What will the future of media look like? | acidlabs
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What will the future of media look like?

What will the future of media look like?

If you attended Ross Dawson’s Future of Media Summit in Sydney or Silicon Valley yesterday, there are a few core take-aways you might have been left with:

  • the artificial split/war between journalism and new media prevails
  • everyone – PR, journalism, advertising and broadcasting – is trying to figure out this social networking and social media stuff (and I guess that’s good for people like me who can help with that)
  • old media is changing and coming into the new world, although the old “pump it out and they will consume” attitude still persists
  • closed formats and limited availability are still seen as viable business models
  • what to do with and how to manage participant created content (rather than user generated content. Thanks, Chris Saad) is a puzzle many organisations are struggling with.

There was a lot more, but these were certainly the most striking to me. I’ve summarised my thinking around each of these issues below.

We don’t need no blogucation

The false dichotomy of the schism between the professional journalists, journalism educators and academics one one side, and the world of new media, particularly as embodied by bloggers, on the other, prevails. It seems largely perpetuated by a somewhat chauvinistic attitude on the part of some professional journalists who cling to the notion that a blogger, no matter how good a writer and reporter of information that they might be, is still something to be looked down upon as a non-professional by the profession of journalism.

This attitude was brought home particularly strongly by The Australian’s Jane Schulze who evidenced a particularly disdainful attitude towards bloggers, and Deakin University’s Stephen Quinn, who was surprised when I exploded from the audience with a vehement “yes” to his question whether, if an “amateur”, doing the same work and equipped with the tools of a journalist, ought to be considered to be doing journalism without having been properly trained, authorised and edited.

Later in the day, at the Future of Journalism round table, several of us opened the eyes of some of the journalism types there when we revealed that yes, we do take ourselves seriously, we do fact-check, we do seek to interview serious experts for appropriate writings and we weren’t just shooting off at the mouth in an unfiltered op-ed manner. I don’t know whether Stilgherrian, Chris Saad and I moved any mountains, but we certainly seemed to chip away at some of the ivory in the tower.

It bothers me that a good proportion of the journalism profession appear threatened by the new media, especially powerful and high-reputation bloggers. I believe there is a place for journalists and bloggers and that their aims and outputs, while often sharing similarities, are different. There will always be a place for good, well-researched journalism; whether it’s long form features or punchy news. The same goes for quality blogging. What there isn’t a place for is low quality in either camp. Rubbish is rubbish wherever you find it.

Bloggers too, however, are not blameless. There are some in the blogger community who seem overly sensitive to the attitude of the journalism half of the equation. This feeling of being challenged, and the precious sensitivity evidenced on both sides needs to be swept away. Bloggers and journalists both have their place and both have value in the world of new media.

New and scary (and largely ignored)

Everyone seems to realise that social media (that created by participants) and social networking (the connections between participants) are important. But still, they remain clueless (not in a pejorative, but rather a factual sense) as to what to do about it. As much as the use of social tools within organisational walls remains a challenge (and it is a huge challenge for most organisations), the issue of the informal organisation, social networking within and across organisational walls and in particular, participant generated content – what to do with material related to your brand that was generated in an unofficial capacity – is a major hurdle.

Whether it’s brand hijacking by ad mashups, negative publicity in an uncontrolled space like GetSatisfaction or the issue of how to communicate with mavens for your brand, most organisations haven’t yet dealt with the issue and are baffled as to how to do so. These organisations have a lot of work to do, and the idea of an uncontrolled, open and honest conversation about their brand, free of spin, is a terrifying thing. Equally the PR, creative and ad agencies these brands are talking to are just as challenged when it comes to building strategies around social media.

In talking to people from several creative agencies yesterday, they revealed that when these ideas are presented to clients, they are often dismissed out of hand as something the brand “just doesn’t do”. Risky. Wouldn’t you rather be a part of the conversation than the subject of it (yes, Gavin, you can borrow that)?

Our model is firehose

I was particularly bugged by Mark Antonitis of San Francisco’s KRON-TV. Much of what he said resonated with me; he wants relevance in his programming, local focus, and an open market, but still believes that TV is going to win the content war by simply producing sheer volume of material that we, the audience, will passively consume, slouched on our couches. Obviously, he’s not talked to Clay Shirky recently.

He is so wrong. What will win, ultimately, is well-produced informative or entertaining media. It won’t matter whether it’s in full-1080p HD, ready for watching on your 50-inch plasma. What matters in an increasingly fragmented media marketplace is relevance, interaction and content quality.

Closed is broken

The ABC’s Mark Scott lauded the efforts of the BBC in producing a closed format, limited viewing window (seven days) media player that needed to be downloaded from the BBC site. The ABC, apparently, is producing a similar tool.

When questions from the floor were asked for, both Chris Saad and I asked why this sort of wastage was occurring, when rather than a proprietary format, limited tool, an open format usable on any device at any time and place wouldn’t be a better option. Scott avoided answering the question. Obviously, he’s never heard of Hulu and doesn’t get BitTorrent.

You want to do what with our brand?

The resounding success of something like The Gruen Transfer, both in terms of its ability to explode the myths around branding and advertising and to generate massive participant uptake (there are many thousands of mashed up, user-made fake ads on the Gruen site, made with collateral provided by the show’s makers) should have ad-men, PR flacks and brands themselves quaking in their proverbial boots. Yet, more than anything, there is denial.

That participants could be more than passive and could be a powerful aid in generating and distributing brand messages, particularly when they are considered and invited to to take part in an open conversation is still largely a mystery to most Australian brands. In talking to creative agency staff yesterday, they know they want to try these things but are frequently stymied by the management of the brands, who still believe that retaining control and pushing messages is the answer for them. The brands, 10 years on, haven’t yet read The Cluetrain Manifesto. There is no conversation as far as they’re concerned.

Oops! Dear car/soft drink/shoe/beer/widget manufacturer, you are in for a rude shock. We, the participants, are already talking about you. And we have been for some time. If you’re lucky, we’re complimentary, often we’re not. You’re not in control of our conversation so perhaps it’s time you became a part of it and put in your best effort to humanise yourself. Hmm?

What now?

Overall, I came away from the day disappointed in the closed-mindedness that prevails in some parts of the media industry (and some bloggers too), but hopeful that enough voices are wanting to be heard that the switch to the future that is already here is perhaps not too far off.

You can read additional coverage at the FOM 08 blog, from Gavin Heaton, StickyAds and from Stilgherrian. If you’re especially keen, you can read the Twitter backchannel.

Stephen Collins
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  • metarand » Blog Archive » The Future of Media is Salient
    Posted at 14:45h, 16 July Reply

    […] Collins has a great wrap up of the event. Share and Enjoy: These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can […]

  • Stilgherrian
    Posted at 17:06h, 16 July Reply

    Cheers for the linkage, Stephen. What’s continuing to amaze me is how polarised this all is. Still. None of this is new! And yet the comments on my own article have already turned personally insulting!

  • Thor Muller
    Posted at 00:47h, 17 July Reply

    Great article, Stephen, and thanks for mentioning Get Satisfaction. Just a note: we take great pains to create shared responsibility between consumers and companies for the space we’re creating and thus would never call it “uncontrolled.” We actually do enforce the our community guidelines pretty strictly, and by participating users imply submission to our Company-Customer Pact (see here: http://www.ccpact.com/).

    Keep up the great work!

  • Nick Cowie » Journalists vs Bloggers
    Posted at 01:07h, 17 July Reply

    […] recent Future of Media and PubCamp seems to be Journalists vs Bloggers, as ilustrated by posts by Stephen, Stilgherrian and […]

  • Rob Jacobs
    Posted at 03:14h, 17 July Reply

    Scribes bad mouthed those who ran the printing press. Journalist today can bad mouth all they want, but the culture has changed and well produced media content can come from anybody and “Everybody.” Teachers too may want to argue against virtual learning, but that is a losing argument too.

  • Stephen Collins
    Posted at 09:04h, 17 July Reply

    @Thor GetSatisfaction represents lack of control inasmuch as it isn’t within the wall and subject to corporate editorial.

    Sure, the CC Pact means people ought to be reasonable with each other; that’s only fair. But it’s certainly *way* beyond the *control* of a brand until they get in there and participate openly.

  • Tim Bull
    Posted at 12:51h, 18 July Reply

    On the point “Closed is broken”, actually I dis-agree. Having just returned to Australia from 10 months in the UK, the BBCs iPlayer has changed the game. You should see the press about the complaints from broadband providers who say that their networks are under huge stress from the amount of content being viewed on the iPlayer, and Virgin have now released a service where iPlayer content can be viewed on your TV not just on the PC.

    The point to all this, is that as technologists and evangalists, we need to be careful to distinguish between what we want and envision and what “Joe Public” is comfortable with.

    From the BBCs point of view and Joe Public point of view, they’ve reached a great compromise where the BBC are protecting their IP and investment they’ve made in producing or purchasing content while releasing some control over the time and scheduling, and Joe Public doesn’t have to worry about understanding bit torrent and sorting through dodgy sources to effectively time shift programs.

    Here’s a link to back this up http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/news/801644/editors-blog-bbc-gets-unfair-kicking/

  • Stephen Collins
    Posted at 13:13h, 18 July Reply

    @Tim, thanks for the considered comment. Do you not think that the popularity of the BBC iPlayer and similar tools from other media distributors are popular simply because no effort is made to distribute using open (or at least, more ubiquitous, i.e. iTunes) platforms and formats?

    Looking only at non-early adopter formats, i.e. those for which many tools and players exist, .mp3 is not a complex format to deal with for most, neither is .mov, or ideally .avi. Now, while these formats aren’t completely open, they are relatively well known and many tools – hardwware and software, open- and closed-source – exist for their playback.

    We’ve just seen the release here of TV shows on the iTunes store. I’d be more than happy to pay for episodes of shows I really want, if the pricing was appropriate. However, yet again, Australian audiences are gouged on iTunes with pricing (audio and video) that reflects a US:AU conversion somewhere around 1:0.60, which it’s not been near any time in relatively recent history.

    I currently pay iTunes for my music, as it’s convenient and pricing is competitive with CDs (for which I have no more room), but I balk at $2.99 for a TV episode when something around $2-2.20 seems more appropriate. Equally, I’d be willing to pay for long-form video material (including extras) at a price competitive with DVDs. But it’s just not there.

    I digress. I want an infinite time window on my watching of post-broadcast material. I want to be able to play it back on my Mac Mini and 42″ plasma, or my iPhone, or stick it on a USB key and take it to a mate’s place to watch. A 7-day window is nothing more than an annoyance and an excuse for user lock-in. For this privilege, I am willing to pay a nominal fee.

    For other material, as has been done for some time on US networks, I’d like availability to watch via the web for as long as I like, immediately post-broadcast, and availability for download and infinite replay in iTunes, or preferably an open format at small cost.

    Does this not sound reasonable?

  • Tim Bull
    Posted at 13:38h, 18 July Reply

    I don’t dis-agree with you that it sounds reasonable.

    My point is that regardless of the format (and like you I’m not sure on why the BBC chose the proprietary Kontiki system http://www.kontiki.com/high-quality-video-delivery-customers/ although I presume it was for the additional infrastructure and management provided) actually the iPlayer is free, it’s cost is the 7 day limitation.

    My challenge to you is not that there are other options some consumers would prefer more, but to question the statement “Closed is broken” when the evidence points to both success for the producer of the content and the consumer. While we may be complaining about the limitations, consumers are taking it up and now chewing up to 5% of UK bandwidth. By this measure I’d call it a roaring success.

    Although it is a proprietary system, it’s also available for the iPhone now and they’ve announced support for the WII http://stuff.tv/blogs/future/archive/2008/03/09/bbc-iplayer-now-working-on-iphone-almost.aspx

    As a frequent observer and occasional participant in WEB2.0 technology forums, my concern is that as futurists, we have a tendency to lambast companies that don’t take a big enough or fast enough step, when in fact the step they’ve taken may be small, but it’s been a great first step on the journey and is already changing the rules of the game.

  • acidlabs » On media, broadcast and formats
    Posted at 14:23h, 18 July Reply

    […] you may want to read about Stephen Collins or subscribe to the RSS feed. Thanks for visiting!A comment from PWC’s Tim Bull, on my summary of The Future of Media Summit prompted a lengthy reply […]

  • Stephen Collins
    Posted at 14:35h, 18 July Reply

    @Tim, I don’t completely disagree with you. Nor you with I as far as I can tell. We have small differences in our views that should spark healthy debate. And that’s a good thing.

    The ABC’s management (and other old media types generally) could do with some healthy debate and discussion around their business models and technology decisions.

    That said, in saying “closed is broken”, I believe it is when it forces the audience into some form of vendor lock in or limits their ability to consume the media they want when, how and on what device they want it. There are alternatives that allow all of this and still don’t destroy revenue models.

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    Posted at 17:29h, 28 July Reply

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