We all know content and platforms have a love-hate relationship and the zeitgeist swings back and forth favoring one or the other.
When platforms face no competition, they crowdsource and try to attract as much content as possible… but, once other platforms come into the space, each one requires exclusive content to differentiate themselves.
Thus you have Netflix grabbing every indie and tv show within reach during the early days until it realized Hulu and Amazon have the exact same content, driving Netflix to instead pursue exclusive Disney deals and produce original content. YouTube is on a similar trajectory, they all are. There’s nothing new about this, Netflix is doing exactly what movie channels like HBO or AMC did to differentiate themselves.
Depending on a content creator’s choices, she can either benefit from platforms’ changing strategies or be locked in limbo by those changing strategies.
When content is platform agnostic, it can take advantage of changes in the platform business without falling victim to them. If you make a feature film at the height of the DVD boom, you can take advantage of that… and because your film isn’t exclusively locked in to DVD you can port it over to iTunes or Netflix Streaming once DVD falls off.
The trick for content is to remain as platform agnostic as possible.
With comics, it’s new that these things are perhaps not locked into the dead-trees format. The past ten years has seen tumultuous change in the historically very static format of comics, first with collected books launching through the stratosphere and more recently with web comics, digital comics, motion comics, etc. All of a sudden comics creators have to be aware of how versatilely their work is being designed. Two-page spread? Maybe not such a great idea if a large number of people are going to be reading it on a tablet.
People ask me why I’m not excited about Comixology or MadeFire. To me, and I don’t have a problem with these platforms on a personal level they’re both fine, but they demand too much exclusivity for what they offer in return. First of all, both are expecting your content for free (MadeFire does some work-for-hire, but they are moving more toward crowdsourcing). If a platform is getting your content for free, they deserve zero exclusivity. You post a video on YouTube, you can also post it wherever else you want. But Comixology and MadeFire use their toolkits to repurpose your work into their native format which can’t be exported elsewhere. So your panel-view digital comic is really only available in Comixology or your motion comic is only available in MadeFire. This proprietary formatting with zero money up front exists nowhere else. Even in a 100% returnable business like DVD or CD, the retailer still has to pay upfront for the right to stock your product. And when Time Warner Cable or iTunes takes your movie, it’s not in an exclusive proprietary format. The business models of Comixology and MadeFire are unique in this way.
I’m not a Luddite about this. Godkiller was ahead of MadeFire in that space and the projects we’re working on next are further iterations forward, but I see no incentive to bringing any of my future projects to a company like MadeFire where the content will be locked into their platform. We built Godkiller platform agnostic. We expected to only sell it on short DVDs at horror cons… but it became popular enough that we were able to open it theatrically in 20 cities… and then we were able to expand it and sell DVDs at indie record shops and comic shops and Best Buy and Hot Topic and dozens of other stores… then cable-VOD became big and it got into 80 million households on Time Warner Cable and Comcast and Dish… then it went digital on Xbox and iTunes and Playstation and Netflix and Hulu and Redbox Instant. Any single one of those outlets is larger than Comixology or MadeFire, but, had we started on either platform, we would not have been able to take advantage of the opportunities that became available. We were only able to take advantage of them because we retained a versatility of content.
Content and platforms will always have a difficult time managing their relationship, but, if you create content, it is always in your best interest to keep your options open… and that means keeping your content platform-agnostic.