Where 2013 meets 1923
The ancient Hebrews wandered in the desert for 40 years, not because they were lost, but because everyone with a memory of slavery had to die off before they could enter the Promised Land. If they let the former slaves in, they would have reverted to their old ways and messed the whole thing up.
When it comes to new technologies, the same problem applies: the memory of the 'old way' of doing things infects the way the new technology is used. You have to wait until everyone who 'remembers how things are supposed to be done' is dead. This can take a long time.
Take a look at the New York Times' website -- www.nytimes.com
What do you see? A newspaper. There it is, just like the printed version, except it's on a screen. Interesting, but it only leverages off of about 10 percent of what the web does. The web is an incredibly dynamic technology -- it lets you put up text, for sure, and even stills and video, but more than that it lets millions of people get in touch and share ideas with millions of other people, all in real-time. It lets people add content at will. It lets you buy things on the spot (see Amazon, for example). And what does the NY Times website let you do? It lets you read the paper. Online.
And the people at The NY Times are smart. Very smart. But they carry with them the baggage of 150 year of slavery to a linear, print-driven world. They can't really escape it.
The same goes for Hulu, which is to TV networks what NYTimes.com is to a newspaper.
I was struck by this 'clinging to the past' phenomenon when I took a look at the Miami based startup GUIDE. That's their video above.
The concept, as you can see, is that you can create your own newscast with a 'virtual anchor' to read you the headlines.
Why in the world would you need a 'virtual anchor'? In fact, why in the world would you need an 'anchor' at all. Admittedly, they are all over the place, but so are newspapers that look like newspapers online.
Where did this notion of an 'anchor' (a guy who sits at a desk and stares into a camera reading copy) come from?
It came from radio.
When television was invented, no one really knew what to do with it. The medium, like the web, had never existed before. So, as with the web, conventional media companies took what they knew how to do and jammed it into the new technology.
In this case, they knew how to make radio news shows.
You put a guy at a desk, you gave him some copy, you shoved a microphone is his face and you said 'read this'.
Presto: radio news.
When TV came along they just put a camera in the radio newsroom and in an instant they created television journalism -- sort of. What they really created was radio on TV.
The weird thing is that this model of radio on TV is with us to this day. Take a look at The CBS Evening News With Scott Pelley. (This is what it is actually called. How come it isn't called The New York Times With Mark Bittman?)
90 years later, more or less, and we are still making radio on TV.
And now.. online. With avatars in the place of Scott Pelley who is in the place of Edward R. Murrow who is the place of John Cameron Swayze. And so it goes.
Talk about a singular lack of imagination. In 2013 GUIDE is essentially using cutting edge technology to create a virtual 1923 newsroom. Great! Well, good for GUIDE if you can get money for this.
And.. it would seem, The Knight Foundation, Sapient, and Omar Epps have seen fit to put $1 million in this.
Omar, call me, I have some great ideas.