John Gruber quoted The Buggles when linking to an article about the Encylcopedia Brittanica stopping the presses. It’s a symbolic moment squared. I was a World Book kid - and I can see now it was a huge influence for me, so thanks Dad - so there’s no emotional connection. Symbol? Huge.
Today, Vox Media (nee SBNation) is launching a video channel on YouTube. They also have a great regular video program on The Verge. (I don’t get why The Verge is a “vertical” and not just a blog.)
These events aren’t connected, but if you’re not hearing The Buggles when you watch Amy Nelson and Bomani Jones, bloggers, you’re deluding yourself. Video has been a major driver (YouTube, etc) and yet a major problem. Blogging accelerated because anyone could do it and be more or less on the same footing as anyone else. If Jon Weisman was a better Dodgers writer than T.J. Simers, it didn’t matter that one wrote at Baseball Toaster and one at the L.A. Times.
ESPN has survived because of its cable advantage, but even with all its resources, it’s never really understood the internet. It’s podcasts are mediocre, aside from Bill Simmons, who’s gone from awkward to amazing in just a few short years. I like some of the information, but there’s better out there from people spending far less money. Money? Yeah, you should see the setup ESPN has with studios and production, not to mention the talent they’re paying. Podcasts, like blogging, put people on equal footing, more or less. Dan Benjamin’s podcasts sound as good or better than ESPN. There are tons of people out there doing it with less and doing it “good enough.” (I don’t mean to pick on ESPN there.)
“Good enough” is much, much tougher on TV. The talent is tougher to get and more expensive. The equipment is more expensive, though that’s coming down as iPhones shoot better quality video than TV cameras did five years ago. Production is tougher and more time consuming. Studios not only have to sound good, but look good. People have to be geographically concentrated. Video files are bigger. If Vox is the first to “solve” this in the sports space, they’ll have a huge advantage.
That said, they’re basically spending TV money to do it. Reports have YouTube’s payment to them in the multi-million dollar range. Amy Nelson didn’t leave ESPN on the cheap! Studio space, techs, cameramen, cameras … it’s a big gamble and few have the resources to even take that gamble outside Vox and BleacherReport. If Vox can somehow get this out to their site bloggers, they’ll have something. If not, they’ll have a small advantage rather than a big one.
Someone’s going to figure out how to make it work. It might be purely a technical leap, but really, it comes down to either financing or sales, two things that bloggers aren’t good at by and large. Which means that for the first time, small is disadvantaged on the net and in the general innovative space. Just as the TV networks remain by and large the sole place for original programming, a few large companies could control the online video market, keeping bloggers well down the chain.
Video’s the future, but for many, it’s still a code yet to be cracked.