McLuhan is Out

Saul Hansell has a very insightful piece in NYT today where he reviews the state of changing media. He talks about the old line media companies:

Old-line media companies’ fears can be lumped into three nightmarish categories:

¶Business-model anxiety. Will paid download services like Apple’s iTunes, not to mention TiVo’s and their ad-defying fast-forward buttons, undercut TV networks’ huge advertising revenue? Or will video from advertising-supported Web sites become so rich that people will drop their cable and satellite subscriptions altogether? Or will they just steal what they want by using file-sharing software like Bit Torrent?

¶Creative anxiety. McLuhan is out. The medium is no longer the message. Anyone who wants to tell a joke, spin a tale or report the latest White House news can produce any combination of video, text, sound and pictures for viewing on a 50-inch TV, a laptop computer or a cellphone screen. No one in conventional media is sure how to manage all these options or what audiences barraged from all sides actually want.

¶Control anxiety. Since the invention of the high-speed printing press, mass media have been created for the masses, not by them. The rise of Weblogs has given everyone a printing press and even the opportunity to get income from ads that Google will happily sell. Now we can all be D.J.’s and film directors, distributing our podcasts and movies online without groveling before a studio executive. The career prospects for hit makers, gatekeepers and even fact checkers may well be in doubt.

Particularly important are the two points about the end of the dominance of media and of the truedemocratization of publishers and consumers. The New World of media is definitely intriguing — and the small screen of the phone is creating the biggest intrigue.

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