How Internet Access Changes Failure

Being a geek, I assume you remember the time you discovered Mystery Science Theater 3000.  If you're one of the poor souls that doesn't know what it is, it's a show where characters mock old movies, and at times obscure movies.  These films get a new lease on life – and the show, in my opinion, increased interest in cheesy old films.

Of course before that there was the Golden Turkey Awards, which awarded various bad films awards for their "achievements."  This book is one I credit with giving Plan 9 From Outer Space more prominence, though it certainly called attention to other films.

Many films in the above media, and in similar media like Late Night Movies and the like, are films that are at best weird, and at most very bad.  Many would be considered outright failures, yet because of their very flaws, they get a kind of new life.

We live in an age where everything is available quicker. From POD to streaming video, where companies can load huge back catalogues of literature online, we can find all sorts of media, books, films, and more.  The internet age has given us a time where we can find anything.

We can even find the bad, the bizarre, the strange.  We can find great failures of film and literature – and enjoy them again.

But in an age where anything can be found, are we redefining failure?

A bad film no longer languishes on the discount shelves – it's on Netflix (with bootlegs on Youtube and the like).  It can become a cult hit or get new "fans" or become a historical point of interest for a given actor or filming location.  Even that which failed lives on thanks to the internet.

What about things that are not failures, or failed for different reasons beyond quality?  The internet changes the rules as well.

An unappreciated film can find new fans.  An unpublished book lives via or smashwords.  A sudden run of awareness can get people downloading a game or looking for an eBook.  A "failure" no longer means a book goes unpublished or a film isn't burnt to DVDs – the ranks of the unpopular or unloved join the popular and adored in the realm of the internet.

This means of course the "failures" may get new live days, weeks, months, or years later.  Though this certainly has happened before, it's much easier for it to happen now.

What this means for those of us working in the geekonomy:

  • Any media project of ours that fails may actually get a chance to be revived later.
  • We may find competition coming from unusual quarters as "failed" media projects get a new lease on life.
  • A failed media project can be rebranded, remarketed, or rediscovered easier as long as it maintains its online presence.
  • Frankly I think increased internet-driven awareness means a danger of more fast-buck remakes of failed-but-now-popular properties.

Failure isn't what it used to be in the internet age.  That also means success has changed as well . . .

Steven Savage