Bad TV

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How long does it take for you to find something good on TV?

You could spend more hours just watching other people click on the remote, navigate the on-screen menu and stumble through hundreds of channels before finding something decent and relevant. Bruce Springsteen was on to something with his song, ’57 Channels (And Nothing On)’. And while there are those who swear by their TiVo and DVRs, it’s not like there are 600 channels with great programming to choose from. Most people use their DVRs to avoid the vast majority of television programming (and we’re not even talking about the commercials).

Contrast that to the Internet.

Through the power a decent News Reader (like Google Reader, My Yahoo and Netvibes), you can filter the content you want to receive (and you only receive it when there is something new). An online news reader is like a PVR for the Internet – it helps you avoid a lot of the noise that’s out there. But, here’s the difference, there is so much good content on the Internet that it is overwhelming. Where both systems enable you to avoid a lot of the noise, the Internet just has way too much relevant and good content – no matter what your varying interests may be. From text and images to audio and video, stumbling through a News Reader can be overwhelming, even for the more voracious content consumers.

When you compare TV to the Internet, it becomes abundantly clear where more and more people will wind up getting their entertainment in the coming years. 

It’s also plainly obvious how disconnected the major network producers are to their audience. TV certainly caters to a very specific audience and it’s easy to get trapped in the "I don’t watch that much TV anymore, so other people probably don’t either." We know that watching TV recently hit an all-time high in terms of usage and hours spent (you can read more about that here: TV Viewing Is Down As Internet Usage Continues To Rise? Not Exactly), but people watching video online is also skyrocketing and it just keeps on improving. None of those statistics change the general feeling that you have to struggle to find something good on TV, but it’s a struggle to find something bad in your News Reader.

Your choice: Publishing 2.0 or Are You Smarter Than A 5th Grader?. Jon Udell or Ryan Seacrest?

Bad TV or Good Internet?


  1. i find on-line video so much more compelling than tv for many reasons (short, unexpected, wacky, unfiltered, funny, real, shocking, funny, on-demand …). and yet, i can’t think of any major on-line only web content that can pull in the regular number of viewers and associated $ that tv does. the gap is still huge. i predict that in roughly 5-7 years, a cross-over will begin whereby on-line only content will compete head to head with broadcast and cable in terms of viewership and revenue. this will be driven by quality (higher definition, better productions …) and ability to easily watch web content on tv.

  2. I’ve frankly given up on ‘regular TV’. It’s rare to find someone who can effectively combine the web, social media, social responsibility as well as traditional TV. Someone like Jamie Oliver is more compelling to me than most. He manages to balance each element just right. He just gets it. Not many do and that’s a shame. I think there’s a lesson to be learned there. That’s my two bits. Thanks.

  3. I’m finding more and more content on the internet that I can’t do without anymore, but as I sit here and type this, I’m flipping between the National news (depressing), Sportscenter (depressing – Habs lose to Tampa?) and FoodTV. I’m also trying to carry an actual conversation with my fiancee, and have 2 other browsers open for blogs I want to read.
    These old and new medias are having an epic battle for my time and there’s not going to be any clear winner for a long time to come, but something’s gotta give because I’m not sure how much I’m actually absorbing from all of these conversations. I’ll bet I’m not alone in feeling a little overwhelmed with trying to keep up with everything.

  4. Seth Godin recently talked about how much content is on the Internet and how it is impossible to digest all the good relevant information, even a tiny sliver of it in a small niche. This is obviously true as I spend every Sunday afternoon reading 100+ articles to get caught back up in my google reader.
    That said, there’s still Lost (You know you watch it Gary V), The Office, Friday Night Lights, Dexter, The Wire, Top Chef (Hey, it’s a guilty pleasure) and other solid television shows out there.
    I think that the two mediums are very different depending on your affiliation with the social media space. Most of the time I’m reading I’m engaged and learning. Watching television gives me the opportunity to really relax and unwind without all my wheels spinning at once.
    Besides, the most anticipated show ever is coming to a television near you. Bromance starring Brody Jenner. *Sigh*

  5. I actually use Twitter on my mobile to catch up my daily news. The local newspaper publishes its headlines with links to the articles on its site. And since most of the stories are carried by the local TV news channels with not much more detail, I don’t watch the news.
    I get the same info for weather, sports results (if I miss the game) and morning traffic reports.
    By the way, all that info is delivered free (carrier costs excluded – 20c or so for the hour)
    What do I use the TV for? Playing Playstation mostly. The odd movie. Important sports matches (read: anything where Manchester United is playing). Mostly, the TV is off.
    And I think as time goes by the off-periods are going to get longer for everyone…
    (RANDOM THOUGHT: as mobile tech gets more popular and more powerful, does this mean that eventually we’ll all be spending more time OUTSIDE?)

  6. What a hornet’s nest you have opened here!
    In some ways TV has never been better. Here in the UK, we of a middling age are often heard quoting the sixties and seventies as a golden age of television. And yet with current and recent fare such as Little Dorrit, Dr Who, Spooks, The Office (UK version) supplemented by US offerings like Mad Men, The Wire or The Sopranos, there is ample evidence of a TV is high right now.
    Trouble is, one has to wade through hours and hours of dross to get to it. The Boss had it right except now you can multiply his 57 by 10 at least.
    Personally, I am already at the point where, faced with the choice, I would give up my TV ahead of the Internet. In the not too distant future I am quite convinced the two will be come one, but not without a good deal of pain in the meantime. Witness today’s Guardian:

  7. I always think it’s important to frame things beyond what each and every one of us does. We’re online, we read Blogs and we’re probably more like early adopters.
    @Marko… I wonder why things like Apple TV have not taken off?
    @Kyle – media saturation is a key point. It’s actually core to my Blog posting. You’re getting saturated by both TV and Internet. To me, the difference is that the TV saturation leaves only a small percentage of good stuff, while the Internet has much more goodness (IMHO).
    @Amod – it probably doesn’t mean more time outside. It probably just means more time untethered.
    @Robert – or the Internet is like a library and the TV is like… a TV.

  8. I also added this comment over at the Eyecube Blog:
    “For the record, my TV is on a lot… I just struggle to find the gems, versus my Reader which is full of gold at every turn.
    As for the quality over quantity, I’m starting to think that there is so much quality because there is so much quantity… you can take more risks and the good stuff rises, versus TV where someone, somewhere is hedging some bets on what will be liked by the masses.
    That could be another point: TV is created for the masses, the Internet is for the niches?”

  9. @Mitch – isn’t that essentially the same thing?
    I have a dream…a dream of a world where children will be able to game in the great outdoors, under the sun, in the fresh air; where lovers will sit on park benches and watch romantic comedies together; where you can walk on the beach with your SO and not miss the big game (actually, that last scenario will NEVER happen in my lifetime – but I will raise a statue to anyone who gets it right)…
    Robert brings up an interesting point regarding the brevity of entertainment offerings. Are we as a species losing our ability to concentrate for long periods of time? Are we just jumping from one nugget of entertainment to the next? Or are we choosing to make use of all the extra time to do other more constructive things with our time?
    In terms of marketing, I think it’s an interesting set of questions.

  10. I find myself watching some pretty long and interesting videos, interviews and documentaries online.
    Much more than I ever imagined I would.
    I wonder if the brevity of the videos was due more to technology – bandwidth and hard disc size – than anything else?

  11. I watch more tv than I would have expected as we approach 2009… only because we PVR everything we want to watch. I don’t mind seeing the shows I like after they “air”.
    I think that PVRs are only a stepping stone for what will come next: merged media streams. TV and Internet should be meshed and allow viewers to access the content however and whenever they like.
    For 100$ per month, I would love to be able to watch any show on the tv, on the computer, on a mobile device… including everything that has ever been aired before (and which has been digitized).
    The problem is that networks don’t want to get together to figure out how to make that model work for them financially. They still prefer to think they actually own part of the market.
    The Internet is slowly gnawing away at the old model, but without a universal system, it will take a long time for the Internet experience to be as user friendly as turning on the tv.

  12. 100% agree.
    There is nothing intelligent on TV.
    I love my netvibes reader..everything important comes to me via this. Anything worth watching on TV is downloaded off my internet before hand.

  13. Directionally, I think you may be right and perhaps more so from a conventional TV pespective. However, I think Specialty Cable still has a lot to offer. There’s some great series on HBO and some fabulous shows on Discovery and National Geographic. But then again Mitch, like you and others have repeatedly talked about, its finding rich, engaging, relevant and salient content isn’t it.

  14. I too have canceled my cable. And replaced it with an HDTV Indoor Antenna ($60) which nets me CTV, CBS, Global, NBC, CBC etc in HD for free. In total we get about 15 channels – admittedly most of which are court TV from Buffalo.
    Can’t say that I really miss cable – the absence only highlights that we were only watching garbage anyway. We’re going to continue downloading the shows we want (until they start to crack down on it in Canada) and networking our moded xbox and PS3 which currently store all of our viewing pleasure.
    As this trend continues, TV will experience the same troubles as main stream print publications. Hopefully, they’ve learned from print’s missteps and realized they are not invincible. Is anyone following successful new offerings and revenue models?

  15. I dunno about this one. Since I got my TiVO, I’m amazed with all of the great programs that I can record. Now I never miss NOVA, saw Dylan at Newport, caught up on the Sopranos and the list goes on and on…In fact, I find that it’s easier to find quality programming on TV (when you have a full range Satellite service), than finding great stuff on the Internet. And even when I do discover great Internet content, I often end up getting into that loop of clicking on link to link. The one exception though is iTunes which has the most consistent, high quality material available than anywhere else. Just the (free) podcasts I listen to while walking my dog has taught me more than 7 years of university did. I cannot praise iTunes enough…

  16. @ David… I think we’re saying the same thing here. The point of my post is that TV is only good when you can siphon down to the good stuff (which is few and far between) compared to the Web where there is tons of stuff to see and do (or as you call it, “clicking on link to link).

  17. Mitch,
    I seriously think we are attuned to the same brain frequency. It’s funny how we post similar thoughts without even realizing it.
    Not much to add here, you’re spot on!

  18. I don’t know – i tend to agree, but I am finding more and more filler in my reader these days too.
    I’m hitting ‘Mark as Read’ to wide swaths of posts to just get to the good stuff (not here of course).
    But I believe your thinking is sound – distilling it down to what you really want to consume is the future – in whatever medium.

  19. I have cable for the first time in years and am thinking about scrapping it–Bruce is right (he usually is). I much prefer Netflix, where I can access much better programming. And I have an Apple TV too for when the Netflix movies I have at home don’t suffice.

  20. The sole problem with TV is advertising (funny, that’s how I earn a living). I use bit-torrent for everything so I actually like my TV time….don’t tell Videotron πŸ™‚

  21. A good point for downtime and relaxation, though a lot of TV is appointment to view – which is immune to this problem. Mass audiences, communal interactions and media hype mean people plan and consume together.
    RSS for specific shows can be replicated on Tivos/Sky+ etc though the Internet still has the key advantage of social recommendations/bookmarks/bricolage that TV currently lacks.

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