I have resisted the urge to look back on 2008 with “best of” lists or predictions about 2009. However, the many predictions about the media in have my attention. As I read them, a few predictions struck me as being less radical than they seem on the surface, reflecting the new application of old principals in this “new media” world.
From Folio Andy Cohn, VP and group publisher of Fader Media predicted that “five out of every 10 magazines and newspapers will go out of business, scale down their frequency or move entirely to the Web. This will not just be survival of the fittest, rather survival of the most willing and able to adapt to the changing media paradigm, and throw all of the old rules out the window.”
Old rules? No, they’re still in play; the question of adaptation here is resolved through co-opting the “enemy,” in this case the online medium. Consider some historical comparison: movies were saved not by gimmicks like glorious Technicolor, breathtaking Cinemascope and stereophonic sound. The industry eventually embraced the new medium, television, by offering movies of the week, and later owned the early cable industry by offering exclusive runs of movies that just came off the cinemas, and eventually engaging in TV-only productions.
Recorded media have had many of the same characteristics- the cassette tape, VHS, DVR, recordable CDs and now MP3s- the newest of which the industries have not completely embraced yet–but will have to. Desperation and economics may force some hands here, but the media metamorphosis is the replaying of an old script.
Contentinople, in its 10 predictions for 2009, stated that “Internet video will be stuck on PCs — for now.” Bucking some of the more extreme predictions that Internet video is taking over the home, this prediction has a more sensible twang to it that I agree with. Yes, YouTube is insanely popular. Yes, services like Hulu and Joost put “appointment programming” on the viewers’ timetables rather than the networks’. But, as the Contentinopole editors rightly point out, there is no standard for getting the Internet videos onto our HDTV. Apple TV didn’t do it; Roku’s NetFlix player may be bringing demand closer; but, the principle that we want home entertainment on our increasingly popular big-screen HDTVs remains. That’s the old rule; the boob tube rules the house, and if the new programming wants all the masses, it needs to leap from PC to HDTV. Maybe, as with the DVR, the cable companies need to jump on board by putting this ability in their set-top boxes.
A final “old rule” – established brands hold the advantage in drawing audiences to new media even as their old models slowly (or rapidly) fall apart around them. Did we have new networks build up around TV? No, the old radio networks moved over, in many cases converting their old programs to the new medium (did I already mention Hulu and Joost?). With that in mind, two predictions: in Folio by Technologizer.com’s Harry McCracken that the best journalists will be just fine in 2009 and Ron Grover’s contention in BusinessWeek that Hulu (that word again!) will be 2009’s online video winner not YouTube. Both back up the idea that the established brands are not through yet.
One of the reasons I tend to refrain from making yearly predictions (aside from my general crankiness) is that the best predictions can be drawn from history. This year is no exception.