May 20, 2007
Media Industry Jobs in a Convergence Culture

Several of the researchers in C3 have just finished or are in the process of finishing their Master's thesis projects, which means many of us now have the prospect of graduation staring us in the face. Here at C3, we have had the great opportunity to not only work academically as researchers while graduate students but also to interact with the media industry and work with folks at our corporate partners on a variety of initiatives, meaning that a majority of the people coming out of C3 are interested in maintaining a relationship to both academia and the media industry moving forward.

But, as job hunts loom on the horizons and as colleagues start to land jobs elsewhere, we all have to consider what it means, in both the industry and academia, to come away with expertise in issues such as understanding fan communities, transmedia storytelling, new advertising models, and the variety of other focuses that C3 research has taken.

In academia, this is pretty clear. There are still not a proliferation of media studies programs out there, and virtually no one out there quite like the Program in Comparative Media Studies. Since MIT has no Ph.D. program, those wishing to continue in academia will have to go into a doctoral track that may be a little less related to their interests than their Master's program was.

I fall into the camp of people interested in maintaining a relationship in academia but ultimately looking to work in industry, at least for now, and I increasingly face this question, as I think about where I would like to work and what would best use my expertise--what position does one take when you are looking at these questions?

The problem is not that media companies are not looking at these questions at all. Quite to the contrary. Considering the number of companies we work with here at C3--Turner Broadcasting, MTV Networks, Yahoo!, GSD&M, and Fidelity--there are a variety of major conglomerates very interested in the questions our research poses.

The issue, instead, is on how media companies deal with these questions in relation to infrastructure. There is a discrepancy in ways between the "convergence culture" resume and the traditional divisions of a media company. Similar to how academics face very real questions about where interdisciplinary work fits into a model that was built on developing individual disciplines, corporations also face this problem.

It's not that many companies aren't addressing a lot of the issues that we raise on a regular basis here on the blog and in the research we do at C3 but rather that these have often been conversations and questions that arise and which various divisions within the company work on. Basically, for most media companies that have been around for a while, the way to deal with new technologies, new business models, and new ways of dealing with consumers has been to tweak the model as the company goes along to deal with these issues--how else could it be?

The way that many companies tackle these questions may not be the most economic way if the organization was being crafted today, but the infrasturcture of a company is directly related to the way the company has been built up over time. In this case, I'm not talking about any of the organizations we work with at C3 in particular and have not done infrastructural analysis of our partners, but I mean this as directed to the media indsutry more broadly.

These companies are dealing with a "convergence culture" as it unfolds, which increasingly means that a variety of people in all divisions of the company conglomerate to deal with these issues. It also means that people who specialize in cross-platform distribution, transmedia storytelling, understanding and interacting with fan communities, and a variety of "new" modes of storytelling, utilizing the archives, etc., are not immediate fits into any position currently available in the vast majority of companies out there.

As we write about new ways of working with consumers and using technologies for storytelling and distributing and monetizing content, I think it's crucial to always keep infrastructure at a central point in the conversation. The ways in which an organization is structured to answer questions of "convergence culture" is crucial to what outcomes are reached, and it's important to keep in mind that organizations are constantly shifting and working within the constraints of the business model that existed beforehand, so that change sometimes takes time.

As C3ers think ahead to potential lives in the industry, these questions have never weighed more heavily on their (our) minds...but they are questions that many media companies and a variety of professionals looking toward these questions are dealing with on a daily basis.