What is a “Media” Company, Anyway?

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: What is a “Media” Company, Anyway?

Comcast has about 22,400,000 broadband (going up) and video (going down) subscribers each in the US. That makes it the biggest of the multichannel video programming distributors (as christened by the FCC). But does that make it No. 1 amongst media kahunas?

Consider this: Netflix has about 42,000,000 video subscribers in the US.  YouTube has about a billion a day.  Facebook has about 1,500,000,000 active users.  LinkedIn has 380,000,000 business members.  (The big, big counts for Internet social media companies are global numbers … but the bulk is in the US.)

Still, you might say, social media guys are not really media companies.

Well, maybe not the old definition of a media company, but they clearly distribute media and, perhaps more to the point, they all have advertising. And, in many cases, some version of subscriber fees. And, of course, the one thing they all depend on is eyeballs. Yours. Mine. Our kids’. Your crazy Uncle Larry’s in the attic. On and on.

Consider also: LinkedIn has some 800 “influencers” writing for it … and for you.  You’re probably a member.

Facebook, besides sharing news among members who are linked (that’s also sort of local or “community” media), is working with major publishers (The New York Times for one) and video producers (NBC and CNN for two) to incorporate traditional media into Facebook offerings.

Apple, for its smartphone and tablet users, aggregates selected media sources into a custom feed for its hundreds of millions of users.

All of the above sell advertising; some get fees from subscribers of one sort or another.  All want your eyeballs … and mine and everyone else’s, too.

So, what’s a “media” company?

If you want to understand today’s media ecosystem, it’s time to broaden your definitions.  And time to think of what each entity really does. Create programming? Distribute programming? Both? Via the Internet?  Or via owned (or leased) infrastructure? Via postal services? Or some or all of the above?

Which is just another way of saying, if you want to survive, and thrive, in media you’d better focus on the nuts and bolts.  Because the old “media” definitions are just that. Old.

Random Notes

Now is a great time to catch up on the latest installments of my new book, The Revolutionary Evolution of the Media. It's a work in progress: New chapters are coming soon!

The Federal Confusion Commission denied Comcast’s pursuit of Time Warner Cable because the combination would be too big.

Why did the Dolans agree to sell Cablevision?  Scale.  They could never really get it as cable accelerated consolidation.  And, oh yeah, a nice number.  But here’s an impertinent question: Has Altice over-extended?  The Financial Times wondered, too, asking, “… it is not just sky-high debt levels and ambitious savings promises that are bothering investors.  They are also fretting -- justifiably -- about executive over-reach.  How, at this breakneck expansion rate, can Altice’s managers keep focused?”

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