THE BLOG

NBC Cuts 700 - Apple's Profit's Surge. Coincidence or Paradigm Shift?

There is a shift - and it's not a little thing. Today Apple, the
little engine that could announced extraordinary sales numbers. At the
same time NBC announced wide ranging cuts in it's prime time and news
operations. And the Wall Street Journal reviewed IE7 and
proclaimed it - a copy cat of FireFox.

The shift that that's going on is a fundamental one, from large media
companies inventing and inflicting Mass Culture on 'consumers' to a
society in which the passive role of 'consumer' is shifted forever into
one of 'creator.'

Looking back the Apple advertisement from 1982 seems to have
predicted, or at least imagined this moment.

It's hard not to believe that Google's web based suite of software and
services will continue to over take Microsoft's desk bound, bloated,
and slow Window's environment.

It seems entirely possible that Steve Job's iTV device - when its
revealed in January - will forever change the way media is
discovered, created, and shared. Worth noting here that Microsoft
has had a 3 year head start with the poorly named Windows Media
Extender thingy.

And Flash8 (the encoder that makes video on the web a pleasurable
experience) seems to have ended the format wars between Microsoft's
Windows Media, Apple's Quicktime, and Real Networks RealVideo.

The era of closed systems is coming to an end, and the era of open
systems for media makers and audiences is finally here.

This is a wildly significant change, give the role that media plays in
our life, our politics, our values, and the way companies try to
market to us (remember - we're 'consumers' not 'customers' in current
marketing parlance).

I remember the first time I used Google to place a text ad - a
service called Google Ad Words that anyone can use with a credit card
and a bit of knowledge. It was stunning. Google wouldn't let me use
ALL CAPITALS, or an "!" or the word "FREE" - what was clear to me
was that Google respected the experience of its searchers more than the
few dollars I was willing to spend. It wasn't until I wrote an ad that
the Google algorithms found informational (free of hype) that I was even
allowed to post it.

In old media world - tv viewers were held captive by their programs and
the linearity of programming. Commercials could be inane, or
insulting, completely inappropriate. Viewers sat through them. But
no longer. Tivo changed that forever.

The shift from MEGA Media to Me Media is already having profound effects
on how people interact. YouTube is filled with personal, intimate,
profound, and human interactions. People are sharing journey's,
restaurant reviews, political rants, and
autobiographical diary segments. They are telling each other stories.

So when Bob Wright tells the Wall Street Journal that he is preparing
for NBC 2.0 he is admitting that the costs associated with making Mass
Media require a mass audience in order to be a business. And its clear
that the future doesn't look that inviting to big media. When NBC
reacts to this trend by "Having actors do 'character blogs' after each
show" the display their fundamental lack of understanding of how the
media is changing. Blogs are - first and foremost - about authenticity.
Actors can't write for their characters - and
fictional characters can't write authentic blogs. That said, NBC has
it half right- they acknowledge the shift to a 2.0 world - and they're
right to consolidate and focus on shifting their focus to a new Always
On world.

What does the future of media look like?

One of the smartest people I know - Yochai Benkler - has a radically
different view on media. Yochai has written a number of extraordinary
papers, and now a dense but gripping book LINK in
which he proclaims the future of media will be "Peer Produced." Simply
translated, it means your neighbors and friends will make what you
watch. Your Social Network becomes your Media Network.

While at first blush this might seem charming - his vision is far more
expansive than that. He says that people create things - not for money
- but to fulfill other human needs. Creative needs. The need to
express yourself, to be a member of society, to
participate, and to have an identity. He says that media (or
simply stories) are the thing we all have in common, and the thing we
can all make and share. His Peer Produced media vision mirrors the
growth and importance of the open source software movement. And at a
moment where it appears that FireFox (not Internet Explorer) is likely
to be the long term winner in browser wars - Benkler's vision takes on
newfound significance.

When Apple released the SE30, and the first lazer printer - the goal
was to revolutionize publishing. It did that - without a doubt. But
the shift taking place from Peakock to iPod is driven by forces that are
far more fundamental. For all of the romanticism lavished on the
'shared experience' of watching televison 'together' - the truth is
that Mass Media did more to separate us than to unite us. What we are
seeing - I believe - is the rebirth of communities on a human scale.
The natural evolution is from passive, big, authoritarian content
authorities (networks), to networks of friends, neighbors, co-workers,
and enthusiasts.

As more and more people find they have access to the tools to
become content creators - we may find the TV is being shut off more and
more as people entertain and educate each other.

An open-source media future could have far reaching consequences.