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That was the Point of the Show

February 21, 2010

I often think about the role that advertising has in the current landscape of startups, web applications and software. It feels to me that many of us, web startup entrepreneurs, see advertising as a means to an end, a way to support the work that we really want to do: build amazing products and software. The truth is, however, that if advertising is your business model, then that's what you need to be good at to succeed, everything else is a means to that end.


I just watched an hour long interview with David Simon, creator of The Wire (my favorite TV show) at the Edinburgh TV Festival. At around 38:37, Mr. Simon answers a question about creating TV that's not easy to consume and not for the casual viewer.

I think television as a medium, in terms of being literate and telling stories, I think it's short changed itself from its inception and I think that's because of advertising. It was an advertising medium and only when television managed to liberate itself from the economic construct of advertising was there a real emancipation of story.

American television up until the point of premium cable was about the interruptions every 13 minutes to sell you cars and ipods and jeans and whatever else. That was the point of the show, not the shit they put around the ads. The ads were the point.

So you had to bring the most number of eyeballs to that show. That meant dumbing it down making the plot simple, gratifying people by the end of the hour, more tits, more ass, more stuff that blows up. That was television.

Obviously it's not a perfect parallel, but it does make you think.

Update: I also found the guardian has a a clip of just this exchange (if you don't want to watch the whole thing).