Friday, March 7, 2008

Pitchfork Aims to Pickup the Baton Dropped by MTV 10 Years Ago

pitchfork With Trent Reznor, Radiohead, MySpace, YouTube, the iPod and bit torrent slowly dismantling the record industry as we know it, it was only a matter of time before somebody set their sights squarely on the other media conglomerate that's been sucking the life out of music, MTV.

We've all heard the tired-but-true gripes with MTV a thousand times over. They never play videos. The videos they do play suck. Too much focus on buffoonish rap music. There's WAY too many reality shows. Etc., etc., etc. For whatever reason, no suitable competitor has ever challenged their superiority on cable TV, but with more people looking first to the Internet (and away from MTV, radio and record stores) to discover and acquire new/old music, the time is ripe for someone to fire the first real shot across MTV's bow via an Internet cannonball.

Indie criticism juggernaut Pitchfork Media is just that someone as they announced this week the creation of, a 24-hour web music video channel that promises to "[document] independent music as it happens". The new venture is set to launch April 7 and promises music videos, live concert footage, mini and long form documentaries, exclusive interviews and other content. All of which is said to be available in high quality on-demand full-screen viewing.

Now, for those of us who read Pitchfork on a regular basis are well aware they aren't above harsh criticism themselves, but it's hard to deny that they do a good job covering the (mostly) independent music scene and offer a significant pipeline into musical content (good and bad) that many people would otherwise not know existed. Both of these components (along with its large audience) should serve them well in being able to succeed in their mission. Moreover, sponsorship, advertising and cross-promotional opportunities should give them the flexibility to keep the service 100% free, while potentially opening up a significant revenue stream that may inspire others to follow in Pitchfork's footsteps.

Currently, web video remains a largely unproven source of revenue. The main problem being an inability to monetize the large pools of traffic that web video can attract. In this regard, even YouTube, which is owned by the most successful and powerful Internet advertising corporation on Earth (Google), has been unable to turn their 16 billion monthly page views (according to ComScore data) into a profitable revenue stream. While this will absolutely be a challenge to, they do have the benefit of having a more easy-to-define target demographic (ie. it's easier to target ads that users won't ignore) than YouTube and can also lean heavily on the blogosphere, which is almost certain to send waves of traffic over to their videos (especially if they are easy to share with others).

If they play their cards right (say, tie in sales of higher quality content that is playable on iPods/Zune/mobile phone/and television screens or partner with the big Summer music festivals to provide live streaming content) could become a huge success and serve as another watershed moment in a series of watershed moments for the music industry. My hope is that the site becomes everything I think it could and should be, while other visionaries follow suit with their own web video networks and MTV fades into oblivion. What a happy day that would be!

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