Innovation is what really makes the free market system great. Unless it’s financial innovation, but that’s another story. But the ways that industries must constantly reinvent themselves or fall by the wayside help to ensure that consumers win out. What’s even more interesting is the ways that these companies becoming irrelevant enables everyone to contribute.
Musicians used to have to do a deal with the devil to make it big. They basically signed away their firstborn child to record companies in hopes that they could hit it big. Now, you see bands like the Arctic Monkeys who hit it big just from MySpace. It’s an actual meritocracy. You can copyright and upload your songs on iTunes and you’re up there with everyone else.
Soon we’ll be seeing that with the publishing industry. Writing books is never hard (writing good books is, but that’s a different story), but getting them published has always been tricky. Once e-readers take off, it won’t be too hard for you to format a book to get it on Amazon’s store. Podcasts have done the same thing.
We’re starting to see the same thing happen to TV. While most people still have TV’s in their houses, plenty of people are watching a variety of non-tv shows on them. Whether it’s their Netflix subscriptions, Hulu shows of their computers, video podcasts, or video games, the wealth of content is leading people to watch things they actually like more. While Conan O’Brien didn’t bring in the same ratings as Jay Leno did, he was consistently one of the top watched shows on Hulu. People are out doing stuff, and don’t want to be beholden to programming schedules. The failure to recognize this is what will move networks to a more à la carte model soon, where they simply produce shows and affiliates can pick them up.
All this to say that the barriers to producing content have never been lower. Even to do a high quality video only takes a couple hundred dollars. To become an expert on something takes tenacity more than anything (just ask Gary Vaynerchuk of http://tv.winelibrary.com/). Everyone consumes content. But by jumping to the creating side, you get to control the conversations. Suddenly you’re an expert or a superstar and can influence as many people as will listen. And you don’t need a big corporation to do it.