Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Cokie Roberts on Ted Koppel

I was listening to the radio last night (the actual radio, not Orb Media...) and NPR had a program from the World Affairs Council where they interviewed Cokie Roberts. She is an interesting person, having had a long career at NPR in addition to her ABC career. But I found it especially interesting to hear her talk about Ted Koppel's decision to leave Nightline -- because of the attitude she displayed about how the broadcast industry thinks.

She said "I don't know what the networks have decided to do with the time slot," speaking of the likelihood that Nightline would be cancelled. When asked what viewers who enjoy programs like Nightline can do, she said something about how "we now have minute by minute polls that show that people click away when a TV program covers issues outside the US..."

This is the fundamental problem with the broadcast industry. Because it has to think in terms of "time slots" it worries about how to build the biggest (and/or most valuable) audience in any given slot. Thus if you can get a bigger audience share for mud wrestling, international news goes out the window.

I believe that we are on the cusp though of a monumental change in media. Just as the print media has been radically transformed over the past decade by the Internet, the broadcast industry wil be transformed over the next one. Web news sites and blogs have been the dominant forces changing print media. It will be interesting to see whether Orb Networks (where I work) will provide the model for the change in the broadcast industry.

But whatever the vehicle is, I believe that consumers will make a fundamental shift in their viewing pattern -- from asking "which channel should I watch" to asking "which SHOW should I watch" and that they will increasingly want to watch that show when, where, and how they want. While it may mean that more people watch mud wrestling (because it will be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week) it also means that those of us interested in international news will have access to thoughtful programs on the subject.

And this will be a boon to producers of content because they will have access to an audience of faithful viewers who can be counted and analyzed and monetized independent of a "time slot" in a broadcast schedule.

A new renaissance for "broadcast" media is upon us.