Where Random Happens


“Multimedia is any combination of text, graphic art, sound, animation, and video that is delivered by computer.”
– Tay Vaughan, Multimedia: Making It Work, 1993

The author at the Zapotec ruins of Mitla, Oaxaca, Mexico

The author at the Zapotec ruins of Mitla, Oaxaca, Mexico

For over two decades, the United States, then the rest of the world, entered the era of Internet Multimedia. This Information Age, which came into its own ten years ago with the advent of high-speed Internet (and thus online videos became a practicality) is talked about, used, monetized, but understood by few.

Any one of us can rattle off the handful of companies that grew huge by offering multimedia. They are the ones who either understood it, or guided its creation.

Most companies that fall outside of the big five want to grasp multimedia, but they don’t understand it.

Of course Multimedia is attractive because you, me, and nearly everyone else uses it (on our laptops, tablets, iPhones and Androids). We use it like a Driver uses a car. So businesses large and small want to get their share of the pie and sell it, like a Salesperson sells a car. But many small businesses (and quite a few large ones) don’t understand it they way they need to: like a Mechanic understands a car.

What holds these businesses back is, they don’t know how to hire that mechanic.

As graphic artists have expanded into multimedia, they find themselves growing right out of a job market that desires them (and many are creating their boutique businesses).

For Example –

Small business High-End press and print shops want a piece of the multimedia pie.

Advertising and Marketing agencies want a piece of the multimedia pie.

Magazines and Newspapers, awkwardly attempting the money hemorrhaging transition to an profitable online business model, want a piece of the multimedia pie.

Even cable companies and local television stations – who should be on top of this better than anyone – want a piece of the multimedia pie as their customers abandon premium Cable TV for streaming Internet (a service cable companies also provide, yet are having difficulty monetizing to meet their aging business model).

There is an awful lot of pie there and it is growing. And so many companies are watching their clients leave them for that pie, when there is only one thing stopping such companies from offering it.

The Problem –

In a recent conversation, a friend in the high tech Internet industry revealed (to his own surprise) the problem.

Companies are thirsting for people who have such multimedia knowledge.

Then they read the resumes of such people: People who grasp multimedia are proficient in Graphic Art as it relates to Print.

– BUT –

Such people are also proficient in front-end Web Design.

– BUT –

Such people are also proficient in theatrical, stage, Commercial, and/or Broadcast Video.

In today’s reality, these are all the foundations of a multimedia artist.

And such a large umbrella of proficiency frightens the companies who want to hire multimedia artists, because the management of such companies don’t understand what they want. To the hiring manager of a company who needs multimedia to survive, the resumes of multimedia artists appear unfocused: they’re all over the place! They aren’t experts in anything!

Such companies don’t understand that any person who can seamlessly, repeatedly, transition their work from Print to Broadcast to Internet, and make money doing it, IS a focused expert. One with a formidable set of skills in today’s marketplace.

And more: they are an Adaptable Focused Expert. You won’t find such people still stuck using 2008 technology.

Prove it –

Major software companies like Adobe, get this. Adobe is the Number One selling software used by professionals in Print, Broadcast, and Internet. The Adobe software suites reflect this. The companies that are in Print, Broadcast, and Internet buy Adobe products.

Yet even though companies buy multimedia suites from companies like Adobe, they are still wary of someone who understands how to use the full multimedia suite.

Adobe Gets It.

The biggest magazine for web designers is named, aptly enough, Web Designer.

In addition to the latest updated articles on coding in HTML5, CSS3, JQuery, PHP, and WordPress (as you’d expect), Web Designer also contains a constant trove of articles on graphics: textures, creating gifs pixel by pixel, site design, RWD (I hope you or your department head already understands – not just knows, but understands – what RWD, Foundation5, and Bootstrap is. Your “unfocused” multimedia artist does), and why the RICG community group* is as vitally important to cross platform multimedia graphic artists as the JPEG, MPEG, GIF, and PNG development groups.

And…? Web Designer tells web designers what they need to know in online Multimedia.

In short, Web Designer Gets It.

Does your department head not simply know of RWD, but understand its use and value? Can he or she easily explain why you do and don’t want it and if you do or don’t need it, based entirely on your specific desires for your business?

The Information Age is for the User. The Multimedia Age is for the Provider.

Multimedia is smoothly grafting a new hybrid of the former stand alone businesses of Print, Broadcast, and Internet into one. You can successfully choose to remain a stand-alone vendor of a specific part of that, but you cannot hope to remain ignorant of what your new function requires of you, and expect to carry on, business as usual. Why?

Because You cannot stop multimedia. And the reason you can’t is because You and nearly everyone else wants it. Companies that resist it, are already finding themselves fading away. Former giants are evaporating (Alphagraphics) and many others are already gone forever. In fact, just by reading this paragraph, several former household names have probably already passed through your mind.

The Peter Principle

Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull’s THE PETER PRINCIPLE

Print – Broadcast – Internet

Perhaps your company is just one of these things. Maybe you are a high-end print shop and will never be a broadcaster or run a major website. You believe you need someone who isn’t a Jack-of-All-Trades, but has a thorough, focused, in-depth knowledge of Print.

Yet you also want to take orders online. So you need a dedicated IT department to handle your online presence, security, and orders. Again, you want your IT employees to have a thorough, focused, in-depth knowledge of the Internet.

That calls for helpful online videos that will guide potential customers through the myriad of services you offer, so they won’t get lost or look elsewhere. Videos that look and sound professional, with professional, camera friendly actors.

Yet you also need your focused IT department to understand how videos stream online, so they won’t bog down your servers or create long load times for the potential client. Website visitors (like you and me) are notoriously impatient when it comes to waiting for a website to appear in our browser.

So you hire your Print expert(s), who doesn’t understand Internet or Broadcasting. You hire your IT expert(s), who doesn’t understand Print or Broadcasting. And you contract out a vendor to shoot a few instructional, helpful videos.

Now who do you hire to make all of these different experts work together as a cohesive unit?

Who at your company is going to make sure that you have the servers (or hosting service) that will handle the videos?
How will you insure that your high definition videos will smoothly stream on any platform and device (if you don’t know what I mean by platform or device, you are in seriously bad shape already. The sharks have spotted you and are heading your way)?
How are you going to make sure that your client’s coveted company color in print (Pantone 485 C), will translate to compressed RGB jpeg, gif, and/or png in Internet? And then further translate to lossy compressed animated RGB mpeg in video, crushed down further for quick loading?

How will you hire someone like that to orchestrate your departments, smoothly mediate all issues (and foresee them), when your thought process is fixed on the idea that such people are unfocused, Jack-Of-All-Trade non-experts?

It’s a well-known, yet still tragic failure of companies to hire experts for their departments, then have that group of experts managed by someone who has No Idea of how their own department works. In fact, it is such a flawed ingrained corporate policy in business: a failure that resonates with so many people in the workplace, it has become the joke in popular movies and TV shows (OFFICE SPACE [1999], THE OFFICE [2001 – 2013, televised in both the UK and the US], THE IT CROWD [2006 – 2013, televised in both the UK and US]), and the long running comic strip DILBERT.

Like Laurence J. Peter and Raymond Hull’s 1969 book, THE PETER PRINCIPLE: Why Things Always Go Wrong, or Scott Adams’ 1996 book, THE DILBERT PRINCIPLE, the fact that a problem is recognized and laughed about does nothing to end its existence.

There are Those Who Get It, But Their Success is Not Contagious –

Amazon, without a single brick and mortar bookstore, grew and ate the lunch of every other single bookstore nationwide. Major bookstores that should have known better, and had plenty of years to adapt to the new business model, collapsed. And these bookstores collapsed all the while Jeff Bezos was telling anyone who would listen, what he was doing and how he would go about doing it.

Then Amazon went on to music stores and succeeded in selling millions of CDs at a time when people were buying MP3s: Selling millions of DVDs at a time when people were streaming more.

Amazon got it where the experts, Tower and Borders didn’t, and Barnes & Noble still does not. Unfortunately for the management of Barnes & Noble, they’ve spent well over a decade, and three CEOs, looking at What Amazon does and How they do it, and Why they do it – yet B&N still Does Not Get It. What a waste of over 125 years of expertise in the book selling business. For some time now, Amazon’s success allowed them to expand beyond books into music and video and more. Meanwhile B&N shut down their store’s music and video departments and recently ended their eBook reader, NOOK (largely beaten by Amazon’s Kindle).

Netflix gets it where the experts, Hollywood Video and Blockbuster did not.

Even brick and mortar stores like the burgeoning Frys and Microcenter gets it where experts like Circuit City and Computer City didn’t and Best Buy still does not.

Radio Shack, which had the jump on all of them and sold the same products, has been mismanaged for so long it is going the way of Blockbuster and Best Buy (Radio Shack stock down 40% so far this year – 2014 – and has or is closing 1,300 stores by July of 2014).

Still, with all of this evidence – every bit of it – so many small and large business leaders watch the slow demise of these former giants of the corporate world, and don’t recognize that they are circling the same drain.

Meanwhile, Print shop Graphic Artists who have expanded their work into motion pictures or commercial broadcast, and Internet, aren’t resting on their laurels. HTML5 and CSS3, in combination with PHP and JQuery, are taking bite after bite out of Java, JavaScript, and Flash. The method of presenting multimedia is changing (and always will). Adobe Flash gurus are adapting to the change or becoming dinosaurs.

You cannot take today’s reality of Multimedia and retrofit it to the archival legacy of a 1980s, 1990s, or 2000s business model. Attempting to do so is gutting your company, even while you watch your competition succeed.

If you are one of those business owners who desire multimedia, yet fear that Multimedia professionals are unfocused, you need to understand where the focus really is. Quickly.

Adapt to Change.

*doubtful that changes of any importance to the Internet or multimedia, could be wrought by a mere “community group”? You should know that the W3C is now working with the RICG community group, and Tab Atkins Jr. of Google is one of their specification editors.

– E.C. McMullen Jr.
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Also look for my story Cedo Looked Like People, in the 2013 anthology, FEAR THE REAPER, edited by Joe Mynhardt and available in Paperback and eBook.


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