The Revolutionary Evolution of the Media: A Book in Progress – Paul S. Maxwell

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In the beginning was the word … well, maybe … maybe it was a symbol?

Whichever, it started in the mist of early human history in a number of places around the same time (maybe at Babel?) and generated a long, winding trail that has run from one human communicating to another (or more) with something more than a grunt or a gesture to today’s cacophony of an accelerating media revolution.

That’s what this blog (and maybe book) will trace.

As a close observer, sometime chronicler of and sometime participant in the growth of modern media for half a century I’ve been transfixed by the ever-accelerating changes in the modern international media landscape. One day over-the-top video by legacy players in the video media mix is a long shot -- the next morning it’s here, and by tomorrow, its yesterday.

So it’s hard enough to keep up with the moment-by-moment news generation -- but to predict what’s next? Close to impossible.

Still, we can make some very good guesses about the future of media, which certainly beats operating blind. To make those guesses, I believe you need to start at the beginning. In short, you can’t know where you’re going until you know and understand from whence you came.

This blog is an attempt to create a book in serial form. I’ll post my potential chapters here (thanks, Jack!), thus using my own artificial deadlines to create the rough first draft of a history of media along with thoughts on how the starts, fits, mistakes and successes of the past got to today. And, of course, I’ll oftentimes offer comments on the current news’ gyrations along with some predictions/guesses/prognostications on what’s coming next.

Next week, the initial “real” copy will begin with an essay on why we all need to pay particular attention to the past in order to better divine the future. After all, as the French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr noted, “plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose” (“the more it changes, the more it's the same thing” or, colloquially, “the more things change, the more they stay the same”).

You’ve heard that before, I know. But bear with me as I illustrate how the past has, in fact, foreshadowed the future of media. Speaking of which … “media,” in my mind, is a misnomer. The plural of the Latin “medium,” it has been useful in the past but is now seriously outdated. I mean really, “media” for everything from scratchings on caves to scrolls to books to radio to television to the Internet, the Twitter-scape, Insta-everything and even, God help us, Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart?

Let’s call it what it really is: Medias. As in the plural of the plural. We’ve all spent far too much time, both in business and in wider social venues, calling too many things by names that evoke an object or a manner of moving something. TV (the set or the medium?), broadcasting, cable TV, video, radio (the set or the medium?), broadband, books, newspapers, magazines, smartphone, phablet, and on and on.

Perhaps we should look at things in a more seamless and interconnected manner. To me, everything revolves around the interaction of the content (#1 “C”), the conduit (#2 “C”), the customer or consumer (#3 “C”) and now the #4 “C”: Connectivity. It doesn’t matter from a distribution sense whether the content is entertainment, news, information, instruction or propaganda … or anything else conceivable. What matters is what’s done with it, how it gets somewhere, and/or how someone or something pays for it.

We’ll look at all of that as we work our way from that small step up from a grunt or a symbol to the wide array of communication and medias of today. This is, though, a work in progress and l’d like and appreciate your help. Send any and all criticisms, suggestions, rants, threats, corrections, etc. to me at: max@paulsmaxwell.media. There’s a web site with all past blogs along with some rewrites based on feedback at http://www.paulsmaxwell.media.

In advance: Thanks! See you next week.

In an almost 50-year career writing and reporting on media, Paul S. Maxwell started and/or ran some 45-plus publications ranging from CATV Newsweekly to Colorado Magazine to CableVision to Multichannel News to CableFAX and The BRIDGE Suite of daily newsletters and research publications. In between publishing stints, Maxwell served as an advisor and/or consultant to a number of major media companies and media start-ups including running a unit of MCI and managing a partnership of TCI and McGraw-Hill.

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