Posts tagged ‘consumerism’

occidental, oriental, new and old

While holy men in shadowed calm retreats
Pray through the night and watch the stars,
A lonely plane flies off to meet the dawn,
While down below the busy life goes on,
And women crowd the old bazaars;

It’s just about NAB time once again, and as I pack my bags, I thought I’d reflect on last September when I was visiting with some customers in India. It just so happened that during the weekend of my stay, Broadcast India 2008 was in full swing. Naturally, this was a great opportunity to visit and see first hand how things had changed since my last visit to this fantastic country about nine years ago.

It’s Saturday morning and I arrive at the show with my local host. The exhibition complex is like an old series of warehouses in a compound, surrounded by a high concrete fence – about 10ft tall. There is a main gate with an elaborate, very modern looking sign indicating Broadcast India 2008. We drive through the gate and wind left, dodging people, auto-rickshaws, parked cars and motorbikes.  As we make our way towards hall 6, my colleague instructs the driver to stop and ask where one registers. The car stops. Right there. Right in the middle of the road. The driver puts his captain’s hat on, and walks over to the security guard in a very officious manner, exchanges a few words, and comes back. He tells us to get out of the car. For a split second, I wonder what is going on, then I realize that just above the entrance sign it says “registration”. We get out and head towards the show.

Such a strange place. Security guards who desperately try  to manage traffic and the chaotic parking, patrolling the entrance sporting long canes. Were they walking sticks or were they the remnants of British authority that had been handed down to these surrogates of order? Trees were painted with both brown and white – to keep the bugs from crawling up? It’s very shady and pleasant. There is a buzz in the air, very reminiscent of the earliest computer trade shows I attended in Sydney as a student. They were modest. These were more than modest.

Registration was a pretty straightforward process. Simply take a form, check all of the attributes that apply to you (so that they can send you junk emails), and attach your business card. I get an official badge and lanyard and embark on my voyage of discovery. It’s not a big show. Walking at a leisurely pace, you could cover the booths in less than an hour. This is what I do. I make a fly by and take a few photos, while my colleague catches up with old friends.

He asks my impression of the show.

“Quite impressive”, I reply.

In fact it is. Although it generally looks pretty tacky by occidental standards, there is one characteristic that does not escape my attention. Youth. There is a swarm of young people eager to see, experience, absorb and learn everything they can. Media is a seductive industry. It has opportunities that span from from producing content through to distributing it. It has that cachet of being hip and close to pop culture. It is a natural magnet for youth.

Compared to the west, where there is a generation of  self indulgent ‘video engineers’ clinging on until retirement comes, here in emerging markets, it would seem as though the technically literate youth is making its own rules and competing with raw energy. I catch up with  few business partners, visit the booth of my former employer and catch up with a few old colleagues from past days. It truly is a small world. I seem to be going through business cards like sand through my fingers. Eventually I’d had enough and headed for the exit.

Nonetheless, as I stood there, peering back that the sign, I saw hundreds of people shuffling to the entrance and leaving through the exit. I wondered how they all managed to look past the mess and managed to focus on the objective – to learn. This was not the NAB of India. NAB is all glitz and sizzle. Here the gear had been flown in from IBC just a few weeks earlier. It had been show tested, it was a little more robust than the usual demoware that you glimpse between the glitzy distractions in the main western shows. This was stuff that companies actually used, wanted, and wanted to learn about.

And perhaps that was what it was all about anyway…

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

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April 16, 2009 at 4:49 pm Leave a comment

a recession winner?

When there’s too much to do
Don’t let it bother you, forget your troubles,
Try to be just like a cheerful chick-a-dee

According to yesterday’s Yahoo news (Monday March 16, 2009), one of the top 10 recession winners is ‘Hollywood’. The article by Amanda Ruggeri makes the statement that “The number of subscribers to Netflix, the DVD delivery service, climbed 26 percent in the fourth quarter from the same time last year. That helped put the company’s revenue up 19 percent from the previous year. And according to industry researcher Media by Numbers, 2009’s box office sales are tracking 16.5 percent higher than the year before—at this rate, theaters will make $1.9 billion, versus last year’s $1.6 billion—with attendance up nearly 15 percent.”

From my years in media we (i.e. I, and the company’s with whom I worked) anecdotally always saw similar results – the theory being that advertising was a leading indicator of the health of an economy… businesses spend less on ads as things get tight and spend more as they get better. Consumers spend more on escapism to get them through the tougher times. So long form content was inversely accessible to short form content in recessionary times.

What I have yet to rationalize is, why doesn’t free content do even better? Perhaps we cannot accurately measure it, or perhaps as consumers we still need to feel the empowerment that a discretionary purchase brings our self-esteem.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

March 17, 2009 at 11:34 pm Leave a comment

when tv grows up…

May you build a ladder to the stars
And climb on every rung
May you stay forever young

Typically, convergence is discussed in terms of technology. But let’s talk about money.

The most amazing thing about media is it’s ‘stickiness’. Print hasn’t gone yet, nor has radio, nor TV. What has changed is the usage patterns of mediums relative to each other. And that affects how much money is invested in different mediums. And that varies with the age and attitudes of the consumer. There has been a lot of discussion that TV is dead, and that the computer has won. Frankly, this is just posturing. It is a matter of definition. Today we define TV as we have known it, tomorrow ‘TV’ will be different. In all instances it supports moving pictures with sound, and in many cases much more. So in ten years, we may habitually (or endearingly) call it TV, but it will be characterized in the following way, it will be:

  • a rich media environment that enables the consumer to be passively entertained, or interactively immersed – the consumer will choose.
  • tethered to the lounge for a family theatre experience, or portable in the pocket or car for a personal engagement – the consumer will choose.
  • the appliance that enables the payment of bills, shopping, playing games, connecting with distant family and friends, and the sharing of memories as photos, videos and voice – the consumer will choose.

Above all, ‘TV’ will remain a prime vehicle that connects the human experience – within and beyond the local community. The main difference between today’s world of TV and that of tomorrow’s, is choice. Today, choice is measured in number of channels and our individual lack of control. It is measured in the things that I “can see” as a viewer. Tomorrow’s choice will be measured in number of services and the things that I “can do” as a consumer.

The 80’s were a tipping point in media. Collectively, the media made more reference to us as consumers than as citizens. Seducing us with, and immersing us in wanton consumerism. And think of the money you could make by tracking these consumers across any device they were attending to at any given point in time. You see, that’s the holy grail of convergence. That’s the money in convergence.

My hope is that with all these choices we’ll become a little more socially conscious and consume less, or at least what we need. And that’s got to be good for our children’s future. These choices will enable us to actually find something worthwhile to do with our time. No more thousands of channels with nothing to watch.

Tell me it isn’t so… I’m listening.

March 12, 2009 at 2:37 pm 1 comment

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