December 10, 2006
Change Sometimes Takes Time: Richard Siklos on High-Definition, Mobile Media, and Virtual Worlds

For all of our talk about what has happened this year, I was interested in Richard Siklos' piece in today's New York Times about what has NOT happened this year: the "hat trick" many analysts were expecting that has not come to fruition quite as quickly as everyone expected--high-definition programming, mobile media, and the rise of the avatar.

Now, mind you, it's not that these three phenomena have not had substantial impact on the media this year, but rather that the impact has just not been as pervasive as many people have imagined. It reminds me of a post I made back in July about the stark reminder that the media experience of many Americans does not feel like it does on those of us interested in looking at the cutting edge.

While flat panel television sets are now the top seller, Siklos points to a declining number of people buying those sets who are looking forward to watching television shows in high-definition. "The reason for this lack of enthusiasm is pretty clear in my own home," Siklos writes. "For one thing, plenty of shows on the high-definition channels I receive with my digital cable package appear with big black borders." I've covered the ways in which these issues have bubbled up in discussions over HD commercials. The lag time of HD content and the efforts of the industry to catch up can also be seen in the developments of fall lineups in HD. And now they are even think of moving South Park in HD?

He also points out having to buy extra packages for viewing HD and the warring formats for HD DVDs as further frustration for customers. All the while, there are talks about wirless technology in HD, and the number of sets within HD homes is growing. The point? While high-definition is clearly the direction we're headed, we can't quite proclaim that we are there yet if the culture is still in a place of flux.

While I wrote about the projections for major changes in mobile media over the next five years yesterday, Siklos reminds us that we have not reached that tipping point yet. "Mobile has not yet amounted to a meaningful new media business--and for two vexing reasons," he writes, citing logistics and revenue models as major holdups.

And, while Second Life has driven a lot of creativity and even new economic models due to its growing popularity, such as with last week's post about the new music video channel in the virtual world, Siklos points out that "the virtual world saw its 'population' grow to more than one million, but a large number of folks never made it past their first visit. It turns out that navigating a second life can be as complicated as living the first one." In fact, I would be one of them, yet I am surrounded by people who spend substantial amounts of time in this second life.

Siklos' article is definitely worth a read.

See my responses to Siklos' pieces in the past about the two publics newspapers are trying to serve and about the executives leading the way into the digital future.

Thanks to Lynn Liccardo for passing this along.