|'Rocketboom' May Be Future of
May 6, 2005
NEW YORK -- What's ahead on TV? In a couple of weeks the broadcast
networks will announce their fall schedules.
Meanwhile, viewers await word on how "The CBS Evening News" will be
retooled into a newscast for the next generation. Thus does television
race to meet the future.
But there are clues to that future available to anyone who looks for
them. Check your computer screen, for instance, for evidence of what
someday may be known as what used to be TV -- like "Rocketboom."
|"Rocketboom" is a Monday-through-Friday video Web log, or vlog, staged
as a mini-newscast. Modeled on television yet summoned from
cyberspace, each bite-sized dispatch shines a light on what the future
seems to be: Whatever you feel like putting out there, accessible to
anyone at any time, and (since there will no longer need to be fixed
roles in this process) whatever everyone else feels like putting out
there for you.
Already you can click to "Rocketboom" whenever you want to catch
today's 3-to-5-minute installment or tap the archives.
Then, after the burst of flashing images in the opening sequence, what
you get is a slice of Internet culture with a playful twist. It might
be a selection of quirky bulletins or a music video. An on-the-street
survey (question: Mac or PC?), a remote from a comedy club or an
outing to the top of the Empire State Building.
On the March 4 "Rocketboom," it was a long-distance chat with a patron
in a Charlotte, N.C., barroom, as seen by the bar's own Webcam.
Conducting that interview was "Rocketboom" anchorwoman Amanda Congdon
in Manhattan, from her no-frills set: a desk barely larger than a TV
table in front of a world map tacked to the wall.
Congdon is reason enough to watch "Rocketboom." A fizzy ingenue with a
mischievous streak, she bridges the gap between the program's dual
missions: to be a newscast homage and a New Media breakthrough. She
makes "Rocketboom" comfortable and cool, all at the same time.
"We wanted to have a creative video blog that would be palatable," she
says. "A lot of the video blogs out there are by someone in their
bedroom, half-awake. Mainstream America is not gonna want to watch
that. We wanted to get people watching stuff online, to get people
interested in this new medium."
An aspiring actress, the 23-year-old Congdon appeared last season on
NBC's "The Restaurant" (a "pseudo-reality show," she scoffs, for which
she was cast by the network as a disgruntled coat-check girl).
Then last September, she spied the "Rocketboom" casting call on the
craigslist Web site.
"Rocketboom" creator Andrew Baron, a 34-year-old specialist in Web
design and technology, says he was seeking someone "professional, who
was also versed in Web logs" -- except Congdon wasn't.
"I had never gotten into vlogs or podcasts or anything like that," she
admits. "When I auditioned, I went, `So you're gonna take me and put
it online? Cool!' I never really understood what I was getting into,
that it would be so much more than that.
"I'm completely submerged into that culture now."
But Congdon, who rounds out her workdays auditioning for roles on TV
and other old-school media, finds too many people are stuck in the
"People in the casting world tune out when I tell them about `Rocketboom.'
I can see it in their eyes," she says. "They just can't grasp that
anything online could be worthwhile, which to me is strange,
considering how the world is moving."
The audience for "Rocketboom," which began last October, is currently
25,000 downloads a day, and -- mostly dependent on word-of-mouth (or
should that be word-of-mouse?) -- it's growing.
Baron has recently hired correspondents in Los Angeles, Minneapolis
and Boston. To make the venture pay, he peddles ad time at the end of
How big, how lucrative, how revolutionary could "Rocketboom" become?
Nothing is sure except this: Technology won't hold it back. From day
one it blanketed the globe, issuing forth from a consumer-grade
videocam and a laptop.
"It's raw," allows Congdon, but that, of course, is part of the fun.
"Not like TV production, which is polished and perfect. If something
has a TV finish, people are suspicious.
"But I WOULD like to get the lighting better."
Adds Baron, whose Upper West Side flat serves as the "Rocketboom"
studio: "I'd like to get it out of my apartment."
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