Modern Day Hatfields and McCoys? Media.

The animus that exists between traditional media and new media (linear media and digital media) befuddles me. I understand it as much as I do the longstanding battle between the Hatfield and McCoy’s…let’s hope this media battle isn’t as long.

But why the hate? Is it ego? Hubris? Lunacy? All three?

I find it hard to believe that with all the fancy educations so many of them have, from the developers to the upper echelon and corner offices, that they can’t see the obvious.

They’re two sides of the same coin.

Oh sure, they paint a picture like they are collaborators (Hulu, Maker Studios) and colleagues but, in reality, it’s the media equivalent of a cold war. détente rules the day…at best.

At worst, and more commonly, you see the media elite and their partners, scoff at companies like Vice (soon to become the fifth network…just wait and watch).

You know you are doing something right when the CJR profiles you (for better or worse), just check out this article from the Columbia Journalism Review on Vice.

Whether you watch entertainment and news on your television or read hard copies of books, papers or magazines or you watch entertainment and news on your computer or read books, papers or magazines on your computer, smart phone or tablet, or some combination of both, that’s media folks.

Period.

That said, the warlords of traditional media remain steadfast in highlighting the differences between traditional and new media. Mind you, they won’t tell you what those “differences” are, we’re just told “They’re different, that’s all you need to know…now gimme your money!”

Of course, it’s a fools game to say there are no differences between the two but they’re not nearly as large or complicated as we’re be led to believe.

But to be fair, it’s not just the Brooks Brothers suit wearing traditional media folks crossing their arms and saying “we’re different” it’s also the cotton pull over hoodie types who are equally as petulant. Unfortunately, it’s this pathological dedication each of them have to this “we’re different” philosophy that is hurting them, and ultimately, us.

If they could be focusing on their similarities they might find a way to do some interesting, creative and even profitable, work. But alas, they both seem focused on two things.

One, confusing the public (or in my case, just irritating me).

The most basic and widely held definition of media is “the main means of mass communication”.  I suspect we can all agree this includes television, newspapers, books, magazines and the Internet. So why does it seem that defining media is becoming as frustratingly obtuse as defining porn. We all know that battle has been going on for decades, In 1964, Justice Potter Stewart tried to explain ‘hard-core’ pornography, by saying…I know it when I see it . . . “

Now, if I read The New York Times paper, I realize that I am ingesting media. If I am looking at an illustration by Alberto Vargas, I realize I am looking at art.  Similarly, if I am reading The New York Times online, I understand I am also absorbing media. If I am watching a film clip that includes a streaming arc of jism, I am watching porn.

In short, physical paper and boobs, media.
Reading online and streaming arcs of jism, media.

Period.

Sooooo, how is it that those great Ivy League educated minds running the traditional media companies (and increasingly the new media ones) have so much difficulty understanding that? I suspect they do get it and why they continue to obfuscate it probably has more to do with pride and reporting financial results to the penultimate Ivy League idiot brigade that is Wall Street.

Which brings me to point number two on the similarities between traditional media and new media. Money. All this huffing and puffing, posturing, arm crossing and death glares between traditional media conglom’s and the new media folks can be boiled down to one thing.

Money.

On the one hand, there is traditional media’s reliance on hitting quarterly numbers for the clanging monkeys on Wall Street and new media companies desire to grab venture capital money and their wizardly way of portraying the potentiality of revenue or, better yet, being acquired or even better still go public to join the big media club.

Ever since the debacle that is often considered the worst merger in history, the AOL/TIme Warner merger of 2000, it seems as though a mutually beneficial (or synergistic, remember that buzz word) merger between a traditional media company and a new one is at least another decade away.

Facts being what they are, it is still the big ‘uns that generate the big money and new media companies simply don’t realize the game is stacked against them (Google, perhaps being an exception, Facebook will be acquired, Netflix will be acquired, etc).

But we ALL know how this plays out.
Don’t we?

Traditional media is not going anywhere and to think the likes of Gawker or Facebook or YouTube will overthrow or equitably merge with the traditional media war lords like Fox, Comcast or Viacom is naive (see earlier comment about AOL/Time Warner).

It’s always about money, in’it? And since that is the case, it’s the media equivalent of a David and Goliath scenario where we all suffer. New media is chasing a golden egg tied to a string that traditional media continues to pull away until they capitulate.

The one thing that traditional media and new media do share in common is that both are actively participating in the dumbing down of America. From a recent article in Psychology Today, Anti-Itellectualism is Killing America:

“Americans have allowed their democracy to slip away, their culture overtaken by enormous corporations that effectively control both the governmental apparatus and the media, thus shaping life around materialism and consumption.

Indeed, these corporate interests encourage anti-intellectualism, conditioning Americans into conformity and passive acceptance of institutional dominance.”

Harsh but true. New media reliance on listicle news and entertainment is neither informative nor entertaining and traditional media’s two minutes news segments provide no news and their focus on ridiculous talent shows is simply insipid. Both are designed to be uninformative and disposable.

It seems both are fighting for the same things, confusing (and dumbing down) the public and grabbing as much money as possible.

That said, there can be no denying that both traditional media and new media will eventually converge (another buzz word from 2000). Traditional media companies (like Comcast, Viacom or Fox) will gobble up new media companies (like Snapchat, Mashable, Buzzfeed).

The upside is new media paradigms will be born (like Vice…or, uhhh Vice).

The downside is that many of the new media companies are adopting some of the retarded practices of their traditional counterparts (arrogance, shitty pay, poor treatment of their workers, etc).

As the dust continues to settle with new media and as long as détente continues between traditional and new media, we can presume these modern-day Hatfield and McCoys won’t fight…too much. But since we live among them and rely on them, we are subject to their behavior. If only they could realize what we all know.

The long play for both traditional media and new media is a zero sum game. They can huff and puff and posture and pose, but the reality is that in the very near future there will be less than ten companies providing the lion’s share of media to us. That should scare you.

No matter how traditional media and new media try to confuse us by screaming “WE’RE NOT THE SAME” and chase their dollars, we know the truth, they are two sides of the same coin.

All this pissing and moaning and Hatfield and McCoy nonsense just needs to stop. It insults our intelligence…oh wait, that’s the point isn’t it?