By: Nathan Woodbury
I guess I should preface all this by saying I don’t think that these examples will change the world, at least not today or tomorrow. But they bring up some interesting questions about how we use the internet to promote and sell products, and the resources available to the average consumer online. We have seen again and again the power of the Internet to change industries and create new ones. These five entities represent the first steps in changing those industries, hopefully for the better.
Kahn Academy is a website and YouTube channel built by Sal Kahn as a way to help his niece and nephew with their homework. The videos gained traction and were soon picked up by students around the world who needed help understanding classroom concepts. He now works full time producing videos on various subjects and levels.
Why is he important? Because his videos are now used in classrooms across the country as teaching aids. He has started to change the way students are taught and is a huge proponent of educational reform. It’s not about fulfilling requirements for graduation, or moving up a grade, it’s about mastering concepts instead of just passing them. The current education system should be worried when their students can find better teachers on YouTube than in a classroom.
Twitch.tv is a niche broadcasting website specifically focused on video games and the rising world of professional eSports. They are small now, but growing and there servers see thousands of viewers every day. The grand championship of a video game tournament last year saw more than 250,000 viewers each match, for 30-40 matches. That’s a lot of people tuned in to see other people play video games professionally.
Why does this matter? Because ad agencies are bound to grab this eventually, we are talking about 250,000 people of a specific demographic that are not there by chance channel surfing. They sought out and tuned in on purpose to view that program, a program that currently runs nearly zero ads. When companies finally recognize this as a way to target a core demographic, the world of internet broadcasting will explode, and common cable networks should be worried when their customers are turning to the internet and watching programs for free.
It’s not what you think, ok well maybe it kind of is. It’s a comic, a web comic, and one that’s posted almost every day with a new strip, but that’s not what makes it unique. The web comic reads like a sitcom, it follows the exploits of a group of friends the drama and comedy surrounding each of their quirky personalities, their issues and strengths. It has funny moments, sad moments and emotional as well, all from a comic strip. I’ll admit at first I couldn’t even believe it for myself, but as I got more into the series I found myself reading QC instead of catching up on HIMYM or Psych or The Big Bang Theory.
Why is this important? Because Jeph Jaques the author has created a substitute for multi million dollar TV shows from the comfort of his own home. Originally he supported himself with a day job, but now he works full time supported by the proceeds of his comic and the apparel and accessories that he sells, it’s that popular. TV stations should be worried, when a guy at home on his couch is writing more compelling characters and stories than the show they just signed for thousands of dollars. Oh and it’s free, on the internet.
Halo: Forward unto Dawn
In the year leading up to the release of Halo 4, Microsoft invested 10 million dollars in a series of shorts that would be collectively strung together into a movie promoting the release of their next blockbuster game. It went viral. It was released on the YouTube channel Machinima Prime and the first episode got 11 million views in the first 2 weeks. The rest of the series saw similar popularity. What started as a promotional project became a full length feature film when it was done, that was written and produced for a fraction of the cost of many movies.
Why does it matter? Because we now have verifiable proof that a movie released online is a viable distribution method. The movie was excellent, visually low budget for sure, but it was well written, well made and exciting, and it was released online first. So many movie companies see the internet as a den of thieves and pirates stealing their products, Forward unto Dawn has shown us that it is possible to make a good movie and give it away for free. Movie companies should pay attention; the Internet is the future, as cliché as that sounds. Producers and studios need to start looking for ways to include it in their business model instead of guarding against it.
Although there are no really big players in 3D printing yet it should still be noted that it could and very well will be an incredibly disruptive innovation. Already we are seeing fully functional tools, toys and even guns being produced in 3d printers with nothing more than resin and a blueprint. This is a big deal, because with the right blue prints there are very few things that you cannot build with a 3D printer, and not only that but the plans can be distributed for free online, meaning the only cost of building is the printer itself and the resin needed to create what you want.
Why should this scare them? Because we have already seen from multiple websites and online strategies, that crowdsourcing, and social media are the future. Why would I go to Wal mart and pick up dishes, or chairs, or a myriad of household items that can be created in my printer at home? Why should we pay for blueprints or plans, or pay people to design things if we can download the plans from our homes? We are closing in on a future where in a very real sense we will be able to download what we want from the internet, and that should scare retailers.