It’s news Jim, but not as we know it….
Yesterday, I found myself on a panel at the Edinburgh Television Festival with the Heads of News at The BBC, Channel 5 and ITN, respectively (r to l).
The topic of discussion was the future of the evening bulletin. This is what we would call the nightly news show.
These are all very smart guys, and have all reached the pinnacle of their professional careers. Think of the Executive Producer of NBC Nightly News and you get the idea.
First, it was a pleasure to not have to retread the old VJ ground. This is an argument that is long over in the UK. It’s here, it works, get on with it.
Having transcended that, the real issue is: in a world of web transmission and IPTV, is there any future for the Nightly News show.
My opinion is, it’s over in 5 years. Theirs: closer to 10.
No… to be fair, they all believe, to varying degrees, that there is some future for the News Bulletin, or the nightly news show. I don’t think so.
Their audiences are old and getting older. Soon, sorry to say, they will start dying off. Younger viewers are not replacing them. They are, instead, on the web, and that is where they will stay. The notion of linear television news is antithetical to the web – a distinctly non-linear, VOD environment. The notion of waiting until 6:30PM or 10PM to get the ‘breaking news story’ is simply a non-starter in the web world.
Yet the three networks (UK or US, take your pick) pour a vast percentage of their resources into these ‘shows’. Resources that could be put to far better use in the realm of journalism as opposed to the realm of production values. While I think the swooping in shots over Big Ben are great, the music enthralling and the studio set amazing, I also think it is pretty archaic stuff. Just look at Google’s home page. No fancy opens, no thrilling music, no ‘host’.
Google is a child of the web. Purely a child of the web.
You could, of course, have built a fantastic video open for Google. One that would come up every time you hit the URL. Music, graphics, pictures, video… they certainly have the money. You could have a Google Anchor. Male or Female? Asian? Black? Young and hip or old and wise? These are the kinds of discussions that still dominate ‘news’ conversations at most TV networks – which is why most TV networks just don’t get, (and never will get) the web.
Which brings us back to ‘the show’.
While all TV networks in the US or the UK (and no doubt in Burkina Fasso) pay lip service to the web (all of these guys sure do), what they refuse to do is to really embrace the basic architecture that the web militates.
The ‘show’ is in their DNA. They have grown up with it all their lives. It’s a hard habit to shake.
Mark Lobel, a producer for The BBC, (and a very nice guy) commented to me later that he felt that people need an organizing principle for news. Otherwise, he said, it’s too confusing. Too much to choose from. Too many options. That is why the world ‘needs’ a nightly news ‘show’.
I don’t agree.
Free presses are messy.
They are supposed to be.
The world of Television, particularly Television News has never been a free press. It has been more of a Soviet Union of Information. THE SOURCE tells you the news. Your job; sit back and absorb and believe.
Well, technology has now consigned that model to the trash bin. But people still cling to it in the fear that the tidal wave of news and information uncontrolled and unedited is far too overwhelming for the average person.
Could be. Could be until I take a moment to think about where we are. (By we, I mean you and I at this moment). We are on the web. The greatest tidal wave of uncontrolled, unfettered and unfiltered information in the history of humanity). There is no ‘Nightly Web Show’ to organize for poor confused us all the stuff on the web (and there is a ton of stuff here). Google does not, in fact, produce a slick, well packaged Web Tonight! with host and music.
We like the web messy and open and random and distinctly unpackaged. We find what we want and we go home, or somewhere else.
The Web, for all its messiness is not ‘too confusing’ for us, nor is it too ‘overwhelming’. We all navigate it just fine.
In the early days of the Web, there were those who felt that perhaps this was not the case. Perhaps people needed an organizing hand to ‘help’ them manage all that messy content. That was AOL. It set about to organize sites and information for you. It was a ‘gateway’ site.
Anyone here on AOL?
Even my 76 year old mother is no longer on AOL.
No one is.
Probably not even the News Directors……
At least I hope not.