Only Yesterday

reporting on their own demise…

In 1981, KRON4 (of all people) ran the story embedded above.

It was about a radical new experiment.  A newspaper in San Francisco was putting its newspaper online.

As the story says, it was not going to read by a lot of people. Only 3-4,000 people in the San Francisco area even had a home computer.  500 had registered an interest in reading the paper online.

That story aired 28 years ago, which is about right for the impact of a new technology to be felt.

Had you wandered over to the SF Examiner in 1981 and told them that these new computers and their green screens would one day destroy the entire newspaper industry, they would have told you that you were out of your mind. Yet sitting there, in the newsroom, like some kind of weird virus, was indeed the engine of the destruction of an entire 350 year old industry.

Go to any television newsroom and tell them the same thing, and they will probably react the same way the folks in the Examiner newsroom would have in 1981.

It’s just not possible.

It is.

And it is going to happen.

As surely as online publishing destroyed the entire business model for newspapers, online video which is just getting started now (a bit, but not much more advanced than online text was in 1981), is going to make the entire television news business model a museum piece.

Can television news operations prepare better for what is surely coming than newspapers did?

Don’t know.

Not sure anyone can.

It just requires too much letting go what is well-known and established.

When the Titanic had only just struck the iceberg, the ship’s architect, upon examining the damage, already knew that the ship was fated to sink to the bottom of the ocean.

For those on board the still stable ship, having dinner, dancing in the ballroom, the notion that they should take to the lifeboats (or maybe start building them) would have seemed ridiculous.


Tune in Tonight!


I am going to be a guest again on Curtis Sliwa’s show on ABC talk radio tonight at 11:20 pm.

Take that, Jeff Jarvis!  You may be invited to speak at Davos, but I am on Curtis!

Travel Channel Academy – DC


Now… more than ever

Yesterday we wrapped up the bootcamp for the staff of The Travel Channel and this morning we are starting another Travel Channel Academy here in DC at Travel Media HQ.

As the economy comes under increasing pressure, ironically, the demand for high quality, low cost video only increases.

If you can create quality product with only a laptop and a small digital video camera, there is a growing demand for that skill.  And certainly here at The Travel Channel, where the growing online video demand can only be met by world travellers with video camera and laptop.

Good as the relationship with Travel Channel is, (and its a great nurturing opportunity for recent grads), more and more of our students are actually people with their own businesses or who work for businesses that are putting more and more video online.

Those companies used to hire conventional crews, but now they want to move that capability in house. Cuts costs and gives a much greater measure of control.

Our doors are open to anyone who wants to learn.

As we like to say here, we have taken the first year of NYU Film School and squashed it down to four days.

It’s pretty intensive, but it’s pretty amazing too.

A New Industrial Revolution


Upsetting… yet productive

Yesterday, Pat Younge, President and GM of The Travel Channel addressed the group here in DC.

The group is made up of 40 of his employees, so they paid attention.

They are going through the ‘bootcamp’. But they’re not doing it so that they can ‘contribute’ to The Travel Channel. They already do that, and they get paid for it.  They are going through the bootcamp so that they understand the massive change that their entire industry is going through.

Younge compared it to the Industrial Revolution. It is a revoution and one that will have similar impacts.

At the moment, it looks bleak.

Entire worlds are being turned upside down.

The ‘established order’ is beginning to fall apart, and there is no real model for the future.

Once strong newspapers are folding, victims of the web.  Television networks will not be far behind, as video begins its inevitable migration to the Internet.  Once certain careers are being eviscerated left and right.

The introduction of steam power in England in 18th Century brought about a similar dislocation.

Steam power suddenly meant that you could build machinery that would harness this new source of seemingly limitless power and begin a process of mass manufacturing.  Giant looms began to spring up in places like Manchester, driven by steam, that could process a thousands times what an individual could do on a home loom.

Much like the Internet, it was a technology that was destined to rewrite the hitherto basic rules of economics and society.

Suddenly, the manufacture of cotton cloth, hitherto a highly localized, precise and time-consuming craft, became an extremely profitable venture.  It worked. But it required a complete restructuring of not just the factory, or the cotton weaving processes, (which it might have seemed at the beginning), but rather an upending of almost every aspect of society before the Revolution had run its course.

Massive new industries arose in the Midlands, towers of an industrial power and wealth that had never even existed before.  (Think Google).  At the same time, an extremely unsettling transfer of wealth and power began.  The burgeoning industrial class began to accumulate land and money, and the old established land-based aristocracy who had ruled England since 1066 suddenly found themselves marginalized or made irrelevant.  It was something they could not believe was happening. But it was.

The long time honored skills of weaving at home was rendered worthless. Also a shocking turn of events. And worse, the crofters and their lives were overturned as population moved, in mass numbers (also somthing never seen before) from the countryside to the cities to work in those factories.  And to live in conditions that were, frankly, unimaginable until then.

In America, the rise of Industrial Britain turned the colonies into suppliers of raw materials and a ready market for their product.  But when the Americans tried to build their own industrial base, the British Parliament quickly outlawed the establishment of industry in the Americas, one of the primary drivers of the American Revolution. Once the technology was unleashed, there was no way to contain its growth.

In the long run, the Industrial Revolution changed forever every aspect of society. By the time it had run its course in the 20th Century, the world was so changed from that which it had been, that there was virtually nothing that was left standing.  A world which had been pretty much stable for more than 500 years, vanished.  Today, if you wish to see what this world was like you must journed to Colonial Williamsburg, where people in period costumes will recreate for you the ‘quaint’ world that was a way of life for most of the planet for a very long and seemingly stable period of time.

Perhaps in the not too distant future, we will create our own kind of  ‘Colonial Williamsburg’, where tourists may gaze at journalists carrying pencils and pads and printing on paper, tv news crews carrying cameras the size of refrigerators, or a world where people  can only see American Idol once a week, at a pre-established time.



Benjamin Franklin – Web Videographer


The first blogger

I am half way through Benjamin Franklin: An American Life by Walter Isaacson.

It is a teriffic biography of a fascinating and uniquely American character; seminal at a crucial moment in history.

Despite his long and deep record of life achievements, including statesman, scientist, scholar, diplomat, creator of volunteer fired departments, creator of public libraries, and author of the Declaration of Independence (among others), his self-written epitaph read Benjamin Franklin, printer.

Franklin was born into a relatively poor family of 17 children. His father was a soap maker, when soap was made from discarded animal fat.  Not a noble or well paid profession.  But Franklin quickly embraced the then-new technology of printing with a passion.  Printing in 18th Century America was the counterpart to the Internet in 1992, a new technology just getting started. Even though the printing press had been invented in 1452 by Johannes Gutenberg, the rate of technological change was a good deal slower.  Three hundred years later, the technology was really just gaining its legs.

At the age of 15 Franklin started The New England Courrant, the first newspaper in Boston.

A year later, after a dispute with his brother over the paper (which was not a newspaper as we would understand one today), Franklin left home and went to Philadelphia with no more than a few shillings, and took work as an apprentice to one of the only print shops in Philly.

Philadelphia in 1723 was the largest city in the Colonies, with a population of 23,000.  Remarkably, London at the time was the largest city in Europe, with a population of 750,000 and Bejing the largest in the world, with a population of 900,000.  Franklin soon set up his own printing shop, and that tool, the printing press, became his key to the rest of his life.

He went on to publish newspapers, newsletters, books, his yearly Poor Richard’s Almanac, and much more. Owning and print shop and having the knowledge of how to print (it is though that Franklin’s hand made metal type were the first made in the Americas), were the 18th Century equivalent of the web, and webcasting and blogging and vlogging today.

By being a printer, and by knowing the craft, Franklin put himself on the cutting edge of the communications technology of his day.  His deep seated belief in democracy (also an extremely radical idea in his time) was almost a direct outgrowth of the freedom of the press that he personally enjoyed and understood so personally.

Much that Franklin wrote and published would more properly be recognized as blogging by us today, rather than ‘newspaper’ or ‘journalism’.  Franklin was a journalist in the classic sense of the word – he penned and published ‘journals’, much of it driven by his own opinion.

Were Franklin alive today he would no doubt be blogging and vlogging.

He had a great love of cutting edge technologies of all kind. He was the classic 18th Century self-taught scientist; and his discovery of lightning as electricity, indeed much of his research into electricity is more than just the anecdotal kite with a key.  No less than JJ Thompson, the nobel prize winning scientist who discovered the electron credited Franklin with doing the seminal work on the nature of charges and electricty.

The key to much of Franklin’s success (and fascinating life) was the marriage of his intense creativity to the physical reality of being able to publish at will; both in science and in politics as well.  Had Franklin not had the printing press, had he not been a printer, it is unlikely that much of his native talent would have been able to flourish.  For this reason, he always referred to himself first as a printer.

Today printing presses are increasingly becoming museum pieces, relics of another era. But the power to print, the power to publish, has never been more open and more democratic. And now, as video moves rapidly to the web, the power to communicate ideas in video, that most powerful of media, is also rapidly becoming democratized as well.

I have no doubt that were Franklin alive today he would have not just embraced video and blogging, he would have had his own website and blog and vlog where he would daily post (as he did in parchment and ink) his opinions on a wide variety of ideas and concepts.

The more we can make people video literate, the more people we can make video literate, the greater our chances of creating more Franklins in the 21st Century, and so the richer and more intersting our culture and society will be.



Do you see the future?


He is Canadian filmmaker Rob Spence.

He lost an eye in an accident, but as a filmmaker, had it replaced with a small video camera.

This is not video diaries.

He uses the eyecam the way a filmmaker uses a camera. To shoot what he sees.

Rob Spence is going to be a speaker at DNA2009 in Brussels March 4-5th.

He’s got a fascinating story to tell. And fascinating video to look at.

What happens when technology and biology begin to intersect?  How do video and real life weave together?

It’s a glimpse into the future with a man quite literally on the cutting edge of a new digital world.

Back To DC


Up from Atlanta…

We left Nevis with plenty of time.

You have to take a boat from Nevis to St. Kitts, which is where the airport is.  The country is made up of two islands, Nevis and St. Kitts.  As I say, we left Nevis with plenty of time, and even though the boat to St. Kitts was a half hour late in leaving, we still had plenty of time.

Then, shortly after we left port, the boat turned around. We were going back to Nevis. It was Sunday, and a church group, all dressed in their Sunday best had missed the boat. So we were going back.

Now time started to get tight, but in the Caribbean, no one gets too upset.

“It’s the Islands, mon”.

Fair enough.

We drove as fast as we could to the airport, and were there an hour before departure.

Actually, not an hour, but rather 58 minutes.

“The flight is closed”, said the guy behind the American Airlines desk.

“You’re kidding”, I said, tapping my watch.  We’ve got an hour to go.

“No mon”, he said, “58 minute. You are two minutes late. The gate is closed”.

“Tell them they have to come back tomorrow” said some woman behind the desk, in a lovely lilting Caribbean accent.

“Tomorrow mon” said the guy at the desk.

I stared in disbelief. Suddenly, St. Kitts and Nevis had become Switzerland.

“It’s not possible”, I said. “It’s only two minutes!”

“Two minutes is two minutes mon” said my new friend.

The prospect of spending another day on St. Kitts was not all that terrible, except we had to be in DC at 9am the following morning. We were starting a VJ course for 40 Travel Channel employees. They, like everyone in the company, are passing through the bootcamp.  And many of them were coming in from Travel Channel offices in Atlanta.

So we booked on the only other flight out of St Kitts, to NY, and then grabbed the last flight from NY to DC.

Made it.

And today, we start an intensive in-house bootcamp for yet another tranche of Travel Channel staff.

We’ll keep you posted.