Media Wars Part 4: A Sustainable Media Geekonomy

So as I mentioned last post, the Media Geekonomy is stuck in an Extraction mentality where members of it (Fans, Support, Creators) are often trying to get the most out of their situation.  This is exacerbated by regular business practices, attitudes, and technology changes.  It's an unpleasant situation, and it can't last forever – because there's a lot of simmering pathology and problems.

Me I'd like it solved because I can see a lot of continuing unpleasantness.  I can see more lawsuits and bizarre regulations designed to limit the choices of Fans and keep Creators under control by those in the Support sector.  I can see ignorant companies folding, unaware of how the market has changed until they die off.  I see Creators loosing out on opportunities or being denied them.

So let's ask what we want the Media Geekonomy to be, and I'd say that the opposite of Extraction (getting as much as possible) is Sustainability.  Sustainability is about making sure you have enough now and in the future.

In the Media Geekonomy it's about making sure that the system still runs, that people get what they want, but that it's based on making sure everyone supports everyone else, that people are aware, and that the system keeps going, so people get what they want.

Let's see how things can change – and who is up to change them first – to make the Media Geekonomy more sustainable.

Sorry creators, but you're the ones most likely to make changes here.  You produce the products, you have the name recognition, and you probably know the fans.  I know you've been screwed over by media companies, that you feel fans may want to take your works and not compensate you, but you're the ones in the positions to change things.

The goal of the Creators should be to make sure they get paid and the fans get what they want:

  • To form continuing relationships with their fans.  This forms a bond, lets them understand the needs of the people who do, frankly, pay the bills, builds goodwill, and helps the fans understand that they're paying to support them.  Social Media makes this much easier for them – as do personal web pages, speaking engagements, etc.
  • To figure out how to deliver real value in the media they produce – and perhaps extra value.  They need to be imaginative here, with things like having extra downloadable tracks, special releases, what have you.
  • To find ways to get product to the fans – perhaps directly to the fans – in ways that let them be compensated while letting the fans pay a fair price.   This may include going out of normal methods and normal companies in the Support role, but that's the way it is.  Fans pay the bills.
  • To find new Support companies and work with old ones to make sure you support the relationship with the fans and supporting of good products – and this could entail breaking off old relationships.  This may mean self-publishing, or getting a new label, or simply making sure your contract gives you more options.
  • Be willing to talk the finances of your career if you can – but be subtle.  It'd just help for people to understand the economics of being a media producer.
  • Cultivate the talent of others.  Be a role model, be an example, and help new talent find a way to work in a Sustainable Geekonomy.
  • Make your change a movement.  Influence other Creators.


Fans, you're next in the people that can change things because you pay the bills, you spread awareness of a product – or an unethical business.  You have to be selective with your money, and you have to be aware that since you pay the bills, you need to make sure you support the people important to you.

The goal of Fans should be to make sure that they support the Creators and Supporters who provide the media they want – and respect the fact that the fans provide the income.

  • Go out of their way to identify artists, writers, companies,etc. they want to support.  This means research.
  • Making sure their buying habits reflect those they want to support.  This includes tip jars online, buying TPBs and merchandise, etc.
  • Considering the way they get media and its ethical implications – for downloading, trading, etc.  In some cases, ethnically and to show proper support for Creators and Supporters it is worth waiting or doing without.
  • Establishing relationships with Creators and Supporters via emails, inviting guests at conventions, communities, and more.  TRhese relationships let you provide feedback and breaks down barriers.
  • Being willing to talk to Supporter and Creators about new ideas and income streams.
  • Being willing to break off relationships with Creators and Supporters that disrespect them.

And Support, the publishers, the editors, the small marketers, the big media conglomerates.  This is a difficult situation because the changes are happening the most in the Support Area of media – and this is the area you find the most inertia.  If you work in the Support area and want it to move with the times, trying to make changes is probably very frustrating.

The goal of Support in a Sustainable Media Geekonomy is to make sure that the Authors can reach the Fans with their works, while enhancing the experience and helping improve the works.

  • Focus on streamlining the Author-to-Fan delivery methods, and diversifying the methods (and thus the income streams).
  • Embracing new technology fast and furiously – and that means being willing to abandon partnerships.
  • Step back from litigation except when necessary (and at times it is necessary).  It doesn't build good will.
  • Build direct relations with Fans and Creators via social media, conventions, and more.  Be willing to make the people that work for your company public so they can build real relations.
  • Listen to people.
  • Accept that in this economy and in these changing times, that some companies are going to have to expand or get lean or change – including yours.
  • Remember that if you do not change with the times, or provide the right services, others will.
  • If you work in a Support area, choose who you work for so you support a company that supports your values.

Do I think a Sustainable Geekonomy is possible?  Actually I think it's more a question of are people going to work at it or not.  It's better to consciously decide on what you want to evolve the Media Geekonomy into than to follow the current, incoherent path.

So.  Get to work.

Steven Savage