They’re only…what…20 years late?

You must protect yourself from those evil marketing rays
Is it just me, or is this a desparately classic case of old folks (i.e., people my age) just not realizing that the world has moved on a wee bit?

The University of Minnesota Office of Information Technology is proud to announce that the University of Minnesota is soon to become a member of ResearchChannel. ResearchChannel was founded by a consortium of leading research and academic institutions to share the valuable work of their researchers with the public through a cable television distribution network. ResearchChannel is now available to more than 30 million U.S. satellite and cable television subscribers and more than 1.6 million people who visit the ResearchChannel Web site at http://www.researchchannel.com each year. The channel also is available on 70 university and school-based cable systems in the United States…

Cable TV was cool when I was college age a zillion years ago (back in the 80’s), and we thought MTV was pretty darn cool.

That was then, though, and now is different. Sub-Evil’s generation don’t channel surf through the cable offerings, amazed that they have more than 4 options. They just don’t watch TV like we did. They time shift like mad, and cruise through a vastness of on-line offerings that make those early cable days seem positivity puny by comparison.

And now the U decides to get excited and pipe its research out to students on a cable television distribution network?!?

Uh, sorry, but I have my doubts. 30 million U.S. satellite and cable television subscribers?

Ooh.

Ahh.

Yawn.

In fairness, however, they do almost address this, even if in the tone of an afterthought:

…and was recently launched on iTunes U and YouTube.

w00t! YouTube! They get it!

Well, sort of.

You see, a quick look suggests that what they’re providing is honking great collection of lectures. They’re almost all long (mostly on the order of an hour, some closer to two), and seem to be largely academic “talking head” videos. Just what a college student wants to unwind with after a long day of…um…lectures.

Thus it’s hardly surprising that ResearchChannel’s most viewed video on YouTube has only been viewed (as of 2 Mar 08) 1,592 times, and their 10th most viewed has only been viewed 153 times (so a very steep drop in views). For comparison, the video of Sub-Evil’s performance of “Taco Man” at the ASA Talent Show 1.5 years ago has been viewed 1,033 times. It’s 1.5 minutes long, was shot will a cell phone from the audience, and only shows the second half of the song. But it would place a solid fifth in view count amongst the 166 videos that ResearchChannel has on Youtube. To be fair, it doesn’t look like any of the ResearchChannel videos has been up for much more than a month. Sadly, though, I suspect that the fragmentary “Taco Man” video will continue to hold its own against most of these even if we check back in a year or two, even with whatever marketing and promotion ResearchChannel and the associated universities might put into this.

And that video of the cute kid summarizing Star Wars? Almost 4 million views in less than two weeks.

I’m a big fan of serious content vs. sound bites, and I think ResearchChannel has their heart in the right place. There are cool examples of videos generated by university types that really take advantage of the medium and are successful in reaching an audience. I have grave doubts, however, about the likelihood that this simplistic mapping of the old lecture model onto (semi-)new technology is gonna get any traction with our son’s generation. I’m sure that some are quite good, and I can imagine that some might be quite popular/successful. But I’m guessing that those are the exceptions rather than the rule, in large part because this model just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

It’s like TED, but four times as long-winded, with less quality control, and worse production values.

Ought to just pull in droves of kids.

Really.

Droves.

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One Response to They’re only…what…20 years late?

  1. CoryQ says:

    Maybe this is like NASA TV. See, every once in awhile, on the community access stations (on cable) there is NASA programming. Sometimes it is folks talking about different programs, satellites, missions, the moon, whatever. If you are really lucky, they show fly over footage from different space shuttle missions. Now, I think this is terribly interesting but I haven’t found anyone else willing to watch this with me. Perhaps there lecture series falls into the same programming mode?

    Could be interesting, sure, but who is their target audience? Is the U trying to reach students or other institutions or individual academics?

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