Hulu’s TV ad during the sure-fire, can’t miss, absolutely number one show that everyone will be talking about (for if not 24 hours, a good couple of days…which in Internet-time is a freaking eternity), event of the year proved to be a strong topic of discussion. For those not in the know, Hulu helps “people find and enjoy the world’s premium video content when, where and how they want it.”
Billions upon billions upon millions of people tune in solely, and I mean solely, for the commercials. So without being too hyperbolic, the commercial planted its flag into the American, nay the World’s, consciousness and declared, “You will watch on me. You now see that I am the future. This is where you belong.” Reread that again, but this time in a James Earl Jones voice. It makes it much cooler.
This little commercial, this 60 second pause between 22 grown men trying to break each others bones, crystallizes the fundamental shift in our viewing habits. The commercial validates the online platform as no longer being the ugly kid stepsister.
We’ve watched with sorrow as the online world has reinvented print journalism. We weep because we have yet to figure out a successful monetization model and it hurts to see our news outlets suffer. We’re now going to see entertainment shift. Not as rapidly, of course, because we still center our living areas at home around the television, but technology will allow us to connect us from our hard drive to our TV’s. In fact, we already have it but it has yet to hit the critical masses.
I was having this debate last night in a room of people who not only don’t participate in social media, they barely even know it exists. I took the position that the fact NBC aired a Hulu commercial driving people to the site to watch programming online instead of TV was the result of this shift we’ve been seeing over the past couple years. They didn’t buy it, as their main point was, “Yes, there was a Hulu commercial. But there were also plenty of commercials for NBC’s shows.” I meagerly countered with, “It has to start somewhere, and this is was the clear start.”
So what does this mean? Will it be a mixture of “Minority Report” and “The Jetsons?” When a society has these gigantic shifts, it’s not just in one discipline. New media technologies, it can be argued, serve as a bastion for democracy, cultural pluralism and social change. An opposing argument would be that new technologies in general ultimately undermine existing social orders and is the calm before the storm; the unrest and social disorder that come from the introduction of “new” destroys the status quo.
But isn’t that happening? Isn’t Facebook and Twitter and blogs destroying the status quo? The key word in this nascent Obama aministration is transparency. Why? Because we live in a time where the structure of a top-down dictum has flipped on its secretive head. We participate in a two-way conversation; between brands and consumers, between politicians and constituents. News spreads at the speed of light and the audience is no longer a passive audience, sitting on our butts. (well, ok, some of us still are). The Internet has made mass communications, for the first time ever, and active medium.
This joint venture between Fox and NBC cashed in on its alloted advertising earmark, and we are witnessing the television continuum blend into the online world. And as the technologists and online denizens grow, we must remember that while technology by itself cannot initiate change, it can augment and amplify the actions of those people willing and wanting to promote change on a massive scale.