Friday News: National Book Awards, YouTube’s Fair Use advocacy, marketing apps, and Twitter’s TV hopefuls
Ta-Nehisi Coates Wins National Book Award – The least surprising, but nevertheless moving, win of the night was Ta-Nehisi Coates for his non-fiction work, Between the World and Me. Adam Johnson won the award for Fiction, Neal Shusterman for Young People’s Literature, Robin Coste Lewis for Poetry, James Patterson won the Literarian Award, and Don DeLillo won the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters:
He was typically understated in his acceptance speech, and at his request, his remarks were not streamed on videocast. Rather than talking about his work or his evolution as a writer, he spoke reverently about a room where he keeps his collection of old paperbacks, and what those books mean to him.
“When I visit the room, I’m not the writer,” he said. “That’s the guy who lives down the hall. Here I’m not the writer at all, I’m the grateful reader.” – New York Times
YouTube’s Putting Its Money Where Its Mouth Is on Fair Use – One of the upsides to Google’s ownership of YouTube is the company’s decision to defend several YouTube videos that have been issued takedown notices against what Google believes to be a fair use exception. Although there is speculation about whether Google actually wants these cases to go to court, Google has clearly not been afraid of litigation (nor have they been particularly unlucky in that arena lately). At the very least, the move should help raise awareness about the ways that a DMCA takedown notice can be fought by the recipient. Although I wouldn’t call Google’s move altruistic, their own interest in fair use coincides with increasingly overweening copyright laws.
The way the law is worded has always benefitted the people making complaints over video producers. Service providers like Tumblr and Twitter have a lot more to lose going up against Viacom than they do letting their users take the hit. What YouTube has done is insert themselves, when they have no legal obligation to do so, on the side of the users.
According to YouTube’s statement, they will pay for the legal defense of a few videos they determine to be clear examples of fair use. Right now, that number is four (including a video by Naral Pro-Choice Ohio, Jim Sterling, and U.F.O Theater) but they might extend that offer to others in the future. Fair use—the use of copyrighted material without permission or payment for certain socially valuable purposes like criticism or commentary—is not a copyright infringement and is therefore not subject to a DMCA takedown. – Gizmodo
SELLING FEELINGS – Ben Thompson’s essay on marketing in a digital environment where producers are not fighting to physical shelf space also does a great (albeit inadvertent) job of explaining the great ‘cup of coffee’ analogy is wrong-headed. And why is that? Because consumers buy products that make us feel a certain way, and that ‘feeling’ is a cumulative experience that is fundamentally irrational. Because, of course, it’s based on emotion. Anyway, back to Thompson’s argument: he talks about the importance of thinking about both product development and marketing from the perspective of the feelings the product will likely generate in its user/buyer. Like those ‘free to play’ and ‘free to win’ games. He notes that PC game League of Legends earned over a billion dollars last year, and it did so “selling digital clothes for a digital avatar,” again, because feelings. The question, of course, is how to successfully engage the consumer’s (reader’s?) feelings, especially in a very crowded marketplace where there is virtually no bar to participation.
Moreover, I think the model is broadly applicable. I wrote two weeks ago about how the future of publishing will not be about monetizing pure words but rather about using words to gain fans that can be monetized through other harder-to-discover media. Time and attention remain precious commodities and earning trust in one area gives you the right to make money from it in another. Similarly, as I wrote last week, software generally should be seen as a lever to solutions that are much more meaningful to customers, and much more difficult to copy. After all, as noted above, software is infinitely copyable: better to use that quality to your advantage than to base your business model on fighting gravity. – Stratechery
‘Shit My Dad Says’ Creator: I Killed Hollywood’s Obsession With Twitter TV Shows – Justin Halpern, who wrote the hilarious Twitter feed, “Shit my dad says,” writes about how the television adaptation of the feed failed. It’s a relatively short piece, but I think Halpern hits on something that is also applicable to, say, how publishers are mining fan fiction communities for new books. Namely, that in tv terms, networks are looking for a balance between familiarity and something a little bit kinky that delivers a new type of pleasure:
Now that I’ve worked as a TV writer for six years, I’ve come to realize why networks were eager to buy my feed. Writers and broadcast networks have a specific relationship. Think of them as a middle-aged married couple who has sex once a week, mostly in the missionary position, then rolls over and cruises on their iPads. Both parties might like to try something new, but nobody wants to make a move that ends up going so badly that you can’t look at each other in the morning. – The Hollywood Reporter