Carpe Medium – Part 1

rosie05.jpg

Is this the face of the future?

The New York Times ran a fascinating piece today in the Entertainment section about Rosie O’Donnell’s webcasts. Having left The View, and network television, lately she has taken to webcasting her own show … online. You can see them here. I have to admit that I am no Rosie fan.

Beyond that, the production values are just terrible. Poor Nino will have a stroke when he looks at these. In fact, I am a bit astonished that someone who has spent much of her adult life in the television business can put something so badly shot as these up for public view. My 16-year old nephew Brett did better camera work when he was 9.

That having been said, even these terrible images are getting traction. And that tells you something right there.

The New York Times wrote:

There she is, the fork-tongued lady, without bronzer to contour her face or concealer to hide her fatigue, or directors to keep her coloring within the political and professional lines.

And, man, is this girl good on screen.

Carpe Medium!

(Or “seize the medium” for those of us who did not take latin in school).

What you are watching with Rosie is the tip of an iceberg. Much to her credit, she has seized the medium. We could work on the quality of the presentation, but something much more fundamental is happening here.

At The New York Times, 35%of the cost of production goes into editorial. The rest is consumed by the mechanics of manufacturing and distributing the paper. That is, the folks who write the paper represent 35% of the cost of the paper, the rest is consumed by presses and paper and trees and ink and the building and management. (At the Murdoch paper, 28% goes to editorial, apparently).

But!

Do away with the physical paper, the ink, the trucks, the distribution the building and so on… and you make the paper vastly more profitable. This is largely behind the migration of so many publications (and soon TV stations) to online. It changes the basic economics.

But!

The only reason people read newspapers is for the editorial content. No one buys the NY Times for the quality of the ink or the kind of desks they have on the 23rd floor (or their new building across the street from the Port Authority).

So when the paper goes online, does editorial suddenly pick up 90% of the budget?

I don’t think so.

Now, along comes Rosie, who says, ‘screw The View’ and screw ABC, I can do this on my own. I don’t need a network to get into people’s homes.

Well, it’s a bit early, but it’s also a bit like Howard Stern going to Sirrus. Mel Karmazin paid him $500 million because Karmazin realized that a certain percentage of people (16% it turns out, so far) would follow Howard to digital radio. Well, more than likely, those same 16% would also have followed him to Howardstern.com, should he have chosen that route. No need to cut Mel in for anything.

If you look at Rosie, and you can get past the bad camerawork (I am sure this will improve), you can see something far more interesting brewing here.

Content is King.

Always has been.. always will be.

And those who make the content don’t need the networks or the cable operations, or the newspapers to get into people’s homes.

This is what is coming. Rosie is the first whiff of the future… It will take a while, but it is surely on its way.

And like great sailors who can sense a storm before anyone else, the smart money is gearing up for the change. That’s why Murdoch, no dope, is buying content in the form of The Wall Street Journal; and that is why the market is suddenly flooded with local TV stations.

A big change is coming.

Arise ye creative content making workers of the world. You have nothing to lose but your chains….and the occasional golden handcuff.

8 responses to “Carpe Medium – Part 1

  1. Good post Mr. Rosemblum! It also goes to a valid point. Content is king. Like many news events, the level of quality, if lower than what some may prefer, is acceptable and interesting enough to generate an audience if the content is of sufficient interest to a large enough group.

    It’s been that way for years and the exact reason so many news organizations have been willing to compromise their level of quality.

    The problem arises when those making the “quality” make the erroneous judgement that quality doesn’t matter at all. This is usually done by focusing on the bottom line of a budget instead of what is most important, The quality of the content.

    Many VJs make the same mistake. They focus on the lesser expensive equipment and rush to say they are doing quality work no matter what they produce. We all know this is not true.

    There are times the smaller, less expensive cameras are the best tool to use. That decision is made not because of cost but because of access to an event or subject matter.

    If the subject matter is available to a large number of people, then the level of quality becomes even more important when competing for an audience. It is a tricky balance and winning the audience takes more than focusing on the bottom line of production values.

  2. Rosie is almost as intelligent as a couple of college kids with a video camera.

  3. I always thought that capital punishment should be replaced by putting a TV that plays 24/7 Rosie O’Donnell’s shows in the cell of the condemned person, but I’m sure the ACLU would consider that a cruel and unusual punishment and therefore unconstitutional.

    In all fairness, I met Rosie and interviewed her many times. In person she is very pleasant, personal and very funny. There’s definitely a Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hide syndrome here, this is show biz, give them what they want to see.

  4. Rosie’s great. She’s a tribute to the system’s excellent ability to identify talent, but awful ability to package and sell it outside a very narrowly defined spectrum. (Give her a talk show! Make her a pundit! She’s the next !)

    It’s great she’s ditched the networks for her own platform. There’s something honest about the lack of makeup and crappy camera work. I’d lose the two preening friends, however.

  5. Content is King. No doubt.

    Here are the “Four Cs of Video Journalism”
    Content – Commitment – Craft – Creativity

    Content is king because any video image with outstanding content will generate interest. For example – a security camera captures a young girl being kidnapped. Later she is found dead. No person shot the video. The quality was as bad as it can get. Yet the content was some of the heaviest and most compelling I’ve ever seen. Case closed. Content is king.

    But we all know content does not exist to that level day in and day out. We still have to produce video to communicate less compelling stories, etc… That is where Craft is important. Those who cannot shoot the daily news, or average story content, will stand apart from those who produce quality. Also, there is actual “value” to our craft. A well composed picture, with outstanding colors, and great natural sounds, will capture a viewer’s attention…and they will appreciate the aesthetic value. When you page through a magazine, you will stop and look at great photographs – because of the quality craft. Craft matters. Case closed.

    Commitment: It takes a commitment on behalf of the video journalist and their organization (time, money, editorial, social, personal, planning, executing) There needs to be a commitment or else content will not make it anywhere. You can see by watching a story, what the real commitment was. That has value.

    Creativity: Admit it, you will watch a creative approach to a story – and appreciate the creativity. Sometimes stories are mundane, yet a creative approach (shooting, editing, writing or producing) will capture a viewers attention. Creativity should never get in the way of content, or the viewer’s perception, but a creative angle, a creative edit, a creative subject, a creative twist, etc…. all has an effect.

    Content – Craft – Commitment – Creativity. The “Four Cs of Videojournalism”- as I see it. Am I missing anything?

  6. the problem lies in who decides what is “content”.

    to some, a skateboarding bulldog makes for a funny watchable piece. to others, it has to be a squirrel… on waterskiis.

    to others, a monkey reading the evening news from a prompter… a very well paid monkey.

    be it monkey, squirrel or bulldog someone will find it interesting.

  7. This, of course, is the real beauty and change driving nature of video online. It costs next to nothing to make, nothing to distribute and the shelf space is infinite. It’s the classic ‘long tail’, but now there are people who are starting to manufacture content for it. The issues remains how to monetize.. but this, I am sure, will come. Remember in the earliest days of the web when anyone mentioning charging anything was instantly flamed.

  8. Who decides about content is not a problem. Those who know, have a business that survives. A business that brings back viewers.

    Those that don’t, produce one or two little projects which might or might not get noticed.

    Then they quickly fade away and do something else.

    Eric did a great job of balancing the impact of content with other crucial elements needed to develop a successful business model and build a reputation with customers which generates revenue.

    Well said.

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