Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Starting an online TV or media venture- let me help you

Panelist, and photographer David Dunkley Gyimah at Sheffield Docs with Danfung Dennis exhibiting his new IPad App for immersive visual viewing.

You're keen to start that online future TV idea - mixing the net and something along the lines of television, which I spoke privately to delegates about at this year's superb Newsrewired event. 

Your ambition is about to bear fruit. The figures have been crunched. You probably already have an income stream from another side of your business and are looking to diversify.

You've lined up advertising, otherwise are certain to guarantee up 1st, 2nd even 3rd quarter funding.

The gap in the market looks even more attractive, now it's time to get this new media venture up and running.


There's a strong chance your model apes current offline television offerings. If it does it's the wrong approach. You might have launched a successful show on television, but then you had a sizable budget, had focus groups involved or truthfully you're a dab hand at television.

Online is a different matter. The mantra should be "Stop trying to copy television, and invent a new vision".

Despite it's low entry point programming still costs, so having an infra structure like a Telcom helps, otherwise, it's a slow steady ascent into the programming game.

Changing the Social Network Game
In 1999 I was filming one of Johannesburg's most savvy media practitioners, editor of a hip magazine called Y, for the UK's Channel 4 News.

Ithumelang said something profound about South Africa's 94 transition. There's been an economical transformation, but not a social one.  You could say the same thing for the media industry at large.

Money sees us mimic successful models to replicate online and thus far the social changes in media has been co-opted to suit television's model and also been compartmentalised into something called Social Media.

You need a Social Media unit now before you're worth your salt. That's Ford's 1920s division of labour at work again. It's so rubbish. You don't need a unit, you have to be. Any freelancer making a living will tell you of the need to socially network way before FB and Tweeter existed.

We share because we want to, and these apps have been a real send to the entrepreneur. There are heuristic and experiential strategies to facilitate our growth,  but we need to share something of value first.

You need content before you share and this is where we tend to fall.

Pearson Publishing Training
Last Monday I spoke to a nice group of executives from Pearson publishing about the underlying trend in video production and videojournalism, website interfacing and how with good content you can activate strong SEO articles.

The case studies I gave come from my own lectures, one put into practise by a student of mine and the other my piece on Kony2012.

The video you'll probably know is a phenomenal success. My analysis of Kony2012 is worth a sneak as it alludes to their strategic use of symbolic and implicit codes. This page shot of google when I imput "kony2012", shows where the article appears on the front page of some 40 million ranks.

Google page on imputing "kony2012"

Viewmag.blogspots blog, 2 postings, come in on the front page

Time of googling was 1.58 on Wednesday 18th April.
In google's rankings at the time of writing, 1.58  it ranked on the first page.

Television was once a breakthrough
However this is not the point of this post. Media historians and enthusiasts will likely tell you how badly television is made - not as individual programmes where there have been huge successes, but that television was a poor cousin of its main visual media competition cinema.

And if there's one thing cinema could not compete with Television it was Liveness - the ability to go live and offer immediate gratification.  Television largely suffered against cinema for spectacle but when it mimicked live it was untouchable.

Look at American Idol, the best drama series like ER, and The Apprentice - they're cinematic spectacles and in mentalitie'. In Idol and the Apprentice - they also push the notion of happening live - even when they're pre-recorded.

That twin combination has been at the mainstay of  French philosophers such as Gilles Deleuze, and this Thursday, tomorrow, I'll be speaking at JAM about how such strong ideas relate to our vision pleasure in the digital age.

In the past I have shared similar ideas with networks in Beirut, Egypt - where I am due to return - the US, South Africa and in the UK with newspapers. 8 Days was the documentary I made about the newspapers training programme, effectively a digital ethnographic study.

Experiential learning is a powerful teacher; I know enough from working within the BBC, Channel 4 News and a stint at ABC News to understand the semiotics of programme making, but as Deleuze stresses practical put-in-place philosophy enables the user to break down problems and reconstruct them seeking out answers to basic, fundamental questions often missed in contemporary society.

We want to copy television because it offers solutions; indeed it has excelled by relearning from itself, but its original premise only 60 years ago was a poor one; poor in the sense it didn't have the funds to do what the best of cinema could do.

Now you can. If you want to invent the future, it means educating the audience; it'll be slow at first, but in the long run you'll inherit a lasting legacy. There have been a number of case studies I have investigated that could have done that, but they lost their way.

The door in now wide open.

David Dunkley Gyimah is competing his PhD in the moving image. He's a senior lecturer and trainer with a background in broadcasting from 1987. He's been on the Net since 1995 and builds sites and creates factual and news products. You can read more about the future of programmes from the US Award winning site he built