Online Media's Shared Moments

The Victoria's Secret webcasts, the wild success of BMW Films, the sparring between Garry Kasparov and an IBM supercomputer - these are all things that were very widely distributed on the Internet in years past. Yet in terms of making media history through a specific moment shared by U.S. media consumers, can any of these compare to seeing the Beatles on "Ed Sullivan" or tuning in regularly to Uncle Miltie? I'd argue not.

Speaking at the iMedia Brand Summit back in February, Lloyd Braun invoked "I Love Lucy," Milton Berle, and "The Sopranos," suggesting that the Internet has yet to experience such "defining, signature content events."

But do we think that the Internet is best suited to deliver content in the same way television did, especially during TV's golden years? To me, an appeal of the Internet is that events can come to pass, delivering the excitement of shared experiences, but only to groups of people with shared interests.

The Internet is not something that typically delivers the expectation that users need to be in a specific place at a specific time, lest they "miss" something. The most effective forms of Internet communication are persistent, such that somebody signing on to an online community three hours after something has come to pass can experience the same content as someone who happened to be online at the time the content debuted. Webcasts are typically archived. Breaking news develops over time and is usually persistent over a period of time, eventually archived on news sites and blogs.



So, in an on-demand media world, why would there be an expectation that the Internet deliver "shared moments" not seen since TV's golden age?

Someone recently asked on an industry discussion list what the Internet's defining moments have been. And it occurred to me that such moments tend to be both highly personal and highly subjective. Thinking back to what those moments might be, I thought my list of the Internet's defining moments would likely look very different from someone else's list.

And isn't that the beauty of the Internet? That each user can be impacted significantly by the medium in markedly different ways?

My top Internet moments are not likely to be precisely duplicated by any other online user. Defining moments for me include winning an award on GeoCities for the best site in my "neighborhood," publishing my first Web page, and finding Internet friends safe and sound on my favorite message board in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. What do all of these events have in common? They're highly personal in nature.

I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for some Internet-defining content event to make huge waves through the entirety of the connected population. The Internet's defining moments have, to a large extent, already occurred for many of us, and made their mark on Internet users in many different ways.

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