February 07, 2006
Big Media -What it must do to survive
What Comes After the Blockbuster? The Nichebuster
I am at the Entertainment Gathering conference in LA and there is a lot of talk about the death of the blockbuster. Wired editor Chris Anderson showed some nifty charts from his upcoming book on the Long Tail documenting the decline in hit albums, TV ratings, newspaper circulation, and the percentage of the movie industry's revenues contributed by the top-25 blockbusters. The chart for the music industry is the most dramatic:
In the past five years, the number of gold and platinum albums have been cut in half. Part of this no doubt has to do with the rise of illegal file sharing, but part also has to do with the greater variety of music now accessible in digital form, and the ease of searching and discovering that music. Anderson suggests that the hit album may have peaked with the March 21, 2000 release of 'N Sync's "No Strings Attached," which sold more than 11 million copies. Contrast that with Green Day's more recent "American Idiot," which sold less than 5 million. As the Wall Street Journal's Walt Mossberg (another speaker here) puts it:
There is a continuing breakdown in the power of the people who package this stuff for us.
At least, that's the new conventional wisdom. If people like Anderson are right that the long tail of content "collectively represents a market that rivals the hit-driven market we have known for a hundred years" and that "small is the new big," then where does that leave traditional media companies? Is all media going to be replaced by stuff that appeals only to an audience of one or two?
I don't think so. There is an opportunity here for media companies (as well as new professional-amateur entrants into the industry) to create content that appeals to targeted audiences of tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or even millions. I think the best of this content will come to be known as nichebusters: movies, songs, and stories that become extremely popular within certain, large niche audiences.
In other words, media companies will need to shift away from creating a few blockbusters every year, and instead try to create hundreds of nichebusters. Admittedly, this will be a big challenge. But if they do it right, media companies could actually reach more people and create deeper connections to many different audiences than they do today. Because for every blockbuster today there are at least three or four flops. That's often what happens when you try to appeal to everyone with generic, mass-market drivel: you end up pleasing no one.
Finely-tuned nichebusters might have a better chance of reaching smaller audiences. We just need a lot more of them than we have today, and find a way to create them more cheaply than today's blockbusters.
If media consumption is fragmenting, then so must the media industry.
Posted by Erick Schonfeld on Feb 02 at 10:51 AM in Culture of Participation, Media & Marketing | Permalink | Comments (4)