We’re in the midst of a massive shift in media consumption patterns. People consume more news than they ever did, but they don’t read newspapers anymore. Magazines, even on tablets, are slowly dying. And, as for books, The New Yorker published an article titled “Twilight of the Books”…on December 24, 2007, before eBooks were even a significant part of the business. Statistics in the article show that the market for books has been declining for at least 30 years. U.S. movie theater ticket sales peaked in the 1950s; the only things that have kept the industry going have been home video sales and higher ticket prices. But, home video sales are also dropping—they’re being replaced by rentals from Redbox, and online streaming from Netflix, Amazon and others.
Let’s be clear: Movie attendance has been declining for half a century, but no one seriously expects the movie business to disappear. The same is true for books; readership will continue to decline, but it’s hard to visualize a world without books, even if most of the remaining books are digital instead of paper. Nevertheless, the balance has shifted. Consumers want their media faster and cheaper. Readers want their news from the Internet, as it happens (if not sooner, leaked out via Twitter.) One can argue that attention spans have gotten shorter—look at the popularity of viral videos on YouTube—but videogames, both casual and complex, can engross players for hours or even days.
The transformation of media in the 21st Century is being driven by three forces: The Internet, mobile devices and wireless broadband. The Internet provides a conduit for every kind of content. There’s no need to ever leave your house to purchase any kind of media, and it makes possible entirely new types and combinations of media that didn’t exist prior to the rise of the World Wide Web. Mobile devices and wireless broadband make that content available anywhere, anytime, and open the digital world to hundreds of millions of people who can’t afford personal computers or high-speed Internet connections.