The IPTV Myth and Narrowcasting

Two links crossed my path today and thought I'd pass them on:

Becoming Screen Literate

I still refuse to accept that IPTV is about anything more than plumbing. What is interesting though is the plethora of content which is sub-five minutes. I could include a dozen or so really good youtube links here but either you've seen them or like me, you never get time to view them in the office and never think of them when at home.

My head is struggling with the notion of a "new Google." I mean, without the classic Google search engine, the Internet would be one large minefield of web pages and we'd never find anything. I don't know about you, but when I go off into the 'net to find something, I start at the Google toolbar. At the same time, I find YouTube a veritable swamp of poor quality rubbish with inane, offensive and immature comments attached to each clip. There's good stuff in there to be sure, but how do you find it? As a film-maker I've never subscribed to the "democratization" of the medium with the advent of cheap camcorders, phones which record video, and free editing software. The typewriter didn't give us a world of new literary talent, so why should we expect a camera phone to unleash a veritable army of Scorsese disciples?

Al Gore has a plan. He is involved with a US cable TV channel where the bulk of the programming is submitted by the general public. You go to their website and vote on the online programs which you like. The ones with the highest ratings go out on air. It's an interesting idea, but it suffers from what we'll call "old world thinking." If you assume that the broadcast medium is the be-all and end-all, then this is a good schema. However, it suffers from the age-old problem; "broadcast." When I visit Amazon and buy a book, I usually buy them in pairs. Why? Because Amazon offers special discounts on the pair? No. Because they say "customers who bought this also bought that." It usually works. And I generally find I read the other book and agree with Amazon. It's narrowcasting. Sure, Harry Potter books are broadcast to the masses but a book on sail trim? Film budgets? Video codecs? Amazon will tell me to have a look at Charles Poynton's book because I might like that as well. And I do.

Apple has their own plan. It's called "genius." You click on a particular track, and it will take your entire collection of MP3 tracks and do an online analysis. It'll produce a playlist of 25 tracks which you already have, which have a similar mood or theme. It's quite clever. The results are often surprising. I find that I wish I'd ripped all the other tracks off some CDs rather than just the ones I liked. Genius holds the promise of opening my (pretty closed) mind to other music which I already own and never listen to.

Anyway, what I'm getting at, is I don't hold much hope for YouTube in its current form. The SNR is in the toilet. I'm not interested in what a bunch of mindless nuts think is "popular." How long before Google starts to look into YouTube viewing patterns and uses some of the Amazon and Apple thinking? "If you liked this video, you'll also like..." and hey presto, a new TV channel. A narrowcasting channel. Suitable only for me. A combination of DIY programmes, sailing coverage, indie films, and so on. Not based on a TV programmers world view, but based on nothing more than viewing patterns.

Do I care if the content is shipped over VHF, UHF, DVD, DSL, analog phone lines, DVB-{S,C,T} or even IP? Of course not. Do I want it on my iPod? No. Unless I'm away on business and I'm stuck in a hotel room in the middle of nowhere, and it happens to have a TV set with RCA phono plugs... Do I care how it came to be on my iPod? No. At the end of the day, it's about playlists.