Monday, November 27, 2006

Medium vs. Format

Last week I read an interesting article in Wired about the Lonelygirl15 phenomenon on the internet. Lonelygirl is a fictional video blogger, who was exposed as fictional, but has however not faded away but grown in popularity. This is a sign of how our culture and interests are shifting away from not only TV as a medium (the way in which the content is transferred), but also as a format (how the content is presented). To be fair, people do currently use the internet medium to get existing TV based content in the same format due to advantages around viewing convenience, however this is just the beginning. Gen Connect - the current generation of youth want things that ‘do stuff’. TV as a format is passive, and the internet is interactive. People continually want formats that are more interactive and real to them.

Miles Beckett the creator of Lonlygirl15 is thinking about the web as a ‘format’ and Network TV still sees the web as just a ‘medium’. These paragraphs from the wired article sum it up pretty well:

Beckett is clearly frustrated. "The Web isn't just a support system for hit TV shows," he says. "It's a new medium. It requires new storytelling techniques. The way the networks look at the Internet now is like the early days of TV, when announcers would just read radio scripts on camera. It was boring in the same way all this supplemental material is boring."

What's needed, he says, is content that's built specifically for the Web. It doesn't need to be lit like a film -- that would make it feel less real. The camera work should be simple. There shouldn't be a disembodied third-person camera -- a character is always filming the action. Each episode needs to be short, no more than three minutes. "You wouldn't show a sitcom at a movie theater, right?" Beckett says. "You make movies for the big screen, sitcoms for TV, and something else entirely for the Internet. That's the lesson of Lonelygirl15."

Additionally, TV is fast losing its hold on being a primary entertainment delivery mechanism. Today networks see the web as mainly as a support mechanism for TV deliver content and format. Not overly innovative. As Beckett eludes to – the web can and should become a primary medium on its own with possibly ‘TV-like’ content BUT not constrained by the format. The web will not replace TV, just as TV didn’t replace radio or movies, but disrupting thinking on current business models show the innovative possibilities with new mediums.

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