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Debriefing after NAB-RTNDA 2008

Back in Seattle. Thanks to RTNDA and Lane Beauchamp for scheduling more digital/web sessions than ever. Good stuff. (Maybe next year RTNDA will add web critiques to their TV resume tape critiques, which will send a powerful message to students and young reporters.) I was a little demoralized to hear many of the same questions from news managers — questions that illustrate that the web still comes in a very distant second to TV despite all the talk about being “platform agnostic local media companies.” Baby steps, I guess, but I fear the time is short for broadcasters to gain real financial traction online.

On the NAB side, the announcements were light. The focus was on the DTV transition, which is clearly a critically important change for the industry. But I was surprised to hear NAB President David Rehr talk about making the internet part of a broadcaster’s DNA, which is a 180-degree turnaround from years past. NAB’s focus on content this year (“Where content comes to life”), while noble, resulted in a dearth of heavy-hitting technology speakers, and as a result, less news. Technology companies (minus the big TV vendors like Sony and Panasonic) are focusing more on CES than NAB, which is quickly becoming NAB’s substitute in the interactive world.

While many will say that “content is king,” I believe that content and technology are king. One without the other will not succeed in the new world, yet technology has a slight advantage (for now) due to its distribution channels and the ability to organize/aggregate outside content. And that’s why I believe CES has become more important than NAB. You could certainly argue that content will regain the lead, but only if it’s tailored to the unique properties of new platforms while keeping costs under control.

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