The Green Room was closed for renovations, so I waited in a make-shift area outside the control room of the Fox Business News studio in New York while Dave Asman went one-on-one with Monica Crowley over the latest outrages issuing from the White House. Fox Tonight had invited me, about an hour earlier, to come and talk about the Internet on TV. “We’re discussing digital media and sites that are profitable – ie Facebook getting a $200 million investment yesterday,” read the e-mail (sic). Last-minute cancellation maybe?
As I waited, I could see from the teasers the angle that was being developed on the Internet segment: Facebook’s $10B valuation is an indication that we’re in a repeat of the dotcom bubble (smirk knowingly). I contemplated my options for key points to break out of this and came up with a plan. Something simple but pointy enough to break the monotony of condescending skepticism.
So, here’s how it went.
As you might have guessed, Live TV is not a medium I’ve mastered, so my plan was thwarted. Perhaps Dave Asman sensed where I was going when he cut to another guest. Fortunately, unlike Live TV, on the web there’s always a second chance. Here’s what I’d planned to say on this topic.
Asman: …but how will sites like Twitter make any money?
Me (second take): With respect, Dave, I think you might be missing the big picture here. Sure, some social networks might not survive and others might barely break even (or maybe get acquired by companies like Fox) and some investors will no doubt be disappointed because they were hoping for the next Google. But a lot of social sites will survive because they don’t need to make billions to fund their operations, which are steadily declining in cost. So maybe the question you should be asking is, assuming that some of them do survive, what’s going to happen to TV shows like this one when your sponsors discover they can reach your audience for a lot less money than they’re paying you? Social media means disruption – it’s hit the music business, it’s hit the newspaper business, and it looks like TV could be next in line. Think of people like Scott Monty, the head of social media at Ford, who’s able to broadcast his messages whenever he likes directly to over 22,000 followers, for free. Do you think Ford will be eager to continue paying millions of dollars to reach an undifferentiated TV audience with its commercials when Scott can put a link to a YouTube video in a Tweet and get massive exposure online for almost nothing? That kind of communication might not make Twitter wealthy – they’ll have to think of subtler ideas like selling marketing intelligence, or consumer data, or specialized applications – but it sure could change the economics of TV journalism.