The Writers' Strike: A Digital Media Boon?

Forgive me. I live and work in West Hollywood. I hadn't realized that the writers' strike isn't the lead story on everyone's local news. And while the strike might not be geographically local to everybody reading this, if you work in advertising and/or digital media, then believe me when I say that the repercussions of the ongoing ballyhoo and the outcome of the strike will be hitting very close to home.

A quick recap: There is a large gap between writers and studios on how revenues from digital distribution of content will be shared. Not that I have any particular insight into how the talks have gone thus far, but I can imagine that it's pretty tough to negotiate the sharing of revenue that has no historical precedent, nor any clear method for how said revenue stream will ever be generated. So what does this mean for the digital media and advertising community?

New revenue models for digital media? The truth is that the advertising and digital media community could play a vital role in helping to resolve the current dispute. If necessity is the mother of all invention, then perhaps the necessity of studios and writers to find new revenue models for digital media distribution, so that they can then figure out how to share them, will finally show some true innovation in advertising within professional quality content on the Web. If not because major studios need to solve this issue, then because advertisers will need to solve this problem if they wish to continue reaching people. If neither necessity drives a solution in the short run, then we will see...



Loss of television content. The full effects of the writers' strike has yet to hit television viewers, but as the strike continues, studios risk losing more of viewers' attention to alternate media. One medium's loss is another medium's gain. I don't know what you're all betting on, but I would predict online programming receives a lion's share of the attention that TV loses, due to the eventual lack of original programming (call me cynical, but I think our nation's lack of an attention span has moved us past the novel making a comeback).

Social media in particular could benefit from this trend. The hardest part of finding something worth watching online is sorting through the crap. The best way to sort through the crap is to let the community dictate what gets views. And the medium best equipped to do that is social networks. Want to keep advertising, watch the new generation of online networks like Kush TV on MySpace seamlessly integrate content and brands. There is the real potential that television's loss of consumer attention could have the effect that the loss of attention toward commercials never had: the shifting of dollars from television to digital media.

Surplus of entertainment talent for digital media. What better way to answer a surplus of consumer attention dedicated to the online medium than to have the same writers, actors and other entertainment professionals put out of work by the current strike turn to digital media as an outlet for their creative talent?

This will have two (somewhat opposite) effects in my mind. First, it has the potential to bring studios back to the table as certain talent finds ways to connect to audiences online. Second, as more often than not entertainers find that it's not easy to aggregate an audience online, and it is an even greater challenge to keep and monetize the audience, a majority of the talent will return to the table with a newfound commitment to collaborate with studios to solve the monetization problem. The second point is an important one, as it will be the writers' ability to integrate brands and advertising into content that may truly resolve the issue of revenue generation for digital content distribution.

In the end, we should all be watching the writers' strike closely. We should be hoping for a swift resolution, because I for one don't want to have to watch more reality television (living in West Hollywood, I feel more like a reality-show extra than a person most of the time). And no matter what happens, we should be mindful of the potential implications to our industries as the writers' strike continues.

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