The US multimedia industry is losing the plot, and losing barrels of money in the process, according to Jayne Loader, an American multimedia developer.
"The CD-ROM industry as a whole is in trouble," says Loader. "They're all losing money. Everybody is losing money. They tell you they're not but they are."
Loader is on a New Zealand seminar tour for the Moving Image Centre, discussing new media and Internet marketing. She is probably best known as one of the directors of a much-acclaimed documentary about atomic propaganda, The Atomic Cafe, and has also published two novels and runs the Public Shelter Web site, named after her independent CD-ROM development project.
"The Christmas selling season was described to me as a debacle," says Loader. "A disaster, a bloodbath. It was the four horsemen of the apocalypse! They all lost their shirts.
"They put all their money into games for fourteen year old boys. And that's where the industry is going. They're closing down their educational divisions and saying American people are stupid, American people want games.
"People come to the store, don't see anything they want to buy and go home."
It took a year for Loader to find a distributor for her Public Shelter CD-ROM and she sees that as indicative of an industry malaise, caused in part by the Web offering better content than the multimedia industry is prepared to invest in.
"This is one of the only CD-ROMs by an artist out at the moment and it's had wonderful reviews but finding a distributor has been hell. I raised the money for producing it in about three weeks and everybody thought we were going to make a fortune out of it, what with the 50th anniversary of the atomic bomb and everything.
"The big corporations are not looking for independently produced product. It's not like a film that you can take to Sundance or Cannes and there'll be distributors there to pick it up.
"It's been a real hard thing."
Loader subsequently landed a deal to produce the CD-ROM of Hoop Dreams, a successful documentary about project kids playing basketball, but has been unable to raise production funding.
"This is one of the most successful documentaries of all time. They've shipped over three million videos."
Loader sees the Internet as providing a partial marketing solution. People will buy low-price items such as books and CDs over the Net, she believes, but are not yet prepared to buy big-ticket items that way. Her Public Shelter CD-ROM can be ordered through her Web site at http://www.public-shelter.com.