Experimenting for the Sake of Experimenting

Satellite radio companies Sirius and XM are both touting aggregated programming that focuses on a popular artist or topic (e.g. the ’08 election) for a period of time, then gives way to the next subject. Sirius calls them “pop-up channels.” XM dubs them “microchannels.” (They’ll have to settle on a name if/when their proposed merger goes through …)

From the Washington Post:

By any name, they [aggregated programs] are a reflection of a changed entertainment and information culture, a recognition that the American audience is shifting from loyalty toward permanent formats to sudden plunges into topics and trends that flash onto the collective consciousness and then flit away as quickly as they arrived.

What I find interesting about this idea is that it tests bite-sized culture without abandoning traditional long-form or channel-based content.

Penguin Books is embracing this same “try it and see” concept with its We Tell Stories project, which uses digital delivery and Web-based tools to play with different storytelling forms. While I’m sure there’s a revenue stream surrounding this idea — and ideas of its ilk — the real value comes in trying for the sake of trying, as Joe Wikert notes. This is especially true in a digital environment, where the platform minimizes risk. Penguin isn’t abandoning its core business in favor of the We Tell Stories project — it’s just testing an idea.

Ultimately, the game-changing idea that revolutionizes publishing could very well be the end result of theses types of experiments.

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