Emergent.TV is an effort to help newsrooms develop coherent economic and editorial models for Over The Top Internet video news. Rather than simply replicating the live TV Cable news broadcasting structure on the Internet – which is the direction many newsrooms are heading in releasing their own subscription OTT channels – Emergent.TV presents a new way to think about producing, distributing, and selling Internet TV news.
Emergent.TV is a Long Tail Internet TV news model for a Black Swan world.
The Long Tail is both an economic and a cultural argument. It says that Internet distribution provides an “unlimited selection” of goods, which can cater to increasingly specific tastes. Internet aggregation and recommendation technologies – ranging from abstract clustering algorithms to curation over social networks, from Google and Flipboard to Facebook and Twitter – provide valuable connections between an “unlimited” supply and unique audience tastes. Authors like Chris Anderson argue that a more diverse culture will emerge over the Internet when compared to the mass broadcasting era. Rather than aggregating towards the mean, or middle ground demographic, you can reach diverse audiences with distinctive stories. Think of the rise of “time shifted” independent home video stores in the 80’s and 90’s being recreated – but this time add in the power to hold any title and reach any audience instantaneously with near-zero distribution costs. This is Long Tail 101 – which may or may not be news to you.
However, The Long Tail is also a statistical theory, which may hold special relevance for newsrooms looking to keep up with the increasingly complex events of the 21st century. As Nassim Nicholas Taleb argues in The Black Swan, the most disruptive events exist outside of normal bell curve distributions and in a long “fat tail” power law distribution. A small highly connected event can be more impactful that a large, less connected one. This event could be a disruption in normal world affairs – 9/11, The Arab Spring or the bundling together of climate change effects and complex critical infrastructure systems. It could also mean the rise of new “Superstar” stories and cultural producers.
(Image: Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, “Linked: The New Science of Networks”)
The difficulty lies in predicting these unlikely events or hits before the fact rather than after. According to Black Swan theory, the key factor is that the event is unexpected – highly random, difficult to predict, and not easily modeled by experts. It is emergent.
What does this mean for newsrooms looking to develop Internet TV channels?
Newsrooms have the ability to harness the power of long tail Internet economics to keep pace with Black Swan events. Rather than replicating a 24/7 news cycle and a mass broadcasting programing model targeted at reaching the “mean” audience in the middle of the bell curve, Internet TV newsrooms can focus their editorial and economic strategies on reaching a growing tail. This means producing differentiated news, providing a much wider array of stories that meet specialized audiences interests. Instead of spending limited resources reproducing the same mean demographic news story – see your latest Cable TV news swarm – Internet TV newsrooms can increasingly cover the unexpected tail of stories.
These Long Tail stories may then be aggregated and curated into flexible playlists on Internet TV news channels. While live news is immediately irrelevant once the news cycle moves on, Long Tail stories will have a prolonged economic cycle and cultural relevance. Internet TV provides newsrooms an unparalleled ability to produce unique narrative pieces that will have a much longer archival afterlife, and which may also lead to unexpected hits.
Here is an example of a Long Tail playlist of Internet TV news videos on the subject of immigration, which may become unexpectedly relevent. https://vimeo.com/127974857