For the last four days, I've been trying to decide how to respond to an email I received over the weekend.
A reader of this blog wanted to know why I was "always" talking about movies, music and Internet companies. He pointed out that I describe my blog as "one writer's journey" and suggested that I should focus exclusively on books and writing.
Actually, I describe this blog as "one writer's view of the world," but let's not quibble. As I started to explain my belief that publishing is no longer a single industry, it occurred to me that other readers might find this subject of interest, too.
WARNING: This is likely to turn into a two- or three-day post.
To start, let me refer to an article that appeared in the Financial Times back in April, 2004. Written by Tim Burt and Simon London, the story made a huge impression on me.
The article began by talking about fragmentation. "Fragmentation is 'the single most important trend across all media platforms', says John Lavine, head of the media management centre at Northwestern University in Chicago."
Back in the early days of television, most households received somewhere between one and four TV channels. Today, the average is fifty. And, for families with cable, the number of channel choices is more than 200.
Years ago, I listened to network news for the headlines and read The Dallas Morning News for the details. Today, I no longer receive a hard copy newspaper. I can still read The Dallas Morning News online. However, I also read The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times and USA Today online as well as the feed from Yahoo, the Associated Press, NPR and Reuters.
The Financial Times predicted this trend, saying that fragmentation meant personalization to the consumer, the ability to tailor information/news/entertainment to suit personal interests. However, to media companies this was a world gone wild.
Bain & Company, a business consulting firm, says the following on its website:
"What the media and entertainment industry looks like today is completely different from what it looked like 10 years ago. And odds are, it will undergo yet another fundamental transformation in the next decade. Three basic trends are at work.
First, traditionally independent local providers of media and content have been replaced by a small number of large, publicly traded international conglomerates that compete in all media sectors.
Second, the Internet has created a whole new class of industry player, like the powerhouse produced by the online-offline marriage of Time Warner and AOL.
And third, a furious debate has sprung up over copyrights. Today's media players have substantial assets tied up in music, television and film content. The Internet's power to obliterate traditional notions of copyright poses a complex and urgent management challenge. Going forward, media players will need to deploy their assets-and also protect them-in a digital environment."
The Financial Times said: "So far, the industry's responses have fallen into three main groups: horizontal integration, vertical integration, and the search for new sources of revenue."
Tomorrow we'll talk about what that means.