I share, therefore I exist

As published on How Cool Brands Stay Hot on March 14, 2014. On Thursday February 13th the annual MWG Congress took place in DeFabrique (Utrecht, The Netherlands) with as theme The Gospel of Sharing – Embrace the ‘Shareconomy’! What was only the pioneering work of a handful of entrepreneurs ten years ago nowadays is the economy’s reality: the ‘shareconomy’ is a fact! A new and passionate generation of entrepreneurs all preached their own gospel of sharing, whether it concerned content, data, thoughts, products, food, elements of mother earth, ideas, emotions, arts or services.
In the current constantly changing and dynamic (media) content landscape, one continues to search for new profitable business models. The print media in particular find themselves compelled to do so. A possible starting point for this is to make your content shareable.
Further on in this blog we’ll provide an overview of some interesting views on the sharing theme by some of the most influential persons in the content industry. But let’s first look at the potential viability of the whole sharing concept according to our very own Joeri van den Bergh (Gen Y expert and co-author of How Cool Brands Stay Hot). He kicked off the day with his reflection on Gen Y and their willingness to share.

Gen Y shares social experiences and skills

According to Joeri it is a big misunderstanding that the so-called Millennials (born after 1980) have a ‘Me, Myself and I’ mentality. “The opposite is true: this is a very social generation that wants to share everything with everyone, also referred to as the ‘We’ generation”. Their main goals in life are to be inspired and to gain knowledge; they strive for a hassle-free life. Party-cipation is what Joeri calls the tendency of these young people to share experiences: sharing the moment together. An example in this respect is The Color Run: this event has little to do with individually completing a 5km run within a given time span; it is all about having fun together and being doused with colored powders.
Another Gen Y trend is their need for monotasking: they feel the need to specialize, to be really good at something, to have focus. In line with this development a new form of sharing has arisen: the sharing of skills (e.g. Google Helpouts). These types of initiatives underline the fact that the share economy is win-win: everyone who has something to share, can make money out of it!
However, Joeri warns, there currently is a counter movement among the youngest Gen Y members: they are starting to de-share (the Snowden effect; fear of privacy loss) and prefer hiding in smaller subgroups on smaller (closed) platforms.

To Own or Not to Own

Viktor van Tol (SnappCar) and Diederik Reitsma (BMW) spoke about to own or to share. Viktor declared being pro-sharing: “People under 35-40 look differently at car ownership: a car no longer is a holy cow to them. What they want is hassle-freeness and flexibility.
Sometimes a car is not being used for 23 hours a day. What a shame! While at the same time someone else needs to be transported from A to B. “Another advantage of this concept is the social effect: people are connected, this is always offering them a different kind of driving experience”, van Tol states. In his point of view this is how a Hyperlocal community is created.
Germans do not like sharing”, Reitsma argues. Yet, he also cannot deny the imminent sharing trend, which is why BMW is currently developing some service-driven (ergo: non-product-driven) sub-brands (e.g. DriveNow, a BMW car-sharing service).

There is a Content Revolution going on: content is our new currency

Marko van Kampen, EU1 – The Makers Channel – preaches about the fact that a content revolution is going on these days. EU1 is a relatively new platform that unites content creators, viewers, channels, brands, investors and funds. Anyone can help realize creative ideas (e.g. through crowd funding). “Content sharing is the key for online success” and “Create premium free content”, van Kampen states. He notices that especially user-generated content in the gaming industry is booming. The fact that viewers watched 12 billion minutes of game video per month in 2013 (source: Twitch) kind of illustrates his point. “It is impossible to beat such numbers of viewers with traditional media.”

Spotify for books

In 2007 I gave a ‘Night Writers’ lecture. It was all cool and fancy and we drank champagne. I was politely but compellingly asked to sign a few of my books, so that they would sell out in a flash. Now, only 7 years later, a maximum of 30 people will join my lectures and that is when it takes place in my hometown! There is no need for me to sign my books anymore, on the contrary: one fears not selling any signed book.” This is Kluun’s (Dutch author) personal experience with the developments in the book industry.
The book industry has been stalling for some years now. Sales decline rapidly and a lot of physical book stores have gone bust. They’re having a hard time competing with online giants such as bol.com or amazon.com. “We (red.: the book industry) are making the same mistake as the music industry did a few years ago. It’s the world upside down – normally reading was an individual activity, but it seems more and more to become a collective one.
In this light it may not come as a surprise that Spotify-like services are being developed for literature. At the moment, two Dutch publishing houses are collaborating for an e-book subscription service that takes its cues from Spotify and Netflix, due by the end of 2014. The initiative joins a host of similar concepts from the likes of New York’s Oyster for iOS.
Is this going to rescue the book industry from collapsing any further? Kluun tries to see it positively: “The concept of Spotify makes you discover new content, while you may have been looking for something completely different! In the future you can find my work lying side by side with Dostojevski’s.
But another guest speaker at the congress, the catholic priest Antoine Bodar, sadly noted: “The world will be so less colorful without book stores in it!
Kluun closed his speech with brave words: “Your sharing behavior drives me crazy, but I will see it as a personal challenge. I may fancy a Facebook feuilleton!

Free journalistic content from the paper!

Alexander Klöpping noticed that “interesting articles way too often are being enclosed in a paper or are hidden behind an online premium wall!” Hence his initiative to start Blendle: an online platform which unites all Dutch journalistic publishers to share their content. Of course, this platform also contains a social component: articles can be shared through Facebook or Twitter and you are being informed about the articles your friends have read or liked. “This truly is a Pay Sensation”, Klöpping sighs. He is convinced that (young) people are willing to pay for quality content.

Good programs are broadcast, top programs are shared

Erland Galjaard, Director of RTL4, does not see an immediate threat to ‘traditional’ television viewing behavior because of the content-sharing trend. As he sees it, the social aspect of watching television is being underrated: “TV may still be the most social medium of them all. The need to watch television programs together with the family will never disappear.” However, he realizes what the conditions in this context are: urgent, relevant and amusing content. In his view live content (such as big sports events or amusement shows) is most suitable for linear broadcasting.
At the same time, Galjaard understands the importance of offering ‘On Demand’ content to the audience. The viewer is enabled increasingly to preview new content (RTL XL) – at a fee, of course. And RTL Nederland, will be starting a new video service shortly called Videoland Unlimited, which shall offer two ways to watch series and movies: through rental or by subscription. When asked for the strategy behind this decision, Galjaard responds: “The direct connection with our viewer, that is what makes it most interesting!
Galjaard concludes that, although ‘On Demand’ is a relevant and inevitable development in the content industry, this does not necessarily imply that it will come at the expense of ‘linear’ content. “It is just that the new generation wants to have more influence. Video was supposed to mean the end of cinema, but movie theaters nowadays are more packed than ever.

Food for Thought: To Share or Not to Share?

The day ended with a relativistic monologue by Nico Dijkshoorn (‘professional cynic’). He made us think some more about the whole sharing concept. Is it really as great as most of the speakers had led us to believe during the day? “Do you really want to drive someone else’s car that smells of wet dog?” Uhm… guess not. And “People really don’t want short, flashy content. They want to watch penguins do their thing for hours and hours on end!” I know I do…
So wrapping up, is sharing really the essence of our existence? Or maybe, just maybe, we sometimes do not want to share everything with everyone. It can feel so good acting completely selfishly from time to time. The seagulls in Disney’s Finding Nemo knew it all along: Mine, Mine, Mine! But did they benefit from it… ?

Some take-aways

  1. Going beyond the product
    Sharing also means becoming less caught up by objects and possessions and having more fulfillment on a higher level. Having unique experiences, making the smartest decisions, reading the most relevant information… The means are there, the creativity makes it relevant. It is a revival of smart thinking: taking things we are so used to in everyday life and getting the most out of them.
  2. It’s the context, stupid
    A good product is a given, a basic: if you did not get that right, you will be taunted by your audience. Also, the product makes people go for their wallets. But the added value these days is in the context: who are you sharing with? Who is sharing with you? How are you sharing? It even goes that far that the content (the product) can become the currency.
  3. Sharing as the boarding step to potential business
    Many companies fear sharing as part of their business, instead of seeing it as a stepstone towards new business. By sharing, a new target can be reached, one who might get enthusiastic about your product and spread the word or, who knows, even becomes a customer.

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