Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Golden Age for Independent Meda and Web 2.0?

In case you haven't noticed there is a recession on. A pretty good one too. Some economists are even starting to use the D word (the one that ends in epression and that drugs don't help.) As a result, when companies started cutting costs one of the first things to go was advertising. So traditional media companies are cutting jobs all over the place, even the blog Torontoist is set to close it's doors on January 1.

Now before anyone gets the impression that I'm happy about this, I'm not. I have alot of friends in traditional media and am worried for them. This is more of an observation of things likely to come based on the present reality:

Back to where I was going; Media that is dependent on large amounts of revenue and advertising is in for a rough ride and as media goes the internet is rapidly becoming the most essential and the last one that people will give up. It is, after all, in it's current state capable of being a library, newspaper, television, movie theatre, radio, telephone etc., all in one. Even without our current economic problems traditional media has been catering to smaller and smaller niches, newspapers are already in trouble, large movie studios and music labels have been trying to figure out how to survive in the internet era.

Having laid all of that out, it's also undeniable that the biggest media growth in the last several years has been online - blogging, podcasting, social media etc., have exploded and unlike traditional media no revenue is the norm. A decline in ad revenue has almost zero impact and, unlike other media business actually appears poised to spend more money on social media in 2009.

The other growth has been in the independent and it's been going on for awhile, in film the Sundance festival took on Hollywood blockbusters with intelligent film with substance. In Music independent music has exploded. Despite the decline of the major labels the number of CDs produced is up more than 1000% (not kidding) in the last 10 years and that doesn't even count the stuff that is being released digitally and distributed online.

So these trends, the rise of the amateur and the indie and the decline of the big and corporate are already underway. Now we're going into a period where the big and corporate are going to have to learn to work on the same budgets of the small and indie.

The great depression brought a boom in media as people sought fun and escapism. Jazz, already rising in the 20s burst into the mainstream and Hollywood, already on the rise enjoyed it's first golden age.

It is very likely that the current economic downturn will see a similar surge in media,. People will need their escape. Because of rising unemployment more people will have more time on their hands but their entertainment will have to be inexpensive. Where or when this surge happens remains to be seen but from the perspective of the small, the indie, the amateur, the sincere but underfunded there appears to be a perfect storm brewing (in a good way.) A reversal of the trends of the last decade, giving current economic conditions, appears unlikely.

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