Step Aside, “Thriller”: Interactive Music Videos Are Coming To Haunt You

In the 1980s, MTV kicked music culture up a notch by engaging audiences with interpretive motion pictures a.k.a. music videos. The phenomenon swept the globe. To date, few albums slip out the door without a video or two in tow. The prominence of music videos dropped at the turn of the millennium due to high production costs, meager advertising or promotional return, and the widespread music industry free-fall. Rightfully so, I think, because things were getting ugly. As an example, Madonna’s 4 minute 28 second “Die Another Day” music video in 2002 cost over $6 Million, more than most festival-bound independent feature films today. Not sure how you feel, but I don’t think the video is worth it. Luckily, those days are behind us. People need to use their heads now instead of their pocketbooks to tell a strong visual story.

Fortunately for the music video format, cheaper production workflows and negligible Internet distribution costs have allowed them to return with a vengeance. Everyone can pick up a camera and release a music video online. Exciting times. The problem? There’s more competition to hear your song now than ever before. It is much more difficult to grab an audience’s attention.

It’s time again to kick things up a notch. Watching your music is not enough anymore; it’s time to interact with it as well. I don’t mean Dance Dance Revolution or Rock Band; I mean dynamic music experiences online. I’ve seen a few interactive music projects before, but Ellie Goulding’s “Lights” ranks at the top of my list. Built for the browser with WebGL, “Lights” takes you on a visual 3D journey of light and form through which you have some control. I STRONGLY encourage you to experience it for yourself.

If I heard Ellie’s song in a stack of other songs on Spotify or saw it on a video playlist in YouTube, I would probably pass right over it. Not because the song is bad, no. But because there’s so much noise in the world now and it takes an extra step to stand out. Ellie stood out to me tonight. It may take this much work or more for rising artists to build a new name online. I, for one, am very excited to see where this movement goes.

Can Newspapers Survive? Bring on Newsographics!

It is official: more people consume news online than from newspapers.  Print is failing to compete with the saturated blogosphere. While the value of digital media is evolving, the blog network is still disorganized and fragmented.  The need for staffed, credible and organized newsrooms has never been higher.

Print outlets have not sufficiently adapted to the Internet.  It should not be as simple as porting text to a webpage – your platform (the computer monitor, mobile device, etc.) is completely different than newsprint. Few people enjoy reading on their monitors, want to load full paragraphs of text on mobile, or feel sufficiently engaged by content on the ever-interactive tablet form factor. The format of digital news presentation needs to be completely re-imagined.

USA Today became popular because it had a higher volume of images than other newspapers. While a picture may be worth a thousand words, it lacks quantitative and qualitative information essential to quality news reporting. Incorporate graphical representations of story information and a healthy dose of interactivity into images and you could have something really special.  I call it the “Newsographic.”

I have been very impressed with the New York Times coverage of Japan’s tragedy. On top of diligent email updates and consistent reporting, they continue to introduce extremely informative interactive features and multimedia presentations that paint a more vivid picture of the event.  You can find some of their newsographics below:

Data visualization hit the Internet mainstream with a vengeance. Unlike text blocks, infographics are more inviting, quicker to consume, and can help make complex information easier to interpret. Bringing imagery to life with a layer of interactivity enhances the reader’s engagement with the material tenfold. Top a visualization off with live updating power and you have yourself a very powerful news medium. 

Newsographics are the future. Unlike most individual blog authors, larger news organizations have the talent and resources available to generate these presentations.  I am convinced rich multimedia will be the only way major outlets can stay competitive in this arena. The tablet is a perfect opportunity for newsographic-only sources to stake major claim in the news market. I still think major news companies have a place in the media landscape – but they cannot rely on the written word alone. They must evolve.