vol. 27 no. 4, December, 2022

Book Reviews

Lotz, Amanda D. Media disrupted: surviving pirates, cannibals, and streaming wars. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2022. 187 p. ISBN 978-0-262-04609-1. $24.95.

The title of the book by Amanda D. Lotz, professor at the Queensland University or Technology, promised something that is interesting to most of the researchers in the areas of information and communication studies, namely, analyses of what is happening to modern media in the ongoing process of digitization and digitalization of everything. The promise was not hollow and the book turned out to be even more interesting than I had expected.

First, it is not a dry scholarly monograph. Prof. Lotz has turned it into a text that can attract much wider public interested in the development of modern media and any other business, though it is based on rigorous research findings of her own and other researchers. She has promised to expose the major myths that have guided media industries and still do so, and that is what she does very effectively. A steel link between the media industry and the behaviour of their users and consumers emerges through the investigation of four industries: music recording, newspaper, film, and television.

The case of the developments in the music industry is dissected from the point of view of new possibilities offered by the digital technologies and, especially, the Internet, blindness of the recording companies to the changing behaviour of music consumers and their efforts to prevent the development, the role of newcomers to the music digital retail, and, finally, to the present situation which has adapted to the disruption. Instead of killing recording companies, music piracy was leading the way to its salvation, which has happened so far. As the digital disruption is going on, it is worth watching the adoption of new possibilities among the consumers, instead of criminalizing their behaviour. At the end of each chapter, the author presents not only conclusions, but also suggestions for further reading to those who may be interested in deepening their knowledge and understanding of a particular area.

The second case of the newspaper industry is presented by cleverly dissecting it and demonstrating specific structure of the newspapers bundling news, journalism and advertising. The digital disruptions have caused problems for all three of those newspaper elements, but mostly to the newspaper itself. Again the needs and interests of news users, advertisers and readers of journalist materials have gone in different directions that newspaper industry had difficulties to follow, perceive and implement in business solutions.

The third case of the film industry has been quite revealing as the disruption was slow and gradual, not only because of digital developments, but also because of the business models and the income structures that were affected even before the Internet by home videos and, later, DVDs. Specific interests of the film viewers and goers and their practices have influenced further relations between streaming services, such as Netflix, big film production companies, and even the definitions of films and their categories applied by the members of the industry.

The fourth case of television was the most interesting for me as my knowledge of it was the lowest, while it was the focus of Lotz's research for many years. It seemed to have commonalities with the newspaper industry as well as facing similar challenges as the film industry. The bundle of 'ephemeral' and 'durable' programming is similar to 'news' and 'journalism', while streaming possibilities have affected television similarly to the film industry. Although television is facing multiple competition from different directions, it still persists and finds its niche in the practices of viewers. It is also less affected in other countries than in the US, especially those that have subsidised television studios and do not depend on advertising.

The author has found a way to draw a reader into the text by presenting the situation in each industry before the disruption started and then depicting the changing situation. She uses the term kindling to name the conditions that have led to the fires or actual disruption of the studied industires, instead of the factors suggested by the myths of piracy or cannibalism in media. It was interesting that the myth of pirates has been the most influential through different media causing highest fears and strong retaliation. In fact, the measures taken by many media industries against pirates were not only quite useless, but added to building further barriers between the producers and the consumers and caused a number of other problems that we are starting to realise, e.g., because of the copyright changes.

The discussed media industries were examined in the context of the USA, which may be quite different from other countries. The author notes this and points to some differences with, e.g., the UK, as well as the exeptions related to local or small enterprise situation in particular media industries.

The title of the last summarising chapter Fear failing consumers, not cannibals, or losing control is quite telling and points the attention of the media actors to a very important direction, which seems quite evident, however, is much more complicated and disruptive than the industries want to acknowledge. The simplistic understanding of the relation between media producers and comsumers, the assumptions of direct effects of user actions on industry incomes and other major sins that this book discusses and exposes as failings make it a must read to everyone engaged in any media industry.

Elena Maceviciute

Swedish School of Library and Information Science
November, 2022

How to cite this review

Maceviciute, E. (2022). Review of: Lotz, Amanda D. Media disrupted: surviving pirates, cannibals, and streaming wars. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2022. Information Research, 27(4), review no. R751 [Retrieved from http://www.informationr.net/ir/reviews/revs751.html]

Information Research is published four times a year by the University of Borås, Allégatan 1, 501 90 Borås, Sweden.