Today, I spoke to Bob Garfield, who is a columnist for AdAge and the author of his latest book The Chaos Scenario.  In this interview, Bob talks about his new book, his opinion on the impact of social technologies on media, where radio and TV will end up, and his future media outlook.

What is the The Chaos Scenario? Why should be people care about it?

The Chaos Scenario is frighteningly simple. Mass media and mass marketing collapse under the weight of the digital revolution. That’s happening already, and is irreversible. Meantime, a digital world evolves to create new and different — and in some ways superior — sources of news, information, entertainment and culture. This, too, is underway. Alas, the collapse of the old model will create devastation — such as the death of the newspaper industry and broadcast TV — long before the digital world is evolved enough to take their place.

What do you think about the impact of web technologies on media? How has it impacted your role as a journalist at AdAge and NPR?

The answer to the first question is: murderous. The internet and other expressions of digital technology have fragmented audiences so dramatically that media do not have the critical mass of eyeballs to generate ad revenue to fund the content they’ve been providing free or heavily subsidized for 3 1/2 centuries. Secondly, digital technology has given us all the ability to avoid ads, which, given that opportunity, almost everybody does. The digital world has lowered the barriers of entry for creating content to pennies, which means Courtney, the 8th grader, is literally competing with CBS and the New York Times for audience.

Finally, the near-infinite supply of content creates a near-infinite supply of advertising inventory, which severely depresses prices, which means that nobody makes enough money to underwrite high-quality content.

As for me, I have two media jobs. So I am doomed.

Will TV and radio even exist in the future?

How can journalists/reporters/producers and people outside of the media industry prepare for this? TV and radio transmitting radio signals from local towers? No. How can we prepare?

You might as well ask a cobbler how he prepared for the Industrial Revolution.

What is your opinion on Chris Anderson’s book “Free”? Do you think that will be the new advertising model?

I’m embarrassed to say I haven’t read it yet. I can say this: “free” is a fact of life, but for very few categories of commerce can it represent a viable business model.

Can you name your top 3 predictions for the future of media? How will they effect our lives?

  1. The Death of Mass Media. Period.
  2. Consolidation in every community and a competition for who can be the local hub for news, information and culture.
  3. A new legal framework for “fair use” that will define the future of aggregation….and therefore dictate who will triumph in the local-audience land grab.

Journalism is essential to democracy, but it is also expensive. Someone will fill the vacuum. If it is non-profits and other do-gooders, great. If the vacuum is filled by governments or partisan groups, democracy is in great trouble.

Bob Garfield is a columnist, critic, essayist, pundit, international lecturer and obscure broadcast personality. He isn’t exactly a media whore, but he’s extremely promiscuous.  He is the author of The Chaos Scenario.  Garfield’s “Ad Review” is a prominent feature of Advertising Age, where each week he singles out an ad for praise or ridicule and thus has become among the more pitifully groveled-before figures in trade-magazine history.  For many years, Garfield was the advertising analyst for ABC News. He’s been a regular on Financial News Network, CNBC’s “Power Lunch” and “Adam Smith’s Money Game” on PBS. He also has been quoted by every major American newspaper, news magazine and broadcast news program, owing to his fearless willingness to speak authoritatively on subjects he doesn’t necessarily understand.