile communities - understanding the extension of the mobile as a physical and sociological form of communication and self-expression.

Tuning into your thoughts has been very enlightening. This exposure to your experience has been encouraging to my continued evangelism of mobile media...

...visiting your blog has also opened a door to Mizuko's website where I am enthused by her studies into society and mobile technology...

Thanks for your Milia update, Joi. Interesting as usual. Here are a few thoughts that your postings have inspired:

Music CDs must compete e.g. with mobile phone charges and DVDs for a share of a teenager’s finite entertainment budget. This indeed spells trouble for music companies if they fail to cultivate musical genres and solid artists that appeal to the more mature audiences, who generally have a larger disposable income than teens.

What kind of new content will emerge, that will enable providers to capture revenue from an increasingly mobile, multi­tasking and eclectic public? I find the context­attached aspect, which you’ve previously highlighted, to be very promising. Like TV stations today, I suspect that mobile phone operators won’t have the in­house resources to develop a full array of content by themselves, and will rely on specialized outside production houses to supply it.

One way to measure the “contextuality”, and, perhaps, the business potential of new mobile content, might be to analyze three of the content’s context attributes, or metrics: Time, Space and User­specificity.

Time can signify that the content’s value can be heavily dependent on when you receive it. Examples include the text messaging chit­chat being exchanged by teens with their mobile phones: getting a cheer­up message from a friend in a timely manner when you’re feeling blue can mean a lot. If you play the stock market, timely quotes and alerts for volatile stocks can have significant financial impact. We could call it the “what­I­want­when­I­want”, “immediate gratification” paradigm.
Content of well­calculated duration can also increase the utility value of one’s “free” time. Daily bite­size serialized novel subscriptions sent to mobile phones, or one­minute soap operas sent to video­enabled phones, have a fine time granularity that makes them available to people who are temporarily activity­constrained but otherwise idle — e.g. standing in a crowded commuter train.

Space reflects the overlaying of multiple virtual worlds — “cyberworlds” ? — on our day­to­day physical surroundings. Mobile phones and wearable devices are a kind of probe connecting us to these invisible, ethereal spaces.
The information, or rather, “tidings” sensed by such devices could have direct relevance to the physical world — e.g. proximity broadcasts in shopping malls announcing special sales on some items, Bluetooth­mediated exchange and signalling of personality profiles for adventuresome singles...
The tidings could also be about pure virtual spaces. One might e.g. imagine an on­line multi­user game that implements random physical/virtual inter­world connectivity axones. Your being at one particular physical location at a particular time could e.g. confer your in­game avatar some damage or a bonus.

User­specificity relates to the degree to which a content connects with the user. This relevance or connectedness can take a multitude of shapes. Some particular song on your iPod, played at some particular time, could become an eerily resonant sound track stuck on your current physical­world experience. Text messaging chit­chat has de facto relevance for those involved in it, and is all about connectedness, bonding, kizuna. Bluetooth­exchanged user profiles. Alerts about products and services one might be interested in. The list is endless.

How does some of today’s content score on these three “context metrics”?

  • Portable music players rank quite high: the music you want — i.e. high user­specificity, — wherever you are — i.e. high space flexibility/availability, — when you want — i.e. at the time you of your choosing, for the duration of your choosing.
  • Non­personalized media with a fixed narrative, like movies, can actually rank quite high in user­specificity, if such content successfully resonates with some pre­existing elements of their audience’s personal Gestalts — e.g. the movie “Lost in Translation” for those who’ve been to Tokyo.
  • iMode sites: information delivered in small, digestible chunks, when you want it. Can have a quite high time metric, but generally have scope for improvement as far as e.g. location­based space and user­specificity are concerned.

Passive prepackaged media like CDs and DVDs do not engage and involve the user to the same degree than fellow human­driven avatars in a massive multi­user on­line game, for example. Interacting with human minds offers a degree of user­specific thrill and stimulus that is still not replicatable with today’s Artificial Intelligence technologies.
Audience­participatory TV programs like “American Idol” or “Big Brother” have this human component. One could imagine augmenting them with mobile technologies, to increase the overall experience’s context metric. A dozen fun, attractive and witty people — gals and guys — could be issued with camera phones, and each of these game contestants would be given an hour or two each week to find a “date for the day” by visiting locations of their choosing — e.g. a supermarket, a restaurant...
Contestants, sporting Bluetooth headsets and wearing a TV station jacket to advertise that they are “live”, would troll the members of the public for one good personality match per session. The contestant’s location would be kept secret until the TV program begins, at which point pictures of the contestant’s surroundings would be broadcast on TV, identifying his/her location. The members of the public, if they want to have the opportunity to be considered as “today’s date” partner, would have first to fill in a gender/age/personality profile form on a web site and register their mobile phone number. People who have visual contact with the contestant can approach him/her, call a special phone number, and their compatibility match would automatically be communicated to the contestant’s mobile phone. It’s up to the contestant to decide, based on the personality compatibility score, whether he/she want his/her phone to be connected to a particular person calling in. Any conversation happening, and the MMS phonecam pics taken by the contestants would be broadcast live on TV, à la “Big Brother”.
A contestant can tinker with his/her personality profile as needed to maximize the personality match points with one particular member of the public who strikes his/her fancy. The resulting match score would be recomputed for all the previous “today’s date” members of the public previously chosen by the contestant. At the end of a multi­month game cycle, the contestant with the largest compatibility score computed over all his/her past one­day dates would win.

That TV program example, though slightly contrived, illustrates how traditional media like TV can be merged with mobile, picture­capable phones to create very context­specific content of a new kind.
The interesting aspect of these user­participatory autopoietic experiences is that they are so dynamic and context­specific that it makes little sense storing them and duplicating them. For example, an Everquest session, or a Big Brother TV program, have little or no value outside of their specific time­limited contexts. Autopoietic, non­scripted and dynamic content thus usually won’t have to be protected by extensive DRM.

Eeeuw. Why do the bullet point items in my comment above appear in such a huge font ?
I just wanted simple bullet points, and the whole paragraphs have been affected...


hi this is my article about joi's speech in milia, sorry it's in italian:)
the original title in italian (it's the editor in chief that have choosed it) sounds like "ito, the last samurai":)
funny no?

Last Samurai? ;-p

Too bad I can't read Italian. I hope it says I'm right...

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Joi Ito posts from the Milia/MipTV conference: I just gave the keynote this morning and I initially felt right, but a bit bad. Milia is one of the oldest and leading interactive content conferences and MipTV is a place where Read More

rove, o lad from writing my name in water
March 18, 2005 4:31 AM

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