Tag Archives: individuated media

Pressing ‘Reset’

In 1993, after two decades working for newspapers’ print editions and for two of the world’s major international news services, I switched the focus of my career to working full-time on journalism’s transition from print and terrestrial or cable and satellite broadcasting to online. As would be for anybody working in a relatively new field, my portfolio was relatively wide, ranging from how online changes the consumption and hence business models of the news media and changes the nature and contents of journalism itself. I became a frequent contributor to the news media’s internal discussion lists and discussion forums about these changes; a frequent speaker at media industry conferences, and became a consultant helping news industry companies begin making those changes.

By 1998, however, I had become vocally dissident compared to most of the people working in that growing field. I realized — and had the data showing — that online distribution wasn’t going to be a lucrative venue for traditional publishers or broadcasters. By traditional, I mean companies that produce packages of Mass Media contents. Online couldn’t lucratively be used as merely an electronic’ or ‘paperless’ means of distributing such Industrial Era products. Online was different and much more than that. These predictions, which with every subsequent year have become more obviously valid, didn’t endear me to most people working in those traditional news companies. ‘I apologize, but I can’t have you speak at this year’s conference because what you said there last year depresses everyone,’ one conference organizer told me. Most people in the industry not only thought I was wrong but pointed to the record profits that Mass Media companies were making during the first few years of this century as evidence that I must be wrong.

If record profits were a true indicator of a company’s or industry’s future viability, then horse livery stables, the Penn Central Railroad, Enron, and Blockbuster Video, to name just a few industries or companies that went bankrupt only a few years after earning record profits, would be doing business today. Not only during 1998 to 2006, when Mass Media companies were posting record profits, but ever since the mid 1980’s, Mass Media’s audiences (as measured by readership or listenership or viewership if respectively print, radio, or television or cinema, and as measured daily if a daily publication or broadcast, measured weekly if a weekly publications or broadcast, etc.) have been declining per capita in the United States and other developed countries. Those declines started years before the Internet was opened to the public in 1992 via the first commercial Internet Service Provider to consumers. And Internet access to consumer exacerbated those declines in the U.S., particularly after 2004 when approximately half of consumers obtained ‘always-on’ broadband access to it, access which changed how they consume news, entertainment, and other information. The change in how they consume is the key.

Since the late-1990s, when companies such as Nielsen (formerly AC Nielsen) and ComScore began recording how and how often consumers online consume news, entertainment, and other information, it’s been obvious that consumers do so in far different ways than they had (or still do) consumer printed publications and over-the-air, cable, or satellite broadcasts. Although consumers spend increasingly more time online each month, they notably consume the websites of publishers of printed periodicals and those of traditional broadcasters far less frequently and far less deeply than they had used those same publishers’ printed editions or same broadcasters’ traditionally broadcast programming. Indeed, it’s become obvious that consumers use all Mass Media companies’ contents far less frequently and far less deeply that way.

The radically different ways in which consumers online consume news, entertainment, and other information, than they did those same contents in print editions or traditional broadcasts has had devastating effects on the industries and companies of Mass Media. The more of their consumers who switch from consuming printed editions or traditional broadcasts and instead consume online, the worse the situation of those industries and companies get. Although Mass Media companies expected their online consumers to pay either the same (or even a significant fraction of the) subscription or newsstand rates that those same consumers had paid before going online, most of those consumers did not and have not. Moreover, Mass Media companies have not generated sufficient revenues from online advertising to compensate those revenues lost from subscriptions or newsstand sales as their consumers went online. Nearly all Mass Media companies earn far less revenue from online than those companies had from printed editions or traditional broadcast. For example, although U.S. newspapers’ annual revenues from online grew from $900 million in 2004 to $3 billion in 2016, those newspapers’ revenues from print edition shrank from $42 billion to $19 billion, a net annual loss of nearly $21 billion or almost 50 percent.

My family in 1877 began publishing a daily newspaper in Connecticut. By 2004, I had convinced most of my family members who managed that newspaper to sell the company. However, one family member disagreed (we ultimately sold it last year for markedly less than it was worth in 2004). By 2006, I’d grown tired of consulting to an industry that I’d literally been raised in but that had become suicidally adverse to change, and the following year I joined both the faculty and the staff of Syracuse University’s S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. There I formulated and for the past ten years have been teaching a postgraduate course entitled “New Media Business’, a required course for New Media Management master’s degree students. It focuses on how the Individuated Media, products of the dawning Informational Era, have already begun replacing the Mass Media, products of the waning Industrial Era, as the predominant ways in which most consumers in developed countries now obtain news, entertainment, and other information.

It goes back to my 1998 paper (updated in 2006) entitled What is ‘New Media’? That paper stated that the ‘New Media’ isn’t simply any new device through which information can be conveyed. Nor is the ‘New Media’ printed or broadcast information placed (‘shoveled’) online. Instead, the ‘New Media’ is a more profound, potent, and pregnant concept than the Mass Media, which it already is superseding.

Mass production was an innovation of the Industrial Era: the mass production of books and later newspapers and magazines, and then over-the-air broadcasts of sound and video. The analog printing press (c. 1440) and the analog broadcast transmitter (c. 1896) respectively permitted the mass consumption in homes of printed information and the mass consumption of audio and later video. However, Industrial Era mass production technologies have a hallmark flaw: each produces at once one product for all its consumers.

For example, a daily newspaper produces the same daily edition for its readers on that day. (At a very large-circulation newspaper there might be some minor variations among that day’s editions, such as the New England edition of The New York Times including a different selection of stories than that day’s West Coast edition. However, most of the stories selected for inclusion in any of those editions will be in each that day.) Similarly, all viewers of a TV channel simultaneously see the same program at a given time. Mass production increases the reach (i.e., number of recipients) of a media product, but all recipients receive virtually that same product at that given time. Yet there is no way in which Industrial Era technologies can create a unique edition (or mix of broadcast programs in a schedule) for each recipient, a unique product containing a mix of stories or programs matching that individual’s unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes. However, the Informational Era’s computer technologies can create a unique mix of stories or programs that match an individual’s unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes, simultaneously for mass numbers of consumers.

Consider the Industrial Era media product known as a newspaper. A daily newspaper’s newsroom receives hundreds, if not thousands, of stories each day from its reporters, news wire services, and news syndicates. However, the Industrial Era production technologies used to print a newspaper, namely an analog press, which presses paper onto inked type, cannot from among those hundreds or thousands of stories produce a unique edition for each individual reader’s own unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes, the mix that makes that individual reader individual. It’s a technological limitation. Instead, those Industrial Era production technologies forces that newspaper’s editors to choose a limited number of stories which they think might best satisfy the greatest aggregate number of readers. That same selection of stories, which might range between 20 and 100 depending upon the circulation of that newspaper, goes to all readers. However, online technologies have no such technological limitation. Programmed with appropriate algorithms, a website can be made to identify each individual reader and match its mix of contents to match that individual consumer’s expressed needs, interests, and tastes. The ‘New Media’ are media products that, as with Mass Media, have mass distribution but, unlike Mass Media, customize the content each recipient sees for that recipient.

[I’m a stickler for accurate terminology because marketers often conflate or blur the real meanings of too many words and phrases. For instance, enter the work turbo in Amazon.com’s search box and among the results will be Turbotax, Turbo Tide laundry detergent, Gillette Mach 3 Turbo razors, etc., none of which actually have anything to do with turbines or turbochargers. Marketers misuse the real meaning of turbo. Likewise, too many misuse words and phrases such as digital, interactive, personalization, and New Media. For example, an unsolicited, commercial marketing postal letter mass mailed to tens thousands of individuals including me might begin with ‘Dear Vin’ but that personalized greeting doesn’t mean the letter is customized in any way to me and my needs, interests, or tastes. No more than a personalized golf ball on which my name appears is fundamentally any different than any other golf ball. Personalization isn’t customization. Customization of content is customization. And complete or perfect customization is call individualization, the latter word based upon the psychological term for that which makes a person a unique from others.]

Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, Pandora, Tencent QQ Flipboard, Vkontake, etc., are all examples of New Media companies. Their contents are individually customized for each one of their many users. Is Facebook a Mass Media company? No. Although Facebook reaches more than 2 billion consumers, the greatest mass reaches of any media company in history, each of those consumers simultaneously sees different contents than any other consumer. The mix each sees is customized to that consumer’s explicit ‘Like’s of contents and mix of friends on Facebook. Mass reach with true customization (beyond personalization although perhaps not yet individualization) are the hallmark of true New Media and of truly New Media companies.

If you were given the choice of either consuming a mix of contents based not upon your unique mix of needs, interests, and tastes, but upon the aggregate demographics people who live near you, which of those mixes would you prefer to consume? Most consumers will gravitate towards a mix that matches their own individual mix of needs, interests, and tastes. This is natural. That is why hundreds of millions of consumers, indeed billions of consumers, have been gravitating to customized media services such as those produced by Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, Pandora, Tencent, Flipboard, Vkontake, etc. Within just a little more than a dozen years, those companies’ Individuated Media products have superseded traditional Mass Media companies’ products as the predominant ways in which most people in developed countries obtain news, entertainment, and other information.

All media industries and all media companies need to understand and adapt to this epochal change in the media environment: the era of Mass Media is waning and the era of Individuated Media is dawning. If traditional media companies and traditional media industries are to survive, they must adapt their products, their production and distribution practices, and their business models, to fit this new era. What has made Facebook, Spotify, Twitter, Pandora, Tencent QQ Flipboard, Vkontake, etc., successful isn’t necessarily their managers or investors but that those companies, born of the Informational Era, happened to design their products and service toward individuation. Indeed, search engines such as Google, Baidu, and Bing, likewise are Individuated Media because each of their users uses them to find contents that match their individual needs, interests, and tastes, rather than those users simply relying on the generic or demographically aggregate mixes of contents that comes in the printed periodicals or broadcasts that they already receive. Individuated Media superseding Mass Media.

Today, I reset my career and hang my new sign as one of the world’s leading consultants about Individuated Media.  Although I continue to teach my postgraduate course at Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Public Communications, it’s time for me to consult about what is blossoming rather than what is shrinking or withering. Embrace and develop the future rather than manage the fading past. Want to know about the true epochal change underway in the media environment? Then give me a phone call or email.

The Spectrum of Change


Previous webpage: Maelstrom as the Flow Changes

 “I wasalmost a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.”
— Nikolai Tesla about Thomas Edison’s exhaustive experimentations.

Access and choices of news, entertainment, and information for the majority of the world’s population has shifted from relative scarcity to surplus, even overload. More than three billion people can now—via desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone—access more news, entertainment, and other information than had ever before in human history been printed or broadcast. The ranks of these of people will increase to nearly six billion by the end of this decade because all mobile phones now being manufactured are smartphone models capable of accessing this newfound cornucopia of content.

This epochal shift in readily accessible supply of news, entertainment, and information began four decades ago: no more than a wink in human history yet more than a generation ago in the lives of humans today. The shift occurred so quickly that young adults have not known anything but surplus, yet so slowly that older adults are only beginning to perceive the profound changes it has wrought. This cognitive gap, more difficult to bridge than a mere generation gap, today rends the media industries. The older adults who lead these industries or teach media too often use outdated theories, doctrines, and practices rooted in the waning era of scarcity; yet the younger adults who staff and the students who’ll soon join those industries haven’t yet enough lifetime experience and wisdom to fully formulate new theories, doctrines, and practices that comprehensively explain exactly how these industries must adapt to the dawning era of surplus.

Four decades into the epochal shift, the majority of executives and scholars still don’t understand how this change from scarcity to surplus is radically altering the media environment. Although some of them perceive scarcity’s dusk, but most seem myopic to the remarkable transformations in media theories, doctrines, business models, practices, and products that are dawning from surplus. They instead misperceive New Media merely as electronic distribution platforms the traditional media products, practices, and business models that were conceived in and based upon the scarcities of the Industrial Era: in other words, Mass Media. Failing to perceive and adapt to the epochal change underway, they are leading their industries into obsolescence. Their declining circulations or listenerships or viewerships once adjusted for population growth, and their fading market capitalizations and equity prices without adjustment, all attest their misperception and failure. Many major U.S. media corporations, in tacit admission of failure to adapt, have traditional products’ declining revenues once adjusted for inflation, their products’ been jettisoning their eldest and formerly most robust media sector products, the sector that first directly encountered the epochal switch: their newspapers subsidiaries.

What you’re reading now is a primer about the epochal change underway in media, its many aspects, and what effects causes. This primer is condensed from the first month of the New Media Business postgraduate course that I’ve taught since 2007 at Syracuse University’s S. I. Newhouse School of Public Communications. It’s aimed at anyone who needs help perceiving the full spectrum of media change underway. In it:

  • I’ll outline the basic spectrum of change underway in the media environment (including some aspects or ‘colors’ not easily or normally visible).
  • I’ll delineate that spectrum into ‘color’ categories based upon whether aspects of that ‘color’ primarily affect consumer behavior, production and definition of content, or transaction and distribution of content.
  • I’ll describe why the epochal switch from scarcity to surplus in people’s access and choices of news, entertainment, and other information, has made very many, if not most, of the Industrial Era theories, business models, practices, and products, all colloquially known as Mass Media communications, which have dominated media for centuries, increasingly unsuccessful, archaic, or obsolete.
  • Likewise, I’ll specifically explain why a major effect of the changes underway is that general-interest Mass Media vehicles—such as newspapers, news magazines, and news broadcasts—are failing not only in their legacy forms but also when put online; and conversely why topical or ‘niche’ media in almost all forms are flourishing.
  • Finally, I’ll explain why traditionalists in the media industries need to abandon their nigh alchemical search for a business model that will let their traditional Mass Media doctrines, practices, and products thrive fundamentally unchanged in this new environment. If traditional media companies want to survive, they must embark upon a radical overhaul of their doctrines, practices, business models, products, and industrial infrastructures. Their embarkation is already overdue.

The starting point for all of that is to look beyond the superficial of changes. Let’s start by slaying a pernicious misperception. Virtually all traditional media executives and traditional media academicians mistakenly think that the major change underway in the media environment is that people are switching their consumption habits from ‘analog’ to ‘digital’. These academicians and executives see fewer and fewer consumers reading printed periodicals or listening to over-the-air radio broadcasts or watching over-the-air or cable television video programming, and instead see more and more consumers reading, listening, or viewing news, entertainment, and other information via personal computers, electronic tablets, smartphones. The executives and academicians thus myopically assume that an ‘analog-to-digital’ switch is the greatest change underway; that the greatest, most important, or even most motive change underway in the media environment is that billions of consumers are becoming ‘wired’ or ‘hooked-up’ or going ‘digital first’. Similar misnomers are media ‘convergence’ or ‘multimedia’, terms which nowadays belie an Industrial Era perspective on media.

Although it is true that billions of consumers are now consuming media contents via computerized devices, that change is incidental. Those billions of consumers aren’t switching to use of computerized device because consuming media via computerized devices is easier. The devices’ screens are smaller than most television screens, harder to read than a book or magazine, more expensive and fragile than paper, and require a live connection to the Internet. Besides, most consumers in developed countries had already had books, newspapers, magazines, and radio and television receivers in their homes. Nor are those billions of consumers switching to computerized devices necessarily to obtain multimedia; the vast majority of the contents they consume on these devices is monomedia—a video clip, a song, or a webpage with or without still photos. Nor are those billions switching necessarily because computerized devices necessarily because these computerized devices can provide them with more up-to-date or information while mobile: the vast majority of contents they consumer on these devices is no more up-to-date than a daily newspaper or news broadcast and the majority of usage consumers make of these device is at home or in their office. Billions of consumers aren’t switching their media consumption to computerized devices for the sake of ‘digital’ or ‘wires’ or ‘wireless’ or being ‘digital first’. They are switching their media consumption for an even greater reason: because these devices provide them with so much more news, entertainment, and other information than all the paper ever printed and all the radio and television broadcast ever made can. They switch because New Media not only gives them much more news, entertainment, and other information than traditional media can, but commensurately let’s each of them find a better match of that media content to their own individual mix of needs, interests and tastes. The sheer appeal of that, fulfilled by every-increasing progress of New Media technologies, has fomented the greatest change in the history of media.

Unfortunately, those media executives and media academicians who instead misperceive some sort of ‘analog-to-digital’ switch or being ‘wired’ or ‘hooked-up’ or ‘digital first’ (or even ‘desktop to mobile’) as the greatest, most important, or even most active change underway in the media environment are blinkering, if not blinding themselves, to this greatest change and its panoramic spectrum of effects on the environment. Such simplistic and seductive misperceptions are the worst miscalculations a media executive or academician can make today. Those misperceptions lead them into the grave error of thinking that the New Media are merely ‘digital’ distribution mechanisms that have arisen for their traditional contents and products (i.e., ‘How can we put our newspaper online?’ ‘How can we use Pinterest as part of our broadcast?’ ‘How can we promote our magazine on Twitter?’). This myopia prevents them from seeing the New Media have reshaped the media environment in ways that are alien to traditional media theories, doctrines, practices, and produces; fields in which traditional media are themselves alien and unsuitable for transplantation. Executives and academicians who misperceive this way miss the truly major opportunities and changes underway in this new era.

The switch from ‘analog to digital’ (my catch-all term for all those misperceptions) is but a single hue in a far more colorful, powerful, and complex spectrum of change underway. The world’s media industries are woefully overdue to examine the complete spectrum, which is why most media industries have become, to use another trite term, ‘disrupted’.

Next webpage: The Prism & New Media Chromodynamics

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2014


The Significance of Web 1 (‘Web.1.0’) and Web 2 (‘Web 2.0’)

Previous webpage: Some Corollaries of the Interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws

As Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws exponentially increased the power of computer chips and the bandwidth of the fiber optic lines and wireless signals connecting those chips, billions of people who used those personal computers extraordinarily quickly by historical measurements gained access to a cornucopia of news, entertainment and other information—extremely more news, entertainment, and other information than had been available locally from the Mass Media’s printed publications and over-the-air broadcasts. Although Mass Media publishers and broadcasters are still trying to contend with that greatest of changes in history of media, there are many unequivocal indicants that they never truly will and that the centuries-old predominance of Mass Media organizations as people’s way of obtaining news, entertainment, and other information is now doomed.

One of those indicants is the rise of what has now become colloquially known as ‘consumer-generated contents’. It has become as easy for any individual with a desktop, laptop, tablet, or smartphone, to become online a publisher or broadcaster as it is for Mass Media publishers and Mass Media broadcasters. All the individual needs do is produce a blog hosted by a third party or else a website. Consumer-generated contents greatly augment the already gigantic volume of contents available online, providing even greater competition and stresses for Mass Media organizations. (An unintentional but innate aspect of that augmentation is that the consumer-generated contents of subjective nature — particularly when accessible on blogs and websites that are cloaked in guises which mimic the types of guises used by traditional publishers and broadcasters —are often difficult to discern from otherwise objective contents. Although the branding of traditional publishers and broadcasters can help people avoid some of the resulting confusion about which contents are objective and which are subjective, the financial duress traditional publisher and broadcasters suffer adapting to all these changes has led to them reducing their own production of contents and even led many such organizations to feature subjective contents disguised as objective contents (i.e., ‘advertorials’ or ‘native advertising’).

How the interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws led to the huge rise of consumer-generated contents online is best seen by deflating two over-hyped New Media marketing terms —‘Web 1.0’ and ‘Web 2.0’ —until the two tumescent terms have actual meaning. At the start of an academic year, most of my postgraduate students have heard these terms but confused about what ‘Web 1.0’ and ‘Web 2.0’ (and ‘Web 3.0’) mean; as well they should be, considering how these terms have been coined, marketed, and hyped. (The term ‘Web 2.0’ was actually trademarked in the United States by CMP Media, a business media and conference company that did not coin the term. However, the European Union denied CMP Media the trademark in EU countries.)

I teach my students that there are only three things that they need to know about these terms:

First, that the decimal points are a meaningless marketing hype. For examples, there are no such things as ‘Web 0.8’ or a ‘Web 1.4’ or a ‘Web 2.3’.

Second, that the resulting ‘Web 1’ and ‘Web 2’ (and ‘Web 3’) are useful terms to denote two different eras in public usage of the Internet; much like the terms Triassic or Jurassic denote different, albeit immensely longer, eras in natural history.

‘Web 1’ denotes the period (1991 to approximately 2000) when the software and hardware needed to publish online or to broadcast online were expensive, complex, and difficult to use. The result was that only large organizations (such as governments, militaries, universities, and corporations) published online. During the ‘Web 1’ era, content was produced and consumed in the traditional way: organizations produced it and people consumed it. The only difference between this and the Industrial Era was the content was offered online to the consumers.

However, as several years progressed, the three laws interacted. Moore’s Law permitted more powerful and less expensive hardware, capable of running complex software. It takes complex software to make computer, notably computer interfaces, easier to use. Simultaneous with Moore’s Law, Cooper’s Law and Butters’ Law eliminated the need for people to utilize their home telephone lines to go online, and permitted the transmission speeds of people’s online access to be ever faster. The resulting effects of the laws’ interactions — more powerful, less expensive hardware running more complex software that communicated at ever higher speeds, made online publishing or online broadcasting so inexpensive and easy-to-do that by the middle of the first decade of the this millennium anyone could do so. Furthermore, thanks to the three laws’ interactions, turnkey-software system and services (such as YouTube, Moveable Type, WordPress, Blogger.com, and many others) allowed anyone to publish or broadcast without having much, if any, technical knowledge at all. Hundreds of millions of people (‘the people formerly known as the audience’, as New York University Professor Jay Rosen wryly noted) were no longer just consumers of media but also creators of it. This is the Web 2 era.

Third, that Web 1 and Web 2 have a stratal relation. One is founded atop another, but the two co-exist and aren’t mutually exclusive. In media, large organizations still publish online and broadcast online, as also now do the people themselves.

People’s newfound capabilities to publish or broadcast as readily as traditional publishers or broadcasters creates quite unexpected competition to traditional publishers and broadcasters, extraordinarily complicating and challenging traditional media organizations’ existences. Many traditional media companies unfortunately still don’t comprehend how much.

Moreover, as Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws further interacted, new companies arose that not only helped give people, no matter what their technological abilities, the capabilities to publish online their words, photos, videos, and choices of hyperlinks to other contents, but form networks of their friends and acquaintances who through such a company can also do and share those contents. These are companies such as MySpace, Facebook, VKontakte (ВКонтакте), Renren (人人网),etc., whose services are collectively and colloquially known nowadays as Social Media.

Unfortunately, most executives of Mass Media companies, as well as most academicians who teach Mass Media practices, still misperceive consumer-generated contents (whether in forms such as individual’s websites, blogs, or even Social Media) as merely computer-mediated forums that are ancillary to Mass Media. What those executives and those academicians don’t understand is the Social Media forms of consumer-generated contents are entirely new, intrinsically different, and evolutionary advanced forms of media than Mass Media.

Next webpageThe Rise of Search Engines Heralded Individuated Media

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2014

Corollaries of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws Interactions

Previous webpage: When Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws Interact on Media

Here are some corollary effects resulting from observable dynamics of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws. These go beyond the computer and telecommunications industries from which those dynamics directly stem and beyond the media industries which are the subject of this particularly work you’re reading, and pertain to virtually all industries now and in the future, as well as to societies, culture, and civilization. The ramifications of these corollary effects demonstrate the sheer scale of changes that the dynamics of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws have engendered:

Mind-boggling increases in the pace of change. The single most remarkable effect of the interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws is an ever-increasing pace of technological acceleration. Humanity never before has had to deal with such a meteoric pace of change. To put this in perspective, compare the current pace of technological change with that of previous revolutionary technologies. If the capabilities of the powered-flight aviation technologies invented by the Wright Brothers in 1903 had accelerated at even the slowest pace of the three laws I’ve mentioned (i.e., Cooper’s Law), then by 1978 the average airliner would have been capable of conveying a quarter billion people at the Speed of Light (a flight which, of course, would probably be impossible due to the size of the craft but certainly due to Einstein’s Special Theory of Relativity!) Likewise, if the capabilities of the automotive technology invented by Karl Benz in 1885 had accelerated at that pace, then by 1982 any auto would have been capable of carrying everyone in the world at the Speed of Light. If the printing technology invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1450 had advanced at that pace, the capabilities of the average printing press today would denude the Earth of trees for paper in less than a second. Mind-boggling! Clearly, no previous technology, no matter how revolutionary that people considered it, has ever progressed at the paces of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws. When I tell my university students, “You’re a unique generation,” some at first think that I am patronizing them; but I justify my statement by explaining to them that, “You’re a generation who will have to adapt to more changes than any previous generation of humans who’s ever lived, changes no previous generation imagined. If you think that you’ve seen changes during the past ten or 20 years, you haven’t seen anything yet.”

Ever shorter ‘mature’ phases for products and ideas. On a more practical level, one aspect of the accelerating pace of change will be increasingly short ‘mature’ phases for many, if not most, technologies and products. Traditionally, industries and businesses have enjoyed long commercial lifespans for products, amortizing the products’ developmental costs over their ‘mature’ period. However, the accelerating pace of change almost guarantees quicker product obsolescence and thus shorter ‘mature’ product lifespans. It will become increasingly likely that many, if not most, new products’ commercial lifespans will be ever shorter as the pace of technological progress continually accelerates. New products will become obsolete ever more quickly. Thus, businesses and industries will need to adopt their product development and accounting models to ever more quickly (if not immediately) recoup development costs, and will need to continuously improve and update their products more and more. Financial profits relying on a durable ‘mature’ phase of products’ lifespans will increasingly become an obsolete concept.

Increasingly frenetic need for businesses and industries to change. Indeed, the paces of change engendered by the three laws clearly mean that businesses and entire industries will have to adapt to ever‑accelerating changes. If they don’t quickly adapt, they will fail. A newspaper executive who was unfamiliar with the dynamics of the three laws and the unprecedented technological changes they are engendering, recently asked me, “When will all the change in our industry end?” Although I was tempted to joke, “Next Thursday,” the changes affecting his and others’ industries aren’t about to stop but will accelerate until the paces of change become, well, somewhat mind-boggling. Only an economic depression or widespread war can slow or stop the ever-accelerating pace of technological change. Otherwise, an ever-widening array of traditional products, tradition business models, traditional business practices, traditional devices, and traditional trades and employments will increasingly be disrupted, uprooted, replaced, or eliminated. This has begun to happen and will happen ever more quickly than during previous years, decades, or centuries. It means increasing instability for traditional companies and traditional industries. There will be ever more business mergers, bankruptcies, closures, even failures of entire industries. Some industries will meld or incidentally blur with others. (For example, who a decade ago would have predicted that Nokia, rather than Kodak, would become the world’s largest manufacturer of consumer cameras? Or that Nokia, which had the world’s dominant share the mobile phone handset market, would itself largely implode within the span of only four years? Or Apple Computer Company would become a major vendor of recorded music and of mobile phone handsets?) As the pace of technological changes continues to accelerate and waves of change come ever more quickly, businesses and industries will need to implement organizational and production changes ever more quickly to survive. One can’t surf behind a wave of change. The most successful organizations during the 21st Century will be those that can predict the figurative hydrodynamics of its environment and ride ahead of each wave.

Brand names are decreasingly a defense against change or decline. As the pace of technological advancements continues to accelerate, as waves of change become ever more frequent and the ‘mature’ phase of products and services become ever shorter, traditional companies that hope their established brands will extenuate or palliate that turbulence or turmoil will discover that the ‘goodwill’ value of their brands will become increasingly less. There primarily are two factors for this:

The first is simply that the inertial momentum of an establish brand can itself hobble or thwart that adaptation. A long-established brand can easily become an anchor, chaining consumers’ perceptions of that company to its old and now obsolete products rather than adapted products. For examples, during the past decade separate studies by the Medill University’s Readership Institute and by the  Media Management and Transformation Centre at Jönköping International Business School in Sweden have shown that many United States daily newspapers’ established brands, brands established and known for printed newsprint products, imparted no greater, and even sometimes negative, value to those same companies’ products put online. Consumers identify the brand with the old, not the new. Early in 2000 during a conference in New York City, the chief of Time Warner’s online efforts was asked what his corporation’s New Media strategy was. “We don’t yet fully understand the changes going on,” he said. “But Time Warner has been one of a handful of great media corporations during the 20th Century. So, we expect our brand to be one of the great New Media corporations during the 21st Century, just like American Online, Amazon, Ebay, PayPal, Google, and Yahoo!” I don’t think he realized the unintentional paradox of his claiming that his corporation’s will axiomatically place it among wildly successful New Media companies whose own brands were virtually unknown or even non-existent only nine years earlier. (Or the irony of how later that year his corporation would itself be purchased by one of those brands –, in the most financially disastrous merger in business history.)

The second and more ultimately powerful reason why brands are decreasingly a defense against change or decline is that the branding’s rise as what had been a formidable marketing tool was rooted in scarcity. Brand initially arose as logotypes in cultures centuries ago when few people could read. A wooden carving of a shoe, hanging above the entrance to a shoemaker’s or cobbler’s shop showed the illiterate what that business was. Names themselves later became brands and logotypes. The strength of brands or logotypes lay in providing consumers with a sense of comfort and reliability about those brands’ or logotypes’ products or services. Having relatively scarce access to current reviews of all similar products and services available, perhaps seeing a review for one or another of those products or services one a year or less in a monthly magazine, consumers bought the product or service a brand they knew or perhaps trusted from previous purchases. As James Surowiecki of The New Yorker magazine recently remarked:

“When consumers had to rely on advertisements and their past experience with a company, brands served as proxies for quality: if a car was made by G.M., or a ketchup by Heinz, you assumed that it was pretty good. It was hard to figure out if a new product from an unfamiliar company was reliable or not, so brand loyalty was a way of reducing risk. As recently as the nineteen-eighties, nearly four-fifths of American car buyers stayed loyal to a brand.

“Today, consumers can read reams of research about whatever they want to buy…..what’s weakened the power of brands is the Internet, which has given ordinary consumers easy access to expert reviews, user reviews, and detailed product data, in an array of categories. A recent PricewaterhouseCoopers study found that eight percent of consumers look at online reviews before making major purchases, and a host of studies have logged the strong influence of those reviews have on the decisions people make. The rise of social media has accelerated the trend to an astonishing degree: a dud product can become a laughingstock in a matter of hours.”[3]

What has caused that is the epochal switch from relative scarcity to surplus in people’s access and choices of information about products and services. Some traditional branding consultants, attempting to adjust to that switch, claim that brands become ever more important now that consumers no have relative scarce access to information. Yet Surowiecki and others note that a recent study by Ernest & Young reported that only 25 percent of Americans said that brand loyalty now affects how they shop.

Start-up companies have an ever-increasing advantage over traditional ones. If there’s a fourth ‘law’ atop the three I’ve mentioned, it’s Darwin’s[4], which dictates that in a changing environment the nimblest and the quickest to adapt have advantage over the biggest, fleetest, best fed, or the even sharpest-toothed. The ever-accelerating paces of changes favor start-up companies and start-up innovators (although too many attempt innovation without first understanding the underlying dynamics of the changes).

Academia will tend to adapt ever more slowly in proportion to the changes underway and certainly ever more slowly than people, companies, or industries do. A prime reason why is that most academics are employed for their expertise in traditional practices. They tend to be older individuals, many of whom haven’t worked for years (sometimes very many years or even decades) in the professions or trades that they teach. Changes can undercut their expertise. The faster the changes, the more insecure these older academicians can become and the more likely they will be to resist those changes, no matter if the changes have become manifest in their professions or trades. These older academicians hold senior positions (department chairman, faculty senators, etc.) and have tenure in institutions where the doctrine of Academic Freedom[5] is considered inviolate, so feel no great motivation to adapt their syllabi and teach something different that is becoming manifest. Many do adapt, but many others prefer to continue teaching what they best: the expertise of earlier times. Compounding this resistance, younger academicians who seek tenure, a sinecure granted by senior academicians, often find its pursuit safer if they focus on traditional rather than changed practices, particularly when changes are accelerating and volatile. That is particularly true of those younger academicians who’ve never actually worked in the professions or trades they teach, who’ve become academicians immediately after their own graduations. These overall systemic problems tend to make academia lag, even resist, at adapting to changes.

The law lags ever more behind. The slowest of all sectors of society to adapt to change are laws and regulations. These will lag ever further as the change accelerates. The number of discrepancies, incongruities, and outright collisions between old laws and the new capabilities of technologies will increase not only in number but spread to codicils yet untouched. This is primarily because laws and regulations, rather than foster revolutionary change, tend to protect the companies and industries that are traditional and well-established. Those companies and industries, and their lobbyists, use laws and regulations as cudgels against prospects of change. Yet however blunt or heavy, these legislative and regulatory cudgels ultimately never reach far enough, matter how bloodied, change ineluctably wins.

One observable macro-effect of the three laws’ interactions is the ending to the ‘Digital Divide’ (i.e., poor people not being able to afford computer technologies and online services). The effects of Moore’s Law constantly decrease the expense of technologies. Likewise, Cooper’s and Butters’ Laws is constantly increasing the ease and access by which people can connect and use such technologies. During the Industrial Era, decades used to elapse before the poor could afford the technologies of the rich, but the meteoric pace of change brought by computerization is ever shortening that lapse. For examples, there are now more mobile phones used by Africans than Europeans or North Americans, despite those two other continents having more than 20-times Africa’s per capital incomes. A recent survey in Honduras, the second poorest country in the Americas, found that even the lowest-income households (i.e., those likely to lack running water) possessed not only a mobile phone (handset street price equivalent to USD5 plus rechargeable ‘pay-as-you-go’ calling credits) but a LCD‑screen DVD player (street price USD20) and a microwave oven (which are cheaper to purchase than conventional ovens and require no physical installation). A few years ago in South Africa, I met a successful local entrepreneur whose business in the huge ghetto township in which he resided was to solicit collection of  mobile phone videos of weddings, anniversaries, and other events, and to turn those videos into DVDs, which he then sold for $0.50 each as an electronic form of community newspaper. He succeeded because so many people in the township owned mobile phones and DVD players.

Poor countries are beginning to afford and utilize advanced technologies that only rich countries had been able to afford. In some cases, poor countries are leap-frogging rich countries in technological infrastructure. Countries such as Mongolia or Montenegro now have more advanced telephone infrastructures than do the United States or the United Kingdom, simply because not only are new technologies for telephones now less expensive to purchase but are easier to install in less developed countries that don’t have vested legacies and that delay installing advancement until the costs of older technologies are amortized. Moore’s and Cooper’s laws made mobile telephony relatively inexpensive and easier to deploy than copper-wired telephony.  Meanwhile, Moore’s and Butters’ laws are causing wired systems to be replaced by photonics, which is phenomenally cheaper signal-carrying capacity/costs than copper wire.

Increasingly large technological gaps within peer groups. Although the three laws’ interactions are closing the ‘Digital Divide’, an odd macro‑effect is that the interactions are causing technological fissures within peer groups. When the paces of change were slower, the technologies affordable and used by a demographic rank were generally the same for long durations. For example, audio recordings sold in the form of vinyl discs for gramophones (i.e., phonographs), a technology invented in 1889, were for some 100 years the primary musical entertainment technology for consumers. Audio recorded on Compact Discs (‘CDs’) began superseding gramophone discs around 1989, but themselves had much shorter popularity before beginning to be superseded in turn by directly downloaded audio recordings. For video recordings, the progression from Video Home System (‘VHS’) tapes to Digital Versatile Discs (‘DVD’s) to directly downloaded video recordings showed even shorter technological ‘half-lives’. The progression from analog mobile telephone handsets to digital ones to Internet-equipped digital ones to broadband Internet-equipped digital ones to ‘smartphones’ has shown remarkably short technological ‘half-lives’.  Consumers have to adjust to new technologies ever more quickly.

The result is that households within demographic peer groups are increasingly less likely to all be using the same levels of technology. This result occurs less among younger peer groups, who always tend to adapt more quickly than any other demographic, but this result is becoming ever more easily observable among older peer groups. It seems increasingly unlikely that all consumers—even most peers within a demographic rank—will ever again all be using the same platform, nonetheless using any one platform for a decade or more. Our grandparents or parents might have used gramophone records or Compact Discs for decades, but our children probably won’t use any one medium platform or device for long. Last year in a popular restaurant in my town, I overhead a foursome of ladies in their seventies discuss whether or not they used personal computers much, while nearly another table of women the same age was comparing various speech-to-text software programs. Wide technological gaps like that within a common demographic were highly unlikely in previous generations, but will probably be common occurrence for the future. As science fiction writer William Gibson quipped, “The future is here, just unevenly distributed.”

The best skill to learn is how to learn new skills. During previous centuries and generations, the skill one learned young generally was the skill one used all one’s life. For example, if you apprenticed as a baker, it was very likely that you’d be a baker all your life. However, this dynamic began ending two or three generation ago, and has now become ever more unlikely. It’s not unusual for educated people in developed countries to have not only more than one job during their lifetimes, but a career spent in more than one industry. As the ever-accelerating paces of change make previous technologies increasingly obsolete, and with those obsolete technologies more and more businesses, trades, and industries, archaic, obsolete (‘disrupted’), or defunct, many skills learned young (such as in college) will also become archaic, obsolete, or defunct. This new dynamic will put increasing pressure on the traditional system of providing education primarily before people are aged in their mid-twenties. People that old have the majority of their careers ahead of them, during which they will experience an extraordinary amount of changes – likely more changes than all previous human generations combined. They will thus probably need constant retraining and continuing education rather than relying upon only what they learned in consecutive years of secondary and higher education during their teens and early twenties. They will need to learn how constantly to learn new skills. I believe the business models of colleges and universities, in order for such institutions to survive and be relevant in the 21st Century, must change to focus primarily on continuing education rather simply than educating young people.

Increasingly polarized societies. Fear of change is called metathesiophobia. Change causes anxiety and stress in most people: indeed, in most creatures. History holds many precedents showing that when stressed by change, large numbers of people will seek comfort in traditional values, theories, and practices, rather than accept change. As the English historian A.P.J. Taylor explained (using the British term for this macro-effect), “Toryism rests on doubt in human nature; it distrusts improvement, clings to traditional institutions, and prefers the past to the future. It is a sentiment rather than a principle.” (Some historical examples are the Roman Catholic Church’s retreat from, and later persecution of Galileo and other heliocentrics; the German people’s conservative electoral swerve during the Great Depression; or the rise of the American conservative movement once the practical limits of United States global hegemony or power were reached during the 1970s.) Many people, including those who offer pay lip-service to change, retreat into the seeming sanctuary of tradition as a defense against change. This sociological effect by itself exacerbates cultural or industrial adaption to change, creating turbulence, difficulties, and polarization of large segments of society. Given the ever‑accelerating paces of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws, those problems might become more formidable, even chaotic, during coming years.

An appointment with Fermi’s Paradox. Indeed, as Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws double their paces every nine to 30 months, creating hyperbolic technological progress, some reputable futurists believe that during the first half of this century the sheer pace of change — unless checked by war or economic depression — will ultimately skyrocket so rapidly it will merge into a ‘singularity’ that will “rupture the fabric of human history”. According to their predictions, new products, services, business models, even new ideas, will eventually become almost instantly obsolete, almost immediately replaced by newer, until our technological capabilities will eclipse our caution and comprehension. This concept of a technological ‘singularity’, which some other futurists criticize as alarmist or as a techno-utopian fantasy, might seem absurd to laymen, yet the observable validity of Moore’s, Cooper’s, Butters’ laws, and similar dynamics, indicates its possibility. I hope the truth will be somewhere between those two contrasting views. Perhaps people’s (i.e., individual’s, households’, industries’, societies’, and governments’) limited human capabilities to deal with such a pace of change will create a sufficient behavioral constraint on such hyperbolic changes that no mind-boggling absurdities become reality. If not, however, the instabilities of human actions or reactions to ever-accelerating technologies will probably lead to war or economic chaos or worse: human inability to be a species that transcends what’s known as Fermi’s Paradox. During a casual lunchtime conversation with other physicists in 1950, the Italian-American physicist Enrico Fermi ventured a series of rapid calculations estimating that the probabilities of earthlike planets and possible intelligent life elsewhere among the billions of stars in our galaxy are good; that some of those other forms of intelligent forms might be millions or billions of years more advanced than humans; and that such unimaginably advanced civilizations might have technologies that easily permit or otherwise have had time for vast interstellar travels. Yet “Where are they?” a mystified Fermi exclaimed. That scientific mystery has become known as Fermi’s paradox. Many possible answers to it have been postulated, one of which is that technological civilizations may usually or invariably destroy themselves before or shortly after developing nuclear, biological, or chemical weapons.

Next webpage: Web 1 to Web 2

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When Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws Interact on Media

Previous webpage: Butters’ Law Acting on Media

Alone, neither Moore’s Law nor Cooper’s Law nor Butter’s Law would have led to the world we know today and the one we will know in the future. During the past 50 years, Moore’s Law, without the bandwidths of fiber optic doubling approximately every nine months and of wireless doubling approximately every three years, would have resulted merely in very powerful computers barely able to communicate and network with each other at much more than teletype speeds. Butter’s Law without computer chip power doubling approximately every two years would have led to no reason to use fiber optics; the world would still be using woefully slow copper wires for its long-distance communications and have been unlikely to ever been able to support the deployment of local, regional, and long distance mobile telephone communications, etc. The three laws’ interactions are the ultimate cause of the tumultuous changes and progress underway.

As these three laws interact, their blended speed of technological changes increasingly accelerates (not as quickly as Butter’s Law but neither as slowly as Cooper’s Law), resulting in the momentum of changes increasing geometrically faster than its own increasing acceleration. The force of these technological changes grows cubic to the pace of changes, according to Newton’s Second Law of Motion.

Moreover, as more and more traditional devices (automobiles, airliners, refrigerators, bicycles, student and teacher desks, bar tops and counter tops, furniture, ski goggles or eyeglasses with heads-up displays, etc.) are replaced by internally computerized and photonically or wirelessly networked replacements, the interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ ‘laws’ gather even more amplified momentum than just their accelerations render, an effect due to a fourth ‘law’, Metcalf’s (named after the co-inventor of Ethernet, Robert Metcalf), which observes that the power of any networked item is proportional to the square of the number of devices connected to the network.

Thus, the force of technological changes very quickly becomes inexorable, creating pressures that the traditional practices and traditional technologies within any industry cannot withstand, a concept that many traditional media executives, who are used to linear changes, tend to find either confusing or incomprehensible.

In developed countries, the effects of Moore’s Law have been visible for a few decades; those of Cooper’s Law for only a few years; and those of Butters’ Law are only beginning to be seen. All will soon be readily apparent. Media analysts and academicians who talk only of Moore’s Law as a means of understanding the changes underway see only a one-dimensional of the perspective rather than the fully-formed three-dimensional situation created by the interactions of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ laws.

The observable dynamics of Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ ‘laws’ are the ultimate causes of all the changes underway in the media environment.

Now, let’s examine the ramifications — the proximate effects — of the three ‘laws’ interactions in the media environment. In other words, no longer why the media are changing but the more practical topic of how the media are changing.

Next Webpage: Web 1 to Web 2

(However, if you’d first like to read about some corollary effects of the three laws’ interactions that go beyond just the media industries, go here.)

Index of the Rise of Individuated Media webpages

 © 2014

Butter’s Law Acting on Media

Previous webpage: Cooper’s Law Acting on Media


We don’t live in a ‘wired’ world, but a ‘fibered’ world. Wired communications is obsolete. Metallic wires could never have sustained the phenomenal growth of the Internet and of the global telecommunications networks in general. The world’s capacity to use telephones and networked computers would have expired and collapsed more than a dozen years ago if not for two telecommunications inventions of the 1960’s ad 1970’s: lasers and fiber optics. The constant acceleration of those combined technologies, known as Butters’ Law, makes the speed of Moore’s Law look like a snail’s pace.

Copper fibers had been used as the sole means of electronic communications from 1837 until 1880 and as the primary means of interpersonal telecommunications until the 1990’s. Copper fibers are still how most of the world’s wired telephones inside homes and offices get their signals from telephone poles or underground junction boxes outside. But simply an electrical signal through a copper wire, be that signal the on-off binary of Morse Code telegraphy or amplitude sine wave of a voice telephone call, has a physical speed limit which was first hit during the late 1870’s, a speed limit of approximately 30-kilobytes (0.03 megabytes) per second. Although that’s far faster than anyone could use a telegraph key, during the early age of telegraphy it meant that only one telegraph could be sent at a time through any single copper wire, a burden to any commercial telegraph system linking together major cities or countries. Even today, it means that a copper wire phone line is incapable of delivering stereophonic sounds (which requires more than 30-kilobytes of information per second).

During the 1880s, an English telegrapher and self-taught electrical engineer, Oliver Heaviside, found that by first converting signals into a radio wave, rather than a simple electrical pulse, multiple signals could be sent simultaneously down a copper fiber if each signals was sent at a different radio frequency and if the copper fiber carrying the signals was itself sheathed within a tube of copper mesh that blocked outside radio signals. His invention was the coaxial cable, which he patented. When wireless radio was invented by Guglielmo Marconi and by Nikola Tesla each independently during the following decade, the radio industry utilized copper coaxial cables to deliver their radio signals from transmission studios to transmitter towers, as did the television industry in later decades. However, there was still an intrinsic transmission speed limit to copper wire used with radio or television signals: a few gigabytes per second aggregate total for all the signals carried. Moreover, those wired signals needed to be amplified at least every 20 kilometers or so. By the 1960’s, the telephone, radio, television, and other industries were looking for a faster alternative to keep pace with the growth of telecommunications.

Light operates as much faster frequencies than do television or radio signals (150-terabytes compared to 1-gigabytes or 3-megabytes per second respectively). Thanks to Albert Einstein’s explanation in 1905 of the Photoelectric Effect, physicists had by the early 1960’s had developed first microwave and then laser signaling and receiving devices that could communicate across long distance outdoors. During the 1970’s, they’d miniaturized these photo-electronic devices (see Moore’s Law) enough to be able to send their laser signals through fibers of glass, a science now called photonics but colloquially known as fiber optics.

The transmission capacity limit of photonics is yet unknown. For example, physicists recently demonstrated a photonic system capable of delivering the contents of 700 DVD discs in a single second – nearly 3 terabytes or 3 million megabytes per second – an unlimited distance over a fiber optic cable thinner than a human hair. These superb capacities have led telecommunications companies worldwide to begin replacing their copper wire fiber networks with fiber optic ones. In all but very rural areas of developed countries, that work has been completed to the point at which the only remaining copper fiber or coaxial cables left are those remaining inside homes or offices themselves.

The phenomenal capacities of photonics and how increasingly faster signals can be transmitted through fiber optics led Gerald Butters, the scientist who formerly headed Lucent’s Optical Networking Group at Bell Labs, to see if he could make an observation similar to Moore’s Law for its advance. Like Cooper, he looked back at the transmission speeds of early photonics and forward to the present. He found that the speed at which information can be communicated through fiber optic circuits has been doubling every nine months, an observation that since become known as Butters’ Law.

That is an astonishing pace of accelerating capacity! By the time that Moore’s Law has merely doubled computer chip power, photonic capacity has increased 6.35 times. By the time that Cooper’s Law has doubled wireless capacity, photonic capacity has increased 16 times! And those increases in photonic capacity are just along a single strand of fiber. When strands like that are used to connect ever more computers in a network, such as the Internet, the communications capacity further increases according to Metcalfe’s Law, which states that the capacity of the network is proportional to the square (n2)of the number of connected computers! Imagine a network whose individual links can double in capacity every nine months yet also have that networks aggregate capacity additionally increase by the square number of its users during those nine months; because that is what’s happening. The resulting increase in capacity is astronomical!

Most people who live in developed countries where photonics are in widespread usage by telecommunications industry won’t see the transmission speeds provided by their Internet Service Provider companies double every nine months or certainly accelerate into the terabytes per second range in the immediate years. Those companies aren’t able to install and amortize the newest photonic technologies through their networks as quickly as Butters’ Law is accelerating, and most of the increased transmission capacity those companies for which those companies have been able to avail themselves has been used keeping pace with the increasing numbers of cable TV channels, of on-demand video deliveries, and of long-distance conveyance of mobile telephony. Nevertheless, most home and office users of wired Internet access (and mobile Internet access, too) have seen steady increases in transmission speeds and capacities. At the beginning of this decade, home Internet speeds of, at most, 1- to 3-megabyte were the norm, but now 5- to 50-megabytes per second are common. The European Commission has proposed that all new households in the 27-nation European Union be wired for 100-megabyte per second Internet access by 2020 (the initial minimum proposed is 30-megabyte per second).

The ramifications of Butters’ Law are mind-boggling and will have tremendous effects on 20th Century media industries such as telephony, broadcasting, and cinema, as well as on 21st Century media developments such as holography projections, augmented or virtual reality, and whatever other new forms of communications come next.

One of the practical effects of Butters’ Law is that probably by the end of this decade the time it takes to download or upload a song, a photograph, or a high‑definition movie via a modem connected to fiber optics won’t be perceptible. People now old enough to remember dial-up modems might think that to be incredible but by 2020, at the current pace of Butters’ law, all the textual information currently in the U.S. Library of Congress could be downloaded within a minute or the entire inventory of a Hollywood movie studio (nonetheless a single movie) within five minutes. The next generation won’t know the meaning of the phrase, ‘waiting to download’.

Next webpage: When Moore’s, Cooper’s, and Butters’ Laws Interact on Media

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The First Innovative Thing I’ve Posted in Seven Years


My reputation as a New Media consultant to the news industry, including my appointment since 2007 to teach postgraduate New Media Business at Syracuse’s Newhouse School, largely result from work I did long ago.

For ten years beginning in 1993, I helped guide the strategies of major news organizations’ websites and their other online services. But by the turn of the century I realized that those strategies (known as ‘convergence’, ‘analog-to-digital’, and ‘digital first’, etc.) would ultimately fail and those news organizations’ websites, as well as their traditional products, would unavoidably become irrelevant and unsustainable in the near future. I then spent seven years sounding probably like the prophet of doom to the traditional media industries in post-industrial countries. The doom I predicted has since become apparent.

Since 2007, I haven’t done any innovative work—except that which is done in a room filled with some of the best postgraduate students and doctoral candidates from America, Europe, and Asia, who study the media business. They’ve an advantage over the middle-aged white executives who run most traditional media companies; they’ve grown up online, know New Media as natives, and so aren’t mired in media theories, doctrines, and practices that might have been valid in the 1960’s or 1980’s or even early 1990’s, ideas and concepts that are already obsolete.

Good teaching is a continuous experiment.  Bad teachers teach the same way every semester; like bad actors, they perform by rote. By contrast, good teachers use their classrooms not only to teach established concepts, but to teach themselves when and how established concepts have changed and are no longer relevant or true. In other words, the classroom is where good teachers refine their own understandings of what to teach. If a teacher’s own understanding of what he teaches doesn’t withstand the questionings and skepticism of hundred postgraduate students and doctoral candidates, then his understanding is merely an illusion.

I’ve been luckier than that. The academic freedom to teach what I think is true, no matter how unwanted those truths may be among hidebound executives or how heretical the truths are to traditional media academics, has been a godsend to my thinking. The easiest environment in which to shuck the encrusted dogma of 20th Century media thinking is to be surrounded at any time by dozens of smart young scholars who owe nothing to such dogma except that after their graduations they as media executives will inter it once and for all.

Ten years ago, after realizing that traditional media industries’ strategies of ‘convergence’, ‘analog-to-digital’, and ‘digital first’ will ineluctably fail and will never generate enough revenues to compensate for the revenue declines from the evaporation of those industries’ traditional products (printed periodicals, over-the-air and cable broadcasts, etc.), I turned my attention and that of my students to solving the problem of why. Why won’t ‘convergence’, ‘analog-to-digital’, and ‘digital first’ ever generate enough revenues to compensate for the revenue declines from the evaporation of media industries’ traditional products? Why are indeed those industries’ traditional products evaporating? The solution necessarily involves both questions.

My purpose in asking isn’t to save those industries’ traditional products or websites, but to establish what those industries should have done instead and what the successful new media of the 21st Century will do or are doing now. It’s now too late for most of those industries in the post-industrial countries, but there may still be time for media companies in developing or industrial countries to learn and adapt.

This then is a hyperlink to the first innovative work I’ve posted in nearly a decade, the result of my work with students at Syracuse’s Newhouse School, at South Africa’s Sol Plaatje Institute for Media Leadership, and at several other institutes where I’ve taught or co-taught seminars. It encompasses my thinking about media for the 21st Century.

It starts by examining the misguided beliefs by most media executives and most media academicians today that the greatest change underway in the media environment is simply that consumers have changed their consumption habits from ‘analog’ to ‘digital’ or have mere become ‘wired’ or ‘hooked up’ to electronic devices; that websites or streaming media are electronic multimedia (‘converged’) versions of printed periodicals or broadcasts; and that the future of Mass Media domination will be in online and mobile platforms.

It then describes what is obvious about the changes actually underway in the media environment, which are far different than what the executives and academicians who are trained in the theories, doctrines, and practices of Industrial Era media, namely Mass Media, hope. It categorically states how and why Mass Media are artifacts of that waning era and already are no longer the predominant ways in which most the world’s people now obtain news and information and soon entertainment.  It is about Individuated Media, the new media engendered by the Informational Era, which we can see across the panorama of the media environment once we remove the blinders of Mass Media theory.

I had planned to publish this work online early in 2015, after my classes this semester end.  When seven years ago I’d conceived the core of this work and established its syllabus, I had hoped that what it states would now be obvious. It’s indeed obvious now not only to my students but to those of other media schools who I’ve queried. Nevertheless, dust and debris from the collapse of traditional Mass Media still obscures the sight of far too many media company executives and academicians who, trained in Mass Media, attempt to sustain those Industrial Era forms of media. So, even though I’m still writing the final sections of this work from drafts, I’m going to begin publishing it online now, in hope of guide some of their ways.

I call it The Rise of Individuated Media. Thirty short (three to eight typewritten pages) chapters of this work are now online (starting with a version of this posting). A further 40 are in final draft stages and will go online at a pace of one chapter every two or three days (an easy pace for me to post.) I welcome comments or corrections to this work. Because an aggregate of its many chapters is hard to read solely online, an electronic book version of the whole will in follow sometime in January.

Those chapters already online deal with:

  • Identifying what is the greatest change underway. The answer isn’t consumers switching their media consumption from ‘analog’ to ‘digital’. Or ‘multimedia’ or media industry ‘convergence’. Or ‘smartphones’, tablet computers, or even the Internet.
  • Focusing on what are the ultimate, not proximate, causes of all the changes underway. Knowing what ultimately causes the changes allows a person to identify and rather accurately predict what and how fast future changes will be, an invaluable skill for anyone formulating media company strategies or designing media products and services.
  • Seeing the complete spectrum of changes underway and not being blinded by just those glaringly obvious. There is an ideal ‘prism’ through which to view the entire spectrum. And in this work I divide the spectrum of change into three ‘color’ categories, each of which has its own hues:
    • The ‘greens’ which affect how people gravitate towards and around media contents.
    • The ‘reds’ which affect how media contents are transacted (and even when no monies are exchanged).
    • The ‘blues’ which affect how the very definitions of media contents, as well as production and delivery of those contents, have changed.
  • Why and when traditional Mass Media companies failed to foresee the real changes underway. And what the few traditional media companies that do survive will need to do to adapt, which also means what ‘pure-play’ media start-up companies in the 21st Century should already be doing.

Media academies that have excelled at Mass Media have been flummoxed by the changes underway, few of which conform to their theories and doctrines. These academies have reacted in either or both of two ways. They’ve created institutes or centers of ‘innovation’ in which Mass Media practices are simply continued in whatever is the latest devices. Or else they’ve created ‘entrepreneurial’ programs that involve students learning how to operate without corporate support or to start-up their own corporations.

However, true innovation isn’t the usage of new devices or new technologies, but how theories and doctrines change due to new technologies and new devices; it is the difference between carpentry and architecture. Moreover, planting entrepreneurial seeds in hopes that some might bloom is hardly a sound practice of agriculture.  As the innovative genius Nikolai Tesla said about his fellow inventor Thomas Edison, “I was almost a sorry witness of such doings, knowing that a little theory and calculation would have saved him ninety per cent of his labor.” I herein offer a bit of theory about the New Media.

Personalize Media 2011 Keynote Speech

[34-minute PowerPoint video of keynote speech opening the fifth annual Personalize MEdia Conference (formerly Individuated Media conferences), Boulder, Colorado. June 20, 2011. How traditional media companies have gone astray by misperceiving consumers’ switch from analog to digital formats to be the greatest trend underway; why the abundance of content instead makes personalization (i.e., individuation) the greatest trend of 21st Century media; and what the media industries need do about it.  All images public domain. If otherwise, please contact vin@digitaldeliverance.com.]

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Welcome. My name is Crosbie.  Vin, as in Vincent, Crosbie. Welcome to Boulder! And Welcome to Personalize Media 2011! Welcome to the Chautauqua Center.

I’m glad the conference organizers decided to hold this meeting here at Chautuaqua. It’s is a wonderfully symbolic location for this conference. Behind the projection screen, on the wall of this hall, is a photo showing the first Chautauqua meetings ever held here. The year was in 1898. Everyone here was living in tents. Canvas tents. Back then, it wasn’t the high-tech Boulder you see outside the windows today, but a pioneering group, meeting to discuss what would become.

We’re figuratively those pioneers today. Thanks for asking me to keynote the conference. I’m going to start this conference with a very bold statement. A bold statement I’ll then justify. Personalization (individuation) is the major media trend of the 21st Century.

Some executives think these are dark times for media. Well, in case there are any historians in the audience: that’s like saying the Enlightenment was a dark time for the Feudal system.

If your business today dates from the Industrial Era – in other words, if your business is Mass Media—media based upon the practices that arose from the technological limitations of the analog press or analog transmitter—media in which all readers receives the same edition at once or all listeners or viewers see the same broadcast at once – then these are dark times indeed. The era of Mass Media’s feudal primacy is over. Something new and enlightened has replaced it.

Most media executives, schooled in Mass Media, don’t really understand what has happened

I’ll start explaining what’s happened by telling you about my own industry: the daily newspaper industry. The daily newspaper industry is among the oldest and most hallowed of media industries.

I’m here to tell you how lack of personalization, the lack of individuation, is destroying that industry in every one of the world’s post-industrial countries. In every country where people’s access and choice of media is no longer relatively scarce, but abundant.

Here in the U.S., the daily newspaper industry earned revenues of nearly $49 billion in Year 2000…. Ten years later, last year, that same industry earned only $25.2 billion. The U.S. daily newspaper industry has lost almost 50 percent of its revenues during the past ten years.

Some newspaper executives like to blame the 2007 recession for the loss. However, the facts are that less than half of that loss occurred during the recession. Most of that loss happened during the non-recession years, the years before and after the recession. An industry over 200 years old in this country has lost approximately half of its revenues during the past ten years.  Why?

I’ll tell you why: The reason is that newspapers and other media industries got caught in a conceptual trap—a conceptual trap into which most media executives fell as they tried to understand the greatest change in media history.

Most major languages have an adage about the conceptual trap into which most media executives have fallen: L’arbre qui cache la forêt. Los árboles no dejan ver el bosque. Er sieht den Wald vor lauter Bäumen nicht. ИЗ-ЗА ДЕРЕВЬЕВ ЛЕСА НЕ ВИДНО. Μπορεί να δει το δέντρο και όχι το δάσος. 见树不见林. 木を見て森を見ず. Because I speak English, the version I use is, they don’t see the forest for the trees.

Most media executives today mistakenly believe that the greatest change underway is that people are simply switching media consumption from analog to digital formats. These executive misperceive a trait or characteristic as the change itself.

They see the trees, but not the larger perspective. And their myopia has led of them to formulate the wrong strategies for adapting to the gargantuan changes underway in media.

Because most media executives misperceive the change underway to be that consumers are simply switching from analog to digital, these executives believe that what their companies must do to adapt is simply do in digital what they’ve always done in analog.

The executives believe that all their companies need to to is use the same business models, the same production practices, the same packaging, the same products, and the same content in digital as they’ve always used in analog — albeit with the addition of some hyperlinks, audio, video, and animation, and publicized via Social Media.

That’s the root of their not seeing the forest for the trees problem. (It’s about as apt a strategy as putting the Olsen Twins in the deep woods.)

Unfortunately, any strategy based upon a misperception will not only fail to yield successful results but will fail to explain why successful results aren’t yielded.

So, it’s not surprising that these media executives are mystified why the digital versions of their traditional newspaper and magazine editions and traditional broadcast programs aren’t earning anywhere near as much revenue online than those traditional products did in print—even in the cases when the digital products have more monthly users.

Moreover, these executives can’t explain why the average user of the digital version uses it much less frequently and less thoroughly than the average user of the analog version does.

Such are the captains of most media companies today: mis-navigating their companies through stormy times; captains of business who, misperceiving the great change in the media environment to be that consumers are simply switching consumption from analog to digital, hold true to the wrong course. They are myopic navigators leading media industries into financial ruin, layoffs, and catastrophe.

While they’re fishing for answers, wondering why their business as usual doesn’t work in digital – or New Media at all – we’re here. We know the answers. That’s why we are attending the fifth annual international Personalize MEdia Conference because we understand what’s really happening. We can see the forest for the trees.

We understand the greatest change in the history of media. We know that it’s not merely a change from analog to digital. We know that the greatest change is really that within only a generation people’s access and choice of news, entertainment, and information has changed from relative scarcity to surplus, even to surfeit or overload.

Look at how things were 40, 30, 20, or even ten years ago in post-industrial countries. News, entertainment, and information used to be relatively scarce. For examples, billions of people worldwide who wanted access to daily changing information had perhaps just one or two or three locally-distributed printed newspapers, plus one, two, or three television channels and a dozen or two radio stations within antenna range.

But all that has changed. Today, we’ve certainly a surplus of news, entertainment, and information. In fact, the main problem nowadays is overload. We’ve got a vast buffet or cornucopia. The problem is picking the exact items we want. And that’s the beauty of it. The exact items we want.

Yes, it’s true that people are switching consumption from analog to digital formats. But that’s not for format’s sake. They’re switching because digital technologies provide them with more choices and access to the news, entertainment, and information that specifically fits their individual mix of needs & interests. It isn’t the format they’re after, but its greater access and enormous choice of specific content.

The fact is that each of us is different. Each of us is an individual. Sure, we might share a few common interests: the weather, for instance. But that’s about it for common general-interests. Each of us, each of you, have dozens, hundreds, of specific interests. Each of us is a unique mix of those interests. And each of us gravitates to whatever content satisfies our own unique mix of individual interests.

Let me put it this way to you: Imagine that during most of your life you had no choice of what you ate. It varied daily, but it was exactly the same meal that everyone else in town ate that day.  What would you do if that situation changed and you instead had your choice of specific items from a gargantuan buffet? Would you continue to eat the communal, general-interest meal each day? No! You’d use the gargantuan buffet and satisfy your individual interests.

Indeed, that’s exactly why billions of people now use search engines daily. Nowadays, billions of people are manually personalizing, customizing, or individuating. They are finding the stories, videos, or other items of content that specifically match their own individual interests. They’re hunting and gathering all that themselves.

As Peter Horrocks, director of World Services for the British Broadcasting Corporation, recently said: “The consequence of this change in users’ consumption has only dimly been understood by the majority of journalists. Most of the major news organizations had the assumption that their news product provided the complete set of news requirements for their users. But in an internet world, users see the total information set available on the web as their ‘news universe’. I might like BBC for video news, the Telegraph or Daily Mail for sports results and The New York Times for international news…”.

People no longer consume generic packages. For example, take a look at these data from Nielsen about U.S. newspaper websites. The first assignment I give my graduate students is to tell me what remarkable about it. Students trained in traditional media, in Mass Media, tell me the answer is the huge number of people who use these websites.

However, the smart students point to the other data. For example, did you know that the average user of the The New York Times’ website visits it only 4.05 times per month; sees less than 27 webpages (which probably means less than 20 stories, because that site stretches most stories over more than one webpage); and spend an aggregate total of less than 20 minutes on the site all month. That‘s a visit only about once per week!

Unpersonalized, uncustomized, unindividuated content is used far less frequently and far less thoroughly online. People use New Media radically differently than they used traditional media.

And that radical difference is personalization, customization, individuation.

Another example, at the National Association of Broadcasters conference this April, Edison Research and Arbitron released a survey of American adults who use online radio. Fifty-three percent of those people knew of Pandora radio, which broadcasts personalized music. A quarter of all online radio listeners had used Pandora. One sixth had used it that month. One in ten people had listened to Pandora that week.

There are more than 6,000 radio stations webcasting in the United States, but one sixth of all online radio listeners listen to Pandora. I dare you to show me a traditional broadcaster or traditional print media site that one in ten of all people online use monthly. The most spectacular success in online broadcasting is personalized, customized, individuated. Pandora also is one of the most successful apps on smartphones and tablets.  And personalized, customized, individuated broadcasts such as Pandora and Last.fm are now having a radical effect on the radio industry.

This year, Clear Channel Communications, which owns more than 1,000 radio stations in the United States, more than any other company, announced that it will launched personalized, customized, individuated versions of its stations online.

Movies watched at home provide another example. Netflix is now the world’s largest distributor of videos. Is that because it has no stores? Is it because Netflix lets you rent a video for as much time as you want? No! It’s because of choice and personalization. Netflix gives each of its customer choice and access to tens of thousands of movies, enough to satisfy anybody’s unique mix of individual interests and tastes. Netflix wouldn’t be the world’s leader if it offered only the number of videos titles you could fit into a storefront.

Neither would Amazon be the leading bookseller.

In traditional media, Mass Media — in other words, Industrial Era media – every users sees exactly the same things at the same time as every other users. So, Is Facebook a Mass Medium? With more than 560 million users, it certainly has mass scale. Yet every user of Facebook sees something different than every other user of Facebook. What they see depends upon the user’s own individual mix of friends and interests. It’s not Mass Media, it is Individuated Media.

And that’s the point of my keynote today. We are right. People want Individuated media. Not Mass Media. Mass Media, and the practices and business models associated with it, were based upon scarcity, not surplus or abundance. Nothing wrong with that during its era. But that era ended at the end of the past century. What we’re clearly seeing nowadays, in the 21st Century, is the rise of Individuated Media (what we’re at this conference calling Personalized Media)

We know that the ramifications of billions of people having virtually instant access to all the world’s information are gargantuan, far greater than Gutenberg’s invention of moveable printing type or Marconi ’s and Tesla’s invention of broadcasting, and will affect not only the media industries, but every other realm of commerce, culture, politics, society, and civilization. But the fact that billions of people want a personalized, customized, individualized selection of content has gargantuan ramifications for the media industries.

First, hunting & gathering are primitive ways to acquire things–be those things food and shelter or news, entertainment, and information. There are huge business opportunities for media companies here. Facebook knows that, which is why it allows its users to automate feeds of news, entertainment, and information into users’ Facebook experiences.

The media industries need to adopt production practices and technologies that deliver to each individual the personalized, customized, individuated news, entertainment, and other information (including advertising and other product & service information) that that the person wants.

All sectors of all media industries need to work together, something unprecedented. People don’t consume just newspapers or just magazines or just broadcasts or just pure-play Internet content. They consume the mix, and won’t deal with different business models per media industry. Walls between traditional media must fall.

Nor will people consume just their own nation’s media. The world’s media industries need to globalize. There are no borders online except language.

All this will require huge changes in the practices and business models of media. Likewise, huge changes in the production and delivery technologies. Yet all of the technologies necessary exist today. These technologies and their successors are necessary for media companies to survive during the 21st Century. We are the pioneers of these discoveries.

During the next two days, we’ll examine personalized books, personalized magazines, personalized newspapers, personalized advertising, personalized greeting cards, personalized home printing, and other related subjects.

We’ll look at the technologies, the products, and the business models.

Like the early automobiles, early aircraft, and early computers, some of these might be embryonic or have gaps in their production or business models. But they are the future.

We are the future. The future of media is here with you now.

Thank You!