How did tiny Denmark become one of the world’s leading exporters of pork products? And why raise that question in a media blog?
To answer to the first question, about 120 years ago Danish farmers created producer cooperatives that combined the best attributes of big and small enterprises. The cooperatively-owned slaughterhouse processed the hogs and sold the product, taking advantage of the economies of scale. The small farm holdings raised hogs that were better bred and tended, and thus presumably of higher quality.
To answer to my second question, the emerging citizen media strike me as being akin to small farms. They may produce well-tended content, unique to some constituency or geographic neighborhood. But they have no hope of penetrating any meaningful markets as standalone operations. I think that a cooperatively-owned central processing plant, to host content, negotiate resale and/or licensing agreements, provide group health insurance, do research and product development and perform other back-office functions, would help the nascent new media coalesce into a meaningful force.
Of course, Americans are not Danes and our individualistic culture, with its inherent fractiousness, no longer lends itself to group effort. I consider this a cultural handicap of modern Americans that compares unfavorably to our barn-raising ancestors. I don’t quite understand the why of it but we must play with the cards we are dealt, to some extent, mini-media in America can attain some part of what the Danish-style coops provide through outfits like Lulu.com or CafePress.com — which coordinate things like book- or cd-on-demand publishing, and enable the creation of online storefronts to sell wares.
I have written till my fingers hurt about the need for media producer cooperatives. I will link to three postings along those lines. But as I write this morning it occurs to me that I will never be able to cram Americans into the same can as a Danish ham. And maybe the practical way to pursue these dreams would be to look for ways to blend certain aspects of these coop ideas into the Lulu or CafePress type of operations. What would be the business rationale? Thinking out loud I’d say that if a vendor like Lulu or CafePress offered group health care to its serious customers, that would lock them in and create a barrier to entry to competitors.
Here are the prior coop postings should they contain nuggets of interest: