BitTorrent: Entertainment's future is free, and includes RealPlayer

How do you monetize a technology that is hard to monetize? BitTorrent, the company behind all things torrent and the uTorrent client has several answers for that. Not long ago it began to offer the uTorrent Plus client that added features like antivirus protection, a build-in media player or a media converter for a price to the uTorrent program.

But that did not really solve the question that artists and other members of the entertainment industry were asking: how are they going to monetize their content using BitTorrent?

The Present

Today BitTorrent answers the question, by adding RealPlayer. You may ask what BitTorrent, artists and RealPlayer have in common? Well, BitTorrent's idea is simple: provide users with free media bundles that include an optional offer to download and install software. If you now think that this resembles how some companies and software developers distribute their free programs, then you are not entirely mistaken.

Adware may not be the appropriate term for the BitTorrent Bundle that is currently offered by the company, but it uses the same mechanics to monetize contents offered for free.

If you visit the website where the bundle is offered you land on a page that offers information about the bundle's contents.

You get 3 tracks from DJ Shadow's "Hidden Transmissions" album, photos and related items, which is a pretty good offering provided you like this kind of music. The page also lists RealPlayer software -- for PC users -- as an optional download and this is where it gets interesting.

Once you click on the download link you get another window that explains the concept and gives you the option to either include RealPlayer in the download or not.

Interestingly enough, all you get either way is a link to a torrent that you need to load into a torrent client on your system. Once you do that you will notice that RealPlayer is among the files that you download.

You'd still have to run the RealPlayer download on the system to install the software. If you ignore the download, you still get all the benefits without installing the media player on the system. According to the announcement on the official BitTorrent website, the company gets paid every time a user "downloads the free software offer packaged with the DJ Shadow Bundle". It is not clear if the initial web client download is meant by that, or the download of the full application after the user has launched the installer on the system. It is, however, very likely that the latter is the case.

The future

When you look at the idea from a top-down perspective you have to wonder if this is really a model that could work on a larger scale. The biggest issue here is that paid-to-install software offers are limited, and only work once for each user PC. What happens when the media offerings reach hundreds or even thousands? Will all include the same offer to install RealPlayer or another software program on the system, or will they all offer different applications that users would have to install to support artists?

Eric Klinker on behalf of BitTorrent notes that this is just one of a "number of new advertising experiments" the company will be testing in the near future.

Do you think that this is a substantial business idea, or something that may work with select bundles but not on a larger scale?

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