CBS today launched its EyeLab initiative, which will make more short clips of its popular TV shows available for people to watch and create mashups. On the one hand, CBS (CBS) should be applauded for its continued ballsy take on the web, which in addition to EyeLab includes building its own digital distribution platform. But on the other hand, mashups are the new Poochie, thus making mashups, in effect, dead.
For those who don’t recall, Poochie was a short-lived character in The Simpsons. The joke was that Poochie was created by a network executive trying to be hip with the kids (he was “extreme!”) and reinvigorate the flagging Itchy & Scratchy brand. Poochie was doomed to fail because you can’t force cool. And like Poochie, mashups are now a go-to device when media companies want to connect with the youth. When they want to seem cool.
But how cool can mashups be when presidential candidate Mitt Romney holds a mashup contest to create his next ad?
The problem with corporate mashups is that they can never be as good as independently-produced ones. There are too many legal issues with rights and clearances. CBS will let you play around with clips from How I Met Your Mother, but try mashing them up with scenes from ABC’s Ugly Betty to create How I Met Your Ugly Mother Betty. It would never happen.
All the best mashups come from outside of the corporate system. Romney learned this firsthand during his mashup experience. His contest’s “winner” garnered 27,000 views and 95 “love it” votes. It was a well-executed bit of pro-Romney content.
But the popular favorite was a less-than-flattering video from Slate.com’s Bruce Reed, that was viewed more than 85,000 times, and “loved” more than 200 times. This puts the Romney camp in the awkward position of ignoring the popular vote to side with the safe bet.
The issue is that media companies, and presidential candidates, are by default brands that are always trying to sell something, so they can’t do anything that would damage those brands or those sales. And you know — that’s fine. That’s what brands do, but maybe the answer isn’t CBS telling the kids they can make mashups. It’s just letting them do it.