RealTime IT News

The Writers Strike Is All My Fault

I should fess up right now: It's probably my fault that the Writers Guild of America (WGA) is on strike. Sorry about that.

Don't get me wrong: I love TV. I love TV programming. I love my actual TV itself (a 55-inch behemoth). That said, much of the content that I view on my TV is piped in from my PC.

I watch clips of The Colbert Report and The Daily Show online. I watch full Flash Gordon episodes on the SciFi.com Web site and Battlestar Galactica: Razor flashbacks, too. I've bought episodes of TV shows on iTunes and likely will continue to do so.

Then of course, there is YouTube and its little snippets of all kinds of great stuff ("Chad Vader" is still a personal favorite).

For larger content such as whole seasons of shows, like many others, I just buy a whole season on DVD -- just got The Office.

I suppose in a way, then, I might be to blame for the fact that there is no Colbert Report or Daily Show this week and the WGA is striking. But, hey, if you're anything like me, it might be your fault as well.

As a person who spends the better part of every day online, I've grown to expect to consume my entertainment in a similar fashion. While many online clips can be had without cost, I am willing to pay for content too -- though free is the preference, of course.

The WGA contends that they should be sharing in the wealth that digital media may bring in. If people like me didn't consume digital media, perhaps they wouldn't have a bone to pick.

Worse yet, there are many out in digital media land, myself included, who are also making a living by publishing their content online. There is a viable economic business case for online media, this publication and its parent Jupitermedia Corporation being proof-positive of that fact.

There is no question that digital media has changed the landscape for writers. There was a time when a writer in a world that wasn't totally online could sell so-called "first North American serial rights" and then resell their content in another jurisdiction.

In the modern Internet era, where there are no borders and an increasing amount of content sharing between different media types, writers need to have contracts that span the global community and cover all the various media forms now in use.

The fact that the television industry is unable to accurately forecast how much money it can make from digital media is no trivial matter. This is still a new industry. The broadband economy is just now in its infancy, and though I live in (and make a living from) that economy every day, there's a great deal of growing needed ahead.

That said, the digital broadband economy is already a reality and people like me will continue to look to for our livelihoods and for our entertainment.

I don't know whether the WGA will get what it wants, though I am sure that they should share in whatever benefits that digital media provide.

This strike will certainly become a watershed. More and more people globally are seeking to consume entertainment digitally and on demand, and the models of compensation will have to change.

Either that, or a new ecosystem of digital-only content producers and writers will continue to develop without the legacy of the coax cable tether.

The music industry had to deal with Napster, and now the TV industry needs to come to terms with the Internet too. Consumers like me, simply stated, demand nothing less.

Sean Michael Kerner is senior editor of InternetNews.com.