Wednesday, February 11, 2009

More on Net Media

Continuing a series of posts on "new" media

A more appropriate name for this era is Networked or Net Media. Until the computer network reached a maturity and capacity with the tools accessible to the masses to allow for the massive concurrency of real time, the “new media” was just experimental media, which often failed. We now see the emergence of information systems that are significantly robust and tools for dissemination that have little or no cost. As a result, not since the invention of written communication has the barrier to mass communications been lower in human history.

Net Media defeats both time and space. While technologists speak of going from Kitty Hawk to the moon in less than a century, society has gone from journalists repackaging events for consumption to living in real time as if we were there.

Consider Mumbai. Fifty years ago, we would have received dispatches two or three days later, perhaps a newsreel in a month. At 25 years ago, some satellite clips and a radio broadcast from the event. Today, you could participate in the attack with real-time Twitter text, streaming audio and video.

Each step along that time-line, we could have said there was a new media change. What has changed, what is truly new, is the methods of dissemination. The 24/7 cable news channel was nothing but a gateway to the era of networked journalism. The mesh, the grid, the network becomes the medium and it is open to all.

The new, once again, isn’t so new. Television was to kill radio; cable to destroy broadcast; now the internet to crush newspapers. We’ve had participatory media for decades – it was called letters to the editor. That said, it does not mean that profound changes aren’t happening. On AM radio, the music has indeed died, becoming the medium of choice for opinion – both political and religious. The age of the Big Three is over but the rise of the cable network in their place.

But Rupert Murdoch said it best in his Boyer Lectures in his native Australia in December – a time of creative destruction.

Along with the change of time and space, the networked age brings us the ability through digital assets for almost infinite supply. Chris Johnson called it The Long Tail, and it has reorganized the music industry, is working on traditional publishing and certainly hastens the demise of brick-and-mortar news groups like the Tribune Company and the New York Times.

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