Old Media part 1

I’ve just drafted two rambling posts about this, but I’m going to let them ferment a little longer because I’m not yet happy with the thrust of them. However, the hand-waving version goes something like this:

‘That’s so old media’ is a common insult in the blogosphere. Scoble seems proud of the minimal production values of Microsoft’s Channel 9; Amanda Congdon slates her former business partner in rocketboom as ‘very old media’; heck, I’ve used the phrase myself, recently, when comparing SciCast to a superficially-similar project being planned by a major national media organisation [cough-can’t-talk-cough].

As insults go, slamming something for being ‘old media’ is not only patronising, it’s self-defeating. Sure, let’s throw away the baggage, excess, and surrounding bollocks of broadcast, but let’s not pretend that we know more about what they do than them. Think ‘all TV is crap’? Think again. Sure, lots of people watch TV because it’s all they’ve got, or out of habit, or whatever. But the proportion of the TV audience who watch because they like it? Tiny, you think? That group is still bigger than your audience, sunshine. Even if you’re RocketBoom.

And that audience isn’t built just by being lucky. It’s built by caring about the details, making deliberate choices, and getting it all right. You can dismiss that expertise if you like, but be very clear exactly what you’re dismissing.

Just like ‘Web 2.0,’ ‘Old media’ is a label that’s wrong enough to be occasionally useful. But it’s still wrong.

There will be more on this.


  1. It’s all story-telling…

  2. Yes, it is. But the implications and subtleties of that insight are what this is all about.
    This is why Channel 9 is so interesting. Scoble isn’t a great journalist – but he’s good enough to get close enough to ‘the story’ in that sense. He’s not a great camera operator or editor, but he’s good enough not to get in the way too much. The result is that Channel 9 tells reasonable stories reasonably well, and in the context (developer insight at Microsoft) this was enough of a breakthrough to be hailed as a phenomenal success.
    But it’s still painfully, tragically crap. In the grand scheme of things.
    ‘Good enough’ is, sometimes, good enough. But often we’re just kidding ourselves, and a more objective assessment would be ‘not good enough.’
    Avoiding being ‘Old media’ seems to be one way people justify being ‘good enough.’ Sometimes they’re right. Sometimes they’re really not good enough at telling stories, and they’re looking for an excuse.

  3. I think a lot depends on the size of your target audience. If you’re aiming your family, they’ll accept pretty low quality as long as has a shot of little Johnny (or in my case Sam) somewhere in the frame. Just as, a postcard from your daughter in her gap year is sufficient regardless of grammar.
    If your aim is higher – well you need better production values. I subscribe to a podcast called Fly With Me, made by an airline pilot. Not quite radio 4, but I’m very interested in the content (you’ve guessed – it’s about aviation); so I’ll enjoy the unedited interviews.
    If you want audiences of millions, you need production values – at least you do if it’s going to be longer than a few seconds.
    It’s like writing – all writers complain that everyone thinks they can write, because they all do. But writing for a paying audience is a different skill, that requires talent and training.
    Nowadays everyone thinks they can make videos – cameras probably cost less than word processors – but you still need rare talent to make it entertaining.
    The same thing happened in the music biz when synths and sequences came along. Sure you can make a record in your bedroom (my son’s band have, and they’re now signed to Sony). But you still need TALENT.

  4. I’m with you – I said something like ‘editing shows respect for your audience’ at Bloggercon.
    My boys get this – they know about shooting multiple takes and keeping the good ones, and storyboarding first.
    This is the corollary of my ‘Live TV is dead’ point – too much of TV uses liveness or ‘event TV’ to prop up stale, dull disrespectful work. I’ve been working my way through classic TV series via Netflix, and on the Fawlty Towers DVD, there is a great interview with Cleese talking about how much they pushed the pace of the show, which is one reason it holds up so well.
    Reminds me of the old BBC phrase ‘good enough for news’…

  5. Richard Scoobie

    Oh, how I love this: a spoof of geek video blogger Robert Scoble, in the manner of Fake Steve….

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