George Gilder--who wrote a book "Life After Television"--was long ago predicting the death of television and Hollywood as we know it. Speaking at the AO2005 Summit about the long tail ("Customers don’t want choice, they want their first choice," Gilder said) and the future of media, Gilder said:
"The essence of television is you could watch television forever and never produce a television set. It's stultifying and the culture of television kills itself. The book, and also the blog, culture can reproduce itself and redeem a civilization, and that is it's great promise."
I'm tried to find Gilder after the session to get a better understanding of his remarks but missed him. Hazarding a guess, TV created by traditional studios chasing ad dollars and lowest common denominator material is one-way and just crappy ("stultifying") and has little or no redeeming value. He said the "thirty-second ad is going to die" and people don't want to watch ads. Well, we've heard that before. But, now that the means of content production in any form are in the hands of billions of the users, the old world order of gated production and distribution is being influenced, pummeled and transformed slowly but surely by what the Internet and other technologies have wrought. How books and blogs can redeem civilization is a bit obscure, but the power of blogs greatly supplements and amplifies the traditional "power of the press." We see the results every day--some good, some bad, but substantially more voices, less hierarchical, more immediate and more often than not illuminating rather than obscuring.
Updated 9:00 PM PST, 7/20/05: I finally did catch up with George Gilder at the reception after the day's activities at AO2005 on the Stanford campus in Palo Alto. I asked him for more detail on why television (not video per se, but broadcast TV) is so stultifying. "Television plays into prurient interests and morbid fears and anxieties--you can't create culture out of that," Gilder said. He allowed the there is some good TV but said it just gets "lost amid the muddle." On how books and blogs can redeem civilization, Gilder said: "Books have a complexity of presentation and detail and information that is difficult to transmit by other means. The book model is superior to the broadcast model, which is lowest common denominator, simplistic and titillating rather than edifying and deep like books. Blogs are more like books in that it's journalism and it's better than television, but they're not as good as books. I like to know a subject matter deeply--I'm not interested in superficial knowledge." I can share his passion for books and distain for most broadcast TV, but I don't find the blogs I read to be superficial (I write one, but they don't naturally carry the narrative depth of hundreds of uninterrrupted, threaded pages in a books) and I can find plenty of books that qualify as lowest common denominator, simplistic and titillating rather than edifying and deep. As I said earlier, as the tools of production get into the hands of creative people, no one will care about old broadcast TV (cable/satellite was the first disruptive step, now followed by the Internet). The lowest common denominator is already being eclipsed--just tune into your computer or handheld device.