HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Where you get your news depends on where you stand on the issues
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Dec. 21, 2011, 4:30 p.m.

Rex Sorgatz: LA is the future (kill me now)

The media entrepreneur shares a vision of Lower Left Coast domination.
Editor’s Note: We’re wrapping up 2011 by asking some of the smartest people in journalism what the new year will bring.

Next up is Rex Sorgatz (@fimoculous) — a media consultant, writer, and entrepreneur based in New York — who has an apocalyptic vision for the nation’s startup scene, and who really needs to work on his tan.

Let’s get this out of the way: I hate LA.

I hate LA the way that any good New Yorker hates LA, with a passion bordering on paranoid psychosis. I hate the faux culture, I hate the vapid people, I hate the unctuous politics. I hate their smug attitude toward snow, unless it involves indie movie premieres near ski slopes. I hate the things that are too cliché to even mention hating: their tans, their cars, their smog. I hate the way they turned silicon into silicone.

So we’re clear?

But I am here to preach a new sermon: LA is the Future. It pains me to say, but it’s time we all sucked up the fresh sludge spewing from the organic juice pumper. My logic? Let me start with a story….

The Past: Empire State Of Mind

I moved to New York City four years ago — just in time to catch the economic collapse, but also just in time to witness the rise of the so-called “New York Tech Startup Scene.” It seems silly to recall this, but back then, that phrase — “New York Tech Startup Scene” — literally did not exist. There was no Foursquare, no GroupMe, no Kickstarter, no General Assembly, and no TechStars. HuffPo had yet to become the juggernaut it is today, and Tumblr, Buddy Media, and Gilt Groupe had yet to celebrate one-year birthdays.* There were no Google or Facebook mega-offices. Tina Brown was busy writing books about Princess Di.

But look at you now, baby! You’re the rising star of the tech family, positioned right behind big brother Silicon Valley in creating new media enterprises. You’ve nurtured a new culture of entrepreneurialism, created thousands of jobs, and caused countless people to utter that phrase “we want to change the world” without irony.

Yet one question lingers: Why now? After all, New York was barely a blip in the first dot-com boom of the late ’90s. So what caused the scene to suddenly erupt? No one has yet written the definitive account of why exactly NYC had this surge in entrepreneurial gusto, and we lack the space to investigate it thoroughly here, but I have my own working theory: It’s the economy, stupid. Duh.

But in this case, it was, somewhat paradoxically, an economic collapse. In the recession that began in 2008, three sectors of the New York economy were hit especially hard: finance, media, and retail. It’s no coincidence that today’s most successful NYC-based startups are unique reinventions of those industries. If you scan the startup scene now, you’ll hear endless stories about people who “used to work in finance,” “hated their job in fashion,” or “will never work for a media company again.” (Okay, maybe that last one is me.) Clearly, what happened is that talented people left their jobs, but didn’t leave their industry. Instead, they built new businesses — more efficient businesses, more interesting businesses — in the industries they knew best.

This part seems obvious.

The Future: Escape To LA

You see where I’m going with this?

Let’s start here: Right now, I pay over $200 per month to have 1,600 TV channels pumped into my apartment. How many of those channels do I watch? A dozen, max.

This is clearly broken. Really broken. Stupid broken.

And we all know this has to end, somehow. And we all know it will end, somehow. But no one knows quite how. Maybe it will be fixed by Apple, maybe Hulu, maybe Netflix, maybe Google; probably, by something we haven’t even seen yet. But I think we can all agree that this broken system is going to be fixed, somehow.

And when that happens, the fallout for the LA-based television industry will be catastrophic. It will make the print media collapse of the past decade look like Legos. I predict over half of those 1,600 cable channels will disappear. Sure, they’ll try to recreate themselves on YouTube or via other online mechanisms, but that industry is already too bloated to realize that it needs to do more than shave costs by 10 percent — it needs to move an entire decimal to the left. Maybe twice.

When the collapse hits, capital will rush out of the traditional entertainment industry faster than you can say “Lehman Brothers.” And, as in New York, talented young people with industry awareness will be there to grab that capital and create new businesses. That’s when things will get interesting. Just as New York — against all odds — became the locus of traditional business being disrupted by technology, Los Angeles will erupt with creativity around the collision of technology and entertainment. New forms of content — programming that isn’t bound by 13 episodes that are 22 minutes long! — will appear overnight. The disruption will be challenging at first, but a Video Renaissance will emerge.

And as the production and distribution costs plummet (just as they have for written media), innovation will start to appear in related industries: social sharing technology, revenue models, aggregation, and distribution. Suddenly, coders in SF will consider LA as another option for employment. Crazy talk!

This will of course require more than some happy chatter and a few blog posts. And let’s not forget, this is LA we’re talking about — there will be blunders! But failure will nurture knowledge. LA will be poised for this moment because it will have the cash, the talent, and the creative culture to seize it.

It will be fun, it will be exciting. And I might even hate LA a little less.

*Update, 1/2/12: This post originally listed The Huffington Post among the publications that had yet to celebrate one-year birthdays in 2007. In fact, HuffPo was launched in 2005. We’ve updated the wording to reflect that, and thanks to Rachel Sklar for pointing it out.

Image of New York by Houy.in; image of LA by Kevin Stanchfield; and image of a television by USB, all used under a Creative Commons license.

POSTED     Dec. 21, 2011, 4:30 p.m.
PART OF A SERIES     Predictions for Journalism 2012
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Where you get your news depends on where you stand on the issues
A new study by the Pew Research Center examines how Americans’ news consumption habits correlate with where they fall on the political spectrum.
Light everywhere: The California Civic Data Coalition wants to make public datasets easier to crunch
Journalists from rival outlets are pursuing the dream of “pluggable data,” partnering to build open-source tools to analyze California campaign finance and lobbying data.
Ebola Deeply builds on the lessons of single-subject news sites: A news operation with an expiration date
Following the blueprint of Syria Deeply, the new Ebola-focused site hopes to deliver context and coherence in covering the spread and treatment of the virus.
What to read next
1020
tweets
The newsonomics of the millennial moment
The new wave of news startups is aiming at a younger audience. But do legacy media companies have a chance at earning their attention?
803A mixed bag on apps: What The New York Times learned with NYT Opinion and NYT Now
The two apps were part of the paper’s plan to increase digital subscribers through smaller, targeted offerings. Now, with staff cutbacks on the way, one app is being shuttered and the other is being adjusted.
537Watching what happens: The New York Times is making a front-page bet on real-time aggregation
A new homepage feature called “Watching” offers readers a feed of headlines, tweets, and multimedia from around the web.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
McClatchy
News Corp
IRE/NICAR
Topix
Foreign Policy
Flipboard
Las Vegas Sun
Financial Times
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Austin American-Statesman
Bureau of Investigative Journalism
Tribune Publishing