As more and more people start doing this - and by this, I mean THIS! Blogging, doofus! - the whole signal-to-noise ration starts getting skewed. Then again, we're all such voracious consumers of media, and that which we are convinced is of world-shaking important barely rates an "Enh ... not so much..." from The Next Guy's news judgement Sense-O-Meter , that I tend to think that all this New Media hype is just more of the same, only now I can inflict my chuckleheaded opinions on the rest of the world, rather than just on the people who are trapped on the bus bench next to me as I engage my filthy socks in a true Socratic discourse on the nature of truth vs. beauty vs. a half-empty bottle of Thunderbird right upside the head (THWACK! Are you listening my little preciouses? Yes we are, yes we are!)
Over on PressThink, Jay Rosen has unleashed a Cluetrain Manifesto-like screed on the quaking, quivering Old Media types wherein he threatens them with the evil spectre of irrelevance and mass audience desertion. Oh my hebbins to Betsy! The numbers! They go down, not up! Surely this portends ill! (Igor - sacrifice another wretch from the pressroom)
His thesis seems to be that while we all still want to be entertained and informed in the same top-down way by talented people with a point of view that we find interesting, funny, touching and/or insightful, we want to be able to pay attention when we want and we want to talk amongst ourselves about our reactions to what is being said. Viz:
Should we attend the theatre, we are unlikely to storm the stage for purposes of putting on our own production. We feel there is nothing wrong with old style, one-way, top-down media consumption. Big Media pleasures will not be denied us. You provide them, we’ll consume them and you can have yourselves a nice little business.
But we’re not on your clock any more. Tom Curley, CEO of the Associated Press, has explained this to his people. “The users are deciding what the point of their engagement will be — what application, what device, what time, what place.”
We graduate from wanting media when we want it, to wanting it without the filler, to wanting media to be way better than it is, to publishing and broadcasting ourselves when it meets a need or sounds like fun.
Mark Thompson, director general of the BBC, has a term for us: The Active Audience (“who doesn’t want to just sit there but to take part, debate, create, communicate, share.”)
OK. I guess that seems pretty obvious. We want to talk about what we're seeing (witness the banter in sports bars during big games or the cliche of the movie theater where people talk to the screen) and we want to be able to control when, how and where we take in this info (the popularity of the Walkman to take your music with you morphing into the iPod, the VCR giving way to the TiVo, etc.) and that we will choose which content we like from amongst ourselves now and again (Real People giving way to YouTube).
But I can't help but notice that when it comes to the actual, hard data on what sites people spend the majority of their time at ... well, folks, it's the Usual Suspects. Big media. Take a look at what things look like when you're a scurrying little media rat (like me!) who is trying to figure out ways to get traffic to the site. How do you drive traffic? Especially when you don't have big boobs and an utter lack of self-censorship? Well, you gotta get noticed by, listed with, or referred to one of the big ol' dinosaurs that everybody gathers around ... the virtual watercoolers. Or wells. Or whatever metaphor for gathering place you prefer.
I like the idea that the big guys are going to slowly, slowly crumble under their own weight. Mainly because that means that I'll be able to feast a bit on their former audience myself (hey! wouldja like to click on a Google ad or two?) but also because I think that the mass media accretion of the last 20 years has served nobody well, least of all the public, and that the equal and opposite reaction must and should be the return to a more level playing field. But I worry that the whole Neutral Pipe fight and the placid lack of curiosity of the average citizen (hey - us digerati are not representative of the rest of the country - watch Jerry Springer and tell me those folks are going to be following the links from HuffPo through a long pull-out from Foreign Affairs Quarterly) are going to make this return to Media Eden a bit more iffy than I would like...