Argue with me III
: Another in the continuing series of Qs and As from the Corante interview, which I’m excerpting here because (a) I blathered on at far too great a length over there and (b) we want to see some discussion started over there (if, indeed, there’s something worthy of discussion here). So at the end of each Q/A, I’ll give you a link to the comment space at Corante:
EM: Who will make money in the media world of the future? How will they do it?
JJ: Ah, the $64K question. Bloggers are making money at this and they will make more. PaidContent and other trade bloggers are making a living; Gawker Media and other blog companies are turning profits; BlogAds is enabling individuals to make even six figures. And Google AdSense not only paid my 12-year-old son [an amount I’m now told I shouldn’t reveal under Google’s rules but it’s a heckuva lot more than his allowance!] last week for his blog but did something even more important: It cleansed the cooties off of citizens’ media. Still, AdSense and its equivalents are the lowest rung of the value chain; they are about nothing but the coincidence of a word on a page. This new medium is all about relationships and we need a new ad infrastructure to measure influence and not just impressions and to serve and audit marketing served via networks of citizens across text, audio, and video. Build it and dollars will come — at high rates, for advertisers will eagerly buy the opportunity to speak to and through influencers.
The lower cost of production in citizens’ media also will create opportunities as big media companies wake up to the realization that there are ways to make media at much lower costs. And they will desperately need to lower their costs as declining audiences put a stop to ever-increasing upfront ad rates.
One caution: Online is a scarcity killer. When media isn’t fed through hoses, time isn’t limited and that means time isn’t money anymore. And with no end of content producers, the value of content and even talent as a scarce resource will decline. I depressed the hell out of an old-time columnist when he told me he wanted to use blogs to find a new home for his column. Bzzzzzt, I said; it’s not a column now, it’s a conversation. He said he needed a paycheck. Bzzzzzt, I said; there are bloggers making a few hundred or perhaps thousand bucks a month doing this. The poor, old dinosaur wheezed: You mean, I’ve spent my life building a reputation and brand and I’m competing with people making $2k a month? It’s worse than that, I replied: You’re competing with people who are doing this for free just because they love it.
Which leads me to Jarvis’ Second Law of Media: Lower cost of production and distribution in media inevitably leads to nichefication. The corollary: Lower the cost of media enough, and there will be an unlimited supply of people making it.
EM: Do you think the future for independent media producers is bright? Financially rewarding?
JJ: So bright they’ll have to wear shades. Yes, the cost of producing content will decline. But the opportunities will explode. Used to be, you had to know or sleep with somebody on Sixth Avenue or in L.A. to get your shot at getting into print or onto TV. Now all you need is a high-speed modem.
Text media is exploding first. But the fuse was just lit under audio programming with the advent of podcasting (that is, producing content anyone can hear whenever or wherever they want, whether that’s recorded on a hard drive today or downloaded from ubiquitous broadband in the future). And next, TV will explode.
Today, it costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to produce a half-hour of, say, a home rehab show. With a decent camera and the tools on a Mac plus some time and talent, you could produce an equivalent show for a few thousand at most. That creates tremendous opportunities. Producers can make shows and distribute them online and eventually, they will be discovered by the big boys, who will be desperate to reduce their costs. But in the meantime, great new sources of programming will explode.