I check in with Mark's blog maybe every two weeks. I always get this feeling he's ranting and picture him getting thrown out of a Dallas Mavericks basketball game because the team he owns has been wronged in some way.
First off, he was the only person I know of that made a big stink that YouTube/Google was a bad deal because of content infringement. I love a guy who's got a purpose for being contrarian. Now his insights and gut instincts are looking right since it's come out that there's a $500 million hold back provision in the $1.65 billion dollar deal to fight infringement. That's just what's come out so far. Only the insiders know what other provisions there may be. To me, it seemed the deal was possible because Google and YouTube are both Sequoia are backed. Only insiders there know the stock position of Sequoia in Google, so paying one portfolio company with stock from another one is like moving your money from one place to the next. Sequoia is looking for ways to extract out a 100X return in YouTube from a 50 or 75X return (my numbers).
Second, Cuban is fascinated with content rights. He's been getting into production plus distribution of HDTV content, so I can see why it's on his mind. His recent post though about the Long Tail as the internet ghetto for content, asks important questions like:
What is the long tail. What happens when content gets off. What happens to the people who are on it. what is the impact of the internet. Is the only way out of the Internet Long Tail ghetto to work with Big Money ?
It's a long post. The gist of what he’s trying to work out is what does it take to make a profit from creating content and what role does the internet play. I think that, like his Google/You Tube observations and their timing it shows that he is an original thinker. So he's got that going for him, which is nice.
However, where his argument falls short is not looking at the effect of the cost of production as an enabler and competitive barrier to creating content that can be monetized. In broad brush strokes, he's right. I think quality of content is huge, and that most content is consumed by television. A small group isn't going to be able to create something more compelling than 'normal' TV be it Friends, or even South Park, (which is supposed to be inexpensive to produce.) Movies are Cuban's concern I'd assume now too. So he's fine and good on creating a profitable position with content for the most part.
The interesting stuff today though is the strange world of low cost content production, like the written word or most music. The internet can enable these 'long tail' folks to work on their craft until it is self supporting and from there perhaps will become very profitable. The assumptions I'm making here are that the rise in quality of content can be found given enough time in these medium. I also believe the quality can be known by the consumers. For these people, the big money and distribution issues are different and I think more exciting.
An example is Mike Arrington of TechCrunch and Mike Masnick of TechDirt, but there are thousands more. They make a living by writing and having a direct relationship to their readers over the internet. TechCrunch makes money through advertising and TechDirt makes money from customized consulting work. This is more exciting because it shows a break down of distribution channels. Myspace and muscians, or muscians that post their catalog for free download are another example. They can monetize their content by charging for live appearances.
The internet changes everything - eventually. As far as monetizing content though, visual media is still pretty protected because the quality of what most people want can't be replicated without a lot of money.