New Media for a New Economy

New Media for a New Economy

Entertainment’s stock, like lipstick sales and hemlines, tends to go up in troubled times. With its immersive vibe and interactive allure, new media entertainment offers new forms of escapism. And after the dotcom market meltdown, which in retrospect almost seems quaint, it’s nice to be on the outside looking in rather than the eye of the economic maelstrom.

Even better, digital media fundamentals appear stronger than ever. A recent study reports that people would rather keep Internet, video and voice services in their budgets than any other type of expense, including personal care products, gym memberships and apparel. Bad news for hygiene, but great news for digital media, which environmentally at least, and porn aside, is a pretty clean industry.

In an era of user-generated content and web-only content, what remains unique about BellFunded content is its embedded connection to broadcast and all that television embodies: outstanding productions, unrivalled promotions and unbeatable reach. Couple all of this with TV’s mature business model, high-tech’s entrepreneurial spirit and wrap it all up in the glamour-bubble of entertainment, and there could be no better formula for success. Of course digital media is still in its infancy – with perhaps a century of success ahead before we’d even be considered for a multi-billion dollar bail-out – so, we’re entitled to tweak our formula along the way.

Canada may actually be the true calm in the storm. With our stable equity market and our sound economic policies, we recently ranked as the number one place to build a business, leading as the top country for entrepreneurs and the top ranked for entrepreneurial access to capital. (Unfortunately, the study was helmed by deposed junk bond king Michael Milken.)

Not only is there more money here for entrepreneurs, there is more money for digital media specifically. The Bell Fund’s contribution as Canada’s largest private fund for interactive broadcasting remains unrivalled anywhere in the world. Cable and satellite distributors continue to thrive, subscribers are up and profits are growing, which is good for the convergence kitty. Add to this the new $100M Vanedge Capital fund earmarked for video games and digital entertainment, and there is no doubt that the formidable talent and acumen in our sector will keep us at the top of the heap for years to come.

As consumers of all this digital entrepreneurship, we have also benefited from on-demand-everything and online-all-the-time. Blame it on YouTube, but by 2012 our insatiable appetite for bandwidth might even outstrip corporate greed, our demand exceeding cyberspace’s supply as the Internet unleashes random brownouts and our lifeline is reduced to what the Sunday Times of London calls “an unreliable toy.” So, not only do we have the challenge of defining a credible business model, we are faced with spearheading a conservation agenda, like a developing nation that must contend with the inconvenient truth. Ideally, next-gen digital producers will tackle these two issues in tandem and take us all to the next level.

Over the years we’ve seen digital properties get creatively lush, increasingly rich and fun to play. And we’ve seen the big awards like the Digital Emmy swoop in to acknowledge that new media has finally arrived. New storefronts like iTunes and the rise of virtual goods have opened new gateways to revenues. CNN seems as eager to Tweet as to broadcast, and no doubt monetize the results. New media syndication and licensing now results in real dollars.

After a classic relationship involving playground flirtations (NYT/Amazon), awkward prom dates (BBC/Microsoft), early arranged marriages (AOL/Time Warner) and legal separations (YouTube/Viacom), media and technology seem intent on working things out. And like any couple starting over while still arguing about money they’ll be seeking help.

There is no better bridge across this divide than content producers and rights-holders, each of whom are poised to capitalize on multiple revenue channels and propel new media models forward. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

Excerpted from “The Last Word” by Catherine Warren, published in How to Make Money with Multi-platform Digital Media, Bell Fund, 2009, also available in French.

Read the Bell Fund press release on the bliki launch

  1. Maalaa07-02-2009

    Namaste Catherine,
    I enjoyed the tone, content, and clarity of your article. It is nice to get to know you from this side of your work.
    WIth love,