Redefining Broadcasting

I spent the last two days in Vegas at the National Association of Broadcasting (NAB) conference. It’s a measure of the effect that digital technology and the Internet has had on the media business. Five years ago, there weren’t many technology companies or tech investors at this conference. It was mostly TV and Radio execs. This year, the conference is overrun with tech companies and investors like me looking to connect the dots and see interesting new stuff.

It made me want to pause and think about the word broadcasting. Are these companies, radio and television companies, still in the broadcasting business? While many still associate the term broadcasting to mean "over the air" it’s certainly true that less and less of the media we consume every day is coming over the air. Although with the advent of broadband wifi and wireless data, we may get back to that world someday soon, but it’s going to be Internet Protocol (IP) based delivery.

Maybe more importantly, broadcasting implies pushing content down a one way pipe to a mass audience. And that’s what many of the broadcasting companies want to do with the Internet. But I believe that the Internet is not and should not be a one way pipe. It’s a two way pipe and so the question is will broadcasting content survive as a dominant model of delivering content to audiences? Or will a more interactive approach emerge?

People talk all the time about "lean back" and "lean forward" modes of content consumption. Lean back means a passive approach to content consumption (watching a TV show). Lean forward means a more active approach (browsing the internet). But does it always have to be that way? I am not sure.

But I am sure that the broadcasting industry is undergoing big changes. And they were in full bloom at NAB this year.