Commentary

What You Miss By Not Being There

My long-suffering editors here at MediaPost have a pretty hardcore rule against my ever mentioning any of my clients in this column. I get that. I see way too much "opinion" that is thinly disguised marketing for the author's company (or one that his VC firm invested in). But without mentioning any names, I have to recount a stat that came out of a client’s helping to live-stream the post-Super Bowl parade in Seattle following the team’s utter dismantling of Denver.

The police estimated that 700,000 fans lined the parade route. Not bad for a city with a population said by the Census Bureau to be about 635,000 in 2012. Two local TV stations live-broadcast the parade. Yet more than 200,000 people watched the live-stream online, hosted by each of the two TV stations (thanks to technology provided by the Client Who Shall Not Be Named).

When I first saw those streaming audience numbers, I was convinced it must have been raining or snowing -- but no, it was a clear, sunny day, about 30 degrees. Yet 200,000 people elected not to look out the window (or drive into what had to be a considerable traffic mess) and instead watched a parade on desktops, laptops, tablets, or mobile devices. Lest you think the rest of the nation was jumping in to help celebrate, more than 70% of the traffic was from the state of Washington.

I find this astounding. If the population was up in the 3 or 4 million range, I could rationalize that 200,000 represented workers who didn't have TVs in their offices, weren't on the parade route or who had bosses who bet heavily on the Broncos. And it's not like the parade featured really cool, can't-be-missed floats like the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, or outlandish costumes like Mardi Gras -- or better yet, the Halloween Parade in New York City. About the only incentive to tune in no matter where you were would be to see if Richard Sherman would go off again.

I am wondering what this says about our culture for the long term? Being online, especially with mobile devices, already isolates us from one another to an extraordinary degree. Generally we only bond as a people in times of stress or great celebration. If the trend is toward "staying" away because it might be inconvenient or perhaps MORE convenient to watch alone, we will see what little sense of community we still have erode with it.

Not that it's all that important, but recorded TV has pretty much destroyed the notion of post-broadcast “water-cooler" conversations. You might say that social media has replaced these conversations, but I would argue that social media has only isolated us further, with electronic "relationships" replacing what used to be face-to-face encounters. When our kids were younger, we had neighborhood kids in and out of our house every day. Now they text or Facebook from their houses, and we from ours. 

With everyone in the world carrying a camera in his or her pocket, nearly everything in the world can be captured on video.  Should we just sit back and wait for the "tape" -- or get out there and join in the parade?  You decide.

Tags: technology
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3 comments about "What You Miss By Not Being There".
  1. Richard Sullivan from Broadcast Interactive Media , February 14, 2014 at 10:33 a.m.
    The BIMvid Live Video Platform provided the streams. We were amazed (and pleased) by the sheer number of users downloading the event. This was fun to track. Live streaming big time news events (like this parade) shines a bright spotlight on broadcasters. Gives them an edge.
  2. Michelle Strom from Strom Media , February 14, 2014 at 11:49 a.m.
    There are roughly 3.5M people who live in the Seattle-Tacoma DMA. Traffic was so bad that some fans commuted from the suburbs at 4am, and some stood in line for 3 hours to get on backed up public transportation, only to miss the parade. More people wanted to go, but with traffic, and it being a weekday, many were glad the parade was streamed and broadcast live. Millions were "there" even if they watched on a screen.
  3. George Simpson from George H. Simpson Communications , February 14, 2014 at 12:40 p.m.
    go Seahawks!