McAdams On: Platform Overload
5/12/2011 4:09:17 PM
LOS ANGELES: I parse around 500 headlines a
day in between fielding e-mail press releases while listening to news on the radio.
It’s no wonder I have the attention span of a gnat. Hence my smartphone resistance.
The last thing I need is another media “platform.”
We seem to be reaching platform saturation. You’ve
got your PC, your laptop, your TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, tablet, iPhone, iPad,
cable, satellite, Slingboxes, smartphones, dumb phones, mobile TVs and
*shudders* TV Everywhere.
We’re reaching the tipping point where platforms exceed content. This is why I happen
to know that Lindsay Lohan fell down in New York. Because, you see, this is “news.”
Google News, to be precise.
First there were the 24-hour news cable networks. Then
came the Internet. Everyone knows how the Internet changed news from a relatively
standard commodity to a free-for-all. But it also fractures stories into their smallest
respective parts in order to keep the headlines rolling. It’s less about substance
than speed and quantity. Dots, therefore, are left disconnected.
I was reminded of this by a handful of headlines this
week. Surficially, they seemed unrelated, but all had implications about the future
of media platforms and the access thereof. One involved Google selecting
Kansas City to launch its 1 Gbps fiber broadband network. Another was
about Fox demanding the Time Warner Cable pull its programming from an iPad app.
The third was nearly comical: “Republican Sticks Up for Broadcasters.” Notice the
singular. Then there’s the Federal Communications Commission giving away 10,000
WiFi routers, and finally, an interactive map on Zeit Online showing
how publicly available data can be used to track someone’s movements, almost down to the second
The micro view here is a set of disparate snits about
Internet-related items. Pull back and you see the wireless-versus-wired dynamic
shaping the future of information access in this country. Interesting that Google,
which successfully gained access to television buffer spectrum
a la white spaces, is
building out a fiber network. Physical networks are certainly more reliable and
more secure. Just check out Zeit
Online’s “ Tell-all telephone.” It’s a cell-phone data/Google map overlay
tracking six months of the exact whereabouts of a German politician who sued Deutsche
Telekom for his phone data. That’s one smart phone. A bit too smart.
Then we have the
FCC giving away 10,000
WiFi routers, ostensibly to measure broadband speeds. Speedtest.net seems like a more
economical alternative. Unless you’re evangelizing for wireless broadband.
Fox trying to keep tabs on its copyrighted programming. Conventional
wisdom these days posits that because broadcast network programming is delivered
over the air for free, it should be available to retransmit freely on other platforms.
I’m not sure why. Viewership on those other platforms isn’t measured. The business
relies on audience measurement, at least for the time being. Once the wireless industry
gains control of video distribution, you can bet they’ll control redistribution.
Then finally, a lone
Republican speaks up on behalf
of broadcasters, asking FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski to take an “even handed”
approach to spectrum policy. The chairman now seems hell bent for leather on giving
40 percent of the TV spectrum to wireless providers, as directed by the Obama Administration.
If the National Broadband Plan is perceived as being a pet project of a Democratic
Administration, there may be a backlash when the GOP regains power.
Whether we’ll have a wired or a wireless broadband
infrastructure in the future remains uncertain. Platforms, in the meantime, are
sure to proliferate.