When new technologies come along, existing businesses as a rule, tend to adapt those new technologies to their existing way of working.
Sometimes that new technology does not fit the old ways at all, or barely. But because businesses can generally only see the world in a very limited way, they tend to try and shoehorn a round peg into a square hole.
Most times it does not work.
Take a look at The New York Times.
Certainly filled with very smart people.
They have been in the newspaper business for 150 years. It is a business they understand very very well.
Now the newspaper business is in very serous trouble. The New York Times reported it, itself:
IN many towns and cities, the newspaper is an endangered species. At least 300 daily papers have stopped publishing over the past 30 years. Those newspapers that have survived are struggling financially. Newspaper circulation has declined steadily for more than 10 years. Average daily circulation is down 2.6 percent in the last six months alone.
Newspapers have also been hurt by significant cuts in advertising revenue, which accounts for at least 75 percent of their revenue. Their share of the advertising market has fallen every year for the past decade, while online advertising has increased greatly.
The pressure, of course, has come from the web. And The New York Times, like so many other papers has responded by trying to move its contents to the web. And they have an excellent website.
But look at their site.
What do you see, but a newspaper. A black and white newspaper posted on the web.
We all know that the web does a lot of things – creates dialogues, communities, video, stills, search engines, purchases. It is a very multifacted vibrant place. But when The Times confronts the web, the best thing they can think of doing is posting their printed newspaper online. Its almost webprint. Static. Certainly factually correct, but not really webby…. so to speak. Its a kind of artifact from another world jammed into webworld.
Websites like Facebook, with its $15 billion valuation are pure web products. Their architecture grew from the web, instead of having an older architecture jammed into it.
Now television confronts the web.
And in doing so, it tends to make the same mistakes that newspapers have already made: Jamming their old design into the web. Square pegs… round holes.
Television was all about passive ‘watching’; cause that was all television could do.
When TV comes to the web, it tends to stick to the ‘passive watching’ model, but now you can do it when you want. Better, but still limited.
The web is about choices and about communities.
Look at the best websites – Facebook, eBay, Amazon, MySpace, Youtube. They are about communities – not really about content. While millions are on MySpace or Facebook or Youtube, there is not much comment (or concern) there about the content. We don’t get into protracted discussions about the quality of the content on Facebook (even though there is a lot of it). Same goes for Youtube.
I hear people in ‘the industry’ shocked all the time about the terrible quality of the content on Youtube. And they are right. It is terrible. But they take all the wrong lessons away from that: “The standards have gotten lower. People will watch anything”.
Youtube is not about ‘watching’ anymore than Facebook is about reading.. or photography. These sites are about the ‘community’ that surrounds them. Its about the participation – the act of participating. The fact that you can.
So what kind of TV show works online? Well, you can certainly show LOST online and people will watch. But it’s not really the web. Its putting TV on the web.
But suppose you created a TV show where people all joined in? Where it was about the community first and the content second.
Would it work?
Would it resonate?
Let’s give it a shot and see.