This year’s Olympic Games in China raises some interesting problems and questions. NBC paid a lot of money for exclusive U.S. broadcast rights to the 2008 Olympic Games. However, the time difference between the actual competition and the local broadcast time is making it difficult for NBC to maintain its exclusivity. As expected, content is leaking out. YouTube is playing a part. News agencies in other countries are making footage available to their local audiences. Enthusiasts are finding video clips and posting them all over the Internet.
Besides being a management nightmare for NBC, this poses an interesting dilemma for local fans. What if you really don’t want to know the results until you can tune in and watch the broadcast for yourself? If that’s the case, the Internet could absolutely ruin your Olympic experience! Imagine waiting to get home to watch a swimming competition. But then a friend forwards an Internet article that shows all the results of the competitions you were planning to watch. Or perhaps you’re researching something at work and you stumble across a news site that has the medalists plastered across the front page. This takes the idea of spoilers to a whole new level.
This is a situation where I definitely want my information late. Even if the medals were awarded 12 hours ago, I don’t want to know who won until I can actually watch the competition!
On an related note, I happened across an article about a new Philadelphia Inquirer policy. The Inquirer has decided that it will no longer post online versions of news items until the print version is available. No features, no reviews, no blogs, no nothing. Honestly, I can’t imagine a better way to destroy your readership. When there is a breaking news story, people turn to the Internet. It’s automatic. It’s also automatic to turn to major news sources to cover those major news stories.
But imagine this frightening scenario. A major news event is unfolding. Your local news team is covering the event. But they don’t break the news. While all the other newspapers and television stations in the city are updating their web sites, you’re sitting on the story and waiting for papers to be delivered before you update your own site. Very soon your readers learn that your service can’t be relied on for up-to-the-minute news. Because you insist on holding your postings, you almost guarantee that you will never break a story again. And suddenly – almost before your very eyes – your readership migrates en masse to other services.
Frightening, yes . . . for the Philadelphia Inquirer. In fact, they should be downright terrified by this misguided policy. The reporters should probably start looking for jobs with other papers who want to break the news.
These two extremes made me wonder just how people want their information. In my Olympic example for this year, I really do want my information late. Usually I want it as early as possible. And unfortunately, I think the Philadelphia Inquirer’s just-in-time strategy is doomed to failure.