Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The Future of Media

I've always been fascinated by the changing world of communications media. How will we get our information and entertainment 10 years from now? And what will happen to the media we use today?

I see segmentation playing a bigger and bigger role. Just as specialty channels (weather, golf, cartoons) are grabbing a bigger and bigger share from conventional network broadcasters, so too will other media splinter into narrower niches.

In a way, it’s all about consumer choice. But losing the mass audience isn’t just a problem for the big networks and publishers. Our survival as a nation, as a people who share a unique culture and historic political ties, depends on us sharing information and identity. And yet that could soon be submerged as we increasingly identify ourselves first as Knicks fans, video-game fanatics, gardeners or iPod people.

So what will happen to old media? The Wall Street Journal had an interesting piece on that on Monday (its free story of the day). It chronicles the decline of newspapers, TV and movies, and then interviews various pundits about what the media could do to become more relevant.

Their prescription for television news: Allow the viewer behind the screen. The network news could post full, unedited video of interviews online. Networks could present behind-the-scenes clips showing the creation of a news program, and let viewers relay feedback to help further report the story. (“Zzzzz,” say I.)

The experts say newspapers should get more creative about their content. “Think more about news, less about paper.” Instead of using the Web to post their print stories, they should encourage more reporters to publish blogs, and let readers add their comments in an online community. They should also allow readers to create their own specialized newspapers (eg, focusing on sports, or local news), and deliver news updates via cellphones.

As mass media shrink, the pundits say advertisers must make their ads more relevant to narrower audiences. They could also “Turn ads into programming,” by creating longer-form entertainment programming around brand names (déjà vu: Procter & Gamble owned its own soap operas 50 years ago).

Finally, the movies have to get more creative, fast. The coolest proposal: sell new releases to high-end consumers for immediate home consumption. The pundits suggest a one-time home showing during a film’s first week could cost $40 – which isn’t so expensive, when you think of the costs of going out to the movies with family or friends.

How much would you have paid this past weekend to avoid the lineups and watch the latest Star Wars episode in your living room?

You’ll find lots more ideas like these at:

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