Thursday, June 29, 2006

The next frontier

All stripes of media are attempting to connect with the growing broadband audiences. The change is happening in every media sector, television, motion, sound media.

Most recent tipping point? September 2005, when news about Apple’s video iPods began to make the rounds. News of this new platform sparked a wave of investment into broadband content like short films and news clips. Ever since, it has been a headlong, pell-mell, dizzy kind of rush.

For big media - it’s very exciting and quite scary.

Early adopter and progressives have an advantage in this new environment. The majority of the people at the front end of these new technologies have a progressive worldview and inhabit the coastal blue cities and urban hubs. Companies innovating in this space are often run by out-and-out avowed progressive types.

Take The Young Turks, a trio of liberal radio hosts that can be heard on Sirius Satellite Radio and on the Web. They are pioneering the next frontier of online broadcasting.

After a failed attempt to get MSNBC to pick up their radio show as a liberal TV show, the Young Turks went a different route. With the support of investors they bought digital cameras and rented studio space. As the Los Angeles Times reported, 'In mid-December, they began streaming their three-hour show every weekday on their website … billing it as the first live Internet talk show,' writes Matea Gold.

In the process, they’ve helped pioneer the rapidly developing field of online programming—from webcasts to video podcasts and vlogs (the video version of a blog)—now delivering content that traditionally would have had to survive the television development season and pass the muster of network executives to find an audience.

The Young Turks are part of an explosion of efforts to bypass network and cable channels and develop content for emerging satellite, dish and digital broadcast platforms.

Other efforts include more established broadcasters like LinkTV and Free Speech TV, online projects like PoliticsTV and Guerrilla News Network, an effort to establish a progressive cable channel.

Traditional media - print, radio and television - are struggling to balance staying true to the tenets of journalism, with reaching new audiences with interactive features and, in some cases, the ideologically aggressive tone that has come to characterize much of the mainstream news environment.

This rapid technological evolution is challenging print publishers but it’s not an either-or proposition. Despite drops in circulation, print magazines are not going the way of the dodo bird (indeed, there are over 5,000 more magazine titles on sale now than there were in 1988) - and the 75,000 new blogs appearing every day won’t be the death knell of Big Media.

Instead, if the mainstream media play their cards right, the new media could provide a transfusion of energy, passion, and immediacy that will alter - and ultimately save - them.

Provided they keep adapting to the changing technologies—and, more importantly, the changing audience.

The same can be said for the new media.

In order to flourish, new media makers must understand and pursue this new online audience, as the rise of the geo-political blogosphere attests. Yet even the bloggers must contend with the hegemony of the mainstream media.

Simply put, without the participation of the media and the world political establishment, the netroots alone cannot generate the critical mass necessary to alter or create conventional wisdom.

That is not to say that blogs can’t be the first to draw attention to an issue, as they often do, but the half-life of an online buzz can be measured in days and weeks, and even when a story has enough netroots momentum to float around for months, it will have little effect on the wider public discourse without the other sides of the triangle in place.

While progressive bloggers focus on the daily news grind, other new media participants play a different, but equally important, role.

This static triangle of the 'voice of government, the bloggers and the big boys of cable TV will not shift the debate.

It will take a vibrant network of new media outlets, reporters, artists, grassroots organizers, politicians, NGOs and the UN, researchers, celebrities, activists, think tanks and citizens working in concert.

That gonna happen? Think so. Wait and see? NO! Start now. Do your part.


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