By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Should you be worried? Capital Strategist Joey Tamer, whose advice on content distribution has made many of her clients millionaires, remains more optimistic than most that independent content on the Internet will survive the AOLTime Warner deal. But note the parallels to what happens to independent filmmakers: ”The indies are always squeezed, and they always re-emerge, and they get squeezed again, and re-emerge again,“ says Tamer. ”If a Web site is good and they hit a niche market, they can be a Miramax -- and if they achieve a following, and profitability, they‘ll be acquired by whoever wants that niche.“ So the good news is, if you’re in the content business, the party‘s far from over. And many pundits have noted both AOL and Time Warner’s histories of online-content failures, AOL‘s difficulties in managing acquired companies, and the soap-opera-diva clashes that can be expected between their conflicting corporate cultures. Perhaps, in the end, this deal will be a plague on both their houses.
But the problems of media consolidation go beyond the details of the AOLTime Warner case. A laugh-or-cry editorial cartoon in Multichannel News summed it up: An anchorman, reading a story about the merger, states, ”The new company will simply be called ’The Media.‘“
The big dangers with media monopoly are:
A. How long will it take before corporate bean-counters decide that one reporter can feed several AOLTW news brands?
B. More ”where else you gonna go, schmuck?“ extortionary deals with independent producers.
And finally, univision: It‘s comfy to work somewhere where you have a nice upper-class salary and stock options. But it’s tough to break out of the cocoon to empathize with, let alone risk your mortgage to report on, how the other 99 percent lives.
Will the Internet survive? Not even a question. After all, the Internet is far more than the commercialized Web everyone‘s familiar with. Will the overcapitalized, any-business-plan-you-can-get-a-venture-capitalist-to-fall-for Net survive? If it collapses, it won’t be because of this deal, but for the same reasons the CD-ROM boom went bust -- too many not-all-that-great-to-start-with ideas cannibalizing the same narrow customer base.
In fact, some veteran Netheads think the AOLTime WarnerTurner deal may be a blessing in disguise, by parking the masses at a megasite so the rest of us can bliss out on the academia and arcana of the true Internet. In other words, let them have Barnes and Noble so we can live in a Midnight Special, celebrity-bio-free zone.
But that‘s only part of the answer. The true Internet, the one that felt like it had changed your life, was about reciprocity. Everyone was both expert and novice, asking questions when they had to and sharing information when they could. It was a gift culture, and the gift was knowledge. AOLTime Warner represents not just a homogenized pop culture, in which knowing how many vampires Buffy has killed is more important than knowing the education budget, but a culture in which we are mere consumers of information. Steve Case talks about ”AOL Anywhere“ -- next-generation technologies that will bring AOL to TV screens and handheld devices. This strikes me as the information equivalent of a McDonald’s in Yosemite. Call me an elitist, call me a naive idealist, or simply nostalgic, but I‘d kind of just like to find trees and rocks and waterfalls.