Previous research has shown that media industries differ from traditional industrial sectors, in some ways greatly. Media industries have more limited common traits due to the heterogeneous nature of the various platforms, which correlate with often different company structures, turnover rates, employment patterns, markets, the economics and management of distribution channels, and characteristic business models. Especially in the new media space, competitive advantage depends on low capital intensity and heterogeneity of markets. This enables lower market entry barriers and higher start-up dynamisms. However, these beneficial traits are countered by a more limited availability of capital which may prevent new media enterprises from growing due to lower opportunities for investment in market research and development. This goes some distance in explaining the unique reliance of media industries on human capital for economic success.
To an important degree, these characteristics of media industries are influenced by the scope and speed of technological innovation in the context of advancing digitalization and correlated disruption. More so than in many industries, media firms are increasingly compelled to invite collaboration along the entire value chain. As mass media decline and online platforms proliferate, customers are also empowered to a novel historic degree to both influence and contribute to innovation. Artists, musicians, designers, architects and other creative professionals can play a decisive role in media innovation, especially in the initial phase of development. And economic players searching for new opportunities for investment are increasingly venturing into media sectors and markets.
All of this creative, economic and technological ferment contributes to a scale of ongoing innovation in media that is unique in human history, and has profound implications for the management and financial dynamics of media industries. Spillover and cross-innovation between media industries with other industrial sectors are becoming the new normal. The era of tightly protected boundaries is rapidly vanishing to a degree that makes it difficult to give a straightforward answer as to what counts as a media company today. Creative services developed and provided by media industries become inputs to innovative activities by other enterprises and industrial sectors, and companies in every industry are making proportionately greater uses of media-related services in everything from selling to networking to branding to cloud storage of data.
This suggests an emerging focus of long-term importance for media management and economics research. Evidence suggests that companies engaged in cross-innovation perform significantly better in both R&D results and implementation of them. It also suggests that such companies struggle with challenges that are endemic to collaboration with other companies and constituencies which typically have different priorities, competencies and self-interested motives. What mechanisms facilitate cross-innovation as a pursuit and in practice? Can we identify factors that account for successes and failures to a useful extent? How are media firms accelerating innovation, technology exchanges and learning between companies? How do emerging technologies foster and influence cross-innovation opportunities, objectives and practices? And what should researchers and managers take seriously from critical perspectives on issues that include the potential dehumanizing impact of artificial intelligence, worries about growing threats to privacy and human rights, concerns about concentration and conglomeration in media industries, and historic inequities that matter greatly to the potential for people who are marginalized and struggling to achieve parity in opportunities? This important vein of critical investigation articulates a darker side that suggests the importance of collaboration as a way to resist the interests of big capital and digital giants.