Solar Powered Content

This morning I return to an occasional past time, of riffing off another well-written column by the Hollywood Reporter’s Diane Mermigas, who says content creators had better hustle to deliver info and amusements to the rapidly expanding universe of wireless devices. But today I must differ with She Who Is My Window into the Studio, for I think the content she craves is not mass but mini.

But I get ahead of myself. Regular readers may recall that I’ve referred to Mermigas a time or two in the past, on the strength of her lean prose and what I imagine, in my ignorance, to be her insights on what we Northern Californians affectionately call LaLaLand.

Her November 8 column, “Content must catch up with new-media world,” notes that tiny cell phones, iPods and other hand-sized gizmos have opened huge markets. “If ringtones can mushroom into a $5 billion global business overnight, what’s next?” she asks.

Mermigas succinctly describes the production constraints imposed by this new form factor “including brevity, interactivity and ubiquity.” But then she makes two conceptual errors: by suggesting that Big Screen producers will downsize their imaginations to fit Tiny LCDs, which leads to the assertion that e-piracy is the bane of new media.

On the first point Mermigas calls for:

“(A) genuine creative awakening not only in Hollywood and New York but everywhere in between where artists, writers, producers, animators and performers reside. The demand will be strong — even as attention spans are shorter — to fill these new devices and pipelines with differentiated content … ”

And, noting a recent NBC Universal study about billions being lost through illegal downloads and software ripoffs, Mermigas concludes that:

“(A) world full of outrageously bountiful and lucrative possibilities could become a desert of lost opportunities if all the companies involved in producing, moving, selling or marketing existing and newly created content don’t become more proactive about protecting it.”

I don’t believe the first premise — that feature-length video makers are going to switch to making shorts. It’s not in their DNA. It’ll take more time for them to articulate the pitch than the mobile consumer may be willing to dedicate to the product. (I’m thinking of that delicious scene from The Player that is one long continuous roll.)

And if the future of mobile content isn’t to be mass produced digibits from Hollywood, then the piracy thing becomes less of an issue.

So what future do I see for mobile, not that anyone asked? Think about solar power on rooftops, and people who feed electricity back onto the grid. (I think their electric meters spin backward). Then apply that analogy to mobile devices, with user-generated content taking the place of solar array, and perhaps there’s a business model — that doesn’t involve a Hollywood-sized suspension of disbelief.

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