The Web Movie Pioneers and Where They Belong

How Podcasting is changing not only how films are seen but also how they are made.
Opinion thinly disgusted as fact.

A little bit of knowledge goes a long way and podcasting has become the stomping ground of the the most cutting edge and resourceful creatives that would otherwise have to join the cue at their local worm out media institution: hospital radio/local tv/fanzine/open mic comedy night/indeifferant film festival – delete as applicable.

The key to this – to my mind, and at this time, is audience, and how they consume media. The internet has changed viewing and listening habits but also broadened audience tastes. Television content for example used to be confined to whatever was on either of the four or five channels, this then expanded to digital bringing about a much more selective audience.

The age of the channel hopper – the second wave of true interactivity (the first being the VCR) in which viewers had to actively seek and find something worth watching. Demographics became more defined as niche markets were found whilst advertisers seemed slow to adapt. You can always tell what the target audience of a show is by the products that are being hawked during the ad break. (Has anyone noticed that the main core of adverts during big brother is nappies, washing powder and other things for “young mums”?)

The television remote control was just the rehearsal true content hunting. The best marketing people in the world will tell you that the best product in the world is something that every one NEEDS yet didn’t realise how much they needed it – if they banned the mobile phone now the world as we know it would just die. And so the need for new content on whatever medium has become the the biggest hunt for disposable since war time national service.

500 channels on TV with nothing worth watching has neatly cross pollenated to the internet. 500 million websites with nothing worth looking at or now 50000 podcasts and nothing worth hearing.And yet with in this saturation of content the real talent has risen to the top seemingly with ease. Again for one simple reason – audience. Though their number and their voice – audience recommendation.

Whilst television has it’s Xfactor voting systems and now painfully antiquated rating systems the internet has become the place where you can hear the true voice of an audience. Harry Knolls Aint it Cool website filled a niche – to cut the crap of Hollywood marketing and provide real unbiased reviews. A pioneer but now one of thousands of trusted sources of quality control.

Audiences are hunting for good content and recommendation is key. The opinion of the (admitted well informed) fellow audience member has spawned website and blogs that have become more trusted than any multimillion media company could ever wish for. But that demand for simple opinion with without the coded jargon of market copy and merchandise tie in deals opened the flood gates of everyone and anyone throwing in their 10 cents worth.

Which leaves us back to square one with a new twist. Saturation again but this time made up of audience opinion. Why read this blog rather than that one? And so the institution that blogging culture, which had the power to change the media became a vital part of the media itself. The most popular blogs started placing targeted ad links. More novelty features and more interactively made the talented writers and communicators rise to the top. To the extent that the content (or the voice) itself became increasingly irrelevant in favour of the it’s own click thru audience (Digg/BoingBoing etc. etc.)

And from this came podcasting. Initially a novelty feature of the blogging world. If you filled a stadium with writers then the one with the microphone is the one that is heard. But this time the new medium to communicate had one massive difference – it drew more from the primary media source, radio and television than from the blogging institution that came before it. Rather than complimenting blogging culture, the quick and clever realised that they were in fact challenging primary media. Blogging could serve podcasting rather than the other way round. Quite simply podcasting could be much bigger than blogging.

Half way between the notion that the honest voice of an individual was worth hearing combined with the ambition that traditional media could and should be challenged and changed the newest breed of podcasters don’t care about the community they belong to (as bloggers once did) but instead concentrate on the audience they cultivate and hopefully influence. Like the music of myspace it’s not about how good the tunes are but how many people listen.

Direct address is the norm for a simple reason. The third person is a veil that people associate with traditional marketing. “This podcast is about me and you not about them and us.” The incredible deceit that people are made of of persons. It’s intentionally personal because Radio TV and film has become impersonal as it grappled with fictitious generic demographics. (This programme is suitable for all – just like Coke-Cola!) Everyone wants honesty and here it is. Normal people with a normal voice. “You belong to a niche audience because you are SPECIAL!”

And then comes video podcasting (or rather online video content, regardless of it’s RSS feed) which meets right in the middle, like a bridge over a black hole. Those that emulate television and film seem out of place. Do people really want to use up their bandwidth to see someone talking from behind the a desk? Do people want to set at their computer desk to watch a feature film? Short films likewise, which with their false smugness pretend to compliment the experience of sitting in a cinema come across as overtly grandiose, ignorant, dishonest and often near inhuman.

What is left is the quick, the silly, the meaningless and the visually stimulating. And then onto the next one. 60 second bits of colourful (but somehow personal) nonsense. The simple and the cheap has never been in such demand. Sites like youtube were quick o see this demand their much publicised bandwidth phone-bill has proved this demand.

So why bother make an earnest heartfelt film with a budget the size of a new car, when the sight of a man saying hello then falling off his chair is instantly more accessible and crucially more disposable than a piece of pretentious smuggery that hides behind the fallacy that it belongs to a mythical traditional of “story telling”.

The use of webcams, mobile phones and digital cameras hasn’t become a poor man’s last option but an (intelligently) rich mans weapon of choice to machine gun an audience that not only is more active and aware but also more indifferent. The real success this era will bring wont be quality but quantity. The new master film makers won’t be creators of a single 90 minute feature film but instead producers of 90 one minute pieces of apparently genuine, honest and funny pieces of disposable life disguised as bubble gum.

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