Media Malls I (rerun)

(I am on vacation this week, and rather than interrupt my family time or break my habit of weekday postings, I’ve elected to rerun some prior posts that exemplify my “mini media” thinking.)

Businesses tend to cluster. Buyers like to shop in business clusters. That explains the popularity of food courts, antique districts, farmers’ markets and shopping malls. I think it makes sense for small media producers to create “malls” for printers, web designers, videographers, photographers, newsletter editors, and all the other specialists who produce content.

This notion struck me a few days ago and in thinking it through, a picture began to emerge. To understand my vision (fantasy?), I should tell you that this idea struck me while I was attending the 40th birthday party of a neighborhood friend.

The party was held at our local coffee shop. There must have been three dozen adults and two dozen children milling about. In this public venue, the party had become a community event.

That’s when it struck me that media build communities. Or perhaps communities form around media. Either way, small-scale or amateur media producers who aspire to become professionals, need ways to encourage community formation. It’s not all going to happen online. The best communications medium is no medium. It’s face-to-face.

That’s why the central feature of my fantasized media mall is a meeting hall or party room capable of holding five or six dozen people. That would be enough space to hold a reception or screen a video, or set up tables for a weekend workshop to teach Photo Shop for, say, $250.

This party place would be shared by mall renters. Tomorrow I’ll talk about these possible renters. Today I simply want to argue that we need a new distribution channel for small scale media. We already buy mass media though existing channels. We subscribe to cable. We buy mass produced CDs and DVDs at retail chains, though that business model is under attack from both legal and illicit downloads.

And we have also purchased custom-made media, generally through face-to-face transactions. In the past such purchases might have included the PTA newsletter, the business brochure, or the calendar with the kids’ photos on each month.

Technology is making it possible to create new types of custom-made media. We can make small batches of hardcover books. Filled with family photos, they make wonderful keepsakes. Videographers can create low-budget documentaries, possibly for distribution via DVD — and perhaps pay the rent by giving this treatment to wedding productions.

So we are moving into an age of custom media. What better way to alert people that new things are possible than to create the media mall where they might visit one day to get a quote on their PTA newsletter and see something new to them — like the gold embossed 50th anniversary photo book that some other person had made for their parents.

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