Category: Media

Integrated Interactive TV Might Save the Medium

While reading an interesting piece in AdAge on Syfy Network’s new plans for significantly upping its bet on interactive elements of TV (aka Social TV), it occurred to me that the proper integration of show-centric interactivity and commercials might just save television as a medium.

The network has already shown itself as pretty savvy on this front with the stupendous work they’re doing on their new series, “Defiance“, which debuts Monday night. Simultaneous releases of the new series and a video game, with both products sharing a new earth world, is an incredibly ambitious and powerful combination idea. (I haven’t seen the show yet of course but already I’m hooked. I won’t play the game because: (a) I don’t play games; (b) I’m really bad at games; (c) It’s not available on Mac; and (d) there’s no real compelling, actually interactive tie-in with the show.)

Syfy Neetwork LogoAmong the interactive angles Syfy is playing in current and forthcoming series:

  • In a new series called “Helix,” Syfy will use an app to let viewers explore the research lab in step with the events onscreen. “The two-screen experience will provide extra clues to the show’s many secrets, clues that viewers won’t get just from watching on TV.”
  • On a new reality series called “Opposite Worlds”, viewers will be able to affect the outcome of who-stays-who-goes by sending gifts to participants in real time, only during the show’s live broadcast.
  • Skyping with contestants in a reality race show.
  • Allowing users to change the outcome of a show in real time with a new horror project involving Jamie Foxx.

Now if advertisers are smart enough to tie their ads to the interactive content and carry over from the show to their commercial spots, people will have to stop skipping over commercials or lose out on some aspect of the show itself.

Experts in the industries involved are way ahead of me here. There’s already been a book published by an ad agency guru. Mike Proulx and his co-author Stacey Shepatin published the book “Social TV: How Marketers Can Reach and Engage Audiences by Connecting Television to the Web, Social Media, and Mobile.”

But as a lay viewer with a technical bent, this is exciting stuff.

Are the Media, Complicit in Iraq Debacle, Patsies for Obama’s Team on Iran?

lamestreammediaAlong with Michael Calderone at HuffPo, I too am worried that the complacency of America’s mainstream media may play a key role in the run-up to yet another Mideast war by America, this time on Iran.

Ten years ago, a blindly subservient media corps — enamored of their privilege and worried about losing access — mouthed the Bush Party Line and lulled Americans into a false sense of complacency as we needlessly and foolishly entered on our biggest foreign policy blunder since Vietnam.

Today, many of the same national “leaders” are still in place, both in government and in the media, and the idiot sounds they are making with respect to Iran’s “nuclear program” are just as full of false bravado and certitude as they were a decade ago.

obamagrimaceMeanwhile, the Nobel Peace Prize winning President Obama (I bet the committee wish they had that one back) is not as vocal but nearly as bellicose as his predecessor. Witness his observations today that the United States is pledging its “undying” support for Israel. He didn’t say but also means “unquestioning” support. The Israelis are at least as much to blame for the ongoing hostility in the Middle East as the other nations with which it is engaged there, but you’d never know it from U.S. media reports or State Department memos. Their “remarkable story of redemption” as Obama put it, apparently entitles them to be as pre-emptively warlike in the name of self-defense as…well…the United States in its new age of Imperialism.

The pro-peace movement needs to be on its toes this time around. The Iraq War was the first one in world history that was preceded by millions and millions of protesters all over the world. King George ignored the multitudes and we can now see to what end. This time around, peace-loving people must start sooner, speak more loudly, and issue a drumbeat that is at least as loud and insistent as that of the warmongers in U.S. policy circles.

Failing that, we are destined for another long, costly, deadly, meaningless war in the Middle East, all ultimately in the name of defending American oil companies’ interests. Nothing is worth that, not in an age of global climate change. Nothing.

The Movie Landscape Just Earthquaked But Don’t Try to Convince the Old Guard

kickstarterlogoWhen the news arrived today that a movie project based on a defunct TV series had raised over $2 million on Project Kickstarter in just 11 hours, it took the defenders of All That Is the Way It Is and Always Shall Be about one-tenth that long to pooh-pooh the blazing success.

Buzzfeed called it a “fluke”.

The writer who covered it for The Daily Beast was a full-blown skeptic and he interviewed mostly people who agreed with him.

The frenzied reaction by the ostriches of movies and media reminded me of the denials that flowed from the book and music publishing industries as the Internet began eating their lunches. And I believe their skepticism will be just as wrong.

The quirky TV series Veronica Mars, which started at the defunct UPN and moved to its successor network CW in 2005, was canceled six seasons ago. It had a serious cult following (my wife and I loved it but didn’t know we were in the cult!) which tried the usual don’t-cancel-my-series-you-greedy-insensitive-moguls letter-writing campaign but failed to revive the show.


Kristen Bell, who played Veronica Mars in the TV series

Then its creator, Rob Thomas and its star, Kristen Bell, decided maybe they could breathe a bit of life into the old series by producing a movie based on its characters and plots. Thomas commissioned the script and took it to Hollywood where he convinced Warner Brothers to bankroll the marketing of the film if he could get it produced using strong fan support.

Thomas took to Kickstarter with a stated goal of raising $2 million. He eclipsed that amount in less than a day and at last check was at $3,366,862 and still going strong with 51,040 backers.

But the pundits were quick to declare that nothing like this could ever happen again. First, making a Veronica Mars film would be cheaper than almost any other movie because it relies not at all on effects and solely on characters and a good plot. (Gee, maybe Hollywood would be forced to start making good movies again.) Furthermore, Daily Beast Reporter Kevin Fallon said, “But there also already was a script written, the major players—Rob Thomas, star Kristen Bell—were already committed to taking part, and Warner Bros. had already agreed to distribute the film if enough money was raised. All three of those things are rare for Kickstarter projects and even rarer for those fan “I want a movie!” pipedreams.”

Expert after expert dismissed the idea that the Veronica Mars movie success at crowdfunding would set a precedent, start a flood, or even be repeatable.


Enrico Colantoni, Veronica Mars’ PI father in the series

But none of them appears to understand how ground-changing crowdfunding is in general. Its first application to a big movie project grabs headlines but there are at least 31 Kickstarter-funded films showing at this week’s SXSW in Austin, as Fallon himself notes.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Those who suggest that “people won’t keep funding movies they want to see if they’re not investors in them,” or that, “Kickstarter is 70% male and most of the folks who funded Veronica Mars are women who were making their first contribution, so it’s clearly a fluke,” will find themselves on the sidelines as this phenomenon gathers steam.

They will be seen in retrospect as akin to those who said, “People will never give up reading books on paper, feeling the heft of them in their hands, to read eBooks,” Or to the naysayers who predicted online music couldn’t succeed because no major label was behind it so it would die from lack of advertising oxygen.

The Hollywood Movie Machine will still be needed to crank out the mega-hits that use tons of TNT and gallons and gallons of blood in special effects. But there’s a new generation of film-making being born right now, driven by people who want to see a different kind of film, one that may net “only” a few hundred thousand or a few million in receipts primarily from Direct-to-DVD and Video On Demand (VOD) sales. But one that a core group of people find sufficiently enjoyable to help launch.

The move from that non-competitive division for fans and production money to outright head-to-head clashes between people-funded and wealth-funded movies is not a big jump.


If LinkedIn Buys Pulse, I Could Be Very Happy

pulselogolinkedinlogoThere are unconfirmed news reports today that LinkedIn is in the final stages of acquiring news reader/aggregator Pulse for something north of $50 million.

I use both LinkedIn and Pulse every day multiple times and have found each in its own way to be a valuable source of useful and usable information. In addition, I love Pulse’s user experience; they’ve done some very deep and clear thinking about how to make a tablet app feel like it was built specifically for that platform.

So if the two combine, they could make my life more efficient. LinkedIn has recently been nudging towards a news-focused front page experience as it shifted more and more of its attention to content. If I could access my news feeds within LinkedIn and have the service merge news filtered by my LinkedIn interests while giving me the ability to filter news by what my LinkedIn colleagues are reading or recommending, that could considerably sweeten the LinkedIn experience.

I’m a little surprised at the low price tag but I am not privy to Pulse’s financial condition or expansion plans, so the surprise is mild. If it is a good deal for Pulse’s founders and stakeholders, then I’m delighted for all concerned…including avid users like me.