Full Disclosure: Here's What I Wrote About AOL/TW at the Time: My National Post column from this morning starts with a jibe of sorts at those who reacted to the AOL/Time-Warner merger in January 2000 with ominous howls about the new company fulfilling the prophecies of 1984 and A Brave New World. It strikes me that people may find my Monday-morning quarterbacking unfair, given how the Tech Bubble burst just four months later, and the word "blog" hadn't yet crept into William Safire's lexicon. What about my bogus predictions about the world's largest media company? Well, here they are, in chronological order:
AOL-Time Warner: Bully for L.A. -- January 15, 2000
So, AOL-Time Warner Is Bad for Good Journalism? What Good Journalism? -- January 23, 2000
Deconstructing the Mergers: Industry Leaders to Convene in First Major Gathering
Since AOL Gobbled Time Warner -- February 2, 2000
Hollywood Goofy Over AOL/Time Warner -- February 4, 2000
The Debauchery of Human Interaction: How Today's Media Moguls Use Journalists as Human Shields Against Common Decency -- April 6, 2000
Here's the worst of my predictions, coming in the first story (for Zone News, an L.A. tech/biz mag since gone belly-up):
So which metropolis wins when Virginia-based America Onine merges with New York's Time Warner, which in turn joins forces with British music giant EMI?Uh, well, none of that really happened. Though I did say "likely" ...
Southern California, of course.
A major impact of last month's proposed $100 billion-plus marriage of AOL and Time Warner will likely be a vigorous kick-start of the high-speed Internet access business.
Any of it hold up? I like these bits, but from the Jan. 23 column:
If this is the "new totalitarianism" (as [Norman] Solomon has suggested), then we're the freest slaves in the history of tyranny. [...]And then this one, in the over-long April 6 thumb-sucker:
Before we inappropriately call for anti-trust action (which, it need be reminded, is designed to block monopolist practices, not harass a distastefully popular company), take heart that:
- Very few market-leading companies in entertainment or media stay on top for long; most go bankrupt.
- Very few mega-mergers between two companies in different businesses ever work, especially when the companies involved are in media and entertainment.
- The Internet is more tumultuous than any business sector in generations. The mighty are frequently chastened within 24 months.
If we really want to stave off the Brave New World, let's take a page from dissidents in countries that had to face real totalitarianism: stop taking Big Brother seriously. Laugh at him, detail his many clumsy corruptions and conflicts for everyone to see, stop pretending that he's a credible journalist, and for God's sake don't work for him.
My hope is based on the market. Consolidation of expression (print journalism, music, film, broadcasting, books, Web publishing) creates giant companies that become more inefficient and out-of-touch with each new employee. This conformism in turn breeds backlash, and nourishes the soil for independents. It's a well-established cycle in all businesses catering to the public tastes: Prohibition begets jazz, suburbia begets rock & roll, corporate rock begets punk. There are too many weirdos with energy in this country to allow a handful of bland, patronizing COOs to define our common media experience.Tune in tomorrow, for part four of "Neener-neener-neener, I Told You So...." Posted by at July 27, 2002 09:28 PM
For all the frantic mergers and acquisitions, the largest media companies' average share of our attention span is decreasing. For all its stunning growth, AOL controls the same amount of the global online market -- around 12% -- that it did in 1994.