The Shape of Things To Come

TECHNOLOGY AND DESIGN

Since its inception, broadcasting has been based on a pretty simple model.

A few people decided what ‘the viewers’ wanted to see. They spend money to create that content, put it on the air and hope they are right.

One source of information broadcast to many.

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This was a great model in a world where the technology dictated that one source was sent out to many passive receivers. This has been the model since radio was invented. And for the technology of 1938, it was the most efficient and cost-effective way of delivering information.

As television migrates to the web, there is a natural inclination to simply transplant the broadcasting model to the Internet. This would be a mistake.

The web mandates an entirely different architecture. The web is not about sending everyone the same signal. It is about creating and connecting communities.

eBay, a very successful web site is about connecting vast numbers of people who have junk to sell in their attics with people who want that junk – and are willing to pay a price for it. A marketplace.

Amazon.com is about vast numbers of people who have books to sell – from large warehouses to small shops – with vast numbers of people who want those books. A marketplace.

Google is really about connecting a vast number of people with information to a vast number of people who want that information. A market.

Until now, news and information have not existed in a marketplace.

But now the web gives us the opportunity to apply the eBay model to news and information.

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What happens when we do that?

All over the world, there are people who have news stories to offer – to sell. They have information. They might be from ABC News or they might be from Hamas. They might be a Palestinian refugee with a video camera. They all have ‘stories’ to offer.

Is there an interest in those stories? Only one way to tell. Post them and see.

The web will aggregate what people want to see.

As news and information go to the web, we will no more need News Directors to tell us what the stories ‘should’ be, any more than we ‘need’ Sales Directors at eBay telling us to ‘lead with the Barbie Dolls today’. The job becomes an anachronism. In fact, any kind of editorial mediation becomes an impediment to a real free marketplace of ideas.

Is it frightening, this free market of ideas?

Sure it is.

We say we like a free press.

But really, do we?

One response to “The Shape of Things To Come

  1. A free market of ideas is great. The problem is that media organizations still think it’s a bad thing when a Web site or blog links to a story on your newspaper/tv/radio station’s site. They don’t get that when people click that link, that brings traffic and readers that can be sold to advertisers.

    Until the “publishers” recognize that they want everyone to link to their story instead of the ap or reuters one the concept of a “free press” outlined above will be as misunderstood as the benefit of a million bloggers bouncing ideas around.

    Eventually all reporters will be freelance, and will be able to make a real living as such – once this happens, and it probably won’t be quick, the free press you speak of will finally exist. It’s not about working for the biggest guy any more, it’s just about finding the biggest audience.

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