A Guide to the Online Video Explosion
05-06-06 suggested by: Zé Vance
What do you want to watch?
The answer used to depend on limits - what day it was, what time it was, what channels you got. A handy little thing called TV Guide laid it all out. Television was a one-way medium - big broadcasters pushing content into our living rooms at a specific time and place.
Not anymore. Online video has arrived, unleashed from the networks, cable companies, and media giants. Thanks to growing bandwidth, easy access to the means of production, and cheap storage, it's exploding all around us and becoming a very real, very different way to experience news and entertainment.
Even the old guard gets it (sort of). From Desperate Housewives on your iPod to , the networks are racing one another to get their broadcast programs online, while also creating Web-only content.
But don't let them fool you. What's happening here isn't just TV online. Gone are the rigid 30- and 60-minute blocks; now the clip is it - be it 30 seconds or eight minutes, we're watching only the money shots. Gone is top-down broadcasting; instead, the network has been, well, networked, with thousands of creators and places to watch, from single-serving sites like to slick aggregators like iTunes and . And gone, too, is the at-this-time, at-this-channel programming; now we're not only time-shifting with DVRs, we're space-shifting as well, watching stuff on our laptops, iPods, and cell phones - even loading it back onto our TVs.
Missed Oprah squashing James Frey? No matter - you could catch the choice bits of the gotcha episode on later that afternoon. Want to see the best shorts by SNL's "Lazy Sunday" guys? You won't find them on NBC - try The 'Bu on . Still watching Must See TV on Thursday nights? How quaint.
Sure, a lot of the material is junk: dorm pranks, nip slips, America's silliest home videos. But some of it is brilliant: , hot zone at Yahoo! News, archives of cold war propaganda films. Some people look at the sheer amount of material and see a mess. But we see, amid the flood of content and competing delivery services, a new medium emerging, one with fewer gatekeepers, more producers, and - somewhere - something for everyone. And that's the point: The mess is the message.