The wisdom of the crowd will shape version 2.0 of Current TV, Al Gore’s multiplatform company known for its combination of user-generated content and original productions.
The former Vice President, with then business partner Joel Hyatt, launched Current in August of 2005 in a bid to "democratize" the media business, putting more power in the hands of viewers to produce and distribute their own content.
It was a heady time when user-generated content and video was in the air, YouTube having just launched a few months earlier in its own bid to tap into the growing UGC phenomenon and revolutionize media.
But that vision of "if you built it, they will upload" didn't quite pay off. The recession resulted last year in a deep round of layoffs, the departure of co-founder Hyatt and a 10% stake sold to cable operator Comcast. Now, Gore is now setting his sights on taking his almost five-year-old channel back to its stated mission to incorporate and reflect viewers' concerns.
All along, Current users have been urged to contribute short videos to run in pods between Current's original programming. Viewers were even urged to create commercials with the launch of Current V-CAMs, short for Viewer-Created Ad Messages. For example, the video above is a viewer-generated spot sponsored by Lexus.
Now, Gore wants to put viewer-created content at the heart of Current's programming, on-air and in digital.
"Soon we will unveil a new, related concept that we call Crowdsourced TV," Gore announced in a keynote speech (which you can watch here) this week at MEDIA magazine's Outfront Conference in New York. Focusing on “sustainable advertising,” Gore implored agencies, advertisers, and the media to create such a marketplace as "the consumer is way ahead of us on this."
Current set an early precedent for consumer’s embrace of digital technologies and gave them a place at the media table in an interactive dialogue with advertisers and marketers. Mark Rosenthal, a former president of MTV president who's now CEO of Current Media, brings Hollywood connections and media acumen to the network.
Gore’s new venture aims to turn the traditional top-down media model on its head; producers are the viewers, and users source, curate, promote and distribute the content, including those crowd-sourced ad campaigns. Gore cited the Frito-lay biodegradable Sun Chips campaign as an example; view more of Current's UGC ads here.
While some observers feel Current missed the opportunity to make Current truly user-generated at launch, Gore argues that Current now has the critical mass, with an estimated 60 million viewers, to truly leverage its fan base.
That said, his “What if we let [viewers] create content and the advertising?" pitch during his speech this week in New York had a Tom Sawyer ring to it, a reminder that the UGC TV concept failed to catch fire wth viewers in Current's first version.
Tell us what you think of Gore's vision of Democratized-TV. Is crowd-sourced, sustainable programming and advertising feasible&mash;or more of an inconvenient truth?