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The most critical factor in building the success of podcasts and other new media shows is to get them “On TV.” Now, let me be clear, I am not talking about trying to sell your shows to a big television or radio network, get them on cable TV or sell them as DVDs. Instead, when I say “On TV” I mean getting them on the physical device that nearly every American has sitting in their living room — or kitchen, or bedroom –right now. We need to do everything we can to divorce new media from its computer origins and place it on the technology that everyone already knows how to operate…the television set.
The television is one of the most ubiquitous electronic devices in a home, whether in the U.S. or in places usually described as “developing” counaa
tries. To be without a television or a radio is seen as the height of disconnecting from today’s modern society. Just watch people’s reactions the next time that someone announces that they don’t own a television. The expression of surprise is almost universal. Every new media producer should be using this common device to spread their message, but how?
I was quite excited when Apple announced and released its Apple TV product. Finally, I thought, here is a device that makes listening and watching podcasts as easy as watching TV. Well, it might not be perfect – it still requires a computer, iTunes and some computer knowledge – it is definitely a step in the right direction. Here is a box you control with a small white remote, and the entertainment flows right into the television, which everyone in the household – from the toddler to the teen to the octogenarian knows how to operate.
Of course, Apple has failed the new media world by treating the Apple TV as the ugly and unloved stepchild of their product line. Sure, you might find one on display in your local Apple store, but you see no advertising, no push to sell the devices. I don’t really expect the box to remain on the product line much longer unless someone steps up to champion it among the hype and excitement of the iPhone and new Macs.
Still, the Apple TV has pointed the way to new media success. We only have to find someone who can deliver the device to bring this new media to the old world. When I am in a more reflective mood, I can see televisions all over the world that can view online content as easily as they view NBC, CBS and ABC. They can automatically download online shows the way that TiVOs turned us into a nation of high-tech time shifters. Even more, these same devices could use flash drives as the VCR of the 2010s. Imagine a friend being able to give you a show on a memory stick and you only have to insert into your television to watch it. Imagine no more “format wars” over some physical object. No more Beta vs. VHS – BlueRay vs. HD-DVD.
Of course, while we are waiting for television technology to catch up with us, there are other ways to get our shows “on TV”. Several traditional networks are collecting shorts and shows and packaging them as traditional half-hour fodder we all grew up with. The YouTube Show can’t be far off. Instead of relying on these traditional media providers to “deem us worthy” though, we need free, unfettered access to our audiences.
One overlooked opportunity is the local public access channels provided, by law, by every cable operator in the country, over a certain size. When I have mentioned this opportunity to new media producers in the past, I have met with almost universal disdain. They look at the current, quirky, offerings of their local public access channel and don’t want to be associated with them. Of course, most podcasts are dramatically higher quality than anything you see on the typical public access channel. Simply getting a few podcasts placed on public access would change the reputation of those channels overnight and give us exactly what we need – television exposure with the freedom to say and do what we want.
Take heart, new media producers, you don’t have to sell your show to a television, radio or podcast network for pennies of what they are truly worth. With a bit of the technological ingenuity and initiative that got us here, we could all go on to be television stars.
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