The L.A. Times' Patrick Goldstein argues that the writers' strike "is about new media yet both sides seem to be following old-school models." He proposes an alternative:
The stars became free agents long ago. In the last few years, with billions of private-equity dollars flooding the business, the studios have lost their lock on financing too.
All that's left is marketing and distribution. It's hard to equal the way studios launch their summer popcorn extravaganzas with a $40-million marketing blitz. But as more entertainment migrates to the Internet, where distribution is basically free to anyone with a computer, the studios will lose that monopoly as well. If the last couple of weeks are any indication, with clips from out-of-work comedy writers popping up every day, the Web could be littered with new must-see video sites by Christmas. Remember: After barely a year in existence, YouTube was bought by Google for $1.65 billion. On the Internet, good ideas travel fast….
The WGA is fighting the good fight. But the glory days of "Norma Rae" are gone. Real change in today's world comes from the energy and ideas of entrepreneurs, not from labor negotiations. To take control of their work, writers have to cut out the middleman.
Goldstein isn't anti-strike, by the way. He thinks it could be the crisis that forces the issue:
This kind of creative freedom already exists in Silicon Valley, where the creators of product are its owners. Software entrepreneur Marc Andreessen, who helped found Netscape, makes an eloquent argument on his blog that a prolonged strike could undermine the studios' control of production and distribution, ushering in a new showbiz model built in the image of Silicon Valley.
Andreessen's argument is here.
There's plenty to quibble with here. But Goldstein's column and Andreessen's post are the most thought-provoking things I've read about the strike, even though neither answers the most important question: How many episodes of King of the Hill are already in the can?
[Hat tip: Sara Rimensnyder.]