Amidst the maelstrom of technology shattering decades-old media-centric business models — a reality that continues to frighten many in its wake — often lost is the fact that we are now in the midst of a new golden age of content (pictured above is the great two-time Academy Award-winning Best Actress, who just happens to be my wife, Luisa’s, grandmother. She won for “The Good Earth” and “The Great Ziegfeld”).
Yes, it’s true. There has been too much doom and gloom, and not enough of the content creators’ boom. We will look back at this era decades from now as being a period of creative boom, not bust. And you already know why — the Internet, mobile, social trifecta is already ubiquitous in much of the world. Creators have new power to reach just about anyone, anywhere around the globe, at any time with their stories. And we, the audience, help them expand that audience.
But, it’s not just about new distribution models and engagement that are enabled by these new technologies. New forms of content — new artistic freedom — are now possible. Gone are the days of creativity being locked into serial 22-minute segments dictated by traditional broadcast time slots and ad spends. Digital media has shattered those constraints, unleashing a torrent of unprecedented creativity. Content creators have more ways than ever before to express themselves. Those ways are truly unlimited, because mass storytelling has been democratized. All of us can have a public voice — and most of us now do. We can tell the stories we want to tell. Some may be “traditional” in form, but others most certainly are not.
And, here’s the deal. An audience exists for all of it — both the traditional and the new. These forms don’t necessarily compete with one another. The mere fact that our mobile “phones” are with us 24/7 means that each of us has more (not less) of an opportunity to consume. And, consume we do — voraciously. All of us like to experience a good story, and we enthusiastically embrace new ways of telling them. In my view, we are nowhere near so-called “Peak TV” (a commoditization and high level mark for premium scripted series) precisely because traditional notions of “scripted series” have been disrupted, upended. And that’s a good thing!
In fact, we are in a new “Golden Age of Content.” Great for creators (more demand for their services, more opportunities to tell new stories, and more ways to tell them). Great for consumers (who now have more content choices than ever before and can — and will — judge for themselves whether specific content is worthy of their time). Have you seen so-called “TV” lately? Contrary to those warning of Peak TV, its storytelling is significantly less formulaic and higher quality than it was in the past.
Gone (or, at least certainly fleeting) are “traditional” cookie-cutter sitcoms and dramas. Now we live in an entertainment world where the most celebrated scripted series Game of Thrones kills off lead characters with reckless abandon and where Fargo (one of this Minnesota boy’s favorites) serves us with a brand new hot-dish storyline and cast each season.
We sample this, binge that. As new media juggernaut Netflix’s Kevin Spacey so eloquently underscored in a notorious speech from a couple years back, binge viewing — and other new Media 2.0 phenomena — work precisely because some consumers want it that way. Not all, but some. Netflix simply offered a new type of content package, a new mode of consumption. But, it’s not binge viewing versus “traditional” scheduled viewing. It’s not a zero sum game of either/or. It’s simply a different experience.
And it’s not just a volume game either, where those (like Netflix) who produce the most, win. FX (led by President John Landgraf, a central voice raising Peak TV red flags) won significantly more Emmys in 2016 than Netflix (18 compared to 9) even though its original scripted series count paled. Yes, there will be more clutter and “noise” out there. But, we consumers can (and will) decide what we like. What speaks to us. What is worthy of our time. We can be discerning. And, if we do like something, we will share it with our friends (frequently with real conviction and passion) in digitally-fueled ways never before possible (social networks, blogs, Twitter … which despite its business issues in 2016, still delivers reach and impact — just ask “The Donald” … er … “Mr. President”?). That’s how Media 2.0 works. That’s the beauty of it all. Media democracy in action.
But, creators, your audience shouldn’t be expected to do all the content discovery heavy lifting by itself. It’s your responsibility too. Challenge yourselves to lead the charge, get your voices heard, your stories seen. Media 2.0 gives you innovative new marketing tools that you should (must) try. Learning by doing. Data can be a friend here and should not be simply dismissed as being anathema to the creative process. Data holds the power to better target audiences with content that “speaks” to them with a voice they want to hear. And, the impact of social media goes without saying, and new innovations pop up all the time. Unearth them. Study them. Use them.
So, perhaps overall audience size for each program will be smaller amidst the increasing volume and choice of stories. But, perhaps these audiences will be more engaged. More meaningful. And, accordingly, more monetizable. Media and entertainment companies, these possibilities are real.
Embrace this new Golden Age. Yes, many traditional voices may fade away (a harsh reality, I know). But, several more innovative, quality, fearless voices will rise up to be heard — voices that may have more impact to each of us as individuals. And served up to us as individuals within services that evolve with us, are personalized to us.
[For an even more in-depth discussion and overview of the new world of digital media/tech in general — including where things are today, who are the industry’s leaders, and where is the world of digital media/tech — check out my recently published Amazon bestselling book, “Media 2.0(17): An Insider’s Guide To Today’s Digital Media World (& Where It’s Going)”, available now in both print and eBook editions.]
[And, for more of my ongoing discussions about media/digital media/tech in general, subscribe for free to my company’s (CREATV Media) email newsletter list via this link. We publish these monthly.]