Monday, November 03, 2008

Stages of An Entertainment Medium

Some thoughts about the lifecycle stages that entertainment media seem to have in common. Let me know your feedback and (please!) counterexamples.


The medium is brand new and typically reliant on new, immature and disruptive technologies. The cost of content creation is almost nil and, accordingly, poor quality. Content creation is the domain of individuals rather than companies. The new medium itself is revolutionary enough to sell what little content exists. Content is expensive to the consumers and margins for content creators can be large. Whatever stylistic conventions exist for content here are borrowed from other media (as film borrowed from stage, the novel borrowed from the romance). (However, because of early technical limitations, video games now look more like movies than they did in their infancy.) The conventions of the new medium begin to establish themselves and innovation is high, although craft is low.


Content quality increases somewhat and innovation is on the rise. No mechanisms are in place for quality evaluation besides word-of-mouth. Technology is still immature and further developments in technology change content. The cost of content creation is still low and corporations are displacing auteurs as the primary producers/creators of content. Much more content is sold and price remains high. Margins are large.


Highly influential quality content appears. The underlying technology matures and content form innovation wanes replaced by quality craftsmanship. Evaluation of content becomes important to consumers because of an explosion of choice. Critics, a concept of literacy and a vocabulary of criticism appear. The medium becomes mainstream and its influential content becomes a part of pop culture. References to the new medium become common in older media. Margins are enormous. An 'arms race' of craftsmanship appears and as a result, dominant content creators (corporations) competitively establish enormous barriers to entry for new participants.

Maturation & Refinement

Vast quantities of content flood the market. Content drops tremendously in price. Evaluation is absolutely crucial to weed out all but the best. Poor quality content is effectively ignored by consumers. The time it takes to consume the content is more valuable to the consumer than the price paid for the content. Margins decline as the cost of content creation spirals upward. Because of enormous cost and risk, innovation is confined to craft and polish. The medium is no longer 'new' and is vulnerable to disruptive technologies.

Eventually, there is a vast landscape of low-to-zero cost content. Only the best is ever consumed. Cost of creation is enormous and margins are slim. Related services, merchandising, advertising, product placement, endorsement employed to increase profits. Core innovation is low, craft is very high. The technology is mature and is vulnerable to disruptive technologies. More and more is spent against diminishing (though differentiating) improvements in quality.


The medium becomes a component of a more expressive and newer medium, while continuing to exist on its own.
  • Recorded audio becomes a part of movies

  • Radio (audio) - a component of television

  • Movies and recorded audio - a component of video games

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