Television Trumps Digital

Buy this book. IMMEDIATELY!

“Television Is the New Television: The Unexpected Triumph of Old Media In the Digital Age”

The first thing I do every morning is check the headlines in the “New York Times” app, to see if the world blew up. I’d like to check the “Wall Street Journal” app but its functionality is essentially zero, it won’t update. What kind of crazy fucked up world do we live in where America’s number one business news source can’t distribute its own information? One in which everybody’s clueless as to what’s really going on.

It started with “The Long Tail,” Chris Anderson’s book giving hope to all the nobodies that the internet would save them, would finally grant them recognition and an income. Meanwhile, the rich have gotten richer and the poor have been completely ignored.

We were told the internet was gonna eat everything that came before, positively decimate it. What happened to music and then news would chomp up every industry as Google and Facebook got richer, as we all listened to the proclamations of Mark Zuckerberg and Larry Page.

But this isn’t true.

Monday I was immediately hooked by a “New York Times” opinion piece entitled

“How Television Won The Internet”

Read it. You can even click away from my diatribe, I’m cool with that. Michael Wolff’s piece delineates what’s going on now. But nobody wants to listen.

Everybody wants to believe we’re in the midst of a revolution. But maybe we’re not! Maybe the prognosticators are invested in the new digital sphere or are truly clueless. Because the reality is the internet has become a vast wasteland of linkbait. Even worse, it does not pay. That’s right, internet advertising rates keep going down, so your only hope is to grow your audience, by making ever blander trainwreck content. It’s a fool’s errand, a death spiral, and we’re in the process of tuning out. Think about it, how many times have you seen the same linkbait about celebrities? But it’s even worse, the ads on this stuff don’t pay dividends, so companies want to cough up even less for it.

But everybody’s paying for television.

Not network. Network was kinda like today’s web. Made for everybody, resonating with nobody, beholden to advertisers. At least before Les Moonves got involved, Les made the cable companies pay for carriage.

Herein this book you have explained the history of cable television as well as the history of the internet. But nobody wants to know it. Because that would mean the world isn’t full of opportunity, that you can’t topple established parties with the click of a mouse. Turns out those who know how to make longform content that soothes and titillates us, that draws us to it, win in the end. The digital content online is just a sideshow.

Kind of like YouTube. Which now wants to be television. They’ve been telling us this for years. First investing in those who don’t know how to make it, losing millions in the process. Now wanting to be involved with the usual suspects. Like Netflix, which produced “House Of Cards” and “Orange Is The New Black” and…

Netflix is just another cable outlet. An HBO that is streamed. Only the delivery method is new. The rest is basic television.

And you wonder why everybody is getting into production. Because that’s where the eyeballs are, that’s where all the money is.

This book has gotten absolutely no traction because it was written by Michael Wolff. The internet entrepreneur turned advertising guru who left his wife for a young whippersnapper and is hated by everybody. Wolff might have gotten this article in the “Times,” he must know someone, he must be owed a favor, but there’s been a veritable blackout on his treatise.

I was astounded to find out the book was ALREADY OUT!

That’s right, I went directly to Amazon after reading the “Times” piece, once I saw it was written by Wolff knowing there must be a book involved, but in today’s world the hype comes weeks before release. You’re aware if you care. But not with Wolff’s book. At this late date, almost two weeks after publication, the book has TWO REVIEWS on Amazon! That’s like getting your record played on your kid’s internet radio station, worse.

You see life is about clubs. And Wolff ain’t in it. Neither were Zuckerberg or Page, but they are now. They give away money the way the old wave philanthropists tell them, they stow the hoodie, they show up at charity events, and they slowly realize they’ve got to have television. Have you noticed the Facebook leaks about video streaming this week?

But even worse, the more you’re in the club, the more myopic you become. That’s the problem with Apple, it was an enterprise that thought different, run by a renegade who was hard to get along with at best. Tim Cook is warm and fuzzy. Jimmy Iovine is the poster boy for the club. Hell, Apple Music is made for the music industry, not Apple or consumers!

So all innovation comes from renegades. And cable TV was built by renegades. And now its inheritors are reaping the benefit.

Don’t think about cable systems. They’re gonna be fine, they’re the internet pipe so they’re protected.

Don’t think basic cable airing the detritus of networks, although there is money in that, for the producers, especially if the series are hits. But the truth is this content has now moved to the web too. “Seinfeld” on Hulu is no different from “Seinfeld” on basic cable. The TV producers have just found another place to sell and distribute their content!

“Seinfeld” is mass.

“Breaking Bad” is not. But it turns out the future is in niche. I’m not talking tiny niche, like electronic klezmer, I’m just saying by having edges you appeal to an upscale core that appreciates the effort and is willing to pay for it. Teens go to the movies, oldsters stay at home and experience their subscriptions.

Wolff’s book is not a simple read. He tries to go Gladwell but fails. He injects some real life stories but they’re too short and he goes on theorizing. But the content is unreal! Wolff is saying everything you know but cannot put a finger on, that you think no one is paying attention to.

Yes, the internet has become a vast wasteland.

Yes, the internet is a vast sea of political correctness where you must be fearful of faux pas.

Yes, scripted entertainment is fulfilling, the entertainment paragon of our day.

Everybody in entertainment should read this book.

No, everybody in DIGITAL MEDIA should read this book!

We’ve been sold a bill of goods. Remember the dot com era? When everybody was gonna get rich and recessions were a thing of the past?

Well the truth is these internet behemoths are not as revolutionary as you think. Even Apple wants in on TV. Although the producers are wary of ceding territory.

We live in a land of television.

Which is really about story.

Which is really about life.

And that’s what we want.


Some quotes:

“And that, to a great extent, helps answer that inexplicable and frustrating question for digital people as to why television advertising hasn’t followed the American audience to its digital destinations – digital has defined itself as lower-end junk.”

“Digital media wasn’t stealing television’s business; it was entering it.”

“An analyst at the investment bank RBC Capital Markets, David Bank, summed up the dynamic and Google’s quandary in late 2014: an entire week of YouTube is roughly as valuable to major advertisers as a single, first-run episode of ‘The Big Bang Theory.'”

“What seemed clear is that the future of YouTube was not YouTube. It was the established video marketplace.”

“As the value of amateur video sinks, the hope at YouTube, and now, too, at Facebook, is in ‘premium video.'”

“Facebook might now still exist in something of an independent world of its own making, but in a world of exclusivity and of ultimate premium content, leverage is at best divided between producer and and distributor, between buyer and seller, and invariably tipping toward the hit maker.”

“And sports is money – pure and simple, brute and blatant. The appeal of technology is that you don’t need money; you’re offering efficiency and innovation, and profound changes in behavior. Sports goes to the highest bidder.”

“Information and entertainment (i.e., content) had to be cheaper, it had to be more plentiful (i.e., more space and time to fill), and, seeking ever more traffic, it had to appeal to a wider and wider audience.
The methods almost everywhere were aggregation, a modest repurposing of the same material from site to site, user-generated content, a kind of democratized or amateur – and cost free – approach to information and entertainment (similar to one’s sister playing the piano for houseguests in the 1920s), and bulk production, from the truly cynical and valueless, to the recruitment of lots of young people to do the best and fastest they possibly could (at the cheapest price), to the goofiest kind of mass sensibility (the cat videos and much other viral pulp), which would become the main drivers of social media.
It was in this that digital media (or all but the most specialized part of it) became the new wasteland.”

“A moralistic intensity consumes the Internet, lynch mobs pursuing all sorts of political correctness and constant challenges to ideological purity and unrighteous behavior and thought standards and new family values. While television elevates exactly the opposite life view. Its heroes are flawed men and women.”

“Digital media prosecuted all manner of isms and language and thought deviations, constantly trying to expose the hidden malefactors, while television was celebrating, and profiting from, the expansive view that human nature was complex, perverse, ever secretive, and never what it seemed.”

“The peculiar development, full of dramatic irony, is that television, with its more circumscribed audiences making much more active selection and choice, becomes upscale media, and digital, with its mass reach and reflexive actions, becomes the downscale side.”

One Response to Television Trumps Digital


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  1. Pingback by Radio and TV Kick Digital’s Ass – Erickson Media | 2016/07/26 at 06:01:24

    […] This is a brilliant rant because he’s right. He is Bob Lefsetz and you can read his full take on this by clicking HERE. […]

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  1. Pingback by Radio and TV Kick Digital’s Ass – Erickson Media | 2016/07/26 at 06:01:24

    […] This is a brilliant rant because he’s right. He is Bob Lefsetz and you can read his full take on this by clicking HERE. […]

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