What if television developed to its full potential with connectivity and digital bandwidth? The media and information appliance at the center of most homes and offices could bear about as much resemblance to today’s broadcast receiver as the smartphone resembles early telephone handsets. And just as smartphones reinvented mobile communications, smart TV would reinvent visual media and journalism.
Bill Simmons likes to wake up early. On most days, it’s the only time he has to himself. After all, his life is hectic. He works 40-hour weeks as the senior editor and columnist for a national news outlet while juggling his other priorities as a husband and father of two young children.
So he’s up at 5 a.m. every day and into the kitchen for his morning routine: coffee, oatmeal, and the IQ. It is the ultimate “smart” evolution of yesterday’s dumb television set, and a technology now central to life and work in almost every facet of society.
The IQ’s welcome screen greets Bill with his customized slew of information. A mini-Q sits atop the living room table, next to his still-too-hot cup of coffee. This is his remote control: a miniature replica of the much-larger screen that hangs on the wall at the front of the room. At all times, the mini-Q is a smaller representation of the larger screen – making navigation much more seamless.
With the flick of a finger, Bill scrolls through the specified news that his IQ delivers to him this morning. Videos of the day’s weather forecast. Highlights from his favorite sports team. Updates on the stocks he has invested in. All he has to do is press play, and the IQ plays his personalized news show.
Even the personalization is customizable. With the IQ’s Q-News feature, users picks how often, how long, when, and what kind of Q-News updates they get per day. Bill’s selections are simple: he wants two per day, both an hour long, ready to go at 5:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. Through an advanced computer algorithm, encompassing the latest artificial intelligence technology, the Q (as it’s now known more colloquially) sifts through videos, articles, interviews, and news from all forms of media: television, Internet, and radio, to name the most prominent.
Some say Q-News can be a “never-ending rabbit hole.” But nonetheless, it’s a rabbit hole that is predominately embraced by the culture at-large.
Based on previous site/channel/purchasing history and a lengthy interest preference questionnaire, the Q finds information that Bill would like, re-packages it and presents it to him in a seamlessly streaming video form. If he finds any of the sections of the Q-News to be irrelevant or uninteresting, a simple skip feature is in place. With the Tell Me More feature, if he wants to know more about a certain piece of the Q-News, he simply presses the associated section of his mini-Q. At the end of the hour-long Q-News, there’s also a What About This? section, which lists a collection of more information that existed outside of the 60-minute timeframe.
Some say Q-News can be a “never-ending rabbit hole.” But nonetheless, it’s a rabbit hole that is predominately embraced by the culture at-large. As news became more interactive – and as a result more visually enticing – its popularity has burgeoned. Long-form text has been reassigned to magazines and regular niche publications. In nearly every respect, the news media has turned visual, interactive and almost exclusively digital.
Bill slurps his coffee quietly. But by 6:30 a.m., as light creeps into his living room, he knows he’s about to be joined by his wife and children as they prepare to leave for school.
His wife, Melanie, comes down first. She sits down next to him at the table.
“Good morning, honey,” she says. “Anything good on?”
The few times – mostly on weekends – when they have the opportunity to watch together, the Q seamlessly combines both of their preferences, reorienting the Q-news to something that they both enjoy.
“Of course,” Bill says as he leans in to give his wife a good-morning kiss before he heads upstairs. “You’re up. Want me to pull up your Q-News?”
“Sure, sure. Thanks.”
Melanie watches her Q-News – a much shorter and different collection of information. She’s going down a completely different, but just as deep, rabbit hole. The few times – mostly on weekends – when they have the opportunity to watch together, the Q seamlessly combines both of their preferences, reorienting the Q-news to something that they both enjoy.
Ten minutes later, Bill comes back downstairs with a pair of sleepy-eyed kids.
“Mom, can we watch the Q this morning before school?” asks twelve-year-old Johnny.
“Yeah, yeah mom. Can we?” asks Jenny, his younger sister, only eight.
“I guess. Just make sure you eat your breakfast,” she responds. She walks over to the mini-Q and hands it to Johnny. By reading his thumb print, a set of child-restrictions immediately are put into place and a set of his most-watched shows at this time of day come up.
This morning, like nearly every morning, he chooses his favorite cartoon.
Bill kisses his two kids on the head. “Enjoy your show, but don’t miss the bus again, kids.”
By now, it’s nearly 7:30. Bill heads upstairs to get ready for work.
The office is busy this morning. The phones ring constantly as many journalists are looking to finish and polish their pieces for publication.
These days, there is one universal deadline: Now. The Q intensifies this mindset.
But with that being said, the Q is also Bill’s best friend because it has distilled the wide array of conflicting technologies down to one device – thus focusing a journalist’s job on one medium. No longer does the Internet siphon viewers and advertising dollars away from more “traditional” media – television, newspapers, magazines. They are now two sides of the same coin.
No longer does the Internet siphon viewers and advertising dollars away from more “traditional” media – television, newspapers, magazines.
Bill walks through his door, sits down at his desk and turns on his office Q. This is a two-screen model, different from the one at his home. As he thumbs in, the left screen details his schedule for the day, the current status of prospective stories, an inbox of pieces he needs to edit and video messages or emails that need answering.
With the touch of his finger, he pulls up videos and articles that his writers have submitted. From there, he edits.
This particular article is rife with discrepancies and Bill is not happy about it. He wants answers to his questions. He presses Contact Writer and, seconds later, the writer of the story appears on the Q’s right screen – all the way from his home in another part of the country.
As he finishes the conversation with his fledgling writer, another message appears on the screen.
“I’ve got to go,” he says. “Just do what we talked about.” He slides his hand over to the other visual; it’s his secretary.
“Mr. Simmons, we’ve got an applicant here for his interview. Should I send him in?”
“Yes, yes. Do that,” he says, motioning his arms. “Bring him in.”
Half an hour later, Bill smiles politely as he lets a middle-aged, nicely dressed man out of his office. The interview went well. The man has nearly three decades of experience in the traditional media environment and he clearly came prepared. But his lack of familiarity with the Q – especially with its visually focused presentation – makes him much less of a commodity. Maybe for a monthly magazine, Bill thinks, but not for modern media that relies on instantaneousness, interactivity and multi-faceted skill sets from its journalists.
The man has nearly three decades of experience in the traditional media environment and he clearly came prepared. But his lack of familiarity with the Q – especially with its visually focused presentation – makes him much less of a commodity.
Bill embraces this new tide in journalism, envisioning it as a blend of the best of the traditional and the modern. Storytelling remains integral, the most important aspect of any piece. But now, stories are increasingly aesthetic, championing visuals over prose.
Around 6:00, Bill arrives back at home to an empty house. This is incredibly unusual, but he remembers that the kids are at baseball practice and his wife is at her weekly yoga class. For the next hour, he takes some much-needed time to unwind from a particularly hectic day at the office.
He boots up the Q and watches the baseball game that just started. It pales in comparison to actually being there, but the interactivity makes it a worthwhile experience. As the commentators drone on, Bill does his best to be a part of the action by using his mini-Q to answer trivia questions, poll questions and to post real-time comments about the game with a community of fans. The commentary comes from all avenues – from fans just like Bill to a slew of professional journalists covering the game for their respective news outlets. All of these comments appear in a very organized fashion along the edge of the screen. Using Q-Talk, Bill notices that his best friend is also watching the game, so they begin a one-on-one chat.
Between innings, Bill often uses the commercial breaks as tiny shopping excursions. With the Q, even commercials are interactive. Each spot accompanies links that directly connect to any advertiser’s website, granting regional Q-users with exclusive and regional coupons.
Tonight, he sees two commercials that he particularly likes – one advertising discount plane fares to the Caribbean. He tags it, intending to show it to his wife later that night. He also sees one from his favorite local pizza place, and within seconds on the mini-Q, dinner is on its way, scheduled to arrive right when his family returns.
After all, tonight is his favorite night: family game night. Johnny lets him know the second he walks through the door.
“Dad, we better win tonight!” he says.
“Of course we will, son,” Bill responds. “Don’t we always?”
This week is Johnny’s turn to pick the activity for family game night. He picks what he always does: Family Jeopardy, an interactive trivia game that they play with a few other families in the neighborhood.
After eating the pizza, it is time for the game to start. All of them grab their own mini-Qs and the competition begins. As questions scroll, people answer on their mini-Q. They see how they measure up to other viewers’ point totals as they scroll across the bottom of the screen. Tonight, it looks like they are a little smarter than the other families on their block. They are ahead of the Mercers across the street by $4,000.
Their school district recently began using the Q as the predominant teaching tool – a cost-effective substitution for textbooks that so quickly become outdated.
At the first commercial break, Bill pulls up the commercial he had tagged earlier and shows his wife. He didn’t want to show it on the big screen so the kids wouldn’t get too excited. He sends it to his wife’s mini-Q with a brief look of discretion.
The game ends with the family capping their dominant showing in the game. The Mercers ring them up on a video chat to congratulate them on their victory.
Minutes later, it is the kids’ least favorite time of the night: homework. Their school district recently began using the Q as the predominant teaching tool – a cost-effective substitution for textbooks that so quickly become outdated. Education has followed suit with media; everything is visually inclined.
They each use their mini-Qs to finish their homework, as Bill watches the rest of the game on the big-screen, close enough that he can help if needed.
As he helps his son, advertisements scroll across the edge of the screen. He tags another for a tutor that could help Johnny with his math homework; Johnny isn’t near the mathematician that he is a writer, so Bill assumes that even with the teacher video tutorials available, he may still need extra help.
A half hour later, Johnny and Jenny finish their homework and submit it to their teacher. After some cajoling, Melanie and Bill finally corral their children to go upstairs and get ready for bed.
After tucking their children in, the last thing on the Simmons’ evening agenda is to spend some quality time together – another rare feat that is much appreciated amid their busy schedules.
As Bill is about to turn off the Q for the night, a notification lights up the bottom of the screen:
CONGRATULATIONS. YOU’VE WON.