All right, this post isn’t so much a defense of piracy; it’s about why pirates aren’t the real problem.
I know we’ve talked a lot recently about piracy and maybe you’re sick of it all, but the way I see it, all this discussion about SOPA and PIPA  really boils down to many industries’ unwillingness to adapt.
Piracy is the result of the entertainment industry’s inability to change. Rather than think innovatively and try new solutions to better mesh with an increasingly online-oriented world, they dig their heels in the mud and try to pass laws that won’t force them to change their marketing strategy.
What Sets Online Marketers Apart
Great online marketers understand why it’s important to adapt to change. The world of online marketing is continuously shifting on the churning tides of Google algorithm adjustments and Facebook updates. Perhaps because those of us who reside in the online realm are used to having the earth shift beneath us, we are a group that are quick to adapt, embrace change, and move forward.
As with Google’s Panda update, there are always some growing pains as shoots of bamboo slap you in the face. Although folks may grumble for a while, eventually search marketers (or at least the successful ones) will stop complaining, accept the change, and begin to work towards new techniques and strategies that are in line with the changes. The best will even predict future changes and work to meet them, such as taking steps towards focusing more on social media when it’s clear that Google plans on having social influence play an increasingly vital role in search.
Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes Need to be Embraced
It seems that this past week alone I’ve witnessed many industries lamenting their position.
NPR recently released a story about book publishers frustrated with Amazon Kindle eBooks, which continue to be a cheaper alternative to buying books in the more classical sense. Amazon has even lowered the price of their Kindles and eBooks to the point where they are selling them at a loss, simply to establish good rapport with customers and encourage more people to buy Amazon Kindles and eBooks.
Ebooks are certainly revolutionizing the publishing industry, and I can sympathize with the fear and worry rampant in publishers’ and librarians’ minds. My town library was my second home when I was younger (nerd alert), and while the idea of losing libraries would terrify me, I don’t see that happening – physical books have a tactile aspect you simply can’t replicate with ebooks. Books as physical objects can be clutched, handled, and even cuddled in a way that encourages a connection and relationship that I would argue heightens the reading experience. Reading an ebook, by comparison, is cold and impersonal.
The point is that while publishers can moan and weep over plummeting book sales lost to ebooks, they should instead be thinking of creative ways to remind people why physical books are so irreplaceable, and why libraries are so vital to communities, instead of collapsing on the floor and acting as if the battle is already over.
Creative Thinking – Coming to a Theater Near You?
Naturally, a similar attitude needs to be adopted by the entertainment industry. Give up ending piracy – it’s just not going to happen, no matter how many clever acronyms you throw at people. You may not like it, but this is the age we live in, and you simply can’t force people to move backwards. Instead, think innovatively – offer valuable features and extras that can only be obtained through purchased versions. Steam is a great videogame software platform that allows users to buy videogames, offering access to big titles as well as smaller indie games. Users can purchase and then access games on the Steam network. They can then access those games on any device, any number of times, to do with as they please. In addition to quick and easy access to all your games, Steam also offers a rich community experience that adds to the platform. Implementing a similar system for movies could do wonders.
It’s also important to recognize that not every download is a sale stolen from the entertainment industry. Some who pirate free movies wouldn’t bother to spend money and see the movies otherwise, especially with the increasing cost of cinema tickets. That’s an important point to keep in mind when reading MPAA research concerning lost profits. In fact, under this theory, one could claim that pirated material gives audiences access to content they might never normally view.
This is perhaps most applicable with regards to the music industry. While working at my college’s radio station as a DJ, I was able to burn a number of CDs that had been given to the station. This introduced me to a tremendous number of artists whose music I would never have bought on my own. Some of the artists I discovered as a result of what some might call “illicit activities” have since become beloved favorites whose albums I would gladly pay for now and whose concerts I would pay big bucks to attend. It’s the music industry’s responsibility to blaze the path between music discovery and fan loyalty so that a successful alternative to piracy exists.
The refusal to think towards the future can be seen also in the current debate over the Keystone Oil Pipeline. I know some argue in favor of job creation and lessening dependence on foreign oil, but I simply can’t understand why oil companies aren’t focusing 90% of their resources on coming up with green energy innovations. I mean, we’re going to run out of oil eventually, there is no denying that. If oil companies could prepare for this future certainty, they could be enormously successful. But instead they use their energies in encouraging people to continue their present oil-reliant habits.
Raise a Glass to the Search Marketers
Perhaps it is because search marketers work at the mercy of huge mammoths like Google that they are so willing to adapt – throwing a tantrum and trying to force people into the past simply isn’t an option. Those conditions create marketers who think differently, who are willing to take a chance on new ideas, and who can take a punch and let it roll off the shoulders.
So huzzah to small businesses marketers – if only there were more people like you in the world, maybe we’d have flying cars by now!