December 8, 2016

Al Jolson, long ago America’s most famous and best-paid entertainer, opened “The Jazz Singer,” the first featured-length film with synchronized sound, by declaring his signature line, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Eighty-nine years later, Shane Smith, a Canadian with ambitions to also be king of a hill, says very much the same.

The founder of iconoclastic and growing Vice Media last week told a Hearst Magazine audience that he expects a “bloodbath” in the next year in the mobile, terrestrial and digital realms.

During a discussion with me — ostensibly about his very solid “House Divided” documentary about the Obama years on HBO Friday night — he expanded.

Smith had said he expects Viacom to “implode” and something similar will happen at other media companies.

“What you’re seeing is for a lot of reasons — the death of display advertising, ad blocking — this bloodbath in online media, with online trying to make bridges from new to old,” he declared in our phone chat.

There will be accelerating consideration for financial reasons. The giant, pending AT&T-TimeWarner Consolidation for financial reasons, is part and parcel of what’s to come.

The big-name brands and URLs that can’t create those bridges will suffer and “you will see more companies being bought for pennies on the dollar.”

Mainstream media will be bought up by mobile carriers and others. “The death of the 30-second spot and display advertising will cause chaos.”

“Some will come out stronger and more international. Others will be sucked up and eaten up. You see it with AT&T and Time Warner, with Verizon buying AOL. That will continue apace.”

It’s hard to imagine certain iconic brands going poof. But, then, what about a longtime media kingpin like Time Inc.? It seems very much in harm’s way.

It turned down a purchase offer recently. But the odds are it will relent, sooner rather than later. As often bloodless Bloomberg News puts it, “Time Inc. has been struggling to adapt to a digital world.”

But you do know Al Jolson, right?

You don’t? He was once as famous as anyone in the country.

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New York City native, graduate of Collegiate School, Amherst College and Roosevelt University. Married to Cornelia Grumman, dad of Blair and Eliot. National columnist, U.S.…
James Warren

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