OFF THE GRID

The Old Media Is Dead—Really, Truly

Sep 22, 09 | 9:31 AM   byMichael Wolff
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The world is about to radically change. Let me explain.

The Internet business, which began to radically change the world in the mid-nineties, stalled out in 2001 partly because the Internet didn’t work very well. It just wasn’t fast enough to do all the things it promised to do. Then high-speed connections became the norm and the business started to grow again. A new boom started around 2006 with the advent of widespread video and the expectation that the Internet would soon attract TV-like advertising and TV-like advertising dollars.

But after the first video-everywhere euphoria, and then the magic of YouTube, which made all videos playable, it soon became clear that video on the Internet actually sucked. It was convenient, but, with its low quality image and stop and start motion, not pleasurable.

Hence, advertising growth stalled. This is pretty much where the business is now. The Internet is an advertising medium where the ads aren’t very good because the pictures are messed up. Everybody expected a perceptual breakthrough with the advent of ubiquitous video online and it didn’t happen. The online video revolution basically flopped—which helps explain why there are still ads on television, even though everybody skips through them.

Now, the clumsiness of Internet video should not really have been a surprise. Internet connectivity is provided by cable and telecoms that are trying to control video distribution. So, obviously, they supply enough bandwidth to the video channels they control, and choke it in the channels they don’t. Duh.

And this is where the world changes, and—really—the revolution begins, with a bit of bureaucratic tinkering.

The Obama administration is set to implement new rules which would mandate that all Internet providers—Comcast, AT&T, Time Warner, and Verizon, for instance—must treat all traffic equally. Under this "net neutrality" rule, my video gets as much bandwidth as their video and is, therefore, as limpid and crisp (and, as importantly, the ads will be limpid and crisp—so you can ignore all that stuff about companies trying to charge for content, we’re back to selling ads). What’s more, these rules will also govern wireless-phone companies. AT&T won’t be able to control what’s on your iPhone.

This all sounds procedural and matter-of-fact. But, trust me, it’s a moving-mountains development. And, as has been promised and foretold for many years now, it really is the end of the old media as we know it.

Finally.

More of Newser founder Michael Wolff's articles and commentary can be found at VanityFair.com, where he writes a regular column. He can be emailed at michael@newser.com. You can also follow him on Twitter: www.twitter.com/NewserColumns.

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OFF THE GRID is about why the news is the news. Here are the real motivations of both media and newsmakers. Here's the backstory. This is a look at the inner workings of desperate media, the inner life of the publicity crazed, and the true meaning of the news of the day.

 

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