I had a brief but interesting conversation with Nilofer Merchant regarding the economics of TED yesterday.
Nilofer requested that we take the discussion into a longer format, and will kindly be taking the time to order her thoughts in a new post which I am looking forward to reading.
The point Nilofer makes in an earlier blog post on a similar theme about TED‘s capacity to offer focused curation, to provoke our sense of curiosity, and to expedite change are all worthy ones [EDIT: I mistook this post for Nilofer’s most recent comments, having misread the date. Nilofer has been gracious enough to point out my mistake in the comment published below. Here are her most recent thoughts on the topic].
Personally, I query the last assertion as to me TED seems heavily invested in preserving the interests of the status quo by means of its co-optation of new thinking.
However: how much more important could TED be if we were all simultaneously exposed to and encouraged to ponder the ideas that it promulgates?
Wouldn’t it be great if they were made available to everyone at the same time rather than doled out on a piecemeal basis, video by video?
Wouldn’t we all get more out of TED collectively, globally, as a series of shared experiences?
Wouldn’t TED be more likely to precipitate change through stimulating a wave of global engagement at the the same time, letting off thought bombs the echoes of which could be heard around the world synchronously?
I’d answer ‘yes’ to all of these questions.
TED‘s failure to consider how best to achieve such aspirations leave it open to criticism that it fails the duck test for elitism: if it looks elitist, sounds elitist, and conducts itself in a manner best described as elitist, then it is elitist.
It is within TED‘s power to change this by making a commitment to align its revenue generation needs with the social good by disseminating all its content live rather than charging for it, as well as offering an archive.
By raising ticket prices for in-real-life attendees in order to generate whatever level of revenue TED wishes to achieve, and then streaming the event for free as it happens.
Nilofer mentioned in one of her tweets that the TED audience is there to help the speakers tell the story. In order both to manifest the egalitarian outlook on the generation and propagation of ideas that is being claimed in their name and to refute criticism of elitism, they should also be afforded the opportunity to pay for its telling.
‘But aren’t events with even higher ticket prices even more elitist?’, I hear you ask?
Not necessarily, no.
I’m not going to claim that any organization, regardless of what it charges people to actually attend is elitist if it also elects to make all the content the event creates available online at no cost to the end user as it is generated, and maintains an archive of the same.
So, that’s my two cents as to how TED could amplify its significance and realize a broader potential value by reforming one of its business models.
What do you think?