Friday, December 5, 2008

NBC's Brian Williams Once Again Exposes Small Mind/Big Ego

Well well, the face of the NBC nightly news is popping off again about digital media. In a room full of old-school, old-media stalwarts he is a riot. Sometimes laughing is all you can do to temporarily forget the pain. After all, didn't Nero fiddle while Rome burned?

This is not the first time I have commented on Brian's obvious disdain for the digital side of the media business. Check out this closet classic to see how Brian made his contempt for the digital world/Web 2.0 known in TIME magazine.

Here is the clip of Brian, feel free to watch it, then check out my commentary. Hit the link Below to watch the funny guy.

Brian Williams Video HERE

Before I get into this, I must be fair and say that I was not privy to the rest of his speech, therefore I am only commenting on what I saw and what was touted by Ad Age.

The first point and seemingly the only point Brian makes in this clip is that a lot of the "hype" surrounding digital advancements in media are just that, and nothing more. In fact, much of this advancement is based largely in "techie" exuberance, which in turn exposes a child like ignorance, or even short sightedness about "legitimate media sources" such as libraries and radio. I believe the only one showing ignorance and a head-in-the-sand mentality here is Brian Williams.

Brian makes his point initially about a producer at NBC, who I am sure is very happy about getting made to look the fool by Brian and his supreme wit and intelligence, that is telling Brian about some new service that is described as "the Netflix for books." Brian seems very proud of himself at his rapid response equating this new model to already existing libraries. Laughter ensues. Well, the ones laughing right now are the folks at Apple, Amazon, Netflix and some others getting rich while the traditional publishers lay people off, record stores close, and Blockbuster scrambles to keep up. We have record stores, so why do we need iTunes?? We have book stores so why do we need Amazon or the countless other web-based sellers and distributors of print material. We have libraries so why do we need "the Netflix of books?"

You have got to be kidding me. This is a 1997 conversation. Either Brian does not understand the value that a service like iTunes, Amazon or even the "Netflix of books" offers, or he refuses to accept it. Considering he reads a teleprompter for a living, take your pick. For those reading this I understand you probably don't need this quick and obvious explanation, for those who think Brian's comments are really hilarious, you might, so I will provide it in simple terms.

The advantages and value for the digital transaction, whether it is books, music, housewares or any other small ticket item, and some large ticket items - convenience, quick and effortless research, availability of what you seek, on your time, on your terms, easily shared with family and friends and for all you environmentalists at NBC/GE, without having to get into your car, burn gas and schlep yourself to the nearest branch only to be let down when they don't have the book you want in for another three weeks.

So smart guy, yeah we have libraries, but as we, as a society, have progressed, and the audience has an ever increasing level of control to get what we want, when we want and share quickly with whomever we want without interruption, that is THE value proposition. Maybe that is what gets Brian's goat, he and his handlers are losing control, thus losing more of their share of the revenue. Correction - have lost control.

Point two. Brian cracks on a value proposition of "eBooks." Turning pages with the click of a button. On this he is spot on. I agree and his comments are extremely valid. The marketing genius who decided to market digital books with the "ease of a button" page turn should be canned. That being said, if you really wanted to attract a market for digital books, maybe you could have said something like - eBooks, saving millions of trees daily, while you enjoy as many books as you can read in a lifetime. And eBooks if you use that I will expect a check from you in the near future. Isn't GE, the owner of NBC big on the environment?? If so, I wonder if they think Brian is hilarious as he rips on a concept that could be much friendlier to the environment than the large, gas guzzling sedan that certainly ushered him to that event.

Last point. Brian rips on a guy that makes a comment to him in the elevator about his new iPod touch. Yeah, it is annoying when a stranger says something like, "Too bad you bought that widget, it will be replaced in a week." I agree, kind of annoying because that type of comment doesn't offer any value and is not helpful. However, Brian's barb does not address the stranger's seeming enjoyment with Brian's perceived unfortunate predicament having purchased something that, by some, may be considered obsolete. He decides to crack on the technology as being the same thing as radio. Once again, Brian misses the mark and exposes ignorance about the value of offerings like lastFM or Pandora. Whose audiences are growing at an alarming rate, while traditional radio's audience is holding steady, yet their revenue is dropping faster than an anvil from Wile E.'s hands. So, once again, if streaming audio is the same as radio, why in the world would this massive shift be taking place?? Could hype really be the sole perpetrator?? Or could a tired play list, corporate controlled environment, often times small, relatively weak music selection, over abundance of advertisement interruptions, bad reception, no social component, no way to experiment with a wide selection of music, small choice of talk and non-music programming, and just an overall outdated and poor listener experience be the culprit?? Pull your eyes away from the teleprompter Brian and research what you are commenting about before put yourself out there making these ignorant statements. Aren't journalists supposed to be inquisitive researchers first and commentators second? Do journalists even investigate anymore? Brian, the facts embarrass you, not "techie" enthusiasts and/or hype masters.

Hey, maybe you are feeling pretty good coming off a successful year, based on the election giving you some air. Your candidate got elected, your ratings and ad dollars saw a slight spike, yet you still got it handed to you by the cable news networks, and who was measuring online engagement as it related to the election??

Oh yeah, your candidate was. Obama raised record numbers of campaign cash through...the Internet. But wait why did he need people to donate online, we still have the post office??

Keep fiddling Brian, keep fiddling.


Anonymous said...

Hey, George Burke from BookSwim here -- you know... that library wannabe? Thanks for writing about this. It's mind-numbing how many people ask me "but what about libraries?" The best i've heard was "Ring Ring... Hello? Oh, it's the library. They want their thousand year old idea back". That one had me laughing to tears.

-George Burke

Jacob Leffler presents.............. SHORT ATTENTION SPAN THEATRE said...

Thanks for commenting. I am not trying to be overly harsh, but the condescending tone from someone who obviously has an agenda, and has some spite towards an area of he industry that he doesn't quite understand really has me scratching my head. Instead of making progress the butt of a pretty lame joke it would be more interesting if Mr. Williams actually leveraged the technology he criticizes to make his "journalism" better.

Anonymous said...

Hey techies, lighten up, the guy is obviously JOKING. You know, as in haha, Tongue in cheek, etc. It was funny even though we are all like kids in candy store -- with another version of -- sugar! Scott

Jacob Leffler presents.............. SHORT ATTENTION SPAN THEATRE said...

Hey Scott thanks for contributing your thoughts, even though I am not sure I understand your point with the sugar comment. I am curious, what made you decide to label me as a "techie"?