Monday, October 17, 2005

What's Spanish for "blog"?

Over at Snarkaholic, Tish G. comments on PR Week's "10 Media Trends to Watch", identifying four of them which she feels to be most important:

Portability of Video Content -- definitely can't disagree here. Apple's unveiling this week of its video-capable iPod, in tandem with ABC/Disney's announcement that it would begin selling individual episodes of hit shows such as Lost and Desperate Housewives for $2 a pop is the sign that the revolution in television and movie distribution that people have been predicting for years has finally arrived. Although the market will get its initial boost from the digitization of "traditional" content (like T.V. episodes), how long do you think it will take before the Long Tail manifests itself and the majority of downloaded video clips are filmed, edited, and produced by amateurs on their G5 Power Macs?

Fans of such cult shows as Joss Whedon's Buffy and Angel have long since bemoaned a network hierarchy that rewards mediocrity and sameness at the expense of intelligent and well-written fare, leading some to suggest the novel idea of fans directly underwriting the programming they want to see rather than hoping for an occasional greenlit bone thrown their way by Hollywood. Until now the limiting factor was distribution, but what if for the price of a comic book you could get another episode of Firefly delivered to your iPod? One only has to browse the myriad Star Wars fan-produced films to see that this is a market waiting to explode.

Blogs -- Another no-brainer. Far from simply being a tool for "citizen journalism" or just a marketing gimmick, the blog has enabled millions of people to participate in a universe of knowledge, criticism, and collaboration which until now has been more or less the exclusive domain of the tenured professor. Although the power of the amateur has always been respected in some circles, the blogosphere is now obliterating the traditional boundary between professionals and nonprofessionals altogether and enabling a new era of intellectual inquiry and scholarship that is truly global.

Growth of Hispanic Media -- Bumblebee Man jokes aside, this one's serious business. Just ask HBO, which recently introduced Epitafios, its first Spanish-language T.V. offering. At the same time Major League Soccer has recently expanded into Dallas and Los Angeles (two Latino urban centers) in a bid to reach the ever-growing American audience for fĂștbol -- Club Deportivo Chivas USA, the new L.A. franchise, has modelled itself after the legendary Mexican soccer team by the same name, and has aggressively recruited Latino players for its roster. How quickly we've gone from "¡Yo Quiero Taco Bell!" to a nation on the verge of functional bilingualism!

Media Consolidation -- Unfettered by 20th century regulations that ensured at least a nominal level of competition and diversity, today's media conglomerates are transnational, multi-billion dollar entities that bring less and less added value (and ever more markup) to the table. Now while consolidation does have some potential benefits in terms of distribution and compatibility across platforms, it's hard to argue with a straight face that five media companies are better than five thousand given the risk-averse nature of big business, especially when it comes to the matter of quality content. Fortunately the internet has thus far defied the same kind of mega-consolidation that has taken place in the traditional media, so people in search of alternatives to corporate pap actually have more options than ever available online even while diversity experiences a cultural mass extinction in the "real" world.

I also think that there are three others in the list that merit attention, as well:

Digitalization of Print Media -- This is huge. Traditional content providers are finally beginning to understand that their online users come to their web portals expecting more than just a tease. While there are still a few holdouts in this respect who continue to regard their online presence as little more than an advertisement for the real thing, many media outlets have decided to make the jump and live entirely in a "born digital" paradigm. And this is what people want. Print may not be dead, but as the Google Generation comes of age, it will be be increasingly seen as a less desirable alternative to the electronic copy -- less frequently updated, less interactive, and (more importantly) less searchable. This doesn't necessarily mean that every print journalist is now going to have to become a blogger, but it does mean that the jornos who do want to survive will have to take notes from the blogosphere's more successful inhabitants.

Media Transparency -- The new media is the sworn enemy of secrecy. The internet has always attracted a naturally skeptical and antiauthoritarian lot, but only recently has its culture of criticism gone public on a global scale. There is now literally swarms of individuals who relentlessly (and often mercilessly) pore over every last iota of media content out there. Whether we're talking about bloggers debunking the Killian memo or the vast network of fanboys and fangirls who provide better intelligence about the upcoming season of Lost or the latest Star Wars movie than the CIA had on Iraq's WMD, there is no place for the old media to hide that the new can't find them. And this is a good thing.

Source Agnostic/Disintermediation -- This is a fancy way of saying that people are increasingly less interested in where they get their information from, and less critical in their reception of said information when they get it. And this is not a good thing. While such online resources as Google and Wikipedia can be very useful and powerful tools, in the end they are only tools, and thus limited by the skills of the personal using them. If we are to believe a recent survey, a disturbing high percentage of internet search engine users do not browse beyond the first "hit" that appears on their results page. Whatever appears there is evidently close enough to the answer sought, so who cares if it's not the most authoritative or accurate page in the world?

Of course rectifying this problem is easier said than done. Librarians have recently taken up teaching "information literacy" as part of their professional mission, but this can only accomplish so much. Most people don't want to be taught how to fish -- they want a box of Gorton's fish sticks, and they want it now (or better yet, yesterday). So too is the average person not so much interested in how the black box inside a search engine operates as he or she is in simply getting the information. Now I'm not saying that we should abandon our newfound pedagogical role, but we should also be realistic about how much of an impact we can have on the culture at-large. A far better tack might be to ensure that the next generation of artificial interfaces is capable of doing a lot of the intellectual legwork for us, if only as a check against individual laziness.

So that's my take. Thanks again to Snarkaholic for the link (which was originally via Steve Rubel)!

1 comment:

Tish G. said...

Viva El Blogo! :-)