Media Wars Part 2: The Situation

I said last column that among the groups participating in the media Geekonomy (Fans, Support, and Creators) that they're all in conflict because they want to get the most they can with comparatively little thought of the future – in short, of sustainability.  I referred to this as a kind of Extraction economy – the goal is to get the most of what you can out of a given source of resources.

In economics I find the term Extraction-based economy used a lot, usually to refer to economies involved in mining, farming, oil, etc.  – economies that get something out of a source.  Of course when you think of mining, farming, and so on your mind may easily go to cases where such Extraction activities also lead to disaster, from overfarmed land to strip-mined scars on the land to oil wells running dry and local economies dying.  Extraction-based economic activity in human history has often shown sad consequences because resources are treated as lasting forever.

In the world of the Media Geekonomy, there's plenty of cases of the different factions trying to get the most they can out of it without thinking of the future.  Too many people are "strip-mining" the Geekonomy:

Fans: Fans want to get what they can faster and cheaper and reliably.  This at times comes with a lack of awareness (or a deliberate discounting) of the simple fact that the media they love has to be paid for one way or another – and cheap does not always mean that enough money is flowing to the right people and groups to ensure a future.

Support: Support means people and companies that are the middlemen.  Their existence depends on people who create media and people who want it- and hooking them up.  This puts them in a strange position of not necessarily making anything, depending on others, and yet having a position that promises immense opportunities for profit.  They can make a lot of money in this position as they're the ones connecting Creators and Fans – but changing technology threatens to upset this model, so they often cling to the old models.  They are often in danger of irrelevance or strangling the source of their income and goodwill.

If Support is a bit of an odd area in the Media Geekonomy, it's utterly strange for the Creators. The people that produce or largely produce the media the Fans want, they have to depend on the Support companies and individuals to reach them.  Creators can range from rich superstar artists to writers who have to have day jobs.  Their lives, audiences, and profits are highly variable – as is their future.  Those that hit it big want to hang on to success for obvious reasons, and those unsure want to make sure they get some surety in their money flow.

Everyone wants something, but these goals don't always align.  Fans want to pay less, while everyone else wants – or needs – their money.  Those providing Support are in the middle, dependent on everyone else and in the position to make a lot of money.  Creators are in a situation with many opportunities for success and many opportunities for obscurity and failure.  No one's interests in the current situation necessarily support anyone else's.

There's a low-level simmer going on.  Everyone is at odds.  Everyone is trying to get theirs (and in some cases, can you blame them) – in short, in Extracting maximum value.

So the next question is "how did we get here?"

Steven Savage