The Future of Media: Microchunks or Brands?

There is a great deal of discussion and babble about the future of media– a conversation that I would imagine has taken place since the invention of television or perhaps even radio.  Rob Hof of Business Week wrote an interesting article starting a discussion between two points of view.

He even more wisely recognized that these different ideas are not mutually exclusive – something you think we would have recognized with the first 90s Internet boom and the conversations between brick and mortar and e-retailers. 

There is no clear path on how the balance of technology, media and consumer relevance will play out – and maybe the lesson is that simple, it won’t.

 The Future of Media: Microchunks or Brands?

VC Fred Wilson and serial entrepreneur Mark Pincusare debating what the next era of media will be. Fred think it’s RSS-style microchunks of content that carry ads and are deliberately scattered to the Net winds to reach as many people as possible:

Here is the future of media:1 – Microchunk it – Reduce the content to its simplest form. Thanks Umair.
2 – Free it – Put it out there without walls around it or strings on it. Thanks Stewart.
3 – Syndicate it – Let anyone take it and run with it. Thanks Dave.
4 – Monetize it – Put the monetization and tracking systems into the microchunk. Thanks Feedburner.

Mark think it still comes down to brand:

… In a world of 500 channels all you can hope for is a brand. that’s why we [at TCI in the early ’90s] tried launching channels around branded mags and topics like auto channel, outdoor life, golf. in a world of 500,000 channels the importance of brand will be total.

Actually, I don’t think those visions are necessarily exclusive. I like Fred’s idea that content be allowed to move wherever readers want it, though it’s hardly obvious what kind of revenue-producing ads could be irrevocably attached to it. Also, as some of Fred’s commenters note, a lot of people want bundles of content because they don’t have time to put it all together themselves. Thus the rise of memeorandum, Digg, and no doubt many others to come.

At the same time, I think, as Jeff Bezos often says, brand must be earned by providing the right customer experience, not manufactured through advertising. That means doing something different than just trying to suck every reader back into one’s Web site.

As for my employer? On the one hand, it’s clearly betting on the power of brand, which is a word we hear all the time in internal meetings. But I can tell you that BusinessWeek is also intensely interested in new ways to atomize what we do in and deliver it the way readers want—and that seems to vary widely depending on both the reader and the particular content. (Suggestions welcomed!)

But for now, at least, old and new media can’t afford to choose sides. Because the former audience isn’t.

Update: Fred agrees: It’s not either-or.

: So does Bubblegeneration’s Umair Haque.


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