Digital Media Execs Debate Content at AlwaysOn

Technology entrepreneurs say that traditional entertainment continues to miss the opportunities in digital media, but they differ on how to pick up the slack. (

PALO ALTO, Calif.—Though 350 miles away, Hollywood was in the air as Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, executives and venture capitalists predicted the direction of digital media.

But the two industry centers appeared half a world away in the discussions at the AlwaysOn Summit being held here this week.

To a panel of multimedia leaders, the major entertainment and media companies are continuing to miss the fundamental shifts that are giving consumers more power and dismantling traditional approaches to creating, distributing and marketing everything from music and movies to radio programs.

"[The entertainment industry] lost when the Internet was created, because the Internet was created to resist control, and as more people are on broadband youre just not going to have that control and you need to adapt your business model to that reality," said Michael Weiss, the CEO of StreamCast Networks Inc., which makes the Morpheus P2P file-sharing application.

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While panelists shared skepticism about traditional media and entertainment companies, they disagreed on whether technology and Internet companies should go so far as to tackle the creative side of creating content themselves.

Internet and technology companies already have focused widely on distribution of digital media through software and services ranging from peer-to-peer networks and online music stores. New online marketing and mobile approaches also are emerging.

To Mike Homer, chairman and co-founder of Kontiki Inc., focusing more on the creation of content should be the next step.

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"If you have all these new distribution opportunities and marketing opportunities and mobile opportunities, then why not think of new digital content to sell [consumers]?" said Homer, whose company makes software for distributing digital media and has created a site called Open Media Network for user-generated digital content. He added that content has to be "targeted to a narrow audience."

The emergence of Weblogs and podcasting, among other trends, has led to more user-generated content.

But Mark Cuban, the co-founder and chairman of high-definition television network HDNet, warned against focusing exclusively on the Internet and digitally distributed content.

While a certain amount of specialized content might make sense for Internet-only distribution, companies wanting to reach a broad, mainstream audience must deliver content the way consumers want it.

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