Online Video and the Perils of Business Morbidity

film-reelThere is a strange phenomenon in the media business; the on-going and constant diagnosis of death. Everything, it seems, is either birthed to kill or exists only until it can be killed.

There appears to be no middle ground. Video did not kill the radio star, yet three decades later we’ve learned nothing from The Buggles’ faulty thesis.

I suppose this need to pontificate on the coming of the reaper comes from a desire to prove an industry of savants. Perhaps it is the fulfillment of a repressed desire to be term life salesmen.

The problem with these proclamations is they mean little and prove less. If anything, they show an inability to think beyond black and white. If Apple’s new iRadio is the death blow to Pandora, Spotify and the lot, then the business models developed are at fault, not the sudden entry by a single, albeit significant, competitor.

Blackberry didn’t fail because Google and Apple joined the market, so much as they simply did not innovate to the future.

And therein lies the rub. It is absolutely possible for a newcomer to foretell the untimely demise of a pre-existing giant. But in most cases, the arrival of a new competitive force is a symptom, not the cause. The cause runs deeper and the headlines written upon the arrival of competitive alternatives likely should have been written beforehand.

So, what’s an industry built on pageviews and slideshows to do, if not breaking down the breakdown of past heroes? Perhaps we should theorize on how when something new is married to old, it creates something more interesting, with greater potential.

Video didn’t kill radio and Hulu, Netflix and social media are not the angel of death to television. Instead, the potential when combined via syndication, group viewing and the redefinition of the social watercooler promises something much more: a new golden age, not a somber end.

Nothing lasts forever, yet our desire to throw out the old threatens us from missing the green shoots growing everywhere around us, where old soil and new seeds have come together.

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