Distribution and Cultural Destiny

In his podcast, Akimbo, Seth Godin teaches us how to adopt a posture of possibility, change the culture, and choose to make a difference. Here are my takeaways from the episode.

  • There are two ways to make money from making media, and both are related. One is to sell advertising. To sell advertising, we need to figure out the distribution. Distribution helps us to get the word out and get people to read or watch or listen to what we make. Distribution determines the media, and the media determines the culture.
  • There are also three macro factors at work. The first one is the filter bubble coined by Eli Pariser. It is the idea that when you give people a choice, they tend to consume media that they agree with ignoring this stuff that they disagree with. The second factor is Chris Anderson’s long tail, that when you give people choices, they will take them. The third factor is the idea of curation, self-censorship, industry standards, and so on. When there was an industry that needed to deal with a tight distribution model, standards set in.
  • But once you get rid of that distribution bottleneck, there is less incentive for having self-censorship. Another word, when the distribution changes, the content that gets made also changes.
  • With the advance in technology, there are two forces at work. On the one hand, new forms of expression can exist because distribution has changed through Technology enabled rap and hip-hop to exist because musicians and artists could use technology to make music good enough to listen to at home or in a cheap studio. The other force is that there is an inherent self-curation self-censorship, and self-quality ratchet there goes into place when there is scarcity. That scarcity can be time, attention, or other valuable resources. The distribution caused the publishers to apply more curation.
  • As we go forward, we need to work with and balance these two forces. We have audiences who want to absorb certain contents contrasted with society’s desire for ideas and images that edify us. We must realize that the distribution channel is now all of us.
  • When we spread ideas, we are as responsible for that as the network executive was and as the bookstore owner was. The ideas that we share are the ideas that spread, and the ideas that spread are the ideas that win. When we choose to spread an idea that is corrosive, it takes us away from thoughtful interaction. We must accept the responsibility that we are the distribution now, and we need to own the outcome that comes with that.