Dispatches from nextMedia Toronto – Day Two

Yesterday I posted my takeaways from Day One of the NextMEDIA Toronto annual Digital Conference.
Today I want to share what I gleaned from Day Two which focused on content.

Day Two kicked off with a lively discussion with Cory Doctorow, Author and 21st Century Renaissance Man according to Ana Seranno, Chief Digital Officer of Canadian Film Center. Doctorow stirred up the crowd with plenty of quality sound bites for the live Twitter Feeds to blow up during his panel on “How the Internet has Changed Commerce, Culture and Content”.

The big takeaways included: access to the internet can improve grades, jobs and improve health (according to Price Waterhouse Coopers- UK); the internet is a conduit for basic human rights; digital locks (copyright laws, privacy laws) are dire for the propagation of content; if producers are keen to implement locks under the guise of protecting their intellectual property, they should make sure they are also in control of the key. In too many cases, big government or corporations (ahem, Apple) are the keepers of the keys.

Doctorow addresses piracy and lives by his word. He says you can’t coerce people into doing the right thing, you need to encourage them. He provided his own e-book for free download and encouraged people at different chapter intervals to help support him through donations. People chose whether or not to comply but, could still continue reading regardless of their choice. In his experience, at least 10% of the audience will chose to donate and continue reading in good conscience. For the other 90%, you can’t put up too many barriers that will disrupt the experience of the “paying” reader to try to force the deadbeats to pay up.

The onus, he maintains is on the content creators to get innovative and convince the audience to support them if they are seeing value in what they are consuming (and likely they are seeing the value as they have actively sought it.)

Doctorow not only took Apple to task in his diatribe on implementing digital locks under the auspice of “protection of rights”, he also proclaimed that Yahoo has vanished by explaining that all social networks, including the “all powerful” Facebook and YouTube, are ripe for disruption. Things became a little awkward when Yahoo took the stage later in the day.

Other highlights included a walk through 100K years of storytelling that illustrated that the fundamental elements have been around since man painted pictures on cave walls and that although today there are many different vehicles to broadcast the story, the story itself has to keep certain time-tested elements to remain good content. Though these sessions spoke mostly to content creators, it raised the question: are you using stories to illustrate your brand on Twitter?

This served to remind the audience that although we want to be “social” and use big data to serve up more relevant content to consumers, we need to remember that asking for too much participation or, knee-jerk reaction to trends, will kill the story. Engagement and feedback (through data or literal) are tools to help guide, not direct content, messaging and story. Harley Morenstein (host and “sauceboss” for Epic Meal Time) summed it up rather neatly when he said: “You gotta be human.”

What I took away from Day Two: Piracy can’t be controlled. You can’t coerce people into paying for content. Content creators – put your thinking caps on! You will need to get creative to find ways to get paid online. and,

Want to create content? Don’t rely on social engagement or big data to drive your ideas, rely on your gut – storytelling has been in our genes for a hundred thousand years. To be a great story teller, be human.

You will see me at NextMedia again. I loved the experience and met a lot of great people that broadened my views on creativity and content generation. And if you can’t make it there yourself, follow #NM2013 – you will get the gist and certainly all the soundbites.