Discovery vs. Consumption

One thing that I’ve been noticing recently is the distinction between the venue for the discovery of media content and the consumption of it. It’s notable to explore, as media distribution dramatically changes, not only is the consumption of content shifting, but also the discovery is as well. And those shifts are not always parallel.

In my own personal experience, I can anecdotally observe these changes. Prior to having TiVo, I learned about new television shows in the ad promos between during the commercial breaks. Now as I skip through these, I am really not discovering new shows at all. Movies are the same way; I used to learn about them on television commercials and in the previews, now I only do through the latter (when I am forced to sit through them). I used to learn about new music from CMJ New Music Monthly magazine, but as its circulation has dwindled, so has the quality of its suggestions. You would think that I would benefit from music recommendation engines, like Pandora and Last.fm, but I haven’t found myself using them. I think that’s due to the fact that I don’t listen to music on my PC, but rather on my iPod in my car and while I am running.

Perhaps discovery has been traditionally most effective when it is directly integrated into the consumption workflow. See traditional radio as the perfect example – consumption is discovering, as playlists include new music in the linear format. But increasingly users have more choice to consume what they want, not what others put in front of them.

Anecdotally again, I’ve found most of the new content I’ve consumed (regardless of type) in the past year or two has been through some type of word of mouth. It’s obvious that discovery will increasingly include a social component to it, and technology will aid in that process. We’ve seen a lot of progress in the last year with respect to news and blogs, with tools that effectively personalize or prioritize the discovery of new content (sources).

I wonder, though, with the disruption of media towards digital formats, if the discovery becomes detached from consumption method, and if consumers will be increasingly frustrated about finding what they want to consume. As content producers scramble to find the right distribution outlet for their content, are they mindful of how consumers will discover it, wherever it is?

(On a side note, I completely realize that in my thoughts above I’ve committed a fundamental mistake that many VCs make – assuming that my own habits are like those of many other consumers. It’s often funny and frequently misleading when venture guys evaluate or explore a consumer-facing services through only their own eyes, as opposed to through those of the general population or the actual target demographic of the service. A topic for another post…)

David Beisel

David Beisel is a co-founder and Partner at NextView Ventures. He has been focused on early stage Internet startups his entire career, both as an entrepreneur and venture capitalist. As an investor in the digital media space, David was most recently a Vice President at Venrock and previously a Principal at Masthead Venture Partners. Prior to becoming a venture capitalist, David co-founded Sombasa Media, an e-mail marketing company best known for its flagship product BargainDog. Sombasa was successfully acquired by About.com where David served as Vice President of Marketing. David holds an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business and an AB in Economics, magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa, from Duke University. He also founded and leads the Boston Innovators Group, an organization which holds quarterly entrepreneur events drawing a thousand attendees.

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