Viva La Revolución
Posted on June 30, 2007
Filed Under OMG! Old Media is Dying! |
The majority of Americans will wake up today and not realize it, but the seeds of a revolution were planted yesterday. According to our good friend Duncan Riley at TechCrunch, this revolution threatens network television.
Yesterday, budding media moguls like Kristopher Tate streamed live video from the most important event in the world. No they weren’t live on scene as the London bomb plot unfolded (okay if that’s not what you consider the most important event yesterday, they weren’t live on scene as the Spice Girls announced their reunion either). Eventstreamers like Tate were present at Apple stores eagerly waiting for the most important product of the 21st century to go on sale: the iPhone. Yes, if you were too busy to stand in line for hours awaiting the second coming of the cell phone (maybe you actually have a life), the revolution of “eventstreaming” which was born yesterday can solve your problems. Now you can watch as legions of geeks, sometimes with no personality whatsoever, attend events of global significance, like the iPhone launch.
While watching somebody stand in line for a product release may appeal to some, and others might consider watching a credit card get declined to be the funniest thing in the world (note to VCs: please fund Zooomr so that Kristopher doesn’t have further credit card problems), I think any sensible person would agree that this is not the average American’s cup of tea (or Coca-Cola).
Let’s critically examine Eventstreaming and its potential to serve as “the missing link in Web 2.0’s challenge to network television.”
The first assumption in Duncan Riley’s argument is that people actually care and there is a significant opportunity to provide eventstreams that the mainstream media is supposedly just too inept to cover. Obviously, there are some people who have enough free time on their hands to watch a stream of people standing in a line and for some strange reason find it entertaining to do so, however there’s a very good reason that mainstream media wasn’t providing 24/7 coverage of the iPhone launch from an Apple store: most Americans just don’t care enough to stay glued to their television screens as Kristopher Tate hangs out with people like Robert Scoble. When a major event occurs (a terrorist attack, Paris Hilton gets arrested, etc.), the mainstream media often does provide non-stop coverage. When it came to the iPhone launch, there was significant mainstream coverage. Television news shows, newspapers and other media outlets did report on it. And guess what? Contrary to the importance some technologists, geeks and hispters place on the iPhone, the average American just doesn’t want more than a short segment or article on the subject. If they want one, they’ll buy it. They don’t need or want to watch live coverage as others do so.
Duncan notes that “time is too precious for many to watch Justin on Justin.tv driving a car but like actual television, we can and will find time to watch a staged event, or a stream of a non-staged major event such as the iPhone launch.” Time is precious indeed, but Duncan still apparently fails to realize that for the average American, most events are not compelling enough to warrant 24/7 coverage. There’s something to be said for mainstream news outlets, which serve as a filter for determining what events and stories are newsworthy and just how much time needs to be allotted to covering those events and stories. While I don’t personally agree with all of their coverage decisions (i.e. I wasn’t compelled to watch the live coverage as Paris Hilton was taken away in a police car), I also don’t think that a bunch of technologists are going to provide coverage that’s any more relevant. It’s also worth noting that one of the reasons that online video in general has exploded is because the average person finds his or her time increasingly limited. The ability to time-shift content and consume content in the form of short clips is highly-desirable. Eventstreaming actually represents the other extreme: live content that continues to stream until you want to beat your head into a brick wall.
Duncan reminds us that some of the main coverage of the London Bombings in 2005 was “user-generated” video. This was not part of an eventstream! The gentleman who captured one of the explosions on the subway was not operating Subway.tv which documented his daily travels through the subway on his way to work. He happened to be at the scene of an event and was able to document the event with his cell phone camera. This person had no idea what was about to occur, and the content captured was fleeting. I would love to see a logical explanation as to how an amateur eventstreamer is going to be able to get to the scene of important events that nobody knows are going to occur any faster than a professional news agency. This argument is asinine. Technologies like cell phones are enabling individuals to document events that were unlikely to be documented before; the concept of eventstreaming is the same as the concept of news coverage. The only difference is that any idiot can now cover an event without regard to how important that event really is and without regard to the quality of the reporting.
According to Duncan, the “best way of promoting your brand is to be there and be seen.” He argues that the Zooomr brand, for instance, was exposed to “thousands (maybe even more)” who were watching the iPhone eventstream on Ustream. Apparently all the people who were exposed to Zooomr are going to flock to the site and become avid users. Duncan makes the absurd statement that “Money could possibly buy that exposure, but it is well a truly beyond the reach of most. In marketing terms it was pure brilliance, and it will not go unnoticed.” In the age of Internet marketing, reaching an audience of thousands is beyond the reach of most? He goes on to state that “The first wave of Eventstreaming will be driven by smart startups who know a good thing when they see it, and who can’t afford to buy this sort of exposure any other way.” If a startup is going to rely on time-consuming marketing tactics like eventstreaming to reach only thousands of people at a time, I’d be concerned for that startup’s future. There are startups that get featured in major newspapers and on television and it rarely guarantees their success. Just look at Justin.tv. Despite the press attention it has received, it has failed to attract a notable audience because it just isn’t that compelling.
It’s fun to watch technologists celebrate as they destroy old media. The beginning of the revolution yesterday probably would have been so much more gratifying if the mainstream media had actually been there to watch as Kristopher Tate put Geraldo Rivera to shame. Of course, technologists will never consider the fact that the mainstream media wasn’t there providing 24/7 coverage because nobody except a small group of technologists actually cared to see an eventstream of this glorious event.
I’ll let Duncan and the other Web 2.0 kool aid drinkers in on a little secret: even niche, small-audience shows on a cable network have an exponentially larger audience than any of the Web 2.0 eventstreamers. For instance, a reality TV show called Shear Genius on Bravo reached 1.3 million total viewers in its first season. I bet most TechCrunch readers have never even watched a show on Bravo before, and even fewer still have even heard of Shear Genius. That says something: if Web 2.0 fans celebrate because a few thousand people watched an eventstream from an Apple store, they’re celebrating a delusion, not a success.
Maybe we’ll look back in 20 years and old media will be dead. I’ll have been proven to be a complete idiot. But one thing is certain when you look at the numbers: Web 2.0 has an even bigger challenge than it thinks it does if it wants to dethrone network television. If network television dies, it’s more likely to come about because of network television’s own decisions, not because the seeds of a revolution were planted at the Apple store in Palo Alto on June 29, 2007. As cable network star Stephen Colbert would say, “And that’s the Word.”
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