Monday, April 20, 2015

TWIT: The 10th Anniversary episode

Yesterday was the 10th Anniversary of the first episode of This Week in Tech, TWIT's cornerstone podcast.

Ten years ago a half dozen lost souls from the former Tech TV sat around a table slamming beers and musing on the sad state of technology broadcasting. While bemoaning their poor treatment at the hands of corporate media they suddenly found purpose.

The rest as they say, is history...

Which may be apropos to the current state of the network.  Yesterday's episode (506) seemed as it Laporte was preoccupied with the glory days of TWIT's more humble past (aka: cottage days.)

Surrounded by a cadre of "original" TWIT cast members including Patrick Norton, Robert Heron, John C.. Dvorak and others, it was a stark representation of the few remaining TechTV alumnus that still hold any regard for Laporte or TWIT.

I take such a dire tack because mixed in with well wishes from TechTV alumnus (who managed to steer clear of TWIT employment) and TechTV show clips were stills of long departed TWIT hosts. Interestingly, if their names happened to be anything resembling Merritt, Lane or Brushwood they were barely acknowledged and nowhere to be found during the broadcast.  Were the prerecorded accolades of the likes of Morgan Webb and Chris Pirillo  (who've never worked on TWIT) more relevant to TWIT's history than Tom Merritt or Bryan Brushwood?  

Were they even asked?

Perhaps most telling was the on camera chatter before the episode began with Laporte ruminating over past TWIT group photos.  It seemed he could remember every name in every photo except for one,  Erik Lanigan.  I won't belabor that observation other than to say it was a display of bad taste.

Although presented as a celebration of TWIT's longevity the negative pall that hangs over TWIT was undeniable with Laporte spouting self deprecation that bordered on gallows humor at times.  Perhaps that's why the broadcast seemed to conveniently omit the events of TWIT after 2011.

It's clear that the intention was to focus on the "glory days" of TWIT none of which take place in the present.  The constant TechTV clips were soon followed by the announcement of a new show starting on May 2nd, "The New Screen Savers" complete with a campy TechTV-esque show opener.

With G4 now defunct and parent NBC Universal caring little about the former TechTV intellectual property rights it seems it would be the ideal time to resurrect the dead.  To that end it appears Laporte's plan is to reach into the past to try to secure a future for TWIT.

The New Screen Savers will feature rotating co-hosts consisting of current TWIT staff and co-hosts like Patrick Norton, Megan Morrone and Mike Elgan.

Hindsight truly offers superb vision and on reviewing the episode (offered below) it seems Laporte believes he can stop the hemorrhaging by throwing former fans a bone that will obscure their collective memory of the past 4 years.

Unfortunately, bones are all that's left of TWIT but watch for yourself and draw your own conclusions.  The entire episode is offered with commercials edited out and much of the shows Pre and Post chatter from the RAW feed.

Friday, April 3, 2015

If you're paying a subscription you're not buying "Art"

A guy's gotta eat right?

I've noticed an annoying trend over the past few years.  It seems like everywhere I turn on the Internet there's a hand out.   I get that somebody's got to pay for all this stuff but when it comes to online, we're paying too much.

Either you've got a pay wall in your face when you try to consume content or you're constantly getting pitched an "upgrade."

If I go to the online version of a local newspaper more often than not I'm greeted with a demand to purchase a subscription to see their content.  Yeah, I know, newspapers have it rough these days what with all those tablets and smartphones floating around.  At some point, however, I start to question their value when they want me to pay for the same dubious content I can find in the average blog post.  (of course I exclude myself...tee hee hee)  

For example, my local paper's online extension now requires a paid subscription to access more than a few articles on the web.

In the old days I could just pick up a paper when I wanted it or suffer a few ads to read the same content online.  I didn't have to take out a subscription to get today's hot news story or have a pile of wasted newsprint lying around in the corner of my house. 

Now I have to pay not only for that story but the digital equivalent of the clutter than comes with it.  You just know that the minute you sign up your inbox is going to be flooded with pointless garbage until you turn it off in your subscriber "Profile."

So why did all this happen?  Why does it seem that every digital highway now has a toll booth? 

The claim is that the ad-supported media model has failed with the rise of the Internet.  Advertisers have too many choices for their ad dollars these days and have to spread it around to get their pitch across.  That means declining revenue for traditional media sources or so they claim. 

It's the justification behind the rise of "premium" services like Hulu, Pandora and even TWITCH.TV some of which still show ads even with a paid subscription.  Yes there are free levels of these services but they're usually a shadow of their premium counterparts and cluttered with intrusive ads.

The latest entry into the subscription model is Jay-Z's new "premium" music service, Tidal.  It's claiming CD quality audio over the Internet and exclusive artist tracks to subscribers.   There's no pretense here.  The service unabashedly demands a minimum of $9.99 per month for access to a glorified Internet radio station.  The argument being, " We're not for everybody."  Meaning people who pay are somehow of a different caliber than all of those poor people. 

Classic marketing trick.  Buy your way into the "in crowd." 

The simple premise of the service (minus the marketing fluff) is that starving recording artists (like Jay-Z and Madonna) can make more money and subscribers can get an exclusive experience with premium-only content. 

Hmmm, The last I checked Madonna wasn't eating out of garbage cans and Jay-Z could use $100 bills to wipe his ass with reckless abandon.

Ok, here's where this crap has to stop...

At what point do we just admit that the whole "artist" thing has gone off the rails.  Hey, I firmly believe that you have a right to make a living off of doing what you're best at.   You do not, however, have a right to fleece me to pay for a new coat of paint on your private jet by offering me the artistic equivalent of post-it notes.

And what about all those "little" people like the engineers, producers and song writers?  You can bet Madonna and Jay-Z aren't hammering out hits in their back bedroom with an IPad and some old amp.  C'mon now, someone has to make those middle-aged fading vocals sound passable.  

One thing is for sure.  The people that make these "artists" sound good aren't flying First Class.

But we must protect those poor, suffering "artists." 

In a country where the top 20% of the population controls 85% of the money, you can't sell me on how my $10 a month to Tidal is helping Main Street. It is, however, keeping Easy Street paved with gold.

The problem with the current definition of "Artist" is that it's intermingled with the "business" of art.  It's all about the money and somehow having one hit song on ITunes entitles you to a lifetime of privileged status.

When art becomes business then the result of all those "artistic" efforts is nothing more than a "product."  Mass produced, packaged and disposable.

Art was never meant to be a commodity.  It was meant to be an expression with its primary reward being the appreciation of the work itself.  The great societies of Greece and Rome recognized this and while they may have "commissioned" great works of art, they were never meant for resale.  Rather the intent was meant to enrich a culture and advance a society. 

I can guarantee Krewella will never do either of those things...

In the context of what Jay-Z considers to be "Art" (aka: products)  the great works of a Michelangelo or Beethoven would be held in the same light as a toddler banging on pots while scribbling on the wall with a crayon.  All of which would be behind a pay wall.

In that light, today's popular "artists" are frauds.  They produce commodities for no purpose but their own gain regardless of claims to the contrary.

Art is meant to be shared freely and has no intrinsic value in a vacuum or behind a toll booth.  Which means what Jay-Z and ITunes sell is not art, it's a product and products don't deserve such exalted status.

Real art is only sold once in awhile with its value dependent on a market's interest in that unique article.  Copies, on the other hand, are sold in the millions and their value reflects their status. (aka: fake)

When you pay for streaming content or a newspaper article online with anything but a few seconds to watch an ad you're attributing excess value to fake product.

Would you pay millions for a Van Gogh knockoff? 

Then why would you pay full price for access to the online equivalent of a Redbox rental?   Does anything available on Tidal really rise to the level of being art?  How exclusive can a work be if it's distributed like a magazine subscription?

I'll answer that, it's not.  Art is given freely, products are sold.

So if popularity isn't enough to bring adequate compensation for your (product) efforts then maybe it's time to look at who's got their hand in your pocket.  That or you just suck...

I know, for example, that for all the ads that run on my YouTube videos I make the princely sum of .001 per view on average. 

But then I create content, not "Art" and the market (and YouTube) decides the worth of my "product."