The Slow Death of Mass Market Media

4 Dec ’06

Scott Karp posts on why content no longer scales. For those not hip to the lingo, let me break it down: with the obliteration by the internet and other technologies of the cost of producing and distributing media, barriers to entry have tumbled and virtually anyone can now have an audience for their particular voice – whether it’s in print, audio or video. A billion voices means a billion niches, however, and one can never grow very large serving a small market (We already understand this quite well in Canada).

Meanwhile, most customers / listeners / viewers / readers are as unwilling as ever to spend a lot of time looking for something to read / watch / listen to, and want tools that bring together what they’re looking for. So, portals will probably be with us for a very long time. The pre-internet portals – TV networks, cable companies and newspapers – will continue to suffer as internet portals continue to grow in importance to the consumer.

All of this is obvious of course, and you can be forgiven for any difficulty penetrating meaning, obscured as it often is by talk of “unbundling”, “disaggregation”, “the long tail” and “the fat belly”. But there are still many other interesting questions to be unanswered – how can the old portals defend themselves, how will the new portals compete with each other, how big can a niche be and so on.

Update: AdAge writes about stats suggesting that major consumer brands are generating serious traffic off of their websites – more than some media sites. Scott frames this as a brand as media discussion. True enough, but I see it more as a continuation of the redefinition of “content”. Interesting – advertisers cutting out the traditional content provider middleman from their relationship with the customer.

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