If anyone had any questions about the revolution going on in our business you just answered them. An interesting piece shot on a $30 camcorder and edited with software that can be found on most PC’s. It may say Meteorologist on the resume but you should add VJ underneath. I wish we could have seen the deli.
A little background on Mike. He hired me in New Haven 23 years ago. He was news director then, but later became a TV general manager, running WKRN in Nashville.
Mike is one of the biggest proponents of VJs, or video journalists. The whole VJ concept is based on the assumption technology allows greater productivity in TV without injuring the product. If a crew is one, rather than two, people, you can cover twice as many stories with the same number of people.
Of course, the fear within the universe of TV employees is, you can cover just as many stories with half the number of people… and what business wouldn’t cut their costs like that if they could?
I remember counting heads in the ABC control room, back when I used to fill-in on Good Morning America. There were better than a dozen folks on the payroll in the control room. I walked into our control room in New Haven on Friday night. Three! Technology at work.
I produced my little travelogue with a minimal amount of equipment. It was not broadcast quality, but it wasn’t terrible. And, for a motivated audience, where content is much more important than production values, my $30 camcorder is all that’s needed.
Mike worked hard to unlock the value of technology for his station. Going forward, I think the real value lies elsewhere. VJ type equipment can allow one or two people to produce narrowly focused, very salable content. Think of the show being the end product, not the station.
The example I often use is a fellow employee at the TV station who’s a prolific knitter. She’s got the skills necessary to produce a daily, weekly or even unscheduled video knitting show.
Unlike the conventional TV model, older content stays online forever (How many changes are there in knitting from year-to-year?), using search engines and word of mouth to attract new viewers along the way and providing a library of revenue producing programming. In computing parlance, this evergreen content is called ‘long tail.’
Because the programming would be narrowly focused, each viewer would likely be worth more to an advertiser (knitting needles, yarn, patterns, etc). The whole concept of comparing CPM for an ad buy is turned on its ear because there are so few wasted viewers.
Programs like Diggnation or Rocketboom, which are more broadly aimed, do not fit my revenue model, even though they are using the technology as I picture it being used.
There is money to be made for specialists who can produce their own material. It could be a show on ham radio or child rearing or golf or any number of topics. Content rules! If there’s an connective interest and someone selling a product your audience might buy, the rest is academic!
Even better, distribution is much easier than TV or cable, since anyone can set up a website instantly¹ and bandwidth costs continue to drop rapidly.
Startup costs for a TV station are in the millions… often tens of millions of dollars. Start up costs for these web narrowcasts can be in the thousands, though often, hundreds of dollars!
I’ve been toying around with an idea for a web show myself. All I need is a little motivation. I figure a half dozen episodes in the can should get me started. I already have everything I need to produce it at home!
That’s crazy, isn’t it? I already have everything I need at home.
¹ – How instantly can you set up a site? My boss bought an iPhone and set up a website to go with it! If he’s spent $25 on the website, he’s gone overboard.