You’re asking yourself what is it about Austin, Texas? We keep hearing about the exuberance for startups, it’s role as a music capital, SXSW and ACL, an ever growing population, low unemployment, an incredible creative class, and world leading technology education and history, and it’s those highlights of the City of Austin that distinguish what we’re doing here, particularly in November.
You might be familiar Austin City Limits and the impact their work had on Austin’s music industry and through television. It’s impossible to ignore the grassroots community that brought SXSW together and the impact they’ve had in bringing the future to Austin through music, film, interactive, and as a global event. Most recently you might even think of Austin in the context of Whole Foods and Amazon’s interest; Amazon, a company heavily investing in streaming media and the smart home as much as they are in groceries.
We think there is a common thread in much of what people think of when they consider Austin, and whether you’re a small business owner, musician, startup founder, artist, or corporate executive, that thread distinguishes WHY AUSTIN in a way unmatched by anywhere in the world. Austin is the future of media.
Austin is Thriving and How do we Connect
People are coming to Austin as though fleeing the old world for a new. As families and professionals leave the coasts, they’ve been moving to Central Texas. Forbes’ Joel Kotkin recently noted that Austin’s STEM workforce has expanded 35%, compared to 10% for the country as a whole, 26% in San Francisco, a mere 2% in New York and zero in Los Angeles. Is it because of Tech? Is technology and our roots in National Instruments, IBM, Dell, and Freescale, what draws folks or is it merely what helps distinguish an economy?
Technology is an aspect of everything we do today… Technology evolves. What we’re experiencing throughout the world is the way in which technology plays a role in addressing conflict, inefficiency, and demand. Austin plays a unique role in the global economy and the demand for what we’re doing isn’t because of tech but because of who we really are and how we in Austin work. Consider, when the market needed radio back the last century, Guglielmo Marconi alone didn’t invent and disrupt the status quo. André-Marie Ampère, Joseph Henry, Michael Faraday, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz, and others innovated upon one another to change the world and enable music, news, and discourse as it had never before been possible. The tech didn’t do, the media drove the demand for innovation and the technology responded by way of competition and collaboration to change things for the better.
Let’s Celebrate and Collaborate
Over the past couple years, our work has been largely behind the scenes, watching Austin develop and supporting the great work that the city, companies, and schools have been doing to help our media and technology professionals thrive. In that time, we’ve celebrated a few distinct developments such as the investment by Austin in one of the most digitally savvy libraries in the world. We focused on the commitment of Galvanize to help make technology education accessible to everyone, and developed a studio with them to give entrepreneurs a voice. We’re positively giddy about the signal WeWork is providing about Austin; having recently announced their 4th location for Austin entrepreneurs and their partnership with Austin’s newest accelerator Mass Challange. Impact Hub’s commitment to collaboration throughout Austin with for profit and nonprofit, entrepreneurs, activists, creatives, and professionals has been inspiring and driving our own mission to do the same.
And it’s for those reasons and more that the week of November 6th, we’ve partnered with those venues to support the entirety of Austin’s media industry professionals and technology evangelists and entrepreneurs in our inaugural MediaTech Week.
What struck me personally, in our development of this Week, is that Austin stepped forth in so many ways to work together. Kristie and Elijah Whites who, through their work in Serving Social and with Digital Marketer, launched an official Social Media Day Austin, hopped in to support our work in Austin’s potential. foundingAUSTIN Magazine put some focus on what’s going on in Austin’s creative side. Moby and The Fire Show and Kevin Chin’s Northshore Media Productions put some attention into fostering Austin’s stories and in an early chat with the organizers of Austin Design Week (also next week) we set ourselves about distinguishing where design meets media and technology to work together to get Austin together next week. The Austin Forum, which for nearly a dozen years, has been working to engage and educate the community on the impact of technology tee’d up a discussion of how technology and our creative class can better thrive together.
A few key events to consider:
- Monday night, November 6th, Antone’s and the Austin Blues Revue are joining us to celebrate MediaTech and we’re raising money there to help support Austin Music. RSVP HERE
- Tuesday night, November 7th, The Austin Forum, at Galvanize, will explore with perspectives from panelists from data.world, Newsy, and Conde Nast, how and where creative professionals can leverage platforms, practices, and more to spark new opportunities, keep pace with innovation, and learn and master the skills needed to thrive in the new economy. RSVP HERE
- Wednesday we’re cooking an International party which is just now coming together. Let us know if interested here.
- Seeking Answers to life? So are the millions on Quora and as this week is the Quora World Meetup, we’re hosting Austin’s Quorans on Thursday AND opening up our studio to do interviews with Austinites Asking and Answering. LEARN MORE HERE
- foundingAUSTIN Magazine drops their newest edition on the 9th so we’ll get our hands on copies to share!
- Throughout the weekend, VR Austin is hosting their 3rd VR Jam at Impact Hub.
What do Austin’s live music community, our incredible video game developers, the film producers, directors, and editors, the extensive community of authors, and, even, advertising professionals have in common? Besides the fact that they’re all in Austin… the arts. Media.
And they are all in Austin.
When the last time you saw a film written, directed, and produced from Silicon Valley? How distinguished is Hollywood in advertising? Do you really think of New York when you think about music?
I’m going to throw a curve ball at you and I don’t want you to take it personally if your heart is set on this distinction of our city: Austin is not the live music capital of the world. Austin is the hub of innovation in media. All of it.
Austin is STEAM not STEM
That’s who we are. That’s our future. That creative, culture, and experience, people have with Austin is WHY everyone wants to be here and too, because of technology therein that we’re creating opportunity, jobs, and resources that drive not just the future of Austin but the world.
We are the Live Music Capital precisely because the future of Live Music is interactive. Music and Tech, and more through our diversity. And what it strikes us that Austin is struggling with is not our growth and evolution but rather keeping our culture and character intact. KUT and Andrew Flanagan recently noted that Austin’s music struggles are a reflection of what’s going on in the rest of the world but it struck me that here we have a difference, we’re inventing the future. To do that we have to teach it, invest together in media, and collaborate to enable everyone to benefit from the way we work today.
Media, in the U.S. alone, was nearly a TRILLION dollar industry 10 years ago. Compare that to the darling Texas industry brand (Oil & Gas) which is a $1.7 trillion global market – which at the U.S. share of Oil (somewhere around 15%) makes it a $255 billion market in the U.S. With 3 of the 10 largest cities in the country in Texas and the Austin/San Antonio corridor the fastest growing metropolitan region, our future isn’t in oil, it’s in media.
Austin MediaTech Today
If we can overcome our penchant to “Keep Austin…” we might see the diversity and innovation that stems from here, around here, and distinguish Austin not as what was but as the ideal to which we strive. From the early days of Rock and Roll to the move of Conde Nast’s digital group to Austin, the distinction of where we are is the innovation of the media that enriches our lives. Did you know that Matt Cohen, the founder of One Spot here in Austin, helped put the Houston Chronicle on the internet? Have you even seen what Owlchemy Labs is doing in video games with VR and augmented reality? That’s what we’re about.
SXSW helped us see then when Hugh Forrest mentioned last year that for the coming conference, Music, Film, and Interactive would further converge, not experiences at SXSW but in reflection of the fact that music and film are intrinsically interactive, engaging, and innovative forms of media.
Media? You might know some of the music oriented brands like C3 Productions, Solstice, and JamFeed, besides the major music events; the fact is that EA is here, as is Gary Hoover’s (yes, that Hoover) BigWig Games. KingsIsle Entertainment and Crowfall are Austin game brands and many of us recall the history of Challenge Games and Zynga. On October 12, 2008, Richard Garriott flew aboard Soyuz TMA-13 to the International Space Station as a private astronaut, he created Ultima.
Of course, we’re producing video entertainment as well, and not just producing but celebrating innovation. Whether recognizing that Randall Dark, one of the pioneers of HD Video, calls Austin home, or telling the stories of entrepreneurs and innovators thanks to video producers such as Lyn Graft, Michael Hodson, Ruben Cantu, Naji Kelly, and Shaggy Welsh, Austin is actually no more visual media by way of our film studios than it is live music. Film producers, editors, animators, and engineers are looking to Austin to innovate and the broader community is looking to keep every form of media supported and thriving.
More than music, gaming, film, and video, Austin is at the epicenter of radio innovation and podcasting. Bak Zoumanigui is taking casting to the venues and exploring music and culture, Moby is looking at the economy and how Austin is on fire, Omar Gallaga and Tolly Moseley are talking about Austin via their I Love You So Much podcast, Todd Nevins has kicked off a vibrant podcasting community and the Podfather, perhaps familiar to some of you as once MTV VJ, Adam Curry, streams No Agenda and The Big Book Show from Austin. Thanks to the Moody College at UT, KUT and KUTX, Sun Radio and KGSR, we’re discovering how radio remains at the forefront of conveying information and entertainment while converging with digital.
Corporate media entities such as Comcast moving their R&D to Austin, Samsung investing in VR and 360 here, Apple and Google ever expanding their teams and offices, Facebook opening downtown, and while who knows what Amazon is ultimately going to do with HQ2, the fact is that the world’s pre-dominant and innovative media brands are looking to Texas.
WP Engine, the online media company that made it simple for would be website producers and authors to get started calls Austin home and is sharing, next week, with everyone how easy it is to roll your own site. Written is based here. So is Book in a Box. Authors.me was born of Austin. We’re a hub of social media data thanks to Spredfast, Sprinklr, People Pattern, and Polygraph Media among many looking to what the social graph will do for our future.
Phunware, a mobile app development platform, continues to grow locally, realizing how mobile applies to both the innovation of tech and the application to media, both contexts more often recognized at what the coasts do. From the impact of Whurley’s work in Chaotic Moon to what Mutual Mobile and Jackrabbit Mobile are doing to put media in our hands, our collective distinction as an economy is the tech that fuels media.
How is that being realized and applied? FloSports, Rocksauce Studios, The CHIVE, Revelator.tv, Rooster Teeth, and Thrillbox, show us, through Austin, how we’re creating new media experiences while on the backend, Front Gate Tickets, Condé Nast, and more are looking to develop the ways in which we engage with that media.
Whether the platforms that enable us to report, the business model that’s ever changing, the technology that enables monetization and reach, or the data platforms that are enabling us to hold news in check, technology is as intertwined with news media as any.
“Today it’s all about mobile and video but it’s going to be about AI and VR and we’ll continue to evolve with whatever technology is coming at us next,” shared Condé Nast CEO, Robert Sauerberg, with Laura Lorek. “Condé Nast is going to “go big” in Austin.”
Trendkite, led my point of view that there is innovation being done in Austin that will forever change the news media industry for the better. While in Austin many startups continue to struggle with the availability of local venture capital, evident in Richard Bagdonas’ “Dark Ages of Austin VC” article, the fact remains that media oriented technology companies, such as Trendkite, are drawing the attention of talent and capital to Austin because of the way Austin works and how we’re converging the creative talent and culture of the various forms of media with an entrepreneurial spirit necessary in technology. Trendkite is making the news measurable.
Austin Inno, the news media brand that shared Richard’s update, is showing us how new business models, not unlike what our Community Impact papers are exploring, can make news media profitable and viable by way of their look to more hyper-local news and supporting events and the businesses therein. The American Genius arguably does the same, as a global brand, based in Austin and intimately involved in the local community by way of Austin Digital Jobs, BASHH, and the founders role in supporting the local economy.
And that innovation in news is no more evident than in the Austin-American Statesman when you look beyond the facade that we easily perceive of what we only see. Yes, the tried and true Stateman in the old buildings just south of Town Lake (which today announced it is being sold by Cox Communications…)
Over the past decade, we’ve had a revolutionary shift in how we consume news; and no, I’m not talking about the death of print and the paper as our use of technology has replaced how we consume the news. The shift has been more subtle, more nuanced, and it affects our expectation of the media and affinity to traditional news brands.
In the same way that our musicians have wrestled with the implication of the internet and what it is doing to HOW music makes money, news media has faced the same disruption and where some have struggled with that inevitable change, others have thrived. Omar Gallaga and Lily Rockwell have helped bring the Statesman brand into the era of blogging through 512tech.com while, recall from above, Gallaga and Tolly Moseley have been transforming news print into podcast.
And it’s these bridging of industries and converging of skillsets and opportunities that we believe is so critical to Austin’s future… that’s a reflection of something: enabling everyone to thrive. We kicked off MediaTech Ventures with the support of SaulPaul and Arena Growth Partners’ Jim Brown and in the events we’ve held throughout Austin, getting to know Melinda Garvey of Austin Woman Magazine, Ruben Cantu of Social Good US, Jennifer Gooding of Prime | PR, and Ashley Jennings who’s work in the Diversity oriented Incubator benefits from her exceptional, personal experience in media production. Bridging the gaps in diversity and economic circumstances depends on the media and technology to highlight, give a voice to, teach, and celebrate everyone. Something to get excited about next week, BLNDED Media founder Naji Kelley, someone who appreciates that so much that he’s doing something about it, is sharing their work in developing, in Austin, the leading platform for diverse and underrepresented entrepreneurs.
Austin MediaTech Next Week
We have a HUGE roster of talks, get togethers, and opportunity. Let me steer your attention this way if you don’t want to run down the entire list of events; we’ve organized the community in to niche media verticals so you can look at the events pertaining to:
- Publishing & Content
- Film, VR, & Video
- News Media
- Ad and MarTech
- Radio & Podcasting
- Sound & Music
- Video Games
MediaTech, All, Working Together Like Nowhere Else
The Austin economy is intrinsically tied to both media and technology.
- Media refers to everything on the creative side: film, music, gaming, writing, advertising, social media, etc. The coasts dominate apects of the media and define “media” on their terms. Austin does it all.
- The conceptions of media industries are merely niche’s of that: Books, Blogging, Reporting (applications of written media)
- Tech distrupts but creates opportunity and efficiency
- “Tech” IS NOT limited to internet or startup – The technical side of media is what makes it work, from the designer to the editor, and from the pen to the smartphone, tech enables the capital, market, customer, distribution, and monetization resources that cause media to impact our lives. The radio was technology that fostered music. The sound engineer is the technical resource behind musicians.
- Austin is unique in the world in converging all of those talents and professionals. LA has music but not internet. Silicon Valley has Video Games but not film
Let’s realize that together. Let’s develop that on behalf of the professionals, the agents, the talent, the brands, the events, the entrepreneurs, the teachers, the companies, and residents who make Austin unique, incredible, and thrive as an economy. The brand of Austin.
Whether it’s in venture capital investment, companies moving in, startups finding support, advertising and sponsorship driving our economy, or your interests as a business in getting the attention and support of the media, we’re doing it together and one of many, available to drive Austin Forward. Keep thriving. Keep innovating. Keep collaborating. It may often feel like we’re not getting there, working in media and with technology is incredibly confusing and challenging; people are struggling. We’re looking here at Austin from 30,000 feet but if you dig a little deeper on the piece of Austin that matters to you, you’ll find the role of media and technology and should be encouraged by the broader ecosystem of companies, advisors, and resources available to you. Celebrate, support, teach, and drive forward for everyone the economy in which we already excel. Keep doing all that we’re already doing, tell the story with me, and work together to thrive. Join us, starting next week!
Today as CEO and Founder of MediaTech Ventures, O'Brien works in Venture Capital Economic Development, serving the investment and venture capital economies directly, through thought leadership, consulting, and startup development.More, a regional Director of the Founder Institute incubator and mentor in DivInc, Galvanize, DivInc, and various startup Accelerators.
Latest posts by Paul O'Brien (see all)
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