I walked away from tonight’s MIT Communication Forum presentation thinking about the parallel between broadcast television and libraries. Heroes producers Jesse Alexander and Mark Warshaw were the presenters for a conversation titled: nbc’s heroes: from “appointment tv” to “engagement tv”? Hearing these two producer/writers (yes they are currently on strike!) speak about the transition taking place in broadcast television enabled me to see the strike from another perspective. But the thing that was most striking to me was to think about an industry that is facing some of the same issues that libraries face.
Technology isn’t exactly leaving broadcast television behind…, but the economic model looks less and less viable. Cable, Internet, cell phones, etc. all mean that broadcast television is no longer the dominant model for receiving what we’ve known as television programing. Heroes is on the forefront of developing a transmedia content model. They use the Web, comic books, dvd, and greeting cards among other media to provide content, and not simply another mechanism for delivery of the same content. Web content supplements but is distinct from the core series that is broadcast.
The economic model for libraries seems to me equally problematic. The volume of information being produced esclates rapidly, the costs for materials increases faster than our budgets can support, and we function in an increasingly transmedia environment.
I’ve long thought the NPR model for developing a broad based support network might helpful for libraries. NPR’s transition from relying primarily on government support to listener support is an interesting model for not-for-profits organizations. The nbc.com/heroes model is an interesting model for profit-based industries. They maintain their core product, but are spinning off a wide variety of content delivery systems that engage their user base and provide additional revenue streams.
I’m not quite sure where this leads, but I could imagine a library maintaining its core mission to support the teaching and learning that takes place in the institution, but spinning off other ventures that would generate income. That’s not a business plan, but perhaps the beginning of a vision.