From October 23rd
Last night, after we'd got our son off to sleep, my wife and I sat and watched laptops in bed. She was trying to find some comedy on ITV and I was investigating war documentaries on the BBC iPlayer. (I know, I know; it's a compelling portrait of a relationship still alive with passion.) These things work really well now, not perfectly, but really well. You can access hours of great telly legally and easily. And, if you talk to TV people, you realise that in their heads the internet is now done. It's finished. Complete. Now it can deliver TV effectively there's nowhere left for it to develop. They behave like all we're left with now is some tidying up and some deciding who the winners and losers will be. Will Joost stage a comeback? Will Google work-out how to monetise YouTube? Will Kangeroo be any good? And can we get the internet running fast enough that we can slam megahours of HDTV down the pipes at everyone in the world? But it strikes me that this focus on TV ignores all the other things that the web does incredibly well, it crowds out all the other possibilities in almost every digital discussion. That's one of the reasons I was so excited about Channel 4's adventures in radio, though they're now, regrettably, shelved. It seemed like they might force the pace of development for radio online. Radio's always seemed more web-friendly than TV to me. It's lighter and easier to transport to start with. And it's more suitable for a multi-tasking world, it knows how to live in the background, how to exist on a thin gruel of attention, not demanding the full lean-forward experience of TV. And it's had an easy interactive relationship with its listeners for years, it's not afraid to assume that they'll provide great swathes of content. And, and perhaps most importantly, audio is so much easier for regular people to make and contribute than video. All of which makes me sad that there's not more innovation happening. The BBC are pushing ahead, as are NPR in the States, and there are commercial broadcasters in the UK doing interesting things. But there's not a lot of challenge coming from new entrants. Newspapers and magazines all seem to be podcasting, but they're mostly tired, cheap formats; just journalists around a microphone. And brands and advertisers seem to have left audio behind in the rush to make telly for the internet. This is a massive missed opportunity, there's an intimacy to the best audio that brand-owners should be trying to harness. So, just because we're watching old episodes of Benidorm on the laptop let's not assume the internet's done.