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When Content Takes The Back Seat
Jeremy Faludi, 9 Jun 05

menu.jpgYou may have already read that Google is now the world's largest media company, in terms of stock capitalization. (Which is not the same thing as real revenues, but means something nonetheless.) Media companies will be a growing sector of future markets, as more of our economy gets virtualized; even now, Google is worth more than Ford and GM combined, two cornerstones of the last century's economy. So what? Well, besides Google's rise being extremely encouraging in a nation of centralized conservative broadcast media, it highlights a trend: the money in media is shifting from content-production to platform-providing.

Joi Ito has written and talked about this--he calls it the shift from content to context. Combine the Google datapoint with the fact that Yahoo is now the fifth-largest media company (by stock), and that the biggest money in the music industry is in the iPod / iTunes (where it's common knowledge that Apple doesn't make money off the songs it sells in iTunes, it makes money off of its iPod sales; the music store is just there to market their hardware).

Some people have had fun speculating about where this is all going, like the EPIC 2015 audio scenario which leads to the death of professional journalism. But I'm hoping it will mean more democratization and humanization of media. Not just in the sense of more content produced by amateurs (which is clearly inevitable), but professional content will change as well. In its purest form, selling the platform instead of the content means advertising can be removed from content, obsolescing the sort of advertiser-friendly lowest-common-denominator programming which has caused whole genres of media (say, television) to be dreck. Even in its less pure forms, platforms with advertising along the lines of Google-style targeted ads can allow narrowcasted niche programs to erode the economic importance of lowest-common-denominator programming. In any case, when the platform is the moneymaker, it changes the nature of the game, driving the market towards enable the user's whims rather than enabling the advertiser's whims. It will not be an Adbusters-style utopia by any means--remember that advertisements will become more subtle and more tightly targeted to the user's preferences--but it will be a few more volleys in the continuing war for your attention.

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I don't know if Sturgeon's Law or power laws will be repealed anytime soon by these advances in publishing techology--personal CMS (blogs), narrowcasting, cheap digital cameras, cheap digital recorders, MythTV, etc.

There is still the need to find what you want. There is still need to apply the bozo filter. There is always the unavoidable stage where a reader or participant has to look or listen briefly to something before deciding if it's worthwhile or not. I've got finely tuned RSS/Atom feeds but even still I have to skip over stuff that I don't think is relevent.

I'd definitely count myself as a wise user of the new media but, politically, my vote still counts the same as it did in decades past. In a representitive democracy there has to be a certain level of averaging and compromise. Wise media users won't always agree and at some point it has to come to a vote. At some point it comes to who can rally the most like minded people to your side. So, despite the richness of the Internet, the current administration won a second term.

I'd put myself in middle. There will be both good and bad in this new technology. Most of it will be very subtle and unexpected.

Posted by: Mr. Farlops on 10 Jun 05

Dude, it's not about the president. Those of us who read RSS feeds are like, totally on another plane, man.

Just kidding, if that's true it's a problem. Especially since Bush does listen to an iPod, but podcasts? Probably not. (re RSS feeds and podcasts, if you are unfamiliar with the concepts, check out my blog about them:

I think re the bozo filter, the thing that's cool now is that we the audience get a lot more control over how the bozo filter is applied - we apply it ourselves. I add feeds to my aggregator liberally, but if I end up skipping over them for long in my reading, then I delete them. I download any podcasts that look like they might be interesting, it's so easy to skip and delete them! But my criteria are very unlike the criteria of centralized media content providers. That, and the amount of content available for free or cheap are the main factors in this discussion, I think. So yah, don't sell me media content, sell me a better mp3 player or a cell phone that reads RSS feeds well.

What that means in terms of talking to other people (ie politics) is an older question connected to disparities in quantity of information. But it is probably complicated by a constant stream of information coming into some of our brains. I know that a mix of the Global Shortwave Report (, Bad Cop, No Donut and IT Conversations ( coming into my head has improved my life but probably hurt my social skills. (My furl of podcasts I'm downloading is at

On ads, I don't mind contextual advertising one bit, as long as it's done with low-key layout. I think it's interesting, in fact. Is it knee-jerk anti-commericialism that makes people flip out about it, or is it concern about overload as has occurred in every other medium?

Sorry for the long post, I probably should have just said that epic 2015 is a rad short film that people should watch, and left it at that.

Posted by: Marshall Kirkpatrick on 11 Jun 05

For me, the new Epic vid isn't different enough from the old Epic vid, just a touch more exposition in the middle and a new ending tacked on the end. It's like a year a passed and the producers wanted to add a few more comments about the latest gadgets.

Even with the new ending, the points made in the first one still largely stands. The new ending more or less says, "And oh yeah, if we know what to do and if we care, we can all be reporters." This sort of lessens the sting of the conclusion of old vid which says, "Classical journalism has faded into unimportance without any serious debate and our news and publishing technology is now concentrated into a new monopoly."

I will say that either Epic vid is thought provoking and should be watched.

The point about monopoly is based on the idea that most people don't really want to spend the time to learn the stuff well enough to really do it for themselves. You don't like Microsoft? Well, buy Apple, but be prepared to work a little more. Or if you really want to get hardcore, use Linux or BSD and be prepared to work and think about it a lot more.

Most people can't be bothered. My impression of the Epic vid is that Epic emerged for people who've got better things to do than hack their own tools. This is the same trend that Microsoft counts on.

The vid says that there is still an elite that gets more depth and knowledge out of Epic than most people. My guess is that these are the same people who like to build their own tools, the early adopters, the hackers. These people use Epic as only one of many other tools.

Posted by: Mr. Farlops on 11 Jun 05



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