Some of the most forward-thinking leaders within the entertainment industry attended the Future of Media conference today at the Stanford Graduate School of Business to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead in the media industry. The discussion panels covered topics including the future of interactive entertainment, television and film, social media and news, music, and entrepreneurship within the media landscape. It seems that while the future is uncertain, business leaders and innovators within the space see a shift toward more interactive entertainment as the long-standing distinctions between creators of content and distributors of information are expected to break down.
Terry Semel shared his views and predictions for the future of the industry as the keynote speaker. Currently the Chariman and CEO of Windsor Media, Semel was previously the Chairman and CEO of Yahoo! from 2001 through 2007. Before heading Yahoo!, Semel was Chairman and co-CEO of successful entertainment giant, Warner Bros. Semel predicted that the stereotypes of “Hollywood” as the home of content creation and “Silicon Valley” as the strictly high-tech hub will break down and become irrelevant. Semel believes that these two worlds are colliding as technology companies are interacting more with media companies and vice versa. Studios are no longer in complete control since user-generated content is becoming more prevalent online along with the rapid growth of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. At the same time, great technology needs compelling content that people will pay for in order to survive as people begin to interact with media on portable gadgets. Semel noted that traditionally straight technology companies, such as Sony or Microsoft, will provide other services because they want to expand into the media business.
One question that kept reoccurring throughout the day was how content will be monetized in the future. Semel had a simple solution for this. He declared that companies are foolish to give away quality content for free and believes that ads should definitely be used to monetize media. He pointed out that people aren’t so averse to advertisements that contain humor, exemplified by the tradition of households across the nation tuning into the Super Bowl, in part, to be entertained by amusing ads. Semel explained that social websites such as Facebook don’t have to necessarily charge their audience for access to their platform, but they can easily earn revenue from companies that want to reach those millions of valuable eyeballs. Despite the rapidly evolving media industry, businesses are still operating to turn profits and everyone seemed to agree that content will not continue to be free forever.