Secondly, the Internet changes the timeline of entertainment production, broadcast and consumption. Instead of a movie opening on the big screen, then trickling down to television, video and the Internet, it can appear in all formats at once, as 2929 Entertainment plans to do with new Steven Soderbergh releases. At the same time, in a world of digital choice, people can ignore your offerings, but they can also keep watching, reading or listening forever. That concept, famously dubbed the "Long Tail" by wired editor Chris Anderson, also changes the entire economic model of entertainment, creating hugely successful niche products over longer periods of time.
That doesn't mean that the blockbuster movie, album, or TV series goes away. In many ways, it gets more important, as media companies put bigger bucks into marketing top products over multiple devices, and consumers look for standouts in a crowded lineup. "Event entertainment is getting bigger," says Bennett, citing the recent BBC nature series "Coast," which attracted 5 million viewers, or 21 percent of the viewing population. "That's a lot more than we would have gotten five years ago."
That fact belies fears that the new world of entertainment will be isolating. It's true that digital media allows for endless personalization: Mom and Dad can watch separate TV shows, while Sister trades photos with online friends and so on. But the Internet also creates new opportunities for connection. Blogs and photo-sharing Web sites are thriving, and new communities of online DJs and filmmakers are springing up. Viewers are trading the made-for-mobile-phone dramas called mobisodes, or building virtual communities around Web broadcasts (many viewers of "Coast" used the BBC Web site to organize real-life coastal walks around Britain). The BBC is currently working on a digital storytelling project that would encourage kids to make their own documentaries online. "A lot of great television has been made by the public," Bennett says.
That includes the news. During recent events like the Southeast Asian tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, major networks rebroadcast pictures and reports from on-scene bloggers. In an April speech, Rupert Murdoch said that News Corp. might "experiment with the concept of using bloggers to supplement our daily coverage of news on the Net." Of course, there are some big questions about how you control quality among citizen bloggers, but solutions are already emerging. Take Wikipedia.org, the online, user-generated encyclopedia. Anyone can edit a page, which could theoretically lead to total anarchy. Instead, the community of users are themselves so involved and diligent that spam or misinformation tends to come down as quickly as it goes up. Wikipedia is a nonprofit, but some venture capitalists say that the advertising potential of the site could make it a billion-dollar busi-ness (community members have thus far bucked any movement in that direction).