Navigation
NICKDEMARTINO on Twitter
PAST BLOG POSTS

DIGITAL MEDIA FROM THE INSIDE OUT: My focus is digital content -- production, distribution, collaboration, innovation, creativity. Some posts have appeared across the web (HuffPo, Tribeca's Future of Film, The Wrap, MIPblog, etc.). To receive these posts regularly via email, sign up for my newsletter here.

Entries in disruption (3)

Thursday
Jan122012

Digital disruption in the local TV market

If forced to pluck a single theme from my talk to a group of local television station executives this week at Disney World it would be this one: "TV is just another application." Today's consumer still loves TV, make no mistake. But technology provides more and more choice -- both types of content (games, messaging, non-TV video, and so much more) and the way it is delivered (phones, tablets, laptops, IP-TVs, et. al.).

The trend is clear -- TV viewing as we know it will evolve dramatically in the coming years into some new form. Think about the evolution of radio, from the central focus in the living room to a driving companion under the onslaught of TV. 

Over time, the explosion of choice and technologies will necessarily erode incumbant providers -- disruption in publishing, music, movies, and network TV. But what about the local TV broadcaster, lynchpin of the American system of distribution? If I can get the shows I like over the internet, and I can, why do I need my local channel? 

Local broadcasters still have immense brand power in the marketplace, derived not only from habit but because they deliver news, weather, traffic and often live programming like sports which are unavailable from other sources (for now). These and other strengths must be leveraged in the new digital marketplace, which is crowded by all sorts of competition, fueled again by the Internet. Hyper-local websites, blogs, networks and "deal" sites are going after advertisers and viewers. 

Local stations must think like digital natives and bring their brand and content to audiences where they live, especially younger consumers who may simply not have developed the same TV viewing habits as their parents. Some of my suggestions and analysis are contained in this presentation, including an endearing photo of me as a young media activist (aged 12), my first angry letter to a TV station.

Monday
Oct032011

• Why Marshall McLuhan would Dig Transmedia and DIY Distribution

Marshall McLuhan's pronouncement that "the medium is the message" was revolutionary back in its day.

Nearly 50 years later, McLuhan's influence survives, with many of his ideas serving as memes for wave upon wave of new media. Not for nothing did WIRED Magazine anoint McLuhan as patron saint at the dawn of the Internet!  Digital hipster Doug Coupland even published a McLuhan book subtitled” You Know Nothing of My Work” that riffed on the old gent’s ironic appearance in that Woody Allen flick.

McLuhan asserted that the container (the medium itself) mattered more than its actual content. Or something like that. Pissed a LOT of people off back then, especially people making the actual content.

McLuhan was at heart a sociologist of media, interested more in the way media technologies impact culture and and its populations, which includes, significantly, how each medium influences the others. 

In today’s media-drenched ecosphere, we are accustomed to judging “new media” products almost solely in terms of how quickly they reach "scale," meaning a large audience – and definitely how much they disrupt their predecessors. Darwinian. And McLuhanesque, too, if you think about it. Even more so if you understand.

Like many a college student slogging through the inscrutable prose of McLuhan's seminal tome "Understanding Media” I thought: jeez, I'll never understand how to understand. In this, I was not alone.

Dallas Video Festival

Such thoughts bounced around my skull as I reflect upon my weekend at the Dallas Video Festival, where I conducted a workshop on "Transmedia" and joined a panel on "The Changing Landscape of Independent Media." 

Sure, there was plenty of talk about individual films and videos on the program, such as the fascinating "Once I was a Champion," Gerard Roxburgh's film about mixed-martial arts fighter Evan Tanner, who died in the desert after a troubled life.  

Or Tiffany Schlain's "Connected,"  a memoir/manifesto that interweaves her vision of how the Internet could save the planet with some major crises in her personal life.

Neither film (er, digital movie?) has snagged conventional distribution yet, symptomatic of the state of indie film, despite premieres at Sundance and the LA Film Festival, respectively.

Containerization of Media

For me, the juiciest conversations at the Dallas event (and most other gatherings of media makers and media lovers) focused on the container, just as McLuhan did. What is the state of distribution? How do I sell my film? How do I find an audience? How do I keep up with all this stuff?

Click to read more ...

Wednesday
Nov032010

• MOVIE MOGULS AS DISRUPTORS

On Monday I watched episode 1 of TCM’s MOGULS & MOVIE STARS with the lovely title: “Peepshow Pioneers”. The seven-part series will span the rise and demise of the first-generation movie studio founders, roughly 1890-1970, with installment one exploring the entrepreneurial roots of the movies, including the epochal struggle between inventor Thomas Edison and the men who founded the studios.

I could not help but notice the parallels to our current media environment 100 years later in this story of a band of outsiders — Jewish immigrants who came to America by will and to “the movies” by accident — who took on and beat a powerful Edison movie cartel that controlled 80% of the business, including content production, tools creation, content distribution and consumer exhibition in a vertically integrated complex of aligned companies. The Trust defended its questionably broad patents and its oligopoly by any means necessary, including the use of roaming bands of thugs.

A Supreme Court case eventually broke up the Trust in the teens, opening the door for Edison competitors, most of who had already moved from the then-movie capital in metro New York City to the sunny climes of Los Angeles, where they found cheap land in an undeveloped suburb called Hollywood. They moved there mainly to get away from the thugs, as this documentary would have it.

These were the original disruptors in an emergent media business, unseating the incumbent and building a glorious mousetrap that turned the movies into a major global industry. Of course, these upstarts promptly did Edison one better by building their own vertically integrated system of production, distribution and exhibition that effectively froze out their challengers for a generation: This was the “golden age” of Hollywood, when their studio system controlled every aspect of the business. Subsequent episodes of TCM’s series — premiering each Monday— are devoted to the expansion of this world built by moguls with now-familiar brand-names: Mayer (MGM), Fox, Warner, Laemmle (Universal), Loew and others that followed.

Within a generation, their cozy arrangement was itself to be dismantled by yet another disruptor, namely television, and another court case, the 1948 consent decree that untethered production (studios) from distribution (theatre chains).  A new generation of Hollywood moguls, led by talent agent Lew Wasserman, were able to co-opt the new media when they integrated talent, television, and movies, creating a different sort of incumbent power base for the business, one which lasted largely intact, even with the influx of new distribution methods like cable and pay TV and home video, until the advent of the Internet. There have been waves of new entrants and would-be disruptors, but Hollywood has been successful in absorbing each successive challenge, and prospering along the way.

Most of us believe that the tsunami of digital media, most particularly broadband distribution of print, audio and then video over the World Wide Web, marks another epochal disruption akin to those in the teens and the 50s. The timing is right for this “long wave” of innovation to disrupt the status quo.

It certainly seems that the technological and entrepreneurial shift powered by Silicon Valley innovation is different in kind, and will continue to disrupt and transform media, even without a comparable Supreme Court validation, although some might argue that the breakup of Ma Bell was that shot back in the 80s. 

Already we have heroes and villains, with some of the attendant myth making (“The Social Network”, for instance).

Just seems impossible to imagine that we won’t be watching THE NEW MOGULS at some point in the future. What we will be watching this content on, well, that’s what those new moguls are probably working on, right now.