Being at home for the X-Files – Is Live still Relevant?

Remember Dana Scully and Fox Mulder? We did not want to miss one single episode back then so we had to rush home and sit in front of our TV.
Maybe, you even scheduled family meetings based on the fact that you wanted to be at home at the right time. Because back then if you missed it you really missed it. No second chance! OK, you might have had a video recorder but honestly, who could ever “program” a video recorder? Either the beginning or the end was missing or you recorded another channel.

Therefore, TV series like X-Files or Twin Peaks were still real blockbusters but I think we can all agree that those times are over.

Today we tend to consume content when we have the time to do so, simply because there are other (better?) things to do than sitting in front of the TV at a certain time of the day. There are services like Tivo or Hulu that allow us to watch what we want when we want for how long we want. Air times for TV had their last battle in the late night war between Conan and Jay Leno at the beginning of this year whereas many fans of Conan, the younger generation, already pointed out that they did not care about the time the show airs anyway.

At the last episode of the Annie Duke Show, the actor Kevin Pollak, who is one of the co-founders of the network, made an interesting point. When he aired with his show he was concerned that only a couple of hundred people were watching him live via Ustream. Jason Calacanis told him then that those live numbers mean nothing on the internet. What counts are the downloads of each episode.
Today, each episode of Kevin Pollak’s Chat Show is downloaded more than 500.000 times!

What is interesting is that people don’t only want to consume the content as they could simply watch the show via the website. People want to own the content, they want to make sure that they can watch it one or ten years from now by having it on their hard drives.

I had a similar talk in preparation for the webinar on language learning and web 2.0 at the University of Luxembourg where I said they should not focus too much on the live stream. It’s just a moment in time and no one can guarantee how many people will watch it. There are timezone issues, people forget about it, problems with the internet and so on. The important part of such an event is the recording and what you do with the created content afterwards.

All that made me ask myself if live content is still relevant today or if we simply don’t care anymore.
For me personally there are only a handful of shows left that I want to see live. But as all of them are webcasts, I don’t live in fear of missing them as I know Andrew Warner, Jason Calacanis, Mark Suster and all the others will be online the next day and I can watch them over and over again.

Hence, I’d say that in many cases there is no need for us to watch live content.
Sure, sports will always have live components you don’t want to miss but in most cases it is much more convenient to watch the recording. And I think the same might be true for education.

You might remember my blog post about live lessons being FNACs (feature not a company) and the recent movements on the market underline this pretty well. I think, Gagan Biyani made a good point back in April in our EDUKWEST interview where stated that teachers need to be there for their students even if they are not online by offering them self paced material and courses. And if you look at Udemy today the focus is clearly on video content and not the live teaching.

A couple of weeks ago, I briefly wrote about Grockit’s new approach of broadcasting live lessons for free and then sell the recordings. If you think about it twice, it actually has a lot of benefits. First of all, repetition is a huge factor in learning. A live class won’t help you with that. So the actual benefit is to be able to watch the class as often as you want / need to understand the topic completely. The only benefit that live classes are offering is the direct interaction with the teacher but in most cases students are only consumers, sitting in the back of the class and waiting for the bell. And the same is true for live lessons on the internet. Only a small percentage of the students in the room actively interact with the teacher, the rest is on Facebook which I admit is often also due to poor lecturing .

Another example, I wrote recently about is OpenStudy and MIT OpenCourseWare. This is also static content that can be consumed anytime, everywhere. With adding a social layer that enables students to connect and discuss on the subject matters you make this content as valuable as any other learning environment without the need of offering a live component.

All that does not mean that live teaching will go the way of the Dodo. But I believe edupreneurs need to adjust their priorities. You need to think of yourself as content creator and use this content not only to drive attention to your live component but you also need to see it as potential source of revenue.

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  • hansoo

    Great post! I completely agree. I think the best content form is:
    -Asynchronous: This allows for the time shifting you are talking about
    -Video: This allows for a more robust learning experience given the different learning styles people have (
    -Short-form: Since you lose 35% of your audience after the first ten minutes (Mills, H.R. (1977) Techniques of Technical Training, 3rd Ed. Macmillan, London)
    -Personalized: To deliver the right content and the right time

    My $0.02!

    • KirstenWinkler

      Thanks, sorry for the late reply :)