Michael Wolff: Social Media Is "Great Wasteland" of Modern Age

Michael Wolff - H 2015

Michael Wolff - H 2015

The media pundit called social media the "new great wasteland."

Social media is the "new great wasteland" TV once was during its infancy, columnist Michael Wolff told Canadian indie producers during a keynote address on Thursday.

"Television is the golden age. This [digital media] is as low a form as we can possibly imagine," Wolff, a Hollywood Reporter contributor, said during a keynote address to the Prime Time conference in Ottawa. He particularly singled out Facebook.

"Think of that constant drivel. The digital world can go on and talk about all of the things that it believes it's accomplishing — social community, invent a word. But the truth is, you look at that every day, and what do you feel? You feel kind of depressed," Wolff said.

He added social media does not spur water-cooler conversation like TV. "Nobody, except the people who are getting paid, talks about social media. Because there's nothing to talk about," Wolff said.

TV by contrast has escaped its 1950s vanilla roots to today feature the best creative visionaries and cultural currency possible. "If you haven't seen Breaking Bad, who are you?" Wolff said.

Digital media and the Internet, by contrast, has become "black and white, good and evil, moralistic, reducing everything to the most simplistic level." TV has gone the other way with edgy dramas.

"All of the characters are deeply troubled, corrupt, dealing with the true mess of life," Wolff said. He even put streaming giant Netflix in the TV camp.

"It's really important to see and remember it as the television business. It's not the digital business. It's not digital media," with no social media elements, no user engagement or user-generated content. "It's traditional television made by Hollywood, actually," Wolff said.

Digital media is also a failure as a business, he continued, as it relies on advertising rates that drop over time. "You're selling a product that people pay less and less for. That's a vote of absolute no-confidence."

TV, on the other hand, now gets 50 percent of its revenue from pay TV subscriptions, with the rest coming from advertising. "That's a revolution, and I would submit is the big media revolution of our time, not digital," Wolff said.