Us and Them

Yes, this blog entry is a departure for me. My blog normally deals with things that directly influence my life. It is also affected by this particular topic, perhaps just a little less directly.
 
I spend a significant amount of time viewing or listening to a lot of technology broadcasts (Let’s call them what they are, they are programs originating from single points going to an indeterminate number of destinations—the media shouldn’t ever be the message) as part of my efforts to stay current in my chosen field, Information Technology. “A lot” means a dozen or so shows from a variety of sources, but most of them can be traced back to the Ziff-Davis publishing empire or Leo Laporte’s TWIT group. Both camps are heavily populated by alumni from TechTV.
 
For those unaware, TechTV was a television network that distributed its programming via cable and satellite networks. As the name suggests, TechTV was all about technology before it was gobbled up by Comcast Cable. TechTV started out as a Ziff-Davis venture, and was independent for several years.
 
Leo Laporte announced this week that programming from his group would be also available through something called undo.tv. There’s no question that undo.tv is a strange animal; I’ve yet to hear the name explained. Yet, the parent company, pikspot.com, says that one of its main goals is to create a conduit that enables TechTV “alumni” and audience to reconnect, and resume the interaction that made the network unique. Certainly, pikspot.com clearly has additional plans, but they don’t appear to conflict with this noble goal.
 
Why then are the “TechTV refugees” (I find that a more fitting term) associated with Ziff-Davis now resisting the idea of undo.tv? Do they perceive some sort of risk for them connected to the venture? Or do they regard the venture itself as a threat? I don’t know. I am certainly not an expert, but I do know Patrick Norton of DigitalLife TV frequently laments that experimenting with new video formats is constrained by his bandwidth budget. It seems to me that any credible offer of bandwidth is worth serious consideration. That’s much like offering a broadcaster additional transmitter capacity. The greater capacity you have, the more people you can reach. So what’s the problem?
I’m afraid that the reluctance of the Ziff-Davis supported TechTV refugees to embrace other distribution channels is linked to a comment recently made by Jim Louderback, a lesser TechTV personality who became one of Ziff-Davis’ numerous VPs. He essentially dismissed his TechTV experience as part of the Dot Com boom and bust. Fortunately, Patrick Norton was there to drag Jim back to earth. TechTV didn’t even peak until 2001, well after the bubble popped.
 
I must wonder if the downplaying of the “TechTV experience” is part of wanting to minimize the “competition.” I find that ZD is among the worst in wanting everyone and his dog to visit their many, many websites. They seem to believe that people want to visit their 1,000 different websites to get their content. Rev3.com is also guilty of this to a lesser extent. Didn’t we learn anything from the iTunes store? The Windows version of the iTunes software is god-awful. I tried it three times, and ended up ripping out of my laptop here each time. Yet, people still love the iTunes store experience, partly because it is a one-stop shop. For podcasts, for example, you have to look long and hard to find one not in iTunes. It’s just unfortunate that iTunes offers no facility for the audience to provide feedback. Otherwise, there would be no need for undo.tv.  People want one-stop things. Pay attention, ZD and Rev3.
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