Hello technology enthusiasts! For those of you following the Geek Show Podcast on a regular basis, you may have heard Leigh George Kade a month ago make reference to an “article” that I had written and sent him and Kerry to check out for a possible chat on the show. As I found out from Swankmotron, this material was talked about in depth… when they weren’t recording and apparently drunk. And since then he’s been asking for a published copy for the website for both users and staff to peep out and comment on. …How could I disappoint.
For context reasons, I’m must note that this was not meant to be written up as an article, and will not read like one for the most part. It’s mainly comprised of footnotes, references and speculation on what will happen down the road in technology as related to Entertainment. This was written up specifically as a list of talking points for the Geek Show to chat about on the podcast and hopefully have a swear-filled discussion over. So please, bare with the poor formatting as I didn’t have two hours to fix it up proper.
The word going about is that 2010 will be a year of crossroads for media in all formats, and supposedly serious talk will start happening between major companies about the future of what they intend to do with each other, in areas of cross promotion and reformatting media. Right now it seems as if television is competing with streaming video, radio with podcasts, newspapers with blogs, and various other combinations where traditional formats are having to fight for their audience with the new. So here’s brief points on the talk that’s happening, and some thoughts over what might happen down the road. As a side note, I know I can’t see the future and neither can any of these companies, a lot is just guesswork and theory, especially since a lot of it is talk and not much funding has gone into these ideas yet. This is meant more for discussion, which I hope you the readers will provide plenty of.
TV as a format is looking to lose the most in the coming years. The idea that a box in your house that you have to sit in front of to see select media (and that’s all it does) is becoming a taboo. Unless a show is a must-see program, people have become used to the idea that anything they need to see can be found on YouTube or Hulu in the morning. It didn’t help that the only major advancement in the past ten years has been High Definition and that the “move to digital” turned more people off from the format than brought them in. Even though DVR services are now provided to replace the old VCR, the propositions of forcing commercials into the program and removing the fast forward button from remotes is making people warry of TV in general. (And please, let’s not kid ourselves, 3DTV is NOT the future, it’s a sidestep.)
There’s been talk for about a year now that in the next few years, Google or Yahoo will launch their own online television station. Web exclusive, original programming and news, streaming to the entire world on a set schedule with the ability to look at a library of shows for a limited time. Unlike networks, both services use news from all current news sources including the AP, so logically they could put together newscasts from other news outlets with the ability for people to click on that story as the newscast goes on using their services. Programming like soaps, game shows, dramas and comedies would be easy picking since the majority of shows get six episode deals and are killed. Picture “Firefly” living beyond Season One with the online community that supported it so heavily. Since neither have ratings trends to meet, any hits they get from viewership would be a plus with no competition to fend off and the ability to advertise on the wings of the browser during the show. If planned out properly, a single online network could have worldwide appeal without having to cater to the FCC. The BBC has been experimenting with the idea, but have been exploring a way to gain immediate profit, which is near impossible.
The future talk for current broadcasters is that a traditional television set will become obsolete, and that the monitor itself will only play a part in seeing it. Some stations are experimenting with iPhone apps and downloadable broadcasts, but those are only in trials and not much is being done on a serious front. More on that down below.
While my experience with radio is only minimal, the idea of radio has always been a bit of an enigma. While viewed as a free service that can’t compete with convenience, the overloaded commercial breaks and limited program by area hamper it. Satellite radio has its place, but again, paying for a service that isn’t regionalized or sounds generic makes it feel more as a passing fad than something sustaining for decades. Plus with the addition of digital radio stations trying to establish themselves and podcasts becoming downloaded more and more daily, competition is building.
The new ideal is taking the best of both and combining them into one. With the soon to be re-launched service for Sirius XM there is a plan for possibly expanding the US coverage and including sources from around the globe. Down the road you may soon see additional stations added from Canada, Mexico, United Kingdom, Germany, Japan, South Africa, Spain and Australia. Not a wide selection, but enough to have at least singular stations from different areas in the world from fellow sat-radio company Eutelsat. There have been companies like Viacom and Time Warner making rumblings that they may join in the competition, but nothing has been invested. The closest competition would be 1worldspace, which is looking into the idea of getting select stations from across the US and making them available on their service. Picture (for us locals here) X96 on its own channel, referred to as “X96 – Utah: Channel 142” or something to that affect, being broadcast around the world with little delay. If it were to be successful, it could set in motion the revitalization of radio across the country and world as all signals would eventually be transferred to sat, and you could literally listen to the entire country (and maybe more) on your way into work.
Nationally there are a few people exploring this idea, but the only major company looking at this is Apple. Podcast Radio Stations. Basing it off the idea of finding some of the most popular across the country (let’s take Smodcast as an example), and giving them a timeslot on a weekly basis. Why download the episode when you can “tune in” on your PC or iPhone and listen to a new episode, then download it later when its convenient. Making it a reality is probably a long time off, especially since only dedicated people can pull off a new episode weekly, but the idea is at least being explored. (Incidentally, for those of you in the Utah area, I’d love to see a local version with all our local podcasts. Someone wanna give that a shot?) The closest to mixing marketing, advertizing, podcasting and information together would be NPR, specifically in their iPhone app giving you the ability to check their info out directly, as well as EVERY affiliate across the nation and their digital channels. As Swankmotron himself said to me, “Sure it’s government subsidized, but it’s a model worth looking at.” I couldn’t agree more.
Clearly print is getting hit the hardest at the moment. And its not just in newspapers. Magazines, comics and even books are taking a blow in the age of digital media. While there is still a place in people’s hearts for a hard copy, generations coming up are viewing it as more of an inconvenience as they’re now living in an age where anything worth reading in their eyes can be found on the net. Sony’s eReader and Amazon’s Kindle are making strides on the book front, bringing latest titles for a subscription fee, but its not including the vast array of material you could get. The idea that they’re a store, not a library, is a bit hampering. The digital comic service is a big boom, but only Marvel seems to be on top of its game, leaving vast libraries untouched.
The ideal situation to come is to take all those formats and make them available in a single format to fit iPhone and Blackberry forms. Which most everyone is on their way to doing except for two… libraries and newspapers. The problem with papers is that for one to make the great leap would be for everyone to. The Salt Lake Tribune and Deseret News both use a source like the NYTimes as a reference. If the Times were to jump from paper to webpage tomorrow, the notion is that suddenly their credibility would be lost as they’d just be another “online source.” And very few have taken the same leap. Most are waiting to see how those select cities that have dropped the paper format work out over the next few years. The big advancement on the way is going to be from libraries. One in particular from Illinois (Oak Park Public Library) are using iPhones as both a library card and a downloadable source for content. Entire books scanned in as a PDF format to read, that can’t be passed around to transferred, and will expire when they need to be “returned.” Its only for books, no audio formats set up yet, and probably won’t be doing films, but it gives way for multiple people to have the same book out at once.
Video games are sitting on the cusp of complete digitalization. You still have to go to a store and buy the game, yes. But all other forms of media that can be found on there are now downloadable. Netflix, Gamefiy, gaming sessions, content, etc. All you need is the internet connection and most everything can be downloaded to you. The only issue standing in the way is the ability for different platforms to make the games purchasable the same way iTunes makes music available. Assuring that they sell the game and the consumer gets it without issue, while being able to make a profit on it. Mega Man 9 is probably the best example to date of a game that was download only and was a major success. The only issue afterward is that of storage. Finding an affordable addition (either attached or installed down the road) for people to store the games and all their content so they run just as well as they would off disc.
ALL IN ONE
The dream at the moment, or at least for companies like Apple and Microsoft, is taking everything and making it available all in one direct format. Which logically is what you’d want your computer to be, but its not. Very few hook their tower up to their plasma or theater screen and watch material from there. The ideal situation would be to have the internet, television, films, literature, gaming and whatever else people can cram onto there for a home device, and smaller versions of it all for on-the-go mobility. As I said before, game consoles are being looked at as the closest to that dream with a few technical issues. You can’t see brand new films on them, you can’t watch broadcast or cable television, and net access is very limited. A Skype app would give it a home video phone appeal, but still limited to a degree. The closest that isn’t gaming is the iTV from Apple, but its still got issues with websites it will allow you to visit and content it will allow you to view.
What should happen is for all media sources to combined their efforts into all platforms and make their content available to all consumers. Picture the cable or dish box you have right now picking up streaming television stations, being able to check the email, listen to a radio station or podcast, play the latest video games, carry on a phone conversation, read a book (or have it read to you in audio format)… all from the living room. A laser remote and keyboard controlling it all. And give hookups so that you can transfer whatever you’re doing to your iPhone or Blackberry and continue with it as you go about your day. We’re so completely on the verge of making all that happen its insane, but the competition and uncooperative sense of greed between companies often makes it difficult for anyone to make the dream a reality. A lot of formats either need a change or are due to be left behind as something else comes along and leaves it far behind.