purpose of this column is to provide a window on the ways that the
established entertainment media are converging with the streaming
media universe. And, as luck would have it, at this years
Spring InternetWorld in Los Angeles, I had the good fortune to witness
an unusual keynote address that not only linked directly with the
title of this new column, but which also illuminated the essential
creative assumptions that underlie all of our efforts to create
this new medium.
keynote speaker was no less than Barry Diller, currently the CEO
of USA Networks, but more importantly one of the most successful
new media innovators ever. In fact, Diller was creating new media
before the term came into fashion. Decades ago, as an executive
at ABC, he is credited with inventing the Movie of the Week. Later,
he led the development of the first successful fourth TV network,
Fox. And, then, against all expectations, he went on the break into
his first truly interactive media venture by becoming CEO of QVC
when, as he described it, home shopping had been derided as
a cheesy bazaar selling fake diamonds. (This sounds a bit
like some of the things that theyve been saying about e-commerce
as the leader of an old media/new media conglomerate that in addition
to owning numerous cable channels, also owns Ticketmaster who Diller
reports is selling an impressive 30% of its tickets online, he is
able to play the role of a savvy media mogul elder statesman who,
fortunately for us, is willing and able to share some well-seasoned
was particularly pleased with Dillers keynote presentation,
not only because he articulated his creative approach to new media
innovations, but because they provided the perfect philosophical
platform from which to launch this new column.
As we transition through what Diller implied was something like
the end of the beginning of the Internet, those of us
who believe in streaming media as a viable new media world find
ourselves challenged in many ways. As Diller told the significantly
smaller than last years InternetWorld audience, Everyone
here has been deluged, bombarded and beaten down by the promises
and predictions of the new media world order. What we need
is to find a solid foundation upon which to build what we true believers
know is a very promising streaming media future.
Clearly, new kinds of online media experiences will be created
much because of the creative talents of producers and developers
as because of never-ending technological innovation.
order to create rich new media experiences with streaming or any
media, Diller pointed toward a fusion of the technologies
and the creative process. Underscoring a common sense approach that
any creative person could appreciate, he reminded us that digitizing
video, text and audio, and then popping them in a computational
Cuisinart, doesnt necessarily create a new product.
He said, We make a mistake a serious, crippling mistake
when we insist on defining convergence primarily along the
dimensions of technological innovation.
The New Medium
Clearly, new kinds of online media experiences will be created as
much because of the creative talents of producers and developers
as because of never-ending technological innovation. In fact, going
a step further, it wouldnt surprise me a bit, if when we look
back a decade from now, the real catalysts of the killer, breakthrough
streaming media formats are executives like Diller who not only
have their own creative chutzpah, but who also have enough of a
vision to know that there is more to developing a new medium than
pasting together pieces of old ones inside of a new technological
the pun, but Diller hit the nail on the head this way. Give
a child a hammer and the whole world looks like a nail. So, silicon
chip companies look at convergence and see a giant microprocessor.
The telecommunication companies look at it and see a huge multimedia
network. And, the movie studios and book publishers are trying to
define it only in terms of the content that they have already created.
The Creative Contrarian
Although Diller claimed that what he was describing was not a philosophy,
he did find a way to quote George Bernard Shaw, who he said once
defined success as the willingness to take the path of maximum advantage
rather than the path of least resistance. Thats why
innovator Diller so enjoys the attitude of a contrarian. Based on
his extraordinarily experiences as an innovator, Diller advised
that the really big successes come when people challenge the
conventional wisdom with ideas that only have their own integrity
and no track record to give them credence.
how does one create this kind of creative integrity? Dr. Diller
prescribed that each of us needs the patience to relax and
follow your curiosity instead of hyper-ventilating and chasing the
Diller himself began to understand the value of this insight
he pondered the new medium of TV-home shopping in its early
What master TV programmer Diller was really pointing toward was
the creative process which is all too frequently lost in the barrage
of business plans and in the re-purposing of old media. To further
illuminate this point, he offered a valuable historical perspective:
To define television as radio with pictures is
completely accurate, but completely wrong. It misses the point.
Diller himself began to understand the value of this insight as
he pondered the new medium of TV-home shopping in its early days.
He thought, Its TV; its not TV
computers; its not computers
Its retailing; its
Its advertising; its not advertising
To define home shopping as cable television with telemarketing,
or as a transactions-processing network with live video
is accurate; but it is completely wrong. It misses the point.
Thats when Diller first discovered that there is artfulness
and nuance in convergence. (And you thought that we were going
to be forever stuck with streaming media programs that are so clunky
that they can be compared to the ransom note-style flyers that gave
desktop publishing a bad name.)
Bottom line, Diller implored us all to meet convergence, (or the
challenges of creating this new streaming medium) on its own
wildly unique terms. He reminded us that we still need creative
innovators like Edward R. Murrow. After all, it was Murrow, in TVs
early days, who was the first to break out of the pattern of TV
as repackaged radio by creating the mediums first truly intimate
programs. Diller reminded us that it is the creative producers among
us have the all-important opportunity to deliver nothing less than
the spark, the ignition
(that gets) audiences to respond
in new ways."
Now, thats a new media approach that I believe is worth pursuing.
And, it is also a fundamental kind of media power which can help
any streaming media company survive the most damaging kinds of stock
market downturns. Ill use this column to keep my eye out for
what I think are the true convergence innovators; and while Im
at it, Ill thank Mr. Diller for his guidance. Stay tuned.