Friday, June 03, 2005

Deconstructing Everything

We live in a world of tracks. Any one of us can deconstruct the packaging surrounding our favorite things.

Technology now enables us to buy one track (one song) without suffering through a whole album. We can select the sounds that make us happy and discard the artist’s attempt to try something new, old, borrowed or blue.

And we can build our own packages rather than rely upon marketers and promoters to package content for us. Very soon all our choices will be available for individual selection and combination. The pre-processed, fed-from-above world we once knew will become a giant salad bar free-for-all.

We’ll pick just the stories or just the writers we care about in print, watch only the great episodes of favorite shows, ditch the dreck baked into the compilations that programmers and packagers have foisted upon us in favor of our own podcasts.

Before long anyone will be able to mix their own newspaper, magazine, email newsletter, music, video or audio for use in fixed locations or to take with them. Imagine a world of specially mixed scenes on disk to amuse the kids during your drive to the beach. Or a different mix to get them ready for bed. The only gating factor will be having the time and interest to produce content for yourself.

People 30+ are not used to this process, even though as teenagers we made our own mix tapes using reel-to-reel recorders. But kids (20 and younger) hardly have the tolerance for traditional mixes, like TV networks, newspapers, albums or even DVDs and video games.

They think in segments. They expect tracks. They demand choices. They are incredibly media-savvy and judgmental. They are killers with a remote. They will invest in their own gratification because it’s intuitive, easy and accessible.

This completely changes the media game. We have to think like Billy Joel’s “Piano Man” in units of 3 minutes and 5 seconds max instead of 30 minute sitcoms, 1hour dramas or 2 hour movies. We have to understand that there is no more tolerance for the “boring stuff in the middle” because we have raised a generation that multi-tasks with multimedia and has lighting instincts and highly tuned filters.

As content producers we have to think and act like telemarketers. Sometime in each thirty seconds of conversation we have to “close” for the right to have the next thirty seconds of conversation. If we don’t, we’re tail lights. Similarly we have to conceptualize messages not as a cohesive thirty second spot, but as a string of bytes that can exist independently and hang together for thirty consecutive seconds of meaning.

Tracks make you re-think the whole game.


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