There is an interesting article in the Economist this week (p16) talking about the rise of both the blockbuster and super-niche film-making, and the relative decline in middling success movies. It goes on to talk about how people are tending to all go for the same massively successful movies (New Moon anyone?), or more than they did in years gone by. This phenomenon seems to me to point to two parallel drives within people, the desire to discover new things and the need to have shared or common cultural experiences - something to talk about with acquaintances once the weather chat has run its course, or to form a bond with other people to show yourself you're not alone in the world.
In the past this desire for common experiences would have been satisfied by TV. At one point I think you could have reached 80% of UK housewives with just a few primetime TV slots. Nowadays you need about 300. (That stat is much better when you know the actual numbers). Talking of media fragmentation is boring, but the fact remains that not so many people will have watched the same thing as you the night before.
It is no surprise then that those elements of popular culture that do capture the audience do so in a big way nowadays - X factor, live events, sport, big movie releases - all those things that happen at a specific time and not as fulfillingly on iPlayer become the centre of our shared experiences.
A related point is that there has been a lot written about where the really great digital work is going to come from, and that nothing truly brilliant has been done yet. Whether or not there has been is moot, and I would contend that there has been plenty. But the point is that this is normally said from the perspective of whether or not you overhear someone (a 'civilian') mentioning it down the pub, or your mum talks about it to Aunt Mabel. The thing is that each campaign is generally exposed to a relatively small group of people in any meaningful way (10 billion BT banners don't count IMO) and no two people can have any reasonable expectation of the other one knowing about it.
Given that reach would build quite slowly, we need to consider where and how would it be possible to create something that is genuinely culturally influential, when everyone could or would see it at different times, with the challenges that creates for building a linear story, and how could we give people a secret handshake to show others that they are in on the action.
It's not just how can we create great digital work, rather it's is it possible to create an interactive 'hello tosh, got a Toshiba' (or whassup? if you are an ex-colonial). And if not, does it matter?