Is there really so little talent in the world? (And does Hollywood have it all already?)

from Oct 16, 2005

In doing some catch-up on the Web 2.0 conference that happened a couple of weeks ago, I came across Kaliya’s round up, where she remarks upon the rather inane statement made by television mogul Barry Diller:

Dumbest thing said on the stage:

Bary Diller dismissed the idea that citizens with blogs and video editing software were major threats to the entertainment industry. “There is not that much talent in the world,” Diller said. “There are very few people in very few closets in very few rooms that are really talented and can’t get out.”

 

 

When you think about it, that really is pretty dumb. This idea that the entertainment industry is actually open and accessible to new talent is a popular myth perpetuated by many who “make it” in Hollywood. But these “winners” fail to acknowledge that many talents languish their entire careers in the “paying their dues” struggle to make ends meet … and so many more simply never even try.

This blindness to the realities of creative talent in and out of the entertainment industrial complex is not new, especially when it comes to the internet. Mr. Diller’s attitude towards creatives is the very same attitude that helped to kill the broadband entertainment boom in the late ’90s: the idea that talent is cheap and that it’s the industry that actually creates entertainment content — presumably using Excel spreadsheets and lunches at Nozawa. Companies like pop.com and DEN blasted through tens of millions of dollars, spending nearly all of it on management and not on writers and artists and directors and producers and actors, and ended up closing their doors with precious little to show for it. In fact, Pop.com never even got started. As Red Herring noted (.pdf), these “experts” didn’t know what they were doing. And after these spectacular train wrecks and the dot bomb, the smaller players simply didn’t have a chance.

But now it’s six years later, and the net has changed, with faster, cheaper and better tools to create and distribute new media. And yet it seems that it’s not only Mr. Diller’s board members who agree with him:

Of course Diller is right about this. The ability to create doesn’t mean that everyone has the talent to create something outstanding. Which explains why the vast majority of private websites have a readership that’s generally composed of the friends and family of the creator. And there’s nothing wrong with this either. We’re not all Picassos, nor should we expect to be.

 

 

This is a fair point. Much of the net explosion is driven by individual expression for expression’s sake, never mind the ballyhoos.

But the real question is not what motivates most personal bloggers to blog, but what blocks motivated creators from creating. In other words, the real groundswell today is in the avenues of distribution, marketing and promotion that are emerging outside of the mega-corporate entertainment complex — avenues that not only can draw audiences away from the mainstream offerings, but can actually create and cultivate new markets for these new entertainment forms. The barriers to entry are so much lower than they were even 10 years ago, there are a lot more people with fires in their bellies who will be able to get past their “one of these days” speeches in the coffee shop and actually create and distribute things — product — that people want to experience.

We saw this when transistor radios exploded on the marketplace, giving Japanese companies in-roads into American markets. And we see it today with podcasting and video shorts and digital movies. The new media paradigm is disrupting the closed, top-down nature of the old media marketplace. Already large numbers of people are seeking out alternatives for news and narrative. And we’re only what, 5 years into blogs? 10–15 years of popular use of the internet? 2–3 years of significant broadband penetration? Pre-wimax and internet 2? We’re just getting started.

Then again, maybe it’s not such a surprise to hear Mr. Diller’s perspective in the context of the Web 2.0 conference. After all, when you have admission going at $2,800 and sponsorship from a veritable Who’s Who of internet industry corporations, maybe the appeal of “web 2.0” is not its disruption of existing hierarchies but rather the profit-promising idea that there’s a “new release” of the internet that everyone needs to buy into (again).

How successful they can be at branding the internet today as a version release, I don’t know. The phrase “web 2.0” has caught on, but it’s hardly descriptive of what’s happening. What these large corporations need is a certain degree of predictability in the marketplace, and the ever-evolving new media marketplace is just a little too fast and wild and uncooperative to make a “web 2.0” prospectus a very safe investment.

At least that’s how it seems to me now. It might all change tomorrow.


Originally published at pingv.com.