From a Scrappy Collective of Academics to a Media Giant Worth Millions
Chances are, you are already familiar with the famous educational lectures known as TED Talks. Video recordings from their many conferences have gone viral time and time again over the years, proving that the TED Talk format is far from a passing fad. Perhaps you have seen TED Talks being shared on social media, often with prudent, inspirational, and/or thought-provoking messages alongside them. Today, TED – and acronym for Technology, Entertainment, and Design – is a media giant, at least as far as educational media outlets go, worth millions of dollars.
But TED’s status as a media behemoth with hundreds of conferences per year around the world and a flashy streaming platform is a relatively new one. It hasn’t always been this way for the scrappy media outlet bent on bringing positive change and proactive dialogue to the world. In fact, it is rare for a company with a mission as lofty and intellectual as Ted’s to ever see the light of day, let alone skyrocket in popularity in the age of social media. But time and time again, TED has proven itself as a scrappy media company with a vision – one that knows how to grow and adapt with the shifting times.
TED was founded 35 years ago, in 1984, and is currently headquartered in New York, New York. It started out as a small, extremely low-budget series of in-person lectures. In the past 10 years or so, though, what was once something of a fringe collective of rogue academics has grown into a company worth over $65 million.
TED watered the seeds of presenting ideas, solutions to global problems, and inspirational self-help talks into a massive global media network of podcasts, books, videos, and a formidable video streaming website. Additionally, Ted also offers grants, fellowships, and scholarships, making it possible for unknown academics and public speakers to become icons of their industries overnight … all it takes is a shot at the TED Talk stage.
According to an article from Business Insider, the people who decide whether or not a TED Talk is worthy of the platform must pass a “three-pronged test.” First, the committee must decide “whether the talk gives people a fresh way of seeing the world.” The idea, in other words, must be original, or a new take on a more familiar idea.
The second question asked of TED Talk submissions is does “the talk offers the audience a clever solution to a given problem or the promise of a better future”? If you have seen a TED Talk before, then you are already familiar with the format. The speaker often presents a unique issue, offers up data, examples, or sound logic in order to back it up, then offers a solution – preferably one that instills hope or inspires action in the audience.
This leads us to the final category that TED looks for in the talks that it accepts: inspiration. To further speak to this idea, Ted’s director, Chris Anderson told Business Insider, “We have this tool for bridging that allows any two humans to see the world a bit differently. Call the tool what you want: reason, discussion, sharing of ideas. It’s actually an amazing thing that it can happen at all.” TED Talks, to put it another way, must inspire the audience to act in some way – be it by positively changing their behaviors, treating people differently (better), or devoting their time or money to a cause.
It is both rare and hopeful when you see a multi-million-dollar company making this their central focus. This is just one of the things that makes TED such a unique and important component of the media landscape. The company’s existence alone is enough to shine a bit of hope into a world that seems to, in some respects, get bleaker by the day.
TED’s Very Own Streaming Platform
Previously, up until just a few years ago, if you wanted to watch a TED Talk, you had to hunt one down on YouTube. TED had its own YouTube channel, of course, but it still was a more difficult and time-consuming process than many TED fans had hoped for. This led the people at TED to begin working on their very own streaming platform.
Here, TED enthusiasts from all over the world would finally be able to easily and conveniently access any of the hundreds of TED Talks that are in existence. Plus, this allowed TED to branch out a little bit and create some more exclusive, platform-specific content – all without having to worry about the cumbersome requirements and monetization system of YouTube.
And this streaming platform, found at ted.com, is precisely the streaming site that we will be taking a look at today. We have already established the fact that TED is a media company unlike any other, but how does their streaming site stack up when compared with others like it? Regardless of how well-intended and revolutionary an idea may be, if you don’t have an effective and well-designed site through which to broadcast those ideas, nobody is going to hear them. So, without further ado, let us delve in and see for ourselves whether the TED streaming site is worth your time.
Design is Excellent, as You’d Expect
Well, the first thing that strikes me about TED, upon landing on the site’s home page, is the fact that it is designed expertly. And perhaps this is to be expected when you consider the fact that the “D” in TED stands for Design. It would be a huge disappointment, of course, if they neglected the design aspect of their streaming site, given this fact. But, alas, ted.com lives up to the highest standards of site design. The site is minimalist and easy to navigate. It is as intuitive as it is clean and easy on the eyes.
One thing that I love about TED’s site design is the fact that the moment you sign up and log in, you are given a series of multiple-choice questions about the kind of content that you prefer. They ask you what kinds of ideas are of interest to you and, from a list of tags, you select the ones that catch your attention. It’s basically asking for your customized version of their three-pronged test.
This is how TED knows what content to feature for you, specifically, as a unique viewer. Oh, and did I mention that all of this takes place right on top of the home page in such an elegant and seamless way that you won’t even notice the page changed at all until you’ve finished and the site reloads itself, reinvigorated with your personalized content?
From there, you are free to explore a customized world of ideas, inspiration, and fascination. At the top of the page, you’ll be offered recommended videos just for you. These recommendations, of course, change with your viewing habits – so, the site learns your interests better, too, the more you watch. Then, you’ll find a section of the newest talks; followed by trending, editor’s picks, TED-Ed animations, a collection of playlists, and finally talks separated by specific categories. The whole site is flawless and more intuitive than most.
But it isn’t only videos that TED offers on their site. No, if you scroll back up to the top of the page, you’ll find a site menu bar that allows you to quickly browse all types of media. Hovering your cursor over the Discover tab will produce a dropdown menu … from here, you can explore TED’s blogs, podcasts, books, and newsletters. You can also get involved in the TED community here.
Find a list of TED events, all around the world, under the Attend tab. And nominate a speaker, organize a TED event, or apply to be a TED fellow in the Participate section of the site. TED is one of those rare sites that transcend the digital realm and allows you to get out of your house and get involved in issues that matter to you in the real world.
Suggestions for TED Moving Forward…
Are there any ways in which the TED site could be improved? Well, as is the case with any site, the answer, of course, is “yes.” The site’s design and user-experience may be top-notch. However, and this is a pretty large concern, the video streaming quality is seldom nearly as high-resolution as it should be. In fact, some of the videos are borderline unwatchable, it is so bad. For a site that functions primarily as a video streaming platform, this is a huge oversight. I implore TED to take care of this remarkable issue ASAP.
But, at the end of the day, TED is free to use. There is no subscription fee, no tiered memberships to worry about. Simply sign up and have full access to the site, worries free. This does mean that there are ads, though, but they are not too invasive as to severely hinder the experience of the site. If you love ideas, want to get inspired, and learn something new, TED is the site for you.