Why I Don’t Watch Joost

July 10, 2007

I like Joost, the fledgling online video network. I like the user interface, I like the video quality. I like what I know of the technology.

But I’ve only watched Joost three times, briefly. Even though I’ve had access since January.

There are two main reasons for this. The first is that my TV-viewing style is highly focused. I am not a channel surfer. I have cable, but I mostly watch movies. Occasionally, when I want something briefer, I turn to specific shows or channels: “Heroes”, “Lost”, “The Daily Show”, “South Park”, or PBS. I rarely add something new to that lineup (except for the wonderful Current.tv, which entered my life not too long ago.).

Joost doesn’t yet cater to that kind of highly focused viewing. It’s a new universe of unfamiliar brands, or familiar brands with unfamiliar programming. At least, that’s from when I last logged in a few months ago. When I did (which, because I do it infrequently, requires digging up my login info and installing the latest version of the app), I’ve recognized none of the channels except for MTV, which I don’t watch. I hear that’s changing, however, as Joost adds more well-known channels.

I do find it exciting to have access to new content after years of cable monopolies. But reason #2 for not watching Joost is more serious: physical viewing context. Never an appointment viewer, I watched most of “Lost” on DVD. When the DVDs ran out, I streamed from ABC.com (tolerable incorporation of ads) and, later, NBC.com (less tolerable incorporation of ads) for “Heroes”. I’d lie on the couch, laptop propped on my lap. Not ideal, but I had to keep up with the shows.

Then my laptop monitor hinge broke, and I had to prop it against a stack of books on my desk in my study. I stopped watching online video altogether.

Here’s the thing: I could do my dishes in the bathtub rather well: it’s big, the water is plentiful, and there’s a drain. But… IT’S IN THE WRONG ROOM. See where I’m going with this? For many people, the computer is not in the living room, or if it is, it’s not in the prime viewing location, and the screen’s not big enough and the sound’s not good enough to watch from the couch. Leisure video watching on a computer is confined to a laptop on a lap, or sitting upright in a desk chair. You can blame short attention spans for the brevity of online videos, or you might consider blaming these very real, physical disincentives.

Here’s the other thing about physical viewing context: Sometimes I watch television to get away from my computer. As more and more of my work and hobbies move into the world of the Screen, Keyboard, and Pointer, I get thoroughly sick of that HCI (Human-Computer Interaction) mode. I can enjoy an hour of solitary viewing of my favorite network shows, but it would take much more motivation to hoist my computer on my lap or sit in a desk chair, no matter how comfortable, passively intaking content I’ve never heard of, for the amount of time I’m capable of doing that in front of my TV. What’s more, much of the fun of video watching comes from communal viewing, and that’s not possible just yet.

Now, I know there are ways to hook my computer up to my television, but I’d need a better television, and I’ve yet to see a video stream, even on the high-quality Joost, that can fulfill the size and clarity requirements for good from-couch viewing. Besides, I’ve upgraded and become re-acquainted with so many other electronics these days, I just can’t be bothered to take on another project.

All that said, the above critique does not lead me to conclude that Joost has no future, unlike this blogger. People far more knowledgeable about online video believe in it strongly. I know that eventually Joost will migrate into other apparati that are better converged with the television set. Assuming our infrastructure supports the bandwidth burdens (thanks John!), I can imagine a near future when I will be able to watch Joost the way I watch TV, and at that point I will be very glad that the team has worked so hard to bring new content — and some interactive features — to “television”. At that point, I’ll be willing to explore new channels and make them familiar if they’re good.

At a conference last February, Jeremy Allaire (cool bio pic!) of Brightcove showed the audience Web sites that use the TV metaphor as faithfully as possible (if you click no other link on this page, click this one. It’s incredible). He kept saying, “We’re really having a TV experience here.”

I say: Make it a post-TV experience as far as the content is concerned. Just let me watch in my living room, from the comfort of my couch.

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2 Responses to “Why I Don’t Watch Joost”

  1. 5aliveup95 Says:

    I say they should start making the damn projectors cheaper. Then your bedroom ceiling can be your TV, when you realize that your stupid couch really isn’t as comfortable as it could be either. (Stupid couch!)

    Love that guy’s bio pic – although it now unfortunately (fortunately?) reminds me of how those moving photos got rendered in the Harry Potter films.

  2. rekha6 Says:

    That’s so true about the Harry Potter comparison! I was wondering why it looked familiar.

    As for couches, much as I love mine, I’m starting to think couches aren’t quite the right design. I mean, who actually *sits* on a couch? We lie on couches. It might be time to get a double-wide chaise lounge. Or is that just fancy language for “bed”… now *there’s* a thought for the post-living room.


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