It seems like only yesterday Google was constantly reminding everyone who would listen that Google was NOT a media company. My guess is that Google wouldn't be so adamant now, given the release of GoogleTV. But even GoogleTV doesn't automatically bucket Google with media companies, at least not as people have known media companies to date.
In a recent Wired.com article, "Behold, the Next Media Titans: Apple, Google, Facebook, Amazon," Fred Vogelstein makes the argument that not only are Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon media companies (by the way, I would add Twitter), but that their existence will forever change the media landscape. No argument here on the titanic and permanent shifts occurring in the media landscape -- but the question is, what will it look like after the shift?
Historically media companies have either been in the business of content development (studios), content ownership and programming (networks) or ownership of the actual pipes and devices by which people get content (cable companies, movie theater chains). Of course many media companies are part of more than one stage of the business. But when I look at the value chain, I honestly cannot assign a position to the companies Fred lists. This doesn't mean they are not media companies, it simply means we are seeing an entirely new link in the many-hundreds-of-billions-of-dollars value chain being created. Which of course begs the question: will the new link replace or break one of the old ones? Again, when you think about it, while there could be a reduction in role of some players, the new companies do not totally displace the old.
To be fair, Amazon and Apple (for now, Apple has a lot of potential to get into Facebook and Google's world), belong in a different class of new media company than Google and Facebook do. Amazon and Apple are doing their best to replace how consumers purchase media, while Google and Facebook excel at how consumers discover and share content with each other. Also, Facebook and Google (by way of YouTube) are actually generating a significant amount of content creation but, unlike the value chain above, the owners of this content are the users. And so yet another monkey wrench is thrown into our ability to neatly define and assign roles and revenue for tomorrow's media companies.
So where do Facebook and the others fit in the media landscape? My personal opinion is that they will be the interface through which people create, discover, consume and purchase media. In short they are all providing a new Media OS layer (and don't think Microsoft, through xBox, won't also have a huge role here). And thank God, because scrolling through list views of cable programming on the set-top box is just awful. Being the consumers' media operating system will give all of these companies a significant amount of leverage in participating in the economics of the media ecosystem, including allowing the leaders to redefine the form and function of advertising.
What do you think? Are media OS plays the new layer in the media value chain? Got a better description? I want to hear it. Drop a comment on the Spin Board and follow me here for more discussion www.twitter.com/joemarchese