Essentially. Remnants will remain, but, basically, it was never economically viable. Here's the whole clip explaining it, and here's the most interesting part saying it's particularly hard to build a site based on putting ideologically adverse interlocutors together:
Bob Wright says that "you need huge numbers" to monetize a website adequately, and the sites with big traffic, Bob says, are the ones where like-minded people get together — "where you just sit around and tell each other how stupid people on the outside are."
Mickey Kaus offers the theory that video is the problem: Video commentary is never going to get as many hits as text. Bob concedes: "Video is an inefficient medium." That's sad for Bloggingheads, but wonderful, really. There was a time when we thought that the future of humankind was staring at televisions. The web has revived reading. People prefer to look at text. I find it hard to watch any kind of video commentary or reporting, but I read it for hours a day.
As a blogger, I interact with text fluidly, copying this and that and pasting it interwoven with my writing. You can make a clip from a Bloggingheads video, but finding something you want to clip entails putting up with a lot of yammering, with the hope that you might find something you'd like to write about. With text, you can see from a distance — e.g., Drudge or Memeorandum or a Google alert — whether you even want to click over to a page. If you do, you can instantly scan it, search for key words, focus on the interesting parts, and copy the bits you want to riff on. And your post is up and creating new text-based effects of its own.
Another problem Bob talks about is that his "heads" — often writers and academics — had endless problems dealing with the technology involved in video recording their performance and sending the file to Bloggingheads to be made into their nice, split-screen presentation. It's easy to screw up, even if you have a Mac with a built-in camera and QuickTime software. I've botched recordings and then needed to redo them. (Oddly, the redone videos were, in both cases — here and here — particularly good: The dry run improved the performance.) Because of the technical issues, Bloggingheads employed 5 assistants. No wonder it wasn't economically viable!
It wasn't just that the various 'heads were technically inept and in need of expensive hand-holding. The 'heads were nearly all print-based folks. Writers. They weren't oriented to video. They made little effort to look and sound interesting on camera. When I was on, I tried to get back-and-forth action going for the sake of the viewer, but most of the 'heads would take turns making long-winded statements while the other stared blankly into the camera.
The key Bloggingheads technology was the split screen, but if the nonspeaker does nothing, you might as well have edited video — technically easy to do — showing one speaker and then the other. You could take out all the pauses and boring stuff too. But then the immediacy is lost, the thrill of real-time interaction. But it was that very thrill that made most 'heads boring! Writers, speaking, with no ability to edit? That tends to result the kind of talking that reminds me of the way I spoke when I tried to use a Dictaphone, back in the days when professionals didn't do their own typing.
Anyway, Bob says he's going to concentrate on blogging now, and he's going to be blogging at The Atlantic, which is a great perch. So, congratulations on that.
And goodbye to Bloggingheads as we've known it.