Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Blurring the line between distribution and competition

An interesting article in yesterday's New York Times talked about the arrest of a producer of "mixed tapes." That is, a DJ who puts together mixes of different pieces from different rap artists and then sells those through vendors.

I didn't realize the extent to which these played a role in the rap and hip hop communities, but according to the article this is a vital part of the viral marketing employed by many record labels.

The article is worth a read. But it also brings to the forefront an increasingly touchy issue: where does a distribution channel and and competition begin? Back when I bought vinyl records and dropped a few of my favorite songs onto an analog cassette for friends, the record industry never blinked an eye. But now that I can share more of my music library more easily, the record companies want it stopped.

The same goes for the news industry. The other day I heard a Boston Globe editor talk about how the bloggers help the Globe get news distributed, since most point back to articles (just as I did for the Times in this entry). He's right.

But I wonder what happens when certain blogs raise in stature. I edit a "Placeblog" called The Garden City, which has picked up quite a bit of interest lately given a local election about building a new high school. The local paper also has a blog, but it doesn't have the same number of contributors, though it often has more reporting behind it. We link to each other's stories, but are we, at some level, in competition? Where is that line?


Lisa Williams said...

It's probably harder to find because of this one fact: with the net it's possible to do more than carve up the pie. Blogs and news sites linking to one another can have the effect of growing the pie.

One of the best ways to get a blogger to link to you is to link to them first when you find something of interest on their site. It's likely that that blogger will link back, which means that his or her audience, which probably contains people who aren't regular readers of your site, are now looking at it.

I don't know about you, but when the Watertown TAB opened up a blog my traffic didn't go down: it went up. I link to them, too, and I hope it has a positive impact.

Oh, and hi, Chuck!

Chuck Tanowitz said...

Yes, we've seen jumps in traffic thanks to the links from the Tab, and I expected that.

But I have to wonder if there is a line between cooperation and competition.

Right now we don't sell ads, but what if we did? What is people started to think about where to put their advertising dollars? Would that start to change attitudes?

Think about radio. The music industry remains quite happy to send them free CDs in exchange for airplay, but they can't share that music through other distribution channels. One is cooperation, the other, apparently, becomes competition.