The TV business is a cruel and shallow money trench

…and Google’s the latest tech firm to jump into it. A wee op/ed piece by me:

One of my favourite TV programmes was Casualty. I didn’t like it for the acting, though. I liked it because of the hilariously protracted accidents in each episode. “I’ll just hammer this nail in with an UNEXPLODED BOMB!” this week’s trolley fodder would announce, with the inevitable explosion following shortly afterwards.

“I think I’ll leave this really sharp kitchen knife sticking out of the steering wheel as I drink and drive!” another would say. “I think I’ll attempt to combine the worlds of TV and computers!” a third would offer.

Oops. That last one wasn’t Casualty. That was Google.

Naturally, writing about the television business means I’m going to take the opportunity to quote Hunter S Thomson properly:

The TV business is uglier than most things. It is normally perceived as some kind of cruel and shallow money trench through the heart of the journalism industry, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free and good men die like dogs, for no good reason.

15 thoughts on “The TV business is a cruel and shallow money trench

  1. rutty says:

    Google have had quite a few failures recently (Buzz, Wave etc) and I can’t help think that this will also crash and burn.

    I think you’re right: TV should be easy, not overly complex. It’s OK for us geeks that like to faff about with media centres etc but it I’m not impressed with what I’m reading about Google TV.

  2. Gary says:

    One of the techradar comments nailed it: the assumption is that you’re watching TV by yourself, rather than on the sofa with your partner.

  3. Gary says:

    Yep. Same lack of big picture that killed Google Buzz: they didn’t realise that most of us don’t want everyone we’ve ever emailed or received email from to be part of our social network.

  4. tm says:

    That isn’t a big an assumption as you seem to think. In modern western societies we have much higher rates of people living alone than we ever had before (comparatively, of course).

    I rememeber reading an interview with the then head of phillips sv. he said they used to reject loads of ideas for just that reason – they really only work if there is just one person using the device. Then one day he was getting some work done on his flat and was tlaking to the builders – they basically said “nah, mate – nearly every job we do is work on flats for people who live alone. We have never been so busy, because we get to do a job that we once would have done once for a household two or three times over”. After a bit of research Phillips changed some of their marketing assumptions, and the money rolled in.

    Wonder how the recession will impact single occupany rates…

  5. Gary says:

    Yeah, fair point about solo living, but isn’t that demographic already gadget-ed up to the eyeballs? Why twitter from the TV if you’ve got an iPhone/HTC/etc? Why buy Google TV when you can do the social stuff with an iPad and take it out and about with you? Etc :)

  6. tm says:

    > but isn’t that demographic already gadget-ed up to the eyeballs

    Well, perhaps yes. But that doesn’t seem to have ever stopped a technology company from launching something in the past.

  7. Squander Two says:

    I don’t think they are all begadgeted. There are still loads of technophobes out there our age and younger (and who can blame them? I often feel I’d be a lot happier if I had nowt to do with tech stuff). But the unbegadgeted ones aren’t going to be interested in Google TV.

  8. Gary says:

    s2 – yes, a million times yes. First time I encountered shared notes in kindle – that is, other people’s highlighting of the book you’re reading – I thought, education aside, how can this possibly be a good idea? I don’t want my reading experience interrupted at key plot developments. I don’t want to be social when I read, or watch tv.

  9. tm says:

    >other people’s highlighting of the book you’re reading

    Egads! That sounds awful. Who on earth wants such a feature? As you say, short of some kind of on-line “cliffs-notes” style educational helper it’s just invasive and annoying surely?

    For some reason it immediately made me think of those little cringe worthy reviews of books by the staff that book shops seem so determined to foist on us. That does not count as helpful and knowledgeable staff guys! The only good thing about them is that they are invariably scrawled in handwriting worse than mine (and my handwriting does the stereotype of my chosen profession of computer programmer proud btw) so it is easy not to read them.

    Also has anyone ever seen one actually recommending a different and interesting choice? Even in parts of the shop where I rarely venture and don’t know anything about it’s not too hard to guess the books they will mention.

    I’m not sure why my mind immediately related those reviews with that kindle feature.

    It’s something to do with what you sum up as “I don’t want to be social”. The experience of a good book is very personal – someone else’s thought’s popping up during the experience is invading that. In the same way, I’m not to concerned what someone I know nothing about thinks of a given book. I ask for book recommendations from people I know and trust (I’ve asked you for suggestions several times Gary). This is more than simply “like-what-I-like” – I know who you are and your general outlook. You don’t have to like a book for me to find it interesting – but I can relate what I’m likely to think of it to your reaction to it. The same goes for the actual printed reviews. I like longer reviews where I can get a sense of the person writing them so I can carry out the same process.

  10. tm says:

    Damn your blog for making me all contemplative on a Friday evening! Can’t we just go back to talking about incredible defrosting plates? ;-)

  11. Squander Two says:

    You know what it is? It’s those irritating bastards who see you reading in public so assume it must be because you’re lonely and bored because surely you couldn’t actually want to read something so they come up and ask you what you’re reading or, even worse, “Reading, are you?” — only now they’re in charge of publishing. Fuck.

  12. Gary says:

    > The experience of a good book is very personal – someone else’s thought’s popping up during the experience is invading that.

    Yes, exactly. It’s bringing a social layer into something that doesn’t need or benefit from it.

    > I ask for book recommendations from people I know and trust

    I think that’s the side of things where a social network element would work – I think it’d be interesting to look at a potential Kindle/iBooks/whatever purchase and see that, say, Tom liked it, Jo thought it was crap, that sort of thing. I think a lot of Facebook’s current valuations are based on the belief that it’ll be the engine for that sort of thing.

  13. Gary says:

    I don’t think they are in charge of publishing, thankfully, but I think we’re in a period where everybody’s trying everything to see what sticks. Which is fair enough: better to experiment with things than do a music-biz “Internet schminternet” for a decade. But I really hope social reading doesn’t take off.

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