Friday, March 21, 2008

Charlie Rose - Redux


I blogged about the Charlie Rose site before but I thought it might be worthwhile revisiting it now that I’ve been checking in for a few months now.

Charlie Rose as a site is a very impressive venture indeed. It hit the ground running and hasn’t let up. Any improvements that have been implemented have been subtle and well judged, the structure has remained constant, each tweak focussed on improving the access to the material available to them.

And what material they have... I’ve been extremely impressed with not only the sheer volume and quantity of high end interviews over the years but with how it delivers it to the visitor. It certainly achieves that primary aim of maiking all that archival material available. As a chronicle it’s superb.

But what has quietly impressed is a sense of currency, each night’s episode is available the next day. The query ‘what’s on Charlie Rose tonight?’ which a regular television viewer might have has been seamlessly transferred to the website.

There’s a keen editorial mind at work too, unearthing interesting interviews relevant to todays episode and provide a lot of context setting. All of which means that the site is ‘live’ in a way that a show chronicling current affairs and topics of interest should be.

The site has one major problem which differentiates it from other sites with large archives of video of similar quality, TED comes to mind. The site launched when Google Video seemed like a viable proposal and the site remains tied to that format and approach despite it’s failure. It would be so much better if it was in Quicktime and RSS was offered. I would love to see it offered as a video podcast. So the only options are to embed it on sites or to view it on the actual Charlie Rose site. To it’s credit, the level of production on the site certainly makes a good case for visiting there. I do think, however, that Charlie Rose as a podcast would penetrate the global consciousness, much as TED has done, if it took the same approach as TED. TED provides a compelling site, lots to explore and see, but it also offers RSS streams to subscribe to. With the coming election, a more accessible Charlie Rose delivered to iPods around the world could reach a huge audience interested in it’s outcome.

Any other criticisms are minor. They’ve done an excellent job tagging, but there’s no way for the visitor to tag. They do provide indexes by interviewee and topic, but I do find the browse method a bit intimidating and lacking an intuitive appeal, something material of this quality deserves. And there is a slight niggling sense that the ability to edit out Charlie’s vulnerabilities is given some leeway, his recent accident highlights this, on the broadcast show, we got a full “Hell yes” as he tells the audience what happened. But online this is cut out. I feel this is a mistake, the relationship with him is at least part of what’s at work here.

But all that said, If you ever wanted an argument of why this stuff is better online than over the air, Charlie Rose is the best example you could ever ask for, the ability to cross-reference with the archive alone is worth your attention. Roll on November, this is the place to see the Election played out.

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