GenuineVC David Beisel's Perspective on Digital Change

April 10, 2006

Umair Haque has been an evangelist for the microchunking of media content – reducing content to its simplest unbundled form. Fred Wilson built on that notion saying that the “Future of Media” is to microchunk it, free it, syndicate it, and monetize it. I largely agree with this characterization of the direction digital media is headed, and have blogged a bit about the ramifications of it (e.g. Temporal Content and Advertisements Need Expectations).

As Umair notes in his dense but incredibly thoughtful Media Economics powerpoint, microchunking allows for content to be “aggregated and reconstructed in hyperefficient ways” to “explode the media supply” (pg 33). However, I wanted to put forth the distinction that I believe microchunking doesn’t mean microconsumption. Just because our media can be dis- and re- assembled into tiny bits doesn’t suggest that we’re going to consume it in a discrete and disconnected manner.

Newspapers didn’t do away with longer-form novels, nor did television sit-coms replace feature-length movies. Rather, these new forums for printed word and video, respectively, created new genres and media types. I suspect the same will hold true for microchunked digital content.

In a recent interview, the CEO of YouTube hailed “the birth of a new clip culture.” He’s right in saying that “There is a complete shift happening in digital media entertainment and users are now in control of what they watch and when they watch it… we are seeing an evolution of entertainment and media distribution — where the audience is now in control more than ever.” He goes on to say that “professional content is absolutely of interest with our viewers — so long as it is entertaining and short-form.” While long-form may not be YouTube’s business model (for likely legitimate reasons), I find it hard to believe the implication that we will fully shift to a “clip culture” where all content is consumed in short-form.

Longer-form content will be divided into pieces for people to remix, but I suspect that many will be very happy to consume it in its original state. Perhaps it’s merely semantics, but once several microchunks are reconstituted into something longer, the consumer’s “session” will be a longer form (whether it’s a series of video clips stacked, a fuller “personalized” newspaper, etc.) In other words, while content is trending towards consumption in smaller increments, and microchunking facilitates that change, I doubt that pendulum will completely swing in that direction. A good example of this in action – the day can’t be too far away when I can “watch” a baseball game in half an hour, with all of the plays microchunked and stacked together without intervals between pitches. Although the content is microchunked in this case, I would still sit back for an extended period to take it in. Microchunking without microconsumption. So while consuming content on a mobile device and other short-form states will trend upwards in the next couple years, sitting back to relax and watch/read won’t fade away.

In the end, people will indeed consume media where they want to and how they want to – including how long they want to spend with it. (And in the level of production quality which they want, but that’s the subject of another post).

  • Zach Coelius

    As usual I find myself agreeing with you. The history of media completely coincides with you thoughts as well. The creation of completly new modes of consumption do not replace, but rather supliment, previously existing modes.

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