Issuu recently launched “Clip”, a feature that lets users grab snippets from any Issuu published magazine, add a comment and share the Clip via social networks. While some think this is making leaps and bounds for the company and their users, it made me consider the implications for digital publishing, ownership and free content.

On the one hand, you could argue that if features like Clip became popular and eventually rolled out to paid or membership publications, it could affect sales. Why would readers pay for a digital edition or a subscription when they can find the best bits on pinterest and twitter?

Some might say that in nearly all aspects of modern entertainment consumers now expect free content; a music video on YouTube, a teaser chapter from a new book or a series of interviews and promo videos for a new blockbuster. Perhaps digital publishing is simply taking the first step into an area that others have already tackled.

TV is one medium that is already deep into the free content rabbit hole and provides some great insight into the more positive side of giving away content. As Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes infamously said last year when asked about the piracy of award winning TV series Game of Thrones:

I think you’re right that Game of Thrones is the most pirated show in the world…That’s better than an Emmy

His positive outlook on viewers accessing the show for free was backed-up by the book series author, George R. R. Martin, who added:

“We are the most pirated show in the world. In a strange way that’s a compliment. It’s the sort of compliment that you could do without, probably, but it is a compliment nonetheless…we’re still right in the midst of a whole new template evolving for television and film entertainment.

The free content debate seems to be a catch 22. Whilst there are obvious hesitations, past experiences like that of Game of Thrones which embraced free content (legal or not) and subsequently had one of the most successful TV shows of all time. Maybe publishing should take a leaf out of TV’s book.

So what’s the backlash?
If a publisher opted out of sharing content online, thus not tapping into online world of mouth advertising, reader numbers would continue to stay on the same track they’re on now. Not growing excessively, but publishers would maintain as much control as possible over their content. Alternatively, allowing free content to be shared online could mean publishers see their popularity and reader numbers grow immensely due to exposure, given it comes with a risk to the sales figures.

In the end I guess it comes down to individual company ideals: which is more important, being the most talked about or making the most money?!

Let us know what you think in the comments below or tweets us your thoughts.

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