Four scenarios for media, news, and entertainment
by Andy Oram
entertainment--especially people whose jobs hang on the answer. These
industries are changing fast under the hammer blows of Internet
marketing and sales, blogs and podcasts, and the unstoppable flow of
the larger economy. I see four possible directions the field could
In this scenario, nothing much new happens and current trends
In particular, the trend toward spending less time and money on
entertainment and news continues, as people turn to new pursuits such
as email and web surfing. But no new media develop online, partly due
to timidity in the larger society and partly due to a copyright regime
that places brakes on the distribution of underpromoted artists. An
economic downturn could contribute to the starvation of the
media. People could also turn from mass media to local pursuits:
community theater, dancing to live music, and so forth.
Television continues to try oddball novelties, such as cartoon shows
for adults and reality TV, but they don't lead to a real
revitalization of the medium.
Musicians, who have been able to create fresh sounds for a few decades
by mixing genres from around the world, continue recycling old styles
and produce stunningly excellent performers but little memorable
Film studios continue the trend toward making movies into little more
than static demos for games or advertisements suitable for viewing in
News viewing continues to decline as news gets more and more
pessimistic and people get too anxious to view it because the facts
don't fit their notions of the world. Literacy in general declines,
and tolerance for all the longer forms of publications with it.
In this scenario, the dominant players--major studios and
publishers--find ways to regain some of their former success, or are
replaced by upstarts in the same industries.
New music sensations arise, along the lines of Stevie Wonder or The
Beatles. who create a mass audience across all demographics and erase
boundaries of genres.
People get interested in the world again, perhaps driven by a desire
to understand the inexplicable, such as wars in far-away places
involving cultures that view life in fundamentally different
ways. This drives new books, TV shows, and other offerings in
So the world of media as we have known it lasts at least a little
In this scenario, bloggers, podcasters, and other indie producers
working on a shoestring gain more and more of the audience. This
causes the professional stalwarts--despite their Johnny-Come-Lately
attempts to co-opt the amateur movement--to decline to the point where
they simply disappear because their income has sunk below their costs.
Performers get aggressive in generating buzz. With no sumptuously funded
organization to carry on large marketing campaigns, each performer may
depend more on a geographically local following. While this can
reduce revenue, it may also turn out to be a boon to local
performances. Perhaps it reverses the trend toward monoculture. On the
other hand, without professional marketing organizations to define
channels, perhaps genres disappear; culture becomes a soup in which
everybody tries to do a bit of everything.
News is reported by whomever is on the scene--often anonymously--so
that rumors circulate as wildly as they did in the age before mass
literacy. Occasionally a government or non-profit funds an
investigation to discover what really happened; the official account
becomes grist for yet another whirlwind of speculation.
In this scenario, new media grow up suited to the current age, just as
radio, film, and television grew in the twentieth century. The media
is online and highly interactive. Passive consumption is joined to a
new participation. Structures emerge for building an accurate view of
breaking news from the clashing viewpoints of multiple observers. New
opportunities for money-making are found in news and culture, perhaps
totally different from the advertising, subscription, and other models
of the past. People are re-engaged and resensitized.
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