Wednesday, February 22, 2006

msb-0005 Reflections on the media

I've got a question and a request for my audience.

I know there's at least 60 of you out there, not bad for a show which is basically unknown and unpromo'ed. I checked on the stats from libsyn, and I may not know who you are, but I know you're out there. (Actually I've been crunching some numbers and you'll get to hear about them in the next show. :-)


So could you get yourselves on my Frapper map?

Its just down the left hand side of the page.

Right now its only got Josh Jacobson and me on it and it feels so lonely and pathetic.

Let me know which city you are from.


Just above that, you can Subscribe with iTunes.


You might want to Email Me.

The link is right on the page...

Right above the link to Subscribe with iTunes


And you might want to fill out my simple little Audience survey.

That link is also right on the page...

Right above the link to email me.


And some comments left on the episode you liked, or didn't like, would help me guide my future episodes to reflect what you want. (Kind of like market research, focus group studies and feed back analysis.)


I know I'm a dissolutioned mass media junky and a frustrated ex-musician, (well maybe not, I got what I wanted, respect as a guitarist, and chose a different path after that,) but that's just me and this podcast is about MS and not all about me.

I mean, I like myself and I think I think deep thoughts about all kinds of sh-, uh, stuff but after a while even I get bored with myself. (Sorry Josh, I'm censoring myself and it is really demeaning to your adolescence, but its hard to break the 'adult conspiracy'.)

Right now, I'm just sitting in my home office surrounded by my usual messiness.

I have got to buy some new office furniture and it wouldn't hurt to attack the floor with a shovel to clear off some of the debris.

I'm in a contemplative mood.

I've got the "Pod Pyrates #53" and Johnny Velcro playing on my earphones... But now its over.

Okay the selection in my ears now is Antartica by Men Without Hats.

Hey! I bought the CD so I can listen to it.

But you're not hearing it because the RIAA, ASCAP, BMI and the rest of the legal alphabet soup would grab me, strip me naked, shave me, dip my cohones in creosote and then I can only hope that they would tie me up and leave me for dead. (I can "itch like a man on a fuzzy tree" if I'm tied up. If I'm not ... I'd scratch my self into sterility. Creosote's nasty itchy stuff!)

I've just finished watching a PBS biography of Samuel Goldwin and it started me thinking of why the popular media has needed to reinvent itself several times over the last century.

Apart from the interruptions bought by the world wars,
  • the first was fought by German Junkers over pig marketing rights in Silesia (I kid you not, check your copy of Causes of the Great War,)
  • the second was fought over the insult by the winners over the losers of the first by the treaty of Versaille and some pseudo-mystic claptrap by leaders who thought themselves Aryans,
  • the cold one was fought by paranoid schyzophrenics and their successors over the entire planet since the imagined enemy was everybody, and the American generals who were only too glad to oblige,
  • the bloody mess left by Pol Pot and his agrarian reforms, (actually agarian reforms have been fertile ground for making fertilizer out of farmers since the code of Hammurabi,)
  • the latest minor skirmishes pitting the established national political structures of the west against the Islamic ideologues and mystics who are playing the asymmetrical leverage for all its worth,
the reason that media have had to reinvent themselves is that our wars and our tastes have changed us.

There will never be another Leni Riefenstahl and another Triump of the Will, anymore than there could be another Reine Mathilde and another Tapisserie de Bayeux.

And for the same reasons.

The media have metastacized as we in turn have metastacized.

In biologic term, phonographs, moving pictures, radio and television all began from stem cells of ideologies/technologies that were quite crude to begin with.

But they all achieved an organic cohesiveness that requires an enormous expenditure of energy, read money, to maintain.

Broadcasters are now killing themselves trying to produce successes and it is always going to be a qualified non-failure. They're playing safe with content in direct opposition to the quest for novelty that is the driving force for creating new content.

But, that's just economics in a world of scarce resources.

The reason that they don't make shows like they used to is because they can't take the risks.
  • Transmitters just costs too much.
  • The licensing just costs too much.
  • Operating a media outlet just costs too much.
  • Purchasing content just costs too much.
There are too many compromises to be made. Getting things commercially perfect gets you dumbed down pabulum. (Actually that's why food pretty much tastes like nothing these days. Buy a French baguette, warm from the baker's oven, and you know that its bread. Buy a loaf of packaged plastic and you Wonder if this is bread?)

As influence grows, it doesn't scale. Media don't scale either.

The broadcast delivery mechanism is crumbling as it tries to cope with the facts of the internet:
  • bandwidth is virtually infinite,
  • the costs of show production are now evident and dropping all the time,
  • RSS means the end of the synchronized audience model,
  • Googling for content is all ready happening.
Influence is still applied to a very small number of people even as the broadcasters try to spread the costs and shrink them.

The result is consolidation of one form or another.

The amount of airtime, the number of broadcast stations, is shrinking in diversity even as it fights to even stay static in quantity.

I'm waiting for several smaller stations to just fold up shop and give up as the competition with ClearChanel and its ilk becomes fiercer and the media content get safer and more inane.

Not only is the RIAA suing their customers but they're being squeezed by the broadcasters who are trying to get rid of non-paying content alltogether.

So where does that leave podcasting?
  • We don't have an FCC regulating us, we don't broadcast.
  • We don't have licensing, we don't broadcast.
  • We don't have transmitters, we don't broadcast.
  • We don't have to worry about censorship, we don't broadcast.
  • We don't have to worry about offending anybody, we 'talk' only to our subscribers.
  • We don't have to worry about sponsors, though there are some experiments in that direction, but that implies certain compromises that both the podcaster and the sponsor may not want to make, just like the situation with the current media.
If you don't like it, there's plenty of content spread and plenty of collaboration/competition.

You can find somebody else to fill your 1,440 minutes per day, unlike in the broadcast world.

And they're your 1,440 minutes per day, not what somebody else wants to fill them with.

We can and do take the risks necessary to grow the medium.

We are allowed to fail because it doesn't hurt.

There is enough room for everyone to fail; fail on content, fail on delivery, fail on style, fail on adapting quickly enough to changing tastes, styles, fads and fashions.

We are even allowed to fail by not even noticing our failure and staying with our small audience in our little world.

And this little world is a self-demarkating focus group for marketing. It is indeed the ultimate person to person medium.

Unlike Spam, which is just an annoying stab in the dark, podcasting audiences are the market you want to target.

There are some geographic, demographic, psychographic and behavioristic differences to be sure, but you can be sure that they at least all share an interest in what the podcast is about.

We have a situation of plenty instead of a situation of scarcity.

The economics are not entirely unprecedented.

They were the same in the earliest days of the last century when airwaves were unregulated.

But unlike then, when collisions were to be avoided or the message was going to be lost, packet switching lets us all share a time-sliced piece of the fibre and keep our media files on our own machines.


I'm looking at the wave of the future. has an article "Changes in the law could imperil community TV."

We are being pushed, nay, shoved, into podcasting as a result of the broadcasters and telcos reaction to public access TV.

They are against the very existence of any channel which is not making them money. Its not enough for them to win, they have to make sure you lose. That's the politics of scarcety.

They own the air waves and the accountants in their souls demand that they squeeze every penny.

All this content is just cutting into the 1,440 minutes per day in their inventory.

But the last laugh will be ours.

As the telcos succed in creating a tiered access and charge a premium for synchronous streamed delivery of DRM'ed signal, meaning more channels for more ads with the most profitable being the lightest in content, podcatcher's don't depend on continuous streams.

Frankly, as long as the song just plays, who cares how long it took to download it.

With RSS, that can happen at night while we're sleeping.

With Google, we can search for things to download, things that interest us, things we like, things we're curious about, things we want to focus on.

The internet is designed around, with, for and using the asynchromous TCP/IP protocol.

It was designed to survive nuclear blasts blowing holes into its fabric.

I think it can survive the minor onslaught of the accountants and their business model of scarcety because they have to build the internet up in order to try to conquer it.

We are benefitting because they don't know how to handle the politics of plenty.

All of the training, theory and thought is focused on scarcety and on maintaining control over scarce resource.

They will never know how to handle plenty. Oh, they could grasp the concept of plenty, but they just don't want to.

Podcasting can just be like a flower in a brick yard.


Unfortunate for me that the nervous system seems to be analog.

If it was packet switched, with the capabilities to route messages around damaged areas, I would never know I had MS until my body locked up and I probably died.

Gad, I'm depressing myself. Three Dead Trolls to the rescue.

Next week, so that you can see that I'm not some kind of lone gunman sitting in a book depository, I'm going to reveal my business plan.

I actually have one. (There's got to be some advantage to being in Business School ... Right?)

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