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The product Jobs won't announce, but should

With anticipation high for this morning's Mac World keynote, there's one product that I would like to see that Steve Jobs will almost certainly not announce. I want Apple to create the iTunes marketplace where media creators can set their own price for th

Josh Wolf first became interested in the power of the press after writing and distributing a screed against his high school's new dress code. Within a short time, the new dress code was abandoned, and ever since then he's been getting his hands dirty deconstructing the media every step of the way. Wolf recently became the longest-incarcerated journalist for contempt of court in U.S. history after he spent 226 days in federal prison for his refusal to cooperate. In Media sphere, Josh shares his daily insights on the developing information landscape and examines how various corporate and governmental actions effect the free press both in the United States and abroad.
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Mac fans across the world are eagerly awaiting Steve Jobs keynote at Mac World with bingo cards in hand, but despite all the rumors of the "MacBook Air" and the iTunes video rental store, there is one feature that I wish Steve would announce but that I know will not materialize anytime soon. What I'd like to see from Apple in 2008 is an iTunes marketplace, a place where independent media creators can set their own price for their work and share the profits with Apple.

Yes, some independent artists have been able to sell their music in the iTunes store, but there is no means to sell video podcasts or other similar materials through Apple.

Back in January, at the Web Video Summit, I listened to Douglas Gayeton explain how Apple was unwilling to market his evocative video series, My Second Life - the video diaries of Molotov Alva; it just didn't fit into Apple's business structure. Fortunately for Gayeton, HBO purchased the project and it may still eventually find its way into the iTunes store. Unfortunately for all of us, the first episode has been removed from the web, and the only copy that remains online has been augmented with subtitles.

For years now, I've envisioned a sort of eBay for digital assets. I spent several years trying to parlay the resources needed to build something similar, but I became increasingly frustrated, and eventually put my plans for the Rise Up Network aside; once YouTube became a pop-culture fixture it became even more difficult to convince people that such an endeavor would be viable.

Apple has sold themselves as the brand of choice for artists, musicians, and other creatives. They provide the tools that many of us, both hobbyists and professionals alike, use to make media, and it would seem like the perfect fit for the company to also provide a means for us to help sustain our work.

Naysayers would argue that the demand for such a service simply doesn't exist, and I'm sure many analysts would agree. After all, I like watching a dog on a skateboard just as much as the next guy, but I'm not about to drop $1.99 to see it. At the same time, there are hundreds of professional-quality web series out there, and with the writer's strike beginning to have an effect, more and more people are turning to the web for video. A major player like Apple would possibly have the best chance of amassing the traffic necessary to be successful.

Of course, an iTunes open marketplace is the last thing that the studios would like to see right now, and all accounts seem to indicate that Steve Jobs and Apple have been courting Hollywood for some time. If Jobs were to make such an announcement the same day that he announces movie rentals, heads in Hollywood would surely roll.

It's highly unlikely that this morning's keynote will introduce such a marketplace, but perhaps another company will manage to take the lead and announce their own.