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January 28, 2006

My Goal? To Bring TED to You

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Twice a year there's an amazing conference called the that takes place. It's an astounding collection of people and speakers. In the past it has featured such speakers as Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Frank Gehry, Jane Goodall, Billy Graham. Here's a short introduction. And here's a list of just a few of the people who will be speaking this year:

Nicholas Negroponte - Founder and Director of MIT's Media Lab
Al Gore - Former Vice President
Tony Robbins - Motivational Speaker Extraordinaire
Rick Warren - Author of Mega-Best Seller The Purpose-Driven Life
Bill Joy - Co-Founder of Sun Microsystem

It's an amazing line-up. I love everything about it. And plan to attend one day.

But here's the problem with the TED Conference. They cap registrations for each conference at about 1,000 people and it costs $4,400 to attend. And while I totally understand why it's so expensive and exclusive the fact of the matter is that it leaves the other 6.5 billion of us out in the cold.

What do I propose?

Record the TED conference on digital audio and high-definition video and give it away for free.

Crazy you say? Yup, just crazy enough that it might work. It's one of those ridiculous goals that I think would get a lot of people fired up.

But wouldn't this destroy the market for TED tickets? Nope, it would work just the opposite. The Super Bowl is televised for free. Does that prevent people from paying a ton of money to go to the game? Hardly. Music from the most popular rock stars can be found for free on all the file sharing sites. What's happened to the demand for tickets to rock and roll shows?

Consistently throughout time it's been shown that when you give content that has a corresponding live event the demand for the live event almost always increases. My guess is that if you gave away the audio and video from TED you'd find that you could command $10,000 or more for a ticket due to the increased popularity and buzz that the conference would receive.

And imagine the difference it would make in the world.

Imagine firing up a speech from James Watson (you know, the guy who discovered the structure of DNA) or Craig Venter (the guy who mapped the human genome) on your way into work in the morning. Or sinking into your couch after a long day and watching a presentation from Jimmy Wales (The Founder of Wikipedia), Steven Levitt (Author of Freakonomics) or Bono (actually you can do that last one here). All past TED speakers. All with a mission to push the world forward.

Can you imagine a child in Africa being able to sit down in front of a computer and learning from all these people? Or a person in the midst of sorrow or depression being so inspired by these intellectual and philosphical giants that they decide to change their lives for the better? It's possible. More than that, it's necessary.

We need millions of people tuning into TED in the morning on the way to work instead of Howard Stern.

We need those same people replacing some of their daily diet of mind-numbing television programming with TED or something like it.

TED represents the best of what's out there when it comes to content.

And sadly only 1,000 people will experience that next month.

I want to change that. Help me in my goal to bring TED to the masses. Send an e-mail to tedfeedback@macromedia.com (the only e-mail that I have for them, if you've got a better one let me know!). Join in on a conversation about this over at or in our forums (link below). Or drop me an e-mail at jon@learnoutloud.com and tell me how you think we can do this.

The impact this could have is tremendous. The technology is ready and willing to make this a reality. The need for this type of infomration to be disseminated to the world is real.

Let's make this happen.