Will It Fly?

Could we charge extra for baggage?

I am sitting in the conference room of a giant publishing company that we have been working with for some time.

They understand the concept of video on the web, and of webcasting in general, but the ‘bean counters’ are having a hard time with the ‘monetizing’ of the online video content.  They can see that this is the future. What they don’t see is immediate revenues.  It’s a serious problem.

In 1903, the Wright Brothers flew the first heavier-than-air craft.*

It was yet another world-changing moment driven by a new technology.

It is, however, fortunate that the bean counters were not yet there. If they were, they might have had serious problems about continuing to invest in the airplane.

“The only way we can monetize this” says RR Snidely, VP for Finance at Bicycles R Us, is to charge for the trips.  Our market research tells us that people will pay as much as $100 for a trip from NY to Miami. Now, we’ve run the numbers for our ROI and we need about 250 trips a month to cover costs plus meet cost of money profit targets for our investment. Orville, are you with me?”

Orville looks up, interrupted from working on his lift-to-drag ratios. “What?” he says.

“So, looking at this picture, Orville, and I just can’t hep but ask, where do the passengers sit? Cause it looks like your brother, Wilbert, is laying on the wing. Is that right?

“WilBUR” says Orville.

“Now Orville, I don’t mean to denigrate the great achievement you guys have done, but do you really think anyone is going to pay $100 to lay on the wing?”

“Dont know…” says Orville, working on flap shapes.

“And it doesn’t look like you could fit more than say, five people on each wing….”

“Maybe two on top” says Orville.

“OK. Two on top. Yeah. Maybe we can create a kind of ‘upper class’. Charge more. Maybe $150! Good!  Now, what about food. Could you serve food.  We could charge for it…”

“Kinda hard”, says Orville.

“Hmmm” says the business guy. “What about baggage? How many bags could each person take with them”.

“Well, weight is a problem” says Orville.

“Hmm. You know, most people going to Miami are gonna want to bring stuff – you know, bathing suits, flip flops… that could be a problem”….

long awkward pause….

“Yeah”. Well, let’s talk about the plane. How’s the beta test going?”

“Wilbur flew again yesterday” says Orville.

“Great”, says RR. “How did it go”?

“Flew 105 feet” says Orville.

There is a long.. long pause.

“105 feet?” says RR. “hmmm”

“Yep” says Orville.

Another long pause.  RR pushes back from the desk.

“Well, I gotta tell you Orville.  If you gotta stop every 105 feet, its gonna take a long time to fly from NY to Miami.  I just don’t see how we can possibly monetize this thing. I think you guys better get back to the bicycle making. That, after all, is our core business. This was an interesting experiment, but I am going to recommend to the board that we cut the funding for this airplane thing. Sorry boys, it’s interesting, but it’s just not a business.”

*A New Zealander, it seems, actually flew the world’s first heavier than air craft. See comments below for details.


9 responses to “Will It Fly?

  1. In 1903, the Wright Brothers flew the first heavier-than-air craft.

    Wrong. The first heavier than air craft was flown by Richard Pearse in Waitohi, New Zealand, March 31, 1902. His plane was a better design but his timing was off. The world wasn’t ready for his plane or him.


  2. Actually Richard is a good example of VJ. He was one lone guy with an underpowered motor vs two guys who were successful and no matter how high Richard flew he usually ended up crashed in a hedge. Just like VJ. 🙂

  3. 2 North Carolina references in 2 days…without even uttering the state’s name…is that code for us shooters here in the TarHeel State.

    This post was hillarious – and so true. I wish companies would grow some and spend a little more freely on web growth. Would make it nicer to know how much it would grow with a little more prodding. And give us simple shooters some direction in life. For now I’ve still got TV.

  4. Actually I think 11, maybe 12 out of the 15 companies I work with on a regular basis are dumping the whole “every employee a VJ” gig. They understand you can’t teach a receptionist how to shoot stories or a janitor how to edit. Leave the shooting and editing to the professionals.

    These people are finally realising that its quality over quantity. Consumers can tell the difference and will tune in to the better of the lot. Anyone who says quantity matters, is obviously in a dream world.

  5. Well, that’s interesting.
    Here at the Travel Channel (where I am this morning), they are indeed empowering every employee to make content.

    A few months ago, Pat Younge, the President of the Travel Channel offered a prize – a free trip to China for the Olympics to the employee in the course who made the best video.

    The course was filled with producers, cameramen, editors… and janitors.

    The winner?

    A 58 year old legal secretary who had never touched a camera before.

    You see.

    You never know where you find talent.

  6. You never know where you find talent.

    That’s the problem with the detractors – their narrow world view precludes them from seeing – or allowing – those who have the potential for creating quality content – purely on the premise that said persons haven’t had “proper” training.

    Just goes to show that this narrow world view isn’t as solid as they would have others believe – IMO…

  7. The whole VJ/Cameraman debate in these comments is becoming very polarised. I would suggest the real world is seldom so black and white.

    I think both modes of operation must be viewed as very different ways of working which produce different products. That’s not to say there are not areas of overlap, but I think they are diverging fast.

    Undoubtedly, the marriage of affordable camera technology with a globally accessible Internet is a marriage made in heaven. As MR is at pains to tell us, gone are the rules about who can make TV, who can disseminate a message. No wonder The Establishment feels threatened. All the barriers to entry have been smashed down.

    But there are still ‘cameramen’ at work – in fact my news organisation is now hiring more and more of them. And it’s also hiring more VJ’s. They’re doing different jobs and sometimes mixing and matching. And this isn’t simply about economic choices, it’s about trying to keep up with an increasingly sophisticated audience – one which appreciates and understands traditional ‘camerawork’ but one which also has an appetite for the unique product that VJ working can offer.

    When the internet first became widely available sceptics were sounding the death knell for traditional forms of written communication. They believed the book was yesterday’s technology. Tell that to Amazon.

    I agree that technoligical advance is changing our industry – and will change it beyond recognition. And perhaps beyond the scope of our imagination.

    But I also think that the real power – the real decisions about what we watch and how what we watch is produced, is no longer held by TV execs or rich proprietors. It’s held by our audiences. They’ve been empowered by the technology. And I think what’s scary, and also exciting, is that they don’t give a hoot about the kind of camera that’s used or whether it was a ‘traditional shoot’ or a Vj shoot. If they don’t like it, they switch it off.

  8. quote – “When the internet first became widely available sceptics were sounding the death knell for traditional forms of written communication. They believed the book was yesterday’s technology. Tell that to Amazon. ”

    I don’t know the stats on how many books are being published compared to 10 to 15 years ago but walk into any bookstore and there are still plenty of choices. But to get my dollar, and I’d imagine it’s especially true for teens and 20 somethings, the book better be great, with great pix and/or very compelling.

    That’s what needs to happen in TV/Video. No matter where the content is distributed from, no matter who creates it, it better be compelling.(compelling can be poorly shot in examples of caught on tape but great editing better fix it…example – 102 minutes that changed america – it uses a lot of purely amautuer footage – GREAT EDITING.)

    And if a secretary or janitor can produce compelling TV, why the heck have they been typing and cleaning? But good for them for finding their calling. But a lot of people have no interest or ability to produce good pictures/video. Training won’t help that.

  9. Pingback: Monetizing Online Video Content « Predicate, LLC | Editorial + Content Strategy

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