Media Wars Part 1: The Analysis

INTRODUCTION: Reviewing the stories of last week, issues of media, ownership, and more were big.  There were talks about scanilations and author income, of game companies and resold games.  Last week brought to light a simple fact – today there is a lot of unease, turning into outright hostility, between the consumers, creators, and distributors of media.  My goal is to analyze that situation and look at possible solutions because it affects the geekonomy, and because it's hard for me to shut up about my opinions.

In this and the upcoming posts I will be covering a lot of ground, clearly missing things or generalizing.  Forgive such issues – this is a complex issue.

There's an odd undercurrent of hostility in the media marketplace.  You can hear it in conversations, where discussions of casual downloads might include a snide remark about how much DVDs cost.  You see it in the news, where strange lawsuits are brought against people for what appear to be trivial reasons.  You feel it when an author discusses the craziness of the media market place and how they're concerned about being paid – or how angry they are at a publisher or a downloader.  There's something that seems broken out there in the world of the media marketplace – and thus, part of the Geekonomy.

There is a disconnect out there in the world of media, of games and manga, of anime and television shows.  The people involved in the making, buying, and distribution seem mistrustful, or even angry and hostile towards each other.  This is bad for the geekonomy and bad for us because it affects what we do, and what we love – and the culture as a whole.

So I'm asking myself, just where are the disconnects?  The Conflicts?

The Fans:
The fans are the people who buy the media, who follow the authors and actors, who basically put money into the system because they can get what they want – or who go around the system to get what they want.

What They Want: They want things cheap (especially in a bad economy).  They want access to things with less wait time for translations or distribution.  They also want respect because they're the ones footing the bill.

What They Don't Want: The don't like to wait.  They don't like bad bargains and being ripped off.  They dislike being ignored or treated as un-important – or worse, as criminals because they copied a DVD.

The Supporters:
The Supporters are the ones who do all that's necessary to get a product out to people.  They get it ready, handle the legal or technical gobbledygook, get it out there, and get it marketed and make people aware of it.  They've got the pipelines for product and for marketing.  Sometimes they're also or partially The Creator as well.

What They Want: Making money and to keep doing it.  They want stability in that financial chain.  Some of them also enjoy the fame and recognition of what they do.  Many people who work in the area of Support also generally enjoy what they do – editing, marketing, event planning etc.

What They Don't Want: Unreliability of the income chain.  Change in the income chain.  Becoming useless.

The Creators:
The creators are people that make the media, from single authors to teams behind movies or games.  They're the brains, the imagination, and the implementation (sometimes as the same person).  Some of them verge on Supporter territory.

What They Want: Income from what they do.  Respect for what they do.  Stability (notoriously hard in some creative areas).  A chance to have effect and influence based on their work.

What They Don't Want: Instability.  Disrespect.  Not getting paid.  Not being recognized.

Looking over this summary of three different distinct groups, the conflicts are already evident – people want what they want.  They want it from other people.  Their interests don't necessarily line up.  A few examples:

  • A fan's desire for cheapness doesn't necessarily work in the interest of the Supporter or Creator.
  • A Supporter's desire for stability of income is threatened by constant technical changes, from fans having new ways to access materials to a Creator's ability to get self-published.
  • A Creator . . . well creators often get the shaft anyway in these situations.  The Supporters often want to get the most out of them for the minimal expense, and the fans are often (at times ignorantly) the same way.

The fact that I can divide this part of the Geekonomy into three distinct areas already speaks to the potential of conflict.

The problem?  Everyone wants to get the most out of everyone else, there's little thought of the future, and thus less coping with the present.

The media economy is one of Extraction – which we'll be discussing next.

Steven Savage