Scott Karp this week initiated another interesting meme, this time on media economics, basing a post on the work of Mr Plastic Fantastic himself, Umair Haque. Karp called Haque “possibly the most brilliant mind looking at what’s going in media, and thus in technology”. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t but Umair is certainly the dude most capable of extrapolating the most graphs and buzzwords per theorum. Undisputed.
I have no arguments with most of what Haque has to say, although I think he’s dressing up a lot of conventional wisdom in bedazzling terminology just so as to wow and amazie and I also think he comes from too much of a technology-oriented point of view. I think concepts like community, voice, and authority are too difficult to plot on a graph yet essential to any modern media analysis and therefore go MIA in Haque’s PowerPointing.
But the one point I did want to make is that Karp uses the Haque-isms to suggest there is a bubble in the media forming that will in turn spill over to the wider tech sector.
To which Squash says one man’s bubble is another man’s bust.
If we’re going to talk economic models here, let’s revisit a classic oldie – Marxism.
Blah, blah, blah, to cut a long story short, the ruling class rules because it controls the means of production which enables it to exploit the labour of the working class to create “surplus value”. In media terms, this means Big Media contols the printing press and the broadcast stations, which enable them to create surplus value, ie profits, from the sweat of its content creators.
Fast forward to “media 2.0” (quite amazing that this is the first major upgrade of hundreds of years of media thinking isn’t it?). The Internet means big media no longer control the means of production. The content creators themselves can blog, podcast, videostream. They can outsource their advertising department (and their accounts receivable department for that matter to Google). All they need is to be able to market on an equal footing. That’s where content aggregation comes in. When Big Media company ceases to control the gatekeeping mechanism, all content creators are reduced to a level playing field.
Big media now has to rely primarily on its superior content produced by their superior content creators. However, as Haque notes, the democratisation of media makes the role of Big Media more difficult. Their costs increase, their revenues decrease – profits slide. The only place they can cut costs are their labor costs (if you’re in Australia, does this sound like Fairfax people?).
Suddenly, those superior content creators find that they can strike out on their own as mini-media and snatch a slice of the surplus value themselves thereby increasng their overall share. Quality at Big Media sinks and falls behind micromedia. Slippery slope ensues. Big Media dies. Micromedia flourishes. Capitalism is dead.
And the means of production? Maybe we exist in a socialist world; ie the means of production is controlled by the people’s elected representative – Google?. Maybe, we operate in a communist world, wher the means of production is owned communally – Open Source? Long live the revolution, Comrade.
So what the hell, hey. If we must insist on slapping a 2.0 suffix on the end of every word in the dictionary then here’s mine: Marxism 2.0.