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April 24, 2007

The Voice of Youth

Now that the Global Innovation Outlook has seven deep dives on media and content under its belt (New York (2), Mumbai, Seoul, Shanghai, Helsinki, and London), it’s time to look back and take stock of what we’ve learned. We’ve got two more dives left on this focus area, the wrap-up dives in Los Angeles in early May, and we want to be sure we use that time as productively as possible.

So over the next couple of weeks, the GIO team will be condensing, consolidating, and collating the insights from the previous two months. Stay tuned for those morsels. Meanwhile, now is a good time to hear from some of our many deep dive participants, and get their thoughts on the topic of media and content.

One of the comments on my last post was that I seem to have an old media bias. Fair enough. Today we hear from the next generation. Eric Hansen is a 23-year old senior at Syracuse University. He attended our student deep dive in New York back in early March, and contributed his thoughts early and often. You old media types might be tempted to dismiss the following blog contribution as the ramblings of yet another disaffected youth. But ignore this message at your peril. This is the voice of the future:

From Eric Hansen:

In this age, there is something inherently wrong with an entertainment experience when one's favorite weekly television program is interrupted mid-punchline by a local news alert reporting that a seasonal fire has just broken — 50 miles away. In this age, there is something inherently wrong with an entertainment experience when $10 rents you an uncomfortable, unsanitary seat while you watch a screen dominated first by several successive ads and then the feature peppered with comments from inconsiderate patrons. In this age, there is something inherently wrong with an entertainment experience that short-shrifts musicians for doing something they can now do themselves, gouges consumers, and siphons innovative energies from the free-flow of information to engineering an unsatisfying drizzle.

But I fault nobody for sticking to what has worked well in the past. In fact, I believe it is more a lack of understanding than maliciousness. What I offer next is a condensed-soup version of how some rudiments from The Long Tail (Chris Anderson) and the Experience Economy (Pine and Gilmore) can foster understanding of our beloved media/entertainment industries.

Right now the value of revolutionizing the experience of watching television and movies is being ignored, judging by the way such content is being offered. The show "Grey's Anatomy," for example, is so popular that some college students factor new episodes into their class schedules. The experience of watching the latest episode with your friends and talking about what happened to Dr. McDreamy the next day is something you can't get by TiVo-ing the show for consumption days later. On the other hand, you have Studio 60: At approximately $1 million an episode it has immaculate production values but its slightly older, affluent audience can wait until the weekend to catch up on Matt and Danny's adventures -- so it's no surprise that it was one of the most TiVo-ed programs before its recent local-affiliate-induced hiatus. (The show didn't drive enough eyeballs to the nightly news.)

But for each show you will find viewers who relish the experience of watching it the second it's available, and, the second they get around to the living-room couch. For each show you will find viewers with the cash to pay $2 for commercial-free downloads and viewers (on the Ramen-noodle meal plan) who will watch the free version online; "free" resulting from either a legitimate view on the network's Web site, a YouTube-like copy found via alluc.org, or the BitTorrent download. Unfortunately for the industry, however, every viewer who counts is not being counted. Their individual needs are not being satisfied by the official offering, leading to unnecessary fragmentation.

The industry has forgotten how strong people's emotional connections are with their favorite bands and characters in shows and movies. The experience of consuming most content is not so much the sound system's quality or the screen's size, the simple act of listening or viewing the content is more important. That's why so much of The Daily Show and other content is watched in the horrible resolution YouTube offers. The pixelation and tinny audio don't make the jokes less funny, but the fact that it was delivered exactly when and where it was desired enabled the full potential of that experience opportunity. But look no further than the IMAX experience for an un-downloadable harmony between the viewing act and the content.

The theories of The Long Tail and The Experience Economy share the notion that additional economic value is created by expanding the gamut of individual needs that can be served, in this case with the creative/customizable offering of the same product. The innovation necessary to make this a reality for the media and content industries cannot be fully unleashed until our favorite shows, songs and movies are made available for free and fee; ad-free and ad-nauseum; on time and on demand; on any type of set top or hand held; and a la carte or buffet. Every second this is not the case, more control slips away as the masses are pressured to conform to the models designed exactly for masses. The question is not what will be the new model for media entertainment, it is what are the new models? The future television platform will be one that allows for multiple models, managing media from any source and has as its default the simplest interface imaginable in addition to ones customized for that viewer -- from the coach potato to the viral video junkie.

April 24, 2007 in Media and Content | Permalink


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You didn't link to his blog. how very old media of you... ;-)

Posted by: James Governor | Apr 25, 2007 8:50:09 AM

Thanks, James! With fairness to Dan, I didn't mention to him that I have a blog (it's mostly to keep my loved ones updated) but if anyone is interested it is at ericthansen.com. And just as the cobbler's children have no shoes, it is the least updated of all my Web sites.

Posted by: Eric Hansen | Apr 25, 2007 9:10:55 AM

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