Media's Future: The More Things Change...

by , Dec 12, 2013, 11:11 AM
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And here we go again.

Almost three years after my last post to the Spin Board (“It’s Not All Changing, But Nothing Is Going To Be The Same”), here I am again. I can’t tell you how nice it felt to go back to read that last post, and still feel good about every word (can’t say the same for all of them).

After spending two great years in television side of the media business, I am more convinced than ever that media’s future relies entirely on the creation of businesses models that support content quality over content quantity. I have never loved media more, be it film, video, audio, print -- and yet you can’t help but get the feeling that it is all tenuously resting on a house of cards (pun intended -- sorry).

Twice a month I plan on posting here on a broad range of subjects. What happens to great storytelling? What does interactive storytelling look like? Does advertising, as we know it, have a role in a world where content is on-demand? Are we in a "content bubble"? Can we continue to have as much choice in premium content as we do today? Will the cable bundle break?
(Spoiler alert: The bundle isn’t going anywhere. If it did, consumers would suffer greatly. But more on that another week.) Sometimes I try to tie a couple of these ideas together, as I did during a recent talk at The Paley Center on “The Future of the Commercial.”

I love these conversations, I love the debates they spark. Maybe that makes me a little odd, but so be it. I am as much an interested and invested observer of media’s future as a avid consumer, since I am in the business of helping to shape it.

To this end, you have two choices when reading my thoughts:

Either I am hopelessly biased because of the company I founded and run.

Or, what I know and believe led me to found and run the company I do.

If you lean toward the first option, you don’t know me very well, but I am always up for a good public debate -- so I’ll respond to thoughtful comments below or @joemarchese. (I do my best to read tweets if I am tagged. Beware though, following results in a mix of media pontification, marathon training updates and dog pictures.)

As I said, here we go... again.

3 comments on "Media's Future: The More Things Change...".

  1. Rick Monihan from None
    commented on: December 12, 2013 at 11:39 a.m.
    Quality over quantity is, for some reason, a very common theme in our industry and I can't understand why. Simple economics explains that there is a point at which quantity makes the value of the product, no matter how valuable it may be, almost non-existent. When we discuss value, we're usually discussing marginal value. Air is terribly important to all of us. But we do not (usually) pay for it. Why? There is enough to go around, it is not a scarce resource. Scarce resources are the ones with the highest marginal value. When I scuba dive, I pay for air. Because at depth, air is at a premium. There are costs to the air, which is not only the limited amount of air I have, which basically sets how long I can remain at depth and enjoy my dive, but also the cost of pressurizing it into a tank. Yet if my scuba shop is pressurizing foul air, say recirculating the air which contains the fumes from their pressurizer, the QUALITY of their air make is worthless, regardless of how much I'd need it at depth. I won't pay for air from a shop with a lousy reputation, I don't care if they sell me 20 tanks for the price of one. Quantity isn't always what creates value, it's just part of the equation - quality is what sets it apart.
  2. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited
    commented on: December 12, 2013 at 2:13 p.m.
    Rick, stay out of Beijing and other places in China or take your tanks with you. Air quality is the equation.
  3. Rick Monihan from None
    commented on: December 12, 2013 at 2:27 p.m.
    Paula, I agree - and if you read what I wrote, you can see where it plays a role. However, even with air quality at a premium (in, say Beijing or Denver or LA), people continue to work, live, and play. I don't think the issue is one of quantity VERSUS quality, which is what I tried to express (quite poorly) in my opening sentence. Quantity is a key variant, even if you have a high quality product. I could make the very best automobile in the world, but if I can only make one a year, I would have to charge an exorbitant amount to make the vehicle a profitable venture. The limited quantity and high quality makes it, in a sense, worthless because I'd probably have to price it out of any reasonable market. We frequently see this in media, when high quality shows are abruptly ended due to low quantity situations, often leading to unique solutions. "Arrested Development" is a classic example, though one of my favorite shows of all time, "Taxi", is another (the writing and producing staff of "Taxi" ultimately spawned a host of other programs which were huge hits). This issue becomes critical in the digital world, where seeking out content is not nearly as easy to do, as it was in the old 3/4 network world (or even the new-ish 500 channel cable universe). Quality is a critical part of the equation, no doubt. But if I have one high-quality page or video amidst a sea of dreck, it is many times more difficult to make that high-quality item cover all the costs I've racked up. Using the alternative equation, if I am still making the best car in the world, and I can pump out 200 million of them a year, I have diminished its value significantly. Even with quality, there is a necessary balance in quantity to derive proper value.

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