Media Wipe Out

No magic bullet for media.

Regular readers will know that I frequently refer to my ?burgeoning media empire? as the hope and salvation of all humanity, you know, by way of my bank account. It seems to me, however, I should qualify the term ?media empire? seeing as there are enough Neros fiddling in traditional media to fill a string section. Also, when I say “empire,” please know that this my scene?s slang for “creative work that contributes meaningfully to one?s household.” For that matter, the ?scene? to which I refer consists mostly of, well, those in the aforementioned household and a handful of welcomed stragglers.

I’m pleased to say that the plan has worked thus far, having had my fill of? traditional media start-ups wherein my collaborators and I are invited to drain the coffers ? then walk the plank! ? only to hear of content that has sunken to little more than a “mayday” with an undertow of mutiny. The lessons we castaways learned, or rather had reinforced (media professionals, like rats, intuitively know when their ride is about to capsize), had been buoys drifting in this sea of uncertainty for some time. They’ve been netted in two recently published books that serve as astrolabes to those hoping to wash ashore with something better than an extended nautical metaphor.

Wired Magazine editor Chris Anderson follows The Long Tail with Free: The Future of a Radical Price, an insightful analysis of the ?free economy,? with a deep exploration of how media will be monetized (or not) given our proclivity for giving it away. And how did Anderson?s favorite price point jibe with his book?s asking price? Several versions of the text, including an audiobook (285 MB .zip) and a Google edition, were (and in some cases still are) free. Read Anderson?s book in one of these capacities and you?re participating in the new wave of media consumption, though at first you might not notice how.

Likewise, as a co-host of NPR?s On The Media (the podcast is mandatory listening ? I recently sent piffling $5 to WNYC, which produces the hour-long media industry chat show as a small token of my gratitude) Bob Garfield has long steeped in the vicissitudes (and ineptitudes) of our media landscape. Garfield is also a contributor to Advertising Age, which provide daily email digests are well worth receiving. His new tome, The Chaos Scenario, humorously subtitled Amid the Ruins of Mass Media, the Choice for Business is Stark: Listen or Perish, is a frank call-to-arms regarding the media and marketing’s End of Days. Like Anderson, Garfield proposes a paradigmatic shift in the way media and money might intersect with refreshing frankness. And it wasn’t even user-generated. I think.

Here’s a link to a charming and edifying chat on NPR?s Talk of the Nation wherein Garfield and host Neil Conan explore the inevitable demise of their vocations. Here is a link to Chaos Scenario, Garfield?s blog and recruiting station for October?s 30 Days of Chaos, a sort of month-long immersion in ?what happens when the old world order collapses and the Brave New World is unprepared to replace it ? as an ad medium, as a news source, as a political soapbox, a channel for new episodes of ?Lost?? Welcome to The Chaos Scenario.?

Yep. Surf the tsunami.

Gig Economy

The Daily Beast recently published uber-editor Tina Brown?s provocative riff ?The Gig Economy,? which examines the trend toward freelance and contract work due to layoffs and other workplace woes. The media sector, long a safe-harbor for freelancers, has been particularly hard hit, which has resulted in, of course, more freelancers. With all the contraction in the industry, it?s rather like watching a time-lapse film of cells multiplying in a Petri dish. Will I soon be among this hoary zygote of media types (again)? Perhaps, for nary a day goes by that I don?t receive an online alert that some publication somewhere has folded, or read a headline about heads rolling out the newsroom. Will the result of all this ink-letting be, as Brown observed, ?the chronic surge in typographical errors in newspapers that just fired their entire copy desk?? Yes. Been there, done that, bought the T-shit. [sic]

Throughout the purge (including the one that recently lost me several wine country cronies), I?ve been inspired by the resilience of those in the industry, the doers, the self-starters ? or self-re-starters, as the case may be. If we must be lone wolves, let?s be a pack of lone wolves. In heist flicks, no one is ?on staff.? When you do the bank job, the safe-cracker and the get-away driver aren?t on payroll ? like the explosives expert and the gun moll, they?re all in the big gig alone ? together. Granted, canines and criminals don?t make for the most savory of analogies, but a model is coalescing (see ?The Newsroom of the Future?). When a bank teller cries ?Wolf!? in a newsroom, will there be anyone left to hear? Okay, forget the above analogies. Here?s another (Hellenistic) analogy:

Titans: Chief god Kronos, noted for eating young.
Olympians: Chief god Zeus, noted for rampant reproduction. Overthrew Titans.

Old media is titanic. New media is Olympic.

Illogical (but somehow validating) extension:

One hit an iceberg. One went gold.

Listen to Tina Brown discussing the Gig Economy on NPR?s Talk of the Nation.