The Web is not TV, #3,672

Despite all the evidence that the Web is different, there are those who are still trying to turn it into a form of cable television. These folks are happy with what they’re doing, and there certainly are elements of the Web that can function this way. But if you’re going to try and make cable TV out of the Web, then you cannot count on the norms of the Web being relevant to your product.

An Online Media Daily article today is headlined with what appears to be an “Ah-ha” moment: Research Contradicts Myths About Online TV Shows. The research is from Futurescape, a London-based digital entertainment R&D firm, and it appears to disprove the “myths” that with viral marketing, engaging and well-produced content will distribute itself online.

“It’s what we we’ve dubbed the ‘viral fallacy,’ ” explained Futurescape Director Colin Donald. “Producers are adamant that launching a show requires a full-scale promotional campaign, possibly employing broadcast television.”

As a result, said Donald, “total budgets will rise to reflect promotional costs, unless the producer has been commissioned by a social network that can be the promotional vehicle.”

Mr. Donald also refutes the “myth” that it’s cheap to produce online television and provides production cost numbers to prove it.

Here’s my beef with all of this. Futurescape’s “findings” are not findings at all, for what do you expect when the producers of online TV only see the Web as a form of cable TV? The “myths” of viral marketing and cost that the company cites cannot be applied to traditional television online, and, to be frank, I’ve never heard anyone make these assertions anyway.

What I see here is the conflict between web video and television for the Web. They’re two different animals, and what I fear is that false arguments such as those posed by this “research” will spread to media companies trying to figure out what to do in the wake of declining ratings and ad money shifting online.

The processes that are a part of making traditional television aren’t disrupted by the Web, for the creation and distribution of programs for the mass media world are the same whether online or off. The “myths” to which Mr. Donald refers are all part of the personal media revolution, a phrase coined by J.D. Lasica in his book, Darknet, Hollywood’s War Against The Digital Generation, and these people have a big dog in that fight. Rather than dealing with it, however, Hollywood wants needs to keep things as they are. Hence, “revelations” like those painted in this “research” are self-serving and, therefore, useless. The disruption is much deeper than people shifting viewing habits from one place to the next.

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