One of our goals when we started Medialoper was to look at independent efforts to create cool content for the new media audience — and Rocketboom was a prime example of how two people with a a camera, a broadband connection, and a good idea can succeed where so many media giants had failed.
The concept was simple: present interesting news in a cool format. It worked. The daily broadcast reached a huge audience. And then…the bottom fell out. Host Amanda Congdon left the program and the back-and-forth “he said, she said” stories flew across the Internet. It doesn’t really matter if Amanda was pushed or she jumped, not in the long run. After she left, the great Rocketboom experiment continued with a new host.
Some analysts have questioned Andrew Baron’s assertion that the show is more popular than ever. I can tell you that the buzz is diminished — when was the last time you heard about the program (if you’re a regular viewer, that’s an entirely different concept)? Today’s episode is already online, complete with an interview of John Edwards. Rocketboom 2.0 was unveiled, though a few days late, and new host Joanne Colan seems to be working out just fine.
Sure the audience appears to be much smaller, sure the original zeitgeist is gone (I caught The Amanda and Andrew Show at South by Southwest last year, and the audience was buzzing in a big way because the two had magic), sure there’s a lot more competition. Rocketboom was ostensibly the first independently produced Internet news show — it proves that you don’t need a a big budget or name brand stars. While the numbers are fluid, it’s estimated that, at its zenith, 300,000 people a day were watching Rocketboom. Given the Long Tail nature of some of the content, the actual number of views for some programs have apparently reached the million download mark. That, my friend, is the beauty of the Internet.
I fully anticipate that someone, somewhere is going to come up with a better Rocketboom (heck, I think someone, somewhere is going to come up with a better Google; that’s how this Internet thing works). But Rocketboom proved that you can succeed. It proved that controversy isn’t always a killer. And it’s proved that success comes from hard work (sorry, had to include that — New Year’s resolution to work harder and all that).
The first time I heard of Rocketboom was during the controversy of this person leaving. So I have to ask, did it really matter in the grand scheme of things, or just in the little society of bloggers?
When you ask if something matters in the grander scheme of things, well, it depends on what you mean. As for whether or not this was a blip on the blogger radar, I’d say that the media coverage received by Rocketboom — before and after the schism — suggests that this is a genuine phenomenon.
Pretty close to a year ago today, a big honcho at a major media company inspired this site with the words (and I paraphrase): There is no way that some small potatoes entity can create daily programming without the backing of the awesome major media machine. The point was that media was and would always be controlled by the few. Rocketboom, for all of its rough edges — and I like rough edges if only for the humanity it gives overproduced, overpackaged entertainment — shows that two people with a camera and diverse community can create interesting and sustained programming with very little infrastructure and, yes, very little budget. What other media company can claim bandwidth as its biggest line item on the expense side of the P&L?
Will Rocketboom be around forever? Will it be around next year? Let’s just say that it was one of the first media outlets to air an interview with John Edwards on the day he announced his candidacy for president. That speaks to the immediacy of the media — something I think I’m going to talk about very soon, if not sooner — it also speaks to the flexibility of small operations. Most importantly, it tells someone like you or me that we too can create our own media empire, if we so choose. Sure it’s hard work. But that, I think, is really beside point. In an era of media consolidation and homogenization, we need outliers. Now more than ever.