Google knows it has distribution. Distribution is the key to the old school method of media success. Think cable: We have a monopoly on getting programming into homes, so you have to go through us! Therefore, we make shitloads of money. Want more examples? OK: Newspapers. And magazines. And movies. And…well, just about every packaged goods media model on earth.
Well, on the web, distribution is a sort of different deal. Some will argue it’s key, others will say search has obviated the economics of distribution.
I think the answer is somewhere in the middle. Sure, if you have great content, search and the force of many will find it, and eventually you will end up with a Boing Boing, or an Ask a Ninja, or a Dooce or a Mashable.
But if you are from Old Hollywood, you don’t want to wait for the force of many to find and validate you. Instead, you want to push your product, which you presume, because you are a beknighted Force of Hollywood, that the masses will want to see. (Gee, Mike Myers, how’s that working out for you?)
So what to do?
Well, you could pay someone for distribution – Yahoo, Myspace, and AOL come to mind. Or…you could strike a deal with Google, and distribute your show through the Adsense network, which has wicked huge reach.
Yep, you read that right. I’ve written about this before, but the deal written up in the NYT today is probably the most high profile example yet. From the piece:
Google is experimenting with a new method of distributing original material on the Web, and some Hollywood film financiers are betting millions that the company will succeed.
In September, Seth MacFarlane, creator of “Family Guy” on television, will unveil a carefully guarded new project called “Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy.” Unlike “Family Guy,” which is broadcast on Fox, this animation series will appear exclusively on the Internet.
The innovative part involves the distribution plan. Google will syndicate the program using its AdSense advertising system to thousands of Web sites that are predetermined to be gathering spots for Mr. MacFarlane’s target audience, typically young men. Instead of placing a static ad on a Web page, Google will place a “Cavalcade” video clip.
My prediction, and I could be entirely wrong here: This will fail utterly. Why do I predict this? Two reasons. One, context is everything. Until Google acts like a publisher, and works with sites specifically to place advertising that is relevant to them and integrated, Adsense is an afterthought to those sites. And second, the web is not organized top down. It’s organized bottoms up. Distribution is not something you use to push shit AT people, it’s something that happens when people organize TOWARD something. That’s the whole point of the web, ain’t it?
Now, the new “Seth MacFarlane’s Cavalcade of Cartoon Comedy” show could work no matter what, if it’s good. If it’s good, folks will want it, and they’ll click on the Google ads, as well as find it through the collective hivemind that is always created in real time around good stuff. Folks will claim the Google experiment was a hit, and start to mimic it.
But it’s NEVER about distribution on the Web. It’s ALWAYS about quality. The next time Google tries this, if they are not working with a hit, it will fail.