The LA Times site is getting to pretty good. Definite Explorer-like
interface. Lose the ALL CAPS, though.
TV1.com -- recommended
fodors.com -- if you're on the road.
THE CUTTING EDGE
Facing the Virtual Reality That N.Y. Is a Pretender to the New-Media Throne
By AMY HARMON
In the epic struggle among city-states over who gets to be the
Multimedia Capital of the Universe, there emerged last week a new pretender to
Yes, New York, symbol of all that is traditional, conservative, Old World.
Disregarding all that, and armed with data from a new survey conducted
by accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand, the Big Analog Apple has thrust itself
into a rivalry that has thus far been safely contained on the West Coast.
"New York is ideally positioned to incubate [the] interactive computive
business as it roars into the 21st century," declared a New York Times
editorial that cited the survey.
The survey, sponsored by the state's economic development agency and
the New York New Media Assn., counted a whopping 4,200 new-media firms in the
New York metropolitan area that together generated $3.8 billion in revenue
The reactions in Los Angeles and San Francisco, the two most prominent
pretenders for the title (along with the occasional sniper attack from
Seattle), have ranged from disbelief to outrage.
"It's such nonsense," fumes Rohit Shukla of Los Angeles Regional
Technology Alliance. "The Los Angeles five-county region clobbers New York by
any means of measurement. I don't know where they're getting these numbers
"New York or L.A. may be stronger in one area," insists Susan Worthman,
executive director of the San Francisco Multimedia Development Group. "But
when you look at all the elements that feed this industry, they're clustered
here in numbers that just aren't reflected anywhere else."
Such extremes of geographical partisanship may seem a bit silly,
particularly when the subject is a fledgling industry whose salaries are low
and profits often nonexistent.
And one of the more striking ironies of the digital geo-wars is the
conviction on all sides that there ought to be a central location for a
business whose whole premise rests on the ability to dispense with physical
But the fierceness of the battle for metro-multimedia dominance is
rooted in the belief that the new businesses--and the entrepreneurs,
programmers and artists who drive them--may be the biggest creators of wealth
in the coming decade.
Thousands of jobs are at stake, and so are the very identities of three
regions that have long been defined by the industries converging to create
At a time when technology threatens to remake the worlds of publishing
and entertainment, each area is seeking to stay rooted to the industry of its
past by playing host to its future.
And that is done in part by building and preserving an image.
"We hope this will help establish New York's dominant role as the
new-media center of the world," says Brian Horey, president of the New York
New Media Assn. "To the extent that we weren't on the map in new media, this
will change people's perceptions."
"It's important to counter these mythologies," says economist Joel
Kotkin. "It sends a signal to investors, and it means there may be some
talented young people who are going to New York and thinking that it's the
center of this industry when it's not."
One problem in calling this territorial horse race is that there is no
standard definition for the squishy term "multimedia" or its equally nebulous
derivatives--"new media," "interactive media," "digital media," whichever
works for you.
Any product that encompasses a blend of technology, entertainment,
information or telecommunications probably fits, but how much and which combos
fit which data are often unclear.
A recent study by Shukla's group found 4,200 multimedia firms in
Southern California supporting 160,000 employees. But it included a wider
range of pure technology companies than those in the New York study.
The most recent study of the Bay Area's collection of World Wide Web
site designers, CD-ROM developers and the like came up with 2,200 companies
with a combined 62,000 employees. But that was in 1994, and it may also have
spanned a broader range of firms.
"It's hard when you try to measure something that's never been measured
before because you don't have the usual benchmarks," says Andrew Zimmerman of
Coopers & Lybrand, which performed the analysis on a pro bono basis. "I think
we came up with the best numbers we could under the circumstances. I think we
were in the ballpark."
Methodological questions aside, there are some common-sense reasons to
believe New York may be gaining ground on Los Angeles in the multimedia
Two years ago, when CD-ROM start-ups were all the rage and interactive
television was still supposedly right around the corner, Hollywood's talent
base of actors, directors, set designers and character animators seemed
crucial to multimedia success.
But the explosive growth of the World Wide Web has shifted the focus of
new media to the online world, where New York-based publishers, advertisers
and telecommunications firms have had much more influence.
Many industry watchers believe the Web will in turn give way to yet
another techno-media mix, and which region wins out may depend more on what
emerges than anything else.
In the meantime, the West Coast digerati who have a hard time
envisioning the locus of a cutting-edge industry in the midst of pinstriped
suits and snowstorms may need to consider a virtual reality.
"Whether yours is bigger or mine is bigger, the fact of the matter is
something rather dramatic has happened in New York over the last year or two,"
says Mark Stahlman, president of New York-based New Media Associates. "This
industry will form and it will likely have a geographical center and it is
clear now that New York City has a shot at being that center."
* Times staff writer Amy Harmon can be reached at email@example.com
Copyright Los Angeles Times
--- Rohit Khare -- 617/253-5884 Technical Staff, World Wide Web Consortium NE43-354, MIT LCS, Cambridge, MA 02139