In this exclusive midemnet blog interview, MidemNet keynote Janus Friis, co-founder of Joost, Kazaa and Skype , explains why internet TV platform Joost – of which he is also chairman – can be a boon for music companies; and why its OK to call him a ‘disruptor’… if it’s in the positive sense of the word!
Why did you agree to speak at the MidemNet Forum? What message do you hope to put across?
It’s a good opportunity for us. Joost is a platform for all kinds of video content, but in music terms, you find not only standard music videos, but also footage of big events, like concerts, for example. Joost is a platform which allows anyone to reach a global audience [launched October 2007, it has already attracted 5 million users worldwide, ed]. It’s all about legitimate content, above all. We already have deals with many labels; Warner, Universal and indies like Beggars Group to name a few.
What can Joost do for the music industry?
Kazaa led to five years of litigation with the music business… so that’s given us a bunch of experience and understanding… but not that that’s directly related to what we’re doing now. If you look at MTV in its heyday, it was a very good promoter of music. Nowadays, the way TV works, it’s not easy to create a TV channel. With us, you can programme your own channels and reach a global audience immediately; lots of labels are already posting concert and backstage footage, artist profiles… and, of course, music videos. Music does very well on Joost, as a lot of our demographic is young and male. So it’s worth labels’ effort to post videos because Joost is a legitimate way to use the internet to create a good music experience online; plus, it provides revenue for content owners, with whom we divide advertising revenue.
Joost is entirely ad-funded, and targets ads to users based on their viewing habits: how is that working, and what’s in it for content providers?
The advertising model is working very well; we have over 40 blue chip advertisers signed up so far. Overall, they’re keen to get beyond standard online display advertising and leverage the targetability of the internet. The purpose of Joost is to take the content and show it to the people who want to see it. The more content, the more advertising, and vice versa. Today, the only way the content industry can be successful online is to offer compelling content with very little barriers; it’s essential that applications be very easy to use.
Can, for example, the ad-supported content model be easily applied to any content? Quite a few companies are currently offering ‘free’ music against advertising…
It’s good that the music industry is creating good user experiences like imeem, for example. It’s a bit too late, but better late than never; that’s what the labels are realising now. The core competence of labels is to spot and then work with talented people, not to create internet products and platforms. They should be working with start-ups and bigger internet companies; people who have a shared interest in creating a legitimate business. Everyone can get anything they want nowadays online, but the piracy user experience is not always the best…
Does the industry’s recent u-turn on DRM suggest it’s finally fully open to alternative distribution methods?
DRM is OK as long as it doesn’t jeopardise the user experience. The labels’ new attitude is generally a good thing as it shows an openness to experiment, but DRM is not inherently evil! Joost has DRM, but it’s seamless; it doesn’t impact your user experience. But overall yes,it’s healthy that the industry’s now focused on user experience rather than legal protection, which used to be the majors’ kneejerk reaction.
Ever-increasing multiplatform convergence could mean that in a few years’ time, all entertainment content might be considered as equal. Is there a risk of content becoming a commodity?
The internet has released a whole range of disruptive forces on content. Scarcity is now a thing of the past; people can now get whatever they want. There have been attempts at curtailing that but at the end of the day, content cannot be commoditised because (owning) content is still king. Users still have very strong links to content. Nothing is more emotional than music … Plus the intertnet opens huge opportunities for creators to reach fans directly, which is definitely a good thing.
You are considered as a ‘disruptor’ of traditional business models. Do you accept this label? What industries/sectors are you now looking to disrupt, if any?!
If you’re talking about disruption in its positive sense then I’m happy. Skype, for example, made free telephony really easy to use, so it took off; that was disruptive in a good way. Overall, I can only see positive things about new services coming into the marketplace and improving our lives. If it’s disruption for its own sake, that’s obviously bad; but that’s never been our case. We’re looking for new markets, opportunities to improve things. Right now I’m very focused on two things: Joost and Atomica, a global investment company which will invest in great ideas and teams… but beyond that, I’m not a prophet!