"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 8 December 1995. Updated every WEEKDAY.

New Media Killed The Video Star

[mtv.com] "And the video's going to get bigger," adds Kinney. "There's at least another half an hour more shit than what you saw. Yeah, we're going to make a longer version, put it out for sale somewhere, do Christmas or something. Ya gotta market, you know. Hey, it's MTV! It's your fault, MTV, that we have to do this!" - Alice in Chains drummer Sean Kinney on mtv.com

We were kinda hoping for

something evocative of the MTV

astronaut jingle.


[Where's the Beat?]

Whether it's nostalgia,

sentimentality, or just

soft-brained generosity, we

still keep a candle lit for MTV.

If television played nanny to us

during our childhood, MTV was

the hip uncle we could relate to

as we suffered adolescence.

While the net at large seems

content to blithely dismiss

anything from mtv.com - perhaps

missing the raw hucksterism of

its first incarnation under Adam

Curry - we think the station

deserves, if not a eulogy, at

least a cursory analysis before

it's banished to the consensus

killfile of Web culture.



Why try to reinvent the medium

when a new medium has been

invented for you? That thought

must have recently hit the execs

at MTV - despite apparent

indifference on the Web (when's

the last time you've seen a link

to mtv.com?) they've been

sinking silver into a staff of

bankroll-gouging NYC HTML

jockeys and beefing up the

corporate presence with the

fervor typical of old media



But, while everyone tries to look

like MTV, you'll not likely find

any imitators of mtv.com.



It's not that Art Director Manabu

Inada ruined the site with poor

visuals - the design is cute if

overly-informed by rave flyer

art circa '92 . Of course, an

appealing design's to be

expected - MTV's promotional

segments were always arguably

better than the videos they

framed. Nor is the site

irredeemably marred by the

shockingly naive use of

bandwidth - that's just typical

of any large corporate effort on

the Web. No, the same content

problems that have plagued the

channel off and on (mostly on)

for the past 10-odd years have

returned to haunt them in the

online world. Namely, the talent

isn't all that talented.



MTV, unlike most media, too often

fails to eat its young - they're

still pushing Michael Jackson

and (we shudder to mention) Bon

Jovi. It stretches credulity to

think that several years back, a

coalition of major labels

considered banding together to

form their own video channel out

of dissatisfaction with MTV's

playlist. Even the least

paranoid among us must have

entertained a doubt or two about

the purity of the ol'

client-server relations between

MTV and the Big Six - we at

least like to think they're

getting paid well for pushing

the same asinine acts year in

and year out (the alternative

would lead one to conclude MTV

long ago suffered a severe head

injury depriving them of their

collective sense of taste). Of

course, part of MTV's lure is

that the next video will be

better than the last one. It's

unfortunate that a Web site

isn't capable of offering the

same kind of false hope.


[Pull My Finger]

Maybe MTV is just that

conservative, frightened or

retarded. When the anonymous

gossip columnist of MTV Online

tosses a limp barb at Madonna

("Ah, just like the old days:

MADONNA gossip. Just who does

she think she is, COURTNEY?")

you can only wonder how long it

would take the network to act on

the wisdom vocalized by their

most conspicuously intelligent

spokespeople, Beavis and

Butthead, and "kick her out of

bed." Or at least over to VH1.



Revealingly, MTV's post-musical

maneuvers have provided some of

their most successful new

programs - witness the success

of television verité rerun-mines

The Real World and Road Rules.

These shows suggest that the

stench of the rapidly-decomposing

"video killed the radio star"

dream has finally reached consumer

nostrils, and these selfsame

viewers are now voting in favor

of funhouse-mirror reflections

of themselves in the guise of

slacking twentynothings, instead

of the guys of Smashing Pumpkins.



If the problem with television

(beyond unintentionally grim

programming) is the omnipresence

of commercials (if we can say as

much, knowing full well that

commercials are commercial

television's raison d'être) -

MTV deserves credit for turning

the medium's central flaw into a

signature style - everything on

MTV is a commercial. That may

play well in the rumpus room,

but on the Web, where every

marketer hopes to put up a site

with all the appeal of an MTV,

it calls into question the need

for the network's presence.


It may be that MTV is matched

only by the remote control in

its historical contribution to

the speeding up of the flicker

now expected from the television

screen. But by solving a problem

that may have never existed, MTV

has helped accelerate the

dilemma currently vexing their

online efforts. mtv.com is the

slow pan to MTV's jump cut - if

one were to sketch a textbook

exercise in how not to design a

zippy site, they'd most likely

consult mtv.com producer Brian




Even given a best-case scenario -

acceptable quality real-time

video and audio coupled with

fluid design - it's up for grabs

whether MTV would either be

necessary or necessarily have

any advantage over hungry

upstarts. Once the record

companies, who've been anything

but hesitant to spit-cram their

wares on to the Web, offer their

full video catalogues online,

every Butthead on the scene will

only be a few href's away from

assembling their own mtv.com.

But by the time MTV or anyone

else gets it right, we're afraid

real-time just won't be fast


courtesy of the Duke of URL