Recent wanderings got me pondering quality – across many fronts, from content to technology to the overall experience. The definition, of course, can hinge on what side (economically) you represent. Is quality an intangible that we recognize, like obscenity, when we see it but can’t articulate in concrete terms?
At Digital Hollywood a few weeks ago I listened to two different panels that addressed quality but from very different perspectives.
The first panel consisted of representatives from studios, media distributors, agents and creatives. One of the studio panelists addressed quality by saying, “For us quality means we need to have a celebrity or other name attached otherwise it just isn’t quality content. We are an old media company after all.”
In contrast, a 3D panel, with representatives from AEG Live, IMAX, Sony, 3ality, Cinedigm, Reliance MediaWorks, a movie director and the 3D VFX Supervisor from Avatar, addressed quality very differently. The participants discussed aesthetic challenges along with making and presenting 3D content. Their entire focus was on the overall consumer experience and how it had to justify the added ticket cost. Quality meant that the consumer experience had to be exceptional. I asked myself if perhaps James Cameron had been the “name” that attached itself to the whole 3D ecosystem enabling it to break out as a hot “new” industry focus.
Still pondering this issue of quality I headed up to San Francisco (sure to get some “techie” inputs). Running into Rich Maggiotto of Zinio, we flipped through his company’s assortment of magazine and related pages on an iPad (many of the top magazines are available for subscription viewing through Zinio on a PC, iPad or iPhone and the experience is stunning). He showed me a few newer online ad options and I would watch them (I usually don’t). I asked Rich about quality from his perch. He spoke of the user experience and the tough balance of providing branded or name content while weighing the extensive list of popular alternative content that the consumer can get so easily.
Flying home I wondered about the studio audience bleed. The vast majority of media-related dollars (content not technology) come from what is termed old media sources. Yet at the consumer level little distinction exists between old and new media as they continue melding together. Has the definition of quality changed? Or does it rest, ultimately, in the individual? Chris Anderson, years ago, in his Wired piece on “Free” used the example of his kids – if given a limited two hour window to watch content – choosing not Star Wars the movie but YouTube videos of Lego Star Wars characters made by other nine year olds.
My last step pondering quality occurred when I attended The Cable Show at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The exhibits were lavish and celebrity-strewn. The show was visually stunning with large, high def screens lining the aisles. Every step of the media distribution (cable) process was represented; from the studios, to the cable companies, to technology providers and enablers. Cablevision had one of the best and most lavish booths refreshment-wise with nice champagne, assorted ice creams and a coffee bar. The first two were known brands while the later was brand-less.
And that offering, by a cable company, sums up my current state of mind with respect to quality. The flavor or form often varies per person or their mood (I had a coffee, later in the day maybe it would have been champagne; 24/7 my kids would have chosen ice cream). But you aim to provide the best overall experience, ensuring that each offering tastes good, and let the consumer decide for themselves.
Challenges faced in the continuing battle to provide and monetize a consumer experience will always rest on consumers’ ultimate determinations of quality. As the various providers along the value chain try to provide an experience based on an amorphous but sometimes recognizable definition the consumer continues to benefit. From 100 plus channels, to the iPad, 3D, Glee, Avatar, YouTube (my kids’ favorite) quality itself is being monetized, sometimes more directly than indirectly.
I’d greatly appreciate hearing what others think of quality.
Ideas came from, other than the people above: John Rubey, AEG Live; Greg Foster, IMAX; Buzz Hays, Sony; Angela Wilson, 3ality Digital; Chuck Comisky, Avatar; Keith Melton, director; Jonathan Dern, Cinedigm; Jim Hannafin, Reliance; Marty Shindler, The Shindler Perspective; Keith Quinn, Paramount; Pam Schechter, NBC/Universal; Jonathan Foqualityrd, ContentFilm International; Chris Jacquemin, WME Entertainment; Michael Kernan, NuMedia Studios.