The Great Media Mashup

January 6th

The media critic of the New York Times, David Carr, offered his views on the future of big media on January 2nd in an article entitled The Great Media Mashup. He describes the surreal experience of watching the gradual decline of long time media institutions that have defined our society. There may have been a great deal of conversation about the transformation of the communications industries, but suddenly the speed is beginning to accelerate.

There is no news in seeing “two year old web sites are worth more than 50-year old magazines.” Nor is there news in seeing that social media have now stolen the spot light in center stage. But taken as a whole, David Carr’s list of changes shaping the media makes for compelling reading.

  • The End of the Verticals. The phenomenon that iPod owners and Apple TV owners will recognize where the distinction between TV, radio, Internet and books is less clear than it was a year ago. For Borders this is a grim reality. The world has not yet reached the point of understanding that the competitive playing field may be the screen of an iPad and in that framework the Apps look a lot alike.
  • Hybrids for the News Highway. Withdrawal of the advertising base that has supported the mainstream media (whether this is coming from marketing or from Google or Craig’s list) has eroded the business models and created a world in which the great institutions cooperate because they can’t afford to compete.
  • Televised Social Media. Carr imagines a “tent pole” in televised media that permits social annotation. Technically Apple TV could do this today, right? So the threshold of a new medium where the device makes it possible for Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin or Karl Rove or Oprah or the Center for American Progress or the Jersey Shore brings together an audience to watch and crack wise. Couldn’t American Idol do this now?
  • The Non-Linear Grid. With 21% of global shipments of televisions now a web enabled TV, the largest screen and most centrally located device can be added to iPads, mobile phones and other vehicles for connecting audiences. Carr imagines a world in which the “linear programming” of cable and broadcast television is history and appointment television is so 20th Century. Carr imagines a world in which elections and sports like professional football become critical to the future life of broadcasters.
  • Print Looks for a Payday. David Carr explains that the New York Times and others will soon invite their regular users to subscribe on line. But recognizing that it might have been a mistake to have decided to give away the content on line is coming a little late. He explained to me that online media revenue surpassed newspaper revenue for the first time in 2010.

Being invited in to think about these things I recognize that the impact of the eBook on Borders and Barnes and Noble is astonishing and the speed with which the wave has come is incredible. Watching the anchor store to Bethesda Avenue shift from Barnes and Noble to the Apple store is more than a little surprising.

The speed of the growth of ebooks may be astonishing but the fact that Netflix accounts for 20% of peak Internet traffic and threatens the Infrastructure of the Internet is equally surprising. Welcome to the world of the non-linear grid.

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