Voices of Digital Communities

The Pressure is On

Listen to the podcast I spend a lot of time talking or writing about the "broadband economy."  And when I'm doing it, I suspect ...

by / July 21, 2009
Listen to the podcast

I spend a lot of time talking or writing about the "broadband economy."  And when I'm doing it, I suspect that most people don't know what the heck I'm talking or writing about.

And why should they? It sounds like such an abstract idea, like globalization or paradigm shift or collateralized debt obligation.  It sounds like it has nothing to do with Main Street: with the daily doings of the people in your community in all their different walks of life.

And then, every once in a while, comes a real life story that perfectly illustrates why the broadband economy is the biggest thing to hit Main Street since the automobile.  

The Pressure Is On.gif Jon Horne is a journalist who covers the movie business for the Los Angeles Times.  In a recent story on National Public Radio's All Things Considered, he spoke about how connectivity is putting new pressure on the studios.  The new Shasha Baron Cohen movie, Bruno, went into its opening weekend with a lot of what Horne calls "marketability."  People knew who Cohen was, they remembered his hit movie Borat and were eager to give his new film a try.  But then, said Horne, "People came out of that movie and started texting and twittering their friends and telling them it wasn't any good.  So from the Friday opening to Saturday, Bruno ticket sales fell off 40%, which is just unheard of."

How does that affect movie-makers?  "It puts pressure on them to make good movies," Horne said.  "Even as little as two years ago, if the studios had a turkey, they would know that they had two weeks of business before the stink really caught up to the movie.  Now they have twelve hours.  People will come out a theater so quickly and share their opinions so fast and that word will spread so virally everywhere, that if a movie is bad, the audience will know it by Friday night and the movie will be dead by Saturday."

That's the broadband economy at work.  It is the ability of millions of customers to rate their experience of a purchase instantly and move markets overnight.  It is the opportunity for a small-town manufacturer to sell goods to customers on the far side of the planet - and for multinationals to move manufacturing anywhere they find the best mix of talent, cost and access to markets.  It is the story of the swine flu circling the world a dozen times before we even had meaningful facts about how dangerous it was or was not.  It is the power to export local culture, knowledge and experience for profit - and to have children in your schools encounter first-hand the culture, knowledge and experience of distant lands.  Whether we like it or not, the broadband economy puts pressure on us all to "make good movies."  In the broadband economy, success goes not to those who know how to play for time but to those who know that twelve hours is all the time they have. 
Robert Bell Co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum

Robert Bell is co-founder of the Intelligent Community Forum, where he heads its research and content development activities. He is the author of ICF's pioneering study, Benchmarking the Intelligent Community, the annual Top Seven Intelligent Communities of the Year white papers and other research reports issued by the Forum, and of Broadband Economies: Creating the Community of the 21st Century. Mr. Bell has also authored articles in The Municipal Journal of Telecommunications Policy, IEDC Journal, Telecommunications, Asia-Pacific Satellite and Asian Communications; and has appeared in segments of ABC World News and The Discovery Channel. A frequent keynote speaker and moderator at municipal and telecom industry events, he has also led economic development missions and study tours to cities in Asia and the US.