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On the difference between media and content

If content is what you’re consuming; media is where/how you’re consuming it.  Lots of start-ups I’m meeting are taking content from one medium and porting it to another. But is content fungible? Can it be effectively moved from one medium to another? And will it gain or lose value as it moves?

Open APIs and content syndication make content more portable than ever before. In addition, new technologies for crawling the web, scraping content, parsing it, and repackaging it open ever more options for porting content from one medium to another. (This was the original insight behind the Israeli company Dapper.) Both Odigo and TellMe are repackaging textual content, for example, as audio. But this porting has to make sense – and the jury is still out on a lot of these “transported content” approaches. For example, UGC is great when I can easily search for what I’m looking for, but it can be less great when an algorithm is trying to package it for me, and even less great when presented to me in a lean-back experience (audio) where I have little or no control and can’t easily scan and filter it.  Another risk to consider is that whenever you are moving content into a new medium, you are competing with existing content that is already dominating that medium – and has evolved naturally in order to best leverage its medium.

Different types of media are consumed in different ways and lend themselves to different types of content (short-form vs. long-form, professional vs. amateur, edited vs. randomized, focused vs; diverse). Animoto is a high-profile example of porting content (still images) from one type of medium (photo albums) to another (UGC video) in a way that makes sense. But plenty of examples that don’t make sense also exist. Would you really want to watch an hour-long TV show of the top-25 YouTube videos uploaded on a given day? Neither would I.

I am sure there is plenty of opportunity to create great businesses by intelligently porting content, but to succeed, these companies will have to think carefully about both the content they are working with AND the media in which they plan to deliver it – and there must be a good match between the two.

Here’s William Shatner transforming some content: