The Inevitability of Change

Certified genius

Many years ago, I woman I knew said she wanted to introduce me to a guy she was dating. He wanted to do something in television and maybe I could help.

So she took me uptown to an old townhouse on Riverside Drive in the 100s.

The walls were painted pink, there were mounted animal heads, massive furniture, and in the back, in the kitchen, I had a cup of coffee with Jim Rogers.

Today, you can see Jim Rogers on Fox News all the time. He got his TV show. Then, who ever heard of Jim Rogers. At least, I had not. He was just about to release his first book, Investment Biker, about his trip around the world on a motorcycle.

Jim Rogers was for many years partner and co-founder of the Quantum Fund with George Soros. Rogers’ particular genius was the ability to look at an event and understand the consequences for markets almost immediately.  “Take Chernobyl” he told me.  When the reactor at Chernobyl went critical, the first thing he did was…. buy potato futures.  “It was obvious that the Russian potato crop, which grows around where the reactor was, would suddenly be rendered useless. Potato futures would skyrocket”. And they did.

I tell you this story in some ways in response to yesterday’s posting The Handwriting on the Wall.

Certain events and certain technologies make change inevitable.

Like extremely high quality small cameras that cost $2000.

Many people wrote yesterday saying ‘but the BBC still uses big cameras’, and so on.

Well, of course they do.

Because a change is inevitable (as I believe this one is), it does not mean it happens overnight.

But it happens.

I am no Jim Rogers (if only). But I think I have been in this business long enough to be able to understand what is going to happen here in the long run.

We are at the convergence of three very long-term technological arcs.  Cameras are always getting better, cheaper and easier to use.  Edits are always getting better, cheaper and easier to use.  Were these the only two events, then the introduction of this new technology might be an option – maybe I like it, maybe I don’t. It is, however, the third trend which is driving the larger event.  As the web goes to video, (and as the web drains both viewers and advertising dollars from broadcast and cable, not to mention newspapers), the demand for video product is exploding.

As the demand for video product explodes, the price anyone can or will pay for that video product begins to be driven downward.  Video increasingly moves from being something ‘special’ to being a commodity in an increasingly competitive world.  And, as more and more people buy the inexpensive equipment and become better and better at making video products, the competition self-perpetuates and as volume goes up, price comes down.

It’s the market at work.

It doesn’t mean it happened yesterday.

And it doesn’t mean it will happen today….

but you can bet that it will happen tomorrow.

Just ask Jim.

He sold his house in New York and moved to Singapore.

He must know something the rest of us don’t know – or just don’t want to see.


11 responses to “The Inevitability of Change

  1. If you want to see the future of “big media,” just look to the music industry. Major labels and big retailers are facing extinction. The full-service recording studio is a thing of the past, now that any kid with a computer can make records in his/her bedroom. Homemade music on MySpace has a wider audience than manufactured pop hits on radio and TV. The advent of cheap, high-quality video gear is bound to have the same impact on video that the advent of cheap portastudios has had on music. The 64-dollar question is, how to make a living at it!

  2. the answer to the $64 question is the Ramada room at your local Holiday Inn.

    The answer to the $64,000,000 question is HAVE SOME TALENT

  3. Did you just say a “genius” works at “FOX.”

    Maybe I didn’t read that close enough.

    So…. is the Fox bashing going to stop now that you know someone who works for them? 😉

  4. He doesn’t work there… they just put him on the air!

    They could not afford him. He’s got more money than Rupert.

  5. Au contraire, there is no shortage of talent. As Rosenblum points out, this has driven the price down, so it’s hard for talented musicians (read: content providers) to make a living at it. Your local Holiday Inn is part of the “old”” music biz — it wants you to play note-for-note covers of manufactured pop hits. How to connect the talent with the audience, now that’s the BIG question.

  6. What MB is failing to appreciate is that the more the market is flooded with cheap and cheerful videojournalism and free user generated material from home video cameras, the more broadcasters will need to make something distinctive, something of high quality in order to attract audiences.

    And distinctive, high quality programmes must compete for production talent, That’s why there will always be a role for lighting cameramen.

    Basically the laws of market economics do not always mean that people go for the cheapest option. In some cases it means quite the reverse.

  7. Pete – I agree with your assessment on

    …broadcasters will need to make something distinctive, something of high quality in order to attract audiences.

    The lynch pin though is when you take those high production values that are distinctive, and integrate them with shooters who eschew all the baggage that comes from mainstream production, opting instead for taking those high production values, utilizing compact video gear and producing content that holds its own with the traditional means of creating distinctive content. And then applying it to the building ability of viewing HD contnet via the internet. Compression technology for real time delivery online is moving rapidly – viewers will no longer be tied to the corporate media’s idea of what they feel programming should be.

    Although no solid business model has been successful to date, the internet will be the destination for niche content that will have a solid advertising revenue stream to be profitable. It’s only a matter of time. More than likely, it will be Google leading that segment for advertising, allowing niche content creators and online broadcasting entities to selectively target the types of ads they feel will interest their viewers.

    Home Theater PC’s connected to broadband connections utilizing small energy efficient hardware will remove much of the gatekeeper mentality that has existed within traditional broadcast venues. Creation of custom channels, to be viewed when and where you want – that is the future of this whole medium.

    The best example right now that I can think of that mirrors this is

  8. i remember waking up as a young tot listening to this guy sing “it’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood”.

    fond memories

  9. Michael,

    The two most difficult things to see that is to perceive, are those things moving at very high velocity and those moving things moving slowly (relative terms). Your point is well taken. Because this progression is a process rather than an event it is not perceived. One need only look back to where TV newsrooms were less than 15 years ago to notice the profound change. We were all once using walkie talkies, those goofy Motorola sets with almost no battery life. Newsrooms had charger stations and film islands not thirty years ago. We were cutting firm! Bravos on another great post. All the best,

  10. Tom: whatever it is you think there is no shortage of – it isn’t talent. Talent is special, or else it doesn’t mean anything

    except in lake Way Begone where all the children are above average.

    The revolution in the music industry happened 50 years ago. Buddy Holly was the killer app who prised off the lid.

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