Since the inception of radio, writers and journalists have battled the notion of how to compete with the latest technology. There is only one logical solution: Convergence. A journalist must be able to compete with other journalists in a rapidly evolving world where new technology is being introduced before the predecessor has even been released.
After radio came the movies, after that came TV, and after that, the Web. No matter what technology emerges, people will always want to know what others think, hear what they have to say, and see what they are doing. The only way to do this is through communications–be they visual, audio or written. Each of these formats have their benefits as well as their limitations. The Web is changing the nature of the game.
Until the Web, convergence happened when a journalist wrote for print as well as television and at times even radio. That is what convergence is–converging the different types of media to cover all the bases and keep up with the competition so that you can get your fair share of the advertising budget.
The New York Times doesn’t sell newspapers, they sell advertising. They simply have to print the paper and use the web site as a medium, a platform, in which to sell their advertising on. Without the advertising, the paper would not be cost effective for the consumer to buy and it would go bust. The more competitive that they are (The wider their distribution), the more likely companies will be to advertise in their publications–and pay top dollar to do so.
When television arrived, it wasn’t long until journalists realized that the only way for them to stay in business was to write for both platforms simultaneously.
Today, we have a rapidly evolving new media (Thanks to Steve Johns and Bill Gates) to figure out how to utilize – to our advantage–the world-wide-web.
Before the web, television was a writer’s platform. The viewer could enjoy leisurely sitting back and letting the anchor staff and writers do all the work for them. The down-side to this was that it was only interactive if you called in to the show, or the show hosted a guest on the program. The user was at the mercy of the limitations set by the writers–they could only view what was presented to them in a you-show-I-watch format.
Sure, the viewer always had the option of changing the channel (And even more channel options with the advent of cable and satellite), but no matter what the viewer watched, he or she was limited to what was being shown at the time.
In recent years, television has been on the decline as have movies and radio. Radio still has the advantage over television and movies, because it does not require the listener’s full attention. A person can listen to the radio while at work, driving in a car, or working in the yard. Television, being a visual media, requires more of the viewer’s attention–although the viewer can still listen to what is going on, he or she has to actually watch the show to get the full effect of the program.
With Internet technology, the media field has found itself wide-open with very little discipline and even less control. Indie film-makers are utilizing this resource to their advantage: It is currently cheaper to produce a high quality digital video and show it on the web than to produce the same quality 3/4″ video and distribute it across the air-waves (via cable or satellite).
This gives the little guy the competitive edge in a way that has never happened before-now, it is the studios who are back-tracking trying to keep up. the only advantage that their multi-million dollar budgets offer is the ability to advertise their product to a wide array of users in traditional formats: But even this is no longer a real advantage because of the inexpensive on-line advertising available to the little guy. The field is being leveled an the studios are not sure what to do (If anything can be done) about it.
YouTube has already offered a platform for every-day people to show their videos on the Internet; yet, it doesn’t seem that the professionals in the studios are paying attention. They have had the exclusive on who gets to see what, when, where and how for so long, that it doesn’t appear that they are taking this new competition seriously–which indeed, they should be.
Instead of acknowledging all of the amateurs who have risen to unconscionable success recently using this new media, they are still scratching their heads wondering, “What happened to the ratings?” The Internet happened to the ratings.
Verizon and a variety of their competitors already have technologies in the works to move the television experience to the Internet. Netflix is going web. It is a no-brainer that the Internet will be the next generation of television–bringing with it some very exciting, interesting and innovative implications.
People are always going to want to see works of art, fiction, documentaries, news shows and even cartoons. Where television is limited to the writer’s media, the web levels the field and makes interactive television a ‘When,’ rather than an ‘If.’ Better yet, it offers the viewer the option of either interacting or sitting back and being entertained.
Many DVDs have already began offering the user options of alternative endings, alternative angles and POVs, and behind the scene peeks at the cast.
Suppose a viewer was interested in a cyclone hitting a far away place, but not necessarily the dog-bite victim right down the street: Until recently, the viewer only had the option of going on-line and scavenging for the information in video footage (That may or may not be credible) posted on YouTube, reading about it in text on HuffPo, or sitting through all the other clips that they weren’t particularly interested in so that they could follow it on the nightly news broadcast.
Savvy news organizations are changing that on the Internet. They are posting search-able clips of only the story that the viewer wants to see–which gives the viewer the benefit of allowing the broadcasters to still do all the work for them while they sit back and enjoy the show.
Viewers often want to know what other people think about things–which is what makes talk shows like ‘Oprah,’ and ‘the View’ appealing to them. Whether they agree or disagree, they want commentaries that give them something to think about, a fresh perspective, or even a rhetorical reinforcement of their own ideas.
Viewers also want something that is familiar to them, which is what makes shows like NCIS, CSI and even reality shows attractive. People want to know about people. They want someone that they can relate to, that they can tune in to and get a sense of familiarity with.
The future of media is the web because it is a one-stop-shop with a pause button.
The next generation of television is going to be interactive with features like IM–where the viewer can actually interact in real time with the performers, without disrupting the show, and the show will give viewers several options of how to experience the work (Including the ability to see an episode that had to be missed because of work or an engagement).
AT&T has already lead the way by adding a sound version to their web site, making it more user friendly than competitive sites–and opening the market to people who for physical reasons cannot see the text to read it (Or are someplace that they cannot devote the time to view it but can listen to it).
Unfortunately though, truly effective web advertising has not yet been figured out. Companies still use part of their budget to reach the on-line audience, but so far the returns have been fairly minimal compared to the other medias being used. perhaps this is due in part to the abuse of guerrilla marketing that abuses pop-ups and gets the user locked into a site that they never intended to visit. Perhaps it is over-exposure–it is easy to tune out a simple banner ad. Perhaps it is the placement of that banner ad on the website–the web master wants to reserve the prime real estate for his or her own material. Perhaps it is the text design of AdWords and pay-per-click. Perhaps it is psychological, because the user identifies the web with the idea of free–after-all, wasn’t the web designed to be free in the first place? Perhaps it is none of these or a little of all of these combined.
The more user friendly a site is, the easier it is to navigate, and the more features that it offers–the more likely it will be to catch on and stay in the running during this era of mega evolution. This, in turn, implies that the more media venues you employ on your site–the more effective your ads will be–and the more money advertisers will pay you for space.
Savvy web owners and web writers will keep up with this technology and utilize it to the extreme by converging their style to accommodate audio, video, and 3D graphics in order to stay ahead of the game.
Who knows what the not-so distant future holds for media. Soon it may even be possible for a web writer to pod cast their artist into the viewer’s living room in a hologram format.
When that happens, it will be because of web technology, and those who have not yet converged into the latest phase of media will be stuck in the dust of yester-year, wondering what happened to the ratings–just like the studio executives are doing today…