Media feeds our internal lives and our relationships with other people

28 Feb ’07

If you’re like me (and as my friend Mathew says, I know I am), you were more interested in Oscar night liveblogging that you were in the Oscars themselves. There were loads of liveblogs happening on Oscar night (so many that I wondered whether someone ought to be liveblogging the livebloggers) – my favourite was Scott Feschuk’s (part 1 here, part 2 here), but the Eat the Press team did a great job too. As it turns out, most of the reviews came down pretty hard on the show, which jives with my impression from the few occasions when I actually tuned in, and inevitably then fled in boredom. Why is it so dull?

I’m beginning to believe that Hollywood has simply lost touch, at a fundamental level, with its customers, and that the declining relevance (though viewership was slightly up this year) of the Oscars is yet another signal of this. I wrote about this a couple of days ago but the thought has stuck with me as Oscar reviews come in. It has seemed to me that we want deeper engagement with media – that we are looking for ways to make it more relevant to our lives and to derive deeper meaning from it, but that BigMedia simply isn’t filling that need, stuck as it is in old business models. And so I was fascinated to stumble upon, via Mathew, a piece by Steve Bryant at The Hollywood Reporter, who really ought to win a prize for capturing this idea in language that will undoubtedly be much linked to over the next few days:

Media is changing from entertainment into utility. Media that can’t be manipulated is almost useless. When I listen to NPR, I wish I could freeze the broadcast and pull a link from the radio, send it to a friend. When I watch TV, same thing. When I go to the movies, same thing. But I can’t. I can only do that online.

Those tiny transactions I make online make a greater imprint on my psyche than any single media event inside a theater — or inside a DVD — could have. It’s simple reward/response psychology. Online, I can track who watches my clips, who reads my posts, who liked my mash-up. The Internet flatters us with attention in a way Hollywood no longer can.

Fascinating, and just about right. My friend Mathew picks up this theme today in a post about why most of Hollywood’s output is useless. Like Mathew, I think that Bryant’s suggestion that media is “almost useless” if it can’t be manipulated is a bit of an exaggeration, but there’s just no question that media needs to fill this need. Media feeds our internal lives, but it also feeds our relationships with other people (social media is obviously exploding this potential) – this, it seems to me, is Steve’s point. But BigMedia seems intent on frustrating the latter role, and serving only the former. Today’s you-have-got-to-be-kidding-me example of this comes from Cory Bergman of Lost Remote: The Academy has issued a DMCA request to YouTube to take down clips of the Oscars show. So that we can all care even less about the Oscars, and push them even further out of our consciousness, and our relationships, I suppose. Back to the liveblogs. Update: more on this from Variety. Updater: Mark Cuban gets involved. This won’t be pretty.

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