The media is no longer a distribution of communication created by journalists, it’s becoming a forum or context (maybe even container) for communication created by users who are being coached by journalists and editors. The role of the media as well as the employees is changing.
Basically, the idea is not new. When I worked as a volunteer at the access-tv-network Portland Community Media in Portland, Oregon, back in 1995 (it was called something difficult back then, like PNWCA or something – the mission and the notable address on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd is still the same though…) the entire idea was to let regular citizens acces and create media in order to say that everyone had equal rights to participate and promote their opinions in the media. And to some extend that was what happened. The equality wasn’t that great given the budget of any cable/news-network compared to these community-radicals trying to get their opinions across (I had a pony-tale back then which I’m sure helped me fit in). The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation started organizing a program as early as 2001 based on the participation of viewers. Lots of other projects through the past 10-20 years carried the idea of involvement. What’s new is the technology that lets everyone participate at an advanced level of media quality and distribution combined with the changing habits in media consumption. Suddenly it’s not only on Channel 4 in Portland you will see my program (my favourite back then was “An hour of swill” which was a live music-showcase featuring two new local bands each thursday night – I mostly did the handheld camera but was permitted to direct the last show before I went back to Denmark). Now, it’s any place that someone thinks of asking the same questions or wanting to share the same ideas or beliefs I have.
Back in april I wrote about the french sociologist Jean-Louis Missika who was at the time describing how french politicians were communicating – or trying to – through old media like newspapers. But they are not using the same channels and live in a different space (in all possible ways) than the ones to whom they want to get a message across. I guess this lack of understanding and difference in perspectives having business managers on one side (for reasons of simplicity, lets just put politicians and CEOs in that same box) and young people on the other is what drives us to ask things like “how many danish (or US) companies are blogging?”. The answer – being a number – is not so important in itself. What is important is the change in understanding, perspective and behaviour that is behind it; Everyone can be a journalist (at least they can publish) and media is the media you choose out of an infinite number of possible combinations.
Lately the Korean citizen journalism media “OhMyNews” got a lot of attention. About 40.000 people are delivering 70% of the content and the readers can tip the writers, hence paying them for their contribution. What makes it interesting to me is not only the idea and the change of roles but also the scale! As one Maersk-senior is quoted (I think it was Lars Ginnerup that told me this): “The shortest distance between people are numbers”. It’s true. You can have some splendid idea and people will go “yeah, that’s nice”. Then you mention the number of participants – in this case 40.000 – and then they are all “Wooow, really?”. I wonder what the journalism studies at different universities are going to teach in a few years when the students can expect to be paid by the number of readers or viewers and the job-description will be more in the direction of “coaching users in writing and tracking sources” etc. And what will my danish newspapers like Politiken, Børsen and Berlingske do? Recently I heard Thøger Seidenfaden from Politiken talk about a new strategy for their online media www.politiken.dk. Much needed, I think.
And then just a final word in this rubbish-post (excuse me, its 150 degrees here!), I just stumbled on Buzztracker which is the “World News, Mapped”. Everything is a feed now so you can actually analyze whats going on and where the buzz is. Check it out: www.buzztracker.org/ (the top-picture of the world is from buzztracker)