Supernova 2008 – Part 4

TelevisionThe "Reconstructed media" session was about the future of TV. The panelists were from YouTube, Sevenload, and Current TV. All three see TV — as we know it — as a thing of the past. Current.tv is a bottoms up media approach where "you make the news" by voting on, commenting on, or submitting a story. Part of the business model change is being driven by the fact that TV today is very inefficient as an advertising channel. According to one of the speakers, 99% of advertising dollars are wasted because people either don’t watch it or watch it but are not in the market for whatever is being advertised.All three are determined to "reconstruct" — aka blow-up — the current model of television.
I wrote a story here called "The Future of Advertising" in October 2006. I was pretty negative about TV advertising and now I am even more so. In theory you can just record everything but even then it is annoying to have to fast forward through the ads and sometimes have to backup and replay and then forward again to get what you want. The advertisements are mostly insulting to one’s intelligence. There are no insights into anything and they grate on people’s nerves. Honestly, I have to say that most of the ads are obnoxious — as bad as spam. The shotgun blast ads aren’t fraudulent but they add no value to our lives. Zero. Do we need broadcast television to tell us the latest interest rate at ditech.com or to be reminded four times per hour that Scottrade is “all about value” or to be constantly told to ask our doctor about this pill or that pill? The bottom line is that most of us don’t rely on the TV as a source of ideas for things we need. There may be some people that actually enjoy advertisements. That is ok, but the rest of us want to “opt out”.
When it comes to news, sometimes it is hard to get on TV. Odds are that you can flip through a half-dozen cable news channels and find no news. Just ads. TvNewsLies.org claims that CNN = “Contains No News”. After eliminating ads, ads about the news, tabloids, and other chaff, one hour of CNN "Yields Less Than 5 Minutes of News". My preferred news source is news.google.com which I have been using for years. It is ad supported but it is ads that don’t get in your face. You can drill deeply into the news and if you don’t like one source’s point of view you can easily get another. This contrasts with "So and so made a statement today about the oil situation and you won’t believe what he said". Parenthetically, and we are not going to tell you what he said until you listen to three minutes of irrelevant advertising. At this point in e-tirement I pretty much know what things I need or want and if I don’t know then I know how to find things. Broadcast advertising is dead. They just have not admitted it yet. The next phase will be situational ads where the actors in movies will be extolling products and services. It will likely be transparent and I am not looking forward to it.
Many of the startup companies and large amounts of venture capital are focused on how to "reach" us. Their favorite word is CPM, the cost per thousand advertising page impressions. They truly want to intrude on us. They want us to watch a video clip before we can watch the video clip link we clicked on. Forbes magazine prints "Your statement of benefits" on envelopes. This is designed to make you think the envelope contains health insurance or mutual fund information. It actually includes a subscription statement so that you can get the benefit of paying for their magazine. They can’t wait to strike deals with AT&T and Verizon to put ads on our cell phones.
Is there no end? The most optimistic sign lies in social networking. As much as I do not like advertising in my face, I would not mind seeing a link to a book that my friends have read, or learn about interesting places they have been, or wines, or concerts, and other favorites. Advertiser support of social networking has the potential to actually be of value. I hope so, because the tolerance level for traditional TV and Internet advertising is at the limit for many of us. More on social networking coming up.