Managing Media Work is out!

My new, edited, book, titled Managing Media Work (published worldwide by Sage), is out - the first copy arrived in the mail today (see picture)... Amazing chapters by 27 terrific scholars in the fields of management, business, journalism, media and cultural studies.

I hope you will give it a chance - please let me know if you plan to assign it to courses and/or have graduate students work with it, and if you are a student and (are forced to) read the book, it would be great to hear from you.

Managing Media Work

The new year is off to a great start: I am extremely happy to report that the manuscript of Managing Media Work was sent to the publisher, Sage, today.

[UPDATE: 28 Feburary 2010] According to the Sage website, the book is scheduled for publication in July 2010 (Paperback ISBN: 9781412971249, list price: US $39.95; see also on Amazon).

To me, Managing Media Work is a logical extension and follow-up to Media Work (Polity Press, 2007). In a way, the preface to this edited volume contains the method section that I ommitted from Media Work...

The Managing Media Work volume comprises original work by 27 international scholars in the fields of media management, media production, and media policy studies.

Given the increasingly global, networked, and unpredictable nature of the media industry, and the growing complexities of media work, the challenge to the future of the creative industries seems to be a uniquely managerial one.

The authors in Managing Media Work address in detail how media management can and should prepare itself for the future. Management is seen here not just in traditional terms - as in designing business models, contemplating finance and accounting mechanisms, structuring strategic partnerships - but more so in strictly human terms: the management of talent (both yours and that of others), and the management of your individual career in the media and creative industries.

Contributing authors are (listed chronologically): Brian Steward, Bozena Mierzejewska, Chris Bilton, Lucy Küng, Terry Flew, Philip Napoli, Toby Miller, Jane Singer, Leopoldina Fortunati, Pablo Boczkowski, Tim Marjoribanks, Keith Randle, Alisa Perren, Charles Davis, Susan Christopherson, Liz McFall, Sean Nixon, Chris Hackley, Amy Tiwsakul, Marina Vujnovic, Dean Kruckeberg, Aphra Kerr, Eric Harvey, Rosalind Gill, Annet Aris, Geert Lovink, and Ned Rossiter.

By way of introducing the volume, and to give a pre-publication preview of the awesome work that all these people have done, the book's preface, table of contents, and introductory chapter (that I co-authored with Brian Steward) can be downloaded from IU ScholarWorks.

Please feel free to contact me for more information, and for syllabi and course materials related to the book (in case you are considering adopting the book for a class).

Editing Journal Special Issues

During the last three years, I have had the privilege to work together with some of the most amazing minds in the field of media production, management, and work studies: Henry Jenkins (USC), John Banks (QUT), and Tim Marjoribanks (Melbourne). Together with these friends I guest co-edited special issues of what I consider to be among the most inspiring and diverse academic journals in our field:

- Convergence (volume 14/1 of 2008, on convergence culture with Henry);
- International Journal of Cultural Studies (volume 12/5 of 2009, on co-creative labor with John); and
- Journalism (volume 10/5 of 2009 on newswork, with Tim).

If you are interested and active in research, teaching, or taking courses related to media work, labor, production, management, and industries, I hope and suggest you check these special issues out. They feature some of the best scholars in these fields, both upcoming talent and well-established stars. I want to use this blogpost to record my sincere thanks and deep appreciation for the work of Henry, Tim, and John. It has been a tremendous experience editing these journals (which in turn also inspired me to edit a book-length volume, on which you can expect some more info soon (working title: "Managing Media Work"), as its full manuscript has just been sent to the publisher...

The Media Organizations Group Blog

In the context of courses I teach at Indiana University on what work in the media and creative industries is all about, graduate students and I have started a group blog, titled Media Organizations @ IU, where we will post news items, commentary, analyses, and debates on all things related to working in the media. We hope you will check us out there, bookmark us, leave comments, and include us in your RSS feeds!

Just Out: Guest-Edited Special Journal Issue on CoCreative Labour

My friend and colleague at QUT, John Banks, and I worked on this special for the last two years or so, and we are very excited how it turned out. I hope you check one or more of the papers out! Please let me know if you need one of the PDF's, I'm sure we can help.

International Journal of Cultural Studies Table of Contents for SPECIAL ISSUE: CO-CREATIVE LABOUR: 1 September 2009; Vol. 12, No. 5.

Table of Contents Alert

Co-creative labour
John Banks and Mark Deuze

Amateur experts: International fan labour in Swedish independent music
Nancy K. Baym and Robert Burnett

America Online volunteers: Lessons from an early co-production community
Hector Postigo

Misfortunes, memories and sunsets: Non-professional images in Dutch news media
Mervi Pantti and Piet Bakker

Working for the text: Fan labor and the New Organization
R.M. Milner

The mediation is the message: Italian regionalization of US TV series as co-creational work
Luca Barra

All for love: The Corn fandom, prosumers, and the Chinese way of creating a superstar
Ling Yang

Shadow Media, Creative Work, and Organized Networks

Media professionals are, like everyone else, hit hard by the economic downturn - but not just that. In an age of egocasting, consumers turning mediators and producers (or: produsers/prosumers), and behaviors of media firms signaling those of the people formerly known as the employers, mass layoffs, outsourcing and other forms of contingency have great impact on the employment, morale, and creative process in media work.

All of this is particularly problematic if one assumes work to take place in the specific context of media firms and companies – if one understands media work in the traditional sense of employment. That model for media work is (and has been for quite a while) not very realistic for many professionals across the media industries, as their work relationships can best be described as contingent and "atypical", which means: work takes place often without contract, without any kind of formal responsibility or accountability system, is dependent on fluctuations (for example in the market, consumer demand, pricing and financing arrangements) beyond the control of the professional(s) involved.

In 2009 we can add to this caveat on media work the emergence of what Businesweek’s Jon Fine predicts as a shadow media, consisting of
“properties created and staffed by those pink-slipped in '08 and '09. This sets the stage for epic clashes with existing players in '10 and beyond.”
Indeed – clashes with those still under some form of employment. Yet those numbers are declining fast, according to a brief but powerful overview in The Hollywood Reporter:
“Layoffs in the media industry, which includes film and TV companies, amounted to 28,083 last year, the highest since 43,420 staffers were let go in 2001 following the bursting of the dot-com bubble.”

The question is: how can we make the shadow media economy (or rather: ecosystem, if we do not necessarily assume the creative work involved is done to further commercial enterprise) visible?

One way is through the emergence of formal, semi-formal, and informal organized networks (see the work of Ned Rossiter, Vincent Mosco and Catherine McKercher in this context) of creatives (in advertising, film/TV, journalism, games, and so on). These are often not unions, but rather loosely integrated collectives, often local yet increasingly transnational in nature that act as some kind of bulwark against the intimidating nature of the global marketplace for media/cultural/creative industries.

Examples of formal global media professional networks: the International Federation of Journalists, Global Unions, and the Media/Culture/Graphical sector of the International Labour Organization (ILO).

Examples of semi-formal global networks are the International Game Developers Association (IGDA), and Artbox.

Examples of informal networks: any and all nodes and hubs online where media workers come together, such as at numerous Facebook groups and Twitterfeeds (at Twitter I warmly recommend following themediaisdying).

Some personal favorites on Facebook are: "Don't tell my mum I'm in advertising - she thinks I play piano in a brothel” (5,162 members as of 10 January 2009), the Newspaper Escape Plan (2,413 members on Jan.10), "Trust me, I’m a Journalist" (with 18,230 members on Jan.10), the Film Industry Network (18,051 members on Jan.10), and the "People who have had their souls broken by working in the games industry" group (with 513 members on Jan.10).

It should be fascinating to follow these intitiatives or "spaces of flows" as Castells uses the concept. How this all translates to better conditions for creative work to flourish and professionals to be rewarded for their expertise, I do not know. But the inspiration is certainly there, and our research should follow suit.

The People Formerly Known as the Employers

TPFKATA

In 2006, NYU professor Jay Rosen penned an astute observation about the changing power relationships in the media industries - and more specifically, the world of journalism - regarding the impact of internet. His analysis had the catchy title "The People Formerly Known as the Audience", and pointed towards a shift in access to reporting tools (news gathering, editing, and publishing) to what used to be imagined by newsworkers as the audience. Importantly, it is not just the tools of reporting now being available to "We the Media" (such as blogging, podcasting, vodcasting, and other forms of social or "our" media), but also emerging forms of legal protection (Creative Commons licensing), and increasing uses of users by professional media organizations, thereby giving the former audience the semi-official status as competitor-colleagues.

Examples of deliberately turning the media consumer into (co-) producer across different creative industries are viral and word-of-mouth (or: "social") marketing, interactive advertising, computer and videogame modification SDKs (Software Development Kits such as the Source SDK of Valve), and citizen journalism, where news organizations indeed call upon their audiences to reconstitute themselves as journalists - such as Yo Periodista at Spanish newspaper El Pais, iReport at American broadcaster CNN, and so on.

Flat Hierarchies

At the heart of this argument is the recognition of a new or modified power relationship between news users and producers, between amateur and professional journalists. It can be heralded as a democratization of media access, as an opening up of the conversation society has with itself, as a way to get more voices heard in an otherwise rather hierarchical and exclusive public sphere. In this scenario, some of the traditional and generally uncontested social power of journalists now flows towards publics, and potentially makes for a flatter hierarchy in the publication and dissemination of news and information.

By all means, this is an important intervention on the audience side. But what industry observers like Rosen tend to omit, underreport, or dismiss is another equally if not more powerful redistribution of power taking place in the contemporary media ecosystem: a sapping of economic and cultural power away from professional journalists by what I like to call The People Formerly known as the Employers. Employers in the media industries increasingly tend to withdraw from labor, that is, from taking responsibility for their creative workforce - instead giving them the feeling that they are just assets that cost money.

Primarily I owe this insight to my friend and brilliant colleague Professor Leopoldina Fortunati of the University of Udine, Italy (who visited us at Indiana University this week).

[update 27.10.08] Some more or less recent concrete examples of TPFKATE and power sapping away from reporters and other professionals in the creative industries, such as a survey in Summer 2008 among media workers at Fairfax (link to PDF) in Australia. The Fairfax study, similar to a survey last year among members of the US Newsguild, shows how media workers among other things report feel unappreciated, see their colleagues (1 out of 3 in the US) lose their jobs for no apparent reason, and experience early retirements without jobs being replaced (other than by temporary staffers, stringers, and freelance correspondents). One of the most crucial and foreboding remarks in the Fairfax report reads: "[...] younger journalists, in particular, [have] become demoralised. There is no sense that the company values its staff."

Recent news signaling powerdrain also comes from plans for mass layoffs at especially newspapers but also in broadcasting, such as in the American news market, and the media industry generally (see IWantMedia's archive from 2000-2006), as overall one in six jobs in the media has dissappeared over the last couple of years.

TPFKATE

Employers in the news industry traditionally offered most of their workers permanent contracts, included healthcare and other benefits (at the end of the 20th century sometimes even including maternal leave), pension plans, and in most cases even provisions sponsoring reporters to retrain themselves, participate in workshops, and serve on boards that gave them a formal voice in future planning and strategies of the firm. Today, most if not all of that has disappeared - especially when we consider the youngest journalists at work.

Today, the international news industry is contractually governed by what the International Federation of Journalists euphemistically describes as "atypical work", which means all kinds of freelance, casualized, informal, and otherwise contingent labor arrangements that effectively individualize each and every workers' rights or claims regarding any of the services offered by employers in the traditional sense as mentioned. This, in effect, has workers compete for (projectized, one-off, per-story) jobs rather than employers compete for (the best, brightest, most talented) employees.

Furthermore, newswork in particularly English, Spanish, and German-speaking countries gets increasingly outsourced: to subcontracted temporary workers or even offshored to other countries, where the People Formerly Known as the Employers practice what has been called "Remote Control Journalism." Journalists today have to fight with their employers to keep the little protections they still have, and do so in a cultural context of declining trust and credibility in the eyes of audiences (the few "audiences" that still exist given the Rosen formula), a battle for hearts and minds that they have to wage without support from those who they traditionally relied on: their employers.

Powershift

So what we see happening in the context of todays new media ecology and the emerging global creative economy is power slowly but surely slipping away from those who we rely on for our entertainment (ex.: the recent writers' and actor's labor disputes in Canada and the US), our advertising (ex.: the widely reported power shift occuring in agencies from creative towards account managers, media planners, and digital consultants), and - perhaps most disturbingly, our news.

For all the brilliance of those advocating a more democrative media system, there is generally nothing in their analysis that acknowledges this erosion of power, this wholesale redistribution of agency away from those who tend to crave only one thing: creative and editorial autonomy. No matter how excited I can get about user-generated content and the collective intelligence of cyberspace, this power shift erodes the very foundation of the way we know (and thus interact with) the world, and our ability to truly function in it autonomously, and on our own terms.

Perhaps we should take this analysis even further: the only way we can live in the world as this power shift continues, is to rely exclusively on our own terms. This in turn inevitably leads to mass solipsism and paranoia - as the only truth we can still believe in has to be strictly our own, and nothing or nobody can (or should) still be trusted. It is the perfect storm.

Paraphrasing Zygmunt Bauman: I am writing this down in the hope of preventing an inevitable disaster.

Uncertainty about Digital Futures

These are some thoughts based on a discussion over at Deadline Hollywood Daily on the uncertainties over the digital future. The film and TV people - above and below the line - are at odds over what will happen once the distribution model for their work is expected to completely shift to online. In the current strike, a complaint - as explained in this United Hollywood video - has been that studio executives claim not to make any money (or not knowing what will happen), while in the same breath explaining to reporters or investors that their businesses online will generate billions. Lots of uncertainty about digital futures, for sure.

It seems that all parties in this conflict are certain about one thing: the future is online. So lets ignore the fact that below-the-line labor suffers most from this strike, and that paying writers for scripts and not for repurposing the products based on those scripts perhaps might be valid if you put writers on a payroll with benefits and so on.

Regarding the promises of the digital age, several industry observers have made reference to the importance of the "pipes" (you know, broadband bandwidth). That seems to be true - but I think may be ultimately misleading. The studios have gradually retreated from producing movies (just like the labels have almost stopped investing in artists and bands), instead focusing their business model predominantly on marketing and distribution (and some boutique creative work).

As internet is basically an open P2P communications infrastructure, it completely disrupts the gatekeeper model in journalism (hence the panic in the news industry), or the bottleneck model in, for example, film and music.

In the short term, fighting off anyone who wants to share in online revenue is a solid business purpose (to please stock market analysists). but in the long run, it seems - and I may sound too hopeful here - that talent, creativity and innovation may be a more promising investment.

Assuming for a moment that Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL (the "Fab Four") will win the fight for Net neutrality, they and companies like them will be in control of distribution and access. producers and consumers of content - whether professional or amateur - will have to go through them. but they do not operate on the premise of gatekeeping - more on the level of forwarding, "gatewatching", annotating, aggregating, and so on.

In other words: what will have lasting value, is compelling content. How it will get to whoever wants to consume it, is in the short term hugely important but in the long term tremendously irrelevant.

Thoughts in progress...