A few months ago I read an article in Foreign Policy magazine stating that, among other things, television would have a more profound impact on the world over the next 20 years than the Internet.
As an Internet marketing consultant who talks about the ‘power of the tubes’ every day, it seemed a little odd. However, the argument made perfect sense when I realized that:
1. A TV is cheaper than a computer. I can buy a laptop computer for less than $400, but I can buy a little 15″ flat screen for $100. What’s more, TV signals are free whereas my laptop requires an Internet connection.
Obviously, the poorest people in the world are going to find TV a lot more affordable.
2. TV is kind of new (relatively speaking). Television is old hat in the USA, but it’s a new idea in a lot of countries. According to some admittedly old statistics, 10% of Chinese households don’t have television.
New mediums tend to evoke passionate responses (which is why, for example, my friend Mark has to buy the newest device from Apple), so TV is even more likely to grab eyeballs in countries where it’s just being introduced.
3. TV reduces reproduction rates. It’s been documented (only I’m too lazy to find it). Here’s an Indian government official arguing for TV as a way to curb that countries population growth.
4. TV is largely responsible for recent massive protests in Egypt (and elsewhere). Internet geeks like me are running around bragging about the impact of Twitter on protests in Iran, Egypt, etc., but that’s all bullshit.
Twitter didn’t overthrow the Egyptian government – TV did. From Scientific American:
About three-quarters of Egypt’s households have a color TV, whereas only 3.7 percent possess computers and only about one-quarter owns a mobile phone
Pretty sure that Twitter shouldn’t get credit for any protests.
5. TV is easy. Is there anything easier than sitting in front of a television? “They” (the estate) do all the work for you – they do the analysis, they do the editing, they find the compelling sound bites.
Is that a good thing? Not always. A lot of TV journalists manipulate emotions and provide flawed reasoning to evoke a specific response. However, it’s probably fair to argue that manipulative TV journalism in’t as bad as dictatorial governments.
So, next time some net’ head drops the old “Twitter changed the world” line on you, you tell them no dice. TV is changing the world right now, and by the time enough people have computers and Internet access to get active on Twitter, Twitter will have been replaced by something bigger and better.