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Monday, April 5, 2010

TV is Dead. Long Live TV.

A great post by Brian Halligan at HubSpot, on a dinner he had with a group of Madison Avenue folks, got me thinking about some possible futures for Television. Contrary to the prevailing wisdom, I don't think that Television is about to suffer the same fate as newspapers as information becomes free.

Here's why - we're lazy.

I recently watched some Olympics coverage, and was impressed with the seamless flow back and forth from the events that were being shown to a physiologist talking about the effect on the human body of the snowboard half-pipe, to a profile of one of the upcoming short track speedskaters, to an in depth look at how moguls are judged, to an interview with a hockey coach. It was this careful orchestration of content that made the experience enjoyable, and all I had to do was sit back and take it in. For that, I watched a few ads.

Could I have found all of that content online? Probably. But the point is I couldn't be bothered.

In a similar manner, iTunes beats out online downloading of music for many people. I don't subscribe to the idea that we download via iTunes because of a profound respect for copyright law (see Larry Lessig at TED on that topic). I strongly believe that many of us use iTunes just because it is easier. It's just plain easier to find, download, and be assured of quality. For that, 99c is worth it.

Television fits this iTunes model.

Television, generally, does a great job of orchestrating, curating, and sequencing the content. This has a value that needs to be appreciated by anyone predicting the downfall of television. I suspect that we, as viewers, will demonstrate a willingness to "pay" for that value through advertising.

Newspapers, while also providing content, don't cater to the same level of passively experiencing the content. One needs to leaf through a newspaper, pick an article, and read it. Far more active of an experience - and not much different than finding the same article online.

Of course, the question of what happens to the classic "30 second spot" is up in the air. Exactly how we "pay" for television with our attention is a bit unclear, but economics will find a way. Whether it is through deeper integration of product placements, integrated story-telling, or better targeting or quality of 30 second ads that make us want to watch, the model can be found.

What do you think? Is there a future for Television?

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