Like many of you who have viable radio careers, my academic record had its share of blemishes. Despite earning two degrees along the way, my time at universities was as successful for the required courses I navigated, survived, or managed to avoid, as it was the ones where I excelled.
A great example of that is science. I deftly got a Bachelor's degree with only taking one science course – astronomy – and I passed by the skin of my teeth. To this day, I cannot explain simple astrological terms – like parallax of black holes. But I have developed a fascination with the universe, and our small place in it.
So, I suppose that's what drew me to Evan Shapiro's map of the Media Universe, a representation of the mashup of media and technology that so dominates the world of radio – and what we talk about virtually every day on this blog. And it doesn't require a PhD to understand it:
It's an amazing representation of the media landscape by someone who could only be described as a media savant. Shapiro now is an adjunct professor at both NYU and Fordham.
Among his many achievements, he has run the Independent Film Channel, Sundance TV, and National Lampoon, in addition to serving as EVP for NBCU's streaming premier comedy service.
I am fascinated the more I look at Shapiro's depiction of the Media Universe, which he continues to update. It's hard not to miss what Shapiro calls the “Trillion Dollar Death Stars” and their strong gravitational pulls – Amazon, Apple, Google (Alphabet), Microsoft, and at some point, Facebook.
Shapiro has been doing this impressive cartology – map making – for about five years, originally as a teaching tool for his college classes.
As he notes, “The media biz is full of silos and navel-gazing. Too often execs and practitioners fail to see the forest for their own trees. The war for attention is cross-platform, cross-medium and cross solar system. The data visualization allows the viewer to SEE the scale of the battles, and recognize their own place in it – all at one glance.”
On our CES tours, we visit several exhibits scattered throughout the Las Vegas Convention Center, including the “city states” on display by Samsung, LG, Intel, and others. We also stop by a number of major automakers and brands like Sony and Amazon and Google.
And inevitably, one of our tour attendees will ask “Where's radio?”
It's become an important question – at CES and on Evan Shapiro's map.
If you look in the space between Apple and Amazon, the orange spheres represent the “audio” end of the universe. Look hard enough and you'll find iHeart and Audacy. But you'll also notice a considerably larger SiriusXM.
But there's a bigger picture, as Shapiro reminds us: “When you look at (the size of) Spotify, Apple and Amazon, all of whom are players in the Audio Wars, I think it tells you all you need to know.”
The big takeaway, of course, is the growing gap between traditional media and the tech players. Yes, the Trillion Dollar Death Stars are hard to miss on the map, but as Shapiro points out, it is about a fundamental shift in business models that is also an important takeaway:
“(There's) the growing tension between subscriptions/rundles (recurring-revenue subscriptions and bundling) and unit sales/ads. It's interesting to see how disrupters like Netflix and Roblox can scale to the size of the (traditional) players so quickly.”
There's another key thing Shapiro sees when he stares at his map: “The enormous force of Gen Y and Gen Z on the shape of the universe.”
If there's a part of the galaxy that radio broadcasters have categorically failed to visit, it's the g-force of youth on media usage.
I added “coordinates” to the map below to make it easy for me to draw your attention to “points of interest.”
Here are a few highlights:
- D1 – The radio sector. (You'll notice Clubhouse) is now in the vicinity.
- C5 – It's PBS. NPR, however, does not make the map.
- B3-4 – Netflix looks big, but it will never be Apple (lower left).
- D7 – The gaming sector is impressive.
- C7 – Here's where most social media platforms (minus Facebook in the top right sector) reside.
When we look to the skies on a starry, starry night, we feel very small in the big scheme of things.
And when I look at Evan Shapiro's Media Universe map, the business I have worked in for my entire career looks small, too.
That's the power of perspective.
As Shapiro reminded me, the map is highly useful because “most people are visual learners.”
So, what did you learn?