Why All Media Platforms Must Fragment

18 10 2007

Media must fragment to remain meaningful.

Note: For a deeper look at this topic please read the short historical essay on Facebook in the previous post.

Every form of media is destined to fragment. The time it takes varies, and is getting shorter and shorter, but nonetheless it is inevitable.

A long, long time ago media wasn’t scalable. In the Vaudeville days patrons would shell over a few cents to watch a show that was essentially unique every night. With the advent of the motion picture, shows could be filmed and reproduced. Then the first movie theaters were built allows large groups of people access to rudimentary black and white, silent pictures. At this time content was irrelevant as it was the experience itself that was entertaining. This soon changed, more theaters were built and sound and color were added; however, production costs quickly escalated requiring larger and larger audiences to build economies of scale. Thus, films were made to appeal to a large audience much like they are today.

Then the television was introduced. Television started with a very limited set of content providers, The Networks, and the business model changed to revolve around advertiser subsidization. Over time as production costs decreased and distribution opened up with the advent of cable television, TV fragmented. Cable channels catered to consumer niches. It did quite well as people crave content that is meaningful to them, and mass media can never be meaningful to everyone, just a large subset, if that. No one could have predicted that there would be a channel dedicated to home improvement. Around this time some smart fellow realized that since cable channels catered to a niche, they should be able to charge a targeting premium to advertisers. This concept who grow to become the silver bullet of digital advertising.

Note: I am focusing on one subset of media, but radio and print also went through the same transformation.

Now lets fast forward to the information age where content is 100% free to distribute and basically free to produce. When launching a brand new media platform today you have to flip the old model on its head and first appeal to a niche to gain traction, this is the Bowling Pin method outlined in Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore. Then you build out slowly and eventually try to cross to the chasm to hit the mainstream, then wait around to be bought by Google.

However, this is where media’s need to fragment manifests itself again. As the platform embraces the mainstream it loses touch with the initial core user base. These same core users will then flock to another media platform that better understand their needs. However, it is also important to note that the 800 lbs. gorilla doesn’t die it just becomes a Network, and when there is a new mass media platform there is always room for smaller more targeted mini-networks. For example when Myspace came along it was dedicated to music lovers, but quickly out grew the niche. Myspace has the numbers so music lovers will still use it connect to their favorite bands, but there are a slew of niche music social networks and music discovery sites that have smaller communities dedicated to specific bands or genres. Furthermore, these smaller niche sites, much like cable channels, are commanded much higher CPMs. This is supposed to be solved by new targeting systems that will be built into Facebook and Myspace; however, they will never command the prices of a truly dedicated network.

Fragmentation is merely a social screening process.

Fragmentation is the opposite of convergence which still lingers as a popular buzzword, but much like how people don’t want a cell phone/computer/remote/toothbrush/music player, people want their media platforms to remain separated because they serve distinct functions. Personally, I used Facebook to socialize and Linked In for professional networks. I no desire to have those two worlds reside in the same space. New/Social Media overload is a common topic today as well, but it is a problem isolated to a small group of early adopters. The average person isn’t having any issues juggling the 2 or 3 social networks they are members of.

This is a personal opinion based on anecdotal evidence, I’m very interested in hearing responses.

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4 responses

18 10 2007
TV » Why All Media Platforms Must Fragment

[…] goyingus wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptOver time as production costs decreased and distribution opened up with the advent of cable television, TV fragmented. Cable channels catered to consumer niches. It did quite well as people crave content that is meaningful to them, … […]

18 10 2007
My Ghillie » Why All Media Platforms Must Fragment

[…] Check it out! While looking through the blogosphere we stumbled on an interesting post today.Here’s a quick excerptThen you build out slowly and eventually try to cross to the chasm to hit the mainstream, then wait around to be bought by Google…. […]

18 10 2007
Music » Why All Media Platforms Must Fragment

[…] unknown wrote an interesting post today onHere’s a quick excerptFor example when Myspace came along it was dedicated to music lovers, but quickly out grew the niche. Myspace has the numbers so music lovers will still use it connect to their favorite bands, but there are a slew of niche music social … […]

6 11 2007
Why All Media Platforms Must Fragment « Hyper Passionate Entrepreneurs

[…] Fragmentation is the opposite of convergence which still lingers as a popular buzzword, but much like how people don’t want a cell phone/computer/remote/toothbrush/music player, people want their media platforms to remain separated because they serve distinct functions. Personally, I used Facebook to socialize and Linked In for professional networks. I no desire to have those two worlds reside in the same space. New/Social Media overload is a common topic today as well, but it is a problem isolated to a small group of early adopters. The average person isn’t having any issues juggling the 2 or 3 social networks they are members of. Source […]

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