Tuesday, March 25, 2008

"Theories should be as simple as possible, but no simpler." Albert Einstein

"There are in fact two things: science and opinion; the former begets knowledge, the latter ignorance." Hippocrates

"It is better to be roughly right than precisely wrong." J.M. Keynes

Today's image: Day 79 - f o c u s by margolove. Outstanding. Thanks for sharing.

Eric Alterman on the dead tree gang: Out of Print, The death and life of the American newspaper...

"...we are about to enter a fractured, chaotic world of news, characterized by superior community conversation but a decidedly diminished level of first-rate journalism. The transformation of newspapers from enterprises devoted to objective reporting to a cluster of communities, each engaged in its own kind of “news”––and each with its own set of “truths” upon which to base debate and discussion––will mean the loss of a single national narrative and agreed-upon set of “facts” by which to conduct our politics. News will become increasingly “red” or “blue.” This is not utterly new. Before Adolph Ochs took over the Times, in 1896, and issued his famous “without fear or favor” declaration, the American scene was dominated by brazenly partisan newspapers."

Read the entire piece via The New Yorker here. Kudos, Eric. Interesting read.

Wayback machine: Clay Shirky, RIP The Consumer, 1990-1999, May 2000...

"To profit from its symbiotic relationship with advertisers, the mass media required two things from its customers - size and silence...In retrospect, mass media's position in the 20th century was an anomoly and not an inevitability. There have always been both one-way and two-way media - pamphlets vs. letters, stock tickers vs. telegraphs - but in the 20th century the TV so outstripped the town square that we came to assume that 'large audience' necessarily meant 'passive audience', even though size and passivity are unrelated. With the internet, we have the world's first large, active medium, but when it got here no one was ready for it, least of all the poeple who have learned to rely on the consumer's quiescent attention while the Lucky Strike boxes tapdance across the screen."

Clay's argument helps to explain the pain. The pain of broadcasters. Clay suggests broadcasters have been working in an anomalous enterprise. My sense is he's correct. The communication and media businesses as we have known them have reached another series of end stages creating new opportunities for something new. A moment in time that media studies thinker and researcher George Burns once called the condition of start. This seems to hold especially true for public media. Once the blessed province of broadcast as finer art, an important original intention in commercial broadcast, public media is now living in an age of finer art in absolute abundance. Linear offerings fighting for attention, time and wallet in a wild world of free plug and play. There has never been a more opportune time to focus on getting different, to abandon the dated and potentially dangerous notion of getting better. Getting better is now long past its best used by date. Change the denominator!

Thinking Different: KEXP a Seattle-based listener supported station is simulcasting in the city. Thanks to Cory Bergman for the story via LR here. Smart, these guys are getting into the export business. All your DMAs are belong to us. Bravos and cheers to team KEXP!

And the beat goes on: Mel and pay radio will end up needing more than a good deal with the commission, they're going to need a radically different business model. Firing the majority of staff, outsourcing to the lowest bidders and restructuring deals won't even begin to get it done. The last published account of their combined ad billings was less than the annualized billings of one successful FM station. As written here previously, in the very best possible case, pay radio will be to audio what HBO is to video. A modest niche business, nothing more. After decades of great marketing and an impressive portfolio of killer original product HBO enjoys 28 mil subs, Mel should be so lucky. Forget booking that Christmas party at Michaels, they'll probably be able to hold this year's all hands celebration on an elevator. Stay tuned.

The big picture: T2 Partners, a New York-based hedge fund, has issued a report on the credit and mortgage crisis wherein they offer their considered opinion that we are "still in the early innings" of the market collapse, seeing "only the tip of the iceberg...an enormous wave of defaults, foreclosures and auctions is just beginning to hit" Combine this pov with other recent reports (e.g., Bloomberg, Fortune, MediaBuyerPlanner) add the glut of media properties now on the market and we are able to reach a reasonable conclusion - we are approaching perhaps one of the most perfect recent windows of opportunity for asset buyers with cash.

Save that date: April 14, RAIN Summit 08, Las Vegas, details here. Highly recommended!

Congrats & cheers: Chandler Bigelow named CFO at Tribune. Radio ace Tom Baker named iGM of Greater Media Detroit. Ethan Beard joins Facebook. Whole Foods 365 Pacific Rim Blend whole bean coffee - wonderful!