Media Malls II (rerun)

(I return home Wednesday and should resume original postings. Tom)

Yesterday I suggested that small, independent media creators should congregate in malls, built around a shared space to hold receptions or run training classes. Today I want to continue making the case that new media may need an old-fashioned retail presence.

Several months ago I was introduced to a San Francisco startup called Memento Press. It is a retail store that shows people how to turn their photographs into books, calendars or other printed keepsakes — and then makes these artifacts for them. Memento’s founders know that web-based firms offer the same service. In fact they’re former web executives. (I apologize for not having more info but I’m traveling and my paper file on this is at home. I did find a reference (if you follow the link scroll to the bottom) that confirms my recollection that Memento co-founder John Litwin used to be an executive with Ofoto and BabyCenter. Litwin apparently wrote a case study about BabyCenter’s that contains some ideas germane to this discussion.).

I don’t know how Memento is doing, nor does one example validate the notion of a media mall. But I am encouraged that seasoned web execs see the value of going retail.

What I don’t know about malls could fill a book (though I will try to learn). But I do know they generally require an anchor tenant. In the media world, print shops are an obvious example. Another possible anchor, with more “new media” appeal would be a store to turn old films and videos into family documentaries or business presentations. People are already doing this as hobbies or stand-alone businesses. For some operators it will make sense to get a retail presence, to draw customers and get business out of the garage.

Who else might populate a mall? Every town and community has advertising agencies, public relations firms , photographers and other professionals who live and die by media. These professionals are going to become more, not less necessary in the era of e-commerce. Just look at the cottage industry that has grown up around teaching firms how to get the most of their search term bidding. Many small businesses don’t even know what they need to know to stay competitive. Creating a media mall will help educate these potential customers about new services they need to flourish..

So far I’ve talked mainly about how a media mall would recruit customers by creating a destination for media services and expertise. But there is another value to aggregating small media firms — they will all need robust networking and data systems, and I find it hard to believe that these small operators will have all the expertise they need to maintain these systems. Therefore, I envision that the media mall would also provided network administration, data storage and recovery services. These could be arranged on a sliding scale depending on use. (Mentioning this makes me think of another potential anchor tenant — a hosting service with the ambition of creating e-commerce web sites for local small businesses. If the mall attracted web designers there would be a synergy between the host — which would operate all the gear — and these designers, who would recruit the small business clients, design their sites and hold their hands.

I have lots more to learn. I have no idea what the market is for retail space, nor do I understand the process of leasing and sub-leasing. But I think there’s something here. You hear a lot of talk these days about media ecosystems. What is an ecosystem? An environment that facilitates certain processes. That’s how I see the media mall.

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