Comment 31404

By Mr. Focus (anonymous) | Posted May 29, 2009 at 18:05:40

Good article, but the analysis doesn't go far enough, I think. Advertising will still have to play a large part in the economic mix that will support new media, I suspect.

Network TV is all about expensive "production values" and a star system attracting huge audiences so that cost-per-viewer was kept low for advertisers. That's industrial era thinking, and worked just like other forms of industrial production. Mass consumption was delivered through mass media to support mass production which delivered mass employment and around we go again. Our notions of democracy and manufacturing mass concensus supported this system, which greatly advanced the material wealth of western industrialized nations.

Then technology blew the doors off, primarily through computerizing the front end of this production system. In the printing industry, one of the earlier computerized industries, it became faster and cheaper to produce relatively short runs of even fairly elaborate brochures, accompanied by a letter that addressed you with your own name instead of "Occupant". Even before that, during the 50s and 60s three kids with electric guitars in a garage started learning how to make as much noise as an entire symphony orchestra. The result is an explosion of media, each more open to participation as front-end, or "tooling" costs are driven down.

But advertisers were still looking for those big audiences. They had to, because they were still promoting mass produced goods. What's happening now too, as audiences are split, is that markets too are split. Political concensus is also splitting. People want different kinds of choices than merely "left" or "right".

Industries that succeed are those that learn how to produce for smaller and smaller niches. Advertisers need to learn how to then reach those diverging markets through media that are used by smaller numbers of people with similar interests. Sometimes these communities are still spread over very large geographic areas. The Network system of producing one show in LA or New York and relying on paying a star millions of dollars to draw a big audience is in trouble.

But sometimes a community is still geography based. It's just that for networks, local production has always been an inefficient expense. It is even more so now and that expense is no longer being covered by advertisers who are drifting toward newer media. Unfortunately, they are often still trying to develop big audiences through stitching together multi-media methods, and often don't pay for content. I think that is still to come as advertisers learn the benefits of directly addressing smaller, more identifiable audiences. But it's still shaking out.

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