The Future Potential of Mass Media and Its Markets

One thing that is certain about mass media is its uncertainty, meaning that mass media are always in flux in terms of both technological platforms and delivery method. Technology is developing quickly, requiring mass media producers to adapt more quickly than ever, both with regard to content and with regard to how it’s delivered and received.

Take for example, “Startup U,” ABC Family’s new twist on reality TV that blends several media types with overlapping purposes. Tim Draper, billionaire founder and venture capitalist, leads entrepreneurial millennials on a seven-week educational journey teaching them how to launch their own startup venture. Each week different business leaders join the group as mentors and guides, preparing them for the finale: their pitch to potential investors. According to the show’s website, so far, more than 150 Draper University graduates have received more than $15 million in funding for their various startup companies. The show is an “imitation” of original reality television shows, such as Shark Tank, but it adds a new creative innovation— mentorship from well-known American business professionals. In addition, by framing the show as a university, the media messages focus on both entertainment and education. Since the show is streamed via ABC Family’s website, it uses the latest technology to reach the widest audience, including millennials, who tend to prefer Internet streaming to traditional viewing of content on a stationary television set.

Another new trend relates to how media startups are funded. Traditionally, media startups were funded via venture capital investments from large investment companies. But creative, new funding schemes are developing that take advantage of technological innovations. Take for instance Stringr, a new media startup funded by Matter, a new media startup accelerator based out of San Francisco, which provides $50,000 in startup funds and several months of mentorship to new media enterprises. Stringr’s model is very unique in that it matches professional and amateur photographers and videographers with media organizations, such as newspapers and television networks. Freelance photographers can register on Stringr’s website to be notified when a media outlet requests photographs or video footage and then upload their content. If their work is used by a media organization, they get paid the next day. Startups like Stringr can save media organizations hundreds of thousands of dollars annually but require a change in traditional business models for both media organizations and their employees, such as staff photographers, who are being pushed into the freelance market, whether they like it or not.

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