Spending, etcetera

Web browsers spend more than heavy TV watchers, according to an Online Publisher’s Association study reported on by MediaPost. The finding should not surprise. Browsing requires a computer and Internet access, preferably broadband, which selects for a more affluent audience than the so-called the boob tube. The OPA’s report, “A Day in the Life: An Ethnographic Study of Media,” appears to be a spending analysis that is extrapolated from a series of more rigorous studies by Ball State Univeristy researchers who have been lfollowing people around to record their media consumption habits. One of my earlier blog items will lead you to more about their work.

Cheesy sci-fi has a Long Tail: Paid Content mentions that one of the wackiest science fiction series of all times has migrated from video to print. “J. Michael Straczynski wrote most of the scripts for cult sci-fi series Babylon 5. Now he’s self-publishing them as a series of print-on-demand books – and, based on sales of the first seven of 14 planned volumes, he estimates the total take will be about $1.5 million.” The original source was a story in USA Today. I confess that one of my guilty pleasures was watching this over-the-top, melodramatic ripoff of a TV series. But I think I’ll draw the line at reading the books. However, that there are residual markets to be mined in cult content.

Unhealthy situation. The Media Alliance is a 30-year-old organization that has been a focal point for alternative groups and freelancers. One of its membership benefits had been offering a group health plan. But its group plan has apparently been canceled. In a note to members the group said: “The trends in the (health care) industry at large, and specifically related to Guaranteed Associations like ours, are not encouraging for those who believe health care is a human right. Carriers have terminated more than 20 Guaranteed Associations in California in the last few years. Our enrolled members are well aware of the increasingly high premiums in the PacAdvantage pool, whose rates will continue to increase by 40% in 2006.”

I have a health plan as a consequence of working for a newspaper. For that, believe me, I am grateful. But we are moving toward a freelance world, in media and many other professions. I don’t know the circumstances of this cancelation, nor the trend of which Media Alliance says it is a part. But I do know that it’s a hollow thing to say that we live in an era of widening free speech and self-expression if ordinary people cannot support themselves as what I call “mini media” professionals.