TCS Daily


Self-Made Media

By Glenn Harlan Reynolds - March 29, 2006 12:00 AM

I've been writing about this for a while, but it just keeps happening: Ordinary people doing things that used to be beyond the reach of ordinary people, thanks to technology.

A relatively new service called You Tube (motto "Broadcast Yourself") is just another example. KCRW's Rob Long of KCRW says that the broadcast industry is threatened:

"Right now, there are two kinds of people in the entertainment industry. Those who've heard of You Tube, and those who haven't. Which is to say that some of us are a little worried, and some of us aren't. Yet."

Long notes a homemade rap parody called Lazy Muncie, made in response to a Saturday Night Live video, and wonders how many funny people there are in Muncie, Fort Wayne, and elsewhere beyond the East and West coasts who will now be able to get their funny videos on the air without having to get someone at SNL to give them permission.

I think that the answer is "a lot." And that could be bad for the television industry. As it turns out, one of the Lazy Muncie makers doesn't live in Muncie anymore -- he moved to L.A. a few years ago -- but while that may take a bit of the shine off the "heartland shows up coasts" angle (or not), it also suggests another threat to Hollywood. Scary as the notion of Middle Americans bypassing media gatekeepers may be to Hollywood, the notion of their own underlings perhaps being able to do the same may be scarier still. Who needs Hollywood when you can make a hit this way:

"Then in just two days, Feb. 3 and 4, he and his two cohorts hit Muncie with some "guerrilla film-making," as Heyborne calls it. Using Cox's relatives as extras and go-fers, going in and out of local businesses before they were noticed (Jim Davis was the only one to get an advance phone call, and then only a day), they got their footage and headed back to L.A., where Cox edited the whole thing on his laptop. It went up on its own Web site, www.lazymuncie.com, on Monday."

How many people have watched the video now? I'm not sure, but there's an excellent chance that it has reached more people than it would have reached on Saturday Night Live. Long observes:

"What does that say about that huge, packed auditorium at the Oscars, filled mostly with people who get paid to say yes. Or no. It means, I think, that in the future, a lot of them are going to be scrambling to get out of their pricey car leases. I mean, maybe I'm delusional, but it's just possible that what You Tube means is that sooner, rather than later, this privileged, pompous, overpaid class of gatekeepers -- studio executives, network executives, development executives -- is going to get squeezed pretty tight. Of course, that also means that the privileged, pompous, overpaid class of writers and actors is going to get squeezed tight, too. But I don't know: it sounds worth it."

You Tube isn't perfect as a video service -- though it's hardly alone, either -- but it's perfect as a harbinger. And there are lots of other low-budget productions like Geek Entertainment TV competing for eyeballs at low cost. To the extent that the TV industry's position is based on having better talent and products than anyone else, things like You Tube are no threat at all. To the extent, on the other hand, that the entertainment industries owe their position to technological and economic bottlenecks that until recently granted them some sort of a monopoly on production and distribution, well, then they're in trouble.

Which is it? Watch a few hours of TV, and let me know what you think.

Glenn Reynolds is a TCS contributing editor.

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2 Comments

They should feel threatened
They have been pushing what is funny and entertaining on the East and West coast down the rest of our throats for decades. It is time for a change. The red states mater as was witnessed in the last elections. It is time they start to pay attention.
I welcome the competition.

Viral marketing is quite a thing.
I spent several years in Muncie, although I now live in Chicago. Needless to say, I found the Lazy Muncie video to be absolutely hilarious. Phrases like "Everything's on McGalliard" and "move your a** to Ft. Wayne" are much funnier if you're from the area. I sent the link to lazymuncie.com to friends as far away as Shanghai. When I saw Chris Cox sporting a TK Constructors hat in the opening scene, I got in touch with TK and asked if I could get the same hat. Although that was an "old style," they had some new ones made and you can now get one for $15 dollars. One friend of mine in DC just ordered one too. So, suddenly an Indiana homebuilder has people walking around in Chicago, DC and who-knows-where-else sporting their logo, at no cost to them. By contrast, what does an established big company spend on advertising? The Internet changes more than just content distribution; it makes the whole world as accessible as the guy in the cubicle next to you.

By the way, if you also want a TK hat, you can get one by contacting this person...

Karen Harmeyer
TK Constructors, Inc.
2401 N. Executive Dr.
Yorktown, IN 47396
765-759-7500 ext. 212
KHarmeyer@tkconstructors.com

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