Friday, April 26, 2013

The Future of Media- Musings

Awhile back, someone interviewed me for a business class.  I thought a couple of the questions dug up some hot air worth blowing around, so here it is!

In your opinion is small businesses, including physical and online stores, growing? Also do you think they will ever grow to the point where they are a bigger and more influential part of the economy than big businesses?

That’s an interesting question- since I mostly just make a comic, my insight is limited.  I haven’t a clue pertaining to business as a whole.  Regarding entertainment media, things are moving in two starkly different directions right now, and it fascinates me.  

Corporate media conglomerates continue cannibalizing one another, growing fewer and bigger, into titanic monoliths.  Think Time Warner- or as a recent example, look at how Disney has assimilated both Marvel and Star Wars.  All those properties are now the domain of one massive corporation.  It’s unprecedented.  These conglomerates keep growing, consuming everything in their path, and solidifying their Hollywood influence over their rivals.  On the corporate side of things, it’s get big or die.  

But at the same time, the internet is giving anyone- literally any person- the ability to start their own show, and start gathering their own audience.  There are hundreds of thousands of individuals sharing their creations via platforms like Youtube.  While a lot of these efforts are of course unprofessional and poorly executed (one could say the same of some corporate-produced films) many are becoming surprisingly sophisticated and entertaining.  I’ve seen lone individuals using special effects in their videos that rival the most expensive mega-budget effects of 1980’s film.  Everything is getting cheaper and easier for a layperson to do- and people are doing it.  And more people are watching them do it, as TV ratings and film attendance steadily declines.  TV’s can now browse the internet and play Youtube videos just as easily as they can play American Idol.

So I see things polarizing at two extremes, corporate and individual.  With the internet leveling the playing field, the source of entertainment will matter less in it’s success- it will be all about whether it’s actually entertaining.  I like to think that, without the need for board-room approval, creativity will be stronger on the individual side and we’ll see the conglomerated monoliths become less ubiquitous.  But that’s wishful thinking, and historically large organizations have been able to leverage their influence to hoard power very effectively.

Also do you believe self publishing will ever grow to the point where they are just as common in stores as other published works?

Possibly…  That depends a lot on what one defines as published vs. self-published.   The line is getting blurrier, with individuals starting their own LLCs or sole proprietorships.  Individually published books can now get freelance editorial polishing and professional-grade presentation, while editing standards at large publishers tend to be dropping, as they stop cultivating talent in their search for the next overnight blockbuster.  When present and future blockbuster authors begin to question why they’re handing the fruits of their labor to a middleman, and consider self publishing themselves-   Well, amateur vs. professional publishing will be a fuzzy prospect down the road.

But stores are practical- especially when it comes to books, since physical bookstores are having a tough time surviving.  They will carry what sells, and drop what does not.   I think in the future, that will have less to do with what company is presenting the work, and more to do with whether readers actually consider the work valuable, and recommend it to other readers.

That’s the one thing that encourages me most about the influence of the internet on commerce- it puts the customers in control, and gatekeepers  lose their power.

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