P2P tempest

I was invited to present on our ongoing research on the impact of P2P file distribution on paid content sales at O’Reilly’s one-day Tools of Change event in Frankfurt. The conference and reaction to the presentation was covered widely by several publications, and I’ve posted what I’ve found to provide a perspective on the event. I have also posted the presentation on Slideshare.

Particularly interesting was a comment by the event’s keynote speaker, Sara Lloyd, who delivered her own “publishing manifesto” to start the day. Initial coverage of the event criticized its focus on programmers, not publishers.

This was an absurd comment, really. The first three general session speakers included a trade publisher, a retailer (Amazon) and a science-fiction author who happens to have a well-informed opinion on DRM.

Of the 20 scheduled speakers in the next four breakout sessions, plus the eight general-session speakers at the end of the day, I counted one (speaking on “Digital standards in a hybrid publishing world”) who might loosely be considered “technical”.

Perhaps realizing how thin that complaint was, the debate evolved to the real issue: our research.

To The Bookseller, Ms. Lloyd described the presentation as “misleadingly skewed” and complained that “no attempt was made to suggest how different the patterns might be for a mass market.”

With respect to “misleading skewed”: if you go to the Slideshare deck, I address the sample set explicitly on slides 3 (a call to action), 15 (structured testing), 18 (what we have tested), 19 (what we found), 32 (three useful cautions – the word “skew” actually appears on this page) and 33 (next steps, one of which is seeking more publishers to fill in the test matrix).

Beyond all this, on slide 9, I specifically addressed the research philosophy for this project: we’re trying to understand where P2P distribution occurs and what it does to paid content sales. It may help; it may hurt. But blindly assuming that it does one or another is not a wise move for any IP owner.

I’m glad that The Bookseller surfaced this issue, because it brings the discussion into a public realm. I’m sorry that TOC and O’Reilly became a short-term proxy for a debate about structured research into the impact of P2P distribution. The research is my own; they have done nothing to influence it. They didn’t even ask to see my presentation ahead of time. They do publish the Rough Cut research paper on this topic, and they have asked me to update the paper to include the most recent results.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.

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