It’s amazing how far we’ve come in a few years. Anyone who followed the elections in 2010 will remember when new and mainstream media–social networks, broadcasting, journalism, the Internet and mobile–collaborated.
As National Public Radio reported today, 2008 was a “coming-out party for the Internet.” But 2010 is turning into a national mashup: webcasts from the national television networks, mobile phone apps, ABC News partnering with Facebook, CBS News in bed with Google, NBC sending videos to Twitter. Who would have thought this was possible?
Yet the history of media tells a similar story. It’s only the players and technologies that changed. When network television dominated in the latter half of the 20th century, newspapers and other print media were largely the arbiters of journalism.
If you wanted the official declaration of “what happened,” you read the New York Times or other major newspapers. Broadcasters and publishers competed for the attention of millions of people seeking local and international news and information.
Did radio die with the growth of television? Not at all. In fact, radio flourished and splintered as it grew nationally and locally, leading to thousands of music and entertainment stations. Television was good for radio, just as print was good for television. No Internet. No mobile phones. No citizen journalists using Twitter. Until recently, media was “big momma” and everyone listened to her.
Throughout most of the 20th century, large media conglomerates, funded through advertising, brought citizens the “news.” If Walter Cronkite said “that’s the way it is,” millions of viewers agreed. Yet even Cronkite, lamenting the networks’ 23 minutes of evening news, said: “We are not educated well enough to perform the necessary act of intelligently selecting our leaders.” Even some voters in the Tea Party this year might agree with him.
The Rise of Individual Media (Courtesy of the Internet)
What’s changing, however, is who is choosing what gets heard or read. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t have sat in front of a computer writing this blog post. I’d have sent a letter to a newspaper editor or broadcast news director, hoping my rantings were published. Matt Zuckerberg was still in high school. Cell phones were primitive, heavy and expensive. Only birds tweeted.
So the emergence of “new media, “social media,” or even “ethnic media” is not only recent, it calls us as persons–not consumers–to communicate from soapboxes of one to many rather than many to one. While mostly digital, Web-based and mobile, individual media are the millions of voices racing across cyberspace. They’re the global conversations that few marketers, let alone politicians, get. As Marshall McLuhan prophetically said: “The medium is the message.” But he also said: “Everybody experiences far more than he understands. Yet it is experience, rather than understanding, that influences behavior.”
So tonight, as the television hosts, newspaper reporters, radio newscasters, bloggers, Twitterers and Facebook members share their thoughts, watch and listen carefully. If you thought the last ten years of media were profoundly awesome, the next ten will blow your mind.
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