The Future of Media is Here, When’s The Past Going Away?

The Future of Media is Here, When’s The Past Going Away?

Extra news about what's going on.Lately I’ve seen several articles that lump all the media industries together (Books, Newspapers, Magazines, Music, TV, Movies) and discuss their impending doom.  The story goes that the era of commissioning, creating, publicizing, distribution, selling is coming to an end.  In this post Mainstream Media world creation will be accomplished by individuals or groups of self-motivated artists/authors looking to enrich the world.  Publicizing won’t be necessary because the social internet creates many mechanisms for things to “go viral” and selling won’t be a problem with Google AdWords, YouTube, Amazon (which has a self publishing platform for Kindle), WordPress, Etsy and many many others giving small timers the chance to easily scale and monetize when their popularity increases.

I agree with the premise that a large part of the world is headed in the direction of the post Mainstream Media world.  I just don’t think you can lump all of the media entities in to the same bucket.  At first I wasn’t sure why I wouldn’t lump them all in the same bucket, but after some thought I’ve come to a conclusion.  I think it all comes down to barriers to entry.  To be even more specific, it comes down to barriers to entry in creation.  To be even more even more specific, it comes down to the financial (not counting artist’s time) cost of creation.  The more expensive it is to create the higher the barrier to entry for the new paradigm and the better protected mainstream media is.  This is also because once some financier of some sort (publishing house for books, executive producer for movies, etc…) dumps a bunch of money in to creation he/she has a vested interest in making sure the publicizing, distribution, selling are as much of an easy to operate machine as possible.

So, thinking about it that way, the mainstream media is not in one bucket ready to fail.  They are actually spread across a continuum.  Here are there rough death sentences (not that I think any of them will disappear completely, but the time represented is until they are just shells of their former selves):

  1. Newspapers (and Magazines) – 3 to 5 years – It cost me exactly $10 per month to run this site.  If I got as many hits as the Post-Gazette it might cost me more like $1000 (which could be easily recouped in ads).  There’s almost no monetary cost of creation.  Some obvious exceptions for magazines that cater to a crowd that doesn’t leverage the internet.
  2. Books – 3 to 7 years – Killing off books is going to require much more sophisticated social networks.  There is a very social aspect to books (in the form of book clubs and heated dinner table discussions) that requires that most people read the same books.  Sites like GoodReads.com have a chance to fix this, but it’s going to take some time before they replace the NYT Bestsellers list and the marketing machine that sits behind it.  Also, creating a book, even one for Amazon to distribute on Kindle does take some software and some serious time.
  3. Music – 10 years – Music already went through one huge shift with Napster and the like.  It survived it though and still makes plenty of millionaires through its mainstream production houses.  That will come to an end at some point though.  I think by 10 years from now a platinum record will be extremely extremely rare (maybe even non-existent).  As social media like a Facebook/Pandora integration grows, groups of friends will be able to like the same music without it being mainstream.  It’s already taking effect.  The last Diamond record (10x Platinum) was Usher in 2004.
  4. TV and Movies – 15 to 20 years – Movies have the advantage of Movie theaters.  However, as technology prices for movies theater type equipment falls that will be less and less of an advantage.  That said, the amount of money it takes to produce quality television or movies, is not trivial.  I don’t think the mainstream media can be displaced from TV and Movies until funding models like kickstarter.com can be used to determine what gets made and what doesn’t.  That’s a long way away from being a regular fact of life.