Hollywood's view of the Web: Through a glass, strangely

The LA Times is a wonderful place to watch the entertainment industry try to figure out the Internet. Some issues that aren't a big deal in Silicon Valley fascinate them endlessly, while other things that Silicon Valley thinks are important are completely ignored.

A great example of this process is the newspaper's recap of 2006 on the Web, "Ten moments the web shook the world."

"This was the year wishful thinking -- that this Internet phenomenon might just go away -- evaporated, and those media companies still standing began to seek anything that might see them through the deluge."

So what made up the deluge, according to the Times? Some highlights:

Snakes on a Plane is described as the first time that the Web took control of the production of a movie. Most folks in the blogosphere viewed Snakes as a cool example of participatory marketing, but if you view it through the eyes of a Hollywood producer, it's a threat to power.

LonelyGirl15. This mysterious personality on MySpace was the subject of endless coverage and speculation in the Times throughout the summer. They analyzed it with the same intensity that many websites reserved for Britney Spears' underwear. I think the idea of someone using the Web to launch an acting career blew their minds.

The rise of celebrity websites. The Times viewed this as the year in which celebrity-focused websites first started to drive (read: debase) the standards of what constitutes a celebrity. People like Paris Hilton (and our gal Britney) proved to be willing to do just about anything to get a little online attention.

The common theme in all of these cases is the loss of power by parts of the traditional entertainment industry: producers, agents, and journalists. For years the Web has been eating away at power structures in lots of industries, but this was apparently the year in which Hollywood first really felt the impact.

The Times asks: "As traditional media interact with new media and vice versa, whose values will infect whom? Will old media arrive like the cavalry on the scene, Good Book in hand, to lift up the Web rabble with the promise of Bedrock Standards and High Production Values? Or when the drawbridge is lowered just a little bit, will the masses simply storm the castle and repaint it electric blue and pink?"

That's easy to answer. I heard the same questions almost 20 years ago when desktop publishing started to challenge the printing industry. The answer is that you'll get both -- the high-standard material will coexist side by side with amateur hour. People will prove to be very accepting of poor production values if the material is compelling in some other way (YouTube already demonstrates this, where we cheerfully watch video of such poor quality that you'd call the cable company and complain if it came over your TV).

There will always be a market for the best productions, but in the future I think it'll be much harder to get away with charging high-quality production prices for shows or movies that aren't truly entertaining, because people will have a cheap alternative. The threat isn't to HBO, it's to the CW.


Anonymous said...

Mobile opportunity?

Please keep your eye on the ball, Michael...

Michael Mace said...

Thanks for the feedback, Anon, and I'll keep it in mind. But...

This blog's really about the collision of four things -- mobile, web, entertainment, and computing. I think they're all coming together in ways that are still unclear, but will be incredibly important.

I'm not talking about convergence. These things aren't just merging together. But those four fields are changing each other. I think you can't really understand any one of them without looking at all of them, at least from time to time.

Michael Molin said...
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Michael Molin said...

Entertainment is the goal we are after. After work. And it's really a mobile theme because the opportunity of mobile advertising based on the media content is one of the important parts of the mobile market.

Michael Mace said...

Good point.

Come to think of it, I could probably rationalize any subject as being related to mobility, since a lot of people believe that mobile devices are going to subsume everything else.

But I have a slightly different (and weirder) take on it. The mobility that I'm most interested in is the increasing mobility of ideas -- the rising flow of information, concepts, and entertainment that's being facilitated by mobile devices, by PCs, and by the Internet.

That's the underlying "mobile opportunity" that ties together everything on this blog.

Kind of esoteric, huh? If I get the time over the holiday break, I'll try to write a post explaining it better.

Michael Molin said...
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Michael Molin said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michael Molin said...

Thanks, Michael. The mobility of ideas and information is really a core idea. And that is the start of new approaches to input, displaying and organization of data. That's what I'm trying to do in my project of a cell computer.

Antoine said...

Hey Mike, two things:
The new template looks great. Congrats.

Secondly, I think it is that we see better that line between us who are "inside" the web and therefore see things all the time that may or may not be here for those who just see the web as an accessory to things. For them to see the Internet-anything as a success flies in the face of mainstream wisdom, and at the same time is a nice window for us on the "inside" to make products and services that actually work, despite our feelings that they might be dumbed down.

Michael Molin said...

Hello Michael,

I would like to wish you and your company all the best success in the coming year.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Legodude522 said...

I found it interesting. A bit off topic but interesting. Things thats been going on lately reminds me a lot of the internet bubble.(Goooooooogle)