By Jerry Del Colliano
At the end of the year – not to mention another decade – attention seems to be directed to what changes have happened over that time span.
But today, I’d rather look ahead to next year, the next three years – I doubt anyone could accurately see through the entire next decade.
We are about to enter a time of great change in the media business — yes, even bigger than anything we have seen to date in the tumultuous first decade of this new century.
The Internet thing has happened.
Social networking has taken root – even if in the primitive form of Facebook and Twitter.
Traditional media has been increasingly on the ropes.
The music industry has locked itself out of the digital future – no one else did it to them.
And the radio industry is a mere shadow of its former self as consolidation, greed, mismanagement and too much debt service has taken its toll.
But having said all of this, the next few years will not be about radio or records. These businesses have left themselves in harm’s way. I can prove it.
Putting everything else aside, how much money does a record label or radio group budget for new media development?
Three percent would be a high guess.
It should be over 33%.
The future is about mobile devices – the ones we’ve seen and the ones we have yet to see.
Smart phones and media players are already in the hands of consumers. Now, we’re seeing mobile content choices migrate seamlessly into the entertainment system of cars that used to be the sole domain of a simple radio.
But the big story of NEXT year is the Apple tablet that I have been telling you about for some time now.
Steve Jobs, the Apple magician, is going to wave his magic wand again – perhaps as early as the first quarter of this year – to introduce a game changer like no other. It will be the Apple tablet – likely a ten inch screen that will serve as a book, a television, an iPod and a link to the Internet.
And that’s just for starters.
As the radio industry smugly likes to point out, iPhones represent only five percent of the media market – and if that makes them feel good, knock yourself out.
What media companies don’t do well is know their audiences – the sociology of why they do the things they do. Many of you know what I am speaking of. Young people like to watch their laptops and order TV shows. They don’t like to pay for things. Don’t much like commercials. No longer look to radio to tell them what type of music they like.
They have information that is channeled to them to get news and entertainment – they don’t go to a channel to get this content. In other words, the content is invited onto their mobile devices on an increasing basis.
Keep in mind they create their own content when they text and mobile users spend a lot of time texting (even texting while driving – they all do it).
The mobile audience we all covet is bound together by Facebook and slightly older folks tend to be your Twitter users.
Now, this one device — the Apple tablet — will revolutionize everything. A TV tower will be less valuable. Radio stations less important. Newspapers in print are done and must reinvent themselves for this new ten inch monster and by that I don’t mean just slapping up the kind of websites they’ve been doing.
Newspaper websites are declining in readership – see some late intelligence here.
But when details come out about the new Apple tablet, let the learning begin.
It’s not the fact that a handheld entertainment and information device will exist. It’s how consumers will use it and that’s where I am interested. There may be many new opportunities for talented people (especially the ones fired from traditional media companies) to set up shop and get access to this emerging market.
I’m going to get into this at my upcoming Media Solutions Lab in January.
But one thing is for sure – if the Apple tablet is programmed like traditional media, you can forget the future. My bet is that everything will have to be reinvented to fit the sociology of the Apple tablet to have a chance. And by that I don’t mean giving lip service to the sociology of technology but rather a new appreciation and approach to looking at media and audiences.
Here’s what I hear:
1. Apple could announce this device as early as the first quarter, but be warned – with Steve Jobs, it is really anyone’s guess. All this talk is pumping up interest. Apple stock is at $211 a share and climbing. There is talk that an Apple announcement is in the wind for January 26th – two days before my Media Solutions Lab which is why I am going to deal with this issue in person with you.
2. It will be larger than an iPod Touch – about ten inches with higher resolution as far as we can determine.
3. Apple is supposedly talking to TV networks about a subscription plan that would kick cable where it hurts by allowing consumers to prepare their own agenda of what they want to watch and pay a monthly fee. Details here.
4. The iTunes store is being revamped as we speak – it’s a major reinvention from what I hear and I believe the iTunes store is getting ready for books, newspapers, blogs both video and audio as well as television.
5. You may be able to read PDFs on this device making it a boon for school districts to save on the cost of buying textbooks and make it useful to businesses such as the legal and medical professions.
6. There is a high probability that Jobs will be looking to kill the Kindle with this device and some cool applications are likely to make a ten inch reader the last device anyone will ever need to read books. The publishing industry is already in trouble dealing with the Kindle and competing readers from Sony and Barnes and Noble. It is Jobs who will be able to dictate price points if this device takes hold.
7. The Apple tablet is likely to function as an iPod but there is also information that Apple is looking to the paid subscription model for streaming music “stations” the model the record industry has long coveted. Apple could pull it off although the debate of free vs. paid (Chris Anderson vs. Rupert Murdoch) is still raging which is why we’re going to address it at my Media Solutions Lab in January. I personally believe paid is coming. This site will likely be a paid site in the future for those who want to keep reading it – making micropayments along the way. But all information and entertainment will be monetized like this because — well, because – the infrastructure will be enabled once Apple melds the tablet with the new iTunes store commerce component. More importantly, this new business infrastructure provides you and your businesses with real growth potential. We’ll talk more in person.
This is all too exciting for words.
True, the radio industry will continue to shoot itself in the foot in the year ahead and we’ll follow it – because there is a lot we can learn from other people’s mistakes.
But get ready to roll up your sleeves. It’s back to school – not so much to learn about technology but to take sociology 101 again.
Much money will be wasted in the years ahead by companies and entrepreneurs guessing what consumers want.
That’s not what I’m into.
Become the master of sociology and you’ll know your market better than you ever have before.
In the past, you bought a radio station and set up shop. If you failed, you hired a consultant or programmer to find the hole in the market and then you program to that audience. Choices for listeners were very limited. Competition sparse.
Today, anyone can program to an audience and soon Apple will make the platform available that will make it all work in a boom environment.
Are you betting on Lew Dickey or Steve Jobs?