I work in media. For the past decade or so the powers that be were worried about online versus TV. Was online going to “kill” television the way television “killed” radio? The way it “killed” the major record labels and newspapers? By “kill,” lets’ admit we mean “lessen the social and economic impact of.” It does not mean “destroy or make extinct.”
Sometimes less is more but when billions of dollars are on the line, not so much.
As an industry, we focused more on the platforms than on audience behaviors. Our economic models are wrapped up in the platforms … but users don’t care. We just want what we want (I am counting myself among the users here). Mostly, we want options. Make it easy, make it simple, make it entertaining.
In the case of television, the question is not when and how online will “kill” TV … the question is how will people choose to watch their video?
… will they watch it live? … will they watch it timely (close to the original airdate … or weeks, months or years later?) … will they watch it on demand?
And how can we influence that decision? How can we incentivize (sorry to use that cheesy business non-word but it works for me) people to pay attention when where and how we want them to?
The cable guys are all freaking out because the chord cutting phenomenon is becoming real. Consumers are deciding that they don’t need to spend $100+ a month to get a giant package of content when all they want is about 10% of what’s offered. Now people can cherrypick what they want through other means (Netflix, Hulu, iTunes, Boxee, etc.). It’s the same thing that happened to albums. People were tired of paying $15 – 20 for a crappy album when all they wanted was a song or two. They wanted it unbundled and they got their wish!
Broadcasters, who are the content engine of the entire media ecosystem, are divided on what to do. They are fine with distributing online as long as they can monetize it meaningfully and not cannibalize their existing business. Cable chord cutting wouldn’t really bother them so much … except for the fact that the cable guys pay them retransmission fees. If the cable guys are hurting, then they have less guaranteed income to return to broadcasters.
It’s pretty complicated. If you care to read a bit more, this is a decent article.
Distribution matters aside, the intersection of search and social and video on demand is what’s very much on my brain at the mo. Yesterday I signed up for a social search service called aardvark. It lets you tap into your social nets to ask questions and get and give answers from real people in real time.
For example, I am moving to the East Village on Friday and want to get an idea of Yoga studios in the hood. I typed my question into a browser and within less than a minute I had an AIM message with an answer. A good answer. I got an email a few hours later with more good answers. A few hours later, another email came, with more options. So now I have a list of Yoga Studios in the East Village provided by people who use and like them – not by the studios that paid the most for SEO. Pretty cool.