Visions of the future of “media”

One of the fastest changing industries is the one lumped together under that terrible label of “the media.” Newspapers, radio, TV, movies etc etc etc are rapidly undergoing transformation as the means of delivery shifts to digital. No one knows where the industry will end up. But as Sunday’s International Herald Tribune pointed out in a story “Road maps for the digital revolution”, there are some interesting ideas.
One alternative is increased interactivity – taking the lead from gaming (as I have talked about before):

To Gerhard Florin, the mass media empire of the future combines a phone company the size of Verizon with a search engine as popular as Google and a video game company with interactive content like the one he works for, Electronic Arts.
. . .
“Media companies should learn from games because we totally absorb our players,” he said. “Unlike music, for example, people playing our games are not also reading a newspaper.”
. . .
“You may be able to do everything online, but we find people are still very attached to the idea of getting something physical,” Florin said. “Downloading simply does not give people the same satisfaction.”<br.
Advertising would only be a minor source of revenue, mainly in the form of credible product placements.
“Our players react very strongly against obvious advertising,” Florin said. “But, interestingly, our players are quite positive about branded items placed in credible situations.”

Another alternative is localization:

The Internet may reduce the cost of distributing content on a global basis, but Michelle Guthrie, chief executive of the Asian broadcaster STAR Group, is convinced that the next-generation media empire will be built using highly localized content.
“I know this sounds strange in the era of global communication, but you can already see this localization trend among our viewers,” Guthrie said. “The top 10 television programs in every one of our markets are locally produced about local stories.”

And there is the rise of content-as-king:

Shelby Bonnie, chief executive of CNET Networks, a technology-focused online news organization claiming more than 110 million unique visitors a month, said future media empires would center more on a broad brand name than on a means of distribution.
. . .
“The successful media empire of the future will regularly send their audience to the best stories by their competitors,” Bonnie said. “The three-legged stool of content will be original, user-generated and aggregated.”

Interesting ideas. And all very important for those in the “media” industry.
But we will see if any of them matters, at least to the end user. Remember TV was supposed to transform our lives. It did transform popular culture – but created what was labeled a “vast wasteland“. Likewise cable was to give us expanded choices. But, as Bruce Springsteen said “57 Channels (And Nothin’ On).
As much as I like the “new media”, sometimes the old visions are best. Over 30 years ago, Isaac Asimov wrote an essay entitled “The Ancient and the Ultimate” where he described the ultimate self-contained, portable, high-tech reading device of the future. You guessed it, it is the book.
So put me down as enjoying the old fashioned pleasure of a roaring fire, a stiff drink and a good book.

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