Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Channel 101 101

Last week I posted an article about Channel 101, praising it as an improved institution over conventional television.

My colleague, Jason Briggeman, disagrees passionately as he notes that voting in the conventional sense (the prime mechanism for which 101 uses to determine which shows to keep) is not the same as watching a show every week and "voting" that way. The former is simply "talk," putting your stamp of approval, that really doesn't bear a cost to you, on a show of which you shrug your shoulders and say, "why not?" The latter requires the voter to bear a very real cost, such as spending the time to watch the show in question. The former does not. Jeremy made a similar agrument commenting on the difference between American Idol voters and the Billboard rankings.

These are very good points, but let me take a moment to defend 101's methods. I acknowledge that imposing costs for voting is a much more accurate way to discover what people want, ceteris paribus. But it isn't completely divorced from preferences; it still has its uses. More fundamentally, expressing choice for media is not easy because one must consume the product before determining if it was a good idea to do so.

Media companies have developed a few ways of getting around this problem (creating previews, measuring returning audiences, creating advertising campaigns) but these strategies are hardly appropriate for five-minute shows that are to be judged on a episode-by-episode basis (for example, measuring returning audiences would require making two episdoes of a potentially bad concept, meaning one new show wouldn't have as much of a chance to be shown, thanks to opportunity costs). I've toyed with the idea of spliting up each episode and then measuring how many people download the second half, but downloading 2.5 minutes of video nowadays hardly imposes a cost on the consumer. Perhaps there is a good idea out there to solve the problem, but I haven't heard it yet.

It is not that voting (which by the way is approval voting) on 101 is ideal. But given the turnover, 101 does what is sets out to do; the voting system is certainly sufficent and (I'd argue) Channel 101 much more dynamic than conventional television as a result. (Jason and I did come to the agreement that if 101 became mainstream, it could just start turning out crap, depending how it was organized.)


Jason Br. said...

Could you elaborate on what you mean by "dynamic"? I'm not sure how or if to respond.

David said...

When I say dynamic, I mean exhibiting rapid turnover of ideas. Channel 101 exhibits a large variety of show concepts, most of which are thrown out and replaced with a whole new set of concepts. It's capable of (and often is marked by) rapid change.