Internet Week: 'Future of Media' Function of Corporate Incest

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In case you haven't heard, it's Internet Week here in New York City! One wonderful event that's taken place was a panel yesterday to discuss the "Future of Media," which we writers and bloggers and alt-weeklies are invested in, along with most of the information consuming population. The talking points of the panel were nice -- yes, nice -- but the real message lay in the assemblage of panelists heading the discussion.

Hosted and moderated by I Want Media's Patrick Phillips, the discussion consisted of seven "leading media and tech figures" talking about how the Internet and other digital media are transforming the traditional media landscape. Conclusions? The future is still a mystery! Sort of. Naturally.

The discussion revolved mostly around what makes a good media website today which, if you really care about, can be watched here. The panelists included former MSNBC correspondent and Mediaite publisher Dan Abrams, Google News' product manager Joshua Cohen, AOL Media president David Eun, Huffington Post's high priestess Arrianna Huffington, Glamour editor in chief Cindi Leive, Yahoo Media VP James Pitaro, and Boy Genius Report's founder and editor Johnathan Geller.

In theory and plain sight, a panel on the future of media is, well, presumptuous: no one knows what the future holds. Bottom line. But the money is -- like so many other industries -- in good speculation. The pick of panelists, though, said a great deal in and of themselves: each leading media and tech figure either belongs to, is associated with, or is a giant, technology-enabled media corporation. Even the five-editor operation Boy Genius Report - the moderator made a point of introducing founder Johnathan Geller by congratulating him on his multi-million dollar sell-out to Mail.com, a web monolith competitor who already have their own share of fairly popular, prominent, established web destinations like Deadline Hollywood and Movieline.

The conversation struck an enlightening chord when the subject of Yahoo's recently-launched Shine.yahoo.com came up. The new women's lifestyle site is a HuffPo and Yahoo! collaboration, and when the moderator asked Glamour's Cindi Leive if she found Shine a new competitor, she said, "Actually, we're working with Shine.com, too!" noting that Glamour would provide syndicated content to Shine. So three of the seven panelists on the Future of Media are in collaboration together... teamwork!

Not that this is surprising either. Bigger is better (or at least makes more money) in media as it is in everything else, but in the course of this hour-long discussion, the only mention of independent start-ups or bloggers, the mom-and-pops of the internet, was made as they associated with media blue-chips, and, as in the case of Boy Genius, rendering them not so "mom-and-pop" anymore. The message this sends is that the Future of Media is not in democratization, as romantic ideas of the Internet hope, but in incorporation and conglomeration, making everything one giant, corporate circle-jerk you with the small website just have yet to get in on.

Depending on whether you are or aren't an anti-establishment Internet yuppie, this may or may not sadden you. But --as I Want Media blatantly presumes -- if these seven corporate panelists are telling of where we are now and where we're headed, the future for out-of-nowhere media independents looks bleak. If anything, it'll make cheering for the underdog that much easier.

[awerner@villagevoice.com | On Twitter]



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