Thursday, April 17, 2008

Returning from NAB

I'm now back in Silicon Valley, organizing my thoughts about the NAB conference that ends today. Here are a few thoughts to get started:

First, the final attendance count was 105,259, of which 28,310 came from outside the U.S. Press attendance was 1,296.

This year, the organizers expanded the charter of NAB to make it cover everything about content, but I think that the result is that the show is getting too diffuse. What had originally been a show focused on broadcasting now also covers filmmaking (from tiny independent films and documentaries to studio tentpoles,) podcasts (both audio and video,) Internet radio and streaming media, IPTV and more. NAB is probably still the foremost broadcasting, audio/video production and post-production show in the world, but the spectrum of topics and range of products available is getting too broad. Want a bag of three USB cables? You can find them on the show floor, along with products ranging up into the millions of dollars.

In the past, NAB tried to segregate products into physical areas. They still tried to do that this year, but odd products kept cropping up everywhere. There's simply too much demand for exhibit space to maintain any meaningful separation by function or application.

The reality is that the same product can be used for lots of things: A camera light can be used for a TV news interview, a video podcast, a short film or an epic. Almost any production or post-production tool has multiple applications. When a prosumer camcorder can be used for B-roll on a production that uses cameras costing hundreds of thousands of dollars, the walls that previously clearly separated applications start tumbling down.

So, should NAB continue to pursue its "come one, come all" approach to content? Lots of people like it, but I suspect that some of NAB's core membership, broadcasters, are grumbling that it's simply too hard to see, or even find, the products that are relevant to their businesses. The tent, so to speak, is getting uncomfortably large.

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