Category: format war

Shut all the blinds
You mighta been seen
Sittin’ alone
With your internet dream

Winning the race
For your digital fix
Living your life
With a clickity-click

“So every day I swear
I’m gonna go to bed at like eleven.
And all of a sudden its 4AM . . .
And I was just watching Youtube and
reading Wikipedia for five hours.
It’s like MAN . . . you ask me the
next day. I can’t even remember
what I was doin. Crazy.”

Tay Zonday “Internet Dream”
(writer of Chocolate Rain)

*author deftly opens his umbrella to protect himself against the thundering Chocolate Rain*

I have had the good fortune to attend a wide variety of so-called new media conferences, hear people who drive the “content market” speak about the present and future of the various “media distribution platforms”, how to “drive traffic” to your site, using Web 2.0 social networking sites to make friends where you would have previously just been tossing spam into the anonymous gray mass of stats , the importance of making your site interactive and sticky, how long visitors will wait for a page to load (3.2 seconds) and the importance of viral marketing.

They usually call out YouTube as the de facto turning point and how “anyone in America, and the world for that matter” can now “make movies with their cell phones” with the hopes that they will become the next “Chocolate Rain,” “Star Wars Kid,” “Lolcats,” “Tron Guy,” or that weird snaggle-toothed Japanese girl who just stares into her webcam and draws millions of views for doing seemingly nothing (it helps that she has a big rack).  Now a site like TubeMogul allows you to instantly upload your homemade insertion into the pantheon of filmmaking to virtually all the major “video aggregation and distribution sites” our there including Vimeo, MetaCafe, DailyMotion, How-To Cast, MySpace, Revver, and of course YouTube.

Jay Maynard is Tron Guy

Jay Maynard is Tron Guy

Have you caught on yet?  This blog entry is one big fat collection of keywords, something used in “SEO” (search engine optimization” and to promote higher “CTR” (click-through ratios) for my “affiliate ads” (but, you know this already) – another thing that they talk about behind the velvet curtain which now seems to enfold pretty much anyone else sitting at home bored and lonely and wondering how to get everyone’s attention.


And when they do, they realize they have not yet figured out how to “monetize” all this traffic.  ROFLcon, which took place at MIT this year was a conference for all the people who somehow managed to garner said attention for one reason or another and came together to figure out what to do when the general public shows up and says “Here we are now, entertain us.”  That’s all well and good but unfortunately the creators of these phenomena forgot to hire a door person with a cash box.

This is not leading to a discussion on “how to monetize you content” so much as it is underlining William Gibson‘s astute assertion that the very idea of Fame is becoming extinct due to it massive over inflation; if everyone is famous, then really, no one can truly be famous.   Everyone is broadcasting and those same people might be watching.  But are they watching, or are they trying to figure out how the hell these heat-seekers pulled it off?  Well that was then. So I get to my point: we now have this glut of Web 2.0 “guerilla marketing” -savvy ingenues who will stoop to progressively lower depths to grab a piece of the “eyeballs” / “asses in seats” pie.  It makes me feel like I ate way too much cotton candy with my mustard-covered hot dog.

It isn’t even the “content” that bothers me.  It’s that fact that everyone thinks that they can somehow pull the wool over everyone else’s eyes using the above mechanics.  It’s not just preaching to the choir, it is an infection in the culture.  It is indeed a virus in the system, that thrives at the expense of its host, adapts rapidly to any form of inoculation and then proliferates to any other candidate that comes within range.

Snap out of it folks, you’re having a bad fever dream.  You have tools at your disposal that defy the imagination of your former self ten years ago.  You are Marshall McLuhan‘s cautionary observation that the medium becomes the message – your very source has become your pitch, you are making trailers for things that don’t exist, like specters that haunt the territory where they died –  but lest you click-away at my posting yet one more iteration of that now tired cliche – recognize that I am appealing to you to bring something to the table. 

Forget viral marketing.  Forget spending your days and nights checking your visitor stats; these activities have supplanted the very act of creating itself!  Make things.  Make things that come from you.  If you still have something within that you can remember being distinctly your own, then call on it.  Viral videos are so DRM ago.

Have you had enough of viral videos,  or do you think we are just getting started? 

Here at the Culturepin I provide a form of virtual safari through the bleeding edge landscape of the world and contemporary society. Suffice to say it is a treacherous terrain filled with uncertainty and conflict that requires a certain mad bravery to traverse. Even more treacherous is attempting to predict what will unfold around the next bend or come to pass just over the horizon.

So I avoid being a soothsayer, but rather, an echo of what is going down on the frontier. Which brings me to today’s subject – the latest format war in the VHS vs. Beta legacy, namely: Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD.

Here’s a very condensed version of what is one of the dirtiest and most agitated format wars in history:

Blu-Ray, a format developed by leading company NP Infotech and co-developed by Matsushita, Pioneer, Philips, Thomson, LG Electronics, Hitachi, Sharp, Samsung, and Sony (a collective that named itself the Blu-ray Disc Association as recently as 2004 – all this to say Blu-Ray does NOT=Sony per se), aspired to be the new high-definition playback and storage format for laser-based media.

On the other side of the proverbial laser-based media universe, was Toshiba with HD-DVD.

The shakedown was that Microsoft released an HD-DVD player for the Xbox360 and Sony went with Blu-Ray for its PS3 gaming platform.

Millions of emotionally charged discussion board posts later, Wal-Mart, that proverbial lynch pin of all things mass-marketable, announced it was phasing out HD-DVD and going exclusively with Blu-Ray. Just two nights ago – Valentine’s Day, 2008 I said that if Wal-Mart goes with Blu-Ray it’s all over.

February 15th, 2008, Engadget, a popular technology blog, thrust itself onto the global stage by boldly announcing the end of HD-DVD based on Wal-Mart’s announcement that it was going with Blu-Ray and citing reports from Reuters that Toshiba planned to stop production at its HD-DVD factories and thus the meme percolated throughout the format battleground.

None of this is absolute – however, for those who have been watching from the sidelines, wondering when they can start ordering their high-definition entertainment content from Amazon – you now know which way to hedge your bets.

Two things to ponder:

1) When a format wins, it is not necessarily because it is the superior format
2) When VHS killed Beta, there was no internet community

In the meantime, I am going to enjoy the copious bonus features on my Children of Men HD-DVD from my Xbox360 and wait for the prices of the remaining HD-DVD catalog to plummet so I can get another 350 or so titles that were released in the US for pocket change.

Disclaimer: I am not an advocate of either company or format – I have a Sony Bravia screen and I use Sony Vegas software, while I am inputting this entry on my Toshiba m300 Satellite laptop.