Commentary

Forget Media Neutrality, Think Experience Agnosticism

Joe Mandese here, filling in for Gavin O’Malley, who's been filling in for a couple of weeks ever since VidBlog regular Steve Smith moved permanently over to the dark side – you know, mobile. Seriously, there’s a story behind all this byline bye-bye-ing. There’s a transition afoot, and the really exciting news is that we’ve just been biding time until a new, permanent VidBlogger can unleash her vid id – Daisy Whitney – who takes over starting Monday.

If you’re a regular VidBlog reader, Daisy probably doesn’t need much of an introduction, because you’ve probably already been reading – and watching – her stuff for years. In addition to being a veteran writer at various trades, including MediaPost, Daisy is the well-known host of the New Media Minute. She’s also a pretty good novelist (“The Mockingbirds”).

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I don’t want to speak for Daisy, but based on our recent correspondence, I know she’s looking forward to sinking her teeth into the VidBlog beat, as well as other video related things at MediaPost, and I’m looking forward to gaining her context and perspective for a business that is undergoing radical change and is desperately in need of perspective – and maybe even definition.

I’m struck by that thought today after perusing the “Cross-Platform Report” Nielsen released today, showing that time-shifting, and place-shifting of TV programs is accelerating thanks to online, mobile and other digital media (but mainly DVRs). But I was also probably influenced by the fact that I spent the previous day at the Digital Place-Based Advertising Association’s conference in New York, where the line between “television” and “video” gets even blurrier.

So when Daisy asked me recently whether the subjects of “connected TVs” and “over-the-top television” are appropriate subject matter for VidBlog, I said, “Well, they involve using online media to distribute video programing, albeit video programming called “television.”

Semantics has always been a factor in the video (formerly known as television) business. When I first started covering it in the early 1980s, I remember writing plenty of stories debating the merits of over-the-air vs. cable vs. satellite TV, but seeing plenty of research showing that the average consumer didn’t care about the platforms. To them, it was all about the content.

That really crystalized for me a decade or so ago when former TNS executive Steve Fredericks wrote a book called “StrAdvertising,” which made the case that we were moving from a society of “media platforms” like TV, online, radio, newspapers and magazines, to one of “media formats” like video, audio, text and various forms of multimedia. I think Fredericks nailed it, and the expansion of digital media has only accelerated the decoupling of media content from media platforms. It’s just that these darn business models keep getting in the way – you know, “monetization?”

But even more recently, I’ve begun thinking that Fredericks didn’t go far enough in his thinking. Media isn’t being redefined just by its formats, but by its experiences. Specifically, but the ways in which individual people experience it. That was evident at the DPAA’s conference, where panelists and keynoters focused on the underlying theme that “context matters,” but it’s also something I’ve been thinking about ever since I began covering neuroscience research, especially the work of Innerscope, showing how people can experience the same content differently across different screens. In other words, not all screens are created equal. Nor is all video programming the same. It’s fundamentally about all those combinations, and about the combination of the ways in which people experience them.

Now aren’t you glad I’m not the regular VidBlog columnist. Welcome aboard, Daisy.

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