Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Remind me, video didn't actually *kill* the radio star, did it?

The other day a colleague (Richard) and I were trying to figure out which media had been killed by a successive media, or at least died due to related neglect.

I ventured the Mystery Play - but then discovered that the Guilds of York will be staging some in 2010. He got as far as audio cassette tapes - but we agreed that was a technology, not a medium.

What with us working for Channel 4 and everything, sometimes you do feel the fear - can it really be true that TV is dead?

So as I headed to the FT Digital Media and Broadcasting conference at the beginning of this week, I was hoping for some insights as to what fate has in store for TV.

Unfortunately as I turned to my notes to report back my findings, I seem to have scribbled down mostly comments that I disagreed with. For example, the excellent Blake Chandlee of Facebook stated,

"Content is what your family and friends are doing."

The way I see it, my mum isn't doing Jamie at Home any more than I did Atonement at the weekend. Yes, I realise Blake was talking from Facebook's point of view, but remember I'm looking for a diagnosis of a problem before fate deals its cruel blow and this seemed at odds with the content that the likes of Channel 4 bangs out.

And then there was Andreas Mueller-Schubert of Microsoft, again talking only really for Microsoft when he said,

"TV is no longer just a device, it's a new digital service to personalize."

Come off it - TV has been an educator, an entertainer, a piece of furniture, a friend, a pacifier, an anaesthetic even ... but just a device? Never! And now it's a new digital service to personalize is it? Well that makes it sound about as fun as an over-featured microwave. Is that really how people feel about Midsomer Murders?

After a while I did wonder whether the conference should have been renamed as something more like "stuff that digital media and broadcasters might want to think about or have been worrying they should probably at least look up", as even excellent chair Richard Waters, was moved early on to say,

"You thought you were coming to a media conference and you have to listen to a lot of talk about tagging."

That's not to say I spent the entire two days seething at semantics: David Moody of the BBC imparted some invaluable wisdom to any broadcaster based on their experience with the iplayer and the impact of distribution; Ron Galloway was very accessible and entertaining on the semantic web (and may be available for weddings and barmitzvahs his patter is so slick); and it was a shame that Viktor Mayer-Schoenberger on Search was in the conference graveyard slot (the last session on the last day) - speaking of both how search engines and data privacy handling need to be tackled with the memorable line,

"We forget, Google remembers."

I was also really sad to have missed Nova Spivack, of whom I heard great reports.

The absolute highlight for me was Moray MacLennan, Chairman Europe of M&C Saatchi. The quality of his presentation and analysis left me stimulated, ever-so-slightly reassured and, well, with a bit of a crush actually.

I loved, for example, how MacLennan expressed the way that ad agencies should feel about the mix of media that they have to play with as,

"I was drawing in black and white and now I can paint in colour."

MacLennan was a part of the strongest panel of the two days, "Innovating Revenue: The Future of Advertising" which featured Hamish Pringle of the IPA, Melanie Howard of the The Future Foundation and oh yeah, my mate Fergus of Nooked who had invited me along to the conference.

The whole panel embraced all the right digital goodness (widgets, games etc.), whilst accepting that you don't want "engagement" and "a conversation" with every brand (MacLennan stating his toilet roll brand as not one he would be befriending on Facebook) and that there will always be a place for down-time content that's all "done" for you, which was certainly backed up by Future Foundation research that Howard referred to.

And as the title of this post suggests, I don't think video killed the radio star, you know, but I'll concede it did signficantly alter his or her place in the media firmament.

I'm not being curmudgeonly or naive. Just as email led to the demise of snail mail and the marginalisation of the personal letter or card but not the end to personal correspondence, maybe Youtube heralded the start of the end of the tv set - maybe even the tv station or channel as we know them - but not TV in the sense I think we all understand it - well made audio-visual content that we can sit back and enjoy in our living rooms traditionally, but now wherever we might want a screen - bedroom, study, or hand.

What we've got to figure out is what place social networks, widgets, pvrs etc. have in our lives - and therefore the media landscape, but wisely assuming that some of the old ways and means will endure and emerge with new ways to reach audiences.

1 comment:

neilperkin said...

Nice post Louise. I like that Moray MacLellan quote. I think you're right - how people use media will always be a blend.