When my book Darknet: Hollywood’s War Against the Digital Generation came out in 2005, the Hollywood studios were still doing everything in their power to resist the onrushing wave of the personal media revolution.
These days, it’s a far different story. Hulu, the online video portal backed by NBC and News Corp., is about to launch, and talk in the hallways at Digital Hollywood this week is all about how to embrace our digital destinies. Talk during the panels is not about how to build a better Facebook but how to build a widget that gains traction on Facebook.
Will news media companies soon follow suit? (I know it’s Halloween, but their overall lack of innovation is downright spooky.)
Here are some of the notes I scribbled down during two of the sessions:
During the “User-generated media, social networks and traditional media” panel, Eric Alterman, founder and chairman of KickApps, talked about how message boards were adopted by only a handful of large sites like AOL but soon became ubiquitous, and the same thing is now happening with widgets and video players. He also pointed to the power of online contests; a magazine site saw 80,000 people sign up for a contest in just a few days, far more traffic than they had seen before that.
Robert Tercek, founder and president of PeopleJam, talked about two “value control points”: profiles and content, the challenge that websites face in bolting them together. If you’re a media company and you just “bolt on the community functions,” he said, “you’re missing the point.”
Dmitry Shapiro, the CEO and founder of Veoh: “Facebook is partly open but it’s not open enough. The Web is the platform.”
More Shapiro: “Web 1.0 was about media companies pushing content to us. Web 2.0 was about consumers connecting with each other. Web 2.1 is now about consumers connecting with each other around content.”
Shapiro said Veoh started as a client like Joost or Azureus but found that it was hard to get people to download the application, so it created a video on-ramp and tried to distinguish itself from YouTube by giving people publishing tools, striking deals with content providers, and giving users the ability to publish to multiple sites: YouTube, Google Video and MySpace.
Tercek: If I were a media company, I wouldn’t want to try to erect a big portal. I would try to distribute my content to as many social networking sites and niche sites as possible. Go where your customers already are.
On the “Personalized media platforms” panel (I was a panelist), Leonard Brody, CEO of NowPublic.com, said: We made a mistake in trying to look at Facebook as a publishing platform and it’s really about personalized news.
Citizen media sites as a whole, he said, are “shitty content packagers,” and that’s something traditional media is good at. But he said that ordinary people were just as capable of reporting on an event or telling a story as trained professional journalists are. “I hate the term ‘citizen journalists.’ You won’t find that term on NowPublic. Do we talk about citizen dentists?”