The New York Times is under the strange impression that, to paraphrase its own headline, Katie Couric has moved from television to the Internet. Why on Earth would they think that?
Kevin Spacey has already figured this one out, and you wouldn’t expect The Gray Lady to confuse distribution with product. While they’re at it, the NYT has also conflated TV and television.
In your home, the TV is a device that displays audiovisual content. On Yahoo!, Katie Couric will be creating…audiovisual content. The “television” that the New York Times notes she’s left is simply a technological means for distribution of audiovisual content to an end user.
Once upon a time, television was the predominant means of distribution of audiovisual content to an in-home user, who then watched that content on their TV. (As long as your family had a Super 8 camera, television wasn’t the only means of distributing audiovisual content, just the predominant one.)
Nowadays, it’s nothing of the sort. End users get their audiovisual content via “television”, cable, satellite, the Internet, and a handful of other means. Not that barriers have all but completely broken down, but howzabout that little tidbit that Chelsea Handler will be hosting a nighttime talkshow on Netflix?
Oh, and end users now consume their content of choice on their TV, tablet, phone, desktop computer, laptop, gaming system, and everything else with a monitor. (You should come to my house during college football season, when it’s not at all uncommon to see me watching one game on my TV set, another on my desktop, two more on two iPads, and if things are really cooking, another game on my laptop and one on my netbook.*)
*And yes, that’s why the word “fan” is short for “fanatic”.
The creation of great short-form audiovisual content rolls merrily onward. Does the medium – or better asked today, do the mediums – impact the content we make? You don’t need to be a student of Marshall McLuhan to know the answer to that. The impact of that, however, is a conversation for another day.
What the New York Times – and Katie – lost sight of is that the new world is so much bigger than the old one. That’s an easy thing for content creators to do. We’re so used to seeing or hearing our content in a particular medium that we lose sight of the fact that there are myriad other channels out there for us to exploit.
Misstatement of the century: Ms. Couric says, “I do think Yahoo can have some impact. It’s going to take a while to build it…impact can be measured in a number of ways. Oftentimes very small audiences allow you to do really important stories.” Some impact? A very small audience? Uh…Katie? Shall we check the audience numbers together?
A program broadcast over United States television can reach, at most, a little under 320 million people. Right now, about two billion more people can access Yahoo! (Assuming they can get past local Internet censorship, of course.) If current trends persist, that number will jump by another billion in the next four years.
Here’s a two-part formula for having more than “some” impact:
- Create great content. Katie hasn’t been making eight figures a year because she’s a wonderful human being. (I’m not saying she’s not, mind you.) She’s making big bucks because she knows how to make impactful content.
- Make sure that your great content is widely available. Placing the content on the fourth-most-viewed website both in America and the world is a pretty good start, isn’t it? Add in a little marketing magic – something Yahoo! knows about – and you’re on your way.
So there you have it. Katie Couric hasn’t left television. She’s still making audiovisual content. All Katie Couric has done is leave one means of distribution – broadcast. She’s moved on to a new means of distribution – broadband. The impact that one’s content can have via broadband is, er, broader than the impact one’s content can have via broadcast. It just has to be compelling and well-marketed.
One important note to my many radio friends: it shouldn’t be hard for you to translate this to our beloved business. Radio is simply a technological means for delivering audio-only content to an end user. Other technological means of doing likewise exist, and the possibilities that accompany those means are enormous.