Viral Video Inverted

If you ask me, TV is getting a little strange these days. So strange, I’m thinking online is a better place to spend my free time. The ads are smaller, and I can either shut them off or get more involved if I feel the urge. TV doesn’t allow those options.

A whole slew of subpar programming has come out in the wake of the crazy videos we see online every day. Maybe this is nothing new, but in some ways it can really make online enthusiasts feel cheated.

Why? Well, there are three shows on TV that run viral content as their main focus. VH1’s “Web Junk 20” isn’t a serious review of the content, it’s more of a way to humiliate people on TV who’ve already been humiliated online.

Bravo’s “Outrageous and Contagious: Viral Videos” is a game show-esque program with some incidental commentary. For the most part, it’s like “America’s Funniest Home Videos” with no visible host or studio audience. And “Viral Video” on CNN’s “Showbiz Tonight” is a new segment that makes the most of online pilfering.

That said, it’s hard to blame TV, which has steadily been losing viewer time to the Web. But isn’t it a little sad that rather than create better content, they just replay what people see online? The word “surreal” comes to mind.

Has viral come of age? I don’t think so; it’s a content grab. Cheap laughs are just that: cheap. Though some of it is good content, it doesn’t seem like a very deep content strategy for the long term.

If you were thinking of using viral to bolster your next online campaign, it may be OK. But it may turn out be a problem if expectations are that your homemade viral advertising will to hit the big time.

That’s a bit of our own doing. Internet professionals and digital marketers have been trying to outdo TV since online advertising started getting rich and full of video. The days of comparing online as an effective medium may be coming to a close as technology and the industry grow past their awkward teenage years and become thriving, able young adults.

With everything we know about how people put their best foot forward when trying to make the Web work for their marketing campaigns, we learn too little when we try to put everything within the frame of the tube. In some ways, the whole client and agency structure is built on TV having the highest celebrity value; it’s the most costly, so it’s the most important. Right? We tend to be blinded by the light of any great shining star.

This recent rash of online TV shows may really be a forbearer of a more inverted model coming to the industry. In this other direction, production teams and interactive agencies work to produce quality content that’s in no way like TV. Users control several shows that are created to interlock and have interrelated storylines. Kind of like how “Mayberry R.F.D.” and “Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.” were related, but on steroids.

There are many ways we’ll create in this new world. For now, we’ll have to endure the strangeness of our older sibling, TV, taking credit for funny moments that, until recently, were the sole domain of our bizarre online world.

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