jan 1

Digital Media Predictions

PaidContent.org asked people for 2005 digital media predictions, which caused me to write this futuristic sentence:

"We all have the regrettable responsibility to act like some weird hybrid of embedded reporter and reality TV star."

The responses are here, and what I wrote is below:

What's the most important development in digital media and entertainment that actually will occur in 2005?

1) Content will continue to unbundle itself.

I have no idea what night The Apprentice airs -- I'm not even sure which network it's on. All I know is that every Friday night this past year, my friends would gather around the TiVo and lovingly poke fun at Donald Trump's hair. Whether it was iTunes or RSS or TiVo, this was the digital media lesson of '04: content has no natural brand identity. Marketers try to force "brand" on it while journalists try to force "narrative" on it, but content will continue to shed these mucky add-ons and proceed toward its natural state: pure information.

2) The line between communication and publishing will continue to be less distinct.

In the world of nano-publishing, traditional concepts like communication (one-to-one) and publishing (one-to-many) become blurry propositions. All signs point to this breakdown of public and private: websites that aggregate and organize personal content into social threads (Flickr, Bloglines, del.icio.us), private moments becoming major entertainment experiences (reality TV, celeb sex tapes), communication technologies that make online relations both more personal and more anonymous at the same time (VoIP, LiveJournal), personal media devices creating global news events (Abu Ghraib prisoner photos taken with a cell phone, tsunami video recorded on handhelds bought at Best Buy), and the rise of blogger personalities who review digital media devices next to their dating problems (ahem). What does this mean for digital media? It means the content stars of 2005 will come from the least likely places. And we all have the regrettable responsibility to act like some weird hybrid of embedded reporter and reality TV star.

3) Media will continue to be manipulated.

This might have been the biggest lesson I learned from working on NBC's website for the summer Olympics this past year: media manipulation is the message. One single piece of video, for instance, could be use for infinite purposes: online streaming, still photos, audio slideshows, images distributed to cell phones, interactive Flash apps, redistribution to TiVos, repackaging as highlight reels... the list goes on and on. In digital entertainment, some of the most exciting events this year were media manipulations: Danger Mouse's Gray Album (which was Entertainment Weekly's album of the year), Strangerhood (machinima of The Sims characters), and MTV's Video Mods (video games plus rock stars). In 2005, media hybrids will become so normative you'll hardly even think to call them that.

What one thing that would make a difference in digital media or entertainment would you most want to see happen in 2005?

  1. Interoperability among digital music standards.
  2. At least one media outlet uses BitTorrent as a distribution model.
  3. At least one major company adapts Creative Commons instead of the increasingly archaic copyright laws now in places.
  4. Microsoft puts an RSS reader in Outlook or IE.

TV Industry predictions?

  1. CNN won't lose Tucker.
  2. Someone will buy TiVo, but it won't be Apple.
  3. Two or three citizen journalist sites will launch. Critical praise will be high; growth will be slow at first, but pick up by the end of the year.
  4. Apple won't make a video iPod. Portable Media Devices will struggle, but not die.
  5. Video search will surprise everyone and be a big success early in 2005.
  6. Michael Powell will torture a few more people, then retire.
  7. Netflix will either merge with TiVo, or be bought by Blockbuster.

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