Lost and Found at NAB Las Vegas

The National Association of Broadcasters loves digital media. That may read like a boring PR headline, but believe me – it’s news. The NAB is holding its annual convention in Las Vegas this week. For the uninitiated, it’s a massive affair, showing off technology and holding panels on content, marketing, advertising and online media. Want to learn about using drones for news coverage? There’s a panel. Want to know how to create a podcast that makes money? There’s a panel. Want to learn about Facebook Live Video? There’s a whole pavilion.

The NAB wasn’t always so fond of digital media. When I first started reporting on the conference in the early 2000s, it was downright hostile. With leadership interested in assuring broadcasters that this “internet” thing was amateur hour, the NAB outright mocked the web. Cory Bergman and I, writing for Lost Remote (remember that site?), were the first bloggers to be credentialed to report on the conference. What we found, year after year, were keynotes that tried to comfort the afflicted.

Satellite radio? It was doomed, the NAB said. Don’t worry about it, broadcasters. It won’t impact you. (To illustrate the point, they showed an animation of a satellite crashing to Earth, to great laughter and applause.) News online? “When was the last time the Internet saved a missing child?” smugly asked the NAB chairman, as we noted the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children was having success with its nascent site. And don’t get me started on what they thought about blogs, social media, DVRs and anything else that wasn’t broadcasting via a Big Stick.

At one time, I even pointed out, you could get much better results on Google if you searched “NAB opposes” instead of “NAB supports.”

Mercifully, those days are gone. The floor at the Las Vegas Convention Center is full of digital- and online-based equipment and software. There’s no more debate over whether online media is “the future of TV.” It’s the present, and there are people here to learn how to use the new tools of the trade. Companies are here pushing products that didn’t exist two years ago, let alone 10 years ago. Broadcasting changed, whether the NAB wanted it to or not. The NAB changed with it.

The NAB used to be hostile to digital media. Now you can’t swing a cat without putting it on a panel about online advertising.

This is my first column here at Found Remote, and I’m happy to be starting off writing from NAB. For many years at LR, we wondered why the NAB couldn’t accept the changes happening in news and entertainment. It lost major sponsors. It lost focus. It lost vision. Now, it seems, the NAB has found its way.

(PHOTO: Jim Blakley, GM, Visual Cloud Division, Intel Corporation, at panel “There’s Revolution in the Air – How Technology is Transforming Media, Entertainment and Broadcasting” at NAB at the Las Vegas Convention Center on Monday, April 24, 2017.)

Steve Safran

The new Found Remote