05 January 2006

Personal Media

While announcements from major media companies,
such as Disney vastly increasing the video content available via iTunes
(how uncomfortable was Keith Jackson directing viewers to download
highlights from iTunes during last night's Rose Bowl?), one mustn't
overlook the proliferation of personally-created content.



Capturing
photos and videos becomes easier every day. Camcorders shrink in size
and price, as solid-state memory replaces tapes and drives (this
improved battery life, too). Although still too clunky for most
consumers, a few digital cameras sport Wi-Fi radios that enable users
to immediately send pictures to their computers or even online albums.
LCD screens on some cameras are big and sharp enough to allow simple
editing, often obviating the need for computers. And new camcorders
finally boast lens quality good enough to perform double duty as still
cameras.



What to do with these photos and
videos once they're in the camera? Commonplace are printers and TVs
with memory card slots, so folks can display their handiwork
immediately. HP expanded its relationship with Snapfish to include
editing and hosting of consumer videos online, in addition to standard
photo tools. Google provides a free video hosting service; finding interesting videos is aided by
Google's popular and powerful search technology.



Many
speculate that the ease with which consumers can create, edit, and
share content will accelerate a shift into the "Long Tail" of media
created by the masses. So the thinking goes, consumers will no longer
have to settle for mass-market entertainment created by a cabal of
major studios and distributed by a handful of networks and cable
companies. The democratization of content!



As
enticing as this looks, especially to one who benefits from increased
usage of the Interent, this observer firmly believes in the value of
artful editing and appropriate aggregation. Sure, the video of the
crazy Christmas light show set to a rockin' Trans-Siberian Orchestra
song was thoroughly enjoyed many times over by this awed fan (as an
aside, the viral power of the Internet was demonstrated by the ranking
of that song #1 by Rhapsody users; heck, Miller Lite even based a
nationally televised commercial on that light show), but nothing (yet)
can replace the entertainment value of top-notch TV shows such as "The
Wire
." Yes, we have to rely on the experts at HBO to fund that series,
and we pay the cable company $10 a month for access to that network,
but that's OK -- indeed, one expects to pay for valuable entertainment.



Over
the next few years we can expect far easier access to "Long Tail"
entertainemt. Broadband speeds will increase. Watching
Internet-delivered videos on the TV won't require a 12-year-old hacker
in the family or a $2,000 computer. Finding content tailored to our
needs will be greatly aided by next-generation program guides and
search interfaces. Yet it's doubtful consumers will completely bypass
professionally-programmed networks and established distribution
channels. Rather, they'll dig a bit deeper into the well of
personally-created content. And those that make it simple to create,
share, find, and consume this content will be rewarded.

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