Nearly every major original content brand that publishes in both analogue and digital started in analogue and then extended to digital — and in nearly all instances, the analog operation took priority, which made sense given that the newspaper, magazine, TV show, etc. was generating most of the revenue and profit. That balance of power is now shifting, as most media companies see their future in digital, even though digital revenue and profits still have a long way to go to catch up.
One obvious question: When it comes to scoops, which medium will take precedence, the Web or TV? Will TMZ hold hot gossip to accommodate its new television deadlines? Levin said the website will continue to take precedence, posting news as soon as it gets it. But then, he has been holding that tape of a celeb going “really crazy.”
“When something is not time-sensitive — and this isn’t — we’ll be smart about it,” he said.
And what about TV standards? Late last week, TMZ.com confirmed as authentic a much-disputed nude photo of allegedly squeaky-clean “High School Musical” star Vanessa Hudgens. Is that the kind of story that’s safe to drop in viewers’ homes during the dinner hour?
“There are some things we can’t do,” Levin said. “The website pushes further than TV.”
While many news orgs are reinventing their editorial processes and deadlines for the 24/7 light speed web, a web native publisher like TMZ isn’t about to be shackled by the limitations of analogue media (i.e. we have to WAIT until the show airs).
That said, TMZ appears to be acknowledging that the web isn’t the best medium for everything — a video of a celeb behaving badly may still play better on a big TV screen. Of course, they may just be doing this to prop up the value of the TV show by “holding” some content — after all, celebrity videos play just fine on the web — and they tend to spread like wildfire. TMZ has a whole celebrity video gallery.
These days, most people who see something on TV that they want to share — and what could be more shareable than celebs behaving badly — will turn to the web for a shareable version. (Hello, YouTube.)
The big test will be when Time Warner compares the top line and the bottom line for advertising on TMZ’s TV show vs. TMZ’s website — TMZ may see an opportunity to tap into big TV advertising dollars, i.e. get it while the gettin’s still good.
The flow of ad dollars will ultimately decide which medium is boss.