On the demise of books, newspapers, music and movies

Information Week's Internet Evolution's just published my latest article, "Media-Morphosis: How the Internet Will Devour, Transform, or Destroy Your Favorite Medium" — a noodle on the factors that led to the demise of newspapers, the transformation of music, and the potential destruction of big budget movies and mass-market publishing (and what can be done about the last one):

Big-budget movies (BBMs) require a lot of capital and rely on studios controlling the rate and nature of distribution of the finished product. If you're going to recoup your $300 million box-office turd, you need to move a hell of a lot of DVDs, TV licenses, foreign exhibition, Happy Meal toys, and assorted "secondary" revenues.

Let's be realistic here: Nothing anyone does is going to make it harder to get movies when you want them, where you want them, and at whatever price you feel you should pay for them (including free). And the harder you crack down on Internet movie-downloading, the more attractive you make buying pirate DVDs from criminals on the street — a virtually zero-risk transaction that directly displaces DVD purchases.

What's more, no one has yet successfully crowdsourced a movie that looks and feels like a BBM. There are lots of fabulous 9-minute YouTube Inc. videos, and plenty of lovely and promising machinima flicks, but no one's yet built the kind of purely escapist, high-production-value feature that we flock to the cinema to see every summer.

Now, maybe film studios can do what Magnolia Pictures is doing — distributing day-and-date releases to satellite, pay-per-view, cinema, DVD, and foreign film outlets — and recapture a lot of the money that is squirting between the fingers of the tightly clenched release-window fist. But if it's not enough, commercially motivated BBMs might simply die.

Note that movies as a genre won't vanish. There's plenty to love about 9-minute YouTubes and the quirky features that come out of indie production houses. There's never been a time when more moving pictures were being produced and viewed than today. Many of these things are economic propositions, and many are not — they're a lot more like stage shows than they are like films. They cost less to produce, they reach smaller, more targetted audiences, and they represent an admirable diversity of voice and point of view. But they're not Big, Culturally Relevant Media in the way that a real classic BBM can be.

Media-Morphosis: How the Internet Will Devour, Transform, or Destroy Your Favorite Medium