THE BLOG
07/29/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Media Morph

According to many media critics and professionals, the old media are dying. On such Web sites as Newspaperdeathwatch.com, doomsayers are predicting an imminent demise.

Even such really smart people such as Marc Andreesen are predicting death. On his pmarca.com blog Andreesen, co-founder of Netscape and current co-founder and chairman of Ning, has started The New York Times Deathwatch. And in a speech on a panel titled "Looking Around the Corner to the Future" at Allen & Company's Sun Valley media mogul confab last week, he predicted the death of all of the old media.

Death seems to be a recurring but highly exaggerated theme meant to gain attention, not shed light. The old media are not dying; they are changing their method of distribution. It's a morph, not a death.

Some media, such as broadcasting and cable are defined by their method of distribution. Some older media, such as print (magazines and newspapers) are defined by their method of production, which was rational in the 18th Century when they first appeared. But all of these media are being disintermediated by the Internet.

This fact was dramatically emphasized last week when Apple sold over a million new 3G iPhones and over five million apps were downloaded in the same period of time. Apps for the iPhone vary in price, but one, such as the $4.99 Tuner, turn an iPhone, which is also an iPod, into an Internet radio station, allowing iPhone owners to browse "thousands of Internet radio stations in a format that makes it easy to find exactly what you want to hear."

Furthermore, Pandora is currently the fourth most popular application for the new iPhone, reports The Washington Post. The music service experienced an all-time high of usage over the past weekend, streaming 3.3 million tracks just to iPhone users. New listeners reportedly tune in every two seconds and listen for an average of one hour per day. The San Francisco Chronicle reports that over 200,000 stations have been created on the iPhone. "I really think this has broken the dam for Internet radio, and we're now going to start seeing people think about it differently -- not as something you just get on your computer, but as a 360-degree solution -- in the car, in the home, on the go," said Pandora founder Tim Westergren, according to Kurt Hanson's RAIN: Radio and Internet Newsletter.

Internet radio will be on your cell phone and in your car, and television won't be far behind. Goodbye old distribution systems. But what won't go away is the content. Newspaper and magazine content will continue to be valuable and read; it will just have a different, far less expensive and more rational distribution channel -- the Internet.

Smart magazines are learning to morph their content to the Web. BusinessWeek is doing the best job of business magazines of Web morphing, and thus its well-established brand will survive and thrive. The Harvard Business Review doesn't get it and will eventually die if it doesn't figure it out.

In newspapers, The New York Times is doing by far the best job of any newspaper of Web morphing and innovating, and thus its top-of-heap brand will survive and thrive. Murdoch's The Wall Street Journal is trying hard to compete online with The Times, but is far behind, and as mentioned in a flattering Advertising Age article titled "Leading in Turbulent Times" about Arthur Sulzberger, the WSJ might well have to drop its subscription model to compete with The Times. The winners? Readers who have computers.

Television content creators are beginning to morph to the Web via such sites as Hulu.com and will accelerate the morph because of increasing competition from Web distribution channels such as Google's YouTube, which recently signed an exclusive $100 million deal with Sean McFarlane, creator of the FOX series Family Guy, to produce original content. The winners? Viewers who have computers.

Isn't it confusing, but isn't it exciting?