It must be mid-holiday season again . While our minds are elsewhere , journalists are licensed to inflate and selectively invoke evidence of boom and bubble , to the point where we have all lost sight of reality in our wonderment that investor X has valued the start-up Y at $15 billion , before it has earnt a cent or its founders used a razor . Charles Arthur , a very knowledgeable technology journalist , set off down this track on Sunday in The Observer ( 17 August 2014).”New tech bubble – or new business model?” argues that bubbles may be harmful , but Arthur is too clever to do exactly what the silly season demands and write an article that gets liberal-minded readers pursing their lips and wondering if we really want all this new media technology , and whether bubbles threaten the economy just when the Brits have restored growth through a consumer housing purchase bubble . He knows as well as the rest of us that neither boom nor bubble nor bust accurately describe what has happened since the mid 1990s .
When we look back on the post-internet investment scene we will see that future technology became the bargaining card of present technology . In each five year period those who had succeeded in the previous period were forced to buy into the next generation in order to persuade investors post-IPO that they were not going to be overtaken by events . This inevitably involves paying silly prices for as yet undeveloped assets . Some of those bets will work , others will only work after constant re-iteration and when the market is ready for them . Some will fail and be quietly buried in the place where Mr Murdoch put My Space . But this is not bubble culture – it is building value in the only way that this market understands . This is never going to become “more realistic ” , since by its nature it has to be unrealistic to persuade us that it is serious .
But blow away the bubble talk and serious things really are happening . For a start , the UK football ( soccer ) authorities have suddenly discovered that users are recording highlights ( you know , those rare moments when someone actually scores a goal in the beautiful game with the ugly manners )and putting them on social media , where they are passed from hand to hand to no pecuniary advantage to the authorities . These administrators must be related to Rip van Winkle – where have they been dozing all these years ? And waking up and saying this must stop is not an answer . On the other hand , making it easier to do legally within a package offered by football to enhance user enjoyment could be a great move . Yet ,this is happening in the context of a shrinkage in the revenues generally earned from video , as the same network-invoked sharing capacity does to video what it has done to every media form . I was very excited by an article by Liam Boluk in Media Redefined (http://www.mediaredefined.com/a-redef-original-if-video-is-b-668292818.html?curator=MediaREDEF ) kindly drawn to my attention by Neil Blackley . This demonstrates in great detail the revenue decline in video , and shows us the inflationary and deflationary trends we really should be watching . Not who is paying over the odds for what , but what are users doing with this media avalanche that their networks now provide , and how do they value it .
So it is simply not enough to look at the video market and say it is all down to Netflix spoiling the party . Netflix was one of the over-valued start-ups a few years ago that journalists in mid-summer page fillers called empty bubbles . Liam Boluk points out how cheap US TV , wherever you tap into it , now is – and how very unproductive the licensing deals done by Disney et al have proved to be . He might have said how commoditized it now seems – unless you actually want a seamless palimpsest of low value advertising and entertainment , without the effort of selection , most channel based offerings in many parts of the world feel the same . Mr Boluk points out that the average US home spends less on video entertainment today than it did in 1998 , although volume consumed has risen . He says that the value of consumer rentals and purchases ,” which are critical to profitability for almost all content owners “, have fallen by a third in this period . Are we sure that the bubble is in the pricing of Snapchat , or in the Murdoch bid for Time Warner ?
Is there a solution to all of this ? Having stood , like old Tiresias , amongst the burning towers of Fleet Street and the regional press, having observed the desperate attempts of the book world to innovate without changing the business model , having watched the humbling and consolidation of the music industry , having witnessed the decay of business and professional media in print and the decline and fall of value in advertising markets universally , it is tempting to say No . But clearly that would be very wrong . Mr Boluk says the way forward for video is to find new ways of telling stories . And to find it in new forms in fields like mobile , and not just by reheating the archive product.
And how right he is . He cites the Virtual Reality player Oculus Rift( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oculus_Rift) as an example . While no one yet knows whether the Rift headset will succeed , the Facebook purchase , worth up to $2 billion if it earns out , will underline Facebook’s determination to stay a front line player as it too becomes commoditized – and to re-assure its investors of that intent . And VR is one of those many areas where huge promise is recognized , but constant iteration is needed to get closer and closer to the awakening pulse of the user . What we are watching here is a ceaseless beating of waves on a shoreline as a tide comes in , and a hugely exciting “after media” marketplace is revealed . No bubbles here at all .keep looking »