Thoughts on where media is going

I consumed a lot of content while I was on the long tour across the country (also a lot of Chipotle bowls). I must have listened to 100 hours of podcasts, watched a ton of movies and TV shows, and read some books. Six weeks on the road mostly alone clarified the reason why some entertainment media is crushing it, while others are either losing ground or stagnating. Here’s what I think is happening – I’d love to hear your opinion. Am I right or wrong? Do you see this happening in your own family and friend group? Let’s talk about it!

Let’s start with active/passive vs. active/active. Lots of entertainment media is active/passive. So this means you can do it while you’re doing something else at the same time. Some of them you can do while you’re driving or walking or cleaning your kitchen. And you can multitask in a million different ways on your phone while you also do all of the following:

Watch a movie or a TV show, listen to a podcast or the radio, play a video game, watch Youtube videos, and scroll through Facebook or Twitter posts on your laptop.

Then there’s active/active entertainment media, something we all enjoyed more before the Internet. These are forms of entertainment where we can’t do something else while we’re doing them, and reading is chief among them. When you’re reading a book, you’re locked in. You can’t do anything else.

Now we get to the heart of the problem, the reason why active/active pursuits are such a tough sell the farther down the technological rabbit hole we go. Kids, teens, and adults have entered a state of continuous partial attention (I’m sure someone else said that first, but I don’t know who). Our brains have been re-wired by our smart phones. We are much more comfortable giving a little bit of attention to many things on a continuous loop, and this is especially true with teens and millennials (all the people who are driving entertainment media).

This last point is for my buddy Jeremy Gonzalez who keeps telling me virtual reality is going to be bigger than anything that’s come before it. I have never agreed, and the above paragraphs are why. It’s the same reason 3D never took off in homes. If you’re watching 3D, you can’t do anything else – you’re locked in. The same is true for VR. If you’re in a virtual world with a headset on, you can’t do anything else, least of all check your phone. VR will go the way of 3D – it will carve out a nice niche, but it’s not going to be as widely consumed as a traditional TV show or a movie you can watch at home. It’s heading in the wrong direction – active/active – a critical flaw in it’s DNA.

And books have this critical flaw as well – reading is possibly the most active/active thing a person can do. This was one of it’s great attributes for centuries, but the world has changed and people have changed along with it. For most people today, reading is hard because it requires complete focus and we’re not wired that way anymore.

I still love a great read, it’s one of my favorite things. But if I’m honest, 20 minutes of uninterrupted reading is a lot for me – and I’m a reader!

Patrick Carman