Televox

Bob Garfield respectfully rejects the ugly terms “user-generated video,” “citizen video,” and “vlogging” and proposes that from now on, we call it “Monkeyvision.”

Yeah, Hollywood is good at what it does. The creative elite — through their own wit, cunning and extraordinary good luck — get to the top and determine the entertainment options for the entire world. And because they control manufacturing and distribution, nobody has been able to topple them. No problem. Their entertainment is very entertaining.

But wait. Cheap digital tools and the internet have opened up manufacturing and distribution to almost everyone. (See YouTube for the evidence. ) Oh, sure, 99% of the stuff sucks, but if you put a million monkeys at a million videocams…. The genius of YouTube is that it taps the creative genius of the entire modern world, and Hollywood simply can’t compete with that. In fact, unlike Waterworld, Gigli, Heaven’s Gate, Bonfire of the Vanities and Ishtar, even the soaring terribleness of user generated video can be irresistible.

I was just writing my spiel for Jeff Pulver’s Video on the Net conference next week in Boston and I took to calling our television “televox.” Probably won’t stick. But it’s fun throwing things against the wall and watching them go splat.

Here are my notes for that spiel. If you have any comments before I spin it Tuesday morning, please leave them here.

: What do you call a herd of monkeys, then? A meetup of video bloggers at WKRN in Nashville. Damn, wish I’d been there; sounds like illuminating fun. LostRemote has many posts.

: Speaking of video making some people feel like monkeys: I’ve been crazed the last few days writing aforesaid spiel, and so I haven’t been around here to enjoy the hubub over the outing — well, just a toe out under the closet door — of Lonelygirl15. Whats’ wonderful is to watch the creativity spawned around this: art as a conversation. See, for example: the LonelyGirl song; the LonelyGirl press conference; the kinda scary jilted LonelyGirl LonelyGuy; and, just to make Garfield happy, a LonelyGirl15 video by MonkeyFemme.

  • “MonkeyVision”?
    GAAAGH!
    That’s worse than “Pajamas Media.”

  • In a way, it’s stupid and sad to slap a label on anything. Labels are usually reductive, mainly the crutch of critics who need to pigeonhole something in order to discuss it properly. Labels are also the tools of sales reps who, unable to sell something on its own merits, use the labels to package and market. Once things are labeled, they become comodified, and that usually spells the end for the most exciting innovation.

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  • Mumblix Grumph

    Televox…not bad at all. How about TelePop? TelePopuli is too clunky.

  • Can’t speak for everyone, of course. But I for one would love to see you at one of our WKRN things. A lot of people seem to be talking this marriage of Established and Citizens’ Media. We’re slowly pulling it off down here.

  • Kathy? Where?

  • Nashville.

  • Jim

    I remember when webcams were so popular. People were ON, webcasting LIVE. This trend faded and many of the people were webcasting themselves sitting at their PC or an empty room. It got boring real fast. Then came podcasts and youtube, which made it possible to produce video and let people download your creation. It’s cheap and easy to do. I don’t see any harm coming from it. Youtube Live would be the Webcasting 2.0. You are better off burning your video production on a CD or DVD, with hip cover art and selling your video package through Amazon. That supposes that you have something worth buying, not just a vanity production junking up a website because you have nothing better to do.

  • Jim

    “Once things are labeled, they become comodified, and that usually spells the end for the most exciting innovation.”

    Innovation won’t stop because people are trying to make money from their work. That’s idiotic. You can produce, publish and sell and continue to innovate. Like making money isn’t exciting. I guess going broke is more exciting and innovative.

  • Jim,

    Comodification is not the act of trying to make money of your work, its a marketing strategy, a way of reducing and labeling ones work for mass consumption. When things become comodified the tend to be boring, like TV shows or Ben Affleck movies. Avoiding comodification, keeping one’s art and vision alive, and not thinking about the way things must to be packaged and sold to a mass audience will keep real innovation alive. If people were motivated simply by their profit margins…nobody would risk…and it’s only by risking something that you can have innovation.

    -BK

  • Jim

    Writers innovate all of the time without taking risks or in spite of risks. It sells or it doesn’t. If the book flops, there’s always the next book. More successful books benefit from a marketing strategy. Look at Harry Potter for example. It uses innovative marketing to pump up the sales. The marketing is more innovative than the writing or on par with it. People find inspiration in the writing because the marketing is so good. Harry is written, packaged and sold strictly for the sake of profit. It might not of started that way, but marketing takes over at a certain point. The series is being carefully killed before people finally get bored with it. Even the ending is controlled by marketing, which makes for a no surprise ending. You seem to starve or get rich today in writing. Writing used to be the path to a good middle class life. Now marketing is, so you have more marketing of less quality material. There’s more money in selling books than there is in writing them. If Ben Affleck writes a book, it sells. If somebody dedicated to writing writes an innovative interesting book it sells, just not as much. The Affleck book can be dull as all get out of here and with the right spin and marketing it can be a best seller. People will buy the book because of the cover and stand in a mile long line to have it autographed. Affleck doesn’t risk anything, the book gets rave reviews and the cash pours in. It’s so innovative it becomes a movie and the movie bombs. Wait, that was the DaVinci Code, another modern marketing marvel. Dan Brown innovated and people loved it. A friend who suggested the book to me, suggested the movie was a waste of time. I guess marketing doesn’t ensure a good movie. It does wonders for a book because readers take more risks than movie watchers. The writers are only as important as their readers. The movie stars are much more important than the audience. That’s the perception at least. With modern marketing the writers can be stars too and the writing doesn’t matter as much as it once did. The art of writing is being slowly changed by the art of marketing. It’s no longer a passport to the middle class life we knew as the good life. Writers will innovate even if the damned thing is doomed to failure and the discount shelf at the big corporate bookseller. Support your local book shop. They are motivated by good books and profits don’t hurt the cause.

  • Jim

    Television is a waste of time, most of the time. Books are always time well spent. Instead of becoming writers and making books, people are going to now make their own television programs. The whole thing is delusional. Look at what it costs to produce one 30 minute sitcom. You need 10 minutes of commercials to pay for it and get 20 minutes of comedy, 10 minutes of which isn’t funny. The ratio of funny to commercial is 1 to 1. An hour of news costs millions of dollars to produce, not counting the cost of people being maimed, killed or otherwise mangled in car crashes. It’s all on TV and now the public is supposed to go out and co-op the news and webcast the various mayhem from their home computer. Sounds like fun.

  • Yes, but talent generally prevails.

    Sure, marketing helps make the good stuff sell even better, but people wouldn’t buy it if they didn’t like it. And mass marketers won’t bother marketing things they don’t know will sell. Besides, isn’t marketing all about filling a need, a desire for something that’s already there?

    If the Lonelygirl15 video blog wasn’t any good, nobody would care about it, nobody would watch it, and we wouldn’t be writing about it now. But it was good. Very well done and I enjoyed watching the buzz around her (more than the videos themselves). Her creators were smart in using Youtube to get their talent noticed by the masses. More power to them! Creative marketing and talent all in one.

    I look forward to future Youtube productions and enjoy seeing these Youtube “stars” level the playing field that Hollywood had dominated for so long now.

  • Jim

    “it’s fun throwing things against the wall and watching them go splat.”

    Home News Network ideas
    Run your car into a tree at 60 MPH and have the kids film it and make your own newscast. If you are lucky you may get a medical chopper to show up for dramatic effect.

    Get loaded on cheap vodka and light your treehouse on fire. This should attract the local fire department and crowds for reality news. You don’t need to go far to find the news. Podcast it and Youtube it with ads. You may earn enough to replace the tree or at least cut it down.

    Fake a heart attack and call 911 for help. You will attract ambulances and those who chase them. Do a home news cast on ambulance chasers as a follow up to the heart attack story.

    Spray your house with hate speech and do a story on local hate groups. This may get you featured on regular old TV news, so do a home news story about the regular news coverage.

  • Jim,

    So you agree with me?

    -Jeff