Time. With on-the-half-hour and -hour scheduling of broadcast and cable TV channels. With the demands of meeting deadlines over the twelve months needed to complete a TV documentary. With the decreasing attention span of viewers (inversely related to age) calling for shorter and more memorable videos. Our lives at izzit.org and Free To Choose Network are driven by “time.”
I’ve asked Tara Schupp, our chief operating officer, to put together an article for the next newsletter that will give you a sense of how we manage time in bringing together the inputs necessary to create TV documentaries and education modules. The same systems approach is also used in building our expanding distribution network.
There are two other aspects of “time” that, although intangible, are the foundation from which we start the creative process. First, a video of any length should be as “evergreen” as possible. The stories told may “age” in terms of fashion or technology, but the ideas conveyed should be universal in application. Second, to introduce a new idea or suggest changing an established doctrine is a long-term process.
Milton Friedman challenged my focus on television. “Bob, anyone who can be persuaded by an hour TV program, can be dissuaded by another TV program the next night.” I countered that the series would help sell the book, which chapter by chapter followed the themes of the series, and it has sold tens of millions worldwide. As producers we place enormous value on productions that are evergreen, that like Free To Choose can be effectively communicating basic principles decades after their release.
Milton also came to see how, properly crafted, a video can surprise viewers with a new way to think about ideas they believe they understand or have previously rejected. Johan Norberg does this every week with his Dead Wrong vlog. We also do a weekly blog, drawing on the hundreds of hours of videos in our archives. These online products build brands and celebrity by “visiting” viewers every week in a format consistent with shortened attention spans.
The individual also requires time to shape a world view, and even more time to adapt or change that perspective. One of my favorite quotes is from a “hippie” book, The Aquarian Conspiracy by Marilyn Ferguson: “No one can persuade another to change. Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside. We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or emotional appeal.”
Ferguson, like many, was blinded to reality by a powerful image of a peace-and-love utopia. Yet in this quote, she points to Jonathan Haidt’s recent research that supports our contention that appeals to emotion must be the starting point for increasing understanding and acceptance of a world based on the winning ideas of freedom. That—and acceptance of the timelessness of the effort—should pay dividends if we are wise, patient and persistent.