Must See TV….
As with the arrival of the Internet, the arrival of radio in the 1920s shook up the world.
The new medium was extraordinarly powerful.
Now, for the first time in human history, one voice could be heard by millions at the same time.
What followed the invention of radio was a bubble. Everyone got into the radio business. Everyone was starting radio stations. It was a mess. A bit like the web. There were also stock offerings in radio companies and radio related companies that came and went as fast as dot-coms. There are economists who tie the crash of 1929 and the subsequent depression to the irrational exuberance that radio and its ilk brought to the economy. Perhaps we are seeing the same kind of retrenchment post Internet.
Radio changed the world forever.
Because of what it could do.
It could take one person’s voice and place it in millions of homes at the same time.
This was a truly remarkable achievement, and one that was to have extremely powerful and long-lasting implications.
Prior to radio, most people had never heard nor seen a President of the United States. Presidents were decided not by popular election or primaries, but by a small group of powerful men. Presidents were elected by The Electoral College, whose electors were originally selected by the State Legislatures.
The notion of a popular election was…. not even a notion.
Radio, with its power to broadcast (an entirely new concept) gave enormous power to anyone who could get their hands on a microphone and get into people’s homes.
And because the medium was new, the effect of having a voice come out of a box in your livingroom was mesmerizing. No one had ever heard this before. Ever.
Andrew Jackson might have been able to talk to a few hundred people at a time. Perhaps a thousand people heard Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Now millions heard the same speech. This then, was the power of radio. It empowered the few. And while it might have started as a tool to project the thoughts or words of those in power already (think c-span), it soon was captured by those who might never before have had a voice.
Hitler was such a person. A mesmerizing speaker, apparently, had it not been for radio, his speeches might have been limited to a few Munich Beer Halls.
But this was not to be the case. For Hitler’s oratory skills were the perfect match for the new medium of radio. And so, this failed painter and near homeless failure in only a few years was catapulted to the pinnacle of power in Germany.
The first celebrity of the new medium.
Without radio, it would never have been possible. It would never have been possible for so rapid a rise for a complete unknown. Radio magnified Hitler a million fold overnight.
The technology of radio mandated that one voice would be elevated above all others and would come to dominate. That is the nature of broadcasting. One voice… one person.. sent out to millions. Radio heralded the arrival of the Superstar – Milton Berle, Amos and Andy and Hitler.
Household words in a moment.
Now, we have a new technology, and one that will have equally powerful ramifications as did radio.
But the technology of the web does not militate for a superstar. The web is not about one voice to millions. It is, rather, about millions of voices to millions.
In the world of the web, everyone is on an equal footing. And everyone get’s their say.
We don’t have to listen to one message – whether it is I Love Lucy or Hitler.
As the web percolates out into the general population, and as more and more people take advantage of the technology and upload their ideas as well as download them, we will see a true democratization of ideas.
I think the days of Katie Couric are drawing to a close. Note because she is bad, but rather because now anyone can be Katie. And why not?
What does Katie have (or Matt… or Sarah Palin for that matter), that I (or millions of others) don’t?
The answer, in the world of the web… is… not much, actually.