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Barry Diller At The All Things Digital Conference: Story Guy Glimpses Ending Of Narrative As We Once Knew It

Posted by: Jon Fine on May 28, 2008

Just saw Barry Diller interviewed onstage by Kara Swisher at the All Things Digital conference.

When Swisher asked him what he thought about the valuation Facebook got from Microsoft, he touched on a key aspect of the story-software dynamic I’ve been obsessing about for the past few months—and how expectations for story will be indelibly influenced by, well, software, and software tools. All emphasis mine:

"I had to learn this. I did not think this a few years ago. I come from narrative. I thought nothing would interrupt the story, and people want to sit there and watch passively, and that is the storytelling experience.

I have learned that that is partly true. And very true for older people. But the truth is interaction, the tools available to you . . . Facebook is, in a sense, nothing more than the princess phone 30 years ago, 50 years ago--a way for people to be communicating with each other. It's got great tools that enhance it, that draw you in, keep you in, and allow you to do it at a scale you could never do before. Even if you were on a small-town party line with 300 other people.

What's happened because of that, because of how these things are changing, social networks--a dumb-ass phrase if I ever heard one--[have given rise to] the idea of constant engagement with a content, wherever it is, with whatever assemblage of communication tools . . . will play a role in all of our lives.

I don’t think passivity is going out the window. But it will reduce pretty far down . . .

Everything is going to have those [interactive] components. Something that allows people to get what they want more actively, or manipulate content with tools we give them, or allows them to communicate with each other. We're now in a different communications age."

Reader Comments


May 29, 2008 11:48 AM

Obviously Jon, you're 100% right.

Nothing and I mean NOTHING was more important than your column's reference to the woman who called Craigslist a search engine. How could anyone fault her for speaking the truth?

Technology has driven art in history and it's driving art right now. There isn't a soul in media who didn't learn the story of Gutenberg's printing press. On a lesser note, when the RCA 45 rpm single existed bands forced themselves to limit to songs under 4 minutes in length.

What I find really intriguing is that the alienation of the 1990s and beyond that perhaps helped fuel Prozac nation may actually start to reverse if people can feel their inner ideas are being heard through new technology. That people are frustrated by x,y,z and choose to share that online. Diller can feel free to focus on the media side of the fence, but this has broader implications.

My personal prediction is that the 2 hour film is dead. Watch the Star Wars trilogy as an adult- no really- nothing made me wonder what happened to culture more than sitting through Empire Strikes Back which looked about as advanced as the season finale of Lost. We waited three years for that?? What's amazing is how a generation became obsessed with so little source material and today we have probably 40 full hours of Battlestar Galactica and counting. The next big hit won't be one film, it will be some premiere event like a film or series introducing us to characters, but like the comic book universe, it will include new periodic material, related material in the same "universe," origins and backstories, etc. In no more than two seasons we will see a network narrative tv series that provides daily, that's right, daily material on the web. These webisodes, mobisodes, or whatever they will be called will be required to keep the audience involved and connected to advertisers or else you'll end up selling ads to cadillac and metamucil. These webisodes will contain narrative stories, even blackout sketches, but also include edutainment behind-the-scenes interviews and the like. If you thought of putting together an additional 7 minutes of material each week one can quickly see this is financially possible.

Who benefits? Ultra-complicated sitcoms like Arrested Development, The Office, 30 Rock. Ultra-complicated series like Lost or Battlestar Galactica. Even reality tv shows can piece together 7-14 minutes of material each week. Posted on a site that includes massive ability to structure communication and collaboration with fans who want to connect themselves to the famous and you've got a new paradigm for media.

As I said, I predict that will be in place by the 2010 season.


June 1, 2008 1:29 AM

Time is relative, and Don seems to live in a retro world. Don, I did like your comments otherwise.

Age and time have nothing to do with interaction becoming a component of media. It's been happening for almost a century. I'd have to write a book to explain it all to you, and I can't sit still for that;D

Between Hulu, SciFi forums, online mags, fanfiction sites, conventions, polls, network surveys, and other opportunities too numerous to mention, the new paradigm is already here. For me, it's already 2061.

Right now, I am reading a book, cooking a meal, watching 2 shows, writing email, commenting on this blog, bookmarking, checking the AWS weather forecast and taking a walk, synchronously.

Can't wait to see when the hardware catches up with the latest web applications.

BTW, I love widgets. Thanks for the eye-catching post Jon.

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