Now Reading: YouTube, Nautilus science mag, Bill Cheng

‘Now Reading’ is a collection and sharing of online stories and is meant for minimal consumption by the few readers of this blog. Topics include books, food, matters of culture, photography, media and technology … there are no rules. Have a story to add? Share it in the comments.

YouTube and the future of watching TV

New York Times media ace Brian Stelter wrote the other day that YouTube is planning a subscription option where consumers can pay a monthly for specific channels. This will drive a demand for genre-specific content on these channels – Do you want cartoons? Cooking shows? – and would drastically change the model for which digital video business succeed. Like free print content, digital video has traditionally relied on advertiser dollars as its primary revenue stream. So this development would unveil a completely new world of money, free from the incessant need of web traffic.

I can see a couple specific ways where these paid channels are a great success. The first would be if popular media outlets or television networks begin creating daily segments or original content specifically for these paid channels. You may prefer to watch Mad Men on your big screen television on Sunday nights, but you wouldn’t stop watching an acclaimed show if you had to stream it on your iPad. In fact, that experience is probably preferred by many. I’ve grown so accustomed to watching MLB games on my iPad – and enjoying the features that come with the MLB At-Bat app, such as updated stats with a quick swipe on the right side of the screen – that I choose it over turning the television on almost nightly. In general, I think audiences come around to new mediums if the new medium provides a more convenient experience. We adjust.

But the real breakthrough, in my opinion, will be when streaming Internet on televisions becomes a widely-accepted form of consuming content. When it’s easy and convenient to access the Internet via your TV – and more importantly, popular – then I think YouTube becomes a viable platform for television shows, news outlets, sports websites/networks that want to produce quick highlights and analysis packages, etc., because it provides the large-screen option for those who prefer that experience over a mobile device. And if paying a reasonable monthly fee allows me to enjoy content commercial free and on-demand (no more DVR boxes/fees), I’d happily oblige.

What would that mean for TV stations? Who knows, but it resembles the evolution the print industry has undergone with various degrees of resistance in the last 15 years. Major network brands wouldn’t cease to exist – just like the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, et al., will live on — but they would be forced to step up their digital games and produce shows exclusively for the YouTube/paid digital channels market. Can you imagine if, in 30 years, 60 minutes is a digital-exclusive show that people watch on their TVs via the Internet? Doesn’t sound that crazy, right?

Nautilus’ creative magazine model

Nautilus: Science Connected, a new monthly magazine devoted to science journalism, is trying one of the more creative business models I’ve seen. Nautilus is charging $49 for an annual subscription, and the physical magazine is published only once per quarter, with “chapters” being released online every Thursday. It’s a little unclear what the print version of the magazine will contain, although I assume there will be a significant amount of original content, since you can read the “chapters” online for free.

The website Nautilus publishes its online pieces and blogs has a simple and clean design, and the pages are beautiful. Because the experience online is high-quality, my question is this: Would Nautilus be better served splitting its content into two bins – online and print – and using a paywall method, while the quarterly print product would be included in the monthly/annual digital fees? Beyond Nautilus, is that the future of magazines – i.e. a strong daily menu of online content plus a print product devoted to longform features and essays? All major magazines have strong digital presences now and post select content online before it is released on newsstands, but I’m envisioning a magazine that writes, say, 80 percent of content exclusively for the Internet and 20 percent for its print magazine. The print version would not fool around with witty 700-word columns; the print mag would be serious writing for the serious reader.

Bill Cheng’s “Southern Cross the Dog”

This is awesome: Bill Cheng has written an acclaimed Southern novel set in Mississippi about a man named Robert Chatham, who goes on an adventure after being displaced by The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927. The novel, called “Southern Cross the Dog,” has earned high praise from experts on Southern literature and Mississippi history. What’s uniquely awesome about that?

Cheng is a 29-year-old who was born to Chinese immigrants in Queens, N.Y., grew up there and now lives in Brooklyn. He has not once visited Mississippi or the South. He says his inspiration for the book came from his extensive knowledge and love of blues music, and he looked for qualities in blues music that would transcend any one race or place or people. Around that, he built a plot and crafted what some are calling a masterpiece. I haven’t read Cheng’s novel, but after running across this story in the New York Times, I’m eager to.

Email: tmitrosilis@gmail.com Twitter: @TMitrosilis

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One Response to Now Reading: YouTube, Nautilus science mag, Bill Cheng

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