cliffhanger

Brett said, in a comment in the “media apocalypse” thread

People still watch lots of television. … Whenever I read that “everyone” has an ipod or “nobody” listens to the radio anymore, I take that with a grain of salt. It’s easy to become myopic and forget that there’s a world out there of people who actually lost their television service in the digital conversion because they don’t have cable, or who drive all day and leave the radio on. Some people even still read newspapers!

Logically, I can’t see how to refute the case that newspaper, tv, radio, and records are going down like Jabba the Hut in a hang glider. Except to say that these are huge enterprises and they don’t just go poof. Maybe the most elegant prediction of the future is the one that says all media will follow the business patterns established with blogs, social networks, web aggregators, and search engines. But the world isn’t obligated to be elegant.

I expect to be surprised, I guess. I have a gut feeling that all the value created by the labor it takes to do old media will still be needed, and just as many people as before will be making a living. But I can’t see how that will happen.

It’s a cliffhanger.

10 thoughts on “cliffhanger

      1. (er, excuse me but I just realized that I handed a bunch of information over to something called 'http://intensedebate.com/' by leaving the previous comment. I know, I know, I should have actually read the screen before I hit "sign in and trust" but I do trust you so I didn't read it. This other site? I don't trust them at all and was not expecting a proxy stepping in between a conversation between you and I nabbing my info.)

        1. The hope is that it'll add a lot more power and flexibility to commenting. A better editor, threading, avatars, rating, etc. Also, the moderation tool can be used from email without logging into the site here, so I'll get better turnaround time when I'm not at my computer.

          Very easy to back out, unlike Disqus, so if things don't work out I'll just deactivate it. But give it a little while.

  1. I watch television, but it is horrible reality television, like “I’m A Celebrity…” – which is simply car-crash fascination, and I could live without. I listen to radio, but never just the radio – I follow and trust NPR for news, and radio is one of the transmission vectors they use. If you can entertain on a shoestring budget, or you can associate your reputation with truthiness, maybe you survive; otherwise, flying Hutt. The real entertainment, at least for a while, is watching the collapse.

    1. The TV I watch includes a lot of lowbrow reality stuff too. The thing is that I don't watch tv during prime time, only at the end of the night, and at that point the good programming isn't available. And *that* seems like a really dumb problem to have, because I can watch whatever I want whenever I want on the net.

  2. The future composts the past. Someone said that once. Things don't just go away, they get re-purposed and recycled with new cultural uses. How long ago did TV kill radio? There was a time when families would gather round the crystal set for an evening's entertainment. What about movies. There was a time in the teens and twenties when more than a million people went to a movie every week. More people bought tickets for Gone with the Wind in American theaters than any other movie since. Radio's still here; movies are still here. Radio became wallpaper for the car. Movies were for date nights, then for big costumed openings, like 17th century balls.

    The confusing thing is that when we think of a medium, we tend to combine the physical format and the social function into one thing in our heads. So, when the social function or meaning changes without an equivalent tangible change to the format, we get confused. The medium has died, but still lives. Zombie Media.

    But these changes are amazingly common. While we can argue about whether the internet is a bigger deal than TV or the printing press or fire, we've gone through other Zombifications pretty much every twenty years like clockwork for most of the recent past. Let's just take movies: in the 90s, the hyper-blockbuster went global; in the 70s, the studios went bankrupt and VHS was invented; in the 50s, the studios went bankrupt and TV was invented; in the 30s, the studios went bankrupt and the movie star was invented; etc. Throughout that whole time, absolute movie attendance was falling precipitously while other parallel reinforcing business models were being invented, rising, and falling. And movies' cultural meaning changed dramatically from disposable mainstream distraction, to national popular entertainment, to rarefied foreign art, to international media spectacle.

    If we release our false sense of media stability, things seem a lot less chaotic. These changes will never be resolved. No medium has ever actually been stable for any significant amount of time. We're constantly reinventing what our physical media mean to us: economically, creatively, culturally. Twas ever thus and twill ever be.

  3. I think there is room for a print industry, and for traditional tv and radio. The economics change, but it's more like becoming an ultra-light plane than being the crashing dirigible.

  4. I live in Boston and listen to the radio every day. Why? Because I have WERS, which is Emerson College’s radio station. In light of this discussion I wondered why WERS works for me: 1. It’s non-commercial so no ads and no corporate agenda 2. Staffed by college students who are obsessed with music AND plan to have a career in music-related media. The college provides the space, equipment and CD budget. The students provide most of the labor and are very professional.
    Why does it work for me? Because I need a way to hear new music that doesn’t take TIME to research and download. I let the kids do it for me and I let Emerson foot the bill. (Although I should become a member!)So how could this happen in the real world?

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