Iconic Turn Gastblog

i-d2ec66e22a578c1004e46ebd8f1b4ba9-WTC Firefighters.jpg

You dont’ understand our Audience überschreibt John Hockenberry seinen Artikel für die jüngste Ausgabe der MIT Technology Review. Was er nicht versteht und sich zu verstehen weigert, ist der Wille der Netzwerke, ihre Bilder einem imaginierten Publikum anzudienen und dabei jedem Hindernis auszuweichen. Aber gerade das, so legt es Hockenberry nahe, bringt die Sender in eine technologische wie ästhetische Rückständigkeit.

Bild: Newyorkfire.com

Bilder werden als Werbeumgebung eingesetzt. Was zählt, sind Emotionen, nicht Information. Hockenberrys Beispiel reicht in die Tage kurz nach 9/11 zurück, als er bei dem Fernsehsender NBC arbeitete.

The next morning I was in the office of David Corvo, the newly installed executive producer of Dateline, when Zucker entered to announce that the network was going to resume the prime-time schedule for the first time since the attacks. The long stretch of commercial-free programming was expensive, and Zucker was certain about one thing: ‘We can’t sell ads around pictures of Ground Zero.’

Hockenberry hängt noch der Vorstellung an, Journalisten sollten informieren und aufklären. Er schlägt eine Dokumentation über das Al-Qaida Netzwerk vor, das damals gerade erst in Verdacht gerät. Der Produzent dagegen will statt eines Hintergrundberichts lieber emotional positv aufgeladene Heldenfiguren zeigen.

But Zucker insisted that Dateline stay focused on the firefighters. The story of firefighters
trapped in the crumbling towers, Zucker said, was the emotional center of this whole event. Corvo enthusiastically agreed. “Maybe,” said Zucker, “we ought to do a series of specials on firehouses
where we just ride along with our cameras. Like the show Cops, only with firefighters.” He told
Corvo he could make room in the prime-time lineup for firefighters, but then smiled at me and said, in effect, that he had no time for any subtitled interviews with jihadists raging about Palestine.

Der journalistische Impuls, die Welt jenseits der Sender nicht nur abzubilden, sondern auch zu erklären, geht bei diesem Vorgehen verloren. Der Schaden reicht indessen weiter, denn mittelfristig wird das Produkt einer Nachrichtensendung geopfert wird, um kurzfristig Quoten zu halten.

This was one in a series of lessons I learned about how television news had lost its most basic journalistic instincts in its search for the audience-driven sweet spot, the “emotional center” of the American people.

Letztlich kommt es auf der einen Seite zu einem homogenen Fluss von Emotionen, der auf der anderen Seite das Publikum, das nach Information sucht, von den Fernsehschirmen weg ins Internet treibt. Die Ökonomie der Bilder treibt diese Wende an, indem sie ein emotional gesichtertes visuelle gleichbleibendes Umfeld für zahlende Kunden fordert.

The informational edge was perilous, it was unpredictable, and it required the news audience to be willing to learn something it did not already know. Stories from the edge were not typically reassuring about the future. In this sense they were like actual news, unpredictable flashes from the unknown. On the other hand, the coveted emotional center was reliable, it was predictable, and its story lines could be duplicated over and over. It reassured the audience by telling it what it already knew rather than challenging it to learn.

Im Zug der Herabstufung von TV-Sendungen zum reinen Werbeumfeld geht auch die technologische und ästhetische Initiative auf die Werbe-Industrie über.

It also explains why TV news seems so archaic next to the advertising and entertainment content on the same networks. Among the greatest frustrations of working in TV news over the past decade was to see that while advertisers and entertainment producers were permitted to do wildly risky things in pursuit of audiences, news producers rarely ventured out of a safety zone of crime, celebrity, and character-driven tragedy yarns.
Advertisers were aggressive in their use of new technologies long before network news divisions went anywhere near them. This is exactly the opposite of the trend in the 1960s and ’70s, when the news divisions were first adopters of breakthroughs in live satellite and video technology. But in the 1990s, advertisers were quick to use the Internet to seek information about consumers, exploiting the potential of communities that formed around products and brands.

Unwillig, Innovationen im Programm durchzustzen, wenn sie Werbeplätze zu riskieren, verpassen die große Sender die technischologischen Neuerungen. Hockenberrys gibt als Beispiel das Vorgehen im Irakkireg an. Anstatt im Sinne nutzergenerierter Inhalte auf Fotos, Blogs und Videos von Soladaten zurückzugreifen, setzen Sender unter großen Aufwand sogenannte embedded Journalists ein.

The focus on gadgetry meant once again that the deeper story about technology and the war was missed. Technology was revolutionizing war reporting by enabling combat soldiers to deliver their own dispatches from the field in real time. In 2004, I pitched Dateline on the story of how soldiers were creating their own digital networks and blogging their firsthand experiences of the war. The show passed. My story appeared in Wired a year later.

Hockenberrys Fazit für die Arbeit der großen TV-Anstalten in Amerika ist vernichtend:

Communication technologies transformed America’s view of itself, its politics, and its culture.
One might have thought that the television industry, with its history of rapid adaptation to
technological change, would have become a center of innovation for the next radical transformation in communication. It did not. Nor did the ability to transmit pictures, voices, and stories from around the world to living rooms in the U.S. heartland produce a nation that is more sophisticated about global affairs. Instead, the United States is arguably more isolated and less educated about the world than it was a half-century ago. In a time of such broad technological change, how can this possibly be the case?

Seine zugespitzte Diagnose lautet, dass das Netz die Dinosaurier des Fernsehens einholen wird. Weil sie ihr eigenes Produkt aufgegeben haben. Weil sie die Schlüsselinnovationen der Information verpassen. Und weil sie den Nutzer betrügen, gerade indem sie ihn vorgeblich ins Zentrum stellen, aber als einen gänzlich passiven Zuschauer.

Networks are built on the assumption that audience size is what matters most. Content is secondary; it exists to attract passive viewers who will sit still for advertisements. For a while, that assumption served the industry well. But the TV news business has been blind to the revolution that made the viewer blink: the digital organization of communities that are anything but passive.
Traditional market-driven media always attempt to treat devices, audiences, and content as bulk commodities, while users instead view all three as ways of creating and maintaining smaller-scale communities. As users acquire the means of producing and distributing content, the authority and profit potential of large traditional networks are directly challenged.