FT.com reports today (this may be only accessible to subscribers) that Balderton Capital, the venture capital group that backed the Betfair gambling website and Setanta, the pay-TV broadcaster, has raised $430m (£282m) for technology and media investments. Barry Maloney, general partner of Balderton, said “We are about to enter a very interesting time for new investments, if not for exits."
And Techcrunch reported on January 8 that 35 of the UK’s digital/tech companies are going to the US "to get into the vibe over there and hopefully do some business. Specifically this is the “Digital Mission” - a kind of trade mission, but with more sex appeal - to Austin, Texas for the South by South West Interactive (SXSWi) conference from 12-18 March this year. "
So maybe it's a good time to look at the dominant themes for the year, at least as far as the digital media world is concerned. In upbeat mode, I'm going to choose just one: "2009 - the year for innovation." Primarily, I mean innovation in business models, in how we do business, rather than technical innovation although the latter remains absolutely vital.
The theme of business innovation fits very well into the regulatory agenda, because business innovation on the one hand and stronger IP enforcement and better regulation on the other are each indispensable to the other .
And there's lots happening on the regulatory front:
Lord Carter's Report on Digital Britain is due out shortly.
As I reported on my Blog on December 19th, the IPO has launched a strategic review of copyright, looking particularly at access to works, incentivising investment and creativity, recognising creative input and authenticating works.
Follow up to BERR's Consultation on Illegal P2P filesharing.
The European Commission's follow-up to the responses it has received on its Green Paper on 'Copyright in the Knowledge Economy' dealing with copyright exceptions.
And the Commission's follow up to its 'Content Online Communication'.
...to name but a few. But let's return to the theme of business innovation.
Business innovation is essential and is either happening or needs to happen at every stage of the digital media industries' supply chain.
Innovation in how businesses are financed. For example, the use of secured financing of IP assets is still relatively underused.
Innovation in rights management, especially as regards clearing rights on a pan territorial basis and in how everyone in the value chain gets paid. (OK, there's still a mountain to climb in terms of reconciling consumer expectations about online content with the need to 'monetise' - terrible word! - that content).
Innovation in payment models - subscription only, pay per use, advertising support and any other combination you can think of;
Innovation in licensing models - there are a whole host of licensing tools and models available, depending on whether content is being licensed solely for commercial basis, on an open innovation basis (check out an interesting post on that subject), as a public/private partnership or whatever.
Innovation in business partnerships and collaboration.
Innovation in delivery models - see, for example, Apple's recent announcement about 'DRM-free' higher quality music tracks via i-tunes.
Innovation in marketing - just look at the increasing use of widgets, rss feeds and other social network tools to gain consumer's attention.
So it seems to me that the key challenge for all of us this year in the midst of a highly uncertain environment is how to innovate for success. I don't confess to have the answers but I think it's a good question to ask oneself in the still early days of 09.
Have a good week.