Before prohibition the seaside landscape of beer was flourishing. Variety was truly the spice of life, and every locale had its own. Styles traveled from the old world, and were enjoyed in the new. Then the 21st amendment happened, and the fields were burned, and salted. A once flourishing industry was destroyed, and all that remained was a weakened few. Before the microbrew revolution, 3 players came to dominate the entire empire. The feudal consumer was left to choose between three piss colored lagers all tasting exactly the same. They obtained these thrones through a brutal war. Expensive marketing budgets boasted a generic flavor that was at best, not offensive. As large corporations tend to do, the players got big, and they earned power. They used this power to influence policy in an effort to maintain their oligopolistic positions.
It’s hard for me not to draw parallel lines between Hollywood today, and big beer. Today only 6 studios produce nearly the entirety of our big screen entertainment. Much like beer they rely on marketing to drive their product. A script can be great, but if a studio can’t find a sure way to market it, it’s dead. The result is a series of the same movies over and over again. We put up with these movies, because when we go to the theatres, much like the bars of yesterday… there just aren’t any other choices. There is something happening though. The home-brewers are starting to talk to each other!
Most print newspapers will be gone in five years, The desktop PC is dead; long live the tablet.
Over the next three years, according to Cole, the tablet will become the primary tool for personal computing. Use of a desktop PC will dwindle to only 4-6 percent of computer users – writers, gamers, programmers, analysts, scientists, and financial planners – and laptop use will decline as well.
“The tablet is such an inviting gadget,” said Cole. “The desktop PC is a ‘lean forward’ device – a tool that sits on a desk and forces uses to come to it. The tablet has a ‘lean-back’ allure — more convenient and accessible than laptops and much more engaging to use. For the vast majority of Americans, the tablet will be the computer tool of choice by the middle of the decade, while the desktop PC fades away.
“We don’t see a negative consequence in the move to tablets,” said Cole, “but the coming dominance of tablets will create major shifts in how, when, and why Americans go online – changes even more significant than the emergence of the laptop.”
“Circulation of print newspapers continues to plummet, and we believe that the only print newspapers that will survive will be at the extremes of the medium – the largest and the smallest,” said Cole. It’s likely that only four major daily newspapers will continue in print form: The New York Times, USA Today, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal. At the other extreme, local weekly newspapers may still survive.
“The impending death of the American print newspaper continues to raise many questions,” Cole said. “Will media organizations survive and thrive when they move exclusively to online availability? How will the changing delivery of content affect the quality and depth of journalism?”
The Quietest Pitchman
On a Hollywood soundstage, Adam Lisagor walks an actor who looks like him through a set that looks like a living room. Sort of: The actor is a taller, skinnier doppelganger for the 33-year-old director, and the set, just a few modern pieces arrayed against bare walls, suggests less a living room than the Platonic ideal of one. The scene is slightly, stylishly unreal. At the moment, though, Lisagor isn’t worrying about style. He’s shooting a promo video for the streaming music service Rdio and wants the tone to be as real as he can make it. “You’re going a little commercial,” he softly chides the actor. “Take it down. Keep it dry.”
Advertising takes place in half-worlds of its own devising, and this one is carefully crafted by Sandwich Video, which Lisagor runs out of his Los Angeles apartment. It has quietly, dryly become the premier producer of online product videos for web services and tech gadgets, cultivating a tone that perfectly reflects a generation of creators who are more interested in (or at least, more comfortable with) invention than hype.
Al Jazeera’s Social Media Experiment “The Stream” Launches Online Today
Al Jazeera’s aggressive expansion into cyberspace hopes to empower a new generation of newsmakers, impact the American news market, and capture the attention of young cable cutters.
Fresh off the wild success of Internet-fueled Middle-East revolution stories, Al Jazeera English today is launching the online component to its forthcoming social media-centered news program, The Stream. It’s the most aggressive integration of social media into a live news program to date. And Al Jazeera says it wants to capture a new generation of cable “cord cutters,” push the limits of so-called “citizen journalism,” and inch into American media territory.
A social storytelling service powers the editorially curated content, which is complimented by community commenting before, during, and after the anchored news show. It’s scheduled to start airing May 2nd.
Facing Default, Publisher Lee Enterprises Sells ‘Junk’ to Foil Distressed Investors
Newspaper chain Lee Enterprises Inc. is on the verge of saving itself from bankruptcy–and many of its debt holders are livid.
Lee, weighed down by about $1 billion of debt, has long been high on the list of potential bankruptcies. But thanks to the roaring market for debt of risky companies, Lee is preparing to sell junk bonds that would enable it to pay off its obligations and give it a new shot at survival.
But what is good news for the company has thwarted the plans of a flock of “vulture” investors–Monarch Alternative Capital, Alden Global Capital, Marblegate Asset Management and a unit of Goldman Sachs Group Inc.–which have been buying Lee’s loans. The group had been betting the company would default, and that they could turn their holdings into an ownership stake, giving them access to the company’s assets, which include St. Louis Post Dispatch and the Arizona Daily Star newspapers.
Lee incurred much of its debt in 2005 when it paid top-dollar to buy Pulitzer Inc., a chain of 14 newspapers including the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The combined company would have been a particularly valued prize because, unlike many of the other publishers that went bankrupt in recent years, the company generates over $100 million of free cash flow despite its debt load. The publisher’s focus–running small and midsize papers and keeping a rein on costs–has insulated it from the worst of the decline in subscriptions and advertising affecting newspapers in metropolitan markets.
Lee owns half of Capital Newspapers, publisher of the Wisconsin State Journal.
E-book pioneer sees future of reading as a shared activity
In 1992, virtual eons before the Kindle and the iPad, Bob Stein created software that let a reader flip through an electronic book on a laptop computer.
To demonstrate the program at conferences, Stein would lie down on stage as if reading in bed.
“Publishers would see this and they would think it was cute, but they didn’t think it had anything to do with them,” he recalls.
Now that the revolution is here, Stein says publishers should embrace what he sees as the inevitable result: the evolution of reading from a solitary pursuit into a communal, electronically networked activity – something he calls social reading and writing.
When Analysts Look Over Their Shoulders
Scott Cleland is one tough Google (GOOG) critic.
From his office in McLean, Va., as founder and president of research firm Precursor, Cleland routinely fires off pages of analysis whenever news on Google’s market dominance hits the media.
Cleland’s words have irked Google, which is engaging in an unusual behind-the-scenes effort to counter Cleland’s views. The case is spotlighting the issue of how companies should deal with critics on the public stage.
Doyen of Type Design: The most-read man in the world
MATTHEW CARTER, a type designer and the recipient of a MacArthur genius grant, was recently approached in the street near his home in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A woman greeted him by name. “Have we met?” Mr Carter asked. No, she said, her daughter had pointed him out when they were driving down the street a few days before. “Is your daughter a graphic designer?” he inquired. “She’s in sixth grade,” came the reply.
Mr Carter sits near the pinnacle of an elite profession. No more than several thousand type designers ply the trade worldwide, only a few hundred earn their keep by it, and only several dozens–most of them dead–have their names on the lips of discerning aficionados. Then, there is Mr Carter. He has never sought recognition, but it found him, and his underappreciated craft, in part thanks to a “New Yorker” profile in 2005. Now, even schoolchildren (albeit discerning ones) seem to know who he is and what he does. However, the reason is probably not so much the beauty and utility of his faces, both of which are almost universally acknowledged. Rather, it is Georgia and Verdana. Mr Carter conjured up both fonts in the 1990s for Microsoft, which released them with its Internet Explorer in the late 1990s and bundled them into Windows, before disseminating them as a free download.
Why the iPad should rival the web
Richard Branson and Rupert Murdoch are entrepreneurs with an admirable record of ignoring conventional wisdom, so it is worth watching when they do the same thing at once.
In this case, they are launching iPad-only publications. Sir Richard bowled into New York on Tuesday to unveil a £1.79 or $2.99 monthly magazine called Project, while Mr Murdoch is about to launch a “newspaper” called The Daily, for which he hopes 800,000 people will pay $1 a week. Both will charge readers in an era when most internet publications are free.
The fact that Mr Murdoch will separate his new daily publication from “the open web” by publishing on the iPad has provoked scepticism and hostility in digital media circles. “Murdoch keeps fighting the internet and the internet keeps on winning,” wrote Mathew Ingram, of the GigaOm technology blog.
This fits into a bigger debate about whether companies are balkanising the web to gain economic leverage. Tim Berners-Lee, the British scientist who invented the World Wide Web, complained in Scientific American about Facebook’s private accumulation of data, and of print publishers’ “disturbing” wish to create closed worlds.
Rupert Murdoch Does Another Daily
Some of us count sheep, but Rupert Murdoch spends his sleepless nights dreaming up media properties.
It was late May, around 2 a.m., and Murdoch was in his New York penthouse on Fifth Avenue having a tough time falling asleep when a vision came to him: publishing a daily news report that would be exclusively made for the iPad and other tablet devices. There would be no print product.
Murdoch had done his homework, so he already knew that readers spend more time fully immersed with the iPad than they do with the Web. He believes that within a few years, tablet devices will be like cell phones or laptops — consumers will go into Wal-Mart and buy the things at reasonably cheap prices (far more diminished than the $499 for an iPad now). In his mind, in the not-too-distant future, every member of the family will have one.
Makes perfect sense. Horace Dediu has more.