in Musings

New media vs. old media

All day Friday, this wedding video kept being posted to Facebook by my friends and relatives. I got around to seeing what the fuss was about and immediately posted it myself. It’s the video from Jill and Kevin Heinz’s June 20th wedding in St. Paul, Minnesota, when they danced to Chris Brown’s Forever instead of the usual heavy formal wedding march. In the span of about 24 hours, that video was viewed a million times.

It wasn’t long before the mainstream media picked up on the viral nature of this video and began to cover it. Good Morning America wrote a piece on Friday. The couple appeared on the Today show last week as well. The interesting thing here is that this video didn’t need the networks or press to get seen: it was almost totally people-driven. The media, you see, was chasing a story that broke first on the Internet. While the Heinzs’ wedding truly is a great story, it is another example of how the traditional media is becoming more redundant.

I’m a cycling fan. I love to tuning in the Tour de France to follow the subtle twists and turns of the racing teams. Throughout this year’s race, unretired seven-time champion (and today’s third-place finisher) Lance Armstrong used Twitter to give his fans their closest-ever look at life during the Tour. Armstrong doled out his 140-character missives directly to his 1,577,709 Twitter fans, completely bypassing the media. In fact, wire stories were left quoting Armstrong’s Twitter bon mots. The press, once again, was playing middleman to the Internet.

Last week, I was describing to a friend who was new to Tivo how Tivo changes television. Through the magic of Tivo, MythTV, and similar DVRs, viewers have no use for TV networks anymore. We will watch (or stream) only the show they want and leave the rest. TV networks spend time assembling programming into a “channel” only to have that programming disassembled by Tivo. Eventually viewers will get wise and cut out the network middleman.

Viral videos like the Heinzs’ wedding will help hasten the end of TV networks because sites like YouTube can show in never-before-seen ways what shows are popular with viewers. The creme rises to the top, and any video with views numbering in the hundred thousands (or millions) is obviously generating buzz that needs to be spread. More and more often, the traditional media will find itself chasing a train that’s long since left the station.