“It’s not the digital revolution. James Murdoch is right. Look around you man, it’s the television revolution!” –Michael Wolffjune, The New York Times, “How Television Won the Internet,” 29 June 2015
In “How Television Won the Internet,” Michael Wolffjune writes about the battle between television and digital media. More to the point, he explains how television regained its rightful crown while colonizing the Internet in the process. In a series of ironic ‘flips’, television proved itself superior time and again.
The most telling ‘flip’ of positions masterfully executed by television is illustrated in the YouTube story:
“When YouTube threatened to become a TV piracy site, television…dragged Google, YouTube’s owner, into a painful spiral of litigation. A throwback like Mr. Redstone turned YouTube from pirater to licenser. He made Google his customer.”
Another significant ‘flip’ of positions centers on advertising:
“Mass-market TV upgraded to class, while digital media…chased lowbrow mass.”
As television decreases its adverts, digital is “…drowning in free.” Television chases paying customers while digital chases views, one click at a time:
“The fundamental recipe for media success…is the same as it used to be: a premium product that people pay attention to and pay money for. Credit cards, not eyeballs.”
In touting itself as the ‘next revolution’ entertainment medium that will usurp television’s throne, digital media proved just the opposite. Ironically, television swapped places with digital media in terms of advertising. While digital media is oversaturated by advertising, television is freeing itself from its historic reliance on advertising dollars to sustain itself. Wising up, television cut through the ‘middle man’ and collects directly from paying subscribers. More importantly, television offers quality worth its value to said subscribers.
The battle between television and digital is one between quality and quantity, dollars and eyeballs. There is something to be said of television’s victory. Indeed, China could learn a valuable lesson as it struggles through its falling political credibility, a plummeting stock market, and a virtually eviscerated middle class (Edward Wong and Chris Buckley, The New York Times, “Credibility of China’s Leaders Takes a Hit Along with Markets,” 9 July 2015). On all four of its corners, its bubble looks like it will burst.
The SWF Answered:
The battle between television and digital media is one between a seemingly obsolete colossus and an omnipresent, ever-dominant technology. However, the obsolete colossus bucked its fated trajectory to reclaim a new one with an even stronger foundation and an infinitely vast potentiality. As China faces an imminent burst of its bubble and soon-to-be-forgotten “China dream”, it must prove its ‘mettle’ by seizing a new path away from its current trajectory.
It will be a matter of time which way it turns.
Perhaps we can send it the following image, courtesy of Iowa:
The High Trestle Trail Bridge in Central Iowa features an art installation mounted in forty-one spots along half a mile. The installation is lit up by blue LED lights and is the work of David B. Dahlquist. For landscape architect, Doug Smith of EDSA, the installation reminds him of a drill bit and the bridge represents to him “…the expansiveness of the land and the ability to repurpose old things for a modern use” (Heidi Mitchell, The Wall Street Journal, “A Bridge to New Ideas In the Iowa Countryside,” 2 July 2015).
It will be very telling how China repurposes itself and indeed, if it can reclaim its potentiality…