For Internet-delivered video, “Pull” will win over “Push”


Way back in 1997, Wired breathessly heralded the era of Push, which anticipated that the demand-driven Web, in which we clicked URLs, would be replaced by content that is pushed to your browser (remember, this was in the days before smartphones). Widespread broadband access was years away so the idea of pre-caching content on your computer seemed a good idea – even better if it was preferences-driven, in hopes that it would be more relevant. The article went on to propose that the browser itself would become obsolete (which, in a way, anticipated Apps).

Here we are 13 years later. Today’s “push” comes in the form of interstitial advertising. Want to watch videos on most of the TV networks’ sites? You have to zone out for fifteen or thirty seconds with the volume down, tapping your toe or drumming your fingers, waiting for the darn ad to play. Then, on to the content that you actually wanted.

Now we’re seeing YouTube and Amazon experimenting with paid video. Netflix has an app on the iPhone and iPod Touch (surprising, since Apple has its own video-on-demand service through iTunes to the same devices, and has relaunched Apple TV with no storage). The TV networks continue to limit what’s available online, in hope that online video consumers return to traditional TV where their traditional advertising models still work. But in the long run, I think that paid on-demand rentals and download-to-own models will become the default for TV programming, just as it is for movies. It already is a trend that’s building momentum.

“On demand” models will ultimately be the way we get most of our commercially-originated video programming on the Internet. People like to opt in. They like to control their destiny, and that includes video. It follows that people are willing to pay for content they want, just as much as they hope to avoid having unwelcome content pushed at them. Even when it’s “free” to the consumer (but it isn’t because my time has value too).

Personally, I get annoyed when I have to opt out. But on-demand, without commercial interruptions? I gladly pay for Major League Baseball and Netflix because they have content that I want, and neither of them push ads at me. In that light, Hulu Plus is a non-starter: why would I pay for it, and still have to watch commercials? No, that’s just greedy. That’s almost as bad as Comcast pushing banner ads into their EPG, hoping that I’ll click one in haste and generate a few pennies of revenue to them – I’m about to dump Comcast altogether as a result, and go back to satellite.

Similarly, I was a Facebook early adopter because I wanted to understand social media. But over time, Facebook’s sole purpose became blatantly obvious: it’s a data mining and viral marketing app, and the social benefit to its users is entirely incidental. Advertisers mine your activities and push ads in your face. Call me old-school but I, for one, visit my Facebook preferences and settings often because Facebook changes them constantly, trying to outsmart you into allowing the camel’s nose into the privacy of your tent. Thank The New York Times for its May 2010 article pointing out that Facebook’s privacy terms are longer than the United States Constitution!

Nope, I’m a “pull” kind of guy, and I’m willing to bet that most of you are too.


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