The 500 Year Media Storm – What Happens Now?

Posted on October 7th, by Michael Rosenblum in New Media. No Comments

That’s all there is….

This is the Monastery at Dale Abbey in England.

Or at least all that’s left of it.

Monasteries were big business in the 15th Century, at least until Henry VIII got hold of them.

When he was done, they looked like the above.

Before Henry though, it was a very different story.

Monasteries were where the Monks hung out.  And the Monks worked for the Pope.  And the Pope ran the Catholic Church. And the Catholic Church was all that there was.

All that there was.

The Catholic Church, under the leadership of the Pope in Rome was the repository and source of all (ALL!) science, teaching, commerce, religion, politics, money, writing, ideas, publishing and just about everything else.

You can think of the 15th Century Church as a kind of combination of Apple and GM and Exxon and Harvard and the Pentagon and China and Walmart and McDonalds and Microsoft and NASA and Prada all rolled into one – except it was a lot bigger and more powerful.

Get the concept?

Because it also held the keys to Salvation, which was everyone’s goal. Think of it as Powerball, but with a much bigger prize.

When Henry came to the throne in 1502, The Catholic Church was pretty much the whole ball of wax. And it looked like it was going to be that way forever. After all, who could take it down? Who could even threaten such an institution?  Threaten Apple and they’ll take you to court. Threaten The Vatican and they”ll excommunicate you, which meant an eternity burning in Hell, which is even worse than years of legal bills.

Much worse.

Prior to Henry’s time, books were extremely expensive things to publish.
The cost of buying a single book in those days was about $45,000 in today’s money.  (For this bit of information I am grateful to NPR and to the federal funding which still exists, at least so far).

As you can imagine, not many people were buying books.  If a book cost $45,000 today, Amazon would not be such a great stock to own.  Barnes and Noble would have locks on the bookshelves and security tags on every book. And pretty much no one would read.

But they don’t cost $45,000.  Or even $45. (In fact, you can download your own copy of iPhone Millionaire for only $12.10 right now)!

The reason books suddenly got so cheap was that Gutenberg’s printing press made it possible for anyone with an idea to publish and distribute their ideas at almost no cost.  That was a real revolution.  One of the people who glommed onto the Gutenberg thing (an early adapter) was Martin Luther.  And one of Luther’s earliest readers (another high tech early adapter) was Henry VIII.  Henry read what Luther thought and said, ‘makes sense to me. Seize the monestaries and tell the Pope to get lost’.

And he did.

That’s what happens when you slash the cost of access to information via new technologies.  Whole established industries and ways of thinking come crashing down.

That was 500 years ago.

Now, it is happening again.

This time through the web.

Information – all information – is available to everyone and anyone all the time for free.  And on top of that, anyone can publish any idea they have (or TV show they think would be cool) and distribute it world wide… for free.

Once a single book cost $45,000.  Today it costs $40.00. (note the deep discount on my book!)

That’s a price reduction of 99.992%

That’s a pretty steep price reduction.

Now, let’s apply that math to the cost of producing a TV show.

Once it was thought that it cost $250,000 to make a half- hour show for cable.

But at that technology-driven rate of ‘change’ it should now only cost $223 to make a half-hour of TV.

Break out your iPhone, start shooting, cut on FCPX or iMovie and I think we are about there.



If the 15th Century Revolution in book publishing set off the collapse of the dominance of the Church in Rome; the birth of the Enlightenment; the end of the Monastic system in Britain; the birth of independent universities; the rise of modern medicine and so much more….what will the 21st Century Revolution bring us?

One can reasonably guess it is going to be a lot more than just cheaper TV shows.


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Every day Michael Rosenblum blogs about the latest developments in the world of video and the media as well as future trends in technology and equipment.

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