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Friday, December 23. 2011
The Future of Media
When Gutenberg printed his first Bible in 1455, is it possible he ever thought "I believe this technology will be outdated in 650 years"? Doubtful. In fact, he probably didn't even care.
We do care about change, though. Mainly because it is part of our lives. Change shapes us and molds us, even as we create the change we seek in our own lives. For Gutenberg, much of life was relatively the same over the course of time. By the time Benjamin Franklin was a printer 300 years later, he was still using essentially the same technology Gutenberg had created. Some revisions had taken place, but it was still a very manual process and the nature of the process would not seem unfamiliar to Gutenberg.
It's been about 100 years since men like Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst changed the business of publishing. How would they have reacted to a blog like Maggie's? Could they have envisioned the future and recognized opportunity? It's possible, but more likely they would have feared the shift in message delivery systems and fought the new technology. Our perceptions about what we do and where we are going is shaped by what we've have done in the past. As a result, we tend to react poorly to new ideas and products which don't fit neatly into the way we believe life should progress. 25 years ago, we would have considered it odd to think that a TV would hang on a wall or that we could purchase virtually everything we needed as we watched a TV program.
We have seen the world change radically as the internet took off, particularly over the last 15-25 years. The speed at which we are able to perform tasks, shop, collect and process information, and the way we entertain ourselves has increased. As a result, other parts of our life have sped up, too. We are finding what we want more quickly, getting it faster, and consuming it.
Recently Google purchased Motorola Mobility. Many claimed it was for the patents. Others claimed it was driven by technology. Still others claimed it was a move to consolidate the mobile market for Android. I still believe it was data driven. Google is a data company. Motorola Mobility is the largest maker of set top boxes for cable, and there is a boatload of data about you and your viewing habits in those boxes. Google has been searching for ways to merge TV and Online viewing data, and certainly this is one way they can move forward. Google does not view the current media landscape as a basis for future growth, and they are looking to shake it up.
We've witnessed the 'death of newspapers and magazines'. Perhaps not really dead yet, but certainly living an alternate reality. Are other media 'dying'? Is it all facing a similar fate, as we move rapidly toward some new method of watching TV, listening to music, and gathering information? I don't think so. Just because the distribution channel changes, doesn't mean the product has substantially changed. All that occurs are changes to the patterns of how we consume various products. This, however, is very meaningful because it changes how the product generates revenue.
Changes like these impact us at a business and personal level. In 1994 I attended a conference about the internet and media. Several corporations were present and each one was discussing the theme of 'convergence'. The discussion points were that TV, internet and telephones were all going to be mixed into one big massive industry. The first two corporations stepped up and predicted it would happen in 5 years. The final corporation, Sprint, gave their presentation and suggested convergence was important, but not to expect massive shifts for 10 to 15 years.
We are at that inflection point now, and Google is striving to be the firm leading that shift. This isn't the real change, though. The real change is behind the scenes, where your data is collected and used, making the Motorola Mobility purchase all the more valuable to Google. Newspapers knew relatively little about you beyond your name and address. Maybe there were circulars or coupons in the paper, so they knew they could profit from their delivery system by working with retailers to distribute offers and deals. They didn't know much about your habits or how they used that information. Today you're getting much more from media companies. Ads are targeted to you based on sites you visit, where you live and purchases you've made online.
Google, among many other firms, is seeking to extend this to where you are at the moment (Android), what you watch on TV (Motorola), and is already doing it based on what you search for or words you read and write in your gmail. With the announcement that Xbox may become a cable and internet box of its own....well, we can see Microsoft isn't comfortable with Google moving into the data territory without any competitors.
This is the new media. Content will still draw you in. But the focus will be on how, where, and why you consume the content. Certainly the technology and distribution systems continue to improve and shift, most likely to handheld devices. That's interesting and important, but doesn't change the media information and marketing industry. The fact someone will know that today you are at the beach, watching baseball, booked a hotel room nearby for the weekend, made reservations at a local restaurant, and bought tickets for a show does change things dramatically.
We need to think about how these changes are going to impact us in our personal lives. We also need to think about whether these are changes we want to have, and are comfortable with.
Posted by Bulldog in The Culture, "Culture," Pop Culture and Recreation at 13:24 | Comments (11) | Trackbacks (0)
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rhhardin... Do you really set your blog in hot type? Back in the 1950s, I edited an engineering magazine which was the last typeset magazine in Milwaukee, I believe. The typesetter was a paradigm of such folks. His shop was down the alley across the street from the Pabst Theater, in the basement. Yes, he wore a green eyeshade [no sleeve garters though] and had a pot of liquid lead on his desk. Talk about a poisonous workplace! I liked him a lot and learned a lot from him.
He had an encylopaedic knowledge of English -- correct English and grammar, that is -- and I learned to respect and dread it when he would look at me over his glasses and say, "Are you sure you want to say it that way?" Like most recent graduates of expensive Eastern colleges, I thought I knew everything. He tactfully showed me that I didn't. What I learned from him I never forgot. And I was and am a better writer for it.
Most 'hot typesetters' developed sickness from close association with hot lead, and they drank a lot of whiskey to dull the pain. If they were as good and as tough as my typesetter, the drink never interfered with the excellence of the job he was doing. Wherever he is now, I wish him well.
Funny you should mention that - my Dad always said that his best editor was the guy who ran the typesetting machine. :>)
I'm comfuzzled. I thought that Motorola Mobility only dealt with handsets and operating systems for handsets. I was under the impression that Motorola Solutions is the division that produces the set top boxes - Google didn't purchase that portion of the business although Google is interested - along with several European companies.
Anyway, even if Google wants to invade the media space with Google TV, they've already screwed it up with with a partnership with Logitech that fell apart rather quickly. The current rumor is that Google is working with Verizon to build a set-top Google TV box.
I'm of the opinion that this will also fail. There are just too many choices with instant entertainment now and too many platforms with which to present these choices if you feel the need.
Google may be looking for it, wanting to acquire it, but they still can't make people use it.
Nope - it's Mobility.
I know - I thought the same thing originally. Then a friend of mine mentioned the concept that this deal would alter cable TV. I asked how, and he told me Mobility made the boxes. That's what eventually led me to the data concept, because at the same time, Comcast was up on the Hill telling Congress they collect data on users, but don't use it.
Well I'll be darned - how about that. I knew Motorola was big in the cable box biz, but I had no idea that the Mobility division made them.
Learn something new everyday.
"... we tend to react poorly to new ideas and products which don't fit neatly into the way we believe life should progress. "
I don't think this is generally true. The fact that that we have enthusiastically adopted these conveniences, advances and technologies is a strong indicator that in fact the opposite is true.
Americans, and others, do react well to new ideas and products and are more than willing to integrate them into our lives, and we are more than ever open to the serendipitous directions such things open to us.
Americans do, over time, adopt and react well to change and new ideas. We do it faster than other cultures.
But we don't react well at first. Few people do. Change is uncomfortable.
Consider the telephone, which Western Union originally said had no practical application for the average person.
Or Tom Watson at IBM, which said the worldwide market for computers was limited to about 5 computers.
Or even Bill Gates who said 640k was more memory than anyone should ever need.
It isn't so much that any of these groups or people resisted change - but they certainly thought that limits had been met and there was no pressing need to move much further (though most of them did!).
We do, over time, realize that change is good. But let's face it, I'm not getting a Kindle anytime soon because I'm very tactile and enjoy turning pages. I'm no Luddite, I just have preferences. Eventually, I know I will own a Kindle. It took me until very recently to get a smartphone. Not for any other reason that I was just in no rush and the change required to get it into my life was more than I was ready to handle.
Most people will stay with what they are comfortable with for as long as they can. We are, usually, pushed forward by the early adopters who adapt more easily.
Absolutely true story. I attended a seminar at which Ed DeCastro of Data General, Ken Olsen of Digital Equipment, Jim Campbell of Prime and various and sundry mini-computer industry big shots were a panel at a break out session. They were asked about email and its potential as a communications tool for the broader public.
Each and every one of them said no - that the use of email wouldn't have much impact beyond intra-company communications because a widely disbursed network would never be large enough in terms of bandwidth to carry the data required to make it viable from a business standpoint. Further they argued that email would never supplant the USPS or impact the way retail businesses functioned.
Yup. One thing I've learned over the years is "Never say never" when you're thinking about what can happen.