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Thursday, April 06, 2006

Media Co.'s Love the Children. To Death!

While working at a bunch of different media companies I often found myself defending the violent, misogynistic, morally bankrupt, characatures of human behavior within the industry. Religious nuts, whiner's, and political opportunities would lament the media's role in everything from the decline of American civility to the increase in childhood obesecity. I would generally retort with one (or a combination) of the following basic statements:
a) Morbid: "Entertainment companies dont kill kids, we just sell the ads that do."
b) Psedo-Political: "All speech, political or entertaining, is protected speech."
c) Defensive: "Maybe you should take your overweight, hyperactive kid outside for an hour or two and interact with her, rather then complain about the job media companies do entertaining her for the 6 hours she not in school or asleep. Were the real parents you just pay hte bills. SO shut-up and stop your ballin'!"

While that last one always ends arguments, I'm not sure it wins them. I've often held the position that parents hold the power of "the purse" and "the curse". Kids cant buy anything without the permission and participation of their parental units who can also utter the worse curse in a child's vocabulary, the word "No"! It was my firm belief that parents bore the ultimate responsibility for their children and the media had little to no influence that good parents couldn't counter act.

Surprise, surprise, I may have been wrong! This months issue of Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine has published a series of papers pointing out some of the "health outcomes" of the media industry on young adults and children and it wasn't pretty. Now this isn't some bunch of bloggers or reporters with warmed over press-releases, its a well known, peer-reviewed, academic journal. The kind of publication where each paper is expected to have twice the number of citations as the age of its author. In other words, its a bit hard to write off the findings as poppycock and their authors as kooks. A quick look at the papers shows why they are so potentially explosive for the industry.

For your review I offer a look at the 5 most interesting sounding papers that appeared in this months Archieves. I highlight the question the paper is trying to answer, what it found, the probable reaction of the entertainment industry the official title of the paper and how the industry might rename it.
The Question: Do kids who watch more TV eat more food, specifically the kind advertised while they were watching?
The Findings: Kids that watched more TV ate more more of what they saw. Shocker!
Industry Reaction: SCORE!
Official Title: When Children Eat what they Watch.
Industry Tittle: Why TV Ads are Worth Every Penny to P&G.

The Question: Do kids who watch more TV ask for more stuff?
The Findings: Yes, kids that watch more TV ask for more stuff.
Industry Reaction: Duh! Its why we exists.
Official Title: Does Childrens Screen Time Predict Request For Advertised Products?
Industry Title: Why TV Ads are Worth Every Penny to Mattel.

The Question: How does violent games effect the body and mind of young men?
The Findings: Violent games bad! Unless your from a violent home then violent games normal.
Industry Reaction: We wont sell video games in violent homes.
Official Title: Effects of Media Violence on the Health Related Outcomes of the Young Men
Industry Tittle: Why Nerds and Sociopaths Shouldnt Play Violent Games, often.

The Question: Does watching TV effect time kids spend with friends?
The Findings: It might or it could be unpopular kids watch TV.
Industry Reaction: Research proves we're the friend of the unpopular kids.
Official Title: Is Television Viewing Associated With Social Isolation?
Industry Tittle: Why the entertainment industry is great for kids.

The Question: Do kids that watch more TV get more Action?
The Findings: Yup, kids that watched more tried to get more.
Industry Reaction: Were not as bad as the Super Adventure Club.
Official Title: Television viewing and the Rick of Sexual Initiation by Young Adults.
Industry Tittle: A Teenagers Guide to Ending the Dry Spell.

There are a number of other articles in the journal that are worth taking a look at but they all follow the general theme of lot os TV increases the chances of (insert possible negative behavior or result) in young adults independent of (insert whatever else you thought mattered more). These reports are sure to provide a wealth of ammunition for those advocating more control over the entertainment industries practices as it relates to kids.

Monday, April 03, 2006

In the Rush to Irrelevance, Baby Steps Count

You know that the movie industry has a great press machine when both the NY and LA Times carry stories about their latest efforts to prove that they have learned nothing from the last 7 years of media experience. You also know that the industry is on a long, slow march into irrelevance as both papers chose to lampoon their latest announcements rather then turn it into the usual piracy debate. The movie industry has clearly decided to follow in the footsteps of the record companies and pretend that people have no other options to its offering and are perfectly willing to pay more for less.

In a press release issued by Sony Pictures Home Entertainment (SPHE) the company touts the fact that its "digital sell-through business will commence with an initial slate of 75 titles that will include such films as Memoirs of a Geisha, Spider-Man 2, Taxi Driver, Barbershop, and Hitch." All of which can be downloaded for free, without restriction or registration in a shorter amount of time then either Cinemanow or MovieLink can deliver. The NY Times suggests that new movies may cost anywhere from $20 to $30 to download using either service and they will only be playable on your PC and they wont include any extra features commonly found on a DVD. Neither article offers any suggestions as to who would be willing to pay more for a less convenient product. Which by the way cost the industry less to offer to the user, since the cost of manufacturing is gone.

Both Dawn Chmielewski (writing for the LAT) and Saul Hansell (writing for NYT) see parallels between the movies industries current death march and the music industries trudge down the same road over 5 years ago. Its a marvel that no one in the movie industries seem to care. Ben Fiengold, Prexy of Digital Entertainment for Sony had this insightful comment to add, "Allowing consumers to download and own movies via their broadband Internet connection gives them more power to be entertained when and how they choose." Yes and its called BitTorrent.

The following mantra needs to be burned into the foreheads of anyone thinking about offering a media product for online use:
People aren't purchasing products online they are purchasing services and your service has to offer greater convenience, greater access, greater control, greater flexibility or a lower price to be valuable.