We live in an interesting time. The Internet and social networking have become powerful platforms for communication, political empowerment, entertainment, and education. We have witnessed junk mail morph into spam; direct “mail” campaigns are now conducted by e-mail, and referred to as “astroturf,” a play on grassroots organizing. Presidential candidates use Twitter, though perhaps not wisely nor well.
Media organizations that once seemed eternal, in print and broadcast, have morphed again and again, and either come out digital or died. Take Newsweek, rescued by Tina Brown, a former editor-in-chief of print giants like Tatler, Vanity Fair, and The New Yorker in the waning years of the the 20th century, via her “Daily Beast.” The Beast, thriving in 2016, already has “…a colorful history from its Tina Brown roots through its tragic May–December marriage with Newsweek, the operatic divorce and now its arrival as a business-model leader in the wide, wacky world of digital news and features.” Change and transformation not only happens in news media, but it happens faster in the 21st century.
Though the recession of the 2009 accelerated the pace of structural change in business, digital technology moved transformations in politics, social and personal relationships along at a faster pace in a shorter time frame than ever before.
Mass media vies for public and private attention with niche media, social media, personalized, portable media, and the content we all can create and share easily. At JWT (formerly J. Walter Thompson) one of the world’s premier advertising agencies one slogan is “Time is the new currency.” In the 21st century, our time and our attention as individuals and as consumers are resources as important as gas, oil, and steel were in the 20th century.
The day the Muzak died has come, and gone, as “elevator music” morphed into part of Mood, a marketing solutions corporation where a business can find “a music all its own and voice that says, “This is who we are.”
From Detroit to Hollywood, traditional business models are failing to make money in a new economy of information and attention. Newspapers and broadcast news, books and printing, Hollywood and movies, television and radio, the music business, advertising, telephone, and telecommunications, entertainment businesses from sports to electronic games have had their business models disrupted and transformed as our formerly analog world becomes a digital world.
Businesses that profited when they could capitalize on scarcity and high distribution costs, are floundering. A recent survey by the European Union found that “an awful lot of people have absolutely no interest in paying for content, no matter what — and that the entertainment industry is exaggerating the impact of things like file sharing, since so few people would actually pay for the content in the first place (even if it weren’t available for free.)” And yet Radiohead, OK GO, David Byrne and other musicians offer their work in free and paid versions, and make money.
How we play, how we work, how we live, and the way we relate to each other are all changing, as the “tubes” become the important highways for commerce and industry today. We could argue about whether the changes in our culture, communications, businesses, education, and economic relations are “good” or “bad,” but by the time we settled the arguments, the changes would be set in stone, and hard to modify.
Instead, let’s tread lightly through some heavy ideas, with the intention of creating a structure for sorting out and examining trends, shifts, old and new ways of doing things. Though it seems most of the news about the economy and business is bad, there are trends, theories, and emerging business models that indicate things are changing, yes, but not necessarily disappearing. For those who know how to learn and keep learning, the future is bright. 5th Estate is designed to help you map out a route, avoid detours and dead ends and get where you want to go, as you move through your career.
For 200 years, the Industrial Revolution has been shaping and transforming our work, play, governments, social relations, and the earth itself.
Economic and political changes reflecting the new techologies and the shift in economic power, included the growth of cities, the development of working-class movements, and the emergence of new patterns of authority. The time of the craftsman working with hand tools, morphed into a machine operator, one cog in the machinery of the assembly line.
The revolution became an Industrial Age. The Western nations became global powers that thirsted for natural resources to convert to goods and energy, and looked for an increasingly industrialized workforce. As nations became industrialized, they took colonies, and exploited the raw materials, of the colonies and nations that did not have the infrastructure nor government to protect them. During this 200 years, there was increasing urbanization, world-wide.