Friday, June 16, 2006

Advertiser TV-Media Converges!

Anybody else notice the Advertiser video on the Hundley affair this morning? Yep, the Advertiser is offering us "TV." Advertiser Online Editor Bill Decker has posted a very straightforward news video on the web--one that actually has some pretty interesting "news" in it that isn't available in the written story.

It's all part of a larger movement toward digital convergence. The fact that almost everything these days is encoded into a sort of digital lingua franca means that media once restricted to one media--like broadcast TV or Radio or Newspapers-- can show up almost anywhere.

If you're living pretty solidly on the web a lot of this has crept up on you slowly. We're used to seeing little stories that look like news briefs in the newspapers on the the TV stations KATC and KLFY. We're not surprised to see fragments of the newscasts available as downloadble video on those same sites. Over in Baton Rouge the Manship family owns both the daily and WBRZ so they've always gestured toward a mixed media website though I notice that integration has picked up recently with more TV originated content showing up on the news portal. AOC, our own community access channel, has had classes in podcasting and is talking about a download portal as it recognizes the world shifting around it--and away from the classic broadcast model of shows in regular slots on a defined channel. (A model that never worked very well for community television anyway.) Some AOC shows are already found resident on the web--like the "Meet the Democrats" interview and news show.

Today's Hundley video is part of the Advertiser's tentative-feeling foray into fuller on-line participation. So far they've been putting up blogs, questionable discussion groups, some podcasts, and occasional web-only features. They pretty clearly know that something is going on out there and that they'd better get aboard. Just as clearly they're not quite sure what it is or what to do with it. That's true of the media (and not just locally).

We're seeing an evolutionary process at work. One of these days we'll wake up and drink our cuppa Community (ok, or Mello Joy) and be reading the news just like always. And it will take us several minutes of discussion with our significant other to decide just when it was that we quit bringing the newspaper to the table in order to read the news. The process is under way at our house. At least once a week one of us brings the laptop to the table. (Morning always starts off with the download of email and quick online news check of stories we are following; so the laptop is up and running already.)

Folks would be well repaid to pay close attention to how this more open and diverse information-gathering actually works. Online readers don't limit themselves to one source at a time--the paper or the TV channel. Instead they follow stories into whatever media or source they need jumping, for instance, from a reference to a story about wetlands to an encyclopedia entry on a technical topic, to googling the names of scientists mentioned. You might zip over to a specialty blog or click through to a discussion group that is likely to deal with the story in a more sophisticated way. Most significantly, if the story is one you know a friend would be interested in, you can also send them a comment or question along with a link. People are starting to be a lot more diverse in their information sources and more actively reactive about what they read. It feels a lot different that just reading the newspaper or passively watching even the best TV shows.

Once you've gotten started directing your own inquiry about a topic instead of letting others do it for you it will be hard to go back. Nobody will "own" the reader or viewer even for a short while. Portal sites or attempts at walled garden's where everything is gathered in one place are doomed, in my humble opinion. A web presence will need to be designed to be an attractive node that people want to go to often. Trying to hold people there will only make the flighty new reader fly off. Understanding that you shouldn't be trying to hold onto the user will be awfully hard--it flies in the face of how all current media is designed. It should be interesting to watch in our little local laboratory.

That fabled media "convergence" you hear about--it's coming to Lafayette. Fitfully, and maybe a little early as we anticipate our community-owned fiber optic network. Hopefully local institutions will be doing especially interesting things.

Stay tuned.

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