Watching the US candidates hustle and squirm about the upcoming debates shows a fascinating generational media shift, one that impacts all of us.
In this case, the system has announced that only the top 10 candidates in the polls get invited, which means that more than a handful won't make the cut, which of course feels like doom.
But TV isn't in charge any more. We each own our own TV broadcasting network—anyone who wants to put on a show, can.
If I were crazy enough to be running, I'd organize my own debate, challenging one or two of my competitors to an hour-long conversation, and then post it online. Even better, I'd challenge one of the candidates from the other party and have a substantive conversation. Bernie Sanders debating [pick your candidate]. It elevates both sides because each person had the guts to address the issues, to go head to head, to speak up and make a case.
The Debate Channel can't be far behind. No grandstanding, with chess clocks provided for fairness, no wasted time on moderators, merely conversations, some of which can't help but go viral and get ratings that would, in aggregate, compete with the TV variety.
Can you imagine a musician today who only performed on TV when asked to by Jimmy Fallon? No music videos, no online work...
And the rest of us? We can have our own debates. Debate patent trolling or which kind of activity tracker is best. Two brand managers or engineers arguing for their particular cloud solution. Or debate sous vide vs. grilling, your freelance skills vs. someone else's...
The game theory is clear: In a competition among many players, when two or three care enough and are brave enough to debate, everyone else becomes 'everyone else'.
The magic is the open nature of a billion-channel universe. The organization with an FCC license is no longer in charge, debates aren't something that happen to you, they're something you can choose to do.