Maybe you will watch Ryan Seacrest this New Year’s Eve. Maybe Dick Clark? But hopefully you are not watching it alone. Even if you alone at least you are sharing a media experience where if something interesting happens many people will have watched it at the same time. But this is happening less and less frequently since the dawn of television and radio.
DVR’s and things like Hulu and YouTube allow people to watch what they want to watch when they want to watch. And that’s a great thing. Yet we lose something with all this on-demand consumption of media. There was a big energy jolt during the Olympics this past summer when we all watched Michael Phelps dominate the pool (even on tape delay but we mostly all watched it together even when we knew the result!). The same thing happened when President-elect Barack Obama gave his acceptance speech in Grant Park on Election Night.
The Super Bowl is the largest shared media experience on the American landscape. People talk about the ads (sometimes even the game) for days and sometimes weeks after the event. But with television viewership continuing to fracture into smaller and smaller pieces the opportunities for shared media experiences will dwindle away. I feel a lot is lost when viewers (and even readers) of content view things over an extended period of time. Time was when we had to have a shared experience with mass media because there were 8 channels of television content (maybe 20 of radio). But it was cool that people would talk about what they had seen and it would often be provocative.
I don’t see this as any kind of solvable problem and I venture a guess that there are those that do not feel it is any kind of problem at all. We are indeed a long way from the time that people gathered outside an appliance store to watch Uncle Miltie. (Ok I am old but I NEVER did that). Certainly standing in the street to watch a television is not the answer. But in this internet age where we have social networking sites to help us share experiences with people we want to ‘follow’, care about and want to reconnect with, large scale shared experiences are going the way of analog TV.
What do you think?
Have a safe New Year’s Eve and a healthy and prosperous 2009.