Renaissance Online Magaizne Bytes and Picas

FEBRUARY 2000 | VOL. 4, NO. 2



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GARY BAUM is a contributing writer for Renaissance Online Magazine.


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HOW THE WEB WAS WON
[ 1, 2 ]

The difference between "new" and "old" media companies has been evident ever since the Internet sold out and went mainstream in 1994. But new media is not just about the Web. Its defining difference from its counterpart was that it always had the Internet's best interest at heart while old media never seemed to care. Companies like TW tried (see: Pathfinder) but failed (again, see: Pathfinder) to succeed on the Internet. So, instead of going back to the drawing board this late in the Internet game, TW did what any self-respecting corporate powerhouse would do. It effectively integrated AOL into its own business so that it could become the smart and nimble new media company that it realized it would never become on its own.

Over the course of this year, as Case stated during the merger announcement, the difference between "new" and "old" media will finally and irreversibly disappear as the rest of the market in TW and AOLs' respective business sectors tries to stabilize itself. New media companies such as Yahoo! and old conglomerates like AT&T are undoubtedly gearing up to begin a mating dance in response to the AOL-TW deal that will be over by the end of the year. These companies will ally with each other so that they can simply survive in an age where entities such as AOL-TW will prosper. And, because of this necessary stabilization, the age of dot companies will end. The fragile dot companies, which have been nurtured by the fertile waters of the past decade's Internet frenzy, will become casualties of this new phase of corporate mergers and hostile takeovers because, like TW and its acquisition of AOL, the fact of the matter is that old media has no intention of becoming new media. As stated before, old media's only goal is to further its own, traditional interest: making money the old-fashioned way. That is, by selling products for money. And therein lies the realization that the adolescent Internet (a bastion of consumer-friendly free or low-priced services) will soon mature into just another communication tool for large media companies to use for the benefit of their bottom lines.

The Internet has come to a fork in its own road. The so-called "Wild Wild Web" of the '90s has been won (by the old media companies, not the "new" ones -- which most people seem to believe) and where it will go from here is anyone's guess. However, if AOL, the new media company, had been leading the charge toward broadband (and not TW) it could only be assumed that the future of the Internet would be much brighter.

If new media had remained independent of old media for a few years longer the Internet would have become a more fully realized and original medium, rather than have been cut short by traditional business practices so quickly. The Internet would have been something which all of the old methods of communications (such as music) would have had to adapt to simply remain relevant through such innovations as MP3.

Instead old media will hold back the web to suit its own goals. AOL-TW and companies like it will now be able to put a muzzle on the Internet's progress so that they can figure out just how to properly use what is already available of the new medium so far (the primitive, current version of the Internet) for the benefit of the old forms of media. Broadband will sadly not be used to complete the dream of the connected Internet reality but rather it will be manipulated by the companies that have a large stake in it (such as AOL-TW and its Road Runner) to, again, suit its own goal of helping its old media properties.

When, over the next several months, the AOL-TW deal snowballs throughout the market, the domino effect will make the reality of this situation much more evident, much sooner. Indeed, by the end of the year many other media entities will have followed the precedent that America Online and Time Warner set on January 11.

The web has now been won and the wide-open expanse of possibilities for the medium has been corralled. So Average Joe really has only one more important question left in regards to the Internet: Where will AOL-TW and its rivals choose to take him from here?

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