Life during fragmentation

Yesterday, I used Participant Media’s cable-network acquisition as a springboard for divining lessons relevant to periodical and book publishers. Participant’s emerging television division is led by Evan Shapiro, who joined the company last May.

At, Brandon Gutman interviewed Shapiro just as he was starting his new job. Asked if television itself is “dead”, Shapiro responded:

“… the death of your father’s TV does not mean that TV itself is not alive and well.  In fact, TV is more of a creative and cultural force than it’s ever been – more influential and better made than at any point in its history. True, cable, DVRs, online streaming and electronic downloads have fragmented viewing into tiny niches, redefining the very idea of a hit show. Consequently, unlike many films, TV shows, their producers and their networks, can now cater to smaller, more targeted audiences. Freed from having to appeal to the lowest common denominator, TV has become more varied, more ambitious, more targeted and far more satisfying to its audiences.”

In the interview, which was sent to me by O’Reilly Media’s Kat Meyer, Shapiro describes a reality that most publishers will find familiar. Television is no longer a mass medium. No program gathers half the households in the country, all at the same time.

In its place are channels, platforms and opportunities that focused content providers will be able to tap. As an example of how a content-driven company can respond, Shapiro described the opportunity for Participant:

“There’s a multi-generation community of 15 to 30 year olds that are always starved for new, original content. Their thirst is insatiable. They want quality storytelling, simple access and no bullshit. At the same time, there are businesses that want to reach and serve those audiences, but are struggling with the best way to do it.

“So, at Participant, we’re building an engine for authentic content, tailored to next the generation’s tastes and consumption; and an open, transparent business model that helps TV continue to evolve.”

The full interview is worth reading. Television once commanded a reach that print-based publishing could only dream about, but its fragmentation signals a change that affects all media businesses.

About Brian O'Leary

Founder and principal of Magellan Media Consulting, Brian O’Leary helps enterprises with media and publishing components capitalize on the power of content. A veteran of more than 30 years in the publishing industry and a prolific content producer himself, Brian leverages the breadth and depth of his experience to deliver innovative content solutions.