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Old media reaches for tech tonic

Is it just me or has the pace of technological change picked up dramatically?

The progeny of Hal the computer in Stanley Kubrick’s “2001” have become smarter, faster and more versatile than most of us probably were prepared for.

And am I wrong to think that every “old media” company is rethinking its business model as a result?

Not a day goes by but some media company doesn’t pitch out its rule book or take a page out of a rival’s playbook. The upshot: Everyone is trying to eat everyone else’s lunch. I guess that’s what they mean by convergence.

As one media analyst put it last week: “Everybody is now in competition with everyone else.”

Five years after the tech bubble burst, puncturing momentum in the process, media companies are charging full steam ahead.

Old-school media mogul Rupert Murdoch is enthusing like a 12-year-old about Internet companies he’s instructed News Corp. to gobble up. He told Wall Streeters two weeks ago that he expects his company’s revenues from broadband to skyrocket fivefold in the next five years.

He’s hardly alone.

Once-uptight telco types are loosening their ties and ordering up original video material; Hollywood studio chieftains are waffling on about narrowing or collapsing windows so as to better squeeze out ancillary revenues; exhibitors are digitizing at the rate of 300 moviehouses a month .

Just last week things really heated up.

Google said it would provide free wireless high-speed Internet access in San Francisco, allowing users to bypass cable or phone hookups they traditionally pay for in favor of wi-fi links. EBay and Microsoft are planning similar forays.

Yahoo’s Santa Monica-based media unit started hiring former TV producers to help inch the company into the content creation biz.

And this is just in the U.S.

Parts of Asia and western Europe are ahead of the game in several key areas.

The South Koreans can do all kinds of high-speed Internet acrobatics while traveling on their bullet trains. The country is building a so-called “ubiquitous” city outside Seoul where even the doorjams will be digitized. Europeans enjoy all kinds of audio and visual data on their mobiles, and they have hardly penetrated Stateside. Consolidation in various industries is picking up, usually a prelude to expanding high-tech services.

As so many media players morph, some no doubt will stumble, lose money or even go the way of the dinosaur. But, without being breathless about it, much good may come as well.

With all the collaborative open networks popping up in so many sectors, from medicine to mass merchandising, good creative ideas for content should be able to get exposure more quickly and more widely.

This could just be the age of the newly reinvigorated — and newly Internet-inspired — indie producer.

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