Jan 10 2011
Television has come a long way since it’s mainstream popularity in a Post-World War 2 world. Today, the convergence of the Internet along with other digital innovations has, rather ironically, provided the same kind of industry wide, mass-disruption that Television caused Radio, all those years ago. However, where Television sought to replace Radio as the primary source of household entertainment, the Internet has instead empowered audiences to seek control over their entertainment habits; granting them the ability to consume media on their own and often unique terms. This ability to deeply personalize what traditionally used to be a static user experience has created a number of technological, social, ethical and commercial concerns, which will need to be addressed in the near future for Television to survive this most recent technological and social transition.
The most extraordinary shift in the disparity between old media and new consumption behaviors is due primarily because users have discovered new means of information access and how this information can be heavily personalized. Traditional broadcasted Television (old media) is a highly inflexible medium that can only be consumed in pre-packaged linear ways and it’s this content model which the entire Television industry has built is business models. Until recently, control over distribution channels was relatively easy, and this control gave commercial networks the power to monetize specific demographics. Primarily, the monetization strategies were structured around selling consumer attention (advertising to audiences).
Küng, Picard, & Towse state that “Once such content is available in digital format, it can be accessed through several devices, channels can be broken down into constituent parts, advertising can be avoided and programs can be consumed on demand, and in different locations, according to consumers’ individual preferences.” In other words, anyway, any place and anytime – something quite foreign to the established status quo of successful commercial Television networks. However, despite technological advances and changing audience behaviors over the past decade (favoring new and exciting content delivery mechanisms) the Television industry has been quite slow to find a place in this emerging new paradigm.
Increasingly, programs are utilizing the web, and specifically social networking (such as Twitter and Facebook), as a cost effective means to increase audience engagement. Websites, Video streaming (via catch-up services), blogs, and Social Networks can be easily created to catalyze an audience and create ‘lock-in’ which aide in stabilizing audience numbers and potentially even increasing them through word-of-mouth. Content lifespan can also be extended through convergence. Jeremiah Zinn from MTV Networks said recently at a VideoNuze event in New York, that “overlaying commentary and contests on TV reruns extends the life of that content and can make it relevant even during a second or third airing”. This clearly shows that old media is happy to converge with new technologies, provided that they don’t interfere with existing monetization and distribution strategies. New monetization opportunities are beginning to be explored, but so far the Industry seems lethargic to embrace them; possibly due the complex and sometimes delicate distribution deals currently existing between studios, producers, copyright-holders and Television networks around the world. The Film and Television Industries have learned from the music industry’s mistakes and the subsequent success of legal music download services, such as iTunes and are slowly embracing them, however, the burden of geography still handicaps many users from getting what they want, when they want it.
It is this “digital distance” that is fracturing the Industry. The effect that these arbitrary geographical rules imposed on different audiences is a primary driver behind the increasing quantity of pirated Television. Some popular TV episodes are getting up to as many as 5 million downloads per episode, a number that is rapidly approaching the total audience population for that same episode in the US. Ernesto Van Der Sar who created the Torrent Freak website said that after they analyzed some 400,000 torrents the “data indicated that approximately half of all the people using BitTorrent at any given point in time, were using it to download a TV-show”. This is supported by Michael Newman who stated that in 2008 the most popular episode of Lost was downloaded over 5.7 million times versus Neilson’s report of 13.4 million US viewers tuning in. The Industry is concerned that the increasing quantity of ‘bootlegged’ or otherwise unauthorized episodes downloaded online will only increase profit hemorrhaging, but there are also reports that the Industry has allegedly used these same illegal distribution networks as a marketing tool by deliberately leaking unaired pilots. One of the members of EZTV reportedly told Torrent Freak that it was his “understanding that many of the people that download TV shows from us are avid TV fans and will usually buy DVD boxsets of shows they like.”
Clearly, there is an argument to be made for Torrent downloading in actually helping Television in building stronger, deeper, more engaged audiences. Additionally, the Television Network NBC recently commented that they actually make less money on per-per-download services than they do on free download sites due to the advertising revenue gained from so many viewers, further justifying BitTorrent downloading as a viable distribution platform. Never-the-less, unauthorized downloading are publicized by traditional media as being theft, whilst many downloaders argue that if recording to PVR from freely broadcast media isn’t illegal, then neither should be Peer-to-peer (P2P). Proponents of Television downloading argue that P2P represents an opportunity, not a threat.
New media is something that the mainstream will soon expect from the Television Industry. New media is about breaking down the walled garden of traditional media and stripping away all geographical bias and enhancing the social relationship. People now see Television as an invested social experience; one to be shared discussed and participated in. The concept of Prime-time Television is starting to disintegrate and soon will be gone altogether, as audiences simply download or time-shift to the program they wish to watch at the time. Interestingly, only Reality Television and Special Events (e.g., Olympics, Sport Finals) are likely to avoid this trend and be watched live, partly because of the need audiences will have to share these experiences in real-time. This later trend has already converged into mainstream Television behavior, with people discussing live Television events as they watch, and some shows such as the Australian ABC’s Q & A and the American’s CNN which actually already incorporate a live audience Twitter feed into the regular broadcast.
The next generation will be the one to watch closely. They will be an entire generation who’ve not known Televisual media any other way, with an utterly transformed mode consumption and interpretation. A generation of Television viewers who don’t care which network a program comes from, only care that it’s right for them, at that moment, to be shared and discussed. They will expect to watch Television in a post-scarcity world and in contrast Television’s current status quo, expect Television to adapt it’s broadcasts to everyone’s own personal schedules. While the demands of unique personalization may take the Industry more time to adjust to audiences pulling them in every personal direction, once the Industry embraces new media we will again reach equilibrium. Despite the possible short-term struggles with the ethical, commercial and technological challenges, the future looks bright for all Television audiences because ultimately digitization allows new communicative, journalistic and content consumption which will force us to reformulate the existing paradigm.
This post is a slightly modified version of a piece I wrote for a University assignment for the Curtin University Subject Web Media: WEB207, answering the question: What are the Impacts of Digitization and Convergence on Television?
Jul 19 2008
I actually only discovered this extremely recently, so good timing for me because I don't have to wait. But lol, you have to check this out. A must see for all Buffy, Angel and Firefly flans.
For those who have never heard of this, I got this explanation from Wikipedia:
Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog is a 40-minute, 3-part musical comedy produced for the Internet, telling the story of a low-rent supervillain, the hero who keeps beating him up, and the cute girl from the laundromat he's too shy to talk to. The movie was written by Joss Whedon and his brothers Zack Whedon (a television writer), Jed Whedon (a composer) and Jed's fiancée, Maurissa Tancharoen (an actress). The writing team penned the musical during the WGA Writer's Strike. The idea was to create something small and inexpensive, yet professionally done, in a way that would circumvent the issues that were being protested during the strike.
Jul 18 2008
Articles like this really piss me off!
Media Companies (records ones in particular) make up a major part of the wealthiest companies in the world.
They are also the first ones to cry foul when something goes "wrong".
If they would stop releasing shit music, perhaps people would buy the albums. Also notice, that they do not count LEGALLY downloaded tunes in the figure. Sure album sales may have dropped howevermuch%, but how many magnitudes of 10 did legal music downloads go up? The media companies get a slice of these! As media becomes more diversified in nature, people have to shift the focus of their disposable income. How many people bought DVDs in 1996?
I believe in free-market. If the market likes your product - they will buy it. It's really that simple. Most people understand that the advantages of purcahsing media speak for themselves. No mess! No fuss!
If I like something, I will consume it. And, pay for it. But, like most people, I only have so many dollars to go around and once it's gone - it's gone. No matter how much the media companies complain, it will not make me spend anymore money. It's (for most people) a finite resource.
So, before people start accusing the 'net for the drop in album sales, perhaps they should check reality first!
Jul 14 2008
I often complain about Apple products. The recent launch of the iPhone 3G is merely just another example of this. Not only is the Apple Reality Distortion Field at full strength again, and now apparently the field has grown so strong that Apple doesn't even have to advertise with it's own cash anymore!
Is this honest to god "frontpage news"? Or have they considered making Apple pay for its own advertising, rather than letting it replace actual news content?
Update: Firstly I'd like to point out that I do understand the irony of posting this, since I am effectively providing free advertising to Apple as well. Secondly, I think the iPhone is just another phone; however I do think that the web browsing on it is second to none.
Jul 4 2008
In the ongoing copyright litigation between Google and Viacom, a judge on the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York has ordered Google (PDF) to hand over data on every YouTube user, including username, the associated IP address, and a list of all the the videos that user ever watched.
In this lawsuit, Viacom is seeking more than $1 billion in damages because of alleged copyright violations on YouTube.
This is truly shocking. England's Statute of Anne (1710) is widely regarded as the first copyright law. The statute's full title was "An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned." This statute first accorded exclusive rights to authors (i.e., creators) rather than publishers, and it included protections for consumers of printed work ensuring that publishers could not control their use after sale. It also limited the duration of such exclusive rights to 28 years.
You see, the point is that copyright laws have been bastardized and twisted so much, that instead of protecting the creators of works, they exist (almost solely) to protect the investment of publishers. In fact in many developed nations in the world (most notably the UK and US) lobby groups are pressuring the governments to increase the current cap on copyright from 50 - to 100+ years!
I think that while it's important for companies to protect their Intellectual Property, copyright is becoming more and more difficult to define; and more importantly, in an age where the barrier to produce new and creative works is so low - the original needs of "copyright" to protect creators is almost needless.
Like many things, I turn to the internet. It gives me great comfort to know that people can protect and define copyright themselves with a simple little license.txt file outlining the wishes of the author., and I think we have the Open Source community to thank for this. Creative Commons, under which nearly every blog operates, is an example of this.
But, as far as Viacom lawsuit is concerned - when any company violates the privacy and rights of users, it really pisses me off. What will be next? Google for indexing CNN.com? No I don't think so, and I think we all know why!
Apr 13 2008
Apr 4 2008
If you have a Media Center PC, and you use Skype, then you really need to see this!
Jan 15 2007
Cross-posted from the Particls blog.
Today Apple is engaging in similar [legal] tactics against a number of bloggers who simply reported on the fact that someone created a skin for Windows Mobile phones that looks exactly like the new iPhone user interface [...] If Apple wants to go after the guy that made the Windows Mobile skin that looks like the iPhone, fine. But to bully bloggers who are simply reporting on this is another matter.Now, at the risk of dragging Touchstone into a cease and desist land mine, obvious bullying tactics like this are simply ridiculous. It's not the first time Apple has been so aggresive with the community. There was the Apple Rumor mill Wars, the more recent demanding that YouTube videos be removed from sites and various issues with the use of the iPod brand. Can I even say Podcast now?
This is the latest in a long line of over-the-top legal war-mongering. Apple has earned a lot of respect and loyalty from it's fan and not only does this irritate me, it may well kill one of their key stratigic advantages by acting this way.
Which is why I posting it here.
My theory is that if a company is going to actively and aggressively try to stop the blogosphere (which is largely only opinion anyway) then I will add to the news. What are they going to do if several million people post about it? Sue everyone? I don't think so.
So here it is!
You can't stop the signal.
Jan 4 2007
Cross-posted from the Particls blog.
As many of you are probably aware, the Touchstone Team are avid Firefly fans. I was recently reading my feeds (from gateworld.net incidentally) and noticed that Jewel Staite has a blog! Yay I thought, now THATS something I have to read.
Alas, look, no feed!
It took several minutes for Chris to calm me down, obviously, this was very uncool. Even now, I am still confused as to how and why an excellent actor like Jewel could have a website which a) looks worse then a teenage girls MySpace page and b) doesn't have an RSS feed. 5 minutes and I would have a blogger blog publishing to her website looking smick, easy to update and feeds for all to burn.
Bah. I almost wished I'd never found the site in the first place.