Thursday, July 9, 2009

Networked TV rather than network TV

This isn't a new post by the folks over at the Nieman J Lab, but I followed a tweet and just bumped into it today. Reminded me how relieved I am to see someone in the MSM noodling on the idea of distributing news through Internet-enabled TV screens. This is an important part of our future.

I've been telling people for a while that my young children would probably never remember a time when TV screens weren't connected to the Web. What would be the point of a dumb box like that? In their world, all screens everywhere -- phones, appliances, computers, vehicle dashboards, TVs, etc. -- will be networked. In fact, many of these distinct appliances will undoubtedly merge into smaller and more efficient forms as the evolution takes place.

One of the implications of that shift is that old barriers of entry separating print and broadcast outlets will essentially vanish. But it won't simply be a matter of old-line print companies -- or even hot shot, hacker-journalist bloggers -- putting their stories on the semi-big screen and stealing audience out from under the hairspray-and-smile-and-no-real-news local TV newscasts. As satisfying as that would be, it won't happen.

So what will we in the print world have to do to be a part of that largely visual future of journalism? The NYT's lab folks have a pretty good start on one possible model. It's heavy on pictures and video, and has a lot of meta-data encoded within the productions. Dig deeper -- or not -- as you watch, in other words.

Could a newsroom with the size and experience of the NYT's produce world-class video journalism every day if it wanted? Undoubtedly. Could it embed layer upon layer of information and context beneath all those images? One would think. Could that be a part of the future media landscape? Seems reasonable. Could that model be replicated by other major metro newsrooms around the country? Sure, if they don't cut themselves into oblivion in the meantime.

To use the tired, old three-legged stool metaphor, this kind of at-home video news could be an important first leg in the news-company strategy of the future. Others:
  • Vibrant mobile offerings providing real-time news and information across all the platforms people use in their lives. Make it easy and cheap for people to make your content a part of their daily routines.
  • An irregularly produced, highly priced and wonderfully deep and beautiful print product (weekly? less frequently?). The people who are willing to pay for it have an opportunity to luxuriate in a print product that makes them feel like the best-informed people around. They get stories and commentary that appear nowhere else.
The first two of those legs, if not all three, need to incorporate a heavy dose of reporter-reader interaction and community-supplied news and information. But that's a subject for a different post...