Content Programming Harms Content

Stagnant, mismanaged markets harm consumers. The broken video media market stands out as a broken marketplace. Relatively few competitors. Highly-coupled market components such as distribution with content makers make for less customer choice.

Tight-coupled markets mean decisions arise from the top or center rather than from the bottom or edges of the system. Akin to central planning, the oft-criticized anti-feature of most communist systems, decision concentration leads invariably to inefficiencies via poor decisions.

Content programming harms content. It arises from the market structure, and programming lead to poor decisions. The most criticized result of content programming comes in cable news. People lament the low quality of cable news content, while pointing to the need to fill “24 hours” as the cause (of course, it is not truly 24 hours, as the cable news networks show repeats overnight, excepting extraordinary breaking news).

But time-to-fill harm pales in comparison to the very notion of the timeslot. Timeslots arose from the radio and content programming there. A vestige of broadcasting, they filled the need to provide content over the limited resource of the airwaves. When broadcasting began on television, the limitation of the delivery medium continued to exist, as it did over cable television.

Advances mooted these limitations. Attention bottlenecks content delivery much more than distribution today. And yet content remains coupled to the timeslot, due to the broken market. So-called gluttonous viewing of content via video streaming services such as Netflix points to future erosion of the timeslot, but consumer expectations may keep it and its harm alive.

Many programs run longer than they need. This leads to filler content that weakens pacing and increases plot predictability. The occasional show runs shorter than it needs, leading to abbreviated or lost quality content (subplots and the like).

The same harms show out in the series or season model used for most television content. Shows may be cut short before their time due to the programmers’ incorrect expectations of popularity. Or they may run several years beyond their time due to the wish to reap as much profit from a once-popular, once-innovative show.

These things apply to the film industry as well. Sequels to movies that should never have been made, or shorts being turned into features when the short time serves their story better.

So-called webisodes also point to erosion of the programming norms. Free web-exclusive shows often arrive on irregular schedules and yet retain strong viewer bases. Discovering the true breadth of the actual video market will take years of erosion of the status quo. It may be that a certain amount of regular-release, traditional-length will remain, or in fifty years the only shows that come out at 22-to-30 minutes will be throwbacks and re-runs.

Just like storage media dominated by floppies helped limit the types of expressions of early computers, we’re certainly being limited by the current limits imposed by content programming.


Why Merely Trade Carbon Emissions?

You’re sitting down with friends for a picnic, when you realize you didn’t pack enough of everything. You’re going to have to share. So you come up with an ingenious scheme to balance both the amount of food everyone gets and let people have as much of the food they like as possible, while remaining sensitive to any potential allergies or special dietary requirements. Congratulations!

This sort of solution is what Carbon Emission Trading (or Carbon Tax; the two are interchangeable for the purposes of this post) is supposed to be. If it were ever actually implemented, that is. We’re instead still gobbling away at the picnic food without considering what happens when the lake’s shore begins to move up to our comfy blanket.

But the question comes, assuming that emissions trading would work, why couldn’t we use it for other things? For example, could countries, cities, trade in things like poverty?

Of course, the first thing that comes to mind when thinking of US cities having to reduce poverty is the problem of cheating. Which may be one of the major problems with actual emission trading. It remains to be seen, but seems plausible that some of the measures to combat a problem would be more efficient than cheating. In that case, even when accounting for cheating, it may still be a useful scheme.

Which is sort of odd, that we might be okay with cheating in some cases. Especially if the city next door is actually paying their full poverty credit deficit, while the city down the block is hiding some of its poverty. But when we’re talking about things that don’t get enough attention, even caring enough to cheat may just be a step in the right direction.

And that leads to the other side of the issue: participation. Currently the USA does not have a carbon reduction plan any more sophisticated than a Texas governor’s. But a few individual states do have taxes in place for carbon. And many other countries do have reduction plans.

For the time being, it may be acceptable to consider non-participation to be about like cheating. And then, as participation levels build, most of the outsiders will join and meet their international and ecological obligations.

But the question remains, whether the same approach should be implemented for many more things. Whether we can make greater progress on big and small issues (the aforementioned poverty, but others that plague us like education and infrastructure investment, to smaller more public health type of problems such as light pollution) using different approaches than simply hoping that action will come.

One of the features of trading approaches would seem to be political cover. The politicians don’t directly institute restrictions, but only set them generally as part of a new market. In that respect, they can’t be as demonized as new regulations usually are.


Competition vs. the US

Look at what you are wearing.  Did it all come from the same store?

Look at your feet. If you are wearing shoes, are they brand-matched with your socks?  Does the brand of your belt match your pants?  Do your pants use a patented belt loop system that makes them incompatible with other belts?

These days, the barriers to entry are rising faster than Jesus beats it out of the tomb on Easter to get himself a (preternaturally kosher) green eggs and ham sandwich.  Even a seemingly mundane industry like farming has Mount Anto scrambling to bind the farmers’ hands and brand their hides.

It’s the same story almost everywhere you look.  Businesses trying to subvert the marketplace in favor of their own profits.  It’s a recipe for disaster.

Subverting the marketplace is the economic equivalent of deforestation.  In the short term you get tons of cheap wood and farmland, but in the long term you have tossed away some of your greatest resources for stability in favor of a few years of profits.

Even our leaders can’t help themselves, though.  They have long blocked any real competition for governance, savoring their cushy seats so much that they now increasingly risk their oligopoly due to the ever-escalating war of words they must rely on to keep their constituents in a frenzy rather than letting them calmly pore over the issues.

But it’s harmful.  The creation of commerce depends upon diversity and choice.  When industries couple themselves together, they remove choice from the market, and they decrease the overall creation of commerce.  More precisely, they usurp the individual’s choice and act as a proxy for it.

You might prefer one firm’s shoelaces, and another firm’s shoes, but without the choice to relace the shoes, you must decide which is more important.  If the barriers to entry are low, that’s fine, because the firm that’s losing can simply improve on their faults.

But when barriers are high, and many choices are coupled, it’s much harder.  Consumers are making thousands of tradeoffs and only choosing amongst a few firms in doing so.

The USA currently has lackluster competition in a variety of key areas (including the political markets), resulting in subpar economic performance.  Until that changes, consumers get inferior goods, investors get inferior returns, and stability will remain more fragile than it needs to be.