5/09/2005

Intelligent Television?

Intelligent Television is not an oxymoron. Rather, it is a production company funded by foundations or hired by libraries to make non-fiction documentaries. Founder Peter Kaufman recently delivered a speech that was something of a tease. He extolled open content and hinted that at business models to be built around it – beyond “get a grant” -- without actually revealing any. So while not immediately useful to Mini Media types working in video, his speech made some interesting observations about non-fiction publishing and pointed to several initiatives of interest to those who live in the reality-based world.

Thanks to Paid Content for steering me to the speech, which Kaufman delivered at the launch of the Creative Archives – another story all in itself, a project that aims to make certain audio-visual material produced in the United Kingdom freely available, in digital form, to residents of that nation.

In any event, preaching to this choir, Kaufman said: “in publishing, music, television, film, art, software, and technology, there are business cases—simple business cases, and sophisticated business cases—that support the economic wisdom of providing certain sectors of society, and sometimes the public as a whole, with materials, intellectual property, knowledge, and know-how for free.”

What those business cases might be, Kaufman did not reveal. But he did say that “Intelligent Television is launching this May a year-long study on the economics of open content,” funded by the Hewlett Foundation. Added Kaufman: “I will be able to say more in a few months.”

(A recent conference, also funded by the Hewlett folks, is a repository of information on open content. In his remarks, Kaufman also mentioned the National Audio Visual Conservation Center, a project led by the Library of Congress that already houses some three million recorded sound items and one million moving image items and is expected to open in 2007.)

Judged by his own remarks, Kaufman directed his speech at librarians, archivists, foundation officers and media people. “Almost all of us here are all in the business of nonfiction,” he said.

That is the takeaway for the Mini Media community. Most information products are produced to explain what we need to know. While entertainment may get all the glamour, media’s bread is buttered by training, self-improvement, education, history, news and all the other sorts of information that we look for when, for instance, we’re shopping for a new car. Making ourselves useful may be the best way to make money. I’ll look for more on this score when Kaufman releases the results of the study he mentioned in his speech.

Tom Abate MiniMediaGuy Cause if you ain’t Mass Media, you’re Mini Media

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