Content Creators: It’s Better to Own than to Rent

I’m hopeful that the recent Yahoo! debacle will underscore a point I’ve been trying to make for seemingly ever:

Don’t build brand equity for other sites; instead leverage these non-owned “tools” to increase the value of your owned asset.

One would have thought that the thrashing that FB gave to MySpace would have been clue enough. MySpace was the place where artists began to stake out their digital homestead. Countless hours were spent “pimping” their pages, growing their list of fans/friends, updating their tour schedules, uploading photos, etc., etc.

While, admittedly, if MySpace still has anything going for it it’s music, no one can argue that the vast majority of the time, energy, and cost (real and opportunity) that artists put into their MySpace pages was wasted. MySpace no longer offers an artist any real value; particularly when compared with the value that Facebook/Twitter/Tumblr/YouTube/etc. provide(s).

Still, the very fact that I continue to see artists eschewing the development of their own (owned) online presence in favor of utilizing non-owned sites (Bandcamp, ReverbNation, or others) for their primary online identity makes me fear that the message is not getting through.

Now we see Yahoo! “sunsetting” some of their properties (or maybe not – who the hell knows). In particular, the sunsetting (or not) of Delicious (nee del.icio.us) seems to have caused not only something of a nerd-class (of which I consider myself a card-carrying member) riot, but raised the concern of even those one standard deviation away from the nerd-class because of another property that Yahoo! may or may not sunset: Flickr.

This quote from a TechCrunch article on the Delicious situation sums it up:

The entire time I was reading the back and forth of [the Delicious] fiasco, I had one thought on my mind: I need to get my pictures out of Flickr, pronto. No, Flickr wasn’t on the list of companies being “sunset”, but how do I know that in a year it won’t be? Hell, maybe even 6 months from now? I don’t. In fact, I’d say it’s 50/50 that something similar happens with that service.

Be it based upon this Flickr-related fear; the inexorable move towards irrelevance of the once-important MySpace; the continued lack of real music commitment from Facebook; the understandable growing pains of Tumblr; or whatever else it might take, I hope that artists will realize that they must be platform agnostic.

I’m not for one fraction of a second suggesting that artists should not use these services — in a thoughtful manner that is part of a larger strategy; not just as a random act of improvement.

MySpace, for some period of time absolutely did provide value for artists. Facebook, Twitter, etc., are perhaps the greatest marketing tools artists have ever had at their disposal.

Some of these sites/tools will stick around (most won’t), and while they’re around, artists should use them for all they’re worth. But remember, while you as an artist may be deriving benefit from these sites/tools, with every piece of content you contribute you are definitely building the brand equity for these sites, rather than for your owned assets.

The right approach is to use these services with the single-minded goal of driving people from these sites to your own (owned) site, where you can collect both data and traffic. (For more on this, you might be interested in this article.)

In other words, rent space from these sites/tools, but own your dominant online presence.

The alternative is to be at the whim of Yahoo! or Murdoch or someone else who may decide they no longer wish to support a platform which you’ve come to rely on. As all owners do, they’ll kick you out and move on, while you’re left putting bubble wrap around the wine glasses.

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