This past week I spent my time among two disparate crowds -- in San Francisco with Supernova's new media digerati, content anarchists, and self-publishing blogging media visionaries, among others, and in Los Angeles with Hollywood's "Masters of the Universe", those responsible for producing the most mainstream of mainstream film and TV, and individuals who are architecting the strategies for media empires making their shift to the Internet.
The Open Media Advocates
Running deeply throughout all the conversations at Supernova was the theme of open media -- anchored in the blogsphere, this posse is posturing for a world of open publishing and distribution of all forms of media. Podcasters were there doing interviews, posting around the world. Vodcasters were there with HD Sony cameras, taking choice snippets to be mixed into something for their global audience of fellow media revolutionaries. The sense of optimism, ambition and pending change filled the conference with an energy I have not seen since the birth of the Web. It's wonderful.
I participated on two panels -- one a workshop/panel on The Long Tail with Chris Anderson, the other on a panel hosted by Dan Gillmor on Decentralizing Media. Both were characterized by a sense of transformation, and broad audience participation --- promulgating ideas about how and who would control the publishing and distribution of content in the Internet 2.0 era. In both of these, a recurring theme also emerged -- that there is an impending if not already occurring collision of worlds between that of the new new media of the Internet, and that of the establishment media of print, radio, music, television and film. Often presented in 'binary rhetoric' -- one will crush the other, it's a zero sum game, etc. -- this meme runs deep.
At the tail end of Supernova, I was pleased to chat with JD Lasica and get a newly minted and autographed copy of his new book, Darknet: Hollywood's War Against the Digital Generation. I have to give it to JD -- this book is brilliant, inspiring and probably the single best narration of the cultural and political revolution in media happening in real-time on the Internet today.
A central theme -- if not the central theme -- of the book is the idea that "Remix Culture" -- the trend of consumers generating, mixing, remixing and sharing all forms of media -- is the new media culture, it is powerful and transformative, and it is at risk because the forces of establishment media seek to constrain, control and crush it. This is best expressed and seen in the realm of copyright law, technology-enabled and disabled media copy protection, and the legal, political and cultural battles surrounding these issues.
I haven't finished the book, so I will save my broad comments for later, but suffice to say, as I was flying out of the bay area on my way to Los Angeles, reading page by page, it had captured my heart and mind, and I was curious to see what I would find in the land of facades.
Remix Culture is Coming to Hollywood
These days, I get to Los Angeles often, but this trip was a bit different given the context and perspective from a couple of days at Supernova. While I do not want to over generalize, a did witness some pretty interesting transformations underway. The first and most interesting was that very clearly, the Masters of the Universe are not asleep at the wheel -- they feel and see the power of the Internet sweeping around them, they see the hoards of millions spending their days and nights at their bright computer monitors, away from their programming and entertainment, and are anxious --- deeply anxious --- to get in front of it, to bring their production capacity and creative tools to these platforms. What I found was a sense of needing to transform the very art of production and distribution, to find a new audience, and to involve the Internet community in that content in ways that were unconceivable for them years ago. The discussions evolved around consumer participation, affinity groups, self-publishing, and short-form content. Maybe I had just played a Jedi mind trick on these folks, but I got every sense that these companies wanted, indeed needed, to embrace the Internet DNA. We'll see how far it goes….
The Yahoo Effect
Another fascinating observation surrounds the impact that Yahoo specifically is having on Hollywood. While we've all considered Yahoo a media company for years, they've only very recently begun to assert themselves into the 'classic' media food chain -- the production and distribution of creative content. Indeed, Yahoo built a completely new kind of media company, one built on the backs of the Internet as a whole (a directory, an index, a search engine), on the daily and productive acts of individuals emailing and talking, searching and shopping, and so forth. And on a relative scale, Yahoo is tiny compared to the mega-giants of media production and distribution. And now they are stepping into their turf in a more formal and direct manner. Two-hundred and thirty thousand (230,000) square feet of space in Santa Monica is hard to miss, but insatiable recruiting, hiring, evangelizing, and financing and licensing of content is even harder to miss.
While Yahoo can certainly be a partner to the establishment in Hollywood, they are just as readily being perceived as an emerging competitor -- competing for independent producers, underwriting and financing content, and providing the distribution and monetization for these works. They want to be the dominant, Internet-age provider of News, Sports and Entertainment. Isn't that what News Corp, Time Warner, Disney and Viacom are supposed to be and have?
So that is the "Yahoo Effect" -- it's forcing Hollywood to remix itself; it's forcing large and small players alike to as quickly as they can become Internet-centric, to embrace the production values, consumer participation, and other hallmarks of Internet media. In order to grow into bigger media shoes, Yahoo must try and play by the old rules of the game while at the same time throwing in the new, and likewise the old players must remix their creative culture, production and distribution systems with the new in order to capitalize on this transformation.
This is some serious remixing going on.
The Brightcove Way
These contrasting and powerful forces are wonderful guides for tiny, aspirational startups such as Brightcove. We deeply believe in the transformation that is underway -- we believe in remix culture, in open publishing and distribution, in a million channels of programming, in the unique forms of control and discovery that make the Internet what it is as a medium. At the same time, we believe that great content is really hard to create, that entertaining, informing and educating require both art and science, and great skill and passion. The 'establishment media' is a powerful force of creativity, it attracts many of the best and brightest around the world, and cannot be diminished as "1:many" junk, worthless in the realm of micro-markets and audiences. While it's system of financing, production and distribution may be under seige (not yet, but soon enough), it's creative minds will still be powerful forces in our culture.
In an ideal world (that is what we're trying to build here after all…!), the new new media of the Internet will itself be a powerful remix of these worlds.