Neil Siskind: Distribution is King

By: Neil Siskind, New York Lawyer

Neil Siskind is the Founder of The Fatherhood Assignment
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Suffolk County District Attorney’s Office, Boston, MA, 1994, Intern
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Hartford County Department of Probation, Hartford, CT, 1991, Intern

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Established and operated a temporary legal clinic offering inexpensive legal services to struggling Long Islanders during the recession to help clients resolve debt, plan estate matters, organize finances, start small businesses and obtain governmental assistance such as Medicaid.

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Distribution is King

Sumner Redstone, Chairman of Viacom, says, “content is king”, meaning that if you own the content in demand, then you dictate the terms. This theory was developed by Redstone during his years as a movie theater owner. He saw that film distributors require movie theaters to license the distributors’ “awful” movies in order to get access to the “good” ones. So, Redstone decided he wanted to own a production company (the owner of the content), and not the theaters.

People approach me all the time with product ideas they want to develop or get financed, or with existing products they want to get distributed or into stores, and they want to know how to get these things done.

Inventors and good ideas…even great ideas…are a dime a dozen. Just watch Shark Tank and you can see, there is no shortage of ingenuity and inventiveness in America and across the world. What they all need is product-development help and financing, or an outlet for product sales.

If you actually have a product you are selling online or in a few stores, it is far easier to find a distribution channel than if you simply have an idea, but no physical product. So at the very least, create the product and sell it on a website. Even if your cost per product is high and profit margin is low, at least show “proof of concept”, proof of a market, and that the product is liked by consumers.

With this history and data, you will be in a much stronger position to approach a distributor or retailer with your product. (There are various strategies for this which go beyond the scope of this article.)

So, Redstone, in my judgment, is sort-of right, but not totally. “content is king” if you have the right content (or product) that hits the mark and strikes a chord- because then you control where it goes and for how much. But in this day and age, there is so much great content and so many smart product concepts, that the real “king” is the channel that already reaches the customer. Distribution- wholesale and retail- is king. I have had clients with great products and content who are “desperate” for distribution outlets. But my distribution clients are always “interested in”, yet, never “desperate for” new content and products. Good content and products cannot easily find distribution. But good distribution can always uncover new content and products to sell.


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