Value is traditionally created in the professional publishing industry because content creators are paid to produce original, interesting and stimulating content which the regular attention-strained consumer can have shoved in their face. Now that we can search for reviews on the unlimited shelf-space of Amazon and wade through the infinity pools of iTunes and Fishpond to find even the most obscure content, we don’t have to swim in the mainstream. Niche markets may not be as glamorous as the blockbuster novels which populate the stores of physical bookstores, but they sure are lucrative. If these niches are accessible, personal and ‘findable’ (Kelly 2008) for the people who could potentially be their market, then they can become immensely profitable.
The absolute explosion of content, particularly blogs, online creates an overabundance of opinion and material, but not necessarily value. In the era of the ‘prosumer’ (someone who both produces and consumes content) (Ritzer and Jurgensen 2010) value is determined first, by the ‘findability’ of the content, the consistency of publication, and the authenticity of the content, which then secondly by the amount advertisers pay to invest their money in what they see as ‘talent‘. This is a model embodied by the YouTube blog Eat Your Kimchi, a vlog and blog with over 10 000 000 views, created by two former English teachers who traveled to live in Korea five years ago, and who now earn their keep by publishing videos on Korean music, food, and thoughts they have on living in Korea from a Western’s point of view. The value in this blog is derived by the consistency of their posts, the authenticity and trust created through their honesty and personal approach to dealing with their audience, and the channeling of their enthusiasm and unique perspectives into the niche market of YouTube users who want to learn about foreigners in Korea and Korean KPop and food. This value has been recognized by advertisers and entertainment organizers, who pay to advertise on their channel, and to fly them to countries like Australia to be entertainers.
This same standard of how to determine value has, unfortunately for major media companies such as Time Warner, begun to transfer to the world of professionally produced content. Piracy has swept the rug from under the feet of big media corporations, and flattened the media market to the point where not only blockbusters, but niche market media, can be successful. However, value is still a determiner of success; Netflix uses torrent sites to look at what films and shows they should get the rights to hosting on their service by looking at the most downloaded content. Their success shows that if consumers can get quick, easy access to low cost options to authentic, legitimate content, then the majority of consumers will stop using torrent services; whenever Netflix sets up shop in a new location, torrent traffic dips significantly. Another way to show this is that HBO refuses to license Game of Thrones to Netflix, and look at the results; Game of Thrones has become the most heavily pirated show in torrent history (Ernesto 2013).
In the words of Netflix’ Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos, ‘The best way to combat piracy isn’t legislatively or criminally but by giving good options.”