Backlog and The End of Backlog

So the iPad is here to deliver our media, tablets are on their way to challenge the iPad, smartphones are there when we don't have tablets . . .

There's going to be a lot of way to get our content in the future.

Of course, not all that content is going to be new content.   Past games will be recompiled or emulated.  Comics wlll be scanned, books digitized or re-digitized.  New content is going to compete with old content.

I've speculated before about this competition – simply delivering old content in many ways is faster and cheaper, and represents a huge backlog of easy-to-deploy content.  For those of us in the content/media business, a truly geeky area, that's important as it will affect what we do and what we produce.  We need to observe this competition.

So I'd like to bring up another factor – even with this huge amount of content out there, this easy-to-deliver, easy-to-access content, what happens once you start burning through it?

This may sound ridiculous, but consider the following:

  1. Not all "backlog" will be of interest to people, so some of the delivered content won't get much interest.
  2. Portable devices allow people to get their content anywhere.  Consider the commuters on trains and buses who have an hour or two a day to read.  I myself could read through two to four manga in that time.
  3. Fads and trends could up the consumption of backlog – a new Superhero movie could lead people to read online versions of classic comics, etc.  Of course once a fad passes interest will decline, or people will just read casually then forget it.
  4. Some backlog content will not be of interest due to cultural and social trends.

Yes, I think backlog will compete with new content.  Companies could indeed find backlog is extremely profitable, especially with low overhead.   We could even see big backlog fads (indeed, look at the way superhero movies resulted in classic TPBs or the "and zombies" remixing of old classics).

Nothing is forever however.  There's only so much backlog to use, interest to be hand, and relevance of past content:

  • Will we have a run on backlog as companies try and monetize old content?  Will it overwhelm people at some point and they'll suddenly crave new content?
  • Will companies release old content gradually, but at some point hit a wall where they've released all they can, or where interest slows?
  • What happens (years or decades from now) when backlog of at least some kinds and titles has had its time? Some companies only have so many titles in stock of games, books, manga, etc.

So I'm concerned that backlog can compete with new content in the e-media, wired age.  But I also see a potential trend developing where companies jump on the backlog bandwagon – and aren't ready when the content and interest runs out.

Then what, my fellow progeeks?

– Steven Savage