Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Case of the Missing Web TV Critics: There's No There There

Aymar Jean Christian at Televisual asked, Where Are The Web TV Critics?, noting traditional outlets for media criticism including New York Times, The AV Club, New York, Slate, The Los Angeles Times, and Variety have yet to establish a regular column evaluating web TV content.

There are several problems with Christian’s criticism:

What is this thing you speak of? —  
A single nomenclature as well as definition for the visual entertainment content streamed over the internet has yet to be developed. What exactly is “web TV”? Is it the same as “video on demand”? “streaming video”? Is it “social TV” or “second screen content” as covered by TVNewser’s sister site, (which doesn’t provide criticism but news of the same)?

The lack of a cohesive, uniform identity encourages marginalization of the content and delivery format. It's easy to discount it because there's no aggregate accruing critical mass for lack of identity and definition.

What the existing outlets for criticism do know is that whatever it is, it’s not Film or Television, both of which they continue to critique.

Why ask the past about the future of entertainment? —  
If this unnamed and undefined entertainment content has not yet found a home after all this time in traditional outlets, perhaps it’s because these platforms are still tied to a dead-tree, brick-and-mortar analog concept of entertainment.

Why not approach newer, internet-only venues like HuffingtonPost, Flavorwire, Gawker, or other outlets which are not tied to print media formats while focusing on internet content?

Further, why approach traditional, mainstream outlets with requests by email, rather than contacting their critics who use social media through the same? The critics who are most wired and current are those who will best understand how the lack of criticism, published on the internet, affects entertainment content released only through the internet.

Build it and they will come
Perhaps the gaping hole where criticism belongs offers the answer itself: there is no there there, and something must be built to fill it. That Christian built his blog Televisual is a revelation in itself; he saw the need for commentary related to this area; to date, it’s existed in this space.

What’s needed now is something newer, bigger, to replace this missing criticism now that Christian will be more engaged with academia.

So...who’s going to step up and answer the questions while building the new whatever-it-is?

And for the minority groups who seek broader representation in digital content: are you ready to provide regular critical commentary to fill this void before you get crowded out?

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