The Coming Era Of Mega Media

by Shelton Bumgarner

The more I think about it, the more it makes sense that we’re one recession away from something extraordinary happening to the worlds of telecommunications and content production and distribution. Once Net Neutrality is officially dead, the issue of access and content will again fuse like it did back when Yahoo ruled the online world.

At the core of it all is the cold hard fact that online advertising is based on a lie started by Wired on Hotwired about 1994 when they did the first banner ad. Online advertising is a lie because, well, it doesn’t work and never has. The whole thing is a lie. People just don’t notice online ads and usually when they click on then, it’s by accident. Of course, that causes companies to come up with any number of different ways to fake you out and present you with ads they feel you’ll want because of your online behavior. That, in fact, is the entire business model of Facebook and to a lesser extent Google (as I understand it.)

What I believe is going to happen is this — the top three Websites (Amazon, Google, Facebook) are going to buy the top three access companies (AT&T, Verizon, Comcast) within the next two, maybe four years max. Once that happens, a basic problem of the post-Net Neutrality world is fixed. What will happen is these new mega media companies will buy up all the smaller players they can find and begin to give consumers a wide-array of package options while making sure their individual offerings are part of the “basic” package.

So, here’s how it would work out in real terms — 80% of the population would be covered by three mega companies when it comes to access. The battle between these three mega media companies will likely be blood thirsty because they know once they lock you into their package offering, you’re unlikely to ever leave. These three mega media companies will have a vested interest in having as wide a selection of content as possible because they know if you have to pay to access content not owned by your mega media company you’ll be angry and maybe even switch companies. But at it core, you’ll have three options: commerce (Amazon), social media (Facebook) and, well, Google (Google.)

Let’s pause to reflect on what a direct battle between these three mega media companies would look like. Google obviously has the means, motive and opportunity to do a lot of damage simply because it has the resources. Now, let me be clear — all of this is back of the envelope predicting. I’m simply observing that companies who up till now have based their entire existence and business model on consumers having “free” access to them will have every reason to buy an access company once Net Neutrality dies. There’s always a chance that Google et al will find being access companies too much of a hassle and they’ll simply subside consumers access to them instead of buying an access company.

But having said all that — a direct battle between Amazon, Google and Facebook would be jaw-dropping. It would make a lot of sense if they bought up small and medium content providers so flesh out their offerings. The crux, again, is what would be the “basic” offering for your $60 a month Internet bill. That’s where it gets really interesting. It’s possible that in a weird way we’ll return to the days of three major broadcast TV companies, only online. The idea of a “portal” will come back in a big way, but with a completely different context. Everything in the “portal” you subscribe to will be throw in with your access bill and everything owned by a competing mega media company will cost more.

Things like email suddenly become very important again because access and content will be fused. It definitely makes a lot of sense that Verizon would buy both AOL and Yahoo and then, like, uh….park them. Maybe they have a hunch that portals will come back again and suddenly be very valuable? Why by *two* major ancient Internet brands. Could be they’re just misguided and lucky, because I could definitely see both AOL and Yahoo becoming valuable assets again.

Some wild cards exist in this new era. What does Apple do? What happens to Twitter, Spotify and Netflix? That’s going to be interesting to see how all of that shakes out. Once these tectonic forces kick in, Apple may feel forced to swoop in and change everything, buying, say AT&T after a bidding war with Facebook? Apple does have gobs and gobs of money and there comes a point where you make more money off of investing than interest on your savings. And I have a hunch Facebook would only get into the access business and turn itself into a portal if it felt an existential threat after the end of Net Neutrality.

I do think that the rise of mega media companies will possibly herald a new age of prosperity for small and media companies online for no other reason than, well, their original owners will cash out, they won’t be independent anymore and their content will be provided as a value added service in the context of any number of segmented Internet access plans. And, remember, none of this is going to happen in a straight line. One the next recession strikes and access companies feel they can begin to screw over consumers in a big way, it’s very likely mass chaos and panic will strike while things get sorted out. So it could be very ad hoc in nature and done gradually over the next, say, 5 years in such a way that only in hindsight will we realize what’s happened.

And, as I keep saying, MX is just over the horizon. In other words, once VR / AR takes off in a big way, everything will be reset and all of this I’m talking about will be very, very moot.

Shelton Bumgarner is a writer and photographer living in Richmond, Va. He is working on his first novel. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail (dot) com.

Write What You Know, Part Duh

by Shelton Bumgarner

I have a pretty good conceit for a novel, I am simply struggling with fleshing it out. I just have to trust myself. What makes this concept great is it lends itself to be all character. That’s one of the reasons why I like it. I learned a lot working on the scifi novel I’ve been writing about for the last two months or so.

One think I learned is the significance of character. Character is really what drives a plot and as such that’s what you have to think about the most as you write out the general synopsis. I am using a wide-array of things that I personally know something about, throwing them into a pot then throwing in some characters that I’ve long wanted to write about.

Anyway, I’m really struggling with the latter part of the plot at this point. What happens after the mid-point twist, specifically. I’m trying to figure out what, exactly, happens to increase the drama of the story. It’s looking like this may turn into a thriller simply for no other reason than it helps structure the plot. My fear is, as I may have said before, that this will turn into a mish-mash of The Girl With Dragon Tattoo and The Bonfire Of The Vanities.

But we’ll see. I hope to wrap up the plot synopsis today and start to actually write the scene summary by the end of business today as well. I just have to trust my creativity. I have to allow myself to think as creatively as possible and lean into character develop as well.

I have a whole host of issues when it comes to developing the characters that I know I want. I know I want the female romantic lead to be really interesting — Lizbeth Salander interesting — and the only thing I have to lean on is the personality of the late Annie Shapiro, who I ran a magazine with in Seoul about a decade ago. So one of today’s tasks is to figure out how and why someone of her background would endup where I need her to be for the sake of the story. I hope to think that out during the course of the day.

But, in a sense, now that I have a lot better grasp of the task ahead of me, it’s kind of exciting. I have a much better understanding of what is needed. Again, however, I’m a little reluctant to turn the story into a straight thriller. That’s not my vision at this point. I guess that could change out of desperation, if nothing else.

V-Log: By 2020, Facebook May Be A Portal & Own AT&T

by Shelton Bumgarner

I have a feeling things are going to change dramatically when it comes to online content.

V-Log: Mulling A New Novel I’m Developing

by Shelton Bumgarner

I like the idea of writing a novel strictly based on “what I know.” As such, I’m developing a novel based on several different things that I’ve experience first hand, only greatly exaggerated and dramatized. Anyway, I’m not going to live forever, so I need to get some work done. I need flesh out the synopsis as soon as possible. I’m using the experience I garnered from the last two months of hard work developing a scifi novel to hopefully speed up the process with this novel concept.

We’ll see, I guess.

You, Like, Have To Have Conflict, You Know

by Shelton Bumgarner

I hate conflict. So, it goes without saying that such proclivities cause problems when thinking up a plot. But I have a general concept — that two small town reporters stumble across a national news story — and that’s the basis of plot I’m mulling right now. I’m using what I’ve learned over the last two months of hard work developing a scifi novel to hopefully speed the process of development of this story up significantly.

I have the general concept of structuring a novel down pat, now I have to flesh the concept out by ramping up stakes and creating engaging characters that people will want to hang out with for 200,000 words. My fear is that if I’m not careful, the concept will become a muddled mish-mash of The Girl With Dragon Tattoo and The Bonfire of The Vanities.

But, I don’t know. I going to try to work on the new concept all day today for no other reason than I need to work on something, anything, rather than stare at Twitter all day.

The End Of Net Neutrality & The Prospect That Facebook, Amazon Or Google Could Buy A Telco

by Shelton Bumgarner

Once Net Neutrality finally, finally ends, there’s a good chance all hell will break loose between telcos and content providers — or more specifically the major websites of the Net who’s lifeblood is access. It would make a lot of sense in the next, say, two years, for Facebook in a mad struggle to keep access to its site “free” might buy a telco. It sounds bonkers now, but if consumers are being squeezed dry of money through any number of crazy access plans, Facebook — and Amazon and Google — might feel their hands are forced.

So, right now, you have Facebook, Amazon and Google as the major Websites on the Web. Meanwhile, Verizon, AT&T and Comcast are the big three access companies. Hence, I believe there’s going to be a lot of mixing and matching between these six different companies in the next few years.

The wild card, of course, is Apple. I could see Apple buying Nexflix then turning around and buying…Verizon?

Anyway, I think that’s the whole reason Net Neutrality was killed. The Powers That Be know there are epic sums of money to be made in M&A ones it’s gone and, well, consumers are fucked. At least in the short term until the MX Era begins around 2024.

Some Personal Thoughts On Novels & Screenwriting

by Shelton Bumgarner

I really love movies and I can come up with movie concepts really, really easy. I’m of the opinion that if you have a pulse, you can come up with a movie concept. The issue is simply hard work. The internal logic of a movie is such that you can get away with some pretty astonishing things that you could never get away with in a novel for no other reason than you have to, like, uh, explain shit in a novel in a way you simply aren’t required to in a screenplay.

Alas, while I can come up with movie concepts really easily, I don’t have the money to buy Final Draft, so I’m stuck writing novels. Or at least trying to write novels. I have a few solid novel concepts floating around in my mind and it’s just a matter of doing the hard work of developing them to actually get anything done.

I really love the culture of screenwriting from what I can tell about it from the outside and I have the skillset needed to be successful — at least in my own fevered imagination. I love to write, tell stories and socialize. That’s pretty much what you need to have, at least in my opinion, to be a successful screenwriter.

Anyway, I’m getting better at the structure of stories. If I could find someone to be a writing partner with, I would probably be more interested in screenwriting. But no matter what, I have to put in the hard work. That’s the thing about it all — nothing happens without a lot of work.

Let’s Flip The Script (For The Time Being) — Trump & The Bonfire Of The Inanities

by Shelton Bumgarner

As I have written about at great length, I’m working on a scifi novel. While I’ve been developing it in my mind for about 7 years now, only in the last few months have I been hard at work developing it in any real way. Now that I realize what the story is about — and the characters — I realize do to the story justice I have to go in directions I’m not quite prepared to go.

As such, I think I’m going to cool it on that front for a little bit. I know I want to tell a story, I just don’t know if the scifi concept is THE story I want to tell right now. Anyway, I have a vague notion of a novel concept that is much more personal and easy to write — I think. But it’s really gauzy and muddled at this point and I would definitely have to do a lot of thinking and developing of the concept AGAIN before I sat down to do a scene summary.

But it’s worth a try. I’ve been doing pretty much nothing the last few days and it’s time to be productive. I may bounce back and forth between the scifi concept and this new concept simply to keep myself interested, if no nothing else. But the new concept is probably going to be inspired by — not based upon — the FOTUS imbroglio of Trump – Bechard – Broidy. I have a general framework of the story at this point, I just have to flesh it out.

What I don’t want is the story to turn into some sort of Trump Era “Bonfire Of The Vanities.” That’s not my goal. I know I want to do a character study of sorts and do so in a way that only a 200,000 word novel affords. Anyway, I think I have things figured out. But I don’t know. It’s going to take a little while.

V-Log: Recession, The MX Era, Net Neutrality’s End, The Return Of Portals & The Access Wars

by Shelton Bumgarner

There’s a reason why Net Neutrality died — there’s lots and lots and LOTS of money to be made by access providers by blackmailing the major Websites of the Internet into subsidizing consumers’ access to online content. So, what is going to happen very soon — I predict within two years — is initially access providers will attempt to force you into using their basic online services by making them part of their basic access package. In essence, they will try to force consumers into something akin to the online services of the 1990s.

Either this happens very abruptly without any notice and everyone gets really mad, or before access providers do this, the major Websites get wind of it and they, in a panic, come to some agreement. So, what happens is, Google throws about a $1 billion at Verizon, Comcast, etc, so the end-user doesn’t see any difference in their access to Google’s services. Meanwhile, the other major players do the same.

The big question is what happens to smaller players who don’t have the money to throw around. Probably what happens is there is consolidation and segmentation. So, the Web finally matures when everyone currently “making money” off of the lie of online advertising either go out of business or get bought out by either a major access company or a major online company.

As such, it doesn’t take a lot of thinking to see properties like AOL and Yahoo could very well see a renaissance. Online a portal could give consumers the opportunity to access a wide-range of content in a way they’re used to. Because once Net Neutrality dies, you’ll probably see a lot of segmentation with just a few sites (Google, Netflix, Facebook, Amazon & Twitter) being almost like the broadcast networks of yore in the sense that everyone will have free access to them. Everyone else will be screwed in the sense that you’ll have a Sports package, a News Package, an Entertainment package, and on and on and on.

Now, all of this will have a cascading effect. Online advertising, especially, will finally be seen as the lie it is and while it may not contract, the context will be dramatically different. In fact, while most content will finally be behind a paywall, everyone involved will have a vested interest in subsiding consumers’ access to online content in some way so it’s still “free.”

The more I think about it, the more it seems the sequence of events will be like this — Net Neutrality officially dies because everything sucks, there’s a recession and then the access plans are rolled out. Now, the big question is how much the access companies will screw everything up. Will they roll these access plans out in coordination with the major online content providers and Websites, or will they spring them on everyone causing a lot of unnecessary chaos?

Anyway, the point is, we’re in the final stages of the ad supported era of online content. So, in my view, things will go something like this:

2019-2020: transition to post-Net Neutrality / subscription based online experience in the context of a major recession
2020-2024: The Return of Portals
2024 –? The MX Era

So, what I’m saying is — just past the horizon is MX (AR/VR). The era of “immersive media” will probably be a lot like the early days of Internet access 25 years ago and so, in a sense, things will reset, but in the context of there being no Net Neutrality. Everyone involved will have a huge vested interest in making sure everyone possible can get access to the MX experience and so in a sense the consumer / end user won’t notice the vast sums of money being throw around to make their experience as “free” seeming as possible. (Even though it’s anything but.)

It will be interesting to see the exact nature of the 2020-2024 era. You might see some major online players do some unexpected things. Wouldn’t major online players like Facebook and Amazon — while they were waiting for MX to mature — have a vested interest in some major media plays simply to flesh out their media portfolio in this new world? So, what you would have is a chaotic goldrush of sorts with access providers and major Websites fighting it out. Maybe Facebook or Amazon would feel forced to make an access play? I could see a company like Facebook or Amazon doing something which would seem pretty shocking right now — buy a cable company or merge with a telecom.

So it would be somewhat amusing if Verizon’s ownership of AOL and Yahoo suddenly became a big deal. I mean, the company has two major brand names, maybe Facebook or Amazon might buy one of them off it as part of a major content push. Or Facebook or Amazon might buy Comcast simply to funnel consumers to their site by making their content part of a basic access package. I guess what I’m saying is the notion of content and access because of Net Neutrality became disconnected. Maybe once Net Neutrality dies that will no longer be the case.

Because your access providers will have the major Websites by the short hairs, as they say, and given how big Facebook and Amazon (not to mention Google) are, they have the resources to make some jaw dropping access plays. I mean, really, what’s to stop Google from buying Verizon in a post Net Neutrality world. Wouldn’t it make sense for something like that to happen? I know Google has Google Fiber here and there across the country, but it would make a lot more sense for them to gobble up an access company instead.

Let’s look at what we have now. We have three major access companies as I understand it: Verizon, AT&T and Comcast. So, I’m proposing that very soon those three companies might be bought by the likes of Facebook, Amazon and Google. Logically, in the post Net Neutrality world it would make a huge amount of sense for something like that to happen. Some wild cards are Netflix and Apple, but I’m not as confident they would do such a thing.

One interesting thing is what happens to newspapers in all of this. I suspect unless, say, Facebook buys a lot of them up to fill out its media portfolio, that unless you’re The New York Times or The Washington Post, your goose is cooked. But who knows. All I know is I think newspapers should think outside the box and design an app, but that’s just me.

Anyway, I think I’ve explained why Net Neutrality died. There’s simply too much money involved. The only thing I can compare to is a downlow version of Bill Clinton signing the big telecom bill of the 1990s which saw a lot of consolation. We’re ripe for a new round of that once Net Neutrality is gone.

It’s very possible that some pretty enormous companies are about to be birthed. I mean, imagine a world in which Facebook owns Verizon, Amazon owns AT&T and Google own Comcast. Imagine if each of these mega companies then played God about which media companies lived and died simply by who they decided to wrap up in a portal they’ve built. With Google, the portal concept might be a little more sly in the sense that you’d still have the traditional Google search box, but Google would simply buy up a huge swath of the available media so they could subsidize it for you in the context of a basic access plan that really what you would see is what Google was willing to buy.

Netflix is a little bit of a wildcard. I honestly don’t know what their fate might be. They are an important media company online, and yet….I think they have huge debt and it’s not as likely that they could pull off a merger with a major access company. A back of the envelope prediction would be that Apple would buy them. Apple simply because it has a huge fucking amount of money is another wildcard. I mean, once Net Neutrality doesn’t exist, it makes a lot of sense for Apple to buy Netflix, then turn around and buy, say AT&T or some such. Something like that.

But, anyway, you ain’t see nothing yet. The next few years are likely to be pretty bumpy while we transition to MX.

Shelton Bumgarner is a writer and photographer living in Richmond, Va. He is working on his first novel. He may be reached at migukin (at) gmail (dot) com.

Don’t Fear The Reaper — Online Advertising Is Doomed & Based On A Lie

by Shelton Bumgarner

As I’ve written before, online advertising is based on a lie and as such it’s all going to come tumbling down soon enough. The lie it’s based on is that it, like, works and stuff. It just doesn’t. Online advertising is pointless and moot and soon enough it will be burned to the ground as its supplemented by what actually makes money — subscription services. It’s just a matter of when, why and how. As I understand it, online advertising — as predicted 20 years ago — is now larger than any type of media advertising. And it is, as we currently conceive of it, doomed.

What I mean is, very, very soon — I say no later than the beginning of the 2020 presidential campaign in early 2020 — there is going to be a fundamental shift in how people interact with online content. The switch over is going to suck massively for consumers used to — essentially — getting a lot of stuff for free, but as the Net matures, it’s all but inevitable at this point.

What’s going to happen is, because of the end of Net neutrality, essentially, the old concept of content aggregation found in online services such as AOL and Yahoo will come back. So, the missing link of the business plan of online media will finally arrive: how to actually make money.

So, when you’re stressing out about how Trump is going to win re-election in 2020, you’ll probably read that information via a portal of some sort that gives you a wide swath of content for $24.95 in the context of whatever Net access plan you might have figured out you want. Hence, there might be a Netflix and Chill bundle for some ridiculous amount, but as part of that for the low-low price of $24.95, you get free access to a wide-swath of video options in addition to Netflix, such as CNN, MSNBC & YouTube.

Or, put another way, it seems pretty obvious to me that the major Internet companies like Google, Netflix, Facebook and Twitter (and maybe even Amazon) will have a vested interest in subsidizing people’s access to content with the major broadband ISPs. That, in essence, is how consumers will be able to do the same stuff they do for free now, just they’re going to have to pay some for a wide-selection of content.

The endgame of all of this, is, of course, everyone makes a lot of money. Consumers get milked dry — there may even be some regulation (after the Republicans all commit mass suicide, of course ). The point is, we’re in later stages of one of the epoch of the Internet and once we lurch into a new one, the change will likely be rather dramatic.

One issue I honestly don’t know the answer to is what happens to content providers in general. Once all content of note behind a paywall, does that spell the final death knell of newspapers, or do they rebound? That’s a real tricky question. One scenario is newspaper Websites get into any number of $24.95 monthly bundles and or do they just fade away because people will only be willing to subscribe to The New York Times or The Washington Post? That’s a real quandary. I keep expecting someone to come out with an uber for newspapers, but it hasn’t happened yet.

My best guess is sometime between now and 2020, but anything could happen. We’ll see.

Of course, by 2024, all of this is moot because of VR/AR (MX). The whole thing gets reset as MX companies struggle to get people to actually use the services. And that doesn’t even begin to address how, like, uh, you would interact with a MX newspaper in the first place.

The upside of all of this is online content providers will FINALLY start to make something akin to the money they used to in the print era, even though in a dramatically different context.