An Open Letter to the The International Academy of Web Television

It’s been unlike me to be completely quiet about this. I received the first email and have ever since been on “the list” I guess. I’ve been invited to participate in the Streamy’s which you are concerned about and possibly run, I’ve been invited to vote on them, Rocketboom has been nominated on some counts, I think we were supposed to win one this year but we were unwittingly disrespected while accepting an award on behalf of Weird Al, but I think it’s all been said and everyone else started off their rants saying it had already been said so I think it has. And I personally didn’t say anything before because I could care less about awards shows.

Rocketboom did not participate in the Webbys this year because we did not want to pay the $200 entry fee per category required to nominate ourselves. This being public information, the fact that you have to pay to nominate yourself, I can see that the world has a different take than I do on being honored for their accomplishments. It’s certainly worth it’s price in the marketplace though. When we go out we always mention it because people seem impressed by it.

Anyway, so be it. Perhaps Rocketboom will apply in the future, whatever everyone wants to do, I’m going to remain indifferent on a personal level. I told the Streamys I wasn’t going to be there personally and to count me out with Woody Allen who tends to stay away from these kinds of things for similar reasons. I’ve never been to any of the meetings and never paid any dues.

If that was all you were doing at the IAWTV –  the business of awards shows  – I would have continued to bite my tongue.

But the organization apparently has another mission which is much more drastic, a mission that may jeopardize the most important aspects of this newly democratized medium you purport to protect. For your organization desires to promote single sets of standards, and exclusive methods along with best practices for the industry as a whole, as if there were such a thing, or for content creators or some other particular kind of exclusive group, a dangerous, controlling, limited and monolithic motivation to have in an otherwise vast sea of welcome openness and differences. From your bylaws:

The purposes for which this Corporation is organized shall be: 
(a)  To promote advancement of the web television industry; 
(b)  To further the common good and general welfare of the people engaged as 
professionals in the web television industry; 
©  To encourage the maintenance of high professional standards for web television professionals and to cultivate cordial relations among them; 
(d)  To act in a representative capacity for the web television industry; 
(e)  To develop specifications and standards for the web television industry; 
(f)  To encourage rapid and broad support across the web television industry for the use of the specifications and standards developed by this Corporation; 
(g)  To foster the development of high quality web television content; and 
(h)  To promote excellence in the web television industry through awards and other  forms of recognition. 

It’s unclear where the line is if there is any line at all with regards to who the iawtv is comprised of now and who it will end up being (i.e. who the people are behind the organization) and who the iawtv is supporting, and thus who you are by default going up against. Is it up to you to decide if everyone in the world should use a particular standard, like Flash, e.g.? Or an open-standard? Or no standard at all? How can you be sure you are supporting the right system when you encourage broad and rapid support of the specifications and standards that you develop? Already, there is one power struggle going on for control over your organization and separately, another power struggle happeing over who owns the Streamys. Please do not create yet another power play over the whole industry.

If online video was part of the Industrial Revolution I could understand the need for a union. People with dollar signs in their eyes can get kind of nuts and we must insure that workers are not getting their arms chopped off in machinery and that kids are not doing 80 hour work weeks at asbestos plants. Unions help protect employess from unfair conditions.

Or consider the recent news with ASCAP, the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers which has as their mission to protect and manage the rights of musicians. Unfortunately, ASCAP is now encouraging its members to fight against organizations like Creative Commons and the Electronic Frontier Foundation because ASAP thinks these organizations are harmful.

And remember the writers strike? People who are members of the Writers Guild were forbidden to work by contractual law during the strike. Many writers discovered the internet because they had no other outlet suddenly. The writers who disagreed with the negotiating tactics of the Writers Guild had no choice but to go along with it, exclusively, right or wrong. They were stuck in a power struggle with no personal freedom beside a new world where there are no such rules.

I’m not suggesting that the IAWTV cease to exist. If people are interested in assembling to get things done to help support a new world of TV, even if the motivation is to be in control, then I would suggest, first, you 1) NOT create exclusive clubs with memberships that require payment to join, 2) NOT focus on awards shows that are competitive and leave behind in your wake 999% more losers than winners, 3) NOT try to determine what the market should be doing by promoting any one direction, 4) NOT try to determine what is supportive and what is not supportive for online video content creators or the market as a whole, 5) NOT create an organization that supports any one group while excluding other groups that are directly relevant, 6) NOT use antiquated methods of picking and choosing what is right and what is wrong for what is no longer a small league of players 7) NOT hamper the freedom of expression, technology, healthy competition, or the open market we have in place now called the internet which TV is only just begging to understand how to use.

Instead, DO create a place where people can go to get good information. Do aggregate data. List job opportunities, list online video resources, create a contacts database of people in related industries. Hand out awards for reaching predetermined technical benchmarks like a billion views or a $1M annual revenue, fund studies, establish conferences, expose what is inadvertently hidden…It’s so simple how you could help in a way that fosters positive value: provide a place to go for people to get data. This is not the age of mechanical reproduction. This is the information age. Provide information. Don’t create a charter of power, then find the people to manage the power, and then find the right issues, do it the other way around. Don’t start pushing your secular ideas on to the world and suggest what is right and what is wrong yourself. Do expose the options and display the aggregate totals without determining the action. Let others come to their own conclusions. Might I suggest you inspire but do not try to lead. No one should lead and everyone should be able to participate. Aggregate and filter.


Techcrunch TV Launches

My expectation is that Techcrunch TV is going to work out well. I am somewhat surprised there is not more press around the launch, this being Techcrunch. There are a few blog posts on Techmeme only (and without commentary) and I dont see any main stream media mentions. I’ve noticed no matter how cool an online video play is, and no matter how ahead of the game it is, if it’s not YouTube and if there is no money being talked about, the press doesn’t really care. It’s a sad but relatively popular scenario. I’m assuming there must be some ad revenue deals underneath Techcrunch TV but it’s not apparent, and apparently there was no special launch sponsor that was rolled out with the programming, which I am surprised about too. If the headline included a budget price, a VC get, or even a launch sponsor, the press would have had more to say about it. After all, this is a very expensive kind of effort.

The network only hosts 40 minutes of live programming a day, but you can see where this is going. Obviously they will continue to add more and more shows into pre-fixed time slots. They’ll design new shows with regular spots, likely interrupt for breaking stories, and probably pitch the camera to experts spread-out around the world.

There is one major risk I foresee, and that is time vs. the marketplace. It’s the right time, and Techcrunch TV is getting in early which is a major win, but running a station with live programming for more than 40-minutes a day takes a lot of talent and a lot of talent takes a lot of money.

I foresee the need for significant investment to ramp this network up and that investment would be risky coming from Silicon Valley VC’s because it might take a much longer period of time to ramp up than anyone can predict. And you wouldn’t want to burn through too much, too quick. I think it can work without VC, based on the now maturing ad market and my guess is that the network will scale up in minutes over time at the rate they are able to garner more sponsorship funding. 

One other challenge that is not so much of a risk is the interest people will have in watching the content. While I can imagine tuning in for those special breaking events, it’s going to be hard to commit the time to what is ultimately the most boring kind of content you can have on camera – talking heads. If you are a total geek for the people on camera, you may very well watch but wouldn’t you rather get the headline and read the story right quick on Techcrunch.com? On the other hand, look at YouTube – its filled with super-popular talking heads and this is just the beginning. As the network scales up, the possibilities for where to take the creative content in the future are limitless. Congrats to Techcrunch, this is a major win for everyone involved in online video. 


Rocketboom: 125 Million Served

Congrats to Next New Networks on reaching a Billion views, that’s quite a few views! We just went through the exercise of putting together stats on views served here at Rocketboom and couldn’t get to an exact #. Greg spent a couple of weeks on past logs, we interpolated a bit on some early data, and when we came up with a general range, we decided to go ahead and pick the lowest number of the low end of the range just to be confident, and set our markers.

Rocketboom has served over 125 Million videos views to date.

One thing that’s important to remember about video views is that they are becoming less and less of an indicator of how well your media is doing. While we have never bought a single view, it’s common place for companies to buy views, and this essentially hacks the system in a negative way for everyone. 100k views for only $189 is a pretty good deal. Another common view inflation trick occurs when companies buy banner ad traffic for pennies, which drives traffic to video ads that sell for dollars. It’s a lot like Twitter where you can often see the scams more transparently, and the value of the content and the audience is not really of concern. The web is infested with spam accounts that are created for the sole intent of manufacturing traffic.

I used to blog regularly about Rocketboom updates, and market updates, and then it kinda fell by the wayside as the company has grown and I’ve just gotten busier and busier, a typical excuse. While the world has certainly changed over the last several years with regards to more audiences and more predictable content online, surprisingly, the market is still developing rather slowly and it’s often much more deformed than it appears – I’ll try to chime in here with more comments more often.


The Winnebago Man Meme

The story of the Winnebago Man meme is an interesting one that warrants special historical consideration for making its way via much harsher environmental conditions than memes travel through today. While memes can flourish more naturally now through internet distribution, the Winnebago Man meme, spawned from a set of out-takes filmed in 1988, was originally passed around through the physical act of dubbing VHS tapes.

[original cut]

Even when at its technological prime, most end users of VHS tech did not have the regular capability to dub tapes, but when they saw the Winnebago Man tape, they found it to be so awesome, they became compelled to figure it out and linked up their VCRs, dubbed copies, and snail mailed them to friends and family around the world. Of course this meme was just WAITING for online video to happen and sure enough when video arrived, so did Winnebago Man. In 2009, film maker Ben Steinbaur re-introduced the take via a documentary he completed on the topic. Steinbaur had searched for and found Jack Rebney (the real name behind the legend) living as a hermit in the mountains of California and brought him to speak in Austin.

After a year of rounding up awards on the international film circuits, the documentary is hitting pervasive availability, as promoted recently with the following new trailer and updated website: