MIT Emerging Technology Conference – AOL and the Future of Entertainment

Now where was I? Oh, yes, the MIT Emerging Technology Conference. My apologies for being so tardy in continuing to provide my updates on this but sometimes one thing just leads into another.After Bezos’ very interesting talk, it was time for Jonathan Miller, the head honcho at AOL to take the stage.

Let me say up front that I didn’t have super high expectations for this session. The topic of the future of the media and entertainment is very important and as a result it has recevied a lot of attention. That said, AOL is a giant media company and it was possible that some new ground would be covered. That didn’t happen.

Miller started by pointing out that consumers’ relationship with media and entertainment has changed. Check. Available media has exploded over the past 40 years. Check. The time available for consuming media has remained the same. Check again. So what can all of this mean?

Well, according to Miller, media habits are changing. The Internet is as important as TV and the time being spent on the Internet is at the expense of other media. But that’s not the whole story, no, not by a long shot. People are adopting other strategies to allow them to consume more media – multitasking is one example, time-shifting is another. What is allowing these new strategies to work? There are a handful of things:

  • Broadband – and not just the speed, the fact that it is always on is important, as is the fact that many people have had broadband for many years now and have incorporated it into their lives. Soon, “always on” will be joined by “always with you” as mobile broadband devices hit the market.
  • Search – Miller pegged email and IM as the first great uses of the Internet with search now joining their ranks. I don’t know. Search seems like it has been a pretty core Internet application for a very long time; but I suppose that it makes sense that AOL would claim that IM was one of the first big apps . . . What’s going to make search even more important though is the growth of video search, something that AOL is apparently involved with.
  • New digital distribution – once this was controlled and now it is nearly unlimited. This is creating a fundamental shift in the flow of content. This is especially important when coupled with the next enabling trend:
  • Low cost content development – it used to cost a ton to create rich media – it doesn’t any more – from silly home videos to Colbert green screens, consumer created content is cropping up everywhere

Check, check and more check . . . I don’t know, but I think I’ve heard something along these lines pretty much everywhere.

So what does this mean? Well according to Miller, here’s what’s up:

  • Fragmentation – all media is being fragmented – even online, the leading sites [based on page views] are seeing a decline in consumption. Hmmm, and that’s a surprise because?
  • Consumer control – consumers are active in each part of the content chain: creation, distribution, selection, etc. Content is becoming a catalyst for consumers
  • On demand – people expect it, content providers are offering it this will be the main way people consumer content in the future
  • Product driving adoption – old world $$$ was spent on marketing; today – give people an idea or some content and they will use it and distribute it themselves – if it is any good; this is what has driven the success of myspace, youtube, facebook, craiglist, etc.
  • Traditional media response – the old media isn’t sitting still, they claim to be making better product [questionable] – both in terms of content and the technology (HDTV), the Web is now being used as an adjunct to broadcast and they are seeking new sources of revenue

Regardless of all of this, Miller is convinced traditional media companies will continue to stick around for three reasons – the abilities to aggregate, monetize and consolidate. that the money in media and entertainment will still be concentrated in a limited number of hands. Scale still matters and it creates staying power. Their may be a fragmentation of consumption but there is also a consolidation of control.

Interesting prediction on the reasons that traditional media will remain in the driver’s seat, but aside from that, this was not an especially inspiring presentation.

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