Sunday, January 22, 2012

Reddit and Y Combinator - this may be an effective move

This blog has recently talked about ineffective moves against perceived threats to freedom of speech in the United States.

Boycott GoDaddy? Just gives them publicity and doesn't put a dent in their bottom line.

Boycott NVIDIA? A few hobbyists aren't going to bring down a multi-billion dollar company.

Ah, you say, but you were wrong about Wikipedia. After the blackouts at Wikipedia, Google, and other sites, SOPA and PIPA died!

Don't kid yourself.

In the long term, the blackouts a few days ago will be as effective as the Twitter activity against the Egyptian government. How's that democracy going in Egypt right now? And even if SOPA and PIPA are dead, all that is needed are a few days and a new acronym and the whole thing will be back in Congress again. My favorite acronym candidate is PAK-MAN (Protect All Kids - Maintain Accurate Networks).

Why can I say that the threat from SOPA/PIPA v2.0 still exists? Because the proponents are still pouring more money into their cause.

But what if that money spigot ended up being useless - or if there were another money spigot that was directly opposed to what the SOPA/PIPA proponents want?

And no, I'm not suggesting that Christopher Dodd be convicted of bribery for threatening to cut off the cash flow to politicians. If you believe in the First Amendment, then you have to believe in ALL views protected by the First Amendment. And if Christopher Dodd and the Pfizer folks and the labor unions want to spend tens of millions of dollars to get their view out, I believe they have just as much of a right to do so as you or I.

But what if they spend all that money and it goes for naught?

Steven Hodson recently shared something from Techie Buzz. This post mentioned two proposed initiatives that go to the heart of the matter. The first:

Reddit is looking to boycott movies made by the top six recording studios, namely Walt Disney, Sony, Paramount, Fox, Universal and Warner Brothers.

Ho hum, you might say, but consider that the Reddit participants are knowledgeable in social media - and that the six listed studios depend more and more upon social media to get the message out about their movies. (And, for some of these companies, their record albums and television shows.)

If you want to see Reddit discussions on boycotting Hollywood, here's a search.

Now can you imagine what Reddit-fueled activists can do with something like this?

Here's one idea. Imagine that SuperDuperStudio posts a YouTube trailer for its forthcoming blockbuster movie, Explosions and Girls in Bikinis (in 3-D)!!!! You see, when that trailer gets posted on YouTube, people are allowed to vote on it, and to offer comments.

Once the Reddit people get done with that, Rebecca Black will look like a Grammy Award candidate. When these studios get millions of negative votes and "U SUK" comments on all of their social media outlets, entire marketing campaigns will be adversely affected.

So if all the cool kids say DISNY SUX, then what's a teenager going to do with his or her summer? That's where the other part of the campaign comes in.

At the same time, popular startup-funding firm Y Combinator has decided to fund startups that will compete with movies and TV shows.

Again, a potential ho hum, except for the fact that Y Combinator understands industry issues even more than the passionate Reddit folks. Read their piece Kill Hollywood.

Imagine how some of these pitch meetings will go:

PITCHMAN: And then when the service goes out of beta, we'll have cool kids drooling over our insanely great service and we'll get bought out by a major studio!

YC: And will you have better ideas than Hollywood?

PITCHMAN: Oh yes! You know how Hollywood uses 3-D a lot? Well, we'll use 4-D. That's 33% better than what the major studios do!

YC: Hmm...speaking of major studios, could you share your First Amendment policy with us?

PITCHMAN: My what?

YC: Your pledge that your company will behave in an ethical manner and honor the free speech rights of all Americans, and the inherent free speech rights possessed by every human being in the entire world.

PITCHMAN: Uh...we'll have to get back to you on that.

YC: And WE'LL have to get back to YOU regarding your request for funding. Next?

Frankly, these two moves have the potential of being much more effective than any of the previous moves, since they directly attack the profitability of companies that propose to threaten free speech principles. However, as I noted in a Google+ entry, there are still a couple of other things that need to be done.

One of them has been suggested by me and others before (twice). If Christopher Dodd and the like are going to fund politicians that support SOPA/PIPA principles, then other companies, groups, and people have to step up to the plate and fund politicians that oppose SOPA/PIPA principles.

The other idea hasn't been shared in the blog, but I've shared it on Google+. I have quoted something regarding Comcast/Universal, something regarding the National Football League, and something regarding a number of major corporations. In each case, I preceded each post with a statement:

Remember this as all of you support SOPA and PIPA on February 5.

Yes, I'd be willing to bet that a whole bunch of you are going to loudly declare your support for SOPA/PIPA on February 5.

You see, many of you (and I include myself in that number) are going to be spending a good part of our afternoon and evening watching commercials from companies such as General Motors, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Toyota, Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Mars, Best Buy, CareerBuilder, and (here they come again) GoDaddy. Oh, and we'll probably see movie spots from the likes of Sony, Walt Disney, and Warner Brothers.

So what? you say. GoDaddy opposes SOPA/PIPA, and some of the companies you listed haven't taken a stand on SOPA/PIPA.

But they have.

You see, each of those companies is forking out a minimum of $3.5 million dollars - sometimes a lot more - and giving the money to Comcast NBC, who is a SOPA/PIPA supporter. At the same time, Comcast NBC is forking a whole bunch of money over to the National Football League, who is another SOPA/PIPA supporter.

And where are Anheuser Busch, GoDaddy, General Motors, and the others getting all these millions of dollars that they're giving to SOPA/PIPA supporters?

From us, the customers who watch the Super Bowl and who are going to get all excited over the commercials and buy products from these companies.

So - how many people are going to spent February 5 boycotting the Super Bowl, the National Football League, Comcast NBC, General Motors, Hyundai, Volkswagen, Toyota, Anheuser-Busch, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Mars, Best Buy, CareerBuilder, GoDaddy, Sony, Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, and every other advertiser who is donating to the SOPA/PIPA cause?

My guess is that the SOPA/PIPA supporters will rake in multiple millions of dollars on February 5.

Come to think of it, maybe the Reddit and Y Combinator moves aren't all that effective after all....
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