That’s my big takeaway the last two weeks as the entire world has been affected by the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the resultant declarations of shelter-in-place, social distancing and isolation.
This crisis has tested the capacity of the Internet as well as human patience, but it has brought stratospheric growth to some companies.
It's strange because not one person on the planet ever sat down in a meeting and tried to convince their peers that they needed to forecast having everyone in the world all decide to work from home and jump on the internet to engage with or watch video, all at the same time.
Nobody had that plan at Amazon. Nobody thought that through at Netflix. Nobody wondered and planned for it at Verizon or AT&T or Comcast. This is a unique situation that if you had written a story and made this the archetypal tipping point, would not have been believable. I don’t think I would have read that book or watched that movie. Now we are living that reality.
This moment signals a massive disruption and resultant shift. My fellow Media Insider, Dave Morgan, has written about the impact of this situation on the TV ad business and I agree with him — but I think the results will be even more far-reaching.
The entertainment system in America is going to be rethought. Studios will likely start pushing theatrical releases direct to home, with companies like Disney benefiting massively since they own the best direct-to-consumer platform with Disney+. The other streaming platforms are available, and they are great, but none of them have the synergy to pull off what Disney can do.
The music business is witnessing a come-to-Jesus moment, as touring is on hold and artists are putting on shows from their homes. Chris Martin and John Legend led the charge, but now there are dozens of major artists broadcasting daily. Fans are being let into the homes of their favorite artists, engaging with them in a way they’ve never had the chance to do before.
Everyday life is now virtual, with birthday parties, happy hours, weddings and other social events happening over video platforms. People are being forced to engage virtually, which will have long-lasting ripple effects on how we engage as a culture. When the declarations are lifted, how will we return to our previous social constructs? How will we balance our increased anxiety about germs and viruses versus our need for human contact?
It is possible we will go back to the way things were before, but I doubt it. This is too large a disruption. I think people will be reticent to get together for a while.
That being said, I do think this virtual glimpse into each other’s everyday life will actually have a profoundly positive impact on how we view each other. I find myself learning more about the people I work with because I see them in their home confines now. I see them balancing their work and their families as their kids are being homeschooled in the background. I get to know a little more about them, unlike what I previously saw in a guarded work environment.
I hope this crisis helps people become more understanding of, and more engaged with, one another. I hope we learn not to take for granted the time we can actually spend in-person with each other. Here’s to hoping a little isolation will bring us together very soon.