Right now we’re seeing a hybrid of both old and new media coexisting. But the way that people use the Internet has definitely changed our expectations for broadcast television. Simply put, the world in which your only concern was promoting your TV station no longer exists. You have to think about the Websites and on-demand resources that have grown out of the old content models.
For broadcasters, the Internet has been extraordinarily disruptive. It has changed the circumstances, avenues, and expectations for content. You’re no longer limited by geography. You can’t count on your content having only local value, which is an issue I face running a public television affiliate. Some people may find that what they value in localized content will evolve over time. With the Internet breaking down geographic barriers, the concept of local news is taking on a different feel and flavor.
But these changes have also been invigorating. The Internet has shown that television programming doesn’t have to exist solely in a single moment. In the old days, our greatest challenge was getting drowned out by the big networks, because everyone was competing for the same timeslot in order to carve out an audience. Now, there’s no timeslot or demographic to compete for -- just quality. And if it’s a work of quality and durability it can exist on the Internet indefinitely.
That’s good news for public broadcasters. We’re no longer limited by linear broadcasting. In fact, some of the work we created for WGBH, anywhere from three to five years ago, has been increasing in value over time. If you Google keywords connected to WGBH projects like Nova’s Evolution, it comes up in the top three or four search results through no effort of our own to optimize the search.
This means you have to focus your energy on the creation of timely, relevant, and impactful content. So even though broadcasters are accustomed to competing against each other to grab the most viewers, you have to ask yourself: “Are we going to do enough to read and anticipate the changes in the environment? Are we going to be smart and timely and creative enough to make the most out of the Web?”
These questions have led us at WGBH to build content-rich companion Websites that exist alongside our broadcast content. So now, viewers can not only catch a program Tuesday nights on TV, but also access an online library that will be available to people curious about the topic for the next 10 years or more. This “long tail” content that continues to find an audience only serves to expand the value of what we’re doing.
As a result, the Internet has enabled public broadcasters to better fulfill their public service mission. By moving our content to the Internet, WGBH has substantially changed the breadth and convenience with which people can access the content they’re interested in. Viewers who have moved away from Boston can tune in online and stay in touch. And online communities with members from around the world have turned the Internet into a three-dimensional highway system.
We’re watching all of this happen now, but in the next five years I think we’ll see that broadcasters have completely reinvented themselves in order to adapt to the online world. Some may find that they’re a destination of choice, just as some newspapers have had to do, and some may not. Throughout it all, you have to wrestle with creating value and remaining a resource.
— Jonathan Abbot, President and CEO, WGBH