One of our favorite home and garden bloggers, Charles and Hudson, caught up with Kevin O'Connor of This Old House for an interview about his career, his own house and DIY coverage on the Internet. Of all of the TOH hosts over the years, I'd say O'Connor definitely tops my list and, given the choice between Kevin and other hosts (**cough**Bob Vila**cough**), Kevin is tops.
Of course, I found this part of the interview to be fascinating:
C&H: What is your take on the growth of online DIY sites especially independent publishers such as ourselves or Houseblogs.net? Do you ever refer to any particular online resources besides ThisOldHouse.com?
Kevin: The growth in DIY is remarkable. On the one hand I love it because I think it's vindication for all of us house lovers and do-it-yourselfers. There are a lot of great shows and web sites out there that never existed and that's great.
On the other hand there's a lot of crap out there too. I can think of a dozen shows and web sites that wouldn't hold my interest for a nanosecond.
He's right, of course. There is a lot of great stuff on television and the internet, AND there IS a lot of dreck clogging up TVs and computers out there. However, comparing content from interactive spaces (like blogs) and professionally produced content is akin to comparing apples and, well, socket wrenches.
Although there are some entertaining and well executed blogs and YouTube videos and podcasts out there, user-produced content isn't just about the content. It's about the connection with others and it's about the interaction and the input. Relationships and real life and less control than professionally produced content.
Unlike passively watching something that an executive in New York City or Los Angeles has determined is important and has spent a boatload of money to produce, bloggers can now BE a part of the decision about what is interesting and what is important. They can be part of an ongoing discussion or debate, pass along new ideas or DIY information that is not as mainstream. They can share ideas and inspiration, resources, triumph and commiseration. This interaction creates a psychological bond with and loyalty to others and the content that is different and sometimes even (dare I say it) stronger than reading a magazine or turning a television channel.
Someone asked Aaron and I back at K/BIS in 2006 whether bloggers were seeking to replace traditional media and I laughed. I see user-generated content as a complement to traditional media and one that will challenge traditional media to rethink the way that it interacts with its audience. Though with the creativity that is out there in the online world on a shoestring budget, just think about what what some bloggers could produce with a bit more time and cash! Not produce a television show-type cash. Just pay my mortgage for a couple of months cash so a programmer can be hired to help execute ideas. It's mind-boggling.
With the cost of the technology and software needed to produce higher quality content steadily dropping, money may be less of a barrier in the future than time will be. The last remaining barriers will be skill, talent and time. Learning about video production, writing, photography, graphic design and programming is highly accessible thanks to the internet. Talent is not to be taken lightly, but the best content can rise to the top thanks to the algorithms of search engines.
Today there is only one Kevin O'Connor and I can turn on my television and watch him. Tomorrow? There might be tens or thousands of tiny Kevin Connors, everyday folks who are the ambassadors of the DIY world. Well, Kevin O'Connor wannabes, anyway. Because, really, there is only one original.