And indeed, I am very grateful for the honor, and more importantly the friendship of my fellow media ecologists!
By the way, if you want to see another cool award I received once upon a time, circa 2002, take a look at his post from 2007: My Day!
A blog for passing time, and passing messages about media, about media ecology which is the study of media as environments, about language and symbols, about technology, about communication, about consciousness, about culture, about life and the universe, about everything and nothing, about time...
It’s summertime, and the readin’ comes easy, and time itself is a topic of great interest for me. I was thrilled to learn of the recent publication of Time Reborn: From the Crisis in Physics to the Future of the Universe (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), by physicist Lee Smolin, where he argues for a position I’ve long held to be true, that time is more fundamental than space. On a similar theme, but coming from a very different angle, I also plan to read Keeping Together in Time: Dance and Drill in Human History (ACLS Humanities) by our greatest living world historian, William McNeil.
On the subject of media and culture, I have lined up Oral Tradition and the Internet: Pathways of the Mind (University of Illinois Press) by the late John Miles Foley; I saw him give a talk on this topic a few years ago at an annual meeting of the Media Ecology Association, and know that he makes an important contribution to our understanding of media environments. I am very interested in how the electronic media undermine print-based concepts of identity, which is why The Digital Evolution of an American Identity by C. Waite (Routledge) is a must read as far as I’m concerned. Returning to the theme of time, Douglas Rushkoff‘s latest, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now (Current) is high up on my list of priorities. And looking back to an earlier time, the origin of monotheism, related as it is to the introduction of the Semitic alphabet, is another subject of significance for me, which is why my list includes From Gods to God: How the Bible Debunked, Suppressed, or Changed Ancient Myths and Legends (Jewish Publication Society) by Avigdor Shinan and Yair Zakovitch.
Having been absolutely blown away by the new Hannah Arendt film by Margarethe von Trotta, which I highly recommend as an excellent audiovisual supplement to any summer reading list, I want to return to her final work, The Life of the Mind (Mariner Books), which was edited by her best friend, the novelist Mary McCarthy (who plays a significant role in the film). I’m also planning on digging into The Self Awakened: Pragmatism Unbound by Roberto Mangabeira Unger (Harvard University Press).
Last year, at the Players Club in New York, I heard the late M. Z. Ribalow do a reading from his outstanding novel, Redheaded Blues (NeoPoiesis Press), and I have been looking forward to sitting down with the book for a long time now. Back on the subject of time, I know I’ll be enjoying Paul Levinson’s latest time travel novel, Unburning Alexandria, (JoSara MeDia). And when it comes to graphic novels, there is no question that I am going to devour Vol. 18 of The Walking Dead (Image Comics). I have grown increasingly more fascinated at the way the plot of the television series diverges from the story told in the comics.
One of the great summertime pleasures is picking up a book of good poetry, and This Poem by Adeena Karasick (Talonbooks) promises to be a literary, aesthetic, and intellectual delight, judging by all of the rave reviews that it’s received. And finally, I’m not making any promises, but I have this copy of John Milton’s The Complete English Poems (Knopf) waiting to be read…
There may be insurmountable challenges to the idea of keeping certain entertainment content off the Internet permanently, but that's apparently how Time Warner intends to fight cord-cutting, which has become a growing scourge for the pay-TV industry. For one thing, "television programming is simply not valuable enough to restrict it to a single screen," said journalism prof Rich Hanley.
Time Warner Cable appears to have come up with a strategy to help stem the flow of cord-cutters -- that is, people abandoning pay-TV for the free or lower-price content available on the Internet. The company is offering incentives to content providers to withhold certain properties from online entertainment platforms, according to a Bloomberg report citing unnamed sources.
Other pay-TV operators are offering similar incentives, according to the report.
Time Warner Cable reportedly has since acknowledged the incentives, noting that exclusivity is a regular practice in the entertainment industry.
Limited distribution is clearly an entrenched practice in the entertainment industry, but TWC appears to be trying to keep some content off the Internet permanently.
TWC's tactic may succeed in delaying the inevitable -- at best.
This initiative is reminiscent of Kodak's attempts to stave off the digitization of photography, said Paul Schneider, chairman of the Boston University Department of Film and Television.
TWC "needs to find the best business model possible that accepts the fact that most, if not all, content will eventually end up on the Internet," he told the E-Commerce Times.
"Time Warner is swimming against the tide of television history and demographics with this move to wall off content from Internet distribution," said Rich Hanley, associate professor and director of the graduate journalism program at Quinnipiac University.
"Television programming is simply not valuable enough to restrict it to a single screen that limits viewership," he told the E-Commerce Times.
The rumored TNW plan doesn't appear to be a winning idea from a practical perspective, either.
The incentives Time Warner provides would have to be greater than what the content producer could get on its own through broad, free distribution via YouTube, iTunes and Amazon, noted Brad Morehead, CEO of LiveWatch.
"Distribution alone from Time Warner isn't enough anymore to entice a content provider into a deal," he told the E-Commerce Times. "Even with Time Warner's distribution as the second largest cable provider in the country, you are still only accessing a small portion of the market."
Content providers face a serious disadvantage when considering an exclusive deal with a cable company, continued Morehead. The content provider will get access to fewer eyeballs and may even anger potential audiences. Also, there are some areas where Time Warner just isn't available.
"That makes it challenging to develop a passionate national audience and the viral, word-of-mouth buzz that content producers want," he pointed out. "The only options then for people out of the Time Warner market are to either illegally pirate the content online or find something else to consume."
TWC may have bigger concerns than media providers reluctant to grab its incentives.
The pay-TV business model in general is in trouble -- and not just because of content on the Internet, observed Lance Strate professor of communication and media studies at Fordham.
"Packaging a variety of unrelated programs together on one channel has been a matter of convenience for broadcast television, and packaging a variety of unrelated channels together has also been a matter of convenience for cable companies," he told the E-Commerce Times.
"Now that alternatives exist in the form of a la carte services and on-demand programming, it is only a matter of time before a big shakeup occurs in the cable industry," predicted Strate.
That's not to say it's the end of days for the industry or TWC. There is content that people will still pay cable providers for -- starting with sports.
"Live sporting events have always been a key driver for the adoption and retention of programming services," said Chet Fenster, managing partner at MEC Entertainment.
"Sunday Ticket on DirecTV was a huge differentiator when it came into the market," he told the E-Commerce Times. "Original comedies and dramas have been important for HBO and Showtime in driving loyalty, but it's nothing compared to sports."
Time Warner Cable did not respond to our request to comment for this story.
Packaging a variety of unrelated programs together on one channel has been a matter of convenience for broadcast television, and packaging a variety of unrelated channels together has also been a matter of convenience for cable companies. Now that alternatives exist in the form of a la carte services and on demand programming, especially via the internet, it is only a matter of time before a big shake-up occurs in the cable industry. TimeWarner Cable knows that the days are numbered for the subscription-based model that it has been operating on, and is seeking to delay the inevitable. Providing exclusive content is a time-honored strategy, movie theaters still use it via delayed video releases, for example. The kinds of programming that will help to retain subscribers will include live events, especially sports, and the kinds of quality television series that HBO and Showtime have become known for.
Making original cable series available on the internet, for example through Netflix and Hulu, did provide a temporary boost to cable viewership, as individuals who missed earlier episodes or seasons could get caught up and then watch the newest season on cable. But ultimately, the practice proved harmful, in that many found it a more satisfying experience to watch an entire season or series in a concentrated manner, over a shorter period of time, not losing the continuity of episodes as they are spread out over a longer period of time. TimeWarner can provide its customers the best of both worlds if they can get an exclusive deal, and grant their customers exclusive access to the programming online as well as through their cable system. Content producers may be willing to go along with this for the time being, in the interest of short term profits, but in the end I believe there will be too much to be gained from making their content available to larger audiences, and eventually we may all be watching programming through Amazon and iTunes, rather than TimeWarner and Comcast.