Saturday, September 24, 2011

Creative Destruction

Where's the on button for this thing?

When I talk about old media, I mean really old media.  I was an exhibiting artist, mostly paintings and prints, for years.  Life, making a living and the cost of real estate seemed to be the main causes for the end of that period of my life.  I do miss the physicality of painting and taking the time for the introspection necessary to condense a lot of experience into one static physical object.  It can be a profound and, at times, exhilarating process.

As long as the roots are not severed, all is well.

Recently, I have been trying to streamline my life, pruning if you will.   Part of that process was going through all of my (much too much) artwork in storage.  Some of it I kept, some I gave away and the rest went to the dump.  It's interesting to compare the reaction between my non-artist and artist friends.  The non-artist friends were mostly horrified and thought that it must have been some horribly traumatic event for me.   The artists all, to a person, understood that analyzing and selectively pruning your past is a powerful and important aspect to being a creative person and moving ahead.  There were a few rough moments but overall, it felt really good.

How about that quality of light?

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Big Three?

My enemy's enemy?

With Facebook's recent announcements, I will repeat my armchair opinion that the three companies fighting it out for dominance in the new media (we need a better term for it because I'm not talking about what is stereotypically thought of as "new media" but rather the new world of media consumption we are beginning to see) world are Apple, Facebook and Google.  They are profiting primarily by either taking (or will be taking someday soon) a piece of media sales within their platforms or by selling user information, usually to advertisers.  Facebook looks like it will be unique in that it has no commitment to hardware, unlike Apple or Google (depending on what they do with their Motorola assets).  This is going to be a very interesting fight.

If Facebook can leverage their digital scrapbook concept later into an intelligently curated stream, they will be a very formidable force.  They do have the advantage of being somewhat more focused than the other two on this particular area.  They seem to be on the forefront now of breaking down the concept of what media is, how it is delivered and how to make money from it.  No doubt, they will be busy analyzing user behavior, perfecting algorithms that are predictive and pull in content from a much wider range of sources.  The big question with the Facebook model is whether people are going to be willing to do all of their media consumption in public.

As I've said before, I believe the future of media consumption is going to become smaller chunks, provided via algorithms that not only find the content but also reconstruct it in a way that provides a meaningful narrative to the viewer, consumed more or less constantly.  We will consume more media than ever.  However,  less and less of it will be what we consider now to be professionally produced.  Yes, the higher-level content will still exist, there may just be less of it. Unfortunately, there will be less of the low to mid-level content that provides so much employment for my friends.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

State of Internet TV

 The Cloud knows what you want

This article (TV in the Cloud) is a good companion to the link I posted at the end of my last post.  That article discusses how Google is quietly becoming an online TV powerhouse by directly buying over $100M of their own content for YouTube and supposedly trying to acquire Hulu.

TV in the Cloud is one of the better summaries I've seen recently about the state of online TV recently.  And, I buy Erick Schonfeld's view of social's integration with online TV.  He believes that it will  be useful as a TV guide, showing you what people you know or respect are watching.  This is a logical, concrete and most importantly, likely to be successful step towards integrating social with TV.  But please, no clunky cable-like user interfaces.  It is also worth noting his observation that the TV Industry is still largely resistant to these changes and, importantly, don't seem to understand that online TV is about more than how content is distributed.

If you want to read how that resistance is affecting what you can watch, read this very good article from the Above the Crowd blog about why Netflix changed its pricing structure.  Netflix cracked the code about how to make money with online streaming content when everyone said it was impossible.  Now, everyone (understandably) wants a piece of the pie, even though many of them do not really seem to still understand how to make it work.  What does that mean?  Get used to fracturing in the delivering of content, that is, for the immediate future it seems like you will be looking more places (and paying more providers) for the same type of content you found in one or two portals making it more expensive and more difficult to locate.

Netflix, The Innovator's Dilemma and the Golden Egg

Friday, September 16, 2011

What's New Is Old

Project Runway 3000: Inter-Galactic Social Edition

Is it just me, or is new media and certain aspects of social starting to feel old (as opposed to mature)? Facebook, Twitter, to me they are feeling tired and too time consuming.  Quora, very interesting if you belong to the church of the startup.  Google Plus?  It seems even key Google execs have stopped posting. Google is finally getting ready to make it open for "everyone."  I haven't exactly heard a wave of excitement from the masses.

What is the payoff to hundreds of millions of people broadcasting unedited and often incoherent bites, aside from contributing to our understanding of truly newsworthy events like the recent Arab revolutions?  Yes, there is also some interesting work being done on meta-analysis of these streams of information, say to track the spread of influenza. However, it seems that most of it is self-broadasting as a means of personal marketing. Who really thinks that people who subscribe to 300 plus Twitter streams are doing anything other than trying to get those people somehow interested in themselves?  Who has the time to monitor that many streams and to what benefit?  Social media seem to be a net-sum game: time spent on Twitter is time not spent on Facebook, etc. How much self-marketing is really healthy and how far do people really need to go down the road to developing personal brands?  Ultimately, whether you represent a large corporation or yourself, social media is only effective if you are providing useful, timely information.

I have been through quite a few apps meant to make some kind of coherent personalized narrative out of social and/or news and they all have all failed, either as businesses or in their functionality.   I've given apps permission to interpret my Facebook, Twitter, RSS and pretty much anything else to which I subscribe and ended up with nothing but nearly generic results.  They were definitely much worse than manually scanning RSS feeds or Twitter streams. Believe me, I am a true believer: whoever gets the next step right, curating content automatically and in a way that tells a story to the recipient combining news, video, social, etc., will be the next Big Winner.  I want it to happen. And yet,  I am coming closer to the opinion of a good friend, in explaining how they use their Facebook account: "Facebook is the perfect delivery platform for baby pictures."  That may explain why Facebook is the largest online image hosting platform, I'm guessing larger than almost all the others combined.

How long will  the idea that "social television" is a clunky TV interface tied to chat rooms, or check-ins to your favorite shows or tweets from show stars hold sway?  Someone, please help me understand how any of this is an interesting way forward?

The most interesting aspect, at least for me, is that the mid-1990's promise of interactive media is quietly coming to fruition without CD's or DVD's.

The future of media: it's in your hands

I do want to talk about Google soon, and how they are silently changing the way content will be delivered.  Now, if they only could implement super fast broadband nationwide.......

Friday, September 2, 2011

Bart Simpson and the Blockbuster Look

Wow, it's kind of eery how close Bart Simpson's flesh tones are to those found in a Michael Bay movie.  This awesome interactive chart can be found here, on Slate.