After having spent some time reading, communicating and listening on the topic, I’m ready to start posting on my new passion, Media and Communications. I intend these first posts to inform in the era of COVID, and to draw readers’ attention to the podcast, which I believe is (at least currently) a superior form of news dissemination.
In the movie industry, much has been made about the successful release of Trolls World Tour, which was released directly to streaming services in April. According to an article by The Verge, Trolls World Tour took in nearly $100mm in its first three weeks of availability, which is certainly quite respectable in the context of a $90mm budget and in light of a more favorable split of gross revenues to the studio. However, I believe it’s important to remember that this is possibly a best-case scenario for such a release. First, Trolls World Tour was released in early April, when the country‘s new infection rate and travel restrictions were at a peak. In other words, people had few alternatives but to tune into new theatrical releases over streaming services. Second, Trolls World Tour was one of only a handful of movies to be released, rather than postponed. This will almost certainly not be the case by next summer, when the industry’s inventory is bulging at the seams.
United States new coronavirus cases – accessed May 28, 2020
Source: University of Washington coronavirus model
Arguably, the near-future presents significant challenges for studios. The model had been to release new blockbusters to 4,000 screens and make a significant amount of money in a relatively short period of time. Here’s Trolls’s box office take, according to boxofficemojo.com (accessed May 28, 2020):
As states and theaters reopen, people won’t be spending as much time at home. Studios won’t initially be greeted with the possibility of 4,000 open and packed theaters as a means for content distribution. Only a fraction of these theaters will be open, and audiences will likely be much smaller for each showing. Theaters, confronted with their own economics (i.e. that of making most of their profits on weekends) will have to make a calculated decision regarding when and whether to open at all.
In others words, at least in my opinion, the economics of a theatrical release won’t look that great, and neither will a pure digital release. For those that are interested in trying to read tea leaves, watch for news on Christopher Nolan’s “Tenet”, which is still slated for a July 17 theatrical release. Warner Brothers spent over $200mm to make the film ($300-350mm, if promotion is included, according to IndieWire), so the stakes are certainly high.
Switching gears, I wanted to highlight a recommendation. For those of you who are interested in factual reporting and haven’t actively engaged with journalism podcasts, I am here to encourage you to do so. Podcasts offer several advantages over other forms of journalism, and they may represent one piece of the remedy for the partisanship that seems to pervade mainstream and online journalism. As I see it, podcasts offer you the following:
- The truth (more or less). I’m sure you need to be choosy, but I’ve found that many of the podcasts put out by even mainstream franchises offer a much less biased view of the facts. The example I will give here is Rabbit Hole, by the New York Times. While it’s true, Rabbit Hole is still a product of a north eastern narrator and narrative, the product is more of an exploration of the effects of social media outlets like YouTube than a polemic on the persons profiled within.
- Access. Podcasts are usually free. I listen regularly to the Washington Post’s Post Reports podcast, where I’m unwilling to subscribe to the Post, which uses a hard paywall for its content. As with Rabbit Hole, I find Post Reports to be relatively unbiased (borderline didactic in some cases), which makes for low blood pressure listening.
- The voice. Unlike with the written word, podcasts let you hear the voice of those doing the reporting and those being reported on. It’s a different and often better experience. The only thing you don’t get is a visual representation.
- Time assurances. For those with a schedule, podcasts are ideal. If you are going on a run, you can pick a podcast that fits your budget. It’s right there! If you have 45 minutes before your next Zoom meeting, bingo!
For anyone who wants a recommendation, my current three favorites are Inside the Hive, Post Reports, and Reveal.