TV's Potential Feudal State -- And The Serfs It May Need

Loads of free content exists on the Internet -- some professionally produced, and some not.

Either way, big owners of media want to make money off it. David Carr of the New York Times makes a big issue of this -- especially when it comes to social media like Facebook, and Twitter -- and, for the topic de jour, AOL and The Huffington Post.

One analyst used the term "feudalism" and "serfs" as metaphors for what goes on in this particular digital area. In medieval times, serfs use the land to grow fruits and vegetables -- but as Carr notes, "the land many live on is owned by someone else, be it Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr..."

That makes sense -- but not completely. Traditional serfs needed that land to survive -- not modern-day digital serfs, for whom it's more of a recreation.

Traditional TV -- as yet -- doesn't operate this way. Sure, many have social media areas attached to their professionally produced entertainment. But they aren't dependent on them for survival. Long-term, it might be another story.



People use Facebook and Twitter for lots of things not connected with TV. Thus, if people are spending time looking and interacting with "free" content this could mean spending less time with professionally produced TV content. But that hasn't happened. TV usage continues to grow -- even if in a splintered marketplace.

Still, it gets people nervous. YouTube continues to expand -- still a big place for user-generated videos. The premise for some is that people are lured and "entertained" by the technology of making their own content -- even if there is not a discernible revenue objective for consumers.

Adding to this trend, producers only want to get viewers more involved in a TV show direction. Current TV's upcoming "Bar Karma," from Will Wright, the inventor of The Sims and SimCity video games, lets viewers decide on the arcs of the script.

You can see why traditional TV companies have amped up efforts at pursuing added revenue. Versus the "free" stuff on other digital area, traditional TV companies have more immediate pressing production costs -- thus the changes at Hulu, thus the push for networks sharing of local TV station retransmission dollars.

Otherwise, they'll be looking for serfs of their own.

3 comments about "TV's Potential Feudal State -- And The Serfs It May Need ".
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  1. Jay Oconner from World Colours Network Inc., February 15, 2011 at 5:43 p.m.

    Speaking as a Transmedia Serf, this is music to my ears. As we reseach Transmedia Brandcasting Wayne, I can almost gurantee that the shift from traditional TV to Social TV is occuring and as revenue models like The Customer Advantage are going to crush Groupon's given their revenue shared models. Everyone learned early days in the 70's and 80's to buy from yourself. Lets see how Mainstream Advertisers launch on to this opportunity. And if the Artist and Fan participates in the discussion which is what Social Transmedia Storytelling won't Advertisers want to be invited to the party. Its time to fund Social Transmedia Research and Development. If you would like more information about Transmedia Brandcasting visit my Linkedin page at

  2. Brian Hayashi from ConnectMe 360, February 15, 2011 at 6 p.m.

    Crowdserfs about to become a big business!

  3. Doug Garnett from Protonik, LLC, February 15, 2011 at 6:05 p.m.

    Actually, this serf analogy may be right on.

    YouTube wants the serfs to create 35,000,000 cat videos so that YouTube can craft, sell advertising, and make a load of money off the serf's work.

    But perhaps the analogy breaks down when the serfs want to eat. Because in feudal times they were raising food that they could eat things (if they hid it from the land owner).

    Seems to me, though, that the jump is from the very tiny part of the population that wants TV to become a "lean forward" time to the mass of the population who is voting with their remotes that they'd much rather sit back during their average of 30ish TV hours a week.

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