Mass Media: Take Two

Good writing is such a delight as I was reminded while reading the Hollywood Reporter piece earlier this month in which Diane Mermigas outlines the financial funk of old media, and lays out three broad rubrics for its renaissance: hire new blood, take more risk and embrace interactivity.

Thanks to Rafat Ali’s Content for pointing me the Mermigas’s column, entitled “Balancing new media with old expectations,” as well as two subsequent bits that I will riff off today. My take is that mini media have a stake in mass media angst. Their mega-brethren are in such a panic about the future that their checkbooks are open. Old media purchases of new media venues will fuel the startup scene, for both good (VCs will fund smart business plans) and ill (VCs will eventually overreact and fund stupid business plans).

Of course these latter thoughts are my opinions, and should in no way impugn the deft way in which Mermigas chides one current in media-land — the division of mass media and Internet firms, that had been united only recently, (ala AOL-Time Warner), in the hopes of creating properties with the allure of a Google or a Yahoo. (The cynic in me notes that only a few years ago we were advised of the synergies of such combination, but the scientist in me knows that fission and fusion both produce tremendous amounts of energy which, in mergers or breakups, emanate out in the form of fat fees for investment bankers and accelerated stock vesting for the execs.)

The remainder of Balancing column is, in my opinion, a wise set of prescriptions for mass media self-revival without this fission/fusion thing, which you read in full if run or work for a big media company.

In a more recent column, entitled “Landscape changing for broadcast licensing,” Mermigas zeroes in on television and notes that “For the first time, consumer consumption of all television is expected to decline over the next five years by about 0.8%, compared with a forecasted 7% growth in consumer consumption of the Internet because of broadband migration.” (Think about the deceleration effect after 50 plus years of growth.)

Here is the money quote from Mermigas’s Landscape column:

“In a world of diffused content offerings and fragmented viewing, the onus is on network-affiliated broadcasters to innovate and produce unique content from their local resources and connections that cable, satellite and other distributors will want enough to pay for. They can only partially rely on the appeal of broadcast- and cable-network generated programs on a fading promise of exclusivity.”

Finally, in case you haven’t seen it, I direct you attention to the Wired Magazine with Jon (Daily Show) Stewart on the cover, and several stories inside along these lines of whither goest television. Wired asks Stewart about his infamous encounter with fit-to-be-bowtied pundit Tucker Carlson — which exemplified the new mediascape because far more people saw that bit online than via the original broadcast. “It was huge, phenomenal viral video,” Wired said, to which Stewart replied, “It was definitely viral. I felt nauseous afterward.”

Tom Abate
‘Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media