Flying down to Miami on Friday, I picked up a copy of this week’s Time Magazine.
Once you take out the advertising inserts, the magazine literally falls over at the staples. There is nothing inside – no advertising, and frankly nothing worth reading. In the age of the Internet, a weekly newsmagazine seems a bit anachronistic. I get Time when I fly, out of habit. Does anyone read this thing anymore?
There was one article that caught my attention – a piece on Joost, the new video website, from the guys who brought us Skype and Kaaza. The article was headlined ‘The 50,000 Channel World”, and someone quoted in the article waxed lyrically about how there would soon be a channel for everything, ‘a fly fishing channel’, he said.
Ironically, at the same time, I got an email from Bob@Bob.com (how did he get such a simple email address) complaining that the ‘vj revolution’ was destroying jobs.
I could not have created a better example of exactly what is happening in the marketplace if I had tried. On the one side, massive downsizing, not just in Bob’s local news station, but also at Time Magazine and so many other conventional publictions, while a 50,000 channel world is emerging.
Let’s keep with the latter. (Bob, are you paying attention?)
A 50,000 channel environment (and most likely with an infinite Interent, there will be even more), means, conservatively, a demand for (hang on), an estimated 450,000,000 hours of programming a year. Did you get that number? 450 million hours of progamming – in video. How big a number is 450 million hours? It has only been 17,472,000 hours since Jesus walked the earth. That means, if you started watching Joost the day Jesus was born, and did nothing but that, you would now only be in May of the first season in the Joost online video world.
That is a LOT of content!
Is it overwhelming?
Because we have lived our entire lives in a world of limited, linear television, we tend to think of the online world of video in conventional television terms. How can anyone deal with 50,000 channels, or even 5,000? Walk into a Barnes and Noble. How many books are there? 17,000? 20,000? Do we run out screaming “how can I deal with this?”. Look at the magazine stand where I bought Time. How many magazine titles are there? A thousand? Wooden Sailboat. Wooden Tennis Racket. Braids Magazine. (an entire weekly magazine devoted to hair braids!)
Look at the 50,000 channel video environment and ask yourself, ‘who is going to make all this stuff?”
If you want to know the answer, pick up a copy of Fly Fishing Magazine and open to the masthead. All of these magazines are profitable. They all occupy a niche. They all sell advertising. But when you look at the masthead, they all have very very small staffs. They all employ only a handfull of people, the bulk of them in sales. The content is made by freelance writers.
Let’s say that again.
The content is made by freelance writers.
Thousands of writers, working for Wooden Tennis Racket or Hair Extender or whatever else, sitting at home, cranking this stuff out on laptops in their living rooms. That is where the content of magazines comes from, whether it is for The New Yorker or
New York Magazine. And if they are good, they are well paid – just ask those who work for Vanity Fair …or Seymour Hersh.
Now video, as it goes online, enters into the same realm. But instead of sitting at home on a laptop moving text around for Vanity Fair and emailing it off to the editors, you will move video around on FCP and email it off to the producers. Video is no longer magical. Television is no longer magical. It’s just content. And its pretty simple to make.
In the 3-network world before cable, ABC, NBC and CBS nightly divided an audience of 100 million viewers. On any given show, they were able to deliver 30 million households. You did not have to be a programming genius to make a profit. Pretty much anything from I Dream of Jeanie to Green Acres could do the trick.
When cable came along, we went from 3 channels to 500, so the number of households got fractionalized, and so did ad revenues. Once a rating below 11.0 could get you cancelled. Today, in the world of cable, if you can garner a .11, you are doing OK.
Well, as ratings collapse, so does ad revenue, and so does the amount that the networks can pay for a show to be produced. When we go to Joostworld, that number gets fractionalized again – BUT.. the demand does not go away. The demand explodes.
Can you get the price of producing video based content in line with the demand and the market reality?
Can you make video production as simple as writing a magazine article?
Do you have a video camera and a computer at home Bob? Because here comes the future.
You may not like it. It’s a change.
You can be sure the folks who used to work for Time Magazine did not like it either.
Maybe they’re buying video cameras.
It would be a good idea.