The Alden Curve

The "Alden Curve" is a pattern of content consumption that's evolved in the video-on-demand world of 21st century media, one that graphically displays how we now enjoy video in the new media landscape, brought about by DRV's, Pay-Per-View and the endless amount of on-demand content available on the internet. (See the pink curve, displayed in the second illustration below.)

Contrasted against the old pattern of media consumption in the pre-VOD world, the concept of The Curve shows us just how dramatically a significant aspect of our video consumption has changed. As you'll see, the two patterns actually mirror each other.

Below are consumption curves for TV News and Entertainment in the Pre- and Post- Video-On-Demand worlds:


Click on images to enlarge them:



In brief, we've gone from a world that consumes a limited amount of high-end and low-end content, i.e. a world that consumes mostly content in the middle (simply because that's what makes up the majority of content available live on TV at any one moment), to a world that consumes primarily high-end and low-end content, a world in which the middle completely drops out. The two curves completely mirror each other. And all of that has a good deal of significance for content producers, programmers and distributors.


A Textbook Example of "Disruptive Selection"

One night in 2010, about five years after I first started writing about The Curve, I peaked over the shoulder of my 15 year-old biology (and "House") obsessed daughter, who was studying patterns of biological evolution, and I discovered the below diagrams of evolutionary curves in her bio textbook:


Click on the image to enlarge. (Then back-space to return to post.)

Screen Shot 2012-11-04 at 3.57.13 PM
Screen Shot 2012-11-04 at 3.57.13 PM


The curve on the bottom-right—the curve labeled "Disruptive Selection"—looks pretty familiar, doesn't it? 

It's rather remarkable how the curve for what biologists call "Disruptive Selection"—i.e. the relationship between the pre-disruption and post-disruption evolutionary curves—matches up with The Curve for content consumption created by the technological disruption caused by VOD, PPV, YouTube, et al.

Once you think about it a bit, though, it makes a lot of sense. Technology truly is disrupting the evolution of media, and the pattern of that disruption looks no different than it does in the biological world.

To put it mildly:

It's always interesting when human behaviors in the aggregate match biological imperatives.


p.s. The "Alden Curve" was named by Andrew Hayward, the long-time president of CBS News, during a conversation we were having about changing patterns of media consumption, back in 2004. (And, honestly, who am I to object?)