Amanda Lotz Dismantles Mythologies in ‘Media Disrupted’


Disrupted media: surviving pirates, cannibals and continuous wars

Amanda D.Lotz

MIT Press

October 2021

In Disturbed media, Amanda D. Lotz tackles four widely held myths about the transformation of media industries in the digital age. Simplistic claims that the Internet has killed music, newspapers, movies, and TV are unraveled through a longer view that takes into account each industry’s specific history. Although media conglomerates are multinational corporations, these stories are specific to the United States and speak to media in local and national contexts. It is imperative to limit the scope of the study as the circumstances of media distribution and the growth of digital technologies differ from country to country.

Lotz’s analysis provides readily available evidence to explain media disruption as technologies evolve, often demonstrating that technology is not an isolated factor that has transformed industries. Recorded music is a good example: even though the cost of producing CDs was lower than the cost of manufacturing audio cassettes, the recording industry maintained a high price level when the new format was rolled out. As music was transmitted over the internet from around 2004, music enthusiasts who were looking to buy single tracks instead of albums were finally able to buy single mp3s. Clearly, the revenue difference between CDs and singles accounts for a large shift in purchases and subsequent revenue loss. The chapters are named after the myths they unpack, and in “Piracy Killed the Music Industry,” Lotz’s straightforward explanation denies the popular assumption that file sharing was the only source of disruption. .

The chapter “News wants to be free” begins with a brief history intended to explain the unique complexity of the newspaper as a group: due to its ability to reach different readers with a wide variety of content such as national, local , sports, comics and lifestyle sections, the newspapers had a diverse audience and, therefore, diverse advertisers with broad appeal. Newspapers traditionally have two budget streams, generating revenue from both readers/subscribers and advertisers. When newspapers were consolidated in the 1980s and then purchased by venture capitalists in the 2000s, the inability of disinterested owners to follow the established business practices of the newspaper industry led to significant numbers of American newspapers to close their doors.

The similarities and differences between newspaper content and online news can be difficult to sort out, but Lotz navigates this discussion with simple examples. She coined the term “everyday word industry” to refer to businesses that depended on daily news delivery for their income. Newspapers and some Internet news sources are part of the daily word industry, unlike news that can hold readers’ interest over a longer period of time.

“Netflix Destroys Hollywood” begins with a question: Is a movie only a movie when it’s shown in theaters? For the film industry, disruption on the distribution side has a long history, starting with the shift to showing movies on television. The shift to television and then to video rentals did not have a significant impact on Hollywood as film production remained constant while only the cast changed. Movie studios have benefited from this, regardless of how audiences have accessed the films. In the late 1990s, DVDs expanded the home viewing market, with higher quality recordings and the addition of special features to entice audiences to purchase DVD movies. Box office revenues were not initially significantly affected, and the studios changed their profit stream to include both DVD sales and theaters.

Lotz argues that the decline of cinema, especially over the past 15 years, has various sources that are difficult to sort through. As new modes of movie viewing, such as home theaters, became popular, Hollywood responded with blockbuster, big-screen action, and fantasy films better suited for cinema. The film production side of the industry has once again changed its distribution models to maximize both viewership and profits.

Analyzing the myth of “the end of television as we know it”, Lotz is on familiar ground, having already published several books detailing his research on the television industry. His argument begins with the assertion that among industries, television has been greatly improved by Internet distribution. The most significant ameliorating factor is the time lag, which has radically transformed the public’s relationship with television. As Lotz explains in his discussion of exclusive programming on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime Video, direct competition for what to watch Thursday at 9 p.m. was fundamental to the TV audience, advertising, and revenue model. . This is no longer the case. On the contrary, choosing a subscription service that offers the programming you want to see the most may be the new challenge for viewers. In short, television is not dead, but its reorganization is still in motion.

Takeaway meals from Disturbed media is that there is no silver bullet: singular theories about how to respond to disruption and prepare for what is yet to come will not help. Understanding the history of each industry and the disruptions encountered so far is key to planning for the future. Disturbed media provides a solid foundation for thinking about each separate story for music, newspaper, film, and television.


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