Charlie Sheen as Internet Metaphor

In an essay that is, unfortunately, behind a subscriber wall, Rob Long casts Charlie Sheen as the harbinger of the entertainment industry’s Internet doom:

… Charlie Sheen is the living embodiment of what everyone in Hollywood fears. Leaving aside, for a moment, the creepy prurience of his 2 mil1lion Twitter followers, or the death-watch quality of his viewership, Sheen has taken his insanely valuable network-television scarcity — his take-home was something along the lines of $2 million per episode — and squandered it on freebie Web appearances, hourly Tweets, and low-rent antics. He makes Lindsay Lohan look like Princess Grace. He makes Snooki seem stately. Charlie Sheen has become the lowest kind of celebrity. He has become a reality-television star.
That’s what drugs will do to you, of course. But on another level, that’s also what unlimited bandwidth — the crystal meth of the media business — is doing to the old Hollywood business model. We are all moments away from cheap, knock-off stardom. Click around YouTube and you’ll be astonished at the number of people who regularly post videos of themselves. These are people you and I have never heard of, and yet there they are, talking into the camera, for millions of subscribers.

The analysis brings to mind the Newport Daily News organization’s decision to charge more for online content than for the paper itself. The old model worked; the new model doesn’t yet make a profit. The Internet may bring a new level of readership, but they don’t come with a revenue stream.
In the case of the Daily News, the gamble is that online media organizations won’t be able to profit, either, thus building a long-term competitor for news content in the city. The broader news and entertainment industry, however, might not even have that gamble to make. As the media in which their content is delivered converge — that is, as movies and audio become stream-able digital content that can be freed of viewer restrictions and distributed instantly — they are having to compete with the YouTube stars on even turf, not Web versus print.
It’s tempting to celebrate the democratization of media (why should Charlie Sheen be famous and not you?), but the reality is that it takes money consistently to create compelling, high-quality content. The only hope may be that technology will reveal some new feature, as the TV, computer, and telephone all become the same device, that opens up a new avenue for revenue and thereby encourages the extra effort of big-budget productions.
Frankly, I don’t think Two and a Half Men was very far from Internet schlock to begin with: mainly a vessel for dirty jokes and a long-time star. For that matter, network television created the culture of reality TV. So maybe the first step for Hollywood (broadly meant) is to up its game and use its manipulative influence to raise the bar on what counts as entertainment.

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13 years ago

I’ve become a participant in my own undoing, on a much smaller scale. The success of my blog, Rescuing Providence is directly responsible for the un-success of my second book, according to the publisher. People can get something for free, if not from me then somebody else, and will not be so quick to fork over fifteen bucks for a book with similar content.
I’ve tried to stop posting content but find the heroin of instant gratification, even if it’s only a few people reading my stuff, too much to pass up. It’s actually me feeding an addiction that is ultimately destroying my chances for success.
I’ve got to go, I just thought of a great idea for a new post!

13 years ago

I can’t understand why anyone would buy a book or DVD in the first place. You can get them free from the library. As for computer software, you can get that even more easily for free online… although that would technically be copyright infringement…
Free is the future of all media. I’m of the personal opinion that intellectual property is a statist crock of made-up rights and anyone with a popular product who can’t figure out how to make money off of it simply isn’t trying hard enough. The music industry has already shifted toward making more money from concerts and merchandise than from album sales.
News just needs to get with the future. It won’t be on paper.

13 years ago

“I’m of the personal opinion that intellectual property is a statist crock of made-up rights and anyone with a popular product who can’t figure out how to make money off of it simply isn’t trying hard enough.”
Huh? If I come up with a web or mobile application that makes your life easier, it should be free? Why would I do that then?

13 years ago

Why does anyone bother updating Wikipedia? Why does Firefox exist? Who’s making bank off of Anchorrising?
There are other ways of controlling software usage than copyright, if developers are so inclined: DRM, contractual agreements, centrally controlled servers, update, and support, etc.
And other ways of making money. The fashion industry is one good example – fashion designs are not patented or copyright protected. Most of it involves name recognition, customization, and the first to market advantage.

13 years ago

I’m not talking about copyright, you originally stated:
“Free is the future of all media”
Software is media, whether it’s protected by copyright or not, you seem to believe that what I create should be free, right?
“update and support”? Huh? So it should be free up front but then I charge you to update it and support it? Why don’t you think updates should be free too?
“contractual agreements”
Huh? What contractual agreements are there if the software is free? What am I charging for?
Shouldn’t “centrally controlled servers” be free too, like the Amazon cloud?
Where I work, we use both open source and commercial software. Each has their benefits. However I don’t think that all software should be free. Things like Drupal and WordPress are great applications, but they’re built my hundreds of thousands or maybe millions of people who have a full time job and they work on that stuff in their free time.
I’m guessing that if you don’t do some pro bono law work, you’d like to. But imagine if that’s all there was in the law field. All your time was volunteer as a lawyer. How long would you last with no other source of income? And if you have another source of income (ie. another job) wouldn’t that take away from your time and abilities as a lawyer? That’s exactly my point. If everything I create digitally is going to be free, then why would I do that? How would I pay the bills?
I’m with you if your sentiment is that “open source” is good, but as for “Free is the future of all media”, I have to disagree. There will always be a need for some parts of it to be commercial.

13 years ago

Patrick – I believe that all of this stems from a semantic misunderstanding, and for that I apologize. My statement was not a moral condemnation of those who charge for media or software. That is the decision of the developer to make. It was intended as a simple recognition of the trend, based on advances in sofware copying and distribution technology, of releasing media to the public for free and finding other ways of producing revenue from it. This ties in directly to the copyright discussion because those who opt not to release software for free quickly find that it has been distributed for free without their consent anyway, and then may resort to countrproductive copyright battles to try to get the cat back in the bag.

13 years ago

“I’ve got to go, I just thought of a great idea for a new post!”
Let’s see – checking the A.R. fee schedule …
Ah, here we go:
“Inspiration of a Blog Post —- $5,000”
Michael, please make your check out to
“Anchor Rising”.

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