Last Word

By Catherine Warren (French)

Entertainment’s stock, like lipstick sales and hemlines, tends to go up in troubled times. With its immersive vibe and interactive allure, new media entertainment offers new forms of escapism. And after the dotcom market meltdown, which in retrospect almost seems quaint, it’s nice to be on the outside looking in rather than the eye of the economic maelstrom.

Even better, digital media fundamentals appear stronger than ever. A recent study reports that people would rather keep internet, video and voice services in their budgets than any other type of expense, including personal care products, gym memberships and apparel. Bad news for hygiene, but great news for digital media, which environmentally at least, and porn aside, is a pretty clean industry.

In an era of user-generated content and web-only content, what remains unique about Bell Fund funded content is its embedded connection to broadcast and all that television embodies: outstanding productions, unrivalled promotions and unbeatable reach. Couple all of this with TV’s mature business model, high-tech’s entrepreneurial spirit and wrap it all up in the glamour-bubble of entertainment, and there could be no better formula for success. Of course digital media is still in its infancy – with perhaps a century of success ahead before we’d even be considered for a multi-billion dollar bail-out – so, we’re entitled to tweak our formula along the way.

Generous experts have shared their secret cocktails in these pages. They are yours for the taking – and might just be the making of your next big thing. Go ahead, you know what to do. Mash them up. Make them your own. Whatever your digital plan, you’ll find the right mix here for your property and your team.

Writing about new media in a collapsing global economy is like shooting at a moving target during an earthquake. The fact that these contributors really nailed their subjects is that much more remarkable in the context of our times. And as times change, you as readers can write in with your own powerful user-generated content, the business machinema and financial mods necessary to keep our living publication relevant whatever the future brings.

Canada may actually be the true calm in the storm. With our stable equity market and our sound economic policies, we recently ranked as the number one place to build a business, leading as the top country for entrepreneurs and the top ranked for entrepreneurial access to capital. (Unfortunately, the study was helmed by deposed junk bond king Michael Milken.)

Not only is there more money here for entrepreneurs, there is more money for digital media specifically. The Bell Fund’s contribution as Canada’s largest private fund for interactive broadcasting remains unrivalled anywhere in the world. Cable and satellite distributors continue to thrive, subscribers are up and profits are growing, which is good for the convergence kitty. Add to this the new $100M Vanedge Capital fund earmarked for video games and digital entertainment, and there is no doubt that the formidable talent and acumen in our sector will keep us at the top of the heap for years to come.

As consumers of all this digital entrepreneurship, we have also benefitted from on-demand-everything and online-all-the-time. Blame it on YouTube, but by 2012 our insatiable appetite for bandwidth might even outstrip corporate greed, our demand exceeding cyberspace’s supply as the internet unleashes random brownouts and our lifeline is reduced to what the Sunday Times of London calls “an unreliable toy.” So, not only do we have the challenge of defining a credible business model, we are faced with spearheading a conservation agenda, like a developing nation that must contend with the inconvenient truth. Ideally, next-gen digital producers will tackle these two issues in tandem and take us all to the next level.

Anyone who has recently submitted a Bell Fund proposal, let alone produced a Bell Fund property, knows the scope of the creative, technical and business challenges involved. If any hold-outs still suspect that new media can be managed off the side of someone’s desk, let this publication put an end to their myth-making. Consider this “a resource for the resourceful.” And above all, let “How to Make Money with Multi-Platform Digital Media” be your interactive guide to the wide open road ahead.

Over the years we’ve seen digital properties get creatively lush, increasingly rich and fun to play. And we’ve seen the big awards like the Digital Emmy swoop in to acknowledge that new media has finally arrived. New storefronts like iTunes and the rise of virtual goods have opened new gateways to revenues. CNN seems as eager to Tweet as to broadcast, and no doubt monetize the results. New media syndication and licensing now results in real dollars.

After a classic relationship involving playground flirtations (NYT/Amazon), awkward prom dates (BBC/Microsoft), early arranged marriages (AOL/Time Warner), legal separations (YouTube/Viacom), media and technology seem intent on working things out. And like any couple starting over, while still arguing about money, they’ll be seeking help.

There is no better bridge across this divide than content producers and rights-holders, each of you who are poised to capitalize on multiple revenue channels and propel new media models forward. It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it.

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