Gore Impatient about the Speed of Change with Internet Video

Here’s an interesting op-ed piece from MediaPost’s Tobi Elkin on the blurring of the lines between the power of television and the power of the Internet, this time from Al Gore (hey..didn’t he “invent” the Internet in the first place?). It’s not that long, so to save you the hassle of logging in, etc, I’ll just quote the whole article:

So former Vice President Al Gore addressed a group of British TV execs yesterday in Edinburgh, Scotland and told them that while the Internet is a great democratizing force, TV remains the most influential form of media and people should have more control over its programming.

Gore, whose Current TV venture hinges upon participatory/citizen journalism and user-generated video, told the assembled execs that so far, the Web can’t replicate “television’s power,” according to a Reuters report. “Most of what’s happening in the encounter between television and the Internet has been the Internet cannibalizing television,” Gore told the execs.

Gore recommended finding ways to use the Internet to give consumers access to TV and the way it’s programmed. He suggested that citizens can participate in the democratic process by challenging inaccurate comments made by politicians, particularly in TV ads.

Gore noted that while user-generated Web communities and sites are powerful , they don’t reach mass audiences. “You can stream that, forward it, store it, time-shift it, you can do lots of things, but you cannot broadcast in real time to millions of people over the Internet,” Gore told the execs, according to the Reuters report. “The Internet is now creeping into the television domain, but it’s still not creating the change that many anticipate will come.”

Still, YouTube is streaming about 100 million video clips a day, and Current TV reaches nearly 20 million homes; nearly 30 percent of its programming is user-generated.

Is Gore underestimating the power of Web communities and the power of the Web to attract mass audiences? Or is he merely issuing a clarion call to denizens of the Web–all of us–to wake up and make our comments and opinions count? Either way, it’s clear that regular people have the power to create and distribute media and make it matter. I think Gore is looking to put a fire under us to challenge the status quo and en masse, call out politicians–and anyone else, for that matter, who veers from the truth. It’s a good fire to light, and we’re up for the challenge.

Do not, I repeat, underestimate the power of the Web and its denizens. Internet users are capable of calling politicians, and anyone else for that matter, on the carpet–and biting them in the ass.

Tobi Elkin is Executive Editor, MediaPost.

I agree with Tobi. Trying to assess the Internet’s future role in shaping interaction with, and the creation of, television programming is like trying to forecast the effects of a tsunami before it’s begin. We simply have no idea of the forces that are being unleashed here. What Gore is referring to are the first few ripples in what’s to be a full force tidal wave in the next two decades. The whole notion of programming, who controls it, and who calls bullshit on who are all about to be twisted, torn up and reformed in a way we won’t recognize.

The other issue is the Web’s ability to attract an audience. Again, the nature of engagement with video is just being defined. I for one think there are some fundamental issues with how we engage with essentially linear media in a multi-tasking environment, the infrastructure required to deliver high quality video to us, and some pretty basic human-computer interface challenges that have to be addressed. Again, we’re seeing ripple effects, but just below the surface, an earthquake is ready to erupt. Given the nascent stages of this communication channel and how our society is adopting it, the fact that YouTube is streaming 100 million clips a day should be scaring the hell out of someone, rather than prompting Gore to complain about the “creeping” pace of the Internet. This is all about tipping points, and we’re getting very close to one.

If Gore is telling us to wake up to this possibility, then go for it. But it’s way too early to be laying bets here. Still, that said, I do like how Gore is reinventing himself. Between the crusade behind “An Inconvenient Truth” and his awareness of the democratic potential of the Net, he seems to be grasping at the notion of the fundamental reweaving of society’s fabric that’s happening, and the potential to address some apocalyptic issues before it’s too late. He’s going for the big ideas, a refreshing change from the insular navel gazing that seems to characterize much of what’s happening in Washington.

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