P2P Intelligence and Monetising Media

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Creative Commons License photo: Alex // Berlin (Stay in Madrid)

One interesting element of writing this blog is seeing how old posts are viewed. For example, last year I wrote about bugs inside my LCD screen. Since then, the post has been getting a couple of hits every day as people find it through Google and other search engines.

Over the last 3 or 4 days, traffic to that individual page has increased ten-fold. This coincides with the warm weather in the UK over the last few days. So obviously the fact I’ve been getting so much traffic on that page indicates that a lot of people have had problems with bugs inside their computer monitors lately.

It’s certainly an interesting piece of information or a trend that I’ve discovered by looking through my logs.

And it looks like media companies are finding their own sources of intelligence by looking at downloads on peer-to-peer sites. According to The Economist, 20 times as many tracks are exchanged on peer-to-peer sites than through legitimate stores.

Of course, sharing music on peer-to-peer sites is illegal. P2P sharing of music is not restricted to country borders and there is an infinite supply of it (since it’s free). That makes it dead useful for the media companies to discover where music is popular. For example, they can see where the music is popular even if it hasn’t yet been released there. And by finding out what other kind of music fans are listening to, especially in the younger generation which uses P2P, record companies can better organise supporting artists for tours.

Red iPod Nano
Creative Commons License photo: Andrew*

The dilemma for the record companies is of course that P2P file sharing is illegal and that means they are very reluctant to use data from it.

There is of course a middle ground. For example, Deezer is a legitimate music service which combines freely-available streaming music with a social network. Deezer spreads well through viral methods such as MSN Messenger, blogs and forums. Deezer can use cookies to link together all the different songs and artists you like. And when music costs nothing upfront, people are more willing to listen to new music. That means Deezer knows the music that you’re interested in: iTunes only knows what music you’ve purchased from them (and most people probably don’t buy all their music from one place).

Google Adsense transformed content on the web by showing relevant advertising. Amazon has transformed the way many of us shop by analysing what we buy and suggesting we buy them together. Instead of fighting piracy, I wonder whether these two approaches could be combined to align the goals of ensuring artists are properly rewarded with allowing people to discover new music organically and virally.

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