Edison Project

The Edison Project, which concluded in 2016, asserted that the Media and Entertainment industry was and still is in the middle of its most radical period of change since Edison and his team invented the kinetoscope. Stemming from a multi-year collaborative applied research and executive education initiative, The Edison Project – and resulting eBook – focused on anticipating and creating ways to take advantage of new trends and disruptions in the Media and Entertainment industry.

To learn more about this project including the applied research, please download the Edison Project eBook

Research Summary
We have entered into a world of what-if and why-not. In some sense, if you can imagine it, why can’t you do it? Through The Edison Project, the Lab posits a transition from an Information Economy to an Imagination Economy, creating a vision for a new M&E ecosystem and working with a range of strategic partners to accelerate its arrival.

Why Now?
What most people perceive as signposts of disaster, we in fact interpret as signposts of opportunity. This shift from an information economy to an imagination economy may represent the beginning of a new global boom with these four key characteristics.

  1. The rise of ubiquitous and affordable technology,
  2. The rise of participatory culture and the new maker movement,
  3. The rise of a global broadband distribution platform,
  4. The rise of a rapidly growing global middle class

These are all converging to reshape the media and entertainment industries—and quite possibly every other industry as well.

The Edison Project focuses on four main areas of research, each of which is integral to understanding and succeeding in the new Imagination Economy.

The New Screens
As the media landscape becomes populated with more and more screens—from television and computer screens to mobile displays, but also virtual reality headsets, other wearable devices, and a rapidly growing Internet of Things—we have quite literally a whole world of possibilities for creating ubiquitous media experiences. These technologies offer unique potential for creating new and different kinds of experiences, including ones that respond with increasing precision to people’s behavior and input. So how might these screens (and the ecosystem within which they function) change the stories we share, but also how we share them? What ethical issues will we need to grapple with in this new environment? What might be the next step beyond the screen?

Applied research supporting this chapter included the Lab’s Fall 2013 Think & Do: Re-Envisioning the Home TV Experience and prototypes that came out of that Think & Do event, including Augmenting Accessibility, Augmented Storytelling, Tangible Storytelling, and 360-Degree Storytelling.

The New Creators + Makers
The digital revolution supposedly provided the tools to create and distribute almost anything to almost anyone – however, those “almosts” were huge. Now, sufficiently high-speed Internet connectivity is finally coming to rural areas and third-world countries, a new generation of distribution platforms are creating sustainable business models for even the most hyper-niche content and radically changing the relationships between audiences and creators, and makerspaces are bringing hardware prototyping and manufacturing capabilities to a vast range of nano-companies and startups. This chapter explores a number of questions surrounding the new creators and makers in this new media ecosystem. Who are they? Where are they? What do they make, and how do they make it? How will they compete and collaborate with the established “traditional” media giants? What do they need to succeed?

Applied research supporting this chapter included the Lab’s New Creators & Makers Toolkit, and the Lab’s Fall 2015 Think & Do in Chattanooga, Tennessee exploring how that city’s super-fast Internet connectivity (the fastest in the United States) could revolutionize the lives of its citizens.

The New Funding + Business Models
Is it still possible to get rich in the new media ecosystem? Is it even possible to break even? Of course it is—but it often requires a change in how you do business. This chapter explores a number of questions related to these rapidly-shifting conditions and strategies: What are the new ways that value is developed, derived, and shared, and how are new technologies and behaviors making this possible? How will the emergence of billions of smartphones around the world change the business models for content and advertising? How will monetization change with new curation and recommendation engines that allow deep catalog and hyper-niche content to reach their audiences?

Applied research supporting this chapter included the lab’s Spring 2014 Think & Do: Business Models in an All-Mobile Environment.

The New Metrics + Measurement
Most business models in the media and entertainment industry require an assignment of value to the content and/or the audience (e.g., “successful” content or “highly engaged” fans), which requires some system of metrics and measurement. However, traditional methods are rapidly falling behind. This chapter introduces the Leveraging Engagement framework and explores two essential questions: WHY is a fan motivated and WHAT triggers the fan’s behavior? Increasingly, we as audience members are exercising greater autonomy with respect to our media choices, prompting industry leaders to seek new, refined ways to target and secure our lasting engagement. The key to leveraging engagement is not just knowing demographics, but understanding the different types of fan motivations and how to turn that data into actionable insights.

Applied research supporting this chapter included the Lab’s Fall 2014 Think & Do: New Metrics & Measurements as well as the following case studies validating the Leveraging Engagement framework:

  • Fans. Passions. Brands. Global Football Study
  • Fans. Passions. Brands. Global Music Study
  • Celebrity Talk Show Case Study
  • Superhero Comic Book Universe Case Study
  • American Musical Drama TV Series Case Study

Lead Authors
Jon Taplin, Erin Reilly, Geoffrey Long, Francesca Marie Smith, Henry Jenkins