Oh, the folly of the NFL

Robert Kozinets, who covers brands, marketing, and technoculture on his blog Brandthroposophy has a blog entry called What Does DRM Really Stand For? Whack-a-Mole! in which he says this:

Entertainment executives (most of them, anyways) are still swimming against the tide or hiding their heads in the sand. They’re protecting and locking their properties up. But they can’t win. They are going against the collective intelligence of the crowd, and defying communal imagination and motivation. Even after all these year, entertainment companies haven’t even come close to getting it. When they do, they’ll learn to work with the trends and not against them. That’s going to be an interesting day.

I was interviewed a few days ago by a journalist who is writing about the NFL’s new restrictions on the use of video — people are now only allowed to post 45 seconds of NFL footage, with a link back to NFL.com, and they can only have it up for 24 hours. More justifiably, they’re not allowed to put ads around NFL footage. My response was very much what Kozinets says here. The strategy, I’m sure, is to drive traffic to NFL.com and to monopolize the message. Even if they succeed in increasing the traffic, they are not going to be able to control the message, and it’s not in their own interest to do so.

Apparently they acknowledge off the record that they are not going to actually be able to stop people from posting longer footage and keeping it up longer. Whack-a-mole.

Fans are creative folks. They will find new places to put things up. They will put up themselves what has been taken down elsewhere as many times as they need to in order to keep their discussion going.

But more importantly, NFL’s revenue stream comes from many places, including, for instance, lots and lots of sales of goods with team logos. Why do people buy those things? Because they identify with the teams. Even if message-control were possible, nothing that stifles and boxes in discussion is going to enhance identification. If the NFL wants to make more money, they should be “working with the trends and not against them” by enabling fan discussion whenever and wherever fans want to have it.

Furthermore, this really annoys the media since news and other sports sites are included in these new regulations, not just fan sites. Ultimately, the price in making your fans and news venues ticked off and making it harder for them to get into discussion about the games can’t possibly be worth any modest increases in NFL.com page views they may accrue.

Despite the RIAA’s aggressive filing of lawsuits, illegal downloading has increased since they started doing it. I suspect that many people feel even more righteous in the practice since they now have such good reason to view the RIAA as unethical enemies. Does the NFL really want to be the RIAA of athletics? Yikes.

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