Exploding TV fraternity grows
: Wired editor-in-chief and blogger Chris Anderson writes a great post on exploding TV, with more promised.
As your thumb crawls through your several hundred digital cable channels, TV may appear anything but shackled. Yet it is. What seems like everything imaginable is instead a very thin slice on the video world. The existing channel structure mostly rewards focused programming with enough depth to fill a 24/7 window every day of the year. So the DIY channel and History en Espanol now pass muster, but the Halo 2 Physics Hacks channel does not. An acceptable loss, you say? How about last year’s great season on Bravo, long ago overwritten by your DVR to save space?
Both the channel-centric reality of TV and its ephemeral nature are artifacts of the distribution bottleneck of cable broadcast. TV is still in the era of limited shelf space, while the lesson of the Long Tail is that more is always better. The growth of cable capacity over the past decade pales next to the growth in video creation over the same period and the size of the potential microaudiences for anything and everything.
We are about to enter an era where kids can do a search on google, icerocket.com, yahoo and other search engines and get all the video they want of TV broadcasts. Put in a topic. Boom. All the video you could ever want. Put in a name. There it is. Video and transcripts to go with it….
We do live in interesting times. We are the first generation to memorialize everything that we do on video. We are entering the first generation that will able to search through all of that video and find what ever they want.
: See the announcement of Vlog It!, new video blogging software from the good folks at Serious Magic, makers of Visual Communicator. Today I had a great chat with Mark Randall, the creator of this wonder, about the future of citizens’ video. They’re working on some really neat things I’ll tell you later.
: See also Vloggercon. See often RocketBoom, a vlog. See Unmediated.org every day. Please don’t see the vlogs I made two years ago. I just ordered my Visual Communicator upgrade; I’ll make new (and, I hope, better ones) soon.
: Last week, when there was much talk about what the tsunami videos mean to the future of citizens video online and on TV, I said outlined to both the Wall Street Journal and On The Media (transcript here) why I think the elements have come together for the explosion of TV. I’ve said it before but it keeps getting truer:
1. Cheap equipment. The cameras are getting better and costing less while the audience’s tolerance for quality (thanks to warfront satphones) is decreasing and those lines are crossing so yuou can produce video that’s good enough for not much money.
2. Easy tools. See Visual Communicator, above. See Mac tools.
With cheap and easy equipment and tools, anybody can create credible video inexpensively.
3. Distribution. Bandwidth and hosting are expensive. Bandwidth costs are coming down. But BitTorrent solves the problem by spreading the cost of serving across the audience and it will soon be ready for prime time. Add RSS (a la podcasting) and the ability to subscribe to a show and get it in the background. Add ubiquitous wireless broadband, coming soon. Jon Stewart’s Crossfire rant is the proof of the pudding: It got a few hundred thousand viewers on big, old CNN — and if you missed it, you missed it — but on BitTorrent and iFilm, it got at least five or six million viewers.
The new, distributed network is far more powerful that the old, closed network. And note well that this is the network nobody owns.
4. Search. The last problem was finding the video. But thanks to metadata on blogs, among other things, you’ll be able to find video. The tsunami videos are the proof of that.
In the old days of TV, a few months ago, if you wanted to make a show you had to have expensive equipment and expertise and if you wanted the show to be found, you had to know a guy named Rupert and have a fortune for marketing.
In the future of exploding TV, a few months away, anybody can create video programming and do it inexpensively with new equipment and tools; they can distribute it online and they can “market” it (that is, it can be found) thanks to metadata and search and links. All this levels the playing field.
I feel the need for a Death of Networks summit. Coffee’s on me.
: Finally, see many of my posts on exploding TV here (can I claim any credit for coining that?) and some related posts on a place for my stuff here. See posts on exploding TV all over the internet here.
The fuse is lit.
: UPDATE: Chris Anderson has a followup post here and promises more. Hell, this could be a book… Oh, yeah, it’s going to be.
: Steven Johnson — who’s also writing a related book I’ve had the privilege of reading … and it’s great! — has a magnificent post today from an earlier book, Emergence, in which he predicted much of this. Make sure to read the entire excerpt and especially his refinements — namely that he thought ratings (a la /., eBay, et al) would be the organizing principle of this while Chris and I see this as an extension of blogs (which were merely a mewling babe when Steven wrote Emergence): It’s still about the judgment of the public, not the media executives, but that judgment is captured not in ratings but in conversation. Great distillation of what’s happened. A snip from the book:
But TiVo and Replay — and their descendants — will also fall under the sway of self-organization. By 2005, not only will every television set come with a digital hard drive — all those devices will also be connected via the Web to elaborate, Slashdot-style filtered communities. Every program broadcast on any channel will be rated by hundreds of thousands of users, and the TiVo device will look for interesting overlap between your ratings and the larger community of television watchers worldwide. You’ll be able to build a personalized network without even consulting the channel guide. And this network won’t necessarily follow the ultra-personalization model of the “Daily Me.” Using self-organizing filters like the ones already on display at Amazon or Epinions, clusters of like-minded TV watchers will appear online. You might find yourself joining several different clusters, sorted by different categories: retirement home senior citizens; West Village residents; GenXers; lacrosse fanatics. Visit the channel guide for each cluster, and you’ll find a full lineup of programming, stitched together out of all the offerings available across the spectrum.
Despite the prevailing conventional wisdom, the death of the network programmer does not augur the death of communal media experiences. If anything, our media communities will grow stronger because they will have been built from below. Instead of a closed-door decision on West 57th Street re-branding CBS as the “Tiffany Network,” a cluster of senior citizens will form organically, and its constituents will participate far more directly in deciding what gets top billing on the network homepage. To be sure, our media communities will grow smaller than they were in the days of “All In The Family” and “Mary Tyler Moore” — but they’ll be realcommunities, and not artificial ones conjured up by the network programmers.