Has Samuel Beckett become a headline writer at The Guardian? I ask because one of their recent headlines was so absurd, so fist-bitingly contradictory that I spat out my snail porridge and had to have a lie down.
The piece was about Hulu launching in the UK. The headline was: ‘With all this online, why watch TV?’
It might as well have been ‘With all this internet shopping, why shop?’ or ‘With all this blogging, why write?’.
It’s times like this I wish I could ban headlines, or at least vet those that have the words TV and online in them. Headlines are the boastful show-off who wants your attention and is willing to say anything to get it. This is fine with straightforward issues like ‘Man found hanging out of goat’ or ‘England cruise to Ashes victory’, but most media and advertising issues are more nuanced. There’s no little irony in the fact that they can’t always be reduced to catchy slogans.
This particular headline evoked a definition of TV from the 1950s. But things have moved on a bit since then.
The problem is a misunderstanding of TV’s relationship with the internet. TV is about content; the internet is one of the ways we can now deliver it to anything with a glass screen. They are wildly, lovingly and blissfully complementary. They are not on two sides of a fence.
When TV content crosses into cyberspace, it doesn’t magically stop being TV (although some start weirdly calling it video). In fact, simple, free catch-up TV online is stopping viewers falling out of the broadcast stream. It’s a trampoline that bounces them back in.
Most importantly of all, if you ask non-media people what they’re doing when they watch Corrie, Peep Show or The Gadget Show online they’ll say they’re “watching TV…on the internet/my computer”.
If it looks like a duck…