Media and the Future: What we bought wasn’t what was sold.

Hollywood's movie number aren't what they seem, SOPA, PIPA, and ACTA have support that is clueless if not malicious.  We're not happy as we decry lousy media, bad law, and bad faith. It seems that people are a might distressed with some media companies – even as we geeks want to work in or with media.

I've been speculating on this divide recently.  We're glad to pay for our media – most of us have a fundamental sense of fairness that goes into "Shut up and take my money" territory.  We're glad to work with media because we like it.  Yet, too many times, various media interests dodge, engage in subterfuge, or just outright try to turn government to their interest and away from ours.

Yes, this is stupid.  Yes there's greed, malice, and inertia, but I think there's a major factor being ignored here.  I think this factor is one reason Hollywood and the rest of Big Media are caught so flat-footed.

They sold us one thing, but we were buying another.

Let's be honest here, part of the goal of anyone making media is to profit from it.  That's fine that's OK, I'm bang alongside it.  I think the artistic, creative people and all those that help them get out there can have a vision and a paycheck.  Hell, I'm fine about it because they can make more great stuff.

The thing is, the media companies didn't realize what they were doing.

They put together star-powered films and big media campaigns so we'd go to movies and pay for them, and theaters would pay them.

They created TV shows to sell advertising space.

They created DVDs and merchandise to make money beyond their offerings.

That's what they made.  They had systems and plans and methods to get the most out of these income streams.  They could guess what star would sell, what advertising would sell, what toys would sell.

But that's not what we bought.

We paid to see great tales, and sexy romance, and humor, and big booms and wonderful tales.

We watched continuing dramas for years and were entertained and enthralled.

We bought toys for the kids and DVDs to watch over and over again.

We also bought social bonding with each other, the thrill of sharing the show, the joy of going out to the film, the fun of the RP in the setting.

What they sold we bought for other reasons entirely.

Now, the internet has come along as technology's inevitable march continues.  We are empowered with amazing software, brought together by social media, and informed by websites and apps.   We are people living a science-fiction dream that gives us the power and closeness we would have had in a tribe from mankind's early days.

We can get access to shows and books and movies from a number of sources, and we don't necessarily need or care about the blockbusters.  We can go to other countries or dig into the past or appreciate an obscure indie production.

We can create our own toys and shows and comics and upload them.  We can find people who are amazingly creative and work with them or admire them and enjoy their media.

We can connect with others any way we want over whatever we want.

We can also see how the world works and see other ways of thinking and doing.

We can get all the things Big Media once gave us through many other means, in many different ways.  We don't need it as a cultural touchstone like we did once, we don't need to go to a film to bond, we discover cheaper ways to buy toys or just ignore them because that review showed they were lousy.

We're not buying what they're selling anymore – and we never did.  Our interests have diverged.  But many big media companies are still thinking about making money, think they deserve it, and wonder what happened.

Now, they're making a lot of money, but they're losing control.  They know something is wrong.  But they won't sell us what we want, so they're lashing out, confused, making name-recognition pap, and trying to get laws forged to keep their money.  It's an age of high profit and high insecurity, and you can smell the fear of "it's all changing."

Big Media has forgotten the rule of giving the customer what they want.  They didn't have to once.  But now those who do give us what we want are making money, and they're not adapting.  Their only response is to try and find more ways to exert control as opposed to actually doing something people want.

Where does it end?  Frankly I'm not sure.  I don't foresee a definite future for this, though I am expecting a good decade or so of chaos, change, and disorder.  I also see a future of me doing a lot of moody, ranty, analytical columns.

But for someone bright or smart, for someone with time or money or both, for the right people and company, this is an opportunity.  Whoever working in media can invent a better way of doing things, whoever can show vision, whoever can connect Big Media (or even Medium Media) to technology and innovation, will come out on top.  There's room for innovation, a lot of it.

So, what are you doing to make it happen?  Or to make yourself into the person that makes it happen?

Steven Savage