On his GigaOm blog, Om Malik takes on the old media vs. new media dichotomy that has been showing up in so many places over the last few years. The main example he cites is the recent case of television broadcasters blocking Google TV from accessing their content (in much the same way Hulu’s TV network sources forced it to block Boxee last year), but he also mentions the music industry’s problems and the “death of newspapers”.
When I look at these industries and the failure — or impending failure — of these institutions, I see a fundamental mistake on their part to understand their own core businesses. They fail to see the world in a larger context, and instead, choose to focus on maintaining the status quo. If they took their cue from Apple (everywhere computing) or Amazon (any content anywhere), they could have found answers to their problems.
Print media is in the information business (along with all other forms of news media). CDs and albums are part of “the music experience” (along with Spotify, Pandora, etc.). Television is part of the video business. (I’m a little surprised he doesn’t draw the famously clichéd comparison to railroads and the transportation business. After all, it’s obviously in the same line of argument.)
And a failing that all of these media share, Malik points out, is that they can’t seem to understand that “today’s audience is not tomorrow’s audience.” The behavior of information consumers is changing. People who grow up on the Internet rather than on “old” media will have an entirely different outlook than those used to the limitations of print and broadcasting—they “will find, curate and consume on their own terms, on their own choice of screens and on their own time.”
Malik doesn’t directly mention e-books, but his use of Amazon as an example of a company doing something right (“any content anywhere”) is clearly talking about their Kindle e-book scheme. And many members of the Internet generation who are blocked by the actions or inactions of publishers from buying the e-books they want will go to Bittorrent and find those books for free. Publishers really need to come to their senses and start doing a better job making them available.