Way back when Medialoper was just an idea — a half-baked idea at that — I was struck by a comment from a television network executive. I’m sure he’s long gone, but his words, softened and rephrased over time, have stuck with me. He, speaking with the full-on hubris of someone who held the keys to the kingdom, assured a reporter that ordinary people could never create sustained original programming on the Internet.
That, he believed with dangerous smugness, would be the pure province of established motion picture studios and television networks. They had the technology and all that.
Naturally, I disagreed then and I disagree now. The cost of production has fallen dramatically. More importantly, the cost of distribution has declined. It’s not free, but it feels that way to most content creators. Sure the money’s better when you’re attached to a major conglomerate, but today’s producers are learning — or, possibly more accurately, understanding — that it’s not always about the big bucks. Sometimes you get what you want in different ways.
Every now and then, I like to take a look at how that network executive is being proven wrong. As the new fall television season rolls out in full force — how many of those shows will be gone before I realize they’re there? — it’s time to look at what the other guys are doing.
I have discussed my love for Talking Points Memo. It remains one of the best-written, smartest, and forward-looking political new sites on the web. I don’t use the word “blog” to describe TPM because while they use blogging software as a platform, it’s a full-on publication (and their new design makes that clear). While there’s a fair mix of opinion in the work of the site’s writers, there is no question about the journalistic chops on display. The TPM gang breaks news.
Recently, however, they’ve taken their print approach a step further by creating a daily videocast, TPMtv. Under the umbrella of a site called Veracifier, the TPM gang creates daily news programming. In the tradition of YouTube, the shows are freely available to distribute across the web (and, yes, are on YouTube as well). For the price of a moment, you can embed the show in your site. Veracifier/TPM get the benefit of name brand recognition.
Yeah, as Fox News recently learned, every show is tagged with the names of both sites. Of course, CNN grabbed the same video. TPM gets free national exposure.
In addition to using news programming from network sources to create their daily shows, the site depends on their extensive fan base to provide video. It’s not a stretch to presume that George Allen’s “Macaca” moment inspired this approach. TPM has also moved into original programming, recently featuring a lengthy, two-part interview withe Presidential candidate John Edwards. Given the site’s daily readership, original programming like this will soon become the norm.
Which is good for America. As our national press retreats into the safety of press releases and uncritical reporting, independent news production will rise. We’ve already seen how blogs can add to the national political conversation. It’s just a matter of time before independent news networks, like the one being created by Talking Points Memo have the same impact.