Why and How Internet TV Creators Shoot Themselves In The Foot – Myself Included

I call myself an Internet TV producer and marketer. I tag posts about this field with this phrase. .

A couple of days ago I’ve realized that this is a grave mistake.

Every art form imitates its predecessors. The first narrative films were not a lot more than a play being captured in film. Only when creators realized the power of editing, films storytelling evolved to a separate art. First photographers orchestrated their shots that same way as painters. and so on and so forth.

Today, we have the ability to produce video in low cost and distribute it independently. So what do we do? we try to do TV shows, in a shorter format.

Look at most online video magazines such as Gigaom Show, Rocketboom, Webbalert, as well as online drama such as Something to be desired. Is there a real difference between these shows and regular TV, besides length and distribution? in other words – can we take, as is, an episode of Rocketboom, and see it on the TV screen without losing any element of the experience? My thought is – yes, we can. Can we do the same thing with a film? no, we can’t. Why? Because films in theaters have attributes that extend our suspension of disbelief, and give us a different experience. I believe that we all agree that it is not the same thing to watch 300 at home or in theaters.

So what are we doing basically? We are treating the Internet as a non regulated distribution system, that does not affect the content itself. It is only a transport layer, just like when I order a book I don’t care if it is delivered by car, plane, or ship – when I get it is still a book.

And that’s why we can call this type of work Internet TV. Another reason is that it is easier to explain other people what it is. This is just like TV but over the Internet. Yipi Kay Yay…

So what’s the big problem?

We promise something that we can’t deliver in two main aspects:

1. When we use the term Internet TV, we say that viewers can get the same user experience as in TV. But it is far from being true. Internet video content is still not as simple to consume as watching TV. It is a fact. when we say Internet TV, we create an expectation for simplicity that is simply not there.

2. When we promise Internet TV shows, viewers expect the same production value that TV shows have. we all know that we are far from it. Besides Prom Queen, I didn’t see any show that get to the same production level as regular TV. Again, we promise something we can’t deliver.

Other terms, other problems

Ah, ok, so we are Vloggers. Really? Are we just a blog in video? Does it mean that shows are partially personal, with ability to comment, etc? And does it really help to call it vlog, and start to explain what is a blog and then that it is in video? What about web video? Well, we are not only over the web. When I watch a show in Miro, it is not over the web in many aspects, especially when people perceive web as things that are accessible only via a browser. and I don’t even start talking about watching shows in a media center…

Why is it important?

People who know me, know that I hate useless debates. But this one is important in my opinion, in at least two aspects:

1. The way we define ourselves creates expectations from our viewers. We need to find a way to set the expectations between the sides

2. The way that we define ourselves set the boundaries of our creation. When I think about Internet TV I think about TV shows. This medium has a lot more to offer. We just need to find the way to utilize it. naming it affect our thought, and we don’t need to read 1984 to know that….

The solution

Open and honest – I don’t have any. I believe we need to redefine define the medium and its boundaries. What is your opinion?

There is also a discussion on this topic in Yahoo videoblogging group, under the topic “Do we affect users’ expectation by the way we define ourselves?”

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30 Responses to “Why and How Internet TV Creators Shoot Themselves In The Foot – Myself Included”

  1. 1 Justin Kownacki September 19, 2007 at 5:00 pm

    I think you’re still getting ahead of yourself. Before we need to “redefine” the medium, we need to actually “define” it. The average person is still clueless about the possibilities and potential of web video — they believe it all begins and ends with YouTube.

    Before we need to worry about clarifying labels, we need to make sure the labels fit in the first place…

  2. 2 Kfir Pravda September 19, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Justin – agree, and changed the post accordingly. as you said, we are still early in the game. That’s why I think we need now to set the expectations right with our viewers

  3. 3 thebeginner September 19, 2007 at 5:20 pm

    Seems to me like you have a good, but mute, point.
    You indeed crate a problem for yourself when you term what you do Web-TV or whatever, but it seems like you are far from knowing what exactly is the thing you do. Can you explain, to yourself at least, what exactly is different in your new medium. Forget the average person. Start with you.
    I think that you will be lost in meaningless titles, until the people doing it will have a clue what this new medium does.
    If it does, at all. Maybe for a while, youtube is all it will be. 🙂

    Last thought, perhaps read a bit about the evolution of names for the “new” medias. Was photography always called that? Film? Can that give you a clue?
    Notice that Photographs, Films, are not named after the conceptual change they brought.

  4. 4 thebeginner September 19, 2007 at 5:31 pm

    And another point. You say posting your stuff with those tags is a mistake. Try stopping that practice and see what happens to your blog…

  5. 5 D S September 19, 2007 at 6:35 pm

    1. The way we define ourselves creates expectations from our viewers. We need to find a way to set the expectations between the sides.

    Lead or follow? I lead (clumsily – no business background). I know that what I envision will be consumed. The resistance I encounter is the established.

    You chose to explain “art form imitates it’s predecessors” using film and photography. The net today, I saw in 86. What I see today will be the reality everyone is clamoring for in 2012 and using in 2020 (modest ain’t I).

    YouTube is a destination. Like the ocean, lots of stuff floating, swimming. We want to be puddles, watering holes, or an Oasis.

    2. The way that we define ourselves set the boundaries of our creation. When I think about Internet TV I think about TV shows. This medium has a lot more to offer. We just need to find the way to utilize it. naming it affect our thought, and we don’t need to read 1984 to know that….

    I have never thought of myself as a TV show. What I am doing is building the ground work for the convergence.

  6. 6 Chris Hambly September 19, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    Absolutely love this post, one of the best I have personally read on the subject…

    I’m all for dropping the TV tag, cause, well it ain’t a TV, it’s Moving Image over IP or (MIIP), well you heard it hear first.

    Seriously though, semantics are very important, just look at the confusion of the word podcasting, utter bullshit name, as in no way do we need a pod to cast, and it limits the growth, in my mind, certainly confused the newcomers no end.

  7. 7 Kfir Pravda September 19, 2007 at 6:40 pm

    thebeginner – thanks for you comments.
    some other art forms were called based on their technology, and Latin phrases describing the basic concept.
    Internet TV is hybrid name referring to a prior art. and that’s the problem with it in my opinion.
    to your second comment – change is a process – I play ball, and try to create a conversation…

  8. 8 Kfir Pravda September 19, 2007 at 6:51 pm

    DS – so what is your 15 seconds description of your work

  9. 9 Brook September 19, 2007 at 7:15 pm

    (this was also posted in the Yahoo videoblogging group, porting my response verbatim):

    For me, calling it Internet TV is setting the bar too LOW. Other than the fact that series work is possible on the web (not something previously limited to TV) and that moving images in a box are involved, I don’t see how it has much to do with TV at all. I sometimes call it web cinema, but that’s too limiting too, and just reflects my bias as a filmmaker.

    Last night I turned on my TV for the first time in a few weeks. Again, I wondered if I would even HAVE a tv if mass media wasn’t the subject of some of my work. I could not find anything on any of the gazillion channels that had the capacity to do more than fill time. Oh there may have been a movie on IFC or something (I didn’t check) but I always prefer renting them anyway because digital cable looks so horrible.

    Other than liking the concept of series work, I don’t see the connection for me, and I’ve never understood why “internet TV” became a popular phrase. I guess it can “sell” the medium to advertisers or funders, but really, why compete with something that, despite having oodles of resources, completely and utterly sucks?

    TV is the great lost opportunity of the media age. I’d hate to see video on the web end up as the equivalent in the new media age.


    p.s. The anomalies Twin Peaks, The Prisoner, and Arrested Development are exempt from my generalized tirade.

  10. 10 Bill Cammack September 19, 2007 at 7:47 pm

    I use .TV in my sites, because it’s the recognized professional suffix for video sites. Other than that, I don’t think I’ve ever referred to video on the internet as “internet TV”, merely because it was never ON TV. Yes, there are opportunities for Tivo and Apple TV at this point, where you can put your videos on an actual television set, but doing an internet show is nowhere near the same as doing a television show, even though the same skills are utilized in the creation process.

    As far as the production value of television, TV isn’t only high-production-value stuff. Don’t forget public access. Any old garbage can get on public access, so lots of internet shows compare quite favorably to shows that are actually ON television.

    Also, I think it’s exactly the opposite… As soon as you say “internet” in front of TV, people expect LOWER production values, not values similar to actual television shows. The reason for this, as we’ve discussed in the videoblogging group is $$,$$$.

    You can not have production value without expenditure… either actual money or in-kind donation of time by professionals that know what they’re doing. Since there’s no revenue stream for internet shows, there’s no money to hire professionals. That means interns and button-pushers are producing internet shows and receiving on-the-job training. That also means that except for the very few situations where people love what they do and are willing to sacrifice their free time, energy and money to put shows on the internet, none of these shows are ever going to get any technically better than they are right now.

    No budget = no color correction, no sound mix, no experienced editor, no HD cameras, no professional cinematographers, no transportation, no lighting kits, no professional actors, no team to collaborate on a script, no promo department, no graphics department, no producers that know how to craft a good story using b-roll and dialogue, etc, etc, etc, so there’s no way that people expect internet shows to be of the calibre of highly-funded television shows.

    As far as the length of the shows, that’s a function of the attention span of people who watch video on the internet. For the most part, nobody’s going to sit there and watch your 22-minute video when they can open a new window and click on something else as soon as they get bored with your video. Not to mention, the longer it is, the more money it takes to produce, so with no budget, 3 to 4 minutes is a fantastic length for a show.

    Ultimately, the issue isn’t what you call this thing that we do. The issue is HOW does it go from point A to point B? How do videoblogs get better, production-value wise? One way is what we’re seeing now, which is actual production teams being funded and formed specifically to enter the online video market. Another way is the actual studios releasing shows on the net, like 24, the day after it comes out on television. None of that really speaks to the issue of the people that are doing internet video right now and aren’t affiliated with production teams or studios stepping up their game…. if they even CHOOSE to, considering there’s no incentive since there’s no money involved.


  11. 11 thebeginner September 20, 2007 at 9:06 am

    May I add another suggestion. Boy I am sorry for the multiple posts:
    Television – Tele (Far) Vision (see). The word, a mix of Greek and Latin (if you trust wikipedia) is just a term, referring to the broadcast of imagery and sound over distances. You can argue that regular TV has also changed a lot. From I love genie to reality shows, and even interactive shows where the viewers determine the ending (American Idol). I don’t think that anyone should feel bad about using the word TV in what you do, you are simply (Hopefully) further expanding what this term encompasses.
    I say to you that (With all it’s shortcomings) American Idol has in many ways more interactivity and ingenuity than many of the web-shows that are out there, that still just broadcast unchanging content to passive viewers.

  12. 12 Justin Kownacki September 20, 2007 at 10:08 am

    I do find it amusing that we’ve managed to bash “internet” AND “tv” on this thread about Internet TV. And yet, meanwhile, we’re still no closer to a better explanation of what we do (or how it differs demonstrably from existing descriptions).

    Take a lesson from “podcasting” — once a lousy term enters the public consciousness, there’s no dislodging it. Semantics and framing are more reptilian than we’d like to believe, and it takes a HUGE effort to rebrand a concept.

    Meanwhile, I keep calling it web video… Seems simpler, yet offers more opportunity for interpretation.

  13. 13 Michael Bailey September 20, 2007 at 10:27 am

    Trying to “define” things as they are changing is only beneficial for one thing – to make yourself feel like you’re comprehending the subject.

    Television itself has changed – remember when people used to asked for a “Cable ready TV”?

    Well, now their is satellite networks, etc – semantics.

    A TV is a hardware device, as in “I saw it on TV.” or “It is a TV show”.

    SO, what are we talking about here? Yes, people are confused, but can you blame them?

    The very people who are creating this content and delivery industry don’t even know what to call it.

    The only real good name was taken years ago (Web TV) and subsequently developed into one of the most ridiculous implementations of Internet connectivity ever.

    We are still infants, trying to walk or run, but we first must learn how to crawl – we’re learning together, all will be fine.

    In the end, we’ve met a bunch a new people because of this space that we’re all mixed up with, and that really means more than anything else.

  14. 14 Alex Sirota September 20, 2007 at 5:58 pm

    Great post Kfir!

    I totally agree – the term ‘TV’ is definitely problematic for this new medium.

    No solutions here either, but I think that identifying the problem is an extremely important step for finding a possible solution.

  15. 15 Mayel September 20, 2007 at 8:25 pm

    “The way that we define ourselves set the boundaries of our creation.”
    I agree, and thus I prefer not having to define it right away, thus giving us a chance to experiment without any boundaries…

    Thats why I like this idea of a “lab” : http://lelab.tv/lelab/about

    We are your new television, totally free and independent.

    LeLab.TV it is a televisual “laboratory” which gave itself the mission of exploring emerging cultures: new social phenomena, digital cultures, new forms of political engagement, multimedia creation, music, contemporary art, fiction…

    We are a team of journalists and of internet specialists, animated by a spirit of freedom and a will to escape the formats of traditional television.

  16. 16 Kfir Pravda September 20, 2007 at 8:50 pm

    Mayel – loved your definition, I see things the same way – we have to experiment.
    Alex – thanks for your kind words.It is an important issue in my opinion.

    This discussion strengthened my feeling that lack of definition is derived from lack of ability to put boundaries around an undefined media wave (yet), just as Michael said.

    Maybe Justin’s term is the best – as web show is quite an open definition.

    Do you guys believe that we can somehow advance this topic, or should we just wait and see how this market will evolve?

  17. 17 Ben Homer September 21, 2007 at 5:41 am

    Kfir, you’ve got a point. A few weeks ago we went back and forth on whether production for this medium should be treated differently and this post has me thinking.

    For years advertisers have been saying “we want to generate more engagement.” Online video can do that in amazing ways, but producers are still modeling online production after TV.

    I still think quality is important, but for some of the online-only programming you mentioned would it not be more valuable for all involved to offer more audience interaction? It’s not difficult to do.

    Why not produce the GigaOm show live? Offer a chance for a live online audience to ask questions – only the most engaged fans will be there then, and for everyone else offer the edited version for on-demand viewing.

    As far as advancing this topic – it would be a great discussion for Podcamp Boston.

  18. 18 Kfir Pravda September 21, 2007 at 6:44 am

    Ben, I agree that we have a challenge here. I am attending Podcamp Boston, and I’ve raised this topic as a session suggestion by the name “Why are we calling it Internet TV, or Is it time for Internet Storytelling? ”
    I hope it will be scheduled, as I found that these things work great in Podcamps (positive experience from the “how to make my mom watch Internet TV” session).

  19. 19 Jeffrey Taylor September 25, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    A little late, but…

    The problem with terminology in this space is the plain and simple fact that the entire culture of video on the web is not linear and cannot be easily defined – and many content creators don’t want to be. And it never will be. The best we can hope for is one definition per setting, be it one video, one site, one player, or one network.

    The problem we are encountering right now is that the culture of business that sponsor and finance video on the web is completely linear. “They” need terminology that has content fit in boxes of a defined shape and size in order to survive and to justify the funding of projects, and this poses a problem for producers that don’t want to be confined by those boxes. And we’re seeing many well-intended agreements unravel and many wonderfully-conceived video projects lose their organic feel and charismatic nature because of this collision of the linear and non-linear.

    For me, finding an “answer” in revenue models that allows creators the freedom to just plain create is where the fun is. What I fear, though, is there may just be too many people willing to sacrifice that freedom and will climb inside the boxes.

  20. 20 Kfir Pravda September 28, 2007 at 5:59 pm

    Jeffery, loved the business perspective you’ve raised. I didn’t think about this direction.

  21. 21 eric : gardenfork.tv October 24, 2007 at 9:37 pm

    I see nothing wrong with calling it Internet TV. To me, that’s what it is. And there’s nothing wrong with creating content that looks like regular TV and putting it on the web.

    People like it, they watch it.

    “treating the Internet as a non regulated distribution system” that’s the whole beauty of the internet. The cable networks passed on my Garenfork pitch, so I put it on the internet.

    Its a beautiful thing, this thing they call Internet TV.

  22. 22 Noa Morag November 18, 2007 at 10:37 am

    Hi Kfir,
    a great post.
    I agree completely with:
    “So what are we doing basically? We are treating the Internet as a non regulated distribution system, that does not affect the content itself”

    and that’s why I am bored most of the time (unless someone posts a great commercial I missed).

    The goal is to create relevant content to this medium.
    checkout the project:

  23. 23 Jill November 20, 2007 at 6:22 pm

    When television began, people moved stage plays and radio shows onto tv sets and pointed a camera at them. It was crappy by today’s standards. Eventually the creators figured out how to use the medium and it evolved from being the poorly conceived child of other media into a powerful tool for storytelling and reaching the masses.

    We are right at the beginning with the Internet and it will take us a while to figure out exactly how to use it/sell it/tell stories with it. It will happen though and this early work is important explorations. this conversation about it is great too.

    We have to keep in mind, when figured out how to monetize all of this, that the television model doesn’t work for the small independent creator or for the end user. The media conglomerates that own American television didn’t watch Sesame Street and as a result aren’t all that good at sharing. (Guys who make $65 million a year precipitate a strike with writers over whether they should get any money from the Internet.)

    It’s not only about money. The media conglomerates don’t permit freedom of expression. They go around the world buying up local outlets so that creators in countries outside the US can’t get their work on their movie and tv screens.

    It is important in thinking about all this to remember that we have to keep the Internet democratic.

  24. 24 Kfir Pravda November 22, 2007 at 10:56 am

    Jil, thanks for your comment. How do you see yourself, as a writer, methodologically explore this area? I am banging my head against the wall regarding that.

  25. 25 Jill November 23, 2007 at 2:05 am

    I pay attention to how I use and enjoy my time on the Net. I make note of all the opportunities available: all the media, all the ways to interact, etc. And then I play.

    I will have something to show you soon.

  26. 26 geraldz August 23, 2008 at 10:52 pm

    Hi Kfir –

    You claim that internet tv is not as easy or good as real television. But that is quickly changing. Check out Zipityzap. You can connect your laptop to your TV with a $20 cable and easily “tune” channels. Not quite as easy as a TV, but it’s getting there. Most channels launch in Windows Media Player. Click ALT- ENTER to go full screen. Picture quality is excellent – it looks just like a real television channel.

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