Call it Open Source Television, Internet of Video, Internet Television or any other name you like, the essence remains the same: a huge amount of openly accessible video content is already becoming available on the Internet.
In spite of big telecoms heavy promotion of supposedly new television approaches offered by the so-called IPTV (Internet Protocol Television), from my point of view, the real innovation and revolution is taking place somewhere else: on the Web.
Photo credit: Erik Dungan
For the first time education could look at television as a new resource, rather than as an enemy and carrier of low-quality, brainless programming. The traditional enemy of culture and learning may be gearing up for a major comeback.
When content production becomes detached from a distribution system based on scarcity, a whole new army of video producers will emerge making available large quantities of news, documentary, reporting, and educationally-valuable content to anyone.
I am just out of the Open Content and Knowledge Sharing international conference sponsored by a number Italian Universities as well as by several other academic groups and organizations.
My presentation at this event focused on providing some vision on how the extended effects of the Long Tail of Video and of other converging forces may indeed bring an unknown new set of opportunities also to the academic and educational world.
The arguments presented pivot around four key issues:
1. What are the ten revolutionary factors creating a revolution in how content, including video and film are produced and consumed?
2. What is The Long Tail of Internet Video and what are the consequences of its existence?
3. What are the key differences, everyone is not talking about, between IPTV and Web-based Internet Television?
4. What are the unique opportunities that the world of education can access by riding this new media revolution?
First, I identified and briefly described the following ten facts, which include trends, converging technologies and emergent components of what will certainly be a major shift in how we access, produce, share and distribute video and film content.
a) the present traditional media market meltdown.
b) recommendation, reputation and affinity engines.
c) from hit-driven scarcity to unlimited virtual shelf spaces.
d) lower prices supported by extremely lower costs of marketing and distribution online
e) low-cost high-quality production technologies
f) new licensing schemes
g) the Long Tail effects
h) access to a much broader catalog of content
i) new disruptive distribution and delivery technologies online
j) new monetization opportunities
I then went about underlining and further clarifying what the Long Tail is and why it may be very important to understand the huge economic influence it carries with itself.
The Long Tail is such an important issue to comprehend that everyone interested in truly understanding what the world of new media will look like in the near future must pay extremely good attention to it.
Some of the far reaching consequences this phenomenon brings with itself may reach as far as including:
• Mass production, mass communication and mass distribution are done with.
• There is no more creating stories for the largest audience possible, or the lowest common denominator.
• There will be many, many less Madonnas and Michael Jacksons, if any. The pop-star age, driven by hit-driven economics, is over.
• The business (for content producers and distributors including knowledge outlets as educational institutions) is not anymore in having an audience of a million but to have a million audiences of one.
• Next to commercial films as we know them today, there is an unlimited virtual shelf space and demand for thousands of documentaries, shorts, animation films, music videos and training movies that thousands of passionate individuals and small institutions are producing today.
(If the above feels like I have exaggerated, here is a balancing reference from Chris Anderson himself, defining where the limits of the Long Tail are.)
At this point I spent just enough time to make sure everyone understood the major differences existing between the much heralded IPTV and the naturally emerging and little talked about Internet of Video or Open Source Television.
Bombarded by the effective propaganda broadcast by Berlusconi's own terrestrial digital TV, Murdoch own satellite-based Sky-TV and powerful broadband and telecom operators like FastWeb and Telecom, Italians have realized yet very little about what is happening on the opposite shore of this epochal media revolution.
And since the differences are not few or marginal, I made sure everyone got the right picture very clear.
Finally, I hinted some of the positive effects and consequences that will be opening up for the world of learning if my points above are in any way correct.
Some of these new changes could be:
1) Non-commercial can be sustainable
The Long Tail of video creates new, unavailable-before opportunities for non-traditional producers and distributors of video and film content. Innovative online delivery technologies such as P2P, BitTorrent and direct distributed streaming do away with traditional very high costs associated with the distribution of video and film content while providing extreme efficiency and performance. New business models and monetization opportunities become available as we discover how to make it all work.
2) Production tools are accessible
Low-cost prosumer technologies empower thousands of capable individuals to start producing video and film content which they can also now edit and post-produce in complete independence.
3) Unlimited storage and bandwidth kill last barriers to entry.
Unlimited online storage and bandwidth and a flurry of new video production/publishing/distribution online services, further motivate independent and non-commercial low-cost productions while facilitating its management and delivery at next to zero costs.
4) New licensing schemes promote sharing and re-use
New Licenses for content distribution facilitate and promote the benefits of open sharing and re-use of new and old media content.
5) Internet of Video is the road to sharing and re-use
Internet of Video or Open Source Television is a thriving force with great growing support from many thousand communities. Its ubiquitousness and device independence make it the ideal alternative vehicle to commercial, rights-protected content.
6) Lots of new content becomes available.
(See the "documentary niche gets richer" chart inside Chris Anderson's Long Tail)
7) What I can learn I can share too
Given unlimited storage, infinite bandwidth and easy tools to produce, edit and upload it becomes much easier for trainers and educators to create educational videos that can be easily shared, re-used, or accessed for very modest fees online.
8) Visual Communication is most powerful for learning
Those who can, must or want to use it have no more excuses to avoid it. Those who will master early the game of effective low-cost video communication and edutainment will become reference points for educators and learners as well.
9) Anyone can contribute
Schools, universities and other educational institutions can all become active players in this Internet of Video revolution. The production, editing, translation and compilation of educational videos will be a major content production and distribution activity open to anyone.
10) For sharing or for profit?
Both roads will remain open and will at times overlap each other. It is up to each organization and individual to choose which of the two may be the greatest opportunity.
Inside or outside the academic establishment, nothing can be more certain than the fact that in the near future more and more individuals will increasingly bypass traditional academic systems which based their knowledge delivery approach on teaching methods. Such individuals will create personal learning pathways built around the newly unlimited content resources available online, previously accessible only to a few.
As this infinite open library, the Internet, begins to provide aggregated access to popular content and the long tail, including video and films, the new opportunities for learning and sharing knowledge more effectively increase exponentially for everyone.
Whether that will be done for pure social growth and the desire to share or for economic interests is up to each one of us to have a word on.
April 2005 Briefing
The Long Tail by Chris Anderson
The Long Tail blog
What do you think?