The Boyle Conundrum: Old Media vs New Media

May 26, 2009

My New York Times today (May 25, 2009) contained an announcement of a price hike. The hard copy of the paper contained a story by Bran Stelter that had an amazing quotation. I found the statement indicative of the pickle in which traditional newspapers and “old” media find themselves. The story was “Payoff over a Web Singing Sensation Is Elusive.” The story is on the first page of the business section, and you may be able to find an online version of the story here. No guarantees, of course. The article is about FreemantleMedia Enterprises’ inability to monetize Susan Boyle, a contestant on Britain’s Got Talent TV show. Ms. Boyle, “frumpy Scotswoman” according to the New York Times, is a Web sensation. Despite that popularity, no cash flows to the show’s owners. The key statement in the write up in my opinion was:

The case reflects the inability of big media companies to maximize profit from supersize Internet audiences that seem to come from nowhere. In essence, the complexities of TV production are curbing the Web possibilities. Britain’s Got Talent” is produced jointly by three companies and distributed in Britain by a fourth, ITV, making it difficult to ascertain which of the companies can claim a video as its own.

Maybe litigation will provide the solution to the Gordian knot of “old media” and its business methods. Meanwhile, the price of the New York Times goes up and Susan Boyle videos get downloaded. Why not blame Google where a search for “Susan Boyle” returned nine million hits?

Stephen Arnold, May 26, 2009


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